September Canoe Trip


By Auralee Strege Print Icon Print Report View/Leave Comments (3)
Dates:September 2-5, 2011
Entry Point:1 - Trout Lake (BWCA)
Type:Canoeing
Lakes:Pine, Trout, Vermilion

Day 1 Friday –

We left the house at 5:30 am to pick up our permit at the Ranger Station in Cook. The weather turned out to be much better than the weatherman’s prediction of rain that morning; instead, our day was partly sunny and breezy. We loaded all our gear including three Duluth packs and one fishing pack into the Minnesota III and started out on a slightly wavy Lake Vermilion. Ben sat in the front, I was in the middle, and Phil was in the stern. When arriving at the portage leading to Trout Lake, we noticed the water level was much lower than our previous trip Ben and I took in July. It didn’t take long for us to do the 40-rod portage before continuing on Trout Lake towards Pine Lake. The water continued to be fairly calm and made for a pleasant paddle. Our next portage to Pine Lake was 270 rods, which included a few inclines before leveling out on a gravel path at the end. We found a beautiful campsite on Pine Lake not far from the portage. I thought the campsite had just the right amount of open space and enclosure with towering red pines and a gorgeous view of the lake from the kitchen area.
View of Campsite
View of Campsite

View of Campsite
View of Campsite

As we explored camp, Phil found some remains of the vertebrae of a large animal. After setting up camp and eating lunch, we went fishing around most of Pine Lake. I reeled in a small walleye near our campsite, and Ben caught a small northern a few minutes later. Ben reeled in a 3 lb northern we decided to keep just in case we didn’t catch anything else to eat. I reeled in a 5 lb northern later in the day as well.
Auralee's Northern
Auralee's Northern
Fortunately, I was able to reel in a 2 lb walleye for our dinner that night so I didn’t have to clean a northern! When we arrived back at camp it was time to make dinner. I cleaned the fish as Ben got the other things ready for cooking. We had sweet potatoes, peaches and pears, and walleye for our meal. I thought there was way too much fish to eat that night – Phil even ate a lot of fish (at least a lot for him), eating 10 pieces. We had some hot chocolate and marshmallows for dessert. Later that evening, I collected some fire wood to make a small fire before heading to bed.
Camp Fire
Camp Fire


Day 2 Saturday –

Ben and I slept in until 7:00 am before waking up to get breakfast ready. As we were starting to get the stoves lit, I saw a rabbit hopping towards Phil’s tent, turn around back towards us before hopping down to the lakeshore out of my view. A few moments later the rabbit let out a scream. Ben and I rushed down to see what was happening, and saw a pine marten trying to latch its teeth around the rabbit’s neck. Ben ran back to the tent and grabbed the camera just as the pine marten took the rabbit into some thick bushes. I wanted to get pictures, so I used a stick to pry the dead rabbit from the marten’s grasp and flung the rabbit onto some rocks near shore. The pine marten wasn’t afraid of us and was determined to get his meal back as he kept darting out of the bushes the entire time we were watching him, trying to drag his meal away.
Marten
Marten
Marten
Marten
During the commotion, Phil came over and got a quick view of the marten before left it in peace to eat its hard-earned meal. This wasn’t the last we saw of the marten; later in the morning we saw him back in the bushes finishing his meal. We got a later start on breakfast and didn’t start fishing until 9:30 am. Pine Lake wasn’t an easy lake to fish because it was shallow in so many places you wouldn’t expect it to be. I had many bites I thought were fish that turned out to be lily pads or snags when I reeled in. Ben caught two small walleyes, one bass, and one sunfish.
Sunfish
Sunfish
The sunfish was a surprise to everyone; it was the first one Ben had caught in the BWCA. We decided to keep the sunfish and walleye for dinner. During our fishing that morning, Ben and I climbed two hills overlooking a gorgeous view of the lake and fall colors.
Fall Colors
Fall Colors

Fall Colors
Fall Colors


When we got back to camp we had lunch and spent a little time relaxing around camp reading and resting after our meal. Ben and I decided to explore around the island we were staying on and bushwhacked our way through the woods, where we saw three grouse on our way to another campsite on the island. On the way to the campsite, we climbed up on a rock face with a great view of the lake.
Rock Face
Rock Face
Once we finished going around the entire island we all went for a swim. The swimming area off of our campsite wasn’t nice. As I mentioned earlier, Pine Lake is shallow and our swimming area never had much of a drop off. When we were wading out into the water, the bottom of the lake was covered in uneven rocks all sorts of sizes making it difficult to keep your balance. I swam out a ways from camp and was still able to touch because it was so shallow. Overall, it felt nice to swim even if it wasn’t deep. After swimming we spent the rest of the day reading and just relaxing before getting ready for dinner. Phil gave me some pointers on cleaning the sunfish, starting my cut at the tail and cutting as close as I could to the backbone. Sunfish have a much wider fillet than a walleye or bass. That evening for dinner, Ben used a spicy flavor of
shore lunch that tasted extremely hot; neither of us liked it. Sunfish have a different flavor than the bass or walleye. I made another fire that evening before bed.

Day 3 Sunday –

It rained during the night and was windy when we woke up. Ben and I made breakfast before we all went out fishing. We got an earlier start this morning than yesterday. Ben caught all the fish in morning including two decent size bass; we kept one for dinner.
Ben's Bass
Ben's Bass
The wind made getting back to camp difficult; I had to move to the front of the canoe with Ben to help turn the canoe at one point. We spent most of the day relaxing around camp after we got back fishing. Ben and I found a quiet place out of the wind to read some. I wanted to learn the different knots Ben uses around camp and practiced the bowline and two half hitches. We decided to have an early dinner, so we could go out fishing again hoping the wind would die down. After dinner, we paddled back to a secluded bay protected from the wind to fish. Ben caught a bass and northern. I caught my first sunfish on the paddle back. Phil fished in the canoe while Ben and I climbed a little hill to look at the view of the lake.
Phil Fishing
Phil Fishing
It turned out to be a beautiful evening. On the paddle back, we saw a bald eagle on shore and a doe with two fawns playing in the water.
Doe and Fawns
Doe and Fawns
That night we had another fire with smores before heading to bed.

Day 4 Monday –

Everyone woke up at 6:00 am to a cold foggy morning as we took down camp. It didn’t take long to get everything repacked and ready to go at 7:33 am. The fog had lifted just enough for us navigate our way back to the portage. I enjoyed walking across the portage with my much lighter pack (mine had the food) this time. The water continued to be calm and made travel over Trout and Vermilion smooth. We stopped at DQ before heading home. This was one of my favorite trips we’ve taken in the fall. I hope we can go again at this time of year.
Pine Lake
Pine Lake

Bog at Portage
Bog at Portage