BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 25 2017
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1166 feet
On the Water- Monday July 20th-
On the water late considering how far we need to go today. Up the Horse river to the falls by 6pm. Started raining and NO campsites available. Mudrow-Alruss-Tin can Mike-Horse Lake-Horse River-Basswood. 13 miles by water. (not counting portages)
Tuesday July 21st-
Rain all night, all morning and all day. Went north by petroglyphs, table rock and the the Crocked Lake Narrows across Thursday bay to campsite. Basswood-Crooked Lake-Wednesday Bay-Thursday Bay. 11 miles in the rain.
Wednesday July 22nd-
Up early and calm winds to take advantage of, considering the big water we have to cross. Found beaver dam to lift over and did a portage from hell between Pandos lake and Chippewa Lake. VERY steep and slippery after rain. Many mud holes. Then the mile portage after Wagosh Lake to Gun Lake. Never saw another soul in a canoe or campsite the entire day! Thursday bay-Friday Bay-Pandos Lake-Chippewa Lake-Wagosh lake-Gun Lake. 11 miles by water.
Thursday July 23rd-
Finally had a dry night. got everything dry!!! A few portages today to Fourtown Lake campsite. Easy day by comparison. Gun Lake-Fairy Lake-Boot Lake-Fourtown Lake. 6 miles. Put the long miles at the first of the week for a buffer for contingencies!
Friday July 24th-
Last day. Stormed last night bad. A few portages today with one bad one between Fourtown Lake and Mudrow lake. To entry point by 1pm. Ready for a hot shower! 4 miles
45 miles by water
13 miles by portage (3 trips each)
58 miles total.
September 17, 2007
Number of Days:
For the past 3 days I’ve been fishing on a lake in Hayward Wisconsin with my Dad and two brothers. We stayed in a comfortable cabin and caught muskies and large mouth bass. We had a great time but now it is time to continue on with a different type of adventure.
I say my goodbyes (they are staying in Hayward one more day) and leave at 12:30 pm on my way north to Ely. After passing through Duluth and going up rte. 53 I arrive at 4:20 pm. It’s warm in the 60’s but very damp and it rains lightly on and off.
I go to Canoe Country Outfitters where I pick up the permit and fishing license. I buy a few misc. items and get directions to my put in at EP #23 Mudro Lake. The people here are extremely helpful and answer all my questions. It will be the first time for me going in off the Echo trail.
Next I hit Piragis where I buy the book “Daughter, Father, Canoe” which I will read on the trip. I also spy a packable pillow and go for that as well. Sleeping comfortably has become a high priority in my middle age. I will also be using a new 2 inch thick Thermarest Basecamp sleeping pad for the first time. I then wolf down a pizza and beer at the Chocolate Moose next door. I’m a little uncomfortable eating alone so I run out to the paper box for some company.
It’s now around 6:00 pm so I decide to call my wife and see if she can see me on the Sheridan St. webcam. It’s pretty hilarious as she directs me to get closer to the camera but she sees me and we both have a laugh. We say goodbye which is always hard because I know she is worried about me going solo.
I leave for the campground on Fenske Lake where I will stay tonight. The drive is longer than I thought and it’s almost dark as I set up my tent at site #9. I then realize I forgot to buy bread for my lunches so I head back into town where the only things open are the gas stations. I buy my bread, some bottled water and grab some peaches in plastic containers for a lunch treat. Back at the tent it is dark and I hear thunder.
It pours hard most of the night with lots of thunder. I don’t get a very good sleep and hope it stops by morning. However, the new sleeping pad and pillow are just what the doctor ordered! Sheridan St. Webcam
Everything is quiet in the campground. It’s 6:00 AM and it’s warm and damp. Puddles are everywhere but my tent is dry inside. I make a quick breakfast of raisin bran cereal, coffee and a bottle of V-8 juice. It’s not raining so I spread all my gear out in the site and organize my 3 packs.
I use 2 duluth packs and a small daypack. I try to go as light as I can but still need to double portage.
I am ready to go and leave for Mudro Lake. I arrive to a crowded parking lot around 9:00 AM. It always takes a while to get accustomed to all my gear and get into the portaging rhythm.
From my journal: “My pack that I carry with the canoe was packed too high and hitting the seat (when I was portaging). So, I adjusted the packs. Man, the blue pack is a beast! And the Duluth pack with the canoe is even worse. So much for going light.”
The entry point to access mudro is a fairly dry creek. I push and pull my way until I reach Mudro. I see a bunch of people making their way out of Fourtown Lake. There are some log jams of canoes and people at these first few portages. The 140 rod portage is especially grueling with a steep up and then finally down.
I meet an older couple on the portage and we rest together. I tell them I want to camp on Moosecamp Lake. They say they are coming from that way and tell me the Moosecamp river is doable but has 3 or 4 beaver dams to pull over. I was going to take a longer route through lakes Fairy and Gun to get to Moosecamp but I now switch my route. A small river might be more interesting and faster as well.
The day is warm, overcast, and very humid. My shirt is soaked with sweat after the portaging to get to Fourtown. The lake is beautiful and calm. I finally sense that quietness that I remember of the BWCA. I paddle through Fourtown and see a campfire off to the right. Two canoes are pulled up on the beach and I see people milling around.
Up ahead, past the Boot Lake entry on the left I see a canoe with two guys fishing the shoreline. We exchange waves as I pass on by. I’m headed for the Moosecamp river at the north end of the lake.
The river has a narrow twisting opening and it invites me in. There is a canoe trail down the middle and on either side it is choked with lily pads. There is not much current so I maneuver around the narrow bends fairly easily. I reach a small dam where I pull over with no problem. At the next one I see a beaver swimming in front of me and he makes his way over the dam before I get there. This ones not too bad either. I get out, unload a pack and pull the canoe over. Moosecamp river
An hour goes by and I’m getting anxious to see the opening for Moosecamp Lake. No such luck as I come upon a massive beaver dam. This has to be around 4 feet high and 30 feet across. It takes some doing to pull up and over in sticky muck. The water is right up to the top on the other side with very little leaking through. It’s really a site to see. Those beavers can be quite the engineers. Big beaver dam
After what seems like another hour I finally see the opening to the lake. There are logs in the river with spikes and chains in them from some different era. The lake opens up and is gorgeous. It’s calm and I paddle to the preferred site near the other portage.
On the way I get very close to two loons who are as interested in me as I am in them. I see it is an adult with a younger one. They dive to feed and surface nearby. They will keep me company for the next two days. I never tire of watching and hearing them.
In the middle of the lake now and I’m hearing strange noises. It’s coming from across the lake on the south side. I see it. It’s a cow moose standing in the shallows. The noises it (or maybe another one) makes are strange grunts and a wailing sound. I stop to look through the binoculars and shoot some video then keep moving. Moose and loons on Moosecamp
There’s no one on the lake. The site I want is empty and is fantastic. It’s 3:00 now and I make camp. The cow moose has disappeared from across the bay but I now hear more strange wailing and grunting sounds. It’s a bull moose this time. I get the binoculars and watch this guy wade into the water then swim along the shore to the north about 40 yards (I estimate that I’m 250 yards away). His rack is just glowing gold. What an amazing sight! He pulls up on shore, shakes off and ambles into the forest. Wow, that’s pretty good for a first day.
Every once in a while I would hear “huffing” and grunts coming from that area but I would never see the moose again. A canoe enters the lake and 2 guys take the campsite down the shore from me. Another canoe enters the lake but when they see this site is taken they turn around and leave the lake.
From the journal: “I made raviolis for dinner, did the dishes and hung the food pack. It’s a beautiful lake but very lonely here. And also a lot of work by yourself. I prefer to go with other people I think.”
As I sit by the fire pit I get some company. A field mouse and squirrel come to say hello and look for scraps. They both dart in and around the fireplace. I don’t mind the company as long as the mouse doesn’t tell his friends.
From the journal: “My shoulders hurt pretty good and I’ve had a headache for awhile now. I don’t smell all that good either. It was very humid and I was drenched in sweat all day. This campsite is really exceptional. I love the high view overlooking the lake. The tarp is over the sitting area and my tent is in a good spot on high ground.
Well, it’s just me, two loons, and a little grey mouse. Tomorrow I’m going to fish the lake. It will be interesting to see what’s in here.”
Journal entry: “8:00 AM. Just finished breakfast of oatmeal and coffee (with ameretto). It’s warm and overcast. A little breezy but the forest behind me protects me from the west wind. The 2 loons are out in front and making some noise. Last night around 7:30 I lay in my tent and could hear the moose across the lake. Sounds like someone moaning in pain. It’s a little creepy.”
Shortly after hearing this a storm rolled in and never let up all night long. I didn’t sleep all that great because of it. The campsite was very flooded this morning. I stayed dry but there are puddles and mini creeks everywhere. The path to the latrine is a river.
Went fishing a little later and circled the lake. I caught a 16 inch smallie, lost another nice one and also caught a small northern. My depthfinder never went deeper than 17 feet. I meet the 2 guys camped nearby and they tell me that Ely got 4 ½ inches of rain last night. I believe them.
I’m a little off schedule with my eating so have my lunch of 2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a cup of peaches and coffee for dinner.
Later in the evening I see the sun for the first time. It lights up the forest on the south shore and it’s a beautiful sunset.
Got up early to see the most gorgeous magenta sunrise I’ve ever seen. I scrambled for my “good” camera but when I take the lens cap off the lens immediately fogs over (it was kept in a watertight case overnight). Ahhh! I grab the small digital and have better luck but the best of the sunrise is over. It’s amazing how fast the color can change.
I was packed and ready to leave by 9:30. Portaged over to Gull and found that the campsite I wanted was taken. I paddled with a strong wind down to two other sites but didn’t like them. I decided to try Fairy Lake. Going back against the wind now on Gull and it’s really getting rough. Portaged through Gun Lake and into Fairy. The wind is starting to be a problem now. There’s white caps and it’s right in my face as I paddle through Fairy. I find the site that was recommended but I don’t like it. It’s small and not very level and exposed to the wind so I push on and portage into Boot Lake.
Down the south side of Boot and just north of the turn south to Fourtown I find another great site. It’s on a south west point facing west but there’s plenty of trees to block the now southerly wind.
I am exhausted and quickly set up camp as I hear thunder in the distance. I meet 6 canoeists shortly after and can tell they are tired from fighting the wind too. I chat with the first two as they wait for their friends. One guy is from Kansas City the other from Texas. The next canoe pulls up and I find out it’s the bowman’s birthday. He’s 67 today. They’re having a good trip. It’s nice for a change to have a conversation with someone other than a squirrel or mouse.
Journal: “Not much to do but read now. It’s too windy to fish. Getting real dark in the south now. My tarp is taking a beating. Hope no trees come down!”
Journal: Woke up at 6:00 intending to get a pic of the sunrise then go fishing but it was windy and raining so I laid in the tent and read my book “Daughter Father Canoe” till 9:30 AM. (the book is great BTW) I am very sore from yesterdays ordeal but feel better now that I’ve had oatmeal and am drinking coffee.”
I spent the time reading my book and taking pictures with the new digital camera I have. I brought the camera manual along as it’s pretty much the first time I’m using it. I realized I’ve come a long way in understanding how it works on this trip. There’s a lot of features on this baby. It’s a Canon EOS 30D and it’s really something. I mosly use a small point and shoot Sony digital and leave the Canon packed away while in the canoe.
Around 5:00PM it finally calmed down so I went out fishing along the near shore. About 20 minutes later a gale came up with horizontal rain and strong gusts. Instad of being blown down the lake I scrambled for a small protected cove and beached the canoe. I waited a good half hour until the wind let up then made a break for camp.
The problem in a solo canoe is when there is no extra weight and you are dealing with a strong wind. I needed to turn the canoe into the wind but for a few seconds I was broadside and it was a little more than scary. I fought a headwind all the way back.
Journal: “Sometimes the gusts were so strong I didn’t make any progress against the shore. The tarp is holding up ok. I packed up what I could. No hot coffee or real breakfast tomorrow. I have a powerbar, granola bar, beef jerky and some Gatorade for breakfast. I hope it’s not raining so I can leave as early as possible.”
*I forgot my warm hat in the car so I'm wearing a fleece pouch that I use to carry an extra reel in. It worked fine but I couldn't pull it down over my ears.
I awake at 6:00 and peek out to a crystal clear blue sky. Just a slight breeze and it’s cool. It’s such a shock to see this as the whole week has been overcast, windy and rainy for the most part. Now, there are literally zero clouds in the sky. I’m thrilled!
I eat my cold breakfast, pack up and say goodbye to Boot Lake. On the water it’s breathtakingly beautiful. The sun is in my face and warm as I paddle into a gentle breeze. I portage into fourtown then make the right hand turn where I meet a woman on the beach of her campsite. She tells me it’s her first day in. We exchange well wishes and I move on.
I come out of Fourtown and look for the portage. Where is it? All I see is a raging rapid coming through the creek where the portage trail should be. Nothing looks the same to me. Was I here just 4 days ago?
Well, we had a lot of rain since then and it’s obvious the portaging will be different on the way out. At this particular one I have to climb a steep rock incline before finding a trail that then goes along the side of the now overflowing creek. High water portage
** This video is the same portage from 4 days before. It's shot from the opposite bank. What a difference a little rain makes. Low Water Portage
I carry my packs in knee deep water and at one point slip on a rock and keel over into the river. I gotta say it was damn refreshing! I hadn’t swam all week and I sure needed the bath.
I meet a lot of apprehensive people coming in that day and I tell them about the portages. “You’re gonna be wet footing it today!” I tell them. My packs are light and I’m looking forward to getting out. At the mudro creek where I had to push and pull myself 4 days ago is now a strong creek and I fight to make the turns against the current. I’m exhausted but very happy when I finally reach the parking lot.
I meet a father and son who came out with me today and they happened to park right next to me. They’re from Michigan and have been doing these trips for years together. We talk and I mention that next year I’ll be taking my 15 year old son for the first time. The Father is very happy to tell me about great fishing spots near Crooked Lake where they go most of the time. He pulls out his map and shows me a shortcut and his favorite campsites over the years. This is what I love about the BWCA. The bond that we all instantly have when you meet complete strangers on the trail. It’s a fraternity that I’m glad I’m a part of.
I load up and drive into town. The day is beautiful and the town is alive on this Saturday. I shower at Canoe Country Outfitters then grab lunch at Vertins Café (I think… or was it that Cranberry place….) I call my wife and find out we now have TWO new kittens instead of one. Turns out the breeder threw in a free bee. All is good as I head to Superior Wisconsin to stay with my sister for the night, then it’s back home to Chicago in the morning.
This was my 4th solo among 10 or so trips and I gotta think that this might be my last solo for a while. I really enjoy the freedom that one has when you get to call all the shots but I really miss having someone there to share everything with (including the camp chores). If only my wife and son could’ve seen that bull moose swim along the shore… If only my brothers or nephews could’ve fished with me…. If only my Dad was there to tell old stories around the campfire…
Ah well, I’m already looking at maps and planning my route for next year. And I won’t go it alone, that’s for sure.
Here's something extra but be warned, don't open if you're squeamish! :)