September In the Boundary Waters
Ely, MN--Keith Webb secured a permit for the Fellow Travelers to again canoe in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area beginning on September 2, 2012. Keith, Byron Webb, Ray Dean Webb, Steve Hutchins, Little Don Whitener, and Charlie Stines met at the annual Miller family reunion held at Keith’s home, River Escape, on the French Broad River near Alexander, North Carolina. Keith had prepared fleece pull-over shirts and shirts recognizing this as The King’s Retirement Voyage.
Everyone loaded into Ray Dean’s crew cab diesel Chevrolet and headed out for Ely around 4:30 PM on Saturday, September 1. Ray Dean had prepared the truck so that some could ride and nap underneath the bed cover and the others could ride in the cab. Riding in the back was pretty comfortable but riding in the cab was a little hot since the air-conditioner was not cooling very well. It would be a long ride to Ely.
The first of many stops for diesel fuel was made in Corbin, Kentucky. The trip then proceeded up I-75 into Ohio and Indiana. The passengers alternated between the cab and the bed of the truck. The trip through Illinois was made in darkness and Ray Dean drove through most of the toll booths in the Chicago area. No policemen came after the truck. Breakfast was at a McDonald’s around nine eastern time. The group had reached Wisconsin. After that, the voyage continued through Superior, Wisconsin, and Duluth, Minnesota.
Shortly before reaching Tower, Minnesota, Ray Dean and Charlie who were riding in the bed heard a distinct noise of something falling from the truck or trailer. Nothing was seen so the trip continued. Upon reaching Tower, the trailer suddenly disengaged but was held by the safety chains. Inspection revealed that the trailer hitch pan had been lost. The trailer was man-handled to the side of the road and Ray Dean went back to where the noise had been heard. He retrieved the hitch pin, the trailer was re-attached, and the remaining few miles to Ely were uneventful.
Around three the truck pulled into the Voyager North Outfitter parking lot. Everyone went in for last-minute supplies and fish bait and then headed for the put-in at Mudro Lake. Ray Dean drove the dirt road like he was in road race but he managed not to run into a ditch or overturn the trailer which was much to the astonishment of some of his passengers. There was a lot of construction at the parking area and there was a large crowd of canoeists there.
There was a portage to the put-in and several places in the watery trail to Mudro Lake where the men had to get out of the boats and pull over and through rocks, but Mudro Lake was finally reached. There were three portages from Mudro Lake into Fourtown Lake, and one was especially long. Keith found a nice campsite. It was a pretty sight and was very rocky. Keith cooked a meal tube steaks (hot dogs). Everyone pitched the tents and then sat around the fire until bedtime. The bugs were not a problem this trip.
It rained a couple of times during the night but no drenchers came. All the men arose on Monday (Labor Day) and enjoyed a breakfast of coffee, eggs, bacon, and hash browns. The group was on the water by about 10:30 AM.
The first portage was an easy one which allowed the loaded canoes to be carried. e gang had reached a small but very pretty small lake. There was some difficulty finding the portage out but it was successfully located. The portage was begun a little after two. the group saw about three bald eagles and a golden eagle.
The portages from Fourtown to Horse Lake involved a lot of carrying the gear and canoes to the so-called Horse River. The river itself required that the boats be carried through several rocky areas. Everyone was tired. Horse Lake was reached after a lunch break. Loons were heard but not seen. the red boomer squirrels entertained the paddlers.
Upon reaching Horse Lake the canoeists began looking for a suitable campsite, and a very nice one was found at Basswood Falls. A beaver sat on a rock and watched as the tents were erected and the fire was built. There was some fishing and it was productive. Keith fried fish for supper.
Tuesday was spent at the campsite. Little Don caught 112 fish, mostly smallmouth bass, but most were released. Hutch caught a huge Northern Pike which was about thirty inches long Even Charlie caught several but Ray Dean had to give him considerable advice and instruction. Keith again cooked fish for supper.
Wednesday the men portaged around Basswood Falls into Crooked Lake. It is a huge lake. The left side is Minnesota and the right shore is Ontario. The lake has several bays named for the days of the week. Fishing in Crooked Lake was mostly unsuccessful but Little Don did catch a couple. The paddlers only paddled to Wednesday Bay but did stop to look at the Indian paintings on the rocks.
Keith cooked fish, rice, and macaroni for supper. He also made a Black Forest cake in the Dutch oven. The temperature was supposed to reach the forties but it probably did not really get that cold. Everyone got a good night’s sleep.
Thursday morning Keith again prepared breakfast and the camp was broken. After loading the canoes the paddling up Horse Lake began. Around eleven the portages up Horse River. There were more bald eagles and geesebut neither moose nor wolves. There were lots of wildflowers and many of the trees were exhibiting fall colors. It was a warm and pretty days with a beautiful blue sky. The first portage was a long one. There was another group heading the other direction.
Finally around three the men came to Tin Can Mike Lake. It is not a big lake but is very scenic. It only has a few campsites but a nice one was available almost at the end of the lake. Once the tents were pitched it was time for fishing, but the fishing luck had expired. A great big northern pike eluded capture but did break a few lines.
Supper was mixed vegetables, potatoes, peppers, and onions. Keith used the Dutch oven to make a delicious peach cobbler. The night was cooler but Ray Dean still slept under the stars as he had every night, but this time he was joined by a mouse looking for company.
Friday would be the last day. It started with a breakfast of Polish sausage and oatmeal. The tents were taken down and the canoes packed. The boats were on the water shortly before ten. It looked like the group might be blessed with a little more rain. The portage in to Sand Pit Lake. A group of Tennesseans were fishing in the lake. The portage out of Sand Pit was underway by eleven and it took only eighteen minutes to reach the final lake, Mudro. It was a pretty tough portage but it would be the last one.
The six tired Fellow Travelers were ready to leave by about one. The men went back to Ely where the police were probably conducting some kind of raid or search at a house next to the outfitter. Everyone took much-needed showers. After that they did a little shopping trinkets to take to the wives, ate a good meal at the Ely Steakhouse, and hit the road for North Carolina. It was a long but uneventful trip. Ray Dean treated everyone to breakfast at a Cracker Barrel. Onece home, the good-byes were said.
The group has generally agreed to take a trip on the Buffalo in 2012.