Trip Stories: Moose Lake to Camp Voyageur

5 Nights on the Trail

By: Joey Erdmann with Ben K., Finn H., Lleyton A., Chuck H., Demetri S., and Trip Leader Charlie Erdmann.

Day 1

We loaded two small vans–later than expected– because our big van had been hijacked for a rescue mission. Alex trekked us up the Fernberg Trail to the Moose Lake landing where he and Kevin O’Kane helped us to the water and snapped a photo to see us off. The wind had picked up by this time, so we paddled across the waves to a protected point and crossed paddles. “May the wind be at our backs,” said counselor Charlie who tends to use sarcasm in the face of adversity. Motorboats zoomed by, gifting us huge waves. “How far are we going?” asked the new camper, Lleyton, as we pushed our way across Moose. It was the rest of the group’s first day on the water since the previous summer. Our soft, mushy, city-life muscles ached as we set up camp just south of Prairie Portage. Finn set up his hammock to sleep in, while the rest of us split up between the two four-man tents. Though we hadn’t gone far, the headwind had shaken our constitution. But red bean and rice burritos with shredded mozzarella and pan-seared sausage and veggies filled us with confidence. Chuck and I mustered the strength to fish and pulled in several smallies (one was 14 inches long) and a few rock bass as well. All in all, a good day!

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Day 2

We rose early with the sunrise. The wind would not slow us down today! We crossed Prairie Portage after the typical touristy pleasantries and obligatory cliché photo of the “Welcome to Canada” sign and views of the water raging over the dam. We paddled the Canadian border for eight hours through the many bays of Basswood Lake, cutting through the “English Channel” to avoid the loop around Ottawa Island. As we turned North, we took a short lunch and paddled on. South of King Point sat a windswept campsite that put us within striking distance of Basswood Falls. Weary and worn, we snacked on GORP(M) and fresh fruit to refuel, then pulled out the tackle and wet our lines. Chuck and I paddled over to the sandy beach site across the bay and took a break to play in the sand and swim, then fished our way home. Demetri and Finn tested the waters at our campsite. Demetri had his lure stolen by a bass, but persistently casted away until he caught it a second time to retrieve his prized Rapala. After several more fish and a hot cheesy pasta dinner, we all went to bed content and clean. Finn, who didn’t bring a sleeping bag, layered up to stay warm this time.

Day 3

To the falls! We slept in until 8:00 AM. After struggling to cook pancakes on a warped pan over a Whisperlite stove (due to a fire ban), we feasted on cheesy bacon hash browns! Believe it! We had thick juicy bacon slices and chunks of bacon in our hash browns, which made up for the failed pancake debacle. Energized and ready to reach the falls, we hit the water. By lunch, we were swimming in Upper Basswood Falls and enjoying our food at the site right on the falls! Some friendly fishermen were kind enough to give us a couple dozen leeches so we jigged and bobber-fished the afternoon away. Chuck almost landed a monster walleye, but couldn’t drag it up the rock cliff without cutting the line. Finn napped in his hammock, bug-free, which was a genius idea to bring. Then he went fishing and cooked us dinner, completing his Big Man requirements in only his second year at camp. Ben talked about college and told us about how he wants to come back to CV next year as a CIT. Later in the evening, he sat on a rock at the edge of the falls enjoying “Next,” a book he’d been reading in his spare time the whole trip. As the red sun set in the clear sky on the horizon, we cleaned up our gear and turned in for the night.

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Day 4

We slept well to the sound of the lulling rapids. A light sprinkle concerned us for a moment, but we went another night without putting up rain flies on our tents. The sun had been searing every day so far and today looked like it would be no different. We took our time cooking breakfast and fishing. We eliminated the giant utility pack by repacking all of our personals and using some space that had been freed up in the food pack by now. Seven guys on a trip makes for more packs and canoes than we were used to. We took our time getting out of the site and enjoyed more fishing and swimming before we left. The headwind wasn’t too bad as we made our way to an incredible windswept rock ledge campsite surrounded by majestic white pines overlooking the length of Pipestone Bay. We fished the whole day and caught lots of smallmouth bass, rock bass, and a few walleye. I may have even caught a ”Plaquer Bass” at exactly 18 inches and a rough guesstimate of 2.5 pounds. Although, I know that Alex had a crew at his secret honey hole for four days of our six-day trip and they were also fishing. So, I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high yet. Another scorching hot day ended with a beautiful sunset and a cool, steady breeze to keep the bugs away. What a day!

Day 5

Time to start making our way home. We packed a lunch bag and slammed water down as we slathered ourselves in sunscreen for yet another blazing hot day. Then Turbo cooked us a breakfast of hash browns again. He finally mastered the stove by cooking in smaller batches so breakfast only took a few minutes. The wind picked up as we loaded canoes. “Maybe we’ll get a tailwind later today,” Lleyton said. He is ever an optimist. We lashed the fishing poles into the canoe and pushed off. At the first island, we took shelter from the wind to drink and refill water bottles. We muscled through another headwind all day to get to Mile Island on Fall Lake. After a lap around the island, we picked up the best site available, a long sandy beach site with no bugs where we swam and fished the rest of the afternoon. Demetri got a Polaroid of some zebra mussels that he caught and we cooked. We all tried one plain and one with seasoning. The consensus was, we’d eat them if we had to. Luckily we had a black bean and rice burrito with cheddar and mozzarella to fall back on. Another windswept sunset and card games in the tent closed out the last night of our trip.

We all had a great time in the BWCAW, living in the woods, seeing eagles, and catching fish, but looked forward to Deb’s delicious cooking and sharing trip stories with our friends at camp the next day.

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