TRIP LOG: Submitted by Rob Bullis, October 2017
For those of you that follow Canoeing.com, you may remember my story from last year, titled “First overnight in the BWCA”. Well, my wife enjoyed that trip enough that she wanted to go again so we planned a trip for this fall. Due to family obligations (my son’s wedding) we decided to go the first week of October this year.
My wife loves the fall colors and she wanted to see a moose in the wild. I was not personally responsible to guarantee either, but my best prediction was that we should have Good Color the first week of October. I decided to put in on Poplar Lake and camp on Horseshoe Lake since the east side of the BWCA has the highest moose population.
Now last year’s trip was 1 portage and 2 nights from East Bearskin to Alder Lake. This year I talked the wife into a little more ambitious trip. We would paddle into Horseshoe Lake the first night. That is 3 portages from Poplar to Liz, then Caribou into Horseshoe for a total of 144 rods. Nothing to brag about, but it is only her second trip hauling packs and she did turn 60 this year.
Now the plan was to stay out 4 nights. I did have to agree that we could bail and only do 3. We were going to do a base camp again this year since it requires triple portaging to get all our stuff across from lake to lake. Our first day we planned to go from Horseshoe to Gaskin for a day trip, but the weather did not cooperate. We bucked a good head wind on our way in and the winds on day 2 were even stronger. So we puttered around camp and when the wind tapered off in the afternoon, we paddled around Horseshoe Lake.
That evening it started to rain about 8 pm and did not stop until 9 am on day 3. I made a mistake putting the tent together and put the ridge pole below the cross poles instead of above. That along with the Cedar fronds that landed on the rain fly allowed it to sag just enough to make contact with the tent and thus we had water dripping into the tent until 3 am. Now Mrs. Bullis does not like water in, on, or around her sleeping bag. To say she was not a Happy Camper would be an accurate description of the moment. Now I saw this as a minor inconvenience that could wait until the sun came up and the rain stopped to investigate.
The morning of day 3 started late after the rain stopped. When we got up, I got her a towel from a pack under the tarp to soak up the water in the tent. 4-6 oz., maybe. (I fixed the tarp before she saw it and showed her pictures after we got home). The winds were blowing around 15 to 20 miles an hour from the NW, with gusts. So she did not invoke the 3-night clause of our agreement. I did have to step up my game a little though, so I found a small emergency tarp and we put it above the tent even thought there was not any more rain in the forecast. After that, I made her pancakes for breakfast. Things started looking better.
We did not get much paddling done so far, but we were enjoying just relaxing and unwinding from our hectic summer. We ate an early supper. Afterwards the wind calmed and we decided a nice evening paddle was in order. We proceeded from our campsite to the south arm of Horseshoe. About 200 yards, as we rounded the point, my wife spotted her first ever MOOSE in the wild, I was afraid she was going to forget to breath. She started snapping pictures as I slooowly paddled the canoe in the general direction of the moose. I did not want to harass or scare of the moose. It was a cow feeding on the edge of the boggy shore. She looked at us several times and continued feeding. We watched her for almost 10 minutes. When we last saw her, she was still in the water. Shortly after we were out of site, I heard her get out of the lake and head back into the woods.
Fall Colors and a Moose. I am 2 for 2, if you don’t count a little water in the tent. That evening we had clearing skies and beautiful Full Moon. Tam said that it was a dream come true and she was having a GREAT TIME!!!
Day 4’s plan was to move camp to Caribou Lake, so it would be a shorter day on our paddle out. The wind on the way in was out of the SE and, of course, on the way out, the NW. So we were paddling into a head wind again. The waves were not massive but it was some of the biggest Tam had paddled. She did FANTASTIC and we made it to our campsite with no problems. We got a brief view of the full moon before bedtime, then it was off to sleep. Tam said she wanted to go again, but 4 nights was the limit. She also requested we go in mid September when it is a little warmer.
Day 5, going home. We bring a lot of stuff so packing up camp takes a while. We headed for the first portage into Liz Lake at 10am. On our second trip across the portage Tam stepped on a sloped granite rock and slipped and fell. Luckily she was carrying the pack with our sleeping bags and her sleeping pad (The MONDO KING). She landed on the pack and scuffed her hand on the rock face. Nothing broken, bent, or bruised. Everything was good. The wind was not bad on Liz but we knew that the same was not true on Poplar. The portage from Liz to Poplar went well. A local volunteer was out doing some trail maintenance. “THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU THAT DO THIS FOR US”.
We are now bucking a stiff headwind and things are going OK but we are ducking behind islands to take a breather and get our bearings. We both have maps and mine must have had a goofy fold or something because I did not see the set of islands that are at the head of the bay that goes back to entry point 48. So we took in a little more scenery and got to enjoy a tail wind on our way back out to the main lake. At least that is my version of the story.
So there you have it. Another successful BWCA trip. The canoe stayed upright. NO broken bones and everyone wants to return. With bonus points for MOOSE and BEAUTIFUL FALL COLORS. There is no time like the present and every trip you skip is one you will never take. So go now, and again later. You never know which bay the moose will be seen in.
– Rob and Tam Bullis