Portaging and Paddling the Boundary Waters
Ely, MN--Keith Webb led his traditional summer Boundary Waters canoe trip in June. Plans were to leave Marshall, North Carolina around 7:00 PM on June 11 but a couple of the travelers did not arrive so the twenty-two hour trip to Ely started about three hours later than planned. Keith took his son, Byron. Ray Dean Webb took his two sons, Todd and Donald. Calvin Stines brought his son, Noah. Reuben Crigger and son Richie made their first trip. The group traveled in Ray Dean’s truck and a Ford Excursion borrowed from Reuben’s mother-in-law so the difficulties encountered by the Bustermobile were just memories.
Because of the late start the nine arrived too late on Friday night to get the permit and had to sleep with the mosquitoes until Saturday morning. After reaching the put-in point Ray Dean and Keith had to go back to Ely to pick up the Wenonah Escape the King had bought using Keith’s discount, and while there they purchased a three-seater Minnesota Three. They also bought a backpacking stove to insure that Reuben would have some coffee to drink with his Midol. This was the virgin voyage for the Escape. Ray Dean’s truck was then shuttled to the take-out point at the Nina Moose exit and then everyone met at the put-in.
The trip began with a portage of about a mile and a half. After launching in the Stuart River the men paddled about six miles which included six more portages. It was a scenic paddle on a winding river with widespread marshes on either side. The group had to navigate around numerous beaver dams and lodges. There was a lunch break at White Feather Lake. Two pair of swans provide entertainment. Then it was more paddling to Stuart Lake, a secluded six hundred acre lake with five campsites. An island campsite was selected and Byron set up his hammock. The others, except Ray Dean, stayed in the Todd Hilton, a ten-man tent. Ray Dean elected to sleep under the stars.
The gang ate hot dogs for supper, slept well, and woke up for a breakfast of sausage, eggs, bacon, grits, and biscuits. It was then time for serious fishing. Naturally, supper was fish with hoe cake, macaroni and cheese, and a Black Forest cake cooked in the Dutch oven. Keith believes that paddlers who eat freeeze-dried backpacking food miss most of the fun and it is better to catch and grease instead of catch and release.
After another nights sleep and another good breakfast they paddled to a portage of 118 rods to the Dahlgren River. At the end of the river there was a series of small waterfalls. The portage was through a nice pine forest. Soon it was time for another portage, this one being 140 rods. It was a tough one. Calvin fell with the Escape on his shoulder and sustained a cut on his ear which attracted the state bird of Minnesota, the mosquito. (Some think the loon is the state bird but the loons are the Minnesota politicians.) Noah kept getting tired but Reuben kept urging him on as the little engine that could and soon Noah was re-named Chug, the eighth dwarf. Finally the weary nine made it to Lac La Croix. The rest of the day was spent watching wildlife and catching fish. The camping was on Coleman Island.
Wednesday was moving day. After about a mile of paddling the paddlers arrived at Pocket Creek for the first portage of the day. All but Calvin elected to pull the canoes through the water. Keith helped Calvin portage in order to preserve the new Escape canoe. Reuben fell in the water and had a little swim. From there it was paddling up Ge-be-on-e-quet Creek, a pretty stream with lots of beaver-conostructed obstacles. This caused Calvin’s Midol to wear off. Several deer were seen along the creek. At the end of the creek there was a tough portage to Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake. There were three more portages into Green Lake and Rocky Lake before reaching the campsite at Oyster Lake. The lake provided a good swimming and bathing opportunity. The men fished and camped there for two days.
Thursday was spent fishing and looking for the moose which had left a warm steamy calling card. Reuben and richie won the fishing tournament by catching about thirteen nice ones including some walleyes.
The first rain of the trip came on Friday as the campers were breaking camp. Once a breakfast of oatmeal and pop tarts was consumed the paddling out of Oyster Lake began. Again there were the portages and the maneuvering around the beaver obstacles, but there were lots of birds. The final leg of the trip was on the Nina Moose River where they spotted nine deer. After four more portages the trip ended, the canoes were loaded onto the trailer, and the group headed for the outfitter where they each spent $6.00 for a hot shower. From there it was time for the long drive back home to North Carolina.