Journal From A Boundary Waters Canoe Trip
By: Ed Deacy
Day 1 - A small but confident group of canoeists (Darcy Brobst, Ed Deacy, Chris McDonald, and John Palmer) gathered at Canadian Border Outfitters, eighteen miles northeast of Ely, Minnesota, to test some canoes and enjoy dinner at the Cookshack while reviewing maps and propsed routes for their adventure. We set out on an evening hike up some ridges where we spotted an eagle carrying a fish to its nest. After sunset, we watched an awesome display of the mid-August meteor showers before retiring for the night.
Day 2 - 14 miles, 11 portages: After a filling pancake breakfast, we, along with our canoes and gear, boarded a tow boat that took us eight miles to the Canadian border for the start of our canoe trip. We had our first taste of portaging as we traveled the route of the long-gone French voyagers over the six carry-overs leading to Knife Lake. Here we ate lunch on an island formerly occupied by Dorothy Molter who was known as the "Root Beer Lady" for the drink she made and sold to passing canoeists. Dorothy made this wilderness island her home until her death in 1986.
Several lakes and portages later, we found ourselves racing to an island on Kekekabic Lake to wait out a thunderstorm which included, much lightening and hail. During a lull in the storm, Ed and Darcy scooted across the mainland to make camp while John and Chris waited. Several minutes later when they pulled up at camp, a lightening bolt struck the water and gave Chris (the lightening magnet - just ask him!) a fuzzy zap because his feet were still in the water. As of the last report, his hair has not turned white...
Day 3 - 10 miles, 11 portages: We woke to sunny skies, had a quick breakfast, broke camp, and were off. This day took us through much downed timber from a storm one month prior that had snapped White and Norway pines like toothpicks. After six portages and several miles we ate luch on an island in Sagus Lake. Darcy napped in the shade while John, who was beginning to earn the name "Aquaman" stood in the water and fished. We already were further than most people would go on a week long trip but we pressed on. We went through several small lakes, up a lily pad-choked creek, and over a mile-long portage to Boulder Lake, where a cloudburst greeted us. Next we paddled, portaged, and dragged ourselves and belongings over beaver dams up a creek to get to Adams Lake, a true jewel of the Boundary Waters. We found a cozy spot in a beautiful bay full of islands and boulders. We decided to stay here for three nights. After steaks grilled over the fire, we retired to our tents for a welcome nights sleep.
Day 4 - Adams Lake: We began the day with a breakfast of bacon and eggs, hot coffee and o.j. - not bad for a wilderness trip! Chris and John went exploring through a rocky canyon to Smite Lake while Ed and Darcy did dishes and organized camp. Later we all headed out fishing, and after gathering on some rock formations for lunch, Ed caught a nice pike which would become dinner. Ed and Aquaman fished that night under the moon, blanket of stars and a northern lights display. The campfire was complete with stories and songs.
Day 5 - Adams Lake: Another day of fishing, exploring, and sight-seeing brought us to a seldom-reached lake called Treasure Lake where we ate lunch. Back on Adams Lake that afternoon the pike really started to hit. Ed and Aquaman tied into some hefty ones while Darcy caught a story of "the one that got away"!
Day 6 - 14 miles, 8 portages: We woke to a cool morning that had the lake shrouded in mist. After a tasty french toast breakfast we moved through a series of lakes that make up the Kawishiwi Rivers headwaters. We eventually came to some ancient pictographs on a cliff face. They consisted of men in canoes, a godlike figure, and some faded animals. The artist was probably an Ojibway or Cree Indian hundreds of years ago. We began to see more people as we passed several sets of waterfalls, ate lunch, and took a refreshing swim. By now we were all seasoned travelers making great time. When we passed other people on portages, it was an ego boost seeing their many trips to our one. Camp came on Insula Lake that night. We shared our island with a fearless chocolate loving squirrel. He even did a silly blind dance with a hot chocolate packet stuck on his head!
Day 7 - 13 miles, 6 portages: It was another perfect day as we bid the squirrel goodbye. We passed other campers as we traveled through several lakes that had barely a ripple on the water. We did our last portage into Lake One and stopped at a lodge for an ice cold Hamms beer. After all, the last six days had looked like one of their commercials!
We couldn't believe the trip was ending. It had gone by so fast, yet that first night seemed so long ago because we felt like old friends at this point. We had traveled 51 miles and done 36 portages together. We boarded our canoes for the last time. Ten minutes later the outfitter was there to greet us at the landing and take us back to hot showers and a wonderful steak dinner. We finished the trip with some Ely nightlife, and in the morning we all headed back to Chicago with fond memories of our wilderness adventure.