S: Canadian Family Vacation 1994
FC: Black Birch Lake | June 23, 1994 through July 4, 1994 | Canadian Family Vacation
1: In preparation
2: Near Orr, Minn. | RIDE'M COWBOY!
3: Crossing the Border International Falls, Minnesota, USA | Fort Francis, Ontario, Canada
4: Our Pile-it! (pilot) | As we traveled, we continued to see these small piles of rocks along the road, so we decided to make our own. We called them pile-its (pilots). Where we made ours, was somewhere north of Dryden, between Cedar Lake and Cliff Lake roads.
5: River rapids | Red Lake Mining District There's GOLD in them there hills! | A HUGE anthill!
6: Are we ready yet?
7: A view from the air . . .
8: A View of the Cabin from the Lake | A First Glimpse | The Docking Area | Our Home For The Week
9: Inside the Cabin | Moose Head in Cabin | HOME SWEET HOME! | A Look Inside
10: Our Hosts for the Week The Owners of Amik Lodge | On our own with only a CB radio for communication ...
11: On the lake, after the big one!
12: Good Times!
13: Great Days! | Black Birch Lake
14: The Trapper's Cabin
15: Ruffed Grouse and Loon | Bald Eagle
16: Where's the gun when you need it?!
17: Along with the fun, comes a little work.
18: Old Sharp Tooth & Wally Nature's Predator & Prey
19: What we believed to be the east end of Black Birch Lake and the beginning of Deer Lake
20: Now, that's one HAPPY camper!
21: Now there's a mounter!
22: Wake up Lazy Bones!
23: Our last night in camp ...
24: All good things must end! Packing up to leave.
25: Red Lake Wildlife
26: Heading home ... | Making a run for the border.
27: In Conclusion They say, "All good things must end," and so it is with this. For Richard and I, it was most likely an experience of a lifetime. For Josh, well, hopefully he's old enough to remember and young enough to return. It's not out of the realm of possibility to say we'd all be back, but it's an expensive trip and a short life with many other things to see and do and places to go.
28: Josh’s Journal Canadian Vacation – June 23 thru July 4, 1994 Black Birch Lake Fly-in Fishing Trip Day 1 Left at 7:30 AM., Thursday, June 23, 1994. The day was not very long and/or eventful. We were originally going to stop at Eau Claire (WI), but we made good time so we went farther north to Rice Lake. At the motel we went swimming. I played pool and video games. ______________________STOPS______________________ What For Miles Traveled Where Gas $17.00 16.5 gal. 17 Columbia City, IN Bathroom break 119 Merrillville, IN Gas $20.00; 16.678 gal. 280 Edgerton, WI Gander Mountain 480 Eau Clare, WI Gas $19.50; 16.678 gal. 539 Rice Lake, WI Motel - $59.00 Total miles traveled = 539 Day2 Left 8:20 AM., Friday, June 24, 1994. Left Rice Lake for International Falls, Minnesota. After we left the motel, we traveled on a
29: very scenic hwy. The muffler clamp on the truck broke and needed fixed. We parked by a giant bluegill and I took a picture of mom by it, later finding a walleye for my picture. I was in Minnesota for the first time at 10:00 AM. __________________________STOPS__________________________ Why Miles Where Gas-9.7 gal.; $11.51 709 Virginia, MN Eats - $9.57 Fix muffler clamp - $1.76 756 Orr, MN Motel - $39.00 819 International Falls, MN Total miles traveled: 539 Day 3 Left at 5:45 AM., Saturday, June 25, 1994. We got up early today and left at 5:45 just so we didn’t have to wait in a long line to get across the border. The trip seemed much longer today than it did the other days. I am getting very anxious about the trip. We went to Red Lake to see the planes and we will probably be in a fairly large one called the Beaver. It will be so large because Black Birch is so far away and the Beaver has the best gas mileage. __________________________STOPS___________________________ Why Miles Where Gas - $20.00 943 Dryden, Canada Food - $20.00 Licenses - $67.00 Motel $50.00 1110 Balmertown, Ontario
30: Day 4 Left at 10:00 AM., June 26, 1994. I was very excited to get to the lake. Once my poles were ready I went fishing immediately. I walked along the shore fan casting off rock points. About the second stop I caught a walleye. It wasn’t very big but about normal size. Once we were ready to go we went. Dad then caught the first northern and Mom also caught one. We kept moving along the shoreline when we found a weed bed. We stopped and caught some walleyes. Dad snagged his lure. When he popped it free and the lure flew back and got buried in my hand. We got it out and went fishing again. I caught a total of 6 fish. Dad caught 13, and Mom caught 2. Walleye Northern 24 6 Day 5 June 27, 1994 --- Before we went out on the boat, I went down to the dock to do some fishing before we went out. I caught 2 walleyes and a little northern, which almost died. We weren’t catching much so Mom went to sleep. A storm started to form so we went into a cove because we were too far from the cabin. After it passed we went a little farther over. That was a good spot. We caught quite a few. Once we stopped catching a lot there, we moved on a little more but didn’t have the same luck. We decided to come back to the cabin and clean the fish and eat. When we took the fish guts to the island, Dad let me drive the boat for a little while. While we were eating, another storm came up and almost blew a tree down in front of the cabin. Walleye Northern 55 3 Day 6 June 28, 1994 --- Today the fishing was fair. We went the opposite direction.
31: The lake is huge! We fished a few different places before we hooked into a good school. After awhile, the fish stopped biting so as we were leaving we did some trolling across the rock points when Dad hooked a fish (although it got away). I started to reel my lure in (playing it), when I caught a giant walleye. It ended up to be 3.8 lbs. After supper Dad and I went out again. The fishing was a lot better. I caught a 2.8 lb. walleye. Walleye Northern 50 12 Day 7 June 29, 1994 --- Today the fishing was fairly good. Mom didn’t go because she wasn’t feeling very good. Dad and I went to a new cove that looked good, but wasn’t really good. We came out of the cove and fished off a point next to the cove. We did pretty good. Once fishing died down some, we moved farther over to a point we named Bubba’s Point because that was where I caught my large walleye. We didn’t do very well there so we moved. (I had lost the Walleye Diver before Bubba’s Point). We went to a sunken island we found the day before. It was good fishing there. I caught a 6 lb. northern pike there. I was going to let it go, but it didn’t seem to survive the trip back to show Mom. I didn’t really want to eat it so we are going to mount it. Walleye Northern 55 4 Day 8 June 30, 1994 --- Today I don’t have much to talk about because it rained. It rained till about 5:30 – 6:00. Dad and I went out after supper and did fairly well. We went over to the point near the house but didn’t catch anything so we moved into a new cove past the Trapper’s Cabin. We caught 1 walleye and 6 northern. When it stopped there we moved to the Trapper’s Cabin and did well there. Walleye Northern 6 6
32: Day 9 July 1, 1994 --- Today was a little different. Instead of fishing the whole day, we went on a hike to a nearby lake. We canoed as far as we could, but it still left us a good walk. The deerflies were terrible! Most of the time, it looked like a whole swarm of them. When we got back to the canoe we were all very tired. That wasn’t the last thing that happened though. In the middle of the lake the motor died and we had to paddle the canoe in and get another boat. Later while we were fishing, Mom hooked a walleye which was chomped by a northern. We got them both in. The walleye was little but the northern was 4.2 lbs. Around 10:00 PM, Mom and Dad went out to look for animals. Walleye Northern 26 6 Day 10 July 2, 1994 --- Today was very interesting. All of us went fishing. Before we did any major fishing, we went to try to find where Black Birch empties into Deer Lake. We about found it, (marked by a waterfall), but we gave up because it seemed to go on forever. We came back and did some more fishing before we dropped Mom off at the cabin to pack. Dad and I went out again. Around 4:30 PM a game warden flew out and discovered we had nineteen walleyes, instead of eighteen. (a $45 fine and 6 walleyes) We tried to catch 6 more nice walleyes to catch back up. We didn’t have any luck doing that because the fish stopped biting. That night we had a campfire and cooked chicken noodle soup. Being it was the last day fishing we counted the number of fish we caught. (Daily records may be off.) Walleye Perch Northern 30 I snagged one about 3” 5
33: Trip totals --- Walleyes – 255 Northerns – 55 Day 11 July 3, 1994 --- That morning was hectic. None of us wanted to hear the plane because we knew we probably wouldn’t come back and it was one step closer to having to drive 1100 miles. The next bunch of guests came on the plane we left on. We unpacked the plane, packed the plane, and helped the other guests settle in a little bit before getting on the plane and leaving. We headed out as soon as we had the truck packed. We drove longer than before, before we stopped at Duluth for the night, seeing our “pile it” still standing and Mom’s moose. ________________________STOPS____________________________ Why Miles Where Gas - $25.50 ? Ear Falls, Canada Dry Ice - $16.00 250 International Falls, MN Food - $18.00 Motel - $67.00 Duluth, Minnesota Day 12 July 4, 1994 --- After leaving Duluth, we tried to make it before the fireworks so we tried to make as little number of stops as possible. Although I don’t have much to say for today, we did make the fireworks and I will always miss Canada and hope my family can enjoy it as much as I did. And with this I close this journal. __________________________STOPS___________________________ Why Miles Where Gas - $21.00 (18.2 gal.) 518 Rice Lake, WI
34: Gas - $17.00 (14.2 gal.) 721 Portage, WI Gas - $16.00 (15.1 gal.) 950 Valpariso, IN Total miles traveled: 2178 miles Josh Batterson
35: God’s Country Our Canadian Fly-In Fishing Trip to Black Birch Written by Mary Batterson Day 1 – Thursday, June 23, 1994 Travel went well, although we did encounter heavy rain. Weather was cool --- excellent temperatures for travel (mid 60’s). Started our journey about 7:30 and stopped for the day at Rice Lake, WI, 539 miles later, at AmericInn Motel, complete with indoor pool, spa, and pool table / game room. Josh and I enjoyed the pool after ordering in a Dominoes pizza for supper. No cooking, no cleaning up! That’s the life!! Spent about $150. Traveled for 10 hrs. and 540 miles. Day 2 – Friday, June 24, 1994 Left Rice Lake about 8:30 after having a continental breakfast at the motel. Traveled to International Falls to spend the night on the American side of the border. Arrived about 2:00 PM. Made for an easy day. Even the weather cooperated with warm temperatures (mid to upper 70’s) and sunshine. Came thru 5 minutes of rain near Orr, Minn., where we made a minor truck repair by replacing a rusted muffler clamp. Settled for a less expensive motel today, but pleasant just the same. Checked out a couple of stores in International Falls and made a few minor purchases and gathered gift and souvenir ideas to possibly purchase on our return. Ate supper at the local Country Kitchen and called it an early night. Also saw Lake Superior today when passing thru Duluth. Spent about $95. Traveled for 5 hrs. and 280 miles. Day 3 – Saturday, June 25, 1994 Got an early start this morning, the last leg of our journey by land, 5:45 AM, in order to avoid the lines waiting to cross the border. Had no trouble upon crossing. The
36: attendant asked only a handful of questions and to see some form of identification for Josh. Upon producing a copy of his birth certificate we were allowed thru. We traveled on to Dryden, where we “gassed” both the truck and ourselves up, and bought our fishing licenses. A 7 day license for each of us cost about $23 per person American dollars. We’ve discovered that both Canadian money and mileage is about 2/3 that of our own. We arrived at our destination of Balmerstown (about 3 miles from Red Lake) at about 1:15 PM. Once again it was not a hurried trip and the weather was very pleasant. Surprisingly enough, the road we traveled, although appearing on the map to be the only one in the middle of nowhere, was not what we expected. It was wide and well traveled, where we expected to be “alone on a wilderness trail”, I guess! Had hoped to see some moose or bear – or wildlife of any kind -- we didn’t. Wrong time of the day I suppose. The scenery was pretty, but rather monotonous after awhile, consisting of hills and swampland covered with mostly birch trees and pines of various kinds, and lots of lakes. Many trees had been harvested off, but the Canadian’s have been watchful of this and have replanted. The sky here is clear and clean and even the clouds seem closer. An interesting oddity we noticed today along the roadsides were small piles of rocks someone bothered to stack. We could discern no particular reason for this. Dad decided they were done by someone who wanted to fly, so he became a pile-it (pilot). Ha! Ha! They almost appeared to be a trail sign of sorts. We finally concluded everyone or anyone stopped and made a stack of their own whenever and wherever they felt like it, so, of course, we did too. We stopped between Cedar Lake and Cliff Lake roads to make our own. Must check on our return to see if it remains standing. Made 3 other unnecessary stops, as Richard tried to be very accommodating since we had plenty of time and were not rushed ---once to view a huge anthill, another time to see the rapids, and once again, a pair of loons and
37: their family. The last, we almost got stuck in the sand at road edge. An interesting discovery at Red Lake area were the gold mines. Dad talked to a miner at the Balmer Hotel. It would seem that gold has been mined in the area since the 1930’s, but not always at a steady rate, though again at present. I found this to be of real interest, as with man’s greed what it is, I guess I figured such mines were a thing of the past. After settling in at the motel, we drove to Red Lake to find Red Lake Airways and the sea planes. It was here we tried our luck in sincerity with the camcorder. Hopefully we know what we’re doing and will have some interesting viewing by the time we get home. Just in case, we are taking still photos and keeping this journal to share. The sea planes were neat. I’m looking forward to our flight tomorrow and viewing Black Birch Lake for the first time. Josh is very anxious and can hardly contain his impatience to get started. We are to be at the airway by 9:00 AM. Since there was plenty of time to do so, we found a Catholic church with a Saturday evening mass to attend, St. John the Apostle’s in Red Lake. Had supper at Ted’s Place and returned to the motel about 8:45 PM. There are many Indians up here, but of what tribe, I don’t know. Maybe they’re Eskimo for all I know. We’re definitely a long way north. I haven’t asked anyone for fear they may take offense. Will be glad to get to the cabin tomorrow where I won’t need to concern myself with the money exchange. I’m sorry to say that one could easily be taken advantage of if one is not careful, and it wouldn’t necessarily be intentional on anyone’s part, as some people here are just as confused with the whole thing as I . A good suggestion for another time would be to exchange what you may need at the border. We did not. Total miles traveled today was about 300, total for trip - 1110-1115 miles. Total money spent today – about $185. Day 4 – Sunday, June 26, 1994 Today was the big day! We were up and out of the motel about 8:00 AM, ate a light breakfast, bought some last chance supplies to take with us and were at Red
38: Lake Airways by 9:00. We were weighed in at 905 lbs, more than the recommended weight of 100 lbs/person, but nothing was said as we had to take the larger plane anyway because of the distance we were to fly to the outpost. Let me clarify the 905 lbs was total weight, ourselves and supplies. We really didn’t take everything but the kitchen sink. Our plane was a Beaver, an old Army plane used in Vietnam for bombs and chemical warfare, (I think he was kidding here), and our pilot’s name was Greg. Our flight took off from Red Lake around 10:00 AM and arrived at Black Birch Outpost on hour later. The view from the float plane was wonderful. Lakes EVERYWHERE! Not as many trees as expected and a lot of rock. Many of the trees had died from a “spruce bug” disease, much like we lost our elms a few years back. Shortly after we settled in at camp the manager and son came to welcome us, bringing clean “linens” and to mow our lawn. A few good strokes with a weed wacker and that was that! I’m getting ahead of myself though. Upon arriving at our outpost we were surprised at its beauty in a quaint sort of way. The cabin was of yellow pine – a log cabin complete with porch and all the conveniences (or almost) of home. Yes, I did have my hoped for shower and indoor privy, but so was there a gas grill and a woodstove for chilly nights. However, if the weather remains as it was today, the later won’t be needed. Temperatures reached the 80’s and sunny. No rain. The cabin has 2 bedrooms with bunks, a bath with toilet and shower, and kitchen and porch. In the kitchen / dining area sits a long table and couch, with a moose skull on the wall. Between the dock and cabin is a rocky area, flat stone actually. We built a campfire on it our first night, mostly to help keep the bugs away. They did get nasty toward evening. We were warned they would. Anyway, after our host left we climbed into 1 of 3 boats, all with new 15 horse motors. Couldn’t get the 1st one going for one reason or another, so moved the gear and tried again, meeting with success. By this time Josh had already caught his 1st fish off the shore. Gone for a short time and
39: each of us met with success of some kind, until Dad accidentally managed to bury a hook in Josh’s hand. Three in a boat is a bit crowded you see. This required a return to the cabin and some minor 1st aid. Josh and Dad then again left to fish while I remained at the cabin to organize things a little more and prepare stew for supper. The guys returned about 7:30 to eat and we all went out again afterwards. Not much happening this trip, mostly an exploration of sorts. Returned about 9:00 -9:30 and fished and messed around at the dock. A rough count of the fish caught today was walleye – 24, northern – 6. It’s really difficult to adjust to the daylight hours here. At 10:00 PM it was still light out. I wonder when the sun comes up??!! No unusual wildlife spotted today, excepting what we all thought to be a bald eagle while coming in for the day. The loons and gulls call out from time to time, but other than that, all is quiet. I don’t even hear a cricket this evening. Now that’s quiet! Definitely God’s country! Traveled by air for 1 hr. / 150 miles. Money spent $26. Day 5 – Monday, June 27, 1994 The day began about 6:00 AM to the call of a new bird – a duck actually, called a red-breasted mersanger - a new species for my bird-watching list. After a breakfast of eggs, toast and sausage, we all piled into our boat for a whole day of fishing. It was a good day for walleyes and some actually made it to the frying pan for supper and were enjoyed by all. A rough estimate of the day’s catch was 55 – 60, all but 3 (and those were northern) were walleye. We were out all day in the boat. I napped awhile until the guys found a prime fishing spot, then joined in. At one point, we were “grounded” for a short time by thunder and lightning, but it quickly went west of us, without a drop of rain. Another storm rose quickly just as we were setting down to supper. Strong winds almost uprooted a spruce in front of the cabin. Fortunately, it wouldn’t have fallen our way and no damage would have been done. We did see 8 or 9 Canadian geese today. Three or 4 of them wore bands around their necks. None were disturbed by our presence. I mention the sight of them only
40: because of the lack of wildlife here, few birds, no frogs or crickets, and still not a sight of the hoped for moose, bear, or caribou. Plenty of gnats and biting flies though. My head and neck is covered with welts! We did verify yesterday’s sighting of a bald eagle. It was beautiful! We spotted it on our return to the cabin and tried to get some photos and camcording of it. Almost forgot! We did stop fishing long enough this morning to take a peek at an old abandoned trapper’s camp. There were 3 cabins of sorts (only 1 had a stove, the other 2 were probably for storage) and 2 lean-to’s. Several old traps were found. It appeared like they hadn’t been used for some time and that the critters had “looted” what they could. We of course were cautious approaching them, clapping our hands and making plenty of noise to scare off any bear if need be. I, of course, came behind as “Joe Tourist”, my camera ready for action. We’re not exactly your average tourist however. I guess it’s just knowing there’s no one around. For instance – when Josh and I started peeling off our sweats, with swimsuits and shorts underneath, Dad simply decided he too was going to cool down. He spent most of the day in the boat in his underwear! I’m sure he was thankful he was wearing them, as he did come back with a sunburn! Since it rained on and off until dark, we all cleaned up and called it an early night. Day 6 – Tuesday, June 28, 1994 Not sure when the sun rises in these parts, but it’s up there a ways already by 6:00 AM. My guess is probably about 3:00 AM. If that’s the case, there’s about 4 hours of darkness since the sun set about 11:00 PM. After everyone got up, dressed, had their bowl of cereal for breakfast and was ready to go, it was almost 9:00. Before we leave, we must set the clock for 4:00 or 5:00 AM and try some early morning fishing. Also might be the best time to see that wildlife I’m longing to get on camera. Yesterday we tried the west end of the lake, today it was the east. Black Birch is 13 miles long, with the outpost about in the middle, so that leaves a lot of territory to cover. Although the sun was out this morning, it was a cloudy and windy (very windy) day most all day. We
41: weren’t out on the lake for long before a float plane circled and went on. Josh thought it to be the same one our host arrived in on the day we got here. May have been. Probably their way of checking on things. That’s the only sign of a living soul since Sunday, and it hasn’t bothered me a bit! Caught several walleye today and a few pike. Decided we’d best start freezing to take home as our freezing capabilities are limited. Both the refrigerator freezer and the other one freeze after awhile and on their own good time. Josh (at least at this time) has the biggest fish. He managed to catch a 3.8 ounce, 23 inch long walleye this afternoon. It was a nice one. I thought for sure he’d want to mount it, but decided to eat it instead. Dad comes in 2nd with a 2 lb. 7 oz, and I follow in the rear with a 2 lb. 4 oz. It’s early in the week yet though, and I’m sure we’ve got “bigger fish to fry” if we can only catch them. Once again we stayed out for the day. Had a picnic lunch packed though, as breakfast was light. Stopped about noon to get out of the boat, stretch our legs, and eat. The wind continued to blow all day, making fishing difficult. At one time we thought we were in for a storm, but it passed by uneventfully. Our eagle friend was again visible today. I enjoyed just watching him watch us. It got cooler as the day went by. We broke out our rain ponchos to use as wind breakers. Finally headed back to the cabin, cleaned fish and had supper. Dad grilled hamburgers. When preparing fish to take back across the border, one must leave a 1” square of skin on the fillet. Dad had an awful time remembering that! You then lay the 2 fillets together and freeze them 1 to a sack. This is for easy identification and count at the border. What we’ve been catching, 2 to 3 fish is more than enough for a meal for the 3 of us. We’ll have to have a fish fry with friends when we get home. After supper, the guys went back out, wind and all, this time, taking their coats! I stayed in the cabin and cleaned up. My back was hurting tonight. I may have to take a break from this all day long stuff! Day 7 – Wednesday, June 29, 1994 After sitting in the boat for 2 days, MY back, not Richard’s, was giving me problems, so I
42: decided to stay in camp today while the men went fishing. They left about 10:00 I think. As for myself, I read and slept most of the day away. The weather was nicer today, a little less wind (but what there was, was cool) and a lot more sunshine. One was comfortable in sweats, though the thermometer outside the window read 80. No humidity up here either. About 3:30 PM the owner and sons stopped in for a check. All was well. Richard and Josh came back about 5:00, with big smiles on their faces. Josh had made the best catch of the trip thus far with a 6 lb. 6 oz, 30” northern pike. They talked of turning it loose, but 1st wanted to show me and take pictures which we did immediately. After trying several minutes to revive and release it, the decision was made for us. We HAD to keep him or feed him to the gulls. Rather than eat it, we decided to have it mounted as a reminder of our trip to the “great north woods”. Josh had an awful time with his decision, as he knew it meant an additional cost to what was already a very expensive trip. I guess I’ve made him more money conscience than I realized! Saw what I believe to be a spruce grouse and her chicks just outside the cabin door today. Enjoyed that! Another new bird to add to my list. After they’d eaten supper, Josh and Dad returned to the boat for more fishing. Day 8 – Thursday, June 30, 1994 We set the alarm for 5:00 this morning, thinking we’d maybe spot some wildlife while trying some early fishing, then come back to the cabin for breakfast. That was the plan anyway, but Mother Nature didn’t agree. At that hour, it was very windy, cool, and overcast. Decided we’d try another time, as we still had 2 days left. Went back to bed and was awakened by the float plane. Visitors had arrived about 7:30. Wayne and workers had come to cover over the septic system which had only recently been installed. That in itself is a real task around these parts. There is no soil! It is very rocky, and though a wooded area of pine and birch, the roots are extremely shallow, making a strong wind enemy to all those standing. Forest fires
43: caused by carelessness and lightning are also common, though we learned today, a necessity to the growth of new trees. We got a chance to visit with our host a little and learned the pine cones bearing the seeds for new growth must first burn before opening. They may otherwise hold their seed for years and years. Also asked questions about the cabin itself. It was built and constructed of native lumber cut nearby with such things as the doors, windows, and flooring hauled in. Black Birch is by far the most primitive camp owned and operated by Amik, though I for one find it difficult to call indoor bathroom, shower, and florescent lighting primitive. I could ask only for 1 electrical socket with which to plug in my curling iron the day before we leave. I’m afraid I do look a bit frightful, but that particular convenience will have to wait ‘til the journey home begins. Wayne also tells us that the land and lake is leased from the Crown and not owned privately. We wondered about that. The same is said for the old trapper’s cabins we explored earlier, though the trapper himself apparently used this cabin in recent years. He’s not been around for a couple of years now, and was already the ripe old age of 76. I’d bet he’d have some interesting tales to tell. Before the work on the septic was completed, the rain came and settled in for the day. The plane was temporarily grounded in hopes things would clear. They didn’t, but after an hour or so, the plane and passengers took off at their own risk. Wayne told of some close calls with the tree tops when they’d been forced to fly in bad weather. Fortunately there was no thunder and lightning, just rain and wind. We assume they had no trouble getting back to the lodge on Deer Lake, about 36 miles east of here. As for the 3 of us, we too, were “grounded” for the day. The guys handled it well enough, despite any TV withdrawal symptoms they may be hiding from me. It was cool enough to keep a fire going all day. Everyone entertained himself. I finished my book and nursed my back which was still hurting from sitting in the boat. It’s better tonight. Had fish again for supper. Don’t yet have our quota to take home, only because we’ve followed the “catch and release” wishes of the Canadians.
44: Should be able to fill it with no trouble yet before we go. The rain had subsided to a very fine mist by 6:00 PM and although windy, Richard and Josh went fishing. I kept the home fires burning – literally. Did some reorganizing and swept the floors. Checked outside for my friend the bald eagle. This was the 1st day since spotting him, I haven’t enjoyed his beauty. But then even he has sense enough to “come in out of the rain”. Wayne says there are a lot of golden eagles here as well. Must watch for one. The guys have returned, chilled and damp. Guess the northern were biting some, but so was the weather. Hoping for nice weather for our last 2 days in camp. Day 9 – Friday, July 1, 1994 Canada celebrates its 127th anniversary today. Friday was a long day, so I’m actually making this entry on Saturday morning while all sleep and before another day begins. It’s chilly, so even I remain in bed tucked inside my sleeping bag. Friday was our day for adventure. It began at 5:00 AM when Dad and I went “moose hunting”. Had set the clock alarm to go off early so as to not cut into any real fishing time, since Thursday the boys were confined to the cabin for the most part. Didn’t want them suffering from “fisherman’s withdrawal”. That would come soon enough with only 2 days left on the lake. I’m sure we’ll all find it difficult to leave but especially Josh, whose experiences and understanding of life are as yet limited. While Josh slept, Dad and I took the boat on a scouting trip of our own, looking for wildlife and quiet coves we felt they might frequent. Found a small inlet of water and a marshy area we thought might have its possibilities, but saw nothing. It narrowed down quickly and became too shallow for the boat, so we got out and watched from atop a rock, not yet giving up on Mother Nature’s children. With mosquitoes the size of horse flies here, we soon abandoned our vantage point and returned to the cabin for a breakfast of eggs and sausage, rousting Josh out of his warm “cocoon” to join us. When that was over and the dishes done, we packed a small lunch and drinks and headed for “deeper water”, having “bigger fish to fry” this day. Unfortunately, Thursday’s rain kind of thwarted those plans and the
45: fishing was poor. It was then that we decided to try something different and put into action a thought which had formulated while out “moose hunting” earlier. Back to the cabin we went to launch the canoe. We tied it to the back of the boat and towed it to the inlet we’d visited earlier. We could take the boat only as far as the beaver dam, where we then switched to the canoe. Here we portaged the canoe and began the day’s adventure of sorts. After passing an abandoned beaver house, and portaging yet another dam, we could travel only a short way by water before having to give up the idea because of the narrowing and shallow waters and just plain “too much junk in the road”. Rather than turn back and give up completely without really getting anywhere, we beached the canoe and began hiking. We knew that the stream bed went somewhere and had been told of another lake nearby. Looking back on it now, I suppose we were rather foolish - trekking thru bruin country armed with nothing but our mosquito spray and pocket knife. (Up here, you never leave home without it!) Cutting over a rocky ridge and picking up the stream again on the other side the 3 of us along with our uninvited guests the mosquitoes and biting flies, proceeded onward. We were joined by a pair of aggravated snipes whose cries strictly forbade any invasion of their domain by such intruders as ourselves. The terrain we traveled thru varied from rocks to marsh and had at sometime been under siege by fire, a sad, yet necessary occurrence in these parts. After what seemed like a 10, but was maybe a 2 mile journey we discovered what it was we had been searching for. The stream bed did indeed lead to another lake, this one not even a fraction in size of Black Birch, but a lake none the less. Our approach was cautious, as its shoreline was a bit “shaky”, and I mean that literally. What appeared like solid ground “wiggled” when you walked, much like the floating bogs of the bayou country in the southern USA. We didn’t stay, just long enough to rest a bit before proceeding back, this time following what we thought to be a moose trail for a short time. Instead of following the stream bed, we cut over the ridge. Though I could get lost in my own backyard, Richard went unerroringly straight
46: back to the canoe. Anxious to rid ourselves of the flies and mosquitoes that plagued us, we climbed aboard and headed for deeper waters. The absence of wildlife on our journey (and the entire week, actually), was somewhat of a disappointment, a frog and a pair of snipes being the only things spotted today. I must admit to breathing a sigh of relief though when we were back on the water. Though my wishes to see a moose, caribou, and/or a bear in their natural habitat were strong, my instinct for survival was stronger. Such viewing is best done from a comfortable distance. As it was, the worst that happened at this point was a broken camera for no particular reason. Unfortunately, it was borrowed! After once again portaging the beaver dams and returning to the boat we followed the inlet back to the lake. Still a ways from the camp, the canoe again in tow, it was then that the motor decided to quit for some unknown reason. Oaring the “Titanic” back to the cabin was out of the question, so after picnicking on the open water, we returned to the canoe, setting the boat adrift and paddled home, knowing that after a day like we’d had, all would sleep well that night. We then dry docked the canoe, climbed into yet another boat, and went back in search of the “Titanic”. With it found and in tow we attempted to try our luck once more fishing. That didn’t last long, as the “Titanic” then thought IT was the iceberg and prepared for ramming. The best thing we could do was once more return to the cabin for docking. Even after all this, our fishing spirits weren’t dampened and we tried again, fishing the west end of the lake. I use the term “west end” loosely though, as we never did find its end. As Josh said, “It’s like the Energizer Bunny. It just keeps going and going.” Somewhere, which was called on our map, the Four Corners, we stopped to clean the few fish we had caught for the day. So far our luck was holding – both good and bad. Working our way back, we continued to wet our lines from time to time. We were blessed with an interesting display of predator and prey when a walleye I was playing looked like a tasty treat to a nearby northern . The attack was on! And I continued to reel not one, but 2 fish in! Nearing the boat and not sure what was happening, old “Sharp Tooth” let go, but continued to circle. Richard then took over
47: playing the walleye and tempting the northern. I reached for the camera and starting snapping pictures. Sharp Tooth struck again and held on tight. Using the net we landed them both. Marty Stauffer and Bill Dance have nothing on us! We did them both proud, and saved a life in the meantime. Wally, I’m sure was grateful, though Sharp Tooth frustrated and still hungry. That was enough excitement for the day. We returned to the cabin for supper, eating about 8:30. When dishes were done and Josh heading to bed, Dad and I once more went critter hunting, but to no real avail, he spotting only a beaver, and I missing even that! We sat in the boat for awhile listening, but soon the mosquitoes became so thick their buzzing drowning out all else, we headed back and to bed. It was an adventuresome, but long and tiring day. Day 10 – Saturday, July 2. 1994 Saturday, our last day on Black Birch Lake was another full day, and adventuresome in its own way. Again, I’m late in making my journal entry. This time I write while awaiting our plane which will begin us on our long journey home. Josh lays napping and Dad reads. Slept in Saturday, if one can call it that. Dressed, eaten, and on the lake by 9:00, this time heading east of the cabin. Once more, we failed to see much action, the fishing having gotten considerably poorer than before Thursday’s rain. So, once again we went exploring, this time by water. No matter that Minnesota boasts of being “the land of 10,000 lakes”, Canada could boast of being “the land of never ending lakes”. We traveled for what seemed like miles and miles by boat, stopping to fish in water which was to us, virgin territory. I doubted few had come this way, as it was “off the beaten trail” and one had to come thru a narrow and rocky passageway to continue onward. Our spirit of adventure still running high from yesterday, pushed us on. Finally, we came to what we thought to be the east end of Black Birch and the west end of Deer Lake, neither really beginning or ending, but instead joining forces. We have been told there is a small falls connecting the two. We did not approach close enough to view it, just sensing it was there and we’d gone far enough. Josh was getting anxious to return to more familiar fishing grounds to try his luck. It was a
48: beautiful trip though and gave us the opportunity to see our 2nd bald eagle. Judging the distance we’d come and the fact that we enjoyed the companionship of the one near our cabin daily since our arrival, we at least assumed this one to be different. The eagle near the cabin was well fed by the remains of our daily catches. He had no reason to travel far from home. After returning to the main body of water, we fished Bubba’s Point and The Reef with some success. About 2:30 we headed in. I had to pack and clean up yet, both myself and the cabin. The guys went back out to avoid being underfoot. About 4:30, I received unexpected company – the conservation officer. A bit nervous, but having nothing to hide – or so I thought – I continued my cleaning and packing while he had a look around. After checking the frig and freezer and making his count, we came up 1 walleye too many. That spelled T R O U B L E, I knew, but just how much I wasn’t sure. His next question of course was to see our licenses. Well, I was no help there, as I assumed Richard had them on his person. Pointing the officer in the direction I last saw them go, I nervously waited behind while he went in search of them, hoping and praying they had no fish on board. They didn’t, not even a northern and we could have had 7 of them yet to fill our quota. A short time after the conservation officer returned and while waiting for the fisherman to make it back, he once again had a look around and made another count. In his line of work I would imagine he can trust no one, neither those left behind at the outpost, nor himself and his original count. As for me, I’m honest as the day is long and to have tried to dispose of that “extra” walleye never occurred to me. I would have only dug a deeper hole than what we were already in. With Dad’s return we got right to the heart of things – the ticket and the fine. I dared not open my mouth and ask if he had any more walleye in the boat, not until our visitor had left. Having had time to think the worst, I had envisioned leaving Canada without any fish and / or poles or tackle. Once more my prayers were answered. Our load was lightened only in the number of fish we brought back, and in our pocketbook. Even that was not as disasterly as I had
49: imagined. The officer, I feel, truly believed the 1 over was the innocent mistake it was. We’ll be more careful with our count next time, if perchance there ever is one. Our options were to accept the ticket and fine of $50 plus $10 per fish over the limit and forfeit 7 walleyes, (the 6 allowed 1 person plus the 1 over), or to appear in court sometime in August. We opted for the ticket and fish, being far less expensive and bothersome. $60 Canadian money works out to about $40 - $45 in American, and being the fish lover I’m not, 12 walleye and 10 northern were plenty. They’re not like the bluegill or crappie fillets we’re use to. Two or three fish will more than feed us. Though everyone’s spirits were dampened somewhat, we chalked it up as experience and when our little “search and seize” was over, Dad and Josh tried one final time to “catch the big one”, while I finished the cleaning and packing. When their attempts at Trapper’s Cabin proved fruitless, their stay on the lake was brief. By 7:00 they returned, dry docked the boats and proceeded to clean them up. We had most everything packed away, so supper was sparse. Josh built a campfire and Dad heated soup over its flames – a cookout our last night in the Canadian wilderness – God’s country. Lights out about 11:00. Day 11 – Sunday, July 3, 1994 Awoke early this morning, about 4:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep in anticipation of the journey home, try as I might. Made some more entries in my journal and finally rolled out of bed about 6:30 to the sound of an airplane. Everyone scurried around getting dressed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t ours and flew on by. We were up and the larder was bare, having planned on eating a good breakfast sometime after flying to Red Lake, so we packed our belongings down to the dock. When filling the largest cooler we had with the frozen fish, we soon discovered Josh’s 30” northern wasn’t going to fit, having frozen him flat as instructed. This presented a problem, so “Resourceful Richard” set about solving it. Plan B went like this The fish, having been wrapped in a garbage bag before being frozen, was 1st wrapped in all the newspaper we could
50: find for insulation, then packaged in its own custom made box, taped closed with duct tape, and placed in the freezer to be wrapped in a sleeping bag at departure time and again in yet another custom made box, and taped shut, ready for travel. With everything ready to go and our leaving eminent, we were anxious to be on our way. Time passed slowly while waiting – “a watched pot never boils”. Josh finally went back to bed, Dad read his book, and I began capturing yet another day’s events on paper, which would enable us to once more relive our time at Black Birch. It wasn’t until around 11:00 that our plane came in with two couples from Missouri on board for a 4 day stay. After unloading their supplies, reloading ours, and giving them a quick tour of the lake on the map, marking the hot spots, we were off. It felt like leaving home for the 1st time knowing it was possible, but not probable, we’d ever get back. I have to admit to even becoming a bit teary eyed. Heading south and bucking a strong head wind, which made for minor turbulence, we returned to Red Lake about 12:30, with Dad frothing at the bit to be on his way. In a half hour we had unloaded the plane, reloaded the truck, paid the parking ($25), and were off and running, making a “run for the border”. Our 1st stop was at Ear Falls for gas. Here was our rudest awakening of the trip – a half tank of gas for $25 American money! When one is in the middle of nowhere, one has no choice! I’m not sure how the Canadians here manage. I believe they must learn to do without, much of the time. There are no shopping centers such as we know them for hundreds of miles in the area we passed through. We traveled for 250 miles and saw only 3 semi-trucks, one of which was a tanker probably carrying a precious cargo of what I would term “liquid gold gasoline”! Man must pay the price for his invasion of God’s country. Canada, with all it’s beautiful lakes and woods yet unpopulated, still couldn’t hold a candle to what our own country must have been like before the “west was won”. Proceeding onward, somewhere between Ear Falls and Vermillon Bay, and thinking, “If only I’d seen my moose and / or bear”, we received another highlight of the trip. Though lasting
51: only a few brief minutes, we did indeed spot a mother moose and her twin calves at roadside! Traveling at 55 – 60 mph and being right next to them when seen, wasn’t much of a look and gave no opportunity for picture taking, so we stopped and turned around. By this time though, the 3 had wandered on into the woods and brush and were out of sight, but we did all get a chance to see them, however briefly. And to think, I had been caught napping just shortly before. Had Josh not awakened me to say our “pile-it” (pilot) was still standing, we would have all missed them, as it was I, and not Richard for a change, that saw them first. We made the border at Ft. Francis / International Falls about 6:00 PM passing the border patrol without incident. No one even looked at our fish. Here we picked up gas, dry ice for the fish and some souvenirs and gifts to take home – Dad and Josh each getting a pewter stick pin of a fish, Dad a walleye and Josh a northern for on their Amik Lodge hats, and I a pewter loon for my printer’s box. Josh also purchased some replacement lures for those left behind at Black Birch either in the mouths of fish or as “interior decoration” for their homes, souvenirs of sorts, to them from us. On the road again, our next stop Duluth, Minnesota, where we had our 2nd meal of the day about 9:30 – 10:00 at Wendy’s, the 1st consisting of leftovers from our stay at the outpost. We filled our “tanks” and decided to call it a day. Had hoped to put on more than the 415 miles we did, but with the late arrival of our plane at Black Birch, we settled for that, deciding to try to push our way thru to home on Monday in time for the fireworks by getting an early start. We stayed in Duluth at Buena Vista Motel, getting the last vacancy they had. It wasn’t exactly a room, as I’ve seen efficiency apartments that were smaller, this too having its own kitchen, complete with double sinks, stove, refrigerator, table and chairs! It consisted of 4 rooms and a hallway, with doors and cubby holes everywhere, making the atmosphere more spooky than homey. Beds and a shower were what we needed though, and it had that and more. Traveled for 8 & 1/2 hrs., 415 miles. Money spent, $130.
52: Day 12 – Monday, July 4, 1994 USA celebrates its 218th birthday today. Up at 5:00 today, showered and dressed by 6:00. It was the 1st time in a week I’ve had a decent hairdo – no electrical plug-ins for the curling iron at the cabin. Had donuts and drinks in the lobby of the motel and back behind the wheel by 6:30. Our next stop was at Rice Lake, Wisconsin for a potty break and fill-up. The weather continues to be overcast and comfortable for traveling with only an occasional shower. On a trip like this the weather can really make you or break you, even the fishing is dependent upon it, and the travel can get miserable. We’ve been blessed. I must say, of the 4 states and 1 province – 2 countries – we’ve traveled, Wisconsin has been among the prettiest with its rolling countryside, complete with woods and fields. Ontario was especially pretty from the air, the rivers and lakes going on endlessly. Unfortunately, many of the pine forests there stood lifeless for acres and acres due to the spruce bug infestation and the lack of anything resembling dirt. The rock making the root systems so shallow, the forces of Mother Nature destroying what it also created. Stopped at Portage, Wisconsin for more gas and kept on truckin’. The further south we came, the warmer it got. The sun poked thru and the humidity rose, making travel somewhat uncomfortable by comparison to what it had been. Traffic was fairly heavy, especially since it was a holiday, but kept moving right along. We filled up again at Valparaiso, Indiana, still not having eaten more than a donut apiece all day. Arrived in Huntington at 4:45, stopping at Ponderosa for a decent meal, knowing the cupboards were bare at home and all of the unpacking needing to be done. Picked up a few necessities and pulled into the driveway at 6:07 PM. By 8:30 the unpacking was pretty much finished, so we once more piled into the car to go watch the fireworks celebrating our country’s 218th birthday and our arrival home. Everything was well at the house, but there wasn’t a one of us who could honestly say we were glad to be here – we’d all have rather been fishing on Black Birch Lake! After most vacations, a person is
53: happy to be home and needs a day or 2 of rest. This one was different. This time the vacation itself was restful, the coming home, work. The house, lawn, and garden had been well cared for by dear friends in our absence and very much appreciated. With the fireworks over, we returned home and were finally able to reach the Whitacre’s who did the “critter sitting” while we were away. Snowball especially was happy to return home. I’m sure she had felt abandoned once again when we left her behind. Though not over-joyed at having to leave the outpost and its solitude behind, we are all grateful for a safe and wonderful trip. Thank the Lord for our “visit to God’s country”! We traveled for 10 hrs. and 700 miles. Money spent -- $80. Conclusion They say, “All good things must end,” and so it is with this. For Richard and I, it was most likely an experience of a lifetime. For Josh, well, hopefully he’s old enough to remember and young enough to return. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to say we’d all be back, but it’s an expensive trip and a short life with many other things to see and do and places to go. The travel went well, the fishing good with a total average of fish caught at 310; 255 walleye and 55 northern. The highlights were many, among them were: for Josh – catching the biggest fish, both walleye (3.8 lbs.) and northern (6.6 lbs.), and the “pile-its” along the roadside from Ft. Francis to Dryden. For Richard, it was the float plane ride, the moose and the anticipation and preparation for the trip itself. As for myself, there were many – the beauty of the country from the air, the grandeur of the lake itself and the solitude and peacefulness of the outpost, even the night sounds fewer. The absence of wildlife was noticeable in country where only the strong survive, the land and waters supporting only that that gives back in return. The moose and her calves, the bald eagle’s daily presence, and our predator / prey display between Wally and Old Sharp Tooth were among my favorites. The no-see-um’s, what the Canadian’s call a nasty little biting insect they seem to have cornered the market on from what I can tell by my limited travels, have left their mark on me as well – both in my mind and on my neck! Richard
54: renamed them the “sure-do-fee-ums”, both names fitting and proper. The trip has of course left unanswered questions in my mind. Nothing a little research wouldn’t take care of. I’m curious about Ontario’s economy. The houses were small and simple for the most part. The people seemed plain and earthy, many of which seemed to talk with almost a brogue sort of accent and be of some type of Indian ancestry. Still others looked French. My guess is the economy is supported mainly by the tourism and lumber industries, with some mining sprinkled in here and there. Hoping I can make myself take the time to find the answers and not get caught up in the fast paced daily grind, remembering to slow down, as we did there, and take time to smell the roses. I have to admit to my confusion of the currency exchange. I felt like a lost lamb in a pack of wolves at times, intending no slur on the Canadians, just not wanting to admit to my own stupidity. Fortunately, money was only a problem for the 3 days of actual travel in Canada, for the 7 days at the outpost nothing mattered, just good fishing. In the 4 states and 1 province we came through and the 2000 plus miles traveled, we watched the license plates of other travelers we passed along the way. We had a total of 24 states and 4 different provinces. AN ENJOYABLE FAMILY EXPERIENCE WAS HAD BY ALL! Expenditures: (approximate) Total: $3240 Food 1)To take with --- $70 2)On the road --- $200 Lodging 1)Motels --- $220 2)Outpost --- $2025 Gas --- $165 Misc. / Souvenirs --- $150 Taxidermy --- $110 Tackle / Gear --- $300 Miles / Mileage: 2225 miles / 16.5 mpg
55: Records: Walleye Northern Mom 2.8 4.2 Dad 3.3 3.2 Josh 3.8 # 23” 6.6 # 30” Wildlife Viewed: Gulls Loons Bald eagles Red breasted merganster (female) Canadian geese Spruce or ruffed grouse Snipes Swan Golden eagle Flickers Crows Moose and calves Garden snake Mouse Beaver Buffalo Chipmunk