This would be the first time I took the whole family to the boundary waters. The family consists of my wife NG, oldest son MLG age 15, son CTG age 12, daughter RBG age 10 and son AAG age 7. My wife and youngest son would be making their first trip into the boundary waters.
I had to cancel my spring permit because of a death in the family. Making a plan for this summer trip was uncertain because of permit availability. I was happy to reserve a permit for entry point 47 about three weeks before our entry date after someone canceled. I knew from experience this would be a good entry point for the first timers.
We base camped on an island site on Meeds Lake and completed one of the shortest loop trips possible in the boundary waters.
Day 0 (8-21-22)
We arose at 6am to start our drive to Rockwood Lodge on Poplar Lake. We drove straight through without making stops except for gas. Instead of stopping for lunch, we had sandwiches that we packed along. One of the benefits of taking the entire family was having someone to take turns driving and to share the drive with.
After getting settled in to their bunk house, we went out to dinner at Poplar Haus. I tried making a reservation when I had cell service in Grand Marais. I was greeted with a message that they were no longer taking reservations for Friday and Saturday and asked to leave my name and number. I didn’t hear back. Apparently, to make a Sunday reservation you need to call on Friday morning.
Day 1 (8-22-22)
The weather on our entry day was idyllic. The water was as calm as glass and the temperature was comfortable for paddling. Once again, we had a pleasant morning paddle on Poplar Lake. On this trip we would use two canoes including a rented three person Souris River Quetico 18. I would carry the Old Town Canadienne with gel coat and MLG would carry the rental because even though it was longer, it was lighter.
Our destination was Meeds. We moved through the portages to Lizz and Caribou and headed west to the Meeds portage. What greeted us was one of those rocky landings with no good footing for unloading the canoes. The short portage led to another rocky landing and a vegetation choked channel to the next rock portage landing. As we moved down our final portage of the day, a father and son on a fishing day trip caught up to us. They were lightly loaded and we let them put in to Meeds ahead of us.
The two portages between Caribou and Meeds were so rocky that a fateful decision was made. No one wanted to traverse them again. All agreed to exit via the 1 mile portage back to Poplar. This was a change from my original plan to go out and back over the shorter portages. I have crossed two one mile long portages before.
We reached the eastern island camp site. This site had two boat landings. The sloping rock landing was not good when the canoe was loaded because it was hard to get out on the rock without slipping and falling. The other landing was generally very rocky and required wet footing to use.
We arrived at camp around noon and had a lunch of summer sausage, crackers and sharp cheddar.
MLG and I paddled to the northern shore across from our island to look for firewood. I found the shore landing rocky and the forest to be dense and thick. I found a few small pieces before growing tired of fighting through the forest.
We had a passing rain shower in the afternoon. Fortunately, I had the tarp up before the rain came in. This led to a cloudy evening. We relished skirt steak cooked over the campfire on the forest service grate.
Day 2 (8-23-22)
The plan for the day was a day trip to the portage to Swallow Lake. This is about a 2 mile paddle from our camp. Upon reaching the portage, RBG decided to go swimming as our camp site didn’t have an ideal swimming spot. MLG and CTG took a canoe out fishing at the end of the lake.
MLG was able to catch an eating sized small mouth. Meanwhile I helped AAG catch a small bass from the portage landing. RBG did some swimming and returned to shore. She was horrified to discover tiny leeches on her feet. There was a lot of wailing and moaning about this turn of events. RBG needed help from her mom to remove the leeches.
We kept our eyes on to the north western sky to see dark clouds rolling in. We decided to load up and head back to our island camp. As we began to paddle back we heard thunder in the distance. We took a cautious approach and landed at the western camp site to wait out the storm.
I was glad we did because we found raspberries at this site. They weren’t plentiful and it seemed the berry season was drawing to a close but we each got to enjoy a few. At least one of our party was anxious to get back to camp. The rain never came and appeared to be passing south of us. We donned rain jackets and shoved off for our camp.
MLG caught a walleye trolling a jointed rapala on the way back to our camp. Back at camp, CTG caught another eating size smallie from shore using a slip bobber and leech.
NG cooked our fish dinner in the frying pan over a campfire. The day ended with a spectacular sunset over the lake. Our camp site had a nice view of the sunset.
Day 3 (8-24-22)
We woke up to the sound of rain on the tent. By the time I got out of the tent, the rain had let up. I started to boil some water on the MSR Wind Pro 2. I noticed it wasn’t burning right. There was some problem because I had left it out over night in the rain. I think perhaps some dirt or ash splashed into it.
It was burning but wasn’t putting out its full output. I decided to switch to the MSR Pocket Rocket so that the water would boil quicker. This was a good idea because we only had about an hour break in the rain before it started again.
We were able to enjoy warm drinks and oatmeal under the tarp. The CCS tarp once again proved its value because it rained steadily and hard at times for about 4 hours until lunch time.
Day 4 (8-25-22)
I took MLG out fishing at about 6am. We used a basketball net and rocks to anchor up on our spot that we had scouted the day before. I tossed out a TGO rig. He cast his slip bobber. After about 60 seconds my line was tight. Soon thereafter an eater sized small mouth was on the stringer.
After about 15 minutes we drifted to the next spot. Same rigs. After a couple of minutes I decided to check my leech. Whoops missed a subtle eater sized walleye bite. Time to add him to the stringer.
After about 15 minutes we moved to the next spot. Same rigs. My son casts out about 3 feet from the canoe and I am thinking…”might want to get farther from the boat”. About 60 seconds later, he has caught a small mouth that turns out to be the biggest fish of our morning trip.
We headed back to camp to have a late breakfast of freeze dried biscuits and gravy from Peak Refuel. These were much better than the Mountain House version we tried last last year.
It was nice to have a sunny day after the previous day’s rain. I filleted the fish on a flat waist high rock near the sloped rock boat landing. We had the fish for lunch, cooking them over the fire grate again.
MLG caught his personal best small mouth bass from the shore of our camp site. It measured 18 inches we took pictures and he returned it to the lake.
I explored to the rear of the island in search of better camp fire wood. I found some dead pines. RBG also found some drift wood. This fire wood was the best of the trip. We had been struggling with marginal quality firewood early in the trip. I am still figuring out collecting good firewood in the BWCA.
We had an early dinner of beef stroganoff over the campfire. The day ended with another priceless sunset.
Day 5 (8-26-22)
We woke up at 6am and took about 3 hours to have breakfast and fully pack up camp. It was a short paddle to the mile long portage.
After moving packs across the portage we headed back to the Meeds side to complete our double portage. It was at this point that MLG mentioned to me that he didn’t want to carry a canoe for a mile. I told him to think about a cheeseburger and the hardest work out he has ever done and that he had to carry the canoe. I set off first with the Old Town Canadienne with MLG behind with the rental Souris River Quetico 18 and NG carrying a pack behind MLG.
It didn’t take very long until my shoulders were burning. The canoe balances nicely on the portage yoke. The ups and downs on this portage make carrying over a flat section seem easy. The worst thing about it for me was the burning in the shoulders.
I made it about 90% of the way across the portage before seeing a large tree that had fallen across the portage. This tree had been cut to keep the path open. I quickly thought “I could set my canoe down on that log and take a rest.” Almost as quickly I thought “I am going to set my canoe down on that log and take a rest.” I did so and returned down the trail to check on MLG and NG.
After reaching MLG, he asked if I was there to take the canoe from him. I told him that he only had a short way to go before there was a nice spot to set the canoe down and take a rest. He carried his canoe to where I had set mine down. After a rest, we shouldered the canoes once again and carried them to the landing on Poplar Lake. MLG portaged his canoe for the entire mile. I am glad that I didn’t give in and rob him of the experience. RBG remembers it taking 45 minutes for us to carry the canoes over the portage.
We drank some water, loaded the boats and began the paddle back to the outfitter. On the water we passed a group about to enter via the portage we just crossed. We exchanged a brief fishing report and other pleasantries.
This trip went well. We found an island site on our intended lake. The rains held off until we had camp set up and could take shelter under a tarp. The first timers were treated to a variety of weather including glass calm paddling, rain storms and majestic sunsets. They also got to experience portages with nice landings, rocky portages, short portages and a long portage. We caught enough fish to have two meals.
We have come a long way since our first trip where I had to help carry MLG’s canoe. He continues to grow and has shown he can portage his own canoe for a mile.
Meeds lake is a beautiful lake with many islands. Even though it is an entry point lake we didn’t see many people, perhaps because of the one mile portage. We saw about one group per day. Some of those groups were two people in one canoe. We camped at the site nearest to the entry point portage. As far as I could tell, we saw one group enter with camping gear and spend the night on the other island site. We also passed a group on their way in as we exited. The other groups were out for the day fishing.
As I think back, the two amazing sunsets were the highlight of the trip. It is not every day where the conditions are right for a sunset. Sitting quietly on an island with an unobstructed view of a wild shoreline brings peace and serenity. This time is special because it passes. There is about a magic hour before the sun goes down and the night takes over. These moments are what make it worth it to paddle and portage after all the careful planning and preparation that precede the trip.