Boundary Waters Canoe Trip 
Wednesday, September 13, 2017, 07:56 PM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
I took a much-needed week off work to join my parents and three of their friends for a canoe trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) Wilderness in upper Minnesota against Canada.

I got lunch with Daimon and his wife in Minneapolis - a real treat since the last time I saw him was for his wedding 5 years ago. Then a van full of excited southerners towing a trailer and 3 canoes showed up and whisked me north. We stayed in a small motel between St. Paul and Duluth that night as the rain poured down. I hoped the weather forecast was right and we would have lighter weather during the next week. Luckily, I convinced the rest of the team to take a detour to get Betty's Pies in Two Harbors on or way to our campsite and put-in at Fall Lake Campground. We had pie for dinner and we had pie for breakfast. It was fantastic.

The next day, we headed north. We portaged around Newton Falls to Newton Lake, and quickly reached Pipestone Falls, and portaged again. On the first one, Mom and I found someone with a cart to help bring our gear across, but on the 2nd we were on our own for the 1/4 mile walk. I threw the canoe on my back for the walk, but halfway through the middle thwart broke - so we set it back in place, carried about our business, and started dreaming up campsite remedial actions. Back on the water, we paddled our way up Pipestone Bay of Basswood Lake and saw a Bald Eagle leave his perch and cruise the shoreline. We did a quick, albeit jungley, hike to Azion Lake for lunch. The entire day and all the lakes were glass. It was quiet and eerie. Eventually, we found a chipmunk-operated campsite on the south-side of Pipestone Bay and set up camp around 1:30pm. With plenty of time before dinner, the whole gang took a swim and then Steve, Kurt, and Andreas fished while the rest of us heckled them.






The next morning, Dad cooked some of his legendary pancakes while Andreas and I fashioned a new yoke for the canoe. Using a hand saw, we were able to notch a section of pine tree to do the job (and it held for the whole trip!). Needless to say, we got a later start. In general, canoeing is such a relaxed way to travel through the world, aside from the portages, of which we did have one to cross over to Back Bay. At first the weather was calm, but eventually a south wind set in. Mom and I struggled into a moderate headwind through the shallow waters of Back Bay and wondered why there were thousands of dead insects on the water surface. Too cold? Natural life cycle?

The group separated some, but we regathered on an unnamed island on our way to Hoist Bay when we ate lunch. When we got to Hoist Bay, we took a 90 degree turn ENE and the winds turned to our favor. We slid past Canoe Island and Norway Island before finding a suitable, unoccupied campsite on Washington Island. More swimming. More Fishing. And Mom and I cooked Quesadillas for the crew. Steve served up a couple small-mouth cooked in southern spices.






The next day was difficult. Winds rotated to the North and we were battered making our way up the US-Canada border to United States Point. The chop was getting large enough that Dad and I were politely asked to stay close to the Andrea/Mom canoe (we rotated teams). This day I got my first taste of paddling "the barge" which was our only plastic canoe. The other two Kevlar canoes slid through the water with an estimated 76.3% less drag. After fighting the wind and chop, we turned the corner and headed West toward Basswood Falls. Surprisingly, even with the wind at our backs, the waves still made this a tough stretch. This area does not allow motors, so we were suddenly alone - at least for large portions of the day, which was nice. It felt like a wilderness area. We stopped off for lunch on a beach and looked at Canada. M&A snuck into Canada, while Dad and I may have drifted into international waters. Definitely a different scene than our southern border. Eventually, we found a campsite we called, "Camp Blowhole" because it was on the blowhole of the island that looked like a whale. It was well sheltered and we pasted the time looking at the moss and lichen that covered the island. Mom, entertained the group with a crossword puzzle that lasted a surprisingly long time (days).





We decided the leave the tents up and do a day trip to Basswood Falls the next day. We walked down the Basswood River for about a mile inspecting whatever flora and fauna (eagles, an otter, and more chipmunks!) we came across. That night we tried to catch the Northern Lights - Andreas said it would be the highest probability of catching them that night based on the NOAA data. But we didn't see anything except a wonderfully starry night.




The following day we battled another headwind south toward Pipestone. We hoped we could float through the creek from Jackfish Bay to Pipestone, but beavers had dammed it, so we had to run another short portage. On the other side, we stopped off at an awesome cliffside campsite to take in the views and rest a bit for the final push south. We paddled another hour+ into the gale until we made it back to our first campsite, where we were greeted by Charlie T. Trouble our favorite food-stealing chipmunk. Lathered on the DEET and killed a handful more mosquitoes, the state bird, for the 5th night in a row. The weather held off until that night, when a ferocious thunderstorm came through camp, but the rain had stopped by morning.



The final day was fairly easy, even with the two portages. We knew the way and a few of us were ready get off the water. It was a fun trip, great to see the world from a canoe, and the bugs were actually manageable.


larger
GPS data
Approximate Distances:
Day 1: 6.8 miles to Pipestone Bay
Day 2: 10.3 miles to Washington Island
Day 3: 9.8 miles to "Whale Island"
Day 4: 5.45 miles, day-tripping to Basswood River
Day 5: 10.7 miles to Pipestone Bay
Day 6: 6.6 miles to Fall Lake
Total: 49.65 miles of fun + a few miles of canoeing on Day 0 to go fishing with Steve.

And Here's a video my Mom put together of the trip:

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