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Our 1996 Canoe Trip

July 17 - 30, 1996

We wrote this after returning to Stillwater. We did our best to be accurate, but it is very possible dates and places could be close, but not exact. All events described actually occurred.

Click here for a few photographs of our trip.

Click on the map for a full page map of the area we traveled.

[Map of Quetico]

July 17, 1996
6:30 A.M.
We meet for departure at University Heights Baptist Church in Stillwater, OK. We have six boys and five adults from BSA Troop 828 sponsored by the church. We also have three boys and a single adult from Troop 14 sponsored by Highland Park United Methodist Church in Stillwater.

7:00 A.M.
We depart for the first day's drive toward the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base northeast of Ely, MN. We plan to travel for three days to get there.

1:45 P.M.
We eat lunch at a rest stop somewhere in Missouri.

4:00 P.M.
We arrive at Camp Geiger, a BSA camp near St. Joseph, MO to spend the night. We meet the camp director who informs us that all of the camp sites are full, so for accommodations we will have to stay in the air conditioned training lodge where the camp director and the program director stay. The adults must sleep upstairs in beds (6 per room), and the boys must sleep downstairs on the floor.

We get settled, take a tour of the camp, then participate in the flag ceremony at 5:50 P.M.

6:00 P.M.
We eat supper in the Camp Geiger mess hall.

8:00 P.M.
After some free time, we go to the Camp Geiger mid-week camp fire. (This is visitors' night.) Drew and Rob Sleezer present our skit. (This is ``the dog that ate bad meat'' skit.) There is a very impressive popcorn kickoff, and a very impressive Indian dance routine from the Tribe of Mic-O-Say.

10:00 P.M.
We return from the campfire and go to bed.

July 18, 1996
6:00 A.M.
The adults get up, take care of miscellaneous chores, and pack what they can.

7:00 A.M.
All of the boys are awake. Bill might get out of bed soon.

7:40 A.M.
Our entire group is packed. We drive to the Camp Geiger mess hall for the morning flag ceremony.

8:00 A.M.
Flags are over and we go into the mess hall for breakfast.

9:00 A.M.
We leave to continue our journey to the canoe base. We stop in St. Joseph to take pictures of the News-Press Building with a copy of the Stillwater News-Press in hand.

12:00 M.
We eat lunch at a rest stop somewhere in far southern Minnesota.

7:00 P.M.
We arrive at Stillwater, MN's Fred C. Andersen Scout Reservation. (Actually, the scout reservation is across the St. Croix River in Wisconsin.)

7:30 P.M. - 10:00 P.M.
We eat dinner, clean up, and go to bed.

July 19, 1996
6:30 A.M. We awake early,eat breakfast, and clean-up. We wait to visit the trading post at 8:00 A.M.

8:30 A.M.
We leave Fred C. Andersen Scout Reservation for our last day of highway travel until we are ready to return to Stillwater, OK. We stop at the ``Stillwater, Where Minnesota Began'' sign with our copy of the Stillwater (OK) News-Press. We take several pictures. Everyone is anticipating our arrival at the canoe base this afternoon. We have rain on the highway; this is a bad omen.

12:45 P.M.
We eat lunch at Ely, MN. We only are about 25 minutes from the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base. The boys check out the shops and outfitters in Ely. Some buy souvenir paddles. (This proves to be a wise decision since we later find the least expensive souvenir paddle sold at the base is $72.00.)

2:00 P.M.
We arrive at the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base. Each crew meets with its interpreter (guide). From this point until we return from the water we are in two different crews that travel and do things separately. Bill and Dad are in Crew A for which Dad is the advisor. Drew Sleezer is our crew leader. John Bush is the crew advisor for crew B and Chris Ostrander is their crew leader.

Drew and Dad go with our interpreter, Nate Ochs, to get food for the trip on the water. Nate has most of the food ready in advance. Unbeknownst to us or to Nate, one of Nate's colleagues has spiked our sugar with 25% salt. We won't discover this until tomorrow night when we try to have Kool-Aid.

3:00 P.M. - 5:00 P.M.
We get settled in the ``First Night'' cabins. Each crew has its own cabin -- adults and boys together. We get everything ready for departure tomorrow morning.

We view some movies about wilderness canoe camping and the French-Canadien Voyageurs. They are required viewing before going on the water. They give Bill's crew mates some ideas to be used on him later.

5:30 P.M. - 6:30 P.M.
We have an outdoor supper of trail stew (Rice and ground beef in a beef gravy). Crew members sit together. Dad temporarily forgets which crew he is in, but he quickly remembers. We notice the very large number of mosquitos.

6:45 P.M. - 8:00 P.M.
We talk with Nate. Nate tells us which maps to buy. We visit the trading post to buy maps of the area where we will be canoeing. We go to the Bay Post to Pick canoes, paddles, and PFDs. We file a float plan.

9:00 P.M.
Everyone goes to bed. We prepare for an early morning start.

July 20, 1996
6:30 A.M.
We awake and finish packing for our expedition into the Canadian wilderness. We leave gear that we used in getting to the base in the vehicles in the parking lot. Likewise, the rest of the gear that we won't need until we return in nine days. We leave our gear packed for the water in the parking lot beside the vehicles.

7:30 A.M.
We have the ``Paul Bunyon all-you-can-eat'' breakfast in the mess hall. Everyone, including Bill, eats like the Voyageurs (heartily).

9:00 A.M.
We (Crew A) complete our last minute planning, load the canoes and depart Sommers into Moose Lake. In about 2 tex2html_wrap_inline21 hours we will be at Canadian Customs at Prairie Portage.

11:45 A.M.
We get to the Prairie Portage Customs and Immigration Station. Crew B has just cleared customs and immigration when we arrive. It takes about tex2html_wrap_inline21 hour to clear customs and immigration. Everything goes smoothly. The customs agent is very pleasant and allows herself to be photographed with some of our crew for the Stillwater, OK News-Press. We see two bald eagle soaring above the water.

1:00 P.M.
After having a cold lunch, we walk to the Quetico Park ranger station about 30 meters east of the customs house. We find that we were not supposed to change adult leadership without their prior approval, but they let us since we are a scout group. Bob Miller makes certain he has a fishing license and everything is set so all the boys can fish.

John Bush pays for both crews. This is something else that we are not supposed to do, but we are allowed to do it because we are a scout group.

The ranger emphasizes that the two crews are not allowed to travel together. We explain that we have different itineraries with crew A traveling north and east while crew B travels north and west. It also is the case that crew A is looking forward to a pleasant, quiet, and relaxing trip, while crew B wants to set a distance record, but we did not tell the ranger that.

We give crew B a head start. we wait another hour to make sure the two crews are not together. We leave Prairie Portage. We have rain while we paddle in Basswood Lake. We paddle until almost supper time.

6:00 P.M.
We stop at an island campground on Meadow Lake. We fetch water and stow the canoes. We cook supper, fish, and enjoy the scenery. The rains continue.

8:30 P.M.
The adults go to bed. Everyone is tired. The boys are in bed by 9:30 P.M.

July 21, 1996
The boys awake Bill by dropping the tent on him. This is the same method that the Voyageurs in the film used to awaken their sleepy companions.

This is our second day on the water. The worst portages (The B____ and The B______) are behind us. Those portages showed some of the older (over 40) folk that they cannot do as much as they could when they were teenagers.

We complete paddling through Meadow Lake and get into Agnes Lake. The other crew finished Meadow yesterday and will be farther into Agnes than we are tonight. Some of the boys are fishing as we travel.

It has rained off and on all night long and part of this morning. By 10:00 A.M. we have a calm day with broken gray clouds. At 11:30 A.M., an electrical storm suddenly fills everything around us. We are well into Agnes and about one mile from the nearest shore. The wind is blowing about 20 knots. There are whitecaps. All three canoes are taking water. We see lightening less than three miles away. We paddle for the closest shoreline as fast as we can. All three canoes make it to shore without incident.

The storm subsides after we get to shore. Now, we are all in our rain gear. We have a slow steady light rain, but the wind, lightening, and thunder are gone. It's around noon, so we decide to eat our lunch in our refuge from the storm. When lunch is finished we continue to paddle northward on Agnes. We paddle all afternoon until we stop to camp on an island a little less than tex2html_wrap_inline21 way through the length of Agnes.

We have camp set up and are eating supper by 7:00 P.M. The boys enjoy all of the heavy, tasteless pasta meals. The adults are missing their vegetables. Rob Sleezer starts to bake a cake right after supper.

We get our second major storm of the day about 8:00 P.M. Again, it is a sudden onset storm. The lightening is very close. (We learn later that lightening hit a tree about 50 meters from our campsite.) The winds are much, much stronger than the winds in this morning's storm. We estimate that these winds might exceed 50 knots. Rob continues to bake his cake, hiding under the dining fly when he is not checking on the cake. Our interpreter, Nate, holds the adult tent on the ground. It takes all the other adults plus Rob Sleezer to keep the dining fly from blowing away. The boys, except for Rob, keep their tent on the ground.

Rob passed the cake around when it was ready. It was interesting to eat cake with one hand while keeping the fly from blowing away with the other hand. The cake was delicious.

Some of the boys had fishing success between the violent storms. Drew caught a 15'' small mouth bass that weighed about 3 pounds. Bill caught some perch. We did not see what the other boys caught. After the rest of us went to bed (about 10:30 P.M.), Bob Miller and some of the boys cooked and ate the fish in a drizzling rain.

July 22, 1996
This is our third day on the water. We backtrack a little bit so we can see Louisa Falls between Agnes and Louisa lakes. We stow the canoes, but leave them packed. We take the very steep portage trail up to Louisa Falls. The boys really enjoy the falls. Jacob and Bill play in the part of the falls called ``The Bathtub.'' So does Nate. They play about 45 minutes. We meet another Boy Scout group, two YMCA groups, and a Girl Scout group at the falls. Even though only one group at a time is supposed to be here, no one says anything. It starts to rain about the same time we as leave the falls.

We almost finish paddling the length of Agnes today. We visit the sites of some ancient pictographs on the sides of cliffs before we look for a campsite. Jim Sleezer has a book that explains most of the pictographs.

We find a campsite on the mainland this time. Bill catches a lake trout about 20'' long and about 3 tex2html_wrap_inline21 pounds. Drew catches another bass. Drew catches a northern pike as does Bob Miller. Bill also catches several small black bass. Bob Miller cleans all of the fish. The boys are enjoying fishing. All of us are enjoying the scenery. I am amazed at the similarity between the North Woods in Ontario and the mountain forests on Colorado and Wyoming. We have seen about four bald eagles today.

We cook supper in a rain that we barely notice. After some of the other adults go to bed, Bob Miller cooks the fish. It is delicious.

July 23, 1996
Again Bill is awakened by having the tent dropped on him. It will be the last time.

This is our forth day on the water. Even though the day starts with sunshine, we have another day of rain. We finish canoeing in Lake Agnes, and canoe down stream in the Agnes River until it empties into Murdock Lake. Murdock is a lot smaller lake than the others in which we have been canoeing, but we have lost almost all human contact except for each other. We have seen fewer and fewer humans as we travel north; now there are almost none. We did see two fishermen on the Agnes River. We have some contact with them ocassionally until we leave Murdock. We see many more pictographs. We sight so many bald eagles flying above Murdock that we don't comment on them as often as we did on Agnes and Basswood.

We make it through Lake Murdock and into Kawnipi Lake before we stop to camp for the night. The boys continue to enjoy their fishing. We are as far north as we will go on this trip.

Bob Miller stores the dressed fish in plastic bags in the cold water of the lake. The cold water should preserve the fish and the plastic bag should protect it from aquatic predators and terns.

July 24, 1996
We have a little excitement as Nate finds a snapping turtle stealing Bill's trout. The turtle has ripped open the bag and eaten half the fish in one gulp. Nate tries to stop the turtle from getting any more by grapping the turtle by its tail. (We estimate the turtle at 40 pounds. Its shell has a diameter of about two feet.) The turtle doesn't like this and Nate turns into a turtle wrangler. Eventually Nate gets free from the turtle with all of his appendages still attached. The turtle stays in the water where it can see our fish. Finally, the turtle departs after Bob Miller moves the fish and Drew and Jacob bombard it with large rocks.

This is our fifth day on the water. We start to travel south and east today. We remain about the same distance from base camp because of our eastward travel.

We spend the entire day canoeing in Kawnipi. We get caught in a major electrical storm again, but this time we are much closer to shore, so getting to shelter is not quite so tense. We continue to see prehistoric pictographs. The boys continue to fish. Daily activities almost have become routine.

Nate and Dad show everyone where not to put their canoes into the water as we enter the Falls chain of lakes. They accidentally get into the current heading through the rapids back toward Kawnipi. We have just portaged around these. Nate and Dad show how hard they can paddle and get back into the proper lake.

We camp for the night just into the Falls chain of lakes. Adults retire about 8:30. The boys stay awake another hour.

July 25 - 26, 1996
We start day six of the canoeing portion of our trip. For the first time since we left base camp we do not have rain. We feel we might need to make up some time in order to have a ``play day'' and still return to base camp on time on day 9.

We finish the Falls chain and get into the Man chain. We camp and ``mess around'' for one day at a campsite on That Man Lake. Everyone enjoys the break after several hard days of canoeing. It does not rain on our play day.

July 27, 1996
This is our next to last day of canoeing. We do not travel far today. We get to Birch Lake and camp on the U.S. side of the international border for the first time since leaving the base at Sommers. Of course, we get rained on again. Some of the crew is getting tired, but others seem as though they could continue until the end of the summer.

We camp and stay on Birch Lake until about three hours before time to return to base.

July 28, 1996
This is our last day on the water. We are only about three hours paddling time from base camp. Since we are not allowed to enter base camp until 3:00 P.M., we all sleep late. We eat lunch, then break camp on Birch Lake a little after 12:00 M.

12:15 P.M.
We paddle for awhile. When it appears that we will arrive at base camp early we stop at a campsite and do almost nothing for about an hour. We have been paddling faster than we had planned.

3:15 P.M.
We arrive at the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base. We are the fourth crew to arrive from a trek today. Our B crew arrived about fifteen minutes ahead of us. We have our crew cabin assigned, unpack, and return our checked-out gear.

We make cabin and bed assignments for both crews. Everyone hits the sauna and the showers. (There is one sauna and shower facility for the boys and one for the adults.) We all stay in the warmth of the sauna and showers as long as possible.

We have the Voyageurs' all-you-can-eat supper of deep-fried chicken stix, French fried potatoes, and corn-on-the-cob. We pack for a morning departure and visit the trading post. Everybody buys something to take home as well as one or more maps of the area where we canoed.

8:00 P.M.
We have a rendezvous with the other seven crews who came off the water today. We get a history lesson about the Voyageurs. We have several songs and skits. Rob and Drew do the same skit they performed at Camp Geiger on the way to Minnesota.

10:00 P.M.
We return to our cabins. It is lights out.

July 29, 1996
6:00 A.M. - 7:40 A.M.
We all are awake and packed by the time we get to the 7:40 A.M. all-you-can-eat Paul Bunyon breakfast. The three Phillips are no longer with us since they left at 6:00 A.M. to visit relatives in Minnesota. We finish breakfast and depart the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base by 9:00 A.M.

9:00 A.M.
We check at the Ely customs station and return the forms showing that everyone who entered Canada has re-entered the U.S. We start our journey southward.

11:30 A.M.
We get to the city of Two Harbors, MN. The boys see some of Lake Superior. This is the largest body of fresh water in the world. We will follow the Lake shore until we are about half-way through Duluth. We stop to do laundry, and have lunch at the Subway next to the laundra-mat.

After lunch and laundry, we continue to drive south. The boys are impressed by the size of the lake and the shipping on it.

6:00 P.M.
We get to Clear Lake, IA about 6:00 P.M. and have supper in a Pizza Hut just off I-35.

When we leave the Pizza Hut, we continue to travel south. We get to Camp Matigwa of the Central Iowa Council about 10:00 P.M.

10:00 P.M.
We arrive at Camp Matigwa. Everyone goes to bed after the cabin has been assigned. (About 10:30 P.M.)

July 30, 1996
6:30 A.M. - 9:00 A.M.
We get up, pack, participate in the morning flag ceremony, and have breakfast with the Webelos at Camp Mitigwa.

9:00 A.M.
We leave and travel south until we get to the state line between Jackson County, MO (Metropolitan Kansas City area) and Leawood, KS about 1:30 P.M.

1:30 P.M.
We eat lunch at a Wendy's restaurant on the Missouri side of State Line Road. We cross the road into Leawood, KS and visit the U.S. Toy outlet store. We spend about 1 tex2html_wrap_inline21 hours at the toy outlet. Almost every boy buys something. The Sleezers load up on magic supplies.

3:00 P.M.
We leave the Kansas City area and head south on I-35.

4:30 P.M
We make a stop at the Dolly Madison Bakery outlet store in Emporia, then continue down I-35 toward Stillwater, OK.

8:45 P.M.
We arrive on the west side of Stillwater and start taking people home.

9:30 P.M. Bill and Dad unpack. As we unpack we learn we are missing the package of memorabelia that we bought at the Sommers trading post.

Overall the trip has been fun even though we are exhausted.

Lakes in the order traveled (read across)


Total distance paddled: about 125 statute miles.

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G E Hedrick
Mon Aug 19 10:13:27 CDT 1996