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    Custom Cabins October 2015 eNews

     

     

    Sitting in the middle bench of the towboat, the passenger's seat, I repeatedly ran through the mental checklist of last-minute items as I watched islands and points of Moose Lake I was accustomed to see coming at me grow smaller behind us in reverse. With the exception of the six spare zip-ties and the three sizes of hose clamps that sat on the workbench, I'd done all right. The stick of butter on the kitchen counter would have trumped the vegetable oil when my eggs cooked the next morning, but for the first time in nearly six years, I was a passenger in my own boat. Always the bridesmaid and rarely the bride, I was finally going to enjoy a BWCA trip.

     

    The Wenonah Prism, a solo boat, rests on Esther Lake after making the portage from Ottertrack Lake. Paddlers either opt for a kayak paddle or the more traditional canoe paddle.

     

     

    From my accustomed position in the back of the boat, I've had the privilege for the last decade of taking all types of canoers, novice and aficionado alike, on trips.  Every year I take three men who have made a trip together fifteen consecutive years-one of whom is 82 and another has run marathons in every state (he recently confided that he's grown bored with marathons and may take up triathlons). I've loaded groups in my towboat that didn't need to tell me this was their first trip-the haphazardly gathered camping goods, canned baked beans in paper grocery bags, and sleeping bags in garbage bags said everything. Groups that have been visiting the area for longer than I've been alive aren't uncommon either. On several occasions I've taken couples into the wilderness that came out engaged; I've also taken couples into the wilderness that may have parted ways once they got home. In the Ely area, a common test of a relationship is the first "B-Dub" trip together. Suspicion still surrounds a couple that were flown out of Knife Lake after the man sustained an injury that either did or did not involve a frying pan.

     

    A short stretch of rapids runs between Ottertrack and Little Knife Lake. Although the fall was dry, portages were still passable.

     

     

    Now, for all the characters, enigmas, and entertaining people I've served, the ones that have always drawn my attention the most are solo campers. When I was younger I would often ask myself, "They couldn't find anyone to go camping with them?" I eyed solo campers with some sneaking suspicion as well. If these solitary individuals are so intent on spending lengths of time talking to no one, why are they the first to engage in conversation on a remote portage about topics as banal as the weather and as elaborate as the obvious, positive effect of wilderness on the well being of individuals and societies alike?

     

    With these thoughts I sat alone in the middle bench, the passenger's seat, of my towboat.

     

    Lunar Lake, just south of Lake of the Clouds, offers one of the more challenging portages in the wilderness area.

     

     

    The route would follow a line northeast along the border lakes of Birch, Carp, Knife, Little Knife, and Ottertrack Lakes before looping back southwest through Esther, Hansen, Cherry, Topaz, Amoeber, and eventually back to Knife.  This part of the border region boasts some of the deeper and larger lakes as well as rugged scenery.

     

    Arguably one of the more picturesque lakes in the BWCA, Cherry Lake is split into two sections by a narrow channel. Both portions of the lake feature rugged cliffs falling into deep water.

     

     

    Late fall camping trips in the BWCA differ in tone from those taken in spring or summer. Much like the bugs, the majority of campers have left for the year, gone back to jobs and families to come out of hibernation the next time the ice melts. Fishing is a bit different, too.  Lake trout season closes the end of September, but late season smallmouth bass and walleyes move to deep water and suspend to feed on schools of ciscos and other bait fish and can be had with slip bobbers and minnows or artificial baits (either thrown or trolled). The majority of the time on this trip was spent traveling, so a wally-diver or other such deep diving, trolling rig brought in several beautiful smallmouth. With lake trout season closed, anglers are encouraged to pinch the barbs of these deep-diving lures to facilitate the quick release of any lake trout.

     

    A lake trout and small mouth bass had with a deep diving shad rap or wally-diver. Pinched barbs and rubber, "trampoline" nets allow for quick handling and release of fish. Note: fish pictures are far more difficult on solo trips...

     

     

    Following three days of solitary tripping, I met with two old friends on Knife Lake to enjoy one last sunny October weekend. After an hour or two in camp and some well-deserved libation, I noticed that I'd begun to exhibit the traits I'd seen before in many solo campers: I talked incessantly about the weather; I gestured wildly at maps; I told fish stories that had already begun to grow into tales; I spoke like a person who hadn't spoken about experiences so pleasurable that the telling of them nearly equaled the experience in the first place. I had become one of the people I never really understood-the emphatic solo camper.

     

    Camp overlooking the south end of Esther Lake. The preferable site on the islands north side was taken.

     

     

    It was then that I began to realize that experiences, whether experienced alone or in a group, really become grounded in reality with the telling. Even on group trips, the "I can't wait to get back and tell others about this" helps to cement the fish stories and dodged thunderstorms in our memory and is probably Ely and the BWCA's most effective marketing campaign.

     

    Sunset on Knife Lake

     

     

    As our fall steadily slides into winter, we're beginning to look forward to the permit application season. As of now, the permit application process begins December 16, 2015 and ends January 12, 2016 at 9:00 p.m. - Central time.

     

    We look forward to seeing you again this coming year.