Saturday, April 29, 2017

Canada Trip

     Talked with the man up at the Elbow Lake Lodge in Grass River Park this morning. His name is Steve and was more than friendly. The lodge isn't a fly-in or drive-to but an in between, forty mile boat trip up the Cranberry Lakes from Cranberry Portage. Years back Allan and I canoed up the Grass River and passed through Elbow Lake on our way to the more remote Claw Lake. Fishing-wise it was the best trip we had. Honestly, we caught better than a ton of pike, average size of eight to ten pounds. The paddle took two days over thirty-five miles and three portages. That was the trip we found the boys from Flin Flon occupying the campsite we were heading for. Also found ourselves that night filled with walleye fillets and Labatts Blue, trying to locate our campsite under starlight. This year's trip in will be an hour and a half with someone else at the helm.
     I asked Steve if Allan and I could day trip into Claw Lake and he said yes, though he said the fishing was better on Elbow. Even offered to guide us should we want. Besides Claw, he said the lodge had boats stashed on four other remote lakes. But emphasized the only reason to head to the backwaters would be if we wanted to go for a walk. We'll see. The idea of fresh water always has its appeal.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Changes

     I believe my son has lost faith in my aging, decrepit body (and mind). In a conversation today I mentioned in passing an affordable, wilderness cabin up in Grass River Provincial Park. I'd brought it up as an example that not all Canadian wilderness fishing trips are over-the-top expensive these days. Most run around two thousand per person for six days fishing. Such a trip might not be the fishing trip of a lifetime but it sure would price a normal person out of doing more than one (if that).
     We'd been talking of our possible wilderness canoeing and camping trip when I brought it up. That Allan seemed to be keen on the idea of a cabin took me by surprise. After all, he's a fit man in his late thirties and could handle most anything. Then again, I'm not. So, as it turns out we're now exploring a change of plans. Maybe a rustic cabin isn't quite as manly as our earlier trips but it would give us pretty much the same experience without near as much pain. What the hell, we could always pitch the tent out front of the cabin.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Jake

     Lois and I spent Easter with my daughter and family. Of course I brought up the subject of our Boundary Waters trip with my grandson Jakob. I asked him what he was most looking forward to, camping, sleeping in the wilderness, canoeing, eating outdoors, or even the company of his dad and grandfather? I was hoping for the unexpected wisdom of youth but willing to take most anything. Of course his answer had nothing to do with my hopes. Instead Jake said, "I want to catch a really big fish." There were any number of things I could make happen, but a big fish? Crap. Oh well, I hope his idea of really big is realistic.
   

Thursday, April 13, 2017

End Thoughts

     The more I consider the options, the more the trip on the Grass River stands out. We'd have fifteen miles of river to explore and could go as far as huge Reed Lake. There'd be a few short portages, rapids, lakes to fish and we should be able to exit without worry of being wind bound. Reed is noted for its huge pike and lake trout. Throw that in with walleyes along the way and we'd have, what for me might very well be the trip of a lifetime as I doubt I'll do anything like this again (like I wrote earlier, the Boundary Waters doesn't count).
     From the get-go the idea was Allan's. There's no way I could have asked him. What with a career, three young sons, a wife and all of the responsibility that entails, I figured our wilderness days were done (not to mention my age). But for whatever reason, Allan seems to miss our time together, as do I. Long story short, this trip may or may not happen but the possibility gives me something to dream of and plan. Sometimes that's enough.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Where To Go? part II (the south of the north)


     Farther south and east in Ontario lies Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, another wilderness destination. Like the Grass River area I already have the maps. WCPP also provides first class wilderness canoe travel and fishing and shaves six hours driving time each way. Maybe. A man I used to work with did the trip twice. He said there's thirty to sixty miles of rough gravel between permit pickup points and the accesses. Not a place you'd want to have the transmission go out. The other downside is the fee for camping, $180 for two people, eight days. Access to the park is not easy and most points require paddling a few small lakes and portages to cross the boundary. Could be the reason no reservations are required and only a thousand or so canoeist make the trek each year.
     Then there's Quetico. Allan's not a fan of Quetico. Back in 2004 the double whammy of my back going out and finding ourselves on a lake going through turnover had us skedaddling back to the cabin after three days. However, should we do the twenty mile paddle and portage into Jean Lake I'm pretty sure we'd be onto fine fishing. Quetico also calls for a $180 back country camping fee but no reservation should we head north after September 4. Yup, it's a possibility.
     S'pose I should mention the Boundary Waters but after the last half dozen possibilities it sure seems civilized.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Where To Go? part I - The Far North

     My mind is drawn north, far north, four places in particular. The first lake has no name, how perfect. I've felt the pull of no name lakes for many years and this one is no great quest like the lake described in Beyond Thought and the Treetops. I'm far too old for a journey calling for a mile and a half bushwhack. The trek I have in mind is no more than a three mile paddle and two miles of stream and portage. The lake is perhaps two hundred acres but has a few islands. Beyond that it is a mystery. The fishing may be great and also may be nonexistent. And at the moment is no more than a passing thought but a lake that's a complete unknown sure is appealing.
     To the east of Grass River Provincial Park lies a widening in the river known as Tramping Lake. Better than ten miles long and rarely more than three-quarters of a mile wide, she's known as prime walleye water. In any given year a fair number of Manitoba's largest come from its waters. The upside of this lake for an old codger like me is that it requires no portaging. That's also the downside. Anybody with a boat and motor can access the entire shoreline but all those big walleyes sure are appealing.
     In the middle of the park sits an access to the Grass River. Down the river, past two sets of rapids are a pair of designated wilderness campsites. The fast water presents enough of a problem to keep the big fishing boats away. She's not much of a paddle and the portages are short. Easy enough considering the wonderful fishing I've been told lies in the river and pair of lakes spreading north. For sure it's a doable trip to water I've yet to fish. Even at age seventy new water holds its appeal. I've already returned to the two lakes I like best. Good enough. Truth is I want to see a little more of the northern greenery while I can still get in and out of a canoe.
     From the same access Allan and I could paddle west and north for five miles where two miles of stream and portages lead to a thousand acre lake known for its walleye fishing. If I'd had a bucket list a few years back Barb Lake would've been near the top. Back in 2002 Bob with the black lab said it was 'fish a cast' water. Of course he's a noted guide and could've said the same for many a lake. High water on the stream would give us three wet portages of around a hundred, twenty rods per. Low water and she'd be a two mile carry.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Dog Gets a Bone

     It is possible there might be a Canadian canoe trip in my future, one that might be more than a four day fling. Maybe even more than a week and with my son Allan. Have to let that fester and compost down before I write more.
     Problem with this dog is his age. Seems he doesn't chew bones like he used to. That's a concern. The idea of traveling forty-five miles with three miles of portages along the way is a thing of the past but the call remains. I looked over a few wilderness fishing photos today. What struck me wasn't the fish but the horizon of trees in the background. Place speaks louder than pike.
     There remains a small project at the cabin that's been waiting on Allan and I for better than a decade. It's an ugly one that requires leather gloves and better than a day of sweat. Should we have ten days to play with that leaves enough time for a fair sized wilderness experience. Where to go? I see at least four choices, all of them good. The BWCA, Quetico, Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in Ontario and the old reliable, Grass River Park in Manitoba. Since it'll be an early fall trip we've plenty of time to decide. Also to consider are the driving miles; how much time do we want to spend behind the windshield? Simply put, driving miles subtract from time on the water.
     Even if this trip doesn't happen, at least I've got something to plan.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Transitions

     Change has never been easy for me. Could be just a genetic thing seeing as how I'm a Swede/German hybrid. Been told us Northern Europeans are slow to adjust. No doubt there are deeper, more profound reasons for my torpor but I'll simply go with it not being my fault.
     My wife and I winter along the Gulf Coast in Alabama. It's an between kind of place. There are those who find Hawaii and the upscale parts of Florida more to their liking. And there are those who find the moral purity of the snowed-in far north satisfying. Some of the reasons for choosing involve the soul, some the pocketbook. Yes sir, the bank account has a lot to say about what we do. As a result we winter in the indecisive middle. The north side of the Gulf suits me well yet I find it hard to leave Minnesota in December and even harder returning in April. My body may travel twelve hundred miles in two days but it takes a few more before my mind and soul catch up. It's not easy being a stick in the mud. Like I said, change doesn't come easy with me.
     In short, we're back in the north and that's good though I feel beat up and bone tired. Gets me looking toward the warm weather months and maybe some time on the water and in the purity of the woods surrounding the cabin.
     The spring fling in the Boundary Waters continues to shape up. Canoe's reserved, as is the pre-night room and the trip's become a family thing. While Ryan, Jakob and I are fending off mosquitoes in the boonies my daughter, granddaughter and Lois will be touring the North Shore in more upscale surroundings.
     On a meaningless sidetrack, the novel I wrote based on parts of my three blogs is actually starting to sell a few copies. Sure didn't see that coming (truth is I had my hopes).
     Choosing an entry point for this canoe trip wasn't easy. Did a lot of soul searching and visualizing things that could go wrong with an eleven year old along. Also gave some thought to having turned seventy. I'd like to say I don't feel any different than ten years ago but that'd be a lie. Paddling the boat and humping the portages aren't the problem. No sir, it's a matter of physical grace. Clambering from a canoe at a rock strew landing is no longer something I do with confidence and becoming one with jagged bedrock holds no appeal. So, I chose a destination lake that requires no portaging and am saying it's for the good of my grandson. That's what grandpas do. The wisdom of age has a lot to do with passing on blame.