Thursday, August 19, 2010

our 2010 bwca adventure

Our adventures began on August 9th, when the five of us spent about 10 hours driving up through Wisconsin, and into Minnesota. We stopped at a rest area just south of Virginia, MN to wait for my dad and Christine (who'd been driving through Iowa and then MN) to catch up with us. We saw all kinds of wildlife at the rest area, including some stripey ground squirrels: We also saw red squirrels and several different kinds of birds, including a hummingbird who apparently was camera shy. There was a short trail through the woods and up to an overlook. Ben and I hiked it once, and then Nick joined us for our second trek:
When Dad and Christine arrived, we then drove the rest of the way to Ely, where we stayed overnight in this motel:
This was the "girls' cabin", and all the boys in our group stayed in the cabin next to us: The next morning (the 10th), we headed out bright and early, to get breakfast at an Ely diner and then to pick up 2 canoes and some gear at an outfitters. Then it was time to drive to the entry point at Island River, southeast of Ely. For anyone who's never been on a canoe/camping trip before, let me say that it takes awhile to actually get started on the trip! First you have to get the canoes off your car/truck. Here is Christine by the 3 empty canoes when we first arrived:
Then you have to get all the gear out... every single thing that you're going to want for the next several days ~ clothing, food, tents, sleeping bags, camp stoves, etc. Then you sort the gear and try to figure out which stuff should go in which canoes, and with whom. Here the five of us pose by a canoe and some gear:
Finally you load the canoes with the gear, climb in, and you're off! (An hour or more after you'd arrived at the entry point.) Our canoe (George's, Ben's, and mine) was the first to get out onto Island River:
We paddled under the bridge you can see behind us all in the group shot above, and then we were officially in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. :)

Emmalie made the map below for her own blog, and I decided to use it here so that anyone who wants to can follow along our journey. It's not really to scale, and isn't totally accurate otherwise, either, but it will do :) : We paddled up Island River, bypassing the first portage by walking our canoes through the shallow rapids there. We couldn't do that for the next 2 portages, however, so Ben had his first experience with a portage where Emm shows #2. (A portage is where you take everything back out of your canoe, lug it down a trail, lug the canoe down the trail, put everything back in the canoe, and paddle on.) Luckily, both portages that day were short.

Paddling on Island River, Christine and Emm's canoe in front of us: When we crossed Portage 3, we changed from Island River to Isabella River. This was taken at the end of that trail:
We paddled down Isabella River for awhile, spotted our first bald eagle of the trip, and then ended up at this campsite:
Nick immediately spotted half a dozen frogs by the shore:
Christine and the kids, hanging out on the rocks:

So, once we found a campsite, we had some work to do. Dad and Christine gathered some water from the river, and then Christine pumped it through the filter to make it "drinkable":
Ben helped:
We also had to set up the tents and the rain fly, and try to figure out a spot to hang the food bags so that bears and other creatures couldn't get into them.

Christine, Emm, and Nick slept in the smaller tent shown here while George, Ben, and I had the bigger one: Dad's tent:
Then we had some time to rest and relax. We noticed this dragonfly floundering in the river. He tried and tried to get out, but wasn't having any luck, so Christine, Emm, and Nick got in a canoe and rescued him:
It turned out that one of his wings was bent. After he dried out, though, he managed to fly away.

After supper, the kids roasted some marshmallows:
And then we had our traditional Boundary Waters dessert ~ pudding! Everyone lines up to get their share:
We were all tired after our long day. Everyone but Nick and me retired to the tents. We were hoping to stay up and watch the sunset, but the mosquitoes quickly changed our minds, and this is all we saw of it:

Once inside our tents, we watched the bats come out and enjoy a mosquito dinner!

It rained overnight (but the insides of our tents stayed dry, yay!), and was still drizzling the next morning (the 11th). The kids thought it was chilly, so they donned their winter hats and mittens with their rain ponchos, but I was still in shorts, so it couldn't have been TOO cold!

It was a soggy, but pretty walk back to the latrine:
Christine, Nick, and Dad went out in the light rain, to get more water to filter, and then later on, to fish (they didn't have any luck with that, though Nick did have a big one on the line, who proceeded to get away with the bait and the hook!):
Ben played cards (with Emm, then me, then himself) in the dry tent for awhile:
Later on, the rain stopped. Ben floated boats of bark and leaves down the river:

Then asked Grandpa Rick to put some bait on his Cars fishing pole:
Ben tried this spot first:
But then moved down the rocks a bit to what turned out to be a very lucky fishing spot! Ben caught the first fish of the trip without even trying. Really. He hadn't even cast out yet, but his line was in the water and this little bluegill must've thought that worm looked awfully tasty!
All 3 kids continued to fish from this spot for the next couple hours. They each caught several fish (all too small to keep), but Ben, fisherman extraordinaire, caught the most ~ 13, in all! :)

While the kids were busy fishing, Christine and I decided to go on a little trip, just the two of us. We both really enjoyed the peace and quiet!! We paddled up Isabella River, to the spot marked Portage 4 on the map.

When we got to the portage, we discovered something we'd never seen in the BWCA before ~ a bridge! It turned out to be a part of the "Pow Wow Hiking Trail", a 29-mile loop through the Boundary Waters. The bridge crossed over the rapids between Isabella River and Isabella Lake.

Christine on the bridge: On the bridge, looking towards Lake Isabella:
On the bridge, looking toward Isabella River:
The rapids, from another angle:
There was an empty campsite right by the bridge, so the 2 of us checked it out. Then Christine decided to explore one of the paths there (hoping it went to the latrine) while I checked out the path that the bridge was a part of. Yeah, the 29-mile one. I probably walked at least one mile before deciding I'd better turn around! At the time, I had no idea what that trail really was (or how long it really was), and I kept thinking it would lead me to the lake sooner or later, but it never did.

On our way back to camp, Christine and I spotted a muskrat, out gathering reeds. We had fun watching him for several minutes!

When we got back, the kids were STILL fishing:
George, Emm, and Dad decided to go out in the canoe to fish for awhile. Emm caught the biggest fish of the trip then, a 16-inch Northern Pike:
Later on, we had supper. On the rocks.

And this time we got to watch the sun set:

The sun shining on the trees along the eastern shore made them look like they had their autumn foliage:

We woke up on the 12th to a misty morning on the river:

Nick, modeling the latest fashion in head lamps:
After breakfast, we broke camp and headed toward Portage 4:
Once all our gear and the canoes were across the portage, we took the kids to see the bridge Christine and I had discovered the day before:

Then we got back in the canoes and paddled out onto Lake Isabella, looking for open campsites. We checked out a couple before deciding on this one that Emm and Christine found... it had a big outcropping of rocks, a sandy beach (fairly rare in the BWCA), several nice tent sites, and lots of huge cedar and white pine trees!

We set up camp, then explored the rocks:

and then decided to go swimming. The sand in front of the camp extended out for quite a ways beneath the water, with just the hint of a slope. Here is Dad at the very edge (where it then dropped off suddenly):

Christine, Nick, and I decided to swim/float out to the rocks you can see behind Dad in the picture above. It was farther away than it looked from shore, LOL, but we made it. Dad canoed by to see if we wanted a ride back, but we all wanted to swim back instead. The water sure felt good on that hot day! :
Ben fished with Daddy for awhile, but didn't have any luck:

Nick danced with clams (don't ask):
And Emm snoozed on the rocks:
Ben's second favorite activity (after fishing) was throwing rocks into the lake. Just like last year, he did this for looong stretches of time!

Later Emm discovered this "comfy" spot between 2 trees (maybe it's comfier when you're smaller, like she is!):
George, the kids, and I decided to explore some of the trails around camp. This one went to the latrine. I asked the kids to stand on it, but you still can't really tell that the path went down a steep hill (I was standing at the top, Emm at the bottom), then up a steep hill (where the boys are) before going around the corner to the latrine:
And here is our lovely latrine. Okay, so the latrine itself isn't lovely, but Ben and I loved how the trees around it made it look like a green room with a green ceiling! (Maybe you had to be there.)
Next we took another path into the woods, past Dad's tent site. Here's one of the many big, big white pines:
We followed the path until it came down to the lake, then followed the shoreline back to camp:
One of several loons that swam past our camp:
Camp refrigerator ;) :
Ahhh... peaceful beauty....

Ben with Grandpa's hat:

While eating supper, Ben spotted a hummingbird in camp! I never did get a picture of it, but it kept flying by the clothes we had hanging on a line, and it even stopped and sat on the clothesline briefly!

Shortly after that, Nick was out on the rocks and saw 2 white pelicans fly over his head! He shouted to the rest of us, and we watched them fly to a big rock out on the water. We were able to look at them with Nick's binoculars, and could see them pretty well with those. I took a picture, but of course you can't tell they're there unless you know what you're looking for! To the right of this island is a big white blob with smaller white blobs to the right of it. The big white blob is the pelicans, and the smaller blobs are seagulls:

Emm, Nick, Christine, and I stayed out to watch the sunset and to tell stories on the rocks:

The next morning (the 13th), I woke up in time to see part of the sunrise:
Later on, these birds swam by... we think they're a kind of duck, or maybe a cormorant?
Dad waded out to get some fresh water:
And then made us some VERY yummy cinnamon french toast for breakfast:
It was a nice day, so we decided to do a day trip. We all paddled over to a portage (the one marked "Last Portage" on the map) to check it out. We were surprised to see that it had steps... another first for us in the BWCA:
This was a longer portage, but it was wider than usual and not too steep or rocky. This part (in the picture below) used to be a logging town, called Forest Center. It has since been replanted with all these trees in rows:
The portage led us out to a parking lot, and out of the BWCA for a few minutes. Then we turned around and went back to the canoes:

Next, I suggested that we all paddle over by the rocks where we had seen the pelicans, to try and get a closer look at them. By the time we headed out, however, the wind had come up and there were white caps out in the middle of the lake. Christine and Emm weren't able to make any headway, so they just returned to camp, where the waves were taking them anyway. Dad and Nick were struggling, as well, and couldn't get over to the rocks.

Because George and I were more evenly matched for weight, we had an easier time paddling against the wind, and made it over to the rock. Unfortunately, the pelicans had left before we got there, and all we could see were seagulls. (They're there on the rock, really.):
When we returned to camp, the wind was picking up even more, and Dad and Nick were no where in sight. (We'd spotted them behind an island, heading toward shore, when we were still out on the lake.)
After awhile, Christine and I decided to walk the trail through the woods and then down to shore, to see if they were over there. We walked quite awhile (and I slipped on some slimy rocks in the water, landing flat on my back!) before finally spotting them. They had come ashore, unable to steer the canoe back to camp. They secured the canoe there, then started walking towards camp. When we got back, the boys played on the rocks, watching the big waves splashing up onto them:
When it was a bit calmer, George and I took Dad in our canoe over to where he'd stored the other canoe, and he was able to paddle it back by himself. On the way he did a little fishing, and caught this rusty pot, the most unusual catch of the trip!
The next morning, the 14th, was calm and beautiful. Once again, I woke up early, and took tons of pictures of the sunrise. (Yes, there are even more that I didn't post here, LOL!)

Emm and Christine joined me on the rocks, and Christine got her own series of sunrise photos:
Where did the sun go?
Oh, there it is! And soon after, the clouds "burned off" for a sunny day.
Emmalie and Ben did some more fishing. Emm caught another fairly big pike, in a very strange way ~ somehow, the hook caught on the fish's belly, and then the line lassoed itself around the pike's mouth!

Ben snuggles with Grandpa at breakfast:
It was such a calm, beautiful day that we decided to go on another, longer day trip. (If a movie were made of our trip, this is where you'd hear some foreboding and foreshadowing music, LOL.) To help distribute the weight more evenly (and to ensure 2 adults per canoe), we only took 2 canoes this time, the 4 guys in one:
and the 3 girls in the other. We paddled across Isabella Lake, to the opposite shore. By the time we got over there, the wind had picked up a bit, but it was at our backs, and we didn't have any problems.
We stopped at the portage (marked "Day Trip Portage" on the map). I took these pictures looking back out at Isabella Lake (through a small channel), mostly because there was a bald eagle at the top of that tallest tree you see on that small island there. Little did I know how important that island would become later in the day!

We carried the food bags, fishing poles, and canoes over the portage:
And then headed out onto Boga Lake. We started out in an area that was sheltered from the wind, but then it picked up again when we were out in the middle of Boga. Again, though, the wind was at our backs. We stopped at an empty campsite for some lunch and a little rest:

Then we got back in the canoes and continued on until we came to another portage.

We girls decided this was far enough, because we knew there'd be a lot of hard paddling against the wind on the way back. Using our Girl Power, we turned around, headed into the wind, and made it back to the sheltered area by the portage we'd crossed earlier. We had some time to rest our arms here, and just floated around, hoping to see the otters that live in this lodge, but we never did:
We carried our gear across the portage, and shortly after, the guys arrived. As we'd all feared from our time on Boga Lake, Isabella Lake was filled with big white caps, and, of course, the wind was coming toward us. There was no way we could get all the way back to our campsite in that. (We probably couldn't have even gotten out of the channel without blowing into the rocks there.)

Once the canoes had been brought back to the Isabella Lake side of the portage, there was nothing to do but wait. And wait. And take a few photos, trying to show the wind:

We were there at the portage for maybe 2 hours, napping, telling stories, and just passing the time. At last, the wind seemed to die down a bit, and we thought, if we hurried, we could make it. We did make it out of the channel and out onto the lake. We girls were working very well together, and were actually making progress. (The guys were having a hard time, and were way back behind us.)

The wind picked up again, though, and we were riding big waves up and down. Occasionally the waves would splash over the front of the canoe and onto me! (I didn't really mind, though... it was a hot day, and we were working up a sweat!)

We had made it past that small island that I mentioned above, with still a loooong way to go, when a big wave hit us again. All 3 of us over-compensated at the same time, leaning to the same side, and suddenly, the canoe flipped over!

It was Emmalie's first time capsizing, and my first time doing it in the BWCA. When we went under, I lost my glasses (I didn't even realize it till later), my hat, and my water bottle. Emm lost a shoe, and Christine lost her hat. Luckily, the food bag we had with us was shoved under Emm's seat, so it stayed in the canoe. A wave brought my water bottle over to where Christine could grab it, and another wave brought my hat right back to me.

Emmalie was freaking out a bit (I guess I can't really blame her), but we were able to calm her down. We all had our PFDs on (we always do when in the canoe), so we were just floating in the water, and had the canoe to hold on to besides. And, luckily, both the air and the water temperatures were pretty warm, especially for northern MN!

The wind pushed us right up onto the small island. (The one labeled "island where we were marooned" on the map, LOL. Just a bit of an exaggeration there. ;) ) Some other people had been on the island, and one of them came over to help us up onto land. Meanwhile, the guys had seen that we'd capsized, so they'd gone over to the island, knowing that the wind would blow us there or near there. They came running up as we made our way onto shore. We were all fine, just tired and a bit scraped up from some rocks near the shore. Oh, and our cameras were wet, despite being in "waterproof" containers. :( (Notice there are no more pictures.)

We stayed on the island for an hour or so, ate some food and rested. It was getting close to sundown, and the wind appeared to be calming again (this time for real), so we got back in the canoes, and paddled hard all the way back to camp. We changed into dry clothes, ate some hot food, then happily climbed into bed!

The next day, the 15th, we had a big breakfast of pancakes and fried potatoes. Then we packed everything up, and headed toward the last portage. It decided to rain that day, and was a bit windy again, but eventually we all made it to the portage. It took several trips to get all the gear and the canoes across the portage to the parking lot. Then Christine, Dad, and I walked about a mile down a road, to the place where we'd parked several days before. It started raining in earnest then, and we had to pack everything into the car and truck, and attach the 3 canoes, all in the rain.

We returned the gear to the outfitters, stopped at Pizza Hut to gorge ourselves on pizza, then drove down to Duluth. We stayed at a hotel there overnight. Then, on the 16th, we drove the rest of the way home. Whew! What a trip! We came home full of memories, stories, and mosquito bites. And despite the few mishaps, we can't wait to do it all again next year! (Well, maybe not "all" of it!) :)


Blogger The Littlest Thistle said...

Looks like a fab trip. Sorry about your camera, but glad you were able to get so many photos, and that the card survived to let you get all of them off, what a good job it didn't go on the first day! Hope it's dried out and more useable again now? Have you tried adding silicon gel packs in an airtight box with the camera (that is the sachets they put in packing boxes etc) I know many photographers that swear by them

August 21, 2010 5:07 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

I read every word of it! It sounds like a great trip even with the mishap in the water. Your kids are so lucky that you do this with them. They'll always remember these trips! You took some beautiful photos.

August 21, 2010 11:20 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

Looks like a great vacation spot!

August 24, 2010 7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great pictures - and great stories! A little too rustic for me!


August 25, 2010 8:23 AM  

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