Paddle - BWCA, Quetico, Sylvania, and other paddling places

Memorial weekend on Meeds

By TuscaroraBorealis Print Icon Print Report View/Leave Comments (0)
Dates:May 28-30, 2022
Entry Point:48 - Meeds Lake (BWCA)
Lakes:Caribou, Lizz, Meeds, Poplar, Swallow


It’s a smoky gray morning with heavy humid air as we pull into the western most public access to Poplar Lake. It’s not raining but, it looks like it wants to and, as to be expected for the Memorial Day weekend, rain is in the forecast throughout. So, before pushing off we suit up in our raingear. There is only a very slight breeze easing across the lake as we paddle southeast towards the finger bay that harbors the lengthy portage into Meeds Lake.

As we make the turn into the bay and head west, I spot an interesting ball shaped cluster atop one of the nearby shoreline black spruce trees. I only recently discovered (thanks to member yardstickangler) that this is an occurrence of Eastern Dwarf Mistletoe and is fairly uncommon.

Chomping at the bitdwarf mistletoe

There is a natural looking, though faux, tree branch duck house up in a white pine inadvertently alerting us that this is the landing to Meeds Lake. No sooner do we pull up to the spacious landing, get unloaded, when the promised rain begins in earnest. Right off the bat there’s a decent hill to negotiate; it’s nothing severe but does get the blood pumping and proves to be the toughest of this trail. With all the recent flooding, and as wet as it has been lately, I’m surprised the trail isn’t more of a mud slick. Along the way we encounter another mentionable hill (uphill heading towards Poplar), several boardwalks, some nice upland cedars, plenty of moose sign, the Banadad ski/hiking trail, the official wilderness boundary and a boulder laden stretch Aurora christens “Rock City.” The landing on Meeds isn’t too impressive but, it is a welcome site and affords a picturesque unveiling of this scenic entry point lake which somewhat reminds me of Little Saganaga Lake.

duck housePolar Lake landing for Meeds portage

wilderness boundaryRock city

boardwalkMeeds landing

I’ve already sold Aurora on the fact that this should be our only portage of the day. I certainly want to avoid the busyness of Caribou Lake if at all possible because I don’t think I could now convince Aurora to do the 2 longer portages into Pillsbery Lake. However, Meeds not being a popular entry, the sparseness of vehicles in to parking lot and the fact that we encountered the other group, a couple who claimed they were headed for Winchell, while doing the portage leads me to believe we shouldn’t have a problem claiming a site on Meeds.

Paddling up along the south side of the first island, my worries are officially put to rest as it stops raining and, this site is vacant. It’s an above average site and Aurora quickly gives it her blessing. It’s kind of a tough scramble up to the site proper but, the tradeoff is an outstanding elevated view down the better percentage of the lake. There are plenty of decent tent pads but, most are a fair distance from the fire grate area and, one is at the bottom of a hill by the lake where it looks like water would pool up. As expected, firewood is tough to come by but, we do find some suitable trees for our tarp and hammock. Aurora tries some fishing while I get camp setup.

shore fishing

It’s ribeye's for supper with some scalloped potatoes tastefully complimented with some asiago “stinky” cheese. The rain stays away during the remainder of the daylight hours but, there is a fairly heavy feel to the air as the clouds do not break up this evening. It’s prayers and some cards (rummy) before we cash in our chips for the night.

SUNDAY MAY 29, 2022

Arise to an exceedingly foggy morning. The weather radio informs us there is a good chance of a thunderstorm later today so, I tell Aurora we’ll just stay on Meeds instead of attempting the much more ambitious pre-planned daytrip to the lakes between here and Gaskin. Having heard respected member ducks so often speak highly of this area, it’s a bit disappointing to have to scrap this plan. Yet, it’s the prudent thing to do and there are no regrets.

The cozy warmth of our campfire helps take the edge off the cool, crisp morning air as we enjoy Ova-Easy scrambled eggs, fresh bacon and bagels for breakfast. It’s hard to tell if we should put our rain gear on before heading out or, not. (We opt for the latter.) A westerly course is set and our first stop is the other island camp. The landing is quite tight, rocky and a tree top has recently fallen crowding it even further. However, the fire grate area is exceptional and there are several excellent tent pads around the perimeter. Aurora notes that there are trails spider webbing out and immediately is enthralled by the wide variety of unique trees, plants and other woodsy things on display. Firewood is plentiful here and we both quickly agree that we prefer this site to ours. Not that we’re going to move! Trails circle the entire island and we savor the opportunity to be in the woods. Insisting on leading the way, a large garter snake startles Aurora “to high heaven!” Much like her father, she doesn’t mind snakes too much as long as she knows they are there – she doesn't like being surprised by them.

Meeds island camp #617#617 tent pad 1

#617 tent pad 2bent tree

eggshellgarter snake

Soon we paddle on down the lake to the western most site. A much nicer landing gives way to a very open fire grate area with some nice rocks that could serve as tables or chairs. There are a few tent pads but, they seem a little lumpy. Mooseplums are scattered all about the immediate area, and their trails are easily followed into the nearby brush. As cool as it has been, plant life is still beginning to sprout and there are some nice sized cedars just outside of camp. We grab a snack and just hang out here for a while, recharging our batteries.

Meeds camp #615sprouting plants

leaning on the big cedarsMeeds camp #615 fire grate

I promise Aurora we won’t do the portage into Swallow Lake but, I think it would still be fun to hike it so, we slowly work our way over there. It somewhat reminds me of a shorter version of the trail into Meeds from Poplar. Immediately after passing the open landing there is a modest hill. The trail rolls along it’s wet, muddy course with an abundance of annoying boulders interspersed along the way. A tiny rivulet crosses the path at about the mid-point and there are some boardwalks that aid in the really soggy sections. Sadly, the large upland cedar Daniel Pauley writes about in his book, “Exploring the Boundary Waters” has toppled over and (after having been sawn) now serves as an ideal spot for a “pose” for weary travelers. There are some nice white pine sentinels near the Swallow end, including 2 which serve as a gateway, which sports a smaller landing full of tree roots.

paddling up to the landing for portage into Swallowsoaked trail

creek crossingbreak at the big cedar bench

boardwalkapproaching Swallow Lake

Back on Meeds, the southern shoreline guides us home. The rain has held off thus far today but, it still looks like it may still let loose. Once back in camp, Aurora retreats to the confines of the hammock while I try and round up some extra firewood and then just take it easy. Eventually Aurora relinquishes the hammock and I take a turn. Afterwards, it appears the skies are beginning to brighten and with the long days of late May there is still plenty of time before the sun sets so, we determine to head out in the Black Pearl yet again.

hammock fun

One of Aurora’s primary trip desires was to catch some walleye. She hasn’t had much luck fishing from shore so, hopefully things improve out on the lake. There are a couple of loons nearby and we slowly troll in their direction. That’s just the ticket, as Aurora nets a decent walleye for supper!

Meeds Lake walleye

Fishing objectives accomplished, we next head for the portage into the river leading to Caribou Lake. It has a very rocky landing and the trail itself sports more than its fair share but, it is a level path. The downstream landing will be a struggle as there are several large, oddly angled boulders crowding the put in area. As we hike back, there is the remains of an old spur trail at about the mid-point of this portage. We follow it to the creek where 3 logs with nails protruding still span the narrow waterway – remnants of a dilapidated bridge. To date I have not been able to determine what this trail is/was - although, I haven’t spent too much time digging either. Still, it was a neat, unexpected surprise to our explorations today.

old bridge just off the portage trailnails

Once back in camp, we fry up Aurora’s walleye and chop up some potatoes again for supper. Using her beaver stick she found earlier today, Aurora plays some mean air guitar to provide the evening's entertainment. The color packets she tossed into the fire make an appropriate Pink Floyd-esque backdrop. Looking back on the day, it never did rain or become disagreeable weatherwise today. I guess we could have done the full pre-planned daytrip after all? But I prefer to count the blessings of the things we were able to see and do; which were fun and memorable in their own right.

fish fryAir guitar

MONDAY MAY 30, 2022

Meeds camp #616

I crawl out to another dreary looking sky early this morning. The promised rain still hasn't arrived but, while the ever changing unique shapes and lines in the clouds currently overhead are mesmerizing to gaze upon, I suspect there will soon be a heavy price to pay for beholding such beauty. I busy myself getting as much packed up as I can before "the hammer drops." Eventually Aurora joins me, and we get everything packed away but the tarp. Soon thereafter, however the skies open up and really let loose with an epic deluge.


Even huddled under the seeming sanctuary of the tarp we still get chilly residual spray from the pounding rain. It continues long enough that I begin to contemplate the wisdom of having packed everything (but the tarp) away. I take solace in the fact that my initial observation of the nice tent pad, down by the lakeshore, is spot on. As water rushes down the slope to form a sizable muddy pool there. About the time I seriously start contemplating various plan B's, the rain lets off as quickly as it started. After giving it a few minutes to be sure, we get the tarp down and load up the Black Pearl. Aurora proudly leaves behind the sheet of birch bark she'd found on our day trip yesterday.

birch bark

Out on the lake, while paddling conditions are very manageable, I'm still quite leary of a sudden reoccurrence of severe weather. Following the script we had in advance, we choose to take the short portages into Caribou Lake and exit the wilderness through Lizz Lake EP #47. The downstream landing of this first portage is a real bear and there isn't really a good place to stage our gear so, I hope no one else shows up until we can get cleared out. On my way back for my 2nd load, I'm flabbergasted to run across a smiling Aurora bringing our barrel (traditionally the heaviest) pack across. Truly an unexpected heart-warming moment for this Father.

Bad landinghauling the heavy load

Having been able to get the Black Pearl loaded and on our way without breaking our necks or slipping into the water, we are rewarded with a serene paddle down this lovely narrow creek between portages. I can't help but, think how beautiful this would also be if the tamaracks where sporting their fall plummage. Before I get too deep in those thoughts, we arrive at the second portage which boasts an upstream landing very similar to the upstream landing at the previous portage. While I do make note of several nice cedar trees along this bouldery trail, I soon discover the last few rods are essentially a class II rapids and all my attention is now on safely traversing them. Fortunately there is enough of a reprieve at the end to serve as a small staging area. As Aurora busys herself tormenting the local frogs, I slip and take a tumble bringing my last load across. Thankfully, only my pride is bruised.

wet portagerapids on the portage

There are a couple of ducks resting atop a large boulder just out from the landing. And, we seem to be scaring up any number of waterfowl as we press on further east towards the portage into Lizz Lake. Some rolling thunder is heard in the not too far distance and, we pull off and put our rain jackets on. From our stationary vantage point, a few other groups are seen making a beeline for the portage.

mallardCaribou Lake camp #640

By the time we pull into the spacious landing for the portage to Lizz, most everyone has cleared out. Only the last group grabbing their final load. Rain starts up as we begin the portage; it's only a light mist and, being on a canopied trail, we hardly notice. I'm pleasantly surprised, as I expected this trail to be a completely muddy mess. It certainly is wet but there are no real trouble spots and the newly constructed landing on the Lizz end is most impressive & helpful during this exceedingly high water spring.

Lizz portage boardwalkLizz Lake landing

The rain lets off but, there are still some faint traces of mist about adding to the ambiance as we paddle Lizz Lake. Our last portage also sports something of a dock, and being well oiled machines by this time, we make quick work of it. Maybe it's just me, but I find the spacious landing on the Poplar end a scenic spot. A group comes across just behind us so, we don't have time to linger. They proceed to follow us all the way back to the public access and wind up helping me get the Black Pearl loaded atop my van.

Short & sweet! While the weather & forecast didn't cooperate throughout, I'm happy we were still able to get out and do some scaled back exploring of the area. It's always fun to spend time with Aurora in canoe country and get to know each other better. Aurora getting a walleye for supper was also another primary objective accomplished. Even with persistent gray skies I thought Meeds was an exceptionally beautiful lake, I wonder how the illumination of some sunshine would have enhanced my assesment? I'm still curious about the old dilapidated bridge we found too. Perhaps an old logging trail??? Maybe someone knows of it's origins/purpose?

Aurora & I

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