Two for Crab Lake – September 17, 2005
Usually the ladies trip is at least 3 people. But this year my friend Kaitlyn couldn’t make it and my daughter Amber had started taking some college courses and couldn’t make it either. We tried for a couple other people but it ended up just being Deb Hanson (from Hand Done T’s of Ely) and me.
We started the trip with tow across Burntside. Brian Cook did the tow, and helped with the portage so we could do it in one trip. The first part of new portage is mostly uphill. About 2/3 way through we came upon a pond and we took right side. Brian took one of the packs across top marshy area where 3 logs, mostly rotten, were across the muck.
We arrived in Crab and paddled up to an eastern campsite located on a point. We got to the campsite around noon and met friends Donna Hway & Mary Meskill. Donna & Mary had arrived the day before. We all sat around camp and enjoyed some conversation for a while. Soon it was time to get dinner going. Donna provided tortillas, chicken, cheese and mushrooms. Deb brought green peppers; I brought more cheese, onions, squeeze sour cream, and Alpine Aire refried beans. All together we had a great dinner of chicken Quesadillas.
Mary got a nice fire going and after dinner we sat around and talked, Deb & me enjoying Margaritas for a night cap.
The next morning we got up late and had a joint breakfast of eggs, bacon, and hashed browns and hot coffee. After breakfast Deb & I headed out, on our way to Cummings Lake.
It was a short paddle to Little Crab and then we did the short portage which took us to the small creek flowing into Korb Lake. Near the beginning of the creek we came upon a young Bull Moose swimming slowly towards us, making a definite rut grunting noise. I got several pictures and a bit of video of him. It wasn’t sure what we were and it made me a bit nervous to see such a big animal coming our way. We began to paddle backwards to put a bit more space between us and him. He must have gotten the idea that we weren’t anything interesting (like a female moose), and slowly made his way back and then walked into the woods.
That day we also saw some otter and a couple beaver in the rest of creek. The travel from Little Crab to Cummings was quite pretty. The wind was fairly calm and we made it to the west side of Cummings easily. We set up camp on the western point just before the narrows towards Western Lake. It was a very nice site with a gorgeous view of the lake. Deb discovered a number of tomato plants back near the camp latrine, growing out of what looked like the “old” latrine. We did a bit of fishing just east and north of the campsite. This summer some customers had caught some nice walleyes there but we just found lots of smallies biting. Unfortunately the season was closed for smallmouth; only catch & release is permitted after September 15th.
As we prepared dinner we spotted several large flocks of Canadian geese flying overhead in a vee formation, heading south. After dinner we sat around with tequila cocktails for a while and then Deb headed to bed. I sat around the fire gazing down the lake and took a few night photos of the gorgeous full moon suspended above the dark misty lake. I spotted a bit of storm and lightning coming our way and then decided to go to bed too. Just as I was falling asleep I heard the light pattering of rain hitting the top of our tent.
It rained all night, the next morning and finally had mostly stopped around 1:00 in the afternoon. We had a late breakfast of blueberry pancakes. We had originally wanted to take the canoe & fishing gear over to Western & Buck Lakes and try to find some of the walleyes that those two lakes are well known for. But with the late start, we decided to just walk the portage over instead. The first part of the portage was very nice, level and some beautiful autumn foliage. The second half was swampy, lots of muck and hard to walk. We spotted a beaver dam about 2/3 the way through and figured that the dam and the rain had joined to make a mess of the rest of the portage. We both agreed we were glad we hadn’t tried to take the canoe with us.
We went back to Cummings and our campsite. We went out to do some more fishing. We tried for northern pike and walleye but again, only caught smallies. A couple were really nice sized, but were released right away. We had a pasta dish with parmesan cheese that night as well as some sautéed fresh carrots & zucchini that Deb brought with for the trip.
Next morning we got up to some strong winds coming from the northwest. We broke camp and proceeded to paddle back to the other end of Cummings. The wind channeled down the lake causing the waves and whitecaps to increase in size. We held to the south shore a bit too much and got behind one of the longer peninsulas. We figured out where we had gone wrong and headed back into the wind. That was hard but not as tough as trying to cut across the waves at the angle we had to take to get to the southeast end of Cummings. We were blown into a shoreline littered with large boulders of all different sizes and shapes.
Getting back out into the lake looked pretty dangerous, so we opted to bushwhack though a short area to get to the southern channel. It looked a lot easier than it turned out to be. Each of us took a pack and headed over. After a few stumbles and climbing over lots of downed trees, 45 minutes later we finally came out on the next side. We headed back down the rock strewn shoreline to get the canoe & the last pack. The shoreline, though pretty treacherous footing, now looked more inviting than the woods! We traveled the shoreline, sometimes walking just on the edge of the woods. A bit later we took another look at the waves and figured we could make the turn from that point. It is amazing how a bit of difference in the wave direction and a little less wind made the paddling much easier. A short paddle and we were over near the beaver lodge where we had left the other two packs.
It should have taken us only 4 leisurely hours to get back to Crab, but it ended up taking almost 6 hours. We took the Korb & Little Crab creeks, hoping to see moose again, but there weren’t any to be seen that day. We planned to camp on the northwestern finger of Crab near the portage into Saca Lake. We arrived there with just a bit of daylight to spare. We set up camp quickly and proceeded to make dinner. Our dinner consisted of some tasty Cache Lake wild rice salad, Cache Lake Italian frying pan bread and the last of the fresh veggies.
Originally we had planned to explore the area south of Crab on the last day. Our return tow was set up for 1:00 pm. We got up, a bit late and sore from the previous day’s bushwhacking. I tried my cell phone to call VNO and schedule the tow for 3:00 pm instead, but didn’t get a signal. The satellite phone would have worked, but at the beginning of the trip we had decided against carrying one.
Instead of exploring, we took our time breaking camp and then began fishing a few spots where John had marked a “W” for walleye. Now, there had been a few “W’s” marked in Cummings too, but those had only produced smallies, so we didn’t expect much. I caught a couple smallies but soon Deb pulled out a nice eating sized walleye. I took a quick picture of it and we released it. No use keeping it since we had to be getting back to the portage soon.
We paddled over to the beginning of the portage and met Bob Derr there a few minutes later. Bob grabbed the canoe & a pack and headed across to where he had the towboat waiting. Deb & I took the other two packs across. I met one of our customers on the portage, a husband & wife team. I offered to share the towboat with them, which they gratefully accepted. I said that the both canoes could stay on the towboat for the drive back to Ely since we were all going to the same spot. Bob brought us all back over to the Burntside landing where the VNO Suburban and the couple’s car were waiting to take us home.
This was a good trip. We saw the moose close up, which we loved. We didn’t get to fish Buck & Western, but in the end, it really didn’t matter. We did catch a walleye even if it was at the end of the trip. We had it easy on the long portage (since we had help) and hard on the windy return to Crab. Not a lot of loon’s song but heard the overhead symphony of the geese calling to each other while flying southward to their winter homes. Yes, a very good trip!
Great trip report
Sounds like a you had a good time with lots of wonderful food, pretty good fishing and fairly cooperative weather. I’ve always enjoyed my trips to Quetico and BW which I take with my husband and sometimes other friends but have never done an all-women trip. Thanks for posting your report. You’re tempting me to try a short one a short myself for next year.
Yes that portage from/to Burntside is uphill both ways! :)
"We arrived in Crab and paddled up to an eastern campsite located on a point."
Is that the first campsite on the east side of the lake, with the large flat rock landing jutting into the lake from the point? If so I've been there. Nice site. Caught two nice northerns casting off the rock there with a rappala skitterpop.
No, it was the second campsite on a point, on the east side of the lake.