This month’s Wilderness Journey newsletter is extra special! It is a trip report written by one of our clients, Ken Sprinkles. Thank you Ken for your work in capturing the essence of the BWCA.
Sunday June 17th 2012
We left Iron River at 8:00 am. The weather was beautiful sunny and warm. We stopped to see Lake Superior at Ashland WI, none of us had ever seen it before, and the water was freezing! We had lunch at Culvers and had an amazing burger. We made it to Ely around 2:30. We checked into the Super 8 and then meet Ramsey at Spirit of the Wilderness Outfitters. We got our fishing license, entry permit and watched the Boundary Waters video. We shopped around Ely for awhile, the boys bought tee shirts for their girls and Troy and I picked up a few things that we needed for the trip, map case bungee cords and carabineers. We had an awesome steak at the Ely Steakhouse; we went back to the hotel and got everything ready for the morning. We were all so excited we could hardly sleep.
Monday June 18th 2012
I woke up at 3:20 (10 minutes before the alarm. We are all pretty excited and we were supposed to meet Ramsey in front of the Hotel at 4:15, and Ramsey said “he is never late!” We are all outside ready to go at 4:10. Since I put my phone away in the car we missed Ramsey’s call that said he over slept and would be a little late. We called him about 4:30 and he was there by 4:45. A quick stop at the Clark gas station for a banana, muffin and a coffee and we were on the road. We had all of the gear unloaded and after a quick lesson for Troy and I on how to portage a canoe we were putting in at Picket Creek by 6:30. The weather was cool and cloudy but the wind was calm. The paddle down the creek towards Mudro Lake was a bit of a learning curve for Dominic and I, the Wenonah Minnesota II Kevlar canoes are a lot different than the old beat up aluminum at home. By the time we got to Mudro Lake we had it down. The paddle across the lake was nice the water was flat and we talked the whole way across. The 80 rod portage from Mudro to Sandpit was pretty steep and rocky. Troy and I took the canoes and our day packs and the Ramsey took one heavy gear pack, daypack and his solo canoe. The boy took the day packs and one gear pack plus whatever else they could take. Dominic, Clay and Ramsey double portaged while Troy and I loaded the canoes. The trip across Sandpit to Tin-Can-Mike was a quick paddle and the 160 rod portage across was long and flat and full of mosquitoes. After a peaceful paddle across Tin-Can-Mike we made the 90 rod portage to Horse Lake. The portage was pretty neat with the long boardwalk through the swampy area. The trip through the horse river was nice with only three short portages (58, 48 and 73 rods) we were able to paddle through all of the rapids because of the high water level. We stopped at Basswood falls for some pictures and then paddled to the first available campsite after the falls for a much needed lunch break of sausage, cheese and crackers. The long paddle to Thursday bay was an adventure and at one point a little scary. We saw the pictographs and Table Rock and took lots of pictures. It started to rain just before Wednesday Bay and as we started to enter Thursday bay Ramsey made the call to take the first available campsite. We passed a couple of taken sites and then a huge wind came up just as we came around a point. Troy and Clay didn’t make it around Dominic and I tried to catch Ramsey where he had pulled up on a rock to wait out the wind, but we were blown to shore before we got there. We waited for the wind to died down. The whole time we couldn’t see Troy and Clay on the other side of the point. Once things calmed down Dominic and I paddled towards Ramsey and Troy and Clay made it around the point. It was scary how fast the wind came in and we were all a little worried we would swamp in the wind. The rain was really pouring now and we were paddling hard down Thursday bay looking for a site. Ramsey sent the four of us to look at the first island campsite in the bay and he went to check out the site that we wanted at the island at the south end of the bay. The north island was taken so we started paddling towards Ramsey. As we passed the middle island we could see him waving his paddle. As we paddled to him it was pouring the rain and Troy even saw hail on the pack in his canoe. When we got to him he had been talking to a couple of guys fishing in front of the camp Island, there were shocked when he told them we had come al the way from Mudro that morning. What luck we had gotten the site we had wanted. By 3:30 we were unloading the gear and started setting up camp then sun came out and we were able to dry out a bit. The boys were anxious to fish so the paddled out to do so while Ramsey started diner. After dinner we all went out fishing, Troy and I in one canoe and the boys in the other. This is truly a beautiful place.
Day 1 Fish Total
Ken and Troy- 9 Smallmouth (1-5 Lbs) 1 Pike (appox 20”)
Dominic and Clay- 12 Smallmouth (1-4 Lbs)1 Pike(appox 20”)
Tuesday June 19th 2012
I woke up at 5:00, since nobody else was up I tied on a Pop’R and made a few cast from camp and caught a pike right away. Soon Troy and Ramsey were up and Ramsey started the coffee. It was good, and Troy decided he would try some and he liked it and had two cups. Once the boys started getting up Ramsey made breakfast burritos and they were awesome. We were all on the water by 8:30. The boys wanted to fish together again so it was the old guys vs. the young guys. I think Ramsey could tell we were all comfortable on the water and in the canoes so he gave us a two way radio to check in every hour and went out on his own. We fished top water but the bite was pretty slow because of the front that blew in yesterday. We came in for lunch around 1:30. Dominic had caught three walleye from camp that was combined with a 30” pike Ramsey had caught. Ramsey made Mac & cheese and we had a great lunch. Troy said the walleye was awesome and the pike was good too. The rain started again and I was wet and cold anyway so I decided to take a swim, everybody said I was crazy. The water was cold but it was refreshing to get into a clean, dry shirt and pants. Everyone took a nap but me I fished from camp. Dominic woke up and wanted to go fishing so we went out in the rain. We tried to troll for pike with no luck. The wind picked up so we headed back in. Dominic wanted to clean up so I helped him dump water on his head. We sat around the fire to dry out and warm up. There was thunder & lighting all around but the rain was light. We told stories around the campfire.
Today we saw several eagles some seagulls and 1 red squirrel on our island, Troy had never seen one. This place is hard on tackle we have already lost some pop’rs to pike and Dominic broke one rod tip. Dominic and I will fish together tomorrow.
Day 2 Fish Total
Ken and Troy- 19 (5 pike 14 smallmouth) 1 pike was 26” and troy caught a bass that was 4+ lbs
Dominic and Clay- 19(6 pike, 10 smallmouth and 3 walleye) Dominic had a pike that was close to 35” small mouth were up to 3 lbs
Ramsey -11(3 pike, 8 smallmouth) 1 pike was 30+”
Wednesday June 20th 2012
Woke up a 5:00, Troy was already up. I went down to the landing and caught the first smallmouth of the day. The boys were up early and we had a quick breakfast of bagels and cream cheese. Troy had coffee, he is becoming quite the coffee drinker on the trip. We were on the water early Dominic and I caught several smallmouth right away despite the rain. It rained most of the day but we fished until lunch time. We drifted on the north side of the island north of camp and caught two walleyes. We brought them back for lunch to add to the chicken thighs that Ramsey grilled over the fire. We wrapped the walleye in the foil and baked them over the fire as well. After lunch there was a break in the weather, the sun came out for a while so we headed back out to fish some more. The bite was slow in the afternoon but we did manage to catch a few fish including a 29” pike for Dominic and 3 walleye off the middle island on that I caught was 21”. We tried to get Troy on a Walleye but had no luck. A funny thing happened at the landing when we got back to camp. Clay stood up in the canoe to hand the gear to Troy, He told him to sit down, Clay responded “ I’m good, I have my sea legs” two seconds later he was falling back wards into the water. He came up gasping for air from the cold water!!! I was only funny because he was ok, it could have been a bad situation, everywhere in this lake there are large boulders in the water. If he had hit one it could have been serious.
Day 3 Fish Total
Ken and Dominic-46(mostly small mouth, some pike up to 29” and five walleye)
Troy and Clay-33(smallmouth and pike)
Ramsey-10( 5 pike up to 30” and 5 walleye )
Thursday June 21st 2012
There was a light rain at day break and I slept in a bit. Ramsey already had the coffee on and troy was waiting for his first cup. We had breakfast burritos without the tortillas and fried potatoes it was tasty. Before we finished breakfast the sky started to clear but the wind picked up. We attempted to fish the west shore of the bay. Wind made it difficult. We managed to catch a few smallmouths and a couple of pike. We headed in early to escape the wind. On the way back Dominic and I decided to troll down the east side of the camp island that was protected from the wind. We had a double right off the bat, I had a pike and Dominic had a nice walleye. We were going to keep it for lunch but it flopped into the water before Dominic could get it on the stringer, he was pretty upset. The sun was shining and the wind was blowing. It was a great time to dry out and organize gear for our trip out tomorrow. The sun felt great so we took a swim and lay around on the rocks at the landing. The wind was blowing up white caps and a rope broke on the tarp. Ramsey had to move the stove down on the ground behind the fire pit logs because of the wind. We ate fresh fish, chicken apple dogs and mac &cheese at the landing as it was protected from the wind. We got all of our gear dried out and ready for the trip out tomorrow. The boys fished from our camp island and caught a few bass and one walleye. The wind laid down in the evening and we went out for one last time. We caught a few bass and a couple of pike. I got skunked and failed to land a fish. Dominic had a pike strike his stick worm then follow it all the way to the canoe then went under the canoe. Dominic dropped his worm on the other side and hooked the pike. I landed it but it broke his line and stole his worm hook. We fished to almost dark and had a nice paddle back to camp. We broke down all of our fishing gear and packed up everything that we could. The boys are dreading the long trip out; they want to paddle out the whole way together. We had sausage and cheese and told stories around the campfire. Troy asked everyone: What our favorite catch was, what the best part of the trip was and what we are thankful for. Here what I can remember. Dominic said his favorite catch was the pike that went under the boat and took his stick worm, the fishing was his favorite part of the trip and he was thankful that we all made the trip together. I said my favorite catch was the 21” walleye north of the middle island; it was neat because we were all there, the fishing was my favorite part of the trip and I am thankful for my health. Clay said his favorite catch was the big bass that he caught tonight on the Spook and his favorite part of the trip was the fishing. Troy said that his favorite catch was the smallmouth he caught on his ultra light. Ramsey said his favorite catch was the 5 Walleyes he caught from camp, his favorite part of the trip was being with 4 guys that knew how to fish. We turn in early for the long paddle out tomorrow.
I feel that our trip here was too short but on the other hand I am anxious to get back home. This is the longest I have ever gone without talking to Dawn. Being out here really makes you think, you have no idea what is happing in the world. The weather report on the radio said that there had been 2-10 inches of rain in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. (We latter found out how bad it was in Duluth)
Day 4 Fish Total
Dominic and Ken-19(2 walleye, 4 pike, 1 rock bass & 12 smallmouth)
Troy and Clay-25(24 smallmouths, 1 walleye)
Ramsey did not fish.
Friday June 22nd 2012
We woke up at 5:00 or so. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal (yuck! I did manage to choke it down, I knew I would need all the energy I could get today) we started breaking down camp. The weather is nice and the fish are working the top of the water all over the lake. If we could have fished today we probably could have caught 100 fish per canoe. We were loaded and paddling at 6:55. Ramsey let Troy and I try our hand at navigating out. We did a pretty good job with the exception of a few wide turns here and there. The scale of the map is deceiving and I had to use the GPS and a few clues from Ramsey’s direction of travel as clues. We saw a few canoes at the north end of Thursday Bay and the weather was sunny and flat calm. We passed the point where the wind blew us to shore on the way in and could laugh about it now. We took more photos of the pictographs and saw several eagles, a deer, some loons and several other ducks on the way. We have taken lots of pictures on the trip (probably 500 between us) The paddle down the narrow part of Crooked Lake was peaceful. The boys were paddling together and were making it just fine. They were about 3 or 4 hundred yards behind us and Ramsey was in between. They boys thought that they would paddle off and leave us behind, but they couldn’t do it. They did work well together and made their dads proud! The first portage of the day at Basswood Falls got us back into the portage mode and we were soon on our way up the Horse River. We were able to paddle through most of the rapids. Troy and I made it up the first one but had to jump out and walk the canoe up the second one. The boys made it up all of them and gave us old guys a hard time. The last rapids were pretty swift and Ramsey lined all of the canoes through them. The wind picked up for the rest of the trip and it made it more difficult that we were tired from a long week of fishing. We stopped at the south end of Horse Lake for a quick snack of cheese and crackers and summer sausage. We meet a family headed for Basswood Falls at portage that told us about all of the flooding in Duluth and about the polar bears getting out of the zoo, the seals swimming down the street and all of the other damage that was caused. The portages seemed longer on the way out but I think that the wind helped a little with the mosquitoes. The paddle across Tin-Can-Mike was not too bad. The 160 rod portage into Sandpit seemed even longer, I think Ramsey was even getting tired. We saw a wolf track on the portage that was fresh and almost as big as my hand. The windy paddle across Sandpit took us to our last real portage, the tough hill with rocks everywhere. I made it fine with the canoe so I went back for the second load to give Ramsey a break. I took a heavy pack and left the lighter food pack for one of the boys as they had doubled every portage today. My legs were burning on the way up the hill but I made it alright. Clay and Dominic looked spent when they got back with their second load; they had done a man’s work today. Even though Mudro is a small lake it seemed bigger with the wind. Pickett Creek was much longer than I remembered from a few days ago but we finally made it to the landing and were back at the parking lot. It took 9 hours to paddle out from Thursday bay. We loaded the van and Ramsey dropped us off at the car, we headed for Sprit of the Wilderness for a much needed shower and shave. The shower felt as good as any I have ever had. We decided to celebrate a great trip at the Ely Steakhouse and had another great meal there. We were on the road at 7:00 for the long drive back to Iron River.
All in all it was a great trip. The weather was not great and the fishing could have been better but we still managed to catch 205 fish between all of us. This was a wonderful experience for all of us. If we were to ever go again on our own I think we will be better prepared for the trip. We experienced wind, rain, hail, thunder, lightning , lost and broken tackle and even a little sunshine. We traveled 64 miles by canoe with our trip in and out combined with all of the paddling we did while fishing. We heard and told some great stories and saw some beautiful scenery and laughed a lot and ate some great food. I think this is one of those trips that we will remember the rest of our lives.
Here is a link to Ken’s photos.