We had a great BWCA trip this summer – 4 nights out with newlyweds Alex and Jolene and niece Brittany and husband Danny. I have decided that entering photos to this website is a pain. So I will link to my Picasa site for now. If you’re interested in the details, read on.
Our plan was the loosest plan I’ve ever had starting out on a trip. No one thought I’d be able to stay that relaxed about it, considering my usual compulsion to have every detail, each night, mileage, etc. organized and planned out. We did actually manage to go day-to-day, for the most part, and I was amused that it was Alex who took over the trip management! As Jo said, Alex always has a plan. It might not be a good one, but he’s got one.
We drove up to Ely on Sunday, after a hectic Friday and Saturday preparing the house for the Minnesota wedding reception (which was a blast, by the way). We took advantage of the Mandy’s again – in more ways than anticipated – spending a lovely night in their cabin overlooking Burntside Lake. Minnesota put on a great display of stormy weather for the northwesterners who rarely experience thunder and lightning. We had natural fireworks from horizon to horizon! Glad it happened while we had a roof over our heads and not a nylon tent!
We outfitted with Cliff Wold’s – under new (and young) management. They seemed to take our cue that we’d done this before and were pretty comfortable with a canoe outing, but I was a little surprised at the lack of information and relaxed organization of the “kids” who checked us out.
We entered at the Little Isabella River, after a long and bumpy ride to the somewhat remote entry point #75. The Little Isabella snakes along, going back and forth, testing our new canoers (Jo and Danny) and their steering capacity! Brit got a little testy with Danny, but he stuck it out and did a good job. I’m still smiling about his retort to her that he’d somehow manage to “keep up” with her – since he was always just about 12 feet behind her 🙂 in the stern.
Eventually, the Little Isabella joins the Isabella and we headed west into Bald Eagle Lake. The Trents had been through this section several years ago, but the water levels were down almost 2 feet, so things looked a little different. We had our hopes set on a campsite that we remembered as being the “Taj Mahal” with a granite kitchen top, but the with the lake down, there was a lot of grass in front of the 2 most southern campsites, making them unappealing for swimming before supper. I really wanted an east bank site in order to enjoy the sunset, but the lake was full and we had to settle on an inferior west shore site that had few redeeming qualities. In fact, there wasn’t much of a sunset that night, with a lot of haze in the sky. We enjoyed a Mexican meal of beans, rice and taco meat (thanks to the Mandys who let us “shop” for meat in their freezer since we arrived after Zups was closed on Sunday).
The plan for the next day was to head through a path similar to one that we had taken in 2003 with friends Kallan and Kelsey: portage into Gull, Pietro and Camdre to the final lake of the day, Clearwater. It seems that most people just hang out in Bald Eagle and the Gabbros – we didn’t encounter anyone else back in these lakes. We stayed at a familiar site on Clearwater, enjoying great swimming as we tried (and failed) to produce the double hair flip photo that Sia challenged us to attempt.
The rain finally caught up with us this night. We knew we were likely to get it at some point, and although it was a pain to pack up wet stuff, we were fortunate to have it come at night. We lingered in the tents this morning, hoping the weather would pass. Eventually it started to clear up, and we were able to dry out a little before heading onto the lake for the day’s adventure.
The plan (according to Alex!) was to paddle across Clearwater, portage into Turtle Lake, and then portage into Bald Eagle on our way to Gabbro. Alex had his eye on an island campsite, but we decided we’d just check them out as we paddled through the lake because we didn’t want to end up with no site for the night. We found a great site on Bald Eagle where we ate lunch (not noted on my map, but a beautiful place with plenty of tent sites). We got lost a bit, not realizing that the site was in the bay that connected with Gabbro – the map error contributed to this confusion a bit.
Alex had taken over the GPS (much to my amusement since he has harassed Barry – along with me – about how he has his eyes on the technology and misses the wilderness in the meantime). We finally found our way – the low water levels were astounding – we had to walk our canoes up to the rapids and short portage over the rocks into Gabbro. Then the hunt was on for a campsite. We started checking sites in the southern part of the lake, enduring headwinds that created whitecaps for awhile. Every site was taken!
I was getting a little concerned that we might have to beg for space with someone else. Lucky us – the LAST site on Gabbro was open, and it turned out to be one we’d stayed at in 2003. Unfortunately, it was also very buggy, and we were ultimately chased into our tents early, where we played cards as 2-somes and listened to the loud droning of the mosquitoes.
The next day was an adventure! We planned to go through Little Gabbro and up a small connector to the South Kawishiwi River. There was a portage that we chose to paddle by, hoping to spend more time on the water. As you can guess, with the lower water levels, we ended up having to pick up, carry, walk and occasionally paddle our way through the passage. No worries – we had plenty of time – but it was fun to tease Alex about his “plan.”
Once in the Kawishiwi, we had no portages left and were paddling downstream, so it was pretty easy going. Except that there were a lot of people on the river and again, we had trouble finding a site. We had fun paddling through a little rapids and were relieved when a family sitting at a campsite on the left told us that they were only stopping for lunch and we could have it for the night if we wanted it. Yeah! There wasn’t a lot of tent space, so we sent Alex and Jo down the river with the radios to see if there was anything else left. No such luck, so they paddled back and we negotiated tent space in what was available. It turned out to be a great spot anyway. We could jump into the river to swim, there was a comfortable spot to play cards, and there were very few mosquitoes!
The last day was pretty abbreviated. We only had about an hour of paddling to the portage which turned out to be a quick 147 rods out to #33, South Kawishiwi entry point. We played Rage waiting for our ride home… After a filling lunch in town, we drove back to the cities through some pounding rain and celebrated the trip and Jolene’s birthday at Rey Azteca that night.