Monday, August 8, 2011

BWCA 2011: Day 1

Boundary Waters Adventure with Eric Z., Jessica H., and Kate S.
August 8-12, 2011
Following last year's adventure, Lisa joined the crew for another Boundary Waters trip. We began our Minnesota adventure with a quick visit with Lisa's parents and friends in the Twin Cities. The trip started auspiciously with a meal at the world 's largest Culver's restaurant, in Edgerton, Wisconsin.

While Lisa and I were heading north from the Cities, Eric and Jess were passing through Duluth, where they made another pilgrimage to the Duluth Pack store and caught a view of the famous Aerial Bridge opening to accommodate an ore boat entering the harbor.

We all converged on Ely around dinnertime, meeting up with Kate who was already in town. We enjoyed a pre-trip feast and then got down to a frenzy of packing.

Day 1 - on to Day 2

We left Ely about 9:15 am and headed northwest on Echo Trail to BWCA Entry Point #16, Moose River North. The entry parking lot was packed, and a few small groups were entering and leaving the BWCA as we readied our gear.

It was a 160 rod (half-mile) portage from the parking area to the put-in. The weather was partly sunny and about 75 degrees. There was a sandy beach area at the put-in, nice for loading canoes. Just upstream (south) of the put-in, the river flowed through a rocky stretch. During high water, this was probably a rapids or small falls; in August, it was mostly rocks with a small stream gently flowing through. From the put-in north, we found the Moose River to be a slow-moving stream through a swampy lowland. The tannin-stained water was bordered by willows and other low brush.

The Moose River put-in

Downstream from the put-in, the Moose River was punctuated by a few small rapids and one old, very large beaver dam. We made short work of the 20 and 25 rod portages around these obstructions. Further downstream, we encountered two more beaver dams. We simply dragged the canoes over these. A third dam had been breached by flood or other activity, allowing us to paddle straight through. The Moose River emptied into Nina Moose Lake, and we paddled straight across Nina Moose Lake to its outlet, the Nina Moose River. We stopped for lunch at a small sand beach just west of the outlet. As we were crossing Nina Moose Lake, a south wind picked up. Maneuvering the canoes in the following waves got to be a little tricky.

Lunchtime on Nina Moose Lake

After lunch, we proceeded north along the Nina Moose River. Two small rapids - really just rocks, with very little water trickling among them - interrupted our paddling with 70 and 96 rod portages, respectively. We also dragged our canoes over another beaver dam. We saw a whitetail deer in the brush, a bit back from the water. This was to be the only large mammal we saw on the trip. The Nina Moose River seemed to go on for a long, long time. We had to push or pole the canoes through several shallow reaches. Finally, we reached Lake Agnes, where we planned to spend the night.

We grabbed the first open campsite on Lake Agnes, at the southwest end of the lake, just north of the mouth of the Nina Moose River. We had heard distant rumblings of thunder, so we set up camp quickly. The storm never passed near us, but we were treated to a rainbow over the north end of the lake anyway. We also discovered that some previous occupant of the campsite had assembled a rock windscreen around the Forest Service fire grate and fashioned a table out of some fairly substantial rocks. "Improvements" such as these are officially discouraged by the Forest Service; while we wouldn't build improvements ourselves, we had no qualms about taking advantage of someone else's handiwork.

Campsite on Lake Agnes

While setting up the tents on a grassy patch set back from the lake and our cooking area, we noticed that our footfalls made an odd hollow sound. We stomped around for a while and became convinced that the possible void beneath us posed no threat. Sure enough, we would sleep soundly atop this geological oddity.

We spent the remaining hours of daylight preparing dinner and defending it from the local ground squirrels. In keeping with tradition, our first evening's meal was the steaks that had been thawing in our food pack while we were paddling. Fry bread rounded out the meal.

First night's dinner: steak and fry bread

Toward evening, I made a few casts with the Scum Frog Tiny Toad. I fish with surface lures - floating plugs, poppers, sliders, dry flies - whenever possible, and it seemed to make sense to do my initial prospecting with a weedless floating lure, but I didn't get any strikes. Finally, just after sunset, we went to bed.

On to Day 2

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