Archive for the ‘BOUNDARY WATERS/QUETICO’ Category


October 2, 2009

This may have been my favorite trip to Insula.  We had the best travel day in, with an early start, changing sides frequently so that we wouldn’t stress our elbows, and with my boots and Jan’s gaiters, she didn’t have to climb over packs to get in and could get out sooner.  Loading and unloading went well, portaging went well, the water was calm, and we got to the point site in Museum Bay by 2 p.m.  We saw not one other group for 5 days, which is remarkable even in September.  Four of those days were with near perfect weather.  I actually swam, we day tripped there and to the north end of the lake, saw an eagle, mergansers and a moose.  The latter sloshed and clopped his way along the shore one evening, which was one of the more memorable sightings, even if the picture wasn’t good.  Two days later, we went by to look at the tracks and found fresh wolf scat plus urine!

Day 5 was cloudy but cleared, so we stayed another night, and then got the frontal passage the day we left.  The rain mostly held off until we hit the Insula portage.  We got another hit on Lake Four and had lunch under the tarp.  We took the same point site on Lake Three that two women (from Arizona, no less) were vacating, and then had high winds and rain all night.  We came out with 30 knot head winds gusting to 40.  Lake Two was pretty epic, and Lake One was no piece of cake either.  But hey, this is Minnesota in September and this sort of stuff happens.  My watch barometer was right on target with a 30 millibar drop, so while the weather stayed decent, the drop concerned me, and I knew something was due.  It finally came.  I have now spent 32 nights on Lake Insula, which is a real blessing.

On the slide show, notice the two consecutive sunsets and how far south the second one has moved.  At the equinox, the Sun is moving either north or south the most rapidly.  The Sun set nearly three minutes earlier each night.  Up in Alaska, they lose about 8 minutes of daylight each day this time of year!


October 2, 2009

This was the year we reviewed all the campsites on INsula.  We immediately got hammered with rain and wind after we left the Lake One landing, so instead of getting an early start on the campsites, we made it maybe a mile into Lake One!  Still was a good decision.  Next day was better, and we got to Insula.  We did some of the west end sites and then set up on an island site.  We went out in the afternoon and got a few more sites done before increasing winds made us get back to camp.  The next day, we did sites in between storms–sort of.  I recall leaving one site in sunshine and within 5 minutes, we had sleet and high winds on the high seas of the lake!  We had one last day to do the whole northern half of the lake–20 sites.  We got an early start and went hard all day, using a tape recorder and talking to each other about the kitchen, the landing, the tent pads, the bear hang, the latrine trail and other amenities.  We finished late, and I would later have tennis elbow from all the paddling that lasted about 6 months.  It was still worth it.  We picked up Site 2 on the way out, wrote it up, and it appeared as a 20 page article in the Boundary Waters Journal winter 2007-8.

Funny follow up, along the extreme makeover campsite.  Site 37 was on one map and not another.  We looked all along the shore for it and found nothing except one sawn log.  I landed in brush, bushwhacked up the hill and found a firegrate, one tentsite, and about the emptiest latrine one will ever find in the BW.  We called it the worst site on the lake, don’t stay on it unless it is the last one, and even then don’t stay there.  We day tripped to the site in 2009 and could see it from the lake!  The firegrate was surrounded by a rockpile, there was a decent landing, and while I still wouldn’t stay there, somebody from the USFS had obviously done a great deal of work.  Nice to know we probably made a difference!



October 2, 2009

This year, we took two days to get in, camping a night on the Kawishiwi River.  We had a point site on the southeast end of the lake with a fair amount of traffice.  But the site was huge, with a large grassy area, loads of room for tent sites, and a beautiful point where we could sit and read under a tree.  It was cold in the mornings as the mist and the outfits show, but the days were pleasant, and the one thunderstorm that came through did not dump a lot of rain on us.  This is one of the “5 star” campsites on the lake, with probably great swimming during the height of the summer.  It is also the site featured in the article here in the blog called “The Legend,” where the late Mike Manlove and I wrote up a family for an illegal fire.

This was our third year base camping on Insula.  We would explore campsites and volunteer to evaluate all 47 (more than even the Forest Service or the cartographers knew about) the following year.


October 2, 2009

This was our second base camp trip to Insula.  We stayed on a site just north of what we call the cut-through, a narrow isthmus between two major sections of the lake.  It saves a lot of time paddling through the lake.  We wanted to go further, but the map was misleading about the site we wanted to stay at.  We could have gone further, but the site we stayed on was open, it looked pretty reasonable and we moved in, staying five nights.

We took a daytrip up to Alice Lake and then to Fishdance to see the pictographs there.

On the way out, on Lake Two, I awoke at 0130 and went outside.  It seemed awfully bright for a night when the Moon had set.  Sure enough, we had an aurora!  I awoke Jan and asked her if she had ever seen one before.  She hadn’t.  Imagine.  We had been married nearly 35 years and I didn’t know that.  I’ve seen more striking aurorae, but this one was pretty nice, and besides, I made sure my wife saw it!


BWCAW 2005

October 1, 2009

So far, this has been my last solo trip.  I was going to go with Pieter Helmke, but a pet got very ill and he had to cancel.  Pieter and I took many trips together to the Nahanni and Yukon rdivers as well as into the Quetico.  We went into the Quetico in 1997 and had a great, but very difficult trip.  Our last time together was in 2002, when we went into Crane Lake and did the western part of La Croix.

Anyway, this trip was my last one into Kawnipi, although I always hold out for one more.  I’ve been into Kawnipi 6 times, and that makes me very blessed as anybody who has seen that lake would admit.  I had flat water all the way up Agnes, stayed a night on Kawnipi, then came back in the rain, with again calm water, and stayed on Meadows Lake, which is usually a 20 minute pass through on the way in and out.  Meadows is a great lake to camp on.  I came out in fog.

BWCAW 2004

October 1, 2009

We went down the Nina Moose River and got to LaCroix the same day.  We then paddled to Iron and Crooked, where we saw a bear.  Should have paddled further down the lake, but we thought one night would be safe.  It was.  Problem was, we got hit with 3 inches of rain and 50 knot winds, so we stayed put.  Mr. Bruin showe dup that night and knocked the pack down.  I heard Jan the next morning say, “Mike, there’s a bear in camp.  Should I bang some pots?”  Yes, and no, it didn’t help.  So, we got what food we had, found the pack and left.  Had rice for breakfast and mash potatoes for lunch.  We were a bit hungry when we finished, 3 days later.  Only time I’ve ever been hit by a bear.  I stupidly tried to reclaim my food and got bluff charged, followed by a deep hiss.  I almost backed into the lake.  Sorry, no pictures of him.


October 1, 2009

I discovered the BWCAW in 1981, quite by accident.  I had spent six summers canoeing Algonquin Park from 1962-67 as part of Camp Pathfinder on Source Lake.  My last year was spent as a head tripper or guide on trips up to 6 days.  Back then, we had can pits, cut tent stringers with live trees, cut pine boughs and had wooden Old Town canvas canoes that soaked up water and weighed up to 100 pounds by the end of the summer.  I remember vividly one camper who was sick, and I carried his pack and the canoe simultaneously down Misty River.  I’m not a big guy, and I’m not particularly strong, but I could go when I had to.

On a plane trip, I happened on a discussion of the BW in the inflight magazine.  I went up in June 1981, did a 5 day solo trip into the Quetico via Carp, Emerald and Plough Lakes, turning around on Knife. I met Dorothy Molter, and loved my time there.  Work had pressures, and it was five more years until I went up again, this time to Thomas, Fraser, Kekakabic, Knife, Amoeber and back down again.  I was hooked!

I took my wife on her first trip in June 1987, not the best time to introduce somebody who breaks out when bitten by mosquitoes!  We went up to Kahshahapiwi, a difficult trip in any circumstances, let alone what we were doing.  After that, I went with some friends or by myself.

In 1992, thoroughly burned out in private practice of neurology, I took a six month leave of absence and worked as a volunteer wilderness ranger for the Forest Service.  I took 22 trips into the woods that summer, many with the FS, some by myself, and some with others.  I spent 100 days in the woods and was in all districts of the BW except the Gunflint.  My last trip, in October, put me into Little Sag on a special night, which will be posted later.  I was six days without seeing another person, paddled in blizzards, got within 20 feet of a moose twice, and had a remarkable trip.

I returned from 1993-1999 and volunteered with the late Mike Manlove, who put up with my travels and about whom I wrote in the post The Legend, under medical society articles.  I also brought my wife back and did some solo trips. 

In 2001, we went in on 9/11 and didn’t hear about the attacks until the following day and then nothing else for 5 more days.  It was probably the best place to be during that time.  In 2003, my wife had had neck surgery and a weight limitation for carrying, so we base camped on Lake Insula, taking day trips.  Other than 2004, when we went down the Nina Moose to La Croix, we’ve spent a week on Insula every year since.  We wrote an article on the campsites in the lake, published in the Boundary Waters Journal, discovering sites that neither the Fisher nor the McKenzie maps had commented upon.

All in all, I’ve taken 57 trips into the BW/Quetico, spent 267 nights out there, been on over 400 campsites, cleaned at least 300, dug 16 latrines, and have traveled on over 300 lakes in the region.  On the last trip to Insula, I did it without a map with no difficulty, having finally figured that lake out.

So, lots of pictures and here goes!