My Northwoods Vacation
Hey dehr, we're back, aye.

Our trip really was great.  We drove into Canada to Atikokan where our outfitter was located.  Atikokan is a town located in western Ontario between the Quetico Wilderness Park  to the south and the White Otter Wilderness Area to the north.  It's truly God's country and the real Northwoods.  We took a float plane to Rolling Stone Lake in the White Otter Wilderness Area where our cabin was located.  The flight was about 20-30 minutes in a Beaver airplane over an area with virtually no sign of man.  Nothing but vast forest littered with lakes of every size and shape. 

When our plane swooped into one of the lakes our cabin became apparent.  There on the bank was a two room log cabin with a screened front porch nestled in the pine, fur and white birch trees.  The plane banked and glided softly onto the water and coasted up to an "L" shaped dock in front of the cabin.  The pilot jumped out of the plane, grabed it and stopped it at the dock.  It wasn't long and the plane was unloaded and back in the air.  Then quiet.  Northwoods quiet.  We were alone.  I mean REALLY alone.  No, I mean REALLY, REALLY alone.

We began carrying our gear into the cabin while scanning everything in sight.  In front, the cabin.  To the left, three 12 foot boats with new Yamaha 6 hp motors.  To the right, a wood frame sauna powered by a small woodstove.  Behind that...  wilderness.  To my back, Rolling Stone Lake.

We entered the cabin through the screened porch and then through a heavy, small front door.  The door was unusually low and you could whack your head if you didn't pay attention.  Inside was a one room log cabin.  To that on the back was a one room addition which was a bedroom and shower combination.  The main room had a kitchen on one side and the living room on the other.  A couple of bunkbeds where on the back wall.  Next to the beds was a door leading into the bedroom and just to the right was a room with a sink and shower.  The toilet was an outhouse in back of the cabin. 

The cabin was very rustic and originally was used by fur trappers in the area.  It did have some amenities added, though.  Solar/battery 12 volt electric lights.  A solar/battery powered water pump.  A propane powered refrigerator, range and hot water heater.  It also had a propane grill.   I took one of the beds in the main room while Dan and Luke took two of the beds in the bedroom.  The cabin was made to sleep six with three sets of bunk beds.  Because we only had three people no one had to sleep on a top bunk. 

The main room of the cabin had log walls and a painted plywood floor.  There were windows to the front looking through the screened porch onto the lake and a wide window over the sink that looked out toward the sauna side, woods and part of the lake.  The kitchen was along one wall and mainly consisted of a counter with cabinets, a double sink, small range and a medium size refrigerator.  On the opposite wall was a wood stove for heat and a table and chairs.  There was a small couch under the front windows and a couple of metal chairs that we moved around at our convenience. 

The front porch we used a lot.  It had a couple of wood lounge chairs and white plastic patio chairs.  Overlooking the lake and sunset it was a great place to end the day.  That is far enough north that the sunset lasts a long time.  Total darkness didn't come till about 9:30 or 10:00.  In the morning, the porch was a great place to drink a cup of coffee and watch the morning fog on the lake as the sun drove it into hiding for the day. 

The main part of the day was spent fishing, of course. 

That part of the story to be continued......


We're Back,  part 2

Back to my Northwoods story.

We didn't spend a lot of time unpacking and looking over the cabin before the pull of a remote Canadian lake began overwhelming our thoughts.  The look of the virgin water clean and clear beckoned.  It was bordered by sand and rocky shores covered with beautiful green moss and dense stands of pine highlighted by the white barked birch trees.  Below the blue skies the sun sparkled on the mild chop of the water. 

Fishing rods sprung together.  Reels seated, line quickly threading through rod guides with the precision of the Green Beret preparing an attack.  After all, we would only be there five days and we had better get going.  So much water and wilderness and so little time.  Our thoughts shifted to the shoreline where the three little boats sat, high and dry.  Hey, that's one apiece.  We have our own power boat in a wilderness like this....   Very cool!

The next thing I knew the boats were floating on pristine water, loaded with fishing gear, motors running.  Three boats with three Homo Sapiens hunting another species of life living in a completely different world.  Not only did the fish we hunted live in water, while we breathed the air, they lived in a world almost totally void of man.  In wild nature.  In God's country.  We just the opposite, in a world where man is doing his very best to control everything.  It's almost like being in a time machine and flipping the lever backwards.  If it weren't for the rod in my hand and the boat keeping me afloat, I would have no way to tell when in recent history I resided.  In a wilderness like this time is a different entity.

However, we were fishing now and time didn't matter.  It's the here and now and there's fish out there.  But where.  A quick look at the map and a little educated guessing brought us to an island as short distance to the south of the cabin.  After a few casts I hooked something.  The water in this lake was very clear, yet you could only see well to a depth of about 8 to 10 feet.  Beyond that depth the crystal clear water drifted into a golden brown darkness.  And that's where the fish's realm was.  The tug on my rod felt pretty substantial.  My mind tried to analyze what kind of fish it was.  This lake has smallmouth bass and northern pike.  The fish eased upward.  Then another tug and down it went.  Wow...  this fish has some power.  I'm thinking it's a fairly big fish...  northern pike?  They're substantionally bigger than smallmouth bass which is a small mouthed, striped version of the largemouth bass.  Northern Pike, the Water Wolf, Esox Lucius, is a toothy critter that reminds me of a freshwater baracuda.  Again the fish began to yield to my pressure.  Up a little closer to the surface.  It finally gets close enough to get a look at me and down again it goes.  Pulling hard against my bending rod.  But this time I also had a look at it.  A large smallmouth bass.  The largest I've ever hooked.  Up it came.  Down it went.  Up I pulled.  Down it went.  The fight of these fish easily lived up to the good fighting reputation that smallmouth have.  I'm fighting hard here and can't stop smiling.  Then the line went slack and there was my line and lure drifting peacefully in the clear water.  Nothing but the golden brown darkness beyond it.

Hmmm.  So there going to play that way.

I reloaded my rod and shot out another cast.  Then another.  It wasn't long and I had another good bass.  Are all the bass in this lake this big?  And hard fighting?  Slack.  And get off the hook like this?????

#&#$^$@#^%&**%, aye.

I think Luke ended up landing the first fish.  And the most fish for that matter.  We all caught good sized fish.  Mostly smallmouths, which were the fish we most wanted to catch.  But the fishing sure wasn't as easy as you might expect.  You could move into an area, hook a fish and that would be about it.  It's like the word was out.  Occasionally a change in lure would get another.  Maybe.  The best bet was not to stay in one place very long.  The biggest impression these fish left on me was their fighting power.  They were really strong and never gave up.  They would be wiggling and fighting till you got a good grip on their lower lip.  Which wasn't easy at all.  When you did get one in your hand, they were fat healthy fish.  A golden brown striping on their sides, dark bronze back and fiery red, angry eyes.  These fish were beautiful, strong and determined to be free.

Over the days the fishing remained somewhat tough.  Every day we each caught some fish, but none came easily.  The thing that we couldn't ignore was they were some of the biggest smallmouth bass we had ever caught.  Each hookup was a battle.  I'd love to say how they met their match.  But I can't.  They certainly won their share. 

I'm ready for a REMATCH !!!

Fishing wasn't the entire trip, though.  After all...  This was God's country.

More to come.


We're Back, part 3

Back to the Northwoods.

We had a great amount of comfort and independence for being in such a remote area.  It's sort of like having the luxury suite of the wilderness.  We were completely immersed in total wilderness, yet we had motor boats; a comfortable, dry, warm cabin; hot and cold running water; refrigerator and range; and the food that we brought.  Mmmmm, I shouldn't skip over the food we brought.  We really ate good.  Marinated steak fillets, pork chops marinated in apple sauce, bbq hamburgers Dan's style, sloppy Joe's, chili, spaghetti with Connie's meatballs and we snacked on my very own homemade beef jerky.  Believe me, the trip is worth it just for the food.  Unfortunately we just couldn't eat everything and some of leftovers were fed to the gulls.  We never did eat fish because of the over abundance of food.  The gulls were probably thinking just the opposite.  We don't have to eat fish!

Our lake, Rolling Stone Lake, had everything we could want in a wilderness fishing experience.  The lake was about a mile long and about 1/2 mile wide and generally shaped in a distorted "H" pattern formed by two long peninsulas protruding into the lake at the north and south ends.  Our cabin was on the east shore looking across the middle of the lake.  Our cabin view looked west across the "H" shape where the center line connects the the two vertical lines.  Our lake had four small islands in the center.  Cute little rocky things with a mini forest clinging to the top of each.  The lake was ringed with rocky hills, none too tall.  Maybe 100 feet at the tallest.  These rocky hills were covered with grass and a thick green moss that when you walked on it felt much like walking on a mattress.  Very soft and spongy.  Out of the grass, moss and cracks in the rock grew a thick forest.  It was dark with the occasional beam of light pointing out the deep green interior.  You could never really walk out of this place.  Not only was the forest too thick, but your direction would constantly be twisted around the hundreds of lakes that lay between you and a road or town.  Rolling Stone Lake, as seen by the air, was just one lake in a maze of lakes dotting the forest from horizon to horizon.  You definitely feel out of contact with the world as we know it when you there.

As futile as it seemed to be able to travel through that forest, we weren't limited to the lake our cabin was on.  Directly across the lake from our cabin was what looked like a small creek.  It was just deep enough that you could push a small boat through with an oar or pole.  Pushing through this little waterway in the woods had purpose.  Even though it seemed as though it might open up to a land lost in time with dinosaurs, or you might expect a bigfoot to go splashing across and into the dark forest, it winds around and reveals another lake.  Hawknest Lake.   A triangular lake about two thirds the size of Rolling Stone.  This lake, other than the shape, was the same as ours.  Same woods, clear water and large fish. 

No...  That was not the edge of our wilderness world.  If you boated to the far northern shore of Hawknest Lake there was a visible trail heading into the woods.  In this part of the world they aren't called trails, they're portages.  In we go.  Down a thin trail into the forest.  It's beautiful in there.  Light and darkness dance together everywhere showing off the infinitely variable green surrounding you.  Tall evergreens above.  Gray rock and green moss below.  You travel along this path while your breathing increases due to the uphill direction.  And then, all of a sudden, the walking gets easier.  Your moving down hill.  After a very enjoyable hike of about 300 yards the blue of another lake begins to poke through the trees.  Out of the woods and onto a sandy beach.  There in front of us rest two boats with brand new 10 hp. Yamaha motors.  Backing the boats is White Otter Lake. 

White Otter Lake is the lake that our wilderness area is named after.  It's a much larger lake than Rolling Stone.  It's a beautiful lake with coves, points and rock bluffs.  The water is unusually blue for this area where most of the lakes have a brownish color due to the pine trees.  I thought our lake was especially clear for this area, but White Otter Lake has an extra clearness and blue color.  The lake varies in width from maybe a quarter of a mile to about a mile wide.  We were at the southern tip of the lake.  The northern tip was just over 10 miles to the north.  And that's where we were headed.  Into the boats we went.  The motors fired reliably and off we roared to the north.  Full speed, spray flying,  the air so fresh and clean being knifed by faces smiling broadly.  The purity of this area cannot be overlooked.  There aren't many places in the world where you can pull out you cup reach over the side of the boat and drink the water.  All the lakes I've mentioned here are that way.  Everyone drinks the water straight from the lake.  I've been up here four times and always have drank the lake water.  I've never heard of anyone getting the slightest bit ill.  It's delicious.

You might be wondering why we were traveling three lakes and more than 11 miles away from our wilderness suite.  McQuat Castle.  The 40 minute boat trip to the north of White Otter Lake seemed much shorter.  There were silent coves everywhere hiding between the blue sky and water.  Rocky islands and cliffs showing off in the sun.  Sparkling spray from the boats glittering through the air.  The wild broke by Dan looking down at his GPS.  It should be up here on the right.  As we pass another rock outcropping it comes into sight. 

I didn't really know what to expect of McQuat Castle.  I read that it was built a long time ago by a trapper and hermit named McQuat.  They said he would never amount to much and couldn't build a decent little cabin.  So he built this log building lovingly referred to as a castle.  I expected a rustic broke down arrangement of logs much like other old log cabins that I've seen in the northwoods.  As we came around that rocky outcropping, what a surprise.  There on a grassy bank was a fully restored building.  Heavy log walls and a red roof.  We pulled up to a large wood dock to the left of the building and tied our boats.  Wow, what a beautiful place for a cabin.  Walking up to the building quickly made me realize that this wasn't a cabin.  It was three stories with a square tower connected to the lake side that rose another story above the roof.  It was wide open.  The doors and windows were removed.  Inside each level had one huge room.  Much like you would expect of a lodge.  The tower contained stairs that worked there way up to and past each level ending in a little room where you might expect to find Repunsel.  There were windows at each level of the tower and the top level had windows on all four sides.  What a view.  You could look up and down White Otter Lake for what seemed like miles.  The back window looked down on the forest to the rear.  That little room really made you feel like you were in the lookout tower of a castle. 

Our adventure reversed and before we knew it we were back fishing familiar Rolling Stone Lake.  I hate to have to put an end to this adventure.  Hopefully I'll leave your mind picturing, thinking and wondering of the Northwoods.  I know mine still is.  This trip is fresh in my mind now.  But I've already began adding the dreams of another.  With the buzz of a plane's propeller this trip ended.  Within the buzz of my mind the next begins.

Love and a little adventure to all,

Mike Rieke


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