Canoe Trip Stories

Our Canoe Trip To The Boundary Waters
By: Judy J. Nelson

It seemed like everyone we know had experienced the Boundary Waters, so at a more mature time in our lives we decided to paddle the BWCA. We planned, read, packed and studied for a year, then on June 12th we headed north to enjoy the adventure of a six day paddle in the Boundary Waters. Our van turned many heads on the road as we made our way north, and Glenn was ask where around here, (Ft. Worth, Texas) we canoed as we stopped for gas. Our permit was for Carp Lake on the Canadian side. We chose a route with the easiest porting. Our outfitter was Canadian Border Outfitters. It is a family run firm that goes to the max to be sure you are prepared for your adventure. Chickie Harristhal got us organized, packed and through the last minute permit crisis. Then as we returned from a grueling last day paddle in head winds helped us packed away our gear and carry everything up the hill and into our van. Dave Sebesta was very knowledgeable on the best camp grounds, the best place to fish and where to fish for what, and the condition of the ports. Eva Sebesta manned the kitchen preparing a variety of hamburgers, steaks and pancakes. After a comfortable night in the motel and a pancake breakfast we headed for the Canadian Border Ranger Station at Prairie Portage by tow boat. The ranger station was a popular place and after two hours of waiting in line we were off on our adventure.

We paddled a short distance to our first short portage to Carp Lake. Just three trips each and we were off and paddling to find our first campsite. We camped on an island overlooking Carp Lake. This would be our home for two days. After setting up camp we munched on gourmet crackers, granola bars and mints Then it was off to do a little fishing. After a few hours of fishing we gathered wood and started to prepare dinner. Dinner the first night was our only fresh meat on the trip, steaks. As we sat at the campfire we saw a large bird perched in the tree across from our camp. It was a bald eagle. It was as if he was watching over us all evening. That was one of many sightings of bald eagles that we enjoyed on the trip. We also had a beaver who invited himself into our camp. Seven days later as we were driving out of Ely we saw our only moose.

We woke to daylight at 4:00 a.m. to the mysterious call of the loons. Wednesday was spend catching small mouth bass and dreaming of delicious red meat trout. Our evening meal consist of Dutch oven lasagna and French vanilla mousse and Cleo Waltons' River margaritas. Thursday morning it was rise early, break camp and move on to the Man Chain Lakes and trout fishing. There were two portages to the Man Lakes. The last one being 138 rods and the hardest on the trip. The men were totally embarrassed when they were passed on the trail by a female caring her own canoe as they struggled with our heavy Old Town 16.4. On That Man Lake we found another island to camp on, which meant better bear security. After setting up camp we fished for trout by anchoring the canoes at 60 foot and jigging for trout. The efforts were rewarding as we caught 5 large trout. Richie called the last trout caught a shark because it was so big. They guessed it at over 2 lbs. We released three and fried two in the 10 " Dutch oven. The trout were so big that we had to cut them in half to fit into the pan. The dinner was wonderful.

Saturday morning we broke camp and paddled on to Emerald Lake, hoping for a look at the Eagle Nest there and to catch a Northern Pike. The port was 78 rods. A challenging port to say the least. The mosquitoes swarmed the nets and bite through the cutter. So we pulled out the deet and continued on.

At one point we had to lower our canoe down a 6 foot incline. The green cast of the lake water showed how it was named. We made camp on an outlet of the main body so we hung the food bag and headed for the rock ledges to fish. This was a fisherman's' paradise. We caught so many small mouth bass we literally got tired of taking them off of our hook. Glenn caught the biggest weight in apx. 2 lbs but putting up a very good fight especially sitting in a canoe. We sipped margaritas and dined on chicken enchiladas that evening as we listen to the eagles and loons.

Monday morning we broke camp to start our way back to the outfitters. The thought of cold beer and hot showers kept us going on the 17 mile paddle through some of the most difficult head winds we have paddled. As we paddled to the portage at the end of Emerald Lake we were given a very magnificent fly by "good bye" by our eagle friend.

In all the trip was a great success. We paddled about 45 miles ported about 400 rods and ate very well. We are ready to submit out permit application for next year and will only change a few things. We will take less food and more tequila. At some point we each fell into a cold lake but we dried and not one was hurt. Then there was the rescue effort when Glenn fishing rod went into the lake at about 9 foot of water and he jumped in after it and got it I might add. The guys beat the girls in spades but Melissa beat everyone in fishing.This was a marvelous trip and our only problem was an untimely demise of a poor pigeon as he went up oven the van and under the canoes.

Tips for anyone interested in doing a trip like this. We are not fond of pre packaged dehydrated food so thanks to Jolene and Dottie's suggestions, we make and dehydrated our own meals. Our evening meals were restaurant quality which helped keep our 6'3" bottomless pit son Richie happy so he could carry MY bag through the ports. (only joking, He only carried my end of the canoe).We ate dehydrated ground pork and served it over noodles with gravy, dehydrated ground beef with gravy and mash potatoes, dehydrated chicken for chicken enchiladas, pepperoni lasagna and then lots of fish. We ended every evening with Cleo Walton's River Margaritas which added a classy touch to our trip. Instead of taking a water filter Glenn took a gallon coffee pot and boiled all of our water at a rolling boil for six minutes. He got a bit of criticism for not taking the filter but no one got sick. I have a ten inch aluminum Dutch oven which worked really well for four people. I made home made bread one night and chocolate brownies another night.

After a great night in a real bed, we headed to Lake Superior where we stayed in a real 1900 log cabin at Tettegouche State Park. This was a real treat. Then we continued our drive south back to San Antonio as we planned our BWCA trip for the year 2000.

BWCA and Quetico Park Canoe Trip Stories