Submitted by Vin Carlson, February 2016
Our 2015 paddling and camping trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area included eight people. One of my brothers, as well as my brother-in-law from Cameroon, would be experiencing the BWCA for the first time. The rest of us had all visited the wilderness area in northern Minnesota previously. The late June trip had been in the works since mid January, and we were all excited to finally get up north and onto some wilderness lakes.
We entered the wilderness at Mudro Lake, a bit north of Ely, MN. Our plan was to paddle north and west through these lakes: Fourtown, Boot, Fairy, Gun, Gull, Thunder, and into Beartrap, where we would set up camp and then fish that and other nearby lakes. We knew it was a lofty goal for such a large group, but we were okay with that. We encountered about an hour of steady rain as we made our way across Fourtown Lake. Other than that, the weather that day was quite nice: temperatures were in the high 60s and there was only a little wind. With cooperative paddling weather, we made good time on the lakes, but there were some tough portages that tested our skills and slowed us down a bit.
After about five hours, we stopped for lunch on the north end of Fairy Lake. We spotted numerous turtles in the water as we munched summer sausage and crackers. As we paddled on, our group decided that getting all the way to Beartrap Lake would force us to set up camp later than we like, so we agreed that we would claim an available site on Gull Lake if there was one. When we paddled up to the first site on Gull, it took all of about 12 seconds to decide this is where we want to be. Many in our group agreed the campsite rated as one of the best any of us had ever stayed at before. It had a large and smooth canoe-landing rock shelf, it was spacious enough to accommodate our three tents, and the fire pit area was top notch. As we found out over the next few days, there was also good fishing! We caught smallmouths, walleyes, northerns, and sunfish right off a rocky point extending out from our campsite. Over the next three nights, we called this place home, and what a wonderful home it was! We only saw one other group of two canoes come through, and that was 48 hours after we had set up camp. The temperatures reached the lower 70s, which was plenty warm for swimming. Our group spent time swimming and then warming ourselves on the large “sizzle” rocks near shore. One highlight of the trip was a 38-inch northern that was caught on a crankbait.
On the return trip, we paddled from Gull to Gun to Bullet to Moosecamp Lakes. After that, the Moosecamp “River” took us into Fourtown Lake. Not very many in our group appreciated the slow, twisting, turning progress we made going down that buggy waterway. But once we were on Fourtown Lake, our spirits lightened and we made our way south down the lake with a tough west wind challenging us. We set up camp at another great site, this one in the southeast part of Fourtown Lake. While exploring near our campsite, my young nephew found a patch of blueberries. Despite being a few weeks before prime blueberry season, we were able to pick a few dozen to have as a snack before dinner. An afternoon of swimming was followed by dinner and campfire stories.
Leaving the Boundary Waters Canoe Area is always a bittersweet time for our group. We are sad to have our journey come to an end, but we look forward to reuniting with our loved ones and to begin planning next year’s trip!