Canoe Trip with Broadwing Adventures guides Doug Fitzgerald and Jack Drury - August 30 to September 13, 2012
My plan is to post three blogs about this trip. Here’s what they will cover:
#1 - Area history, trip planning and preparation, travel to and from MN, and what we did in Ely before putting on the water.
#2 – What we did and experienced while on the trip
#3 – Likes and learns from the trip
There are pictures and a video already posted on this site, so be sure to take a look at them. Jack will also be adding blogs related to this adventure, so stay tuned.
Before the appearance of Europeans, “Indians of the Woodland Tradition” were the predominant culture that inhabited this area. They depended upon wood products, hunting, fishing and gathering natural food, such as the wild rice that the region is still known for. The first non-natives came to the area mostly in search of fur bearing animals to supply pelts to the European markets. Trade goods came from the east and furs moved east to places like Montreal. Men known as Voyageurs were at the heart of this trade. They carried the loads and paddle the large canoes that moved the goods back and forth. The traditions and feats of these rugged individuals are still held in high esteem by today’s paddlers. Even the international boarder was shaped by the routes traveled by the voyageurs.
By the early 1900’s loggers and miners were removing trees and minerals from northeastern Minnesota. Fortunately, the area was also noted for its’ aesthetic and recreational value, so some portions of land were set aside. The establishment of a “roadless” area in 1939 and the designation of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area as a wilderness in 1964 has not been without controversy. Much like places in the Adirondacks, there has been conflicts between recreational users that favor mechanized use and those that prefer not to see any motors in the area.
Today, around 250,000 people visit the 1 million acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Wilderness every year, making it the most visited wilderness in the country. Add the adjacent 1.2 million acre Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario and you have a true paddler’s paradises.
Before Christmas last year we started to talk about
paddling in the Boundary Waters. There are so many varieties of paddling trips that can be done in this area, that it took us awhile to reach consensus for a
trip. BWCAW regulations restrict the number of permits per day at each entry point. By the end of January we agreed upon a route. We chose Entry Point #16 at Little Indian Sioux River. The daily limit for this point is six groups; we acted early to ensure we received a permit.
The group had a number of competing desires for the trip, so our plan was truly a compromise for everyone. Sometimes compromises work out well, with everyone getting a little something of what they are looking for and other times they remain just a compromise and some disappointments persist.
A friend of mine once told me that you should eat better in the outdoors than when you are at home. Everyone in a group has different tastes, to help deal with this we planned to have each couple do their own food prep and cooking. Jack and Phyliss like to bring bulk ingredients and use recipes to create unique meals. Karen and Ed dehydrate many of the ingredients they bring and pack their food by individual meals. Jan and I used to do a combination of these techniques, but since I hiked the Northville Placid Trail, we have moved to packaging our food by meals. We have even started to experiment more with pre-packaged “freeze dried” foods. These have come a long way since I first tried them 38 years ago. On this trip, the food we brought could not have worked better. We started with less than 40 lbs. and brought very little back with us. Some of what was left over was because we ate a few walleye instead.
Each couple drove to Ely separately. Ed and Karen went earlier than us and did some paddling before we got there. We took our time, stopping along the way to visit our one week old granddaughter and other relatives and friends. Jack and Phyliss caught up with us in Two Harbors, MN where we stayed at a B&B located in a working lighthouse on the western shore of Lake Superior.
Once in Ely it was only a couple of hours before we met up with Karen & Ed. While there we stayed at Fenske Lake Cabins. One night we stayed in a rustic bunkhouse and the next in a nice housekeeping cabin. It was hot and we appreciated being able to swim and to eat dinner outside. Main St. in Ely has more outfitters than anywhere else in the world, so it was a fun place to explore.
After four nights on the road and two in Ely, we were
ready early on Thursday, 8/30 to leave the front country and start our wilderness journey. We drove on the gravel surfaced Echo Trail for about 20 miles from Fenske Lake to Little Indian Sioux River. Once we got everything out of the vehicles; Jan, Phyliss and Karen shuttled cars seven miles back down the Echo trail to our take out at Moose River, Entry Point #16. In the meantime, Jack, Ed and I portaged our boats and gear 43 rods (700 ft.) to the river. By the time our wives returned we were ready to go. Before long we were paddling into the wilderness.
In part 2 of this blog series I will write about the things we saw and did while on our adventure.