11 years since our last trip, Joe and I spend 10 days exploring a section of the wilderness off of the Echo Trail. I can’t think of a time when I’ve got together with Joe since before our first trip in 2008 when we didn’t talk about past, present, or future canoe trips…. Sometimes in excess and to eyerolls from our spouses or anyone else within earshot. So, it was no shocker that when I called Joe up last fall and pitched this trip that he was an automatic yes.
In 2020 I had been through the northwest area of the Boundary Waters with Scouts BSA Troop 671, and after encountering the pictographs on Lac La Croix I knew I needed to bring Joe here to see these amazing drawings! But, where to enter? The LLC pictographs can be accessed from a number of entry points along the Echo Trail – EP14 Little Indian Sioux River -North, EP16 Moose/Portage River – North, EP19 Stuart River, and EP23 Mudro Lake among the closest places. With so much of the park to see, I’ve tried to have many of my trips start or end at a new place. For some reason, the Stuart River entry point and it’s 1 permitted entry per day screamed SOLITUDE to me. So, on permit day in January I successfully pulled an EP19 permit for our desired start date then e-mailed Voyageur North Outfitters of Ely, Minnesota to make bunk & shuttle reservations.
The night before our 10 hour drive to Ely was spent at Joe & Trisha’s house, where we went through and repacked our stuff, editing out items along the way. We were up and on the road by 7 the next morning. We kept stops to a minimum, mostly the typical bathroom & fuel stops. We split the driving and traded seats whenever we fueled up. We got to Ely about 5PM, got our permit issued, picked up some tackle, and got settled into our bunkhouse. A note on bunkhouses – Voyageur (and I assume the other major outfitters in town, too) owns several former single-family houses and two flat apartments near their office, and have converted them into short stay rooms referred to as bunkhouses. Most tend to have their own bathrooms & showers, and come with a fridge/freezer, microwave, and coffee pot. Some are more luxurious, and others are more austere with their amenities.
Joe indulged me on meeting up with some strangers from the BWCA message boards for dinner at the Ely Steak House and we swapped stories over food and drinks with Brian and his family. They were getting ready to go in to the Mudro EP on Sunday as well. Back at the bunkhouse, we finished the 15th re-pack of our stuff and hit the racks by 11:30. We had a 7:30AM shuttle the next morning.
Day 1 – Sunday, September 18
Day 2 – Monday, September 19
Day 3 – Tuesday, September 20
Day 4 – Wednesday, September 21
Day 5 – Thursday, September 22
Day 6 – Friday, September 23
Day 7 – Saturday, September 24
Day 8 – Sunday, September 25
Day 9 – Monday, September 26
Day 10 – Tuesday, September 27