Quetico 2016 – Man Chain 9/3/2016 – 9/11/2016
The following is a trip log of four experienced BWCA travelers. Bob, John, Jerry and Greg are all associated with Urban Boatbuilders. We paddled skin on frame canoes built by the teen apprentices at UBB (Urban Boatbuilders). Jerry and Greg’s canoe was about 8 years old and has seen many BWCA and Quetico trips. John and Bob’s canoe was built in 2015. It is UBB’s latest canoe design and weighs only 38lbs. Nice on the portages!
When planning the trip I always have trouble deciding how many days it will take. Some trip logs suggest a 5 day trip, other suggest 7 days (plus 2 travel days). Using the Paddle Planner web site I calculate 10 miles per day would be 5 days. So I planned a 7 day trip with 2 layover days. This turned out to be perfect. For reference we normally paddle at about 3 – 3.5 mph but for each day we only averaged 1.5 mph including portages and a lunch break.
Lakes visited in order: Saganaga, Cache Bay, Saganagons, Slate, Fran, no name, Bell, Bit, no name, Other Man, This Man, No Man, That Man, no name (aka High Man), Emerald, Plough, Ottertrack, no name, no name, Cache Bay, Saganaga (Hook Island).
Day 0 (9/3/2016)
Bunked overnight at Tuscarora outfitter. The bunk houses were rustic but very clean and comfortable. Breakfast was great and the staff was outstanding.
Day 1 (9/4/2016):
We arranged for a departure to Saganaga Lake around 8:00. That put us at Hook Island around 10:00 and the Ranger station around 11:00.
After the Ranger station we headed to Silver Falls. Silver Falls were very impressive! The falls drops about 30 feet and a massive amount of water pours over them. In the picture below note the canoe on the right hand side. Oops, it went OVER the falls…
Lunch after the portage then on to Slate. We took a short cut to Slate via a small pull over. When we got to Fran and the weather looked threatening. Through much searching we found the campsite 2/3 of the way down the lake. It was small but functional and we wanted to get set up before the rain. It turned out that the rain held off until after bedtime. However, it did rain over a 1”.
Day 2 (9/5/2016):
In the morning it was still sprinkling. We slowly cooked breakfast, scrambled eggs with bacon bits. Around 10 the rain stopped so we packed up and were on the water around 11.
Our goal for day 2 was to make it to This Man. We had 6 portages, a lot of paddling and a late start (usual start time is around 9:30). We ate lunch after the portage to Other Man. The portage to This Man was a bit of everything. Hills, rocks and mud. We found a great campsite ½ way down This Man across from Cheatan Bay.
We stayed here two nights. Jerry and John each had hammocks. Greg and I shared a tent. We put up a rain fly since it rained most nights.
Day 3 (9/6/2016):
Day 3 was a lay over / fishing day. We all caught some fish. John caught about 5 including a nice 20+” walleye. We had the most luck fishing across from the campsite at the entrance to Cheatan Bay. Dinner was Shore Lunch walleye with a Thai curry side.
Day 4 (9/7/2016)
On to Emerald Lake. Portaged to No Man then, thanks to a tip from a couple of guys we met the day before, we skipped the 119 rod portage to That Man and paddled the stream. There was one carry over but the rest of the way it was open and much more fun than the portage.
The portage to High Man was interesting. Up and up and up and then you are there!
We were warned that the portage to Emerald was a bear. For sure, the end was about 30’- 40’ pretty straight down. We two man’ed the canoes down the hill. Note the emerald color of the water.
Emerald Lake was busy. We planned to stay at the campsite on the east end of the lake but it was taken. We back tracked to great campsite on the South shore a little east of mid-lake.
Day 5 (9/8/2016):
The campsite on Emerald lake was huge. There were two fire rings and lots of space between our tent, hammocks and rain fly. A great site to spend a couple of days.
We planned to do some serious fishing on day 5. However it was very windy, so we looked for quiet spots in bays and behind islands to fish. Jerry caught a couple of bass which made another nice fish dinner.
Day 6 (9/9/2016):
After a breakfast of scrambled eggs with salmon and hash browns we headed off to Plough around 9:30. The portage to Plough was lined with large old growth cedars. It has been reported that there is a 700 year old cedar near Emerald Lake. We’re not sure the one we found was that old but it was close enough for us.
Unfortunately, there was a severe wind storm about 6 weeks before our trip. There were a massive number of downed trees on the portage. Fortunately, the trail had been cleared but the debris remained.
The portage from Plough to Ottertrack (155 rods) is notorious for being bad. It didn’t disappoint us. It had it all… a steep hill, lots of rocks, tree roots, slippery boards and mud. We were pleased that it was our last portage of the day.
We trolled on our way to the campsite on the north end of Ottertrack. Jerry caught a couple of bass which, with a pasta side, made dinner. It was a great campsite in spite of the downed trees.
Day 7 (9/10/2016):
Day 7 we rose with anticipation of an adventurous day. Our outfitter had told us about a short cut to Cache Bay. It was over some recently cleared portages that we hand drew on our map. He wasn’t sure of the shape of the portages but we wanted to give them a try. The portages were a little harder to find than most but they were cleared and in reasonable shape. The first portage followed a beautiful stream for a while. The second half, however, traversed a bog that might be a problem in wetter conditions.
Two more portages later we made it to Cache Bay by lunch time. The shortcut saved a lot of time and paddling. We located a great campsite on the point, set up camp and went to see the pictographs.
In the evening we enjoyed another roaring campfire with moon light over Cache Bay.
Day 8 (9/11/2016):
We took our time on the last morning of the trip. We pushed off around 10 and got to our pick up point (Hook Island) around 11. We had a pick up time scheduled of 1PM so I text’ed the outfitter on the inReach. He came within an hour and we were on our way back.
Tripping in the Quetico is fantastic. The lakes are crystal clear and beautifully studded with islands, cool rock formations, water falls, pictographs, great campsites and few people.
Next time I will get Fisher maps instead of the McKenzie maps. The Fisher maps have more campsites listed and appear to be more accurate. I will continue to use the paddle planner web site. It is a great resource. This was the second season and fourth trip for my inReach. I am continually impressed with its capabilities.
A special thanks to Jerry who took most of the pictures.