BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
August 20 2017
Number of Permits per Day: 27
Elevation: 1356 feet
Moose Lake - 25
21 day solo in August
July 31, 2014
Number of Days:
After years of planning and hoping, the big day was finally here. I didn't get to bed until 3 a.m. the night before(stayed up late with some friends grilling out, saying final goodbyes). Hit the road around 10:45 a.m. The drive was uneventful, Chicago traffic was pretty rough as expected, checked into a hotel in Duluth around 12 a.m.
Woke up around 4 a.m. Unfortunately, as I'd found out the night before, I had a few more hours of documentation to finish for school before I set off on my adventure. Finished up around 7 a.m. and headed to Ely. Stopped in town briefly for some coffee and nightcrawlers.
Arrived at Latourell's on Moose Lake around 10 a.m. This place feels like a second home to me, and I felt all my built up stress wash away as soon as I see the lake. The weather was perfect, mid 70s and only a slight breeze. I caught up with Bob Latourell briefly, got my permit/fishing license, loaded up and hit the water before 11 a.m. Despite the lack of wind, the paddle through Moose and Newfound gave me some trouble. I use a 280cm Bending Branches 'yak paddle. I did over 100 miles on the rivers back home with it, so I was surprised how much trouble I was having keeping the canoe straight.
By the time I arrived at the short portage from Newfound into Splash, I was already feeling like calling it a day. I took care of the portage, threw all my stuff off to the side at the top, and ventured into the top of the stream between the two lakes. There's a little pool in there that I've always enjoyed. I've never caught anything over 3 pounds in it, but I always catch something there. Picked up a few little smallmouth, which put up a decent fight when combined with the rapids.
Feeling plenty rested, I did some rearranging of my packs and hit the water around 2 p.m. Rearranging those packs was a life saver, and I was feeling much better about the rest of the trip. At this point, most of the good sites on Ensign were taken, and I settled for a decent site slightly West of the portage into Ashigan (site #1216).
Camp was up by 5 p.m. Made dinner, did some reading and enjoyed an amazing sunset. Couldn't have asked for a better start to the trip.
Woke up around 5 a.m. Made breakfast and watched the sun rise while I enjoyed some coffee. Packed up camp and made it to the Ensign/Ashigan portage by 7:15 a.m. 55, 105, 25 rods to go into Ashigan, Gibson, and Cattyman. I set my gear to the side, and backtracked to check out the falls. I'd never seen them before, they're pretty impressive. Snapped a few pictures and headed on my way.
By the time I finished the 55 rod portage from Cattyman to Jordan I was exhausted. I realized at this point I was going to have to start eating more for breakfast, I forgot how tiring portaging could be. Claimed the Southern most site on Jordan(site #1201).
The site was very roomy and secluded from the rest of the lake. Most definitely a 5 star site. Found a nice spot to hang my hammock about 10 feet from the water. After dinner I decided I was going to have to slow my route the first few days. My muscles were already sore and I knew it was going to take a few days before I got back in the groove of things. I decided the next day would be a shorter portaging day and I'd stop on Hatchet.
Sunrise on Ensign.
After the Ensign/Ashigan portage.
View from the fire grate.
Awoke around 5 a.m. feeling sore in every single part of my body. Had some eggs and coffee and hit the water around 8 a.m. Took my time going through the Jordan narrows, that's a really cool place. The pictographs there were pretty worn down, as this site had told me. Dropped a line in before the portage into Ima and picked up a smallmouth, not big enough to keep though.
Fished a few spots on Ima, didn't have too much luck, then headed into Hatchet. The entrance to the portage into Hatchet is only big enough for one or two canoes and very intimidating looking at first. It ended up not being as bad as it looked, and with that portage I was hoping to be done for the day.
As I paddled into Hatchet I was relieved to find both sites open and I decided to go with the Northern site (site #1907). Found a great spot for the hammock close but not too close to the fire pit, relaxed for a bit and ate lunch. Explored the lake, did some swimming and then came back to camp for dinner. For some reason I was craving pancakes so I went with breakfast for dinner. Did a bit of reading and turned in for the night.
Slept like a rock. The previous two days portaging finally caught up with me. Didn't wake up until 9:30 a.m. I realized that my body must be trying to tell me something, so I decided to do a layover there. It was a great site and plenty secluded so I figured why not? I also woke up with a throbbing headache, which I could only assume was due to dehydration. I made a mental note to drink more water in the coming days.
Did a bit of fishing and swimming throughout the day, had some luck fishing, but didn't feel like keeping any for dinner. Overall, it was a lazy, boring day, and it was exactly what I needed. I made plans to set out early for Alice in hopes of grabbing one of the coveted beach spots. I had a nice fire and did some reading while the sun went down. Perfect day.
Woke up around 5 a.m. feeling great. Had eggs and coffee and broke camp by 7 a.m. I enjoyed the paddle/portages from Hatchet to Thomas. Most were really short but the whole area was cool looking. Found a cool little log bridge and grabbed a picture somewhere in there. Thomas was the first real paddle of the day and after about 35 minutes I arrived at the 240 rod portage into Cacabic. The portage was long but well maintained and not overly difficult. I finished with plenty of energy to spare. My body was finally becoming used to the demands of the BWCA.
Had one more small portage into Alice and then it was time to start looking for a site. I had my eye on site #1167 but as it came into view I saw a few canoes there. I was a little disappointed but went to check out #1168 or #1166. As I turned my canoe I noticed movement at site #1167, the canoes were leaving. Perfect timing! Headed to the site and had camp made by 1 p.m.
The site is even better than any pictures could show. Plenty of places for hammocks, tents, tarps, maybe even some sand volleyball. The fire grate area was one of the nicest I've seen, complete with a back rest on one side and a nice big flat rock to use as a table. Did a bit of reading on the beach and then headed South to do some fishing around 3 p.m.
I went to the spot where the Kawishiwi flows into Alice assuming I'd find some smallmouth there. Alice did not disappoint. Dropped the first one down and had a 2 lb. smallmouth in 30 seconds. As soon as I could throw another worm on my hook I had another one. This one ran about 10 yards away from the boat and then made a 180 degree turn and came right back at me. As I was reeling in as fast I could, trying to keep tension on the line, the fish goes under the boat and then somehow jumps in behind me! Scared the hell out of me and it was the first time in 5 days I wish I had someone with me. Stories like that are pretty unbelievable without a witness.
2 casts, 2 fish, and it was about 3:45 at this point. I decided to head back to camp to get started filleting them and cooking dinner. Had some mac & cheese to go with them, nice big meal after the long portage I had that day. 2 fish was definitely too much food for me, and I decided I'd only be keeping one in the future.
By the time I did dishes and hung my pack again, it was almost 8 p.m. Watched the sun go down and then climbed in the hammock for the night. Somewhere in there I decided I was doing a layover at that site. The fishing was great and the site was unbeatable, I think I would have regretted not spending 2 nights there.
Somewhere between Hatchet and Thomas Pond.
Couple smallies. Fish Dinner.
Got out of the hammock around 6:30 a.m. Made eggs and coffee and started into some deep fog towards Fishdance. Only saw one canoe the whole way there. The lake was like glass and I took plenty of pictures of the pictos. Headed back and decided to stop at the same little hole where I picked up my fish yesterday.
Caught 1 small walleye and a few 2-2.5 lb. smallmouth there. Kept 1 smallmouth for dinner. As I was about to leave I ran into a fellow soloer, and not only that, but a kayaker! Stopped and chatted with him for probably over an hour. Really interesting guy, he apparently had been out for over 2 months so far and planned on staying out until the ice came back. I could write all kinds of stuff about him, but I'll keep it to two things that really stuck out. One, he portaged barefoot! Two, he taught me an invaluable trick for killing deer flies. They always buzzed around my head, and I hadn't caught on to the fact that they just land on the highest spot. He told me to hold my hand above my head, palm open, and wait for them to land on it. Then either close your palm or clap your hands together. Simple as that, and I probably killed 50 of them using that technique throughout the rest of the trip.
Headed back to camp, had dinner and dishes done and packed up by 7 p.m. Sat on the beach and read while watching an amazing sunset.
Morning fog on Alice.
Got an early start and made it out of camp before 7 a.m. I resisted the urge to fish the spot I'd been so successful at the last two days. I started up the Kawishiwi headed towards Amber or Malberg, I wasn't sure which yet. There was a short 20 rod portage with some rapids right before Amber, and I couldn't resist the urge to throw a few at 'em.
A few swings and a few misses and things became personal. I wasn't leaving there without a fish. I picked up a perfect eating size smallie, threw him on the stringer, then decided I'd try for one more for fun. Landed a 3-4 pound Northern and threw him back.
The good Amber site was taken so I headed over towards Malberg. The first site after the portage (site #1042), which is a small sand beach, was open so I grabbed it. Took a nap, cooked fish for dinner, hung out on the beach and watched another amazing sunset.
My original plans were to head South towards Kawishiwi, but for some reason when I was out there I decided against it. It might have had something to do with the lack of seclusion on those lakes, and I knew heading North towards Boulder would be a preferable route for me.
Started the portage out of Malberg around 8:30 a.m., a little later than I would have liked. My body still felt asleep as I finished up the 67 rods and started back into the Kawishiwi. Another 30 rods and 60 rods and I was in Beaver. It took me a minute to find the portage from Beaver into Adams, I didn't realize it was right in front of me! Those cliffs were deceiving. 90 rods into Adams goes quickly, the portage is really cool, a lot of big boulders forming weird "caves" throughout it.
I was feeling pretty tired as I started the paddle across Adams, I'd done ~250 rods that day, so I decided to stop for lunch on the Adams island site. Rehydrated and got back on the water around 12:30. Checked the map and saw that I had two short portages to get from Adams to Boulder. Should be easy enough I figured. Couldn't have been more wrong.
After struggling to find the first portage, I realized I'd have to take a small stream (5-10 ft. wide) before I found a portage. I ditched the 'yak paddle for the single blade since it was wider than the stream at points. After beaching myself multiple times on lilly pads, dragging over a few dams, I came to the first portage. At this point, I was exhausted. The first time I went to throw the canoe up I completely dropped it, it was a good thing I was almost done for the day.
An hour after entering the stream on Adams I found myself on Boulder. I was exhausted, dehydrated, muddy, and ready for a nap. The island site(site #980) was open and I gladly took it around 2 p.m. Downed over 3 liters of water, set up camp, relaxed in the hammock, made dinner and went to bed early.
Boulder site (excuse the mess)
Morning coffee on Boulder.
Lazy day. Woke up around 6 to light sprinkles so I decided to sleep in until it stopped. Finally got up around 7:30 and made breakfast. The bay in front of the site was really shallow and I wanted to throw a worm out on a bobber but I realized I forgot bobbers. No worries, I fashioned a bobber out of a piece of wood and some duct tape. Tossed it a good way out and started dishes while keeping an eye on it.
Right after getting done with dishes my bobber took off and I pulled in a nice size pike. Too big too eat so I decided to toss him back. My clothes/canoe were muddy as hell from the day before, so I gave everything a good cleaning in the lake, myself included. As I was cleaning the canoe another canoe passed by with two people in it. They were on the Adams island site and were day tripping to Boulder to check out the Boulder/Cap portage. They were going to be doing it the following day but wanted to walk it without gear first.
I decided to forgo the portage exploration today, and waited on a report from those two. I made some coffee and took to the lake for a bit of fishing while I waited. Didn't catch anything worth talking about and about 2.5 hours later the two people came back from the portage. They gave me the rundown and I heard exactly what I expected, which was, in summary, "That portage sucks."
Rain was in the forecast for the afternoon, so I made sure to get an early start. Hit the Boulder/Cap portage around 7 a.m., and it was every bit as bad as expected. After I finished I ate a clif bar to try to regain some of my energy.
Cap to Roe was equally interesting, and I hadn't heard anything about this one beforehand. About 8-9 minutes in I hit a large marsh/bog. The Fisher map had the portage going a lot further, but when I checked the Google satellite images, it looked like there was a creek that could lead out to Roe. For anyone that's interested, I marked this point in one of the pictures below with the corresponding GPS location given by my phone. I took the canoe out first without gear in it, and after about 10 minutes of lilly pads and muck I found the bay that opened up into Roe. I went back for the gear and then was on my way.
I made it to Sagus around noon, ate lunch at the end of the portage, then headed for the Southeast site (site #1910). The landing to this site is deceiving, and I almost paddled right past it. A short climb from the landing opens up to a beautiful site. The fire pit area is right on a cliff by the water and there's a tree there that must have been made to hang food packs. I set up camp quickly in anticipation of the rain but it didn't come until evening. I took a break and rehydrated, even though I'd already had over 6 liters of water that day.
Made dinner under a tarp while the rain came down. First real rain I'd had my whole trip, and it was kind of nice.
Managed to stay dry through the whole night despite the constant rain. It let up around 7:30. Made breakfast and started packing up camp. I wanted to get the cool site on Wisini, but as I was going through the first few portages the amount of traffic made it seem unlikely.
At the end of the Wisini portage I ran into my friends from Boulder and we talked for a bit. We hit the water on Wisini together and I found the good site occupied. I turned to head towards the site to the Southwest but I was about 5 minutes late, another group was headed right towards it. I knew the other site on Wisini (site #1470) had bad reviews, but I headed there anyways.
It was pretty bad, but I found a good place for the hammock and made the best of it. I'd had almost all 4 and 5 star sites at this point, so it was about time I found a 1 star site. I would not recommend this site to a larger group or to anyone with tents for that matter. I didn't see any good tent pads. Everything was soaked so a fire was difficult. Managed to get one going and the weather started clearing up. A beautiful sunset put things in perspective for me. Even though I had a crappy site, I was still in the Boundary Waters and life was good.
Woke up around 6 a.m. to an awesome sunrise. Headed North towards Kekekabic and hit the water on Kek around 10 a.m. The wind was pretty strong, right in my face, and I headed to the North shore hoping to avoid some of it.
Once I hit the calmer waters of the North shore I started feeling pretty lazy. I knew there was a good site around the middle of the lake, and I told myself I was going to take it if it was open. As luck would have it, the site (site #1422) was open and I made camp earlier than I had the entire trip. Camp was set up by noon, and then I fished the islands in front of camp. Caught a few small ones, but the wind was making fishing difficult.
I headed back to camp and did some swimming right off the site. I really love how clear the water is on these Northern lakes. I found a nice "seat" right by the edge of the water that was formed by the "cliff" there, comfortable as hell. Made dinner and headed to bed. The fire pit area at this site has the best table rock I've seen in the BWCA, perfectly flat!
Slept in a bit this morning. It was getting colder at night and my motivation to get out of my sleeping bag at 5 a.m. was dwindling. As I was packing up, some ominous looking clouds rolled in, but ended up passing. Didn't see anyone the entire way through the Kek ponds, finally ran into some people at Eddy falls. Stopped there and grabbed a few pictures, even managed to get someone to take my picture. It was nice not having to race my 10 second timer for once.
Fished the bottom of the falls where Eddy comes into Knife, picked up a few smallmouth in no time. Headed West hoping to find the coveted sand beach spot open but it was taken. Settled for the site #1434, which is still a good site. I've camped there before with my brothers, so that spot holds good memories for me.
Cooked up fish for dinner and dipped it in the special sauce my brothers and I invented at this site, ketchup mixed with Cholula and crushed red pepper. Amazing stuff. Met a few fellow Ohioans fishing the channel as I was doing dishes, seemed they had good luck fishing on Knife too.
A nice, relaxing day. Slept in and took my time making breakfast. Decided I'd do a layover there and I headed out to fish Eddy Falls again. As I was approaching it I ran into the Ohio guys from the night before. They had just got done fishing there and hadn't had any luck. I was almost there, so I decided to give it a shot. 8 smallmouth all less than 10 inches and I was beginning to get discouraged.
I ate lunch, explored the falls a bit more, and then I threw a few more at 'em before I left. The hour break paid off. Caught about 7 more smallies, all good eating size. Kept a few as evidence just long enough to grab a picture, then released all but one.
Headed back to camp for dinner. Did some reading, made an awesome fire and called it a night.
Hanging at the Knife site.
Few smallies at Eddy Falls.
Woke up to a beautiful day despite rumors of rain. 50 rods out of the South Arm was a nice flat portage, then did the 80 rods into Amoeber. There was a nice climb up to Amoeber, but nothing too bad. Two more quick little portages took me into Cherry. I was aiming for the Eastern site(site #322), and it turned out I had my choice of either site.
I'd heard great things about the Eastern site, but I have to admit I was a little let down. For one, the place was absolutely trashed when I got there. I more than doubled the weight of my trash I was packing out while I was there. Also, it looked like someone had set fire to one or more of the benches around the fire pit. I cleaned the place up as best I could and considered trying to fashion a new bench but couldn't find the motivation.
Set up the hammock right near the water and did some fishing as the sun went down. Caught about half a dozen smallies (nothing bigger than 2 lbs.) right off shore from the site fishing with a Jitterbug. Fished until they stopped biting and went to bed around midnight. Rain and wind hit pretty hard about 5 minutes after I got in the hammock, and it kept me up late, so I just read until it stopped.
Woke up around 8 since I didn't get to bed until late. Explored the lake a little, did some swimming over on the cliffs, then headed back to camp to dry out. The wind picked up and it ended up being a pretty cold day. Made a nice fire and relaxed through the afternoon. The wind died down in the evening and I threw out some Jitterbugs as the sun was going down. I was equally as successful tonight, although I managed to lose a pretty big smallmouth along with my Jitterbug. I heard him jumping around the shore for the next hour.
It was a good day of rest and I knew I'd need plenty of energy for the Cherry/Lunar portage.
Left the Cherry site at 8 a.m. and there was a group there already waiting to take it over. Headed to the Lunar portage and find it to be just as difficult as I remember. That spot that goes through the creek really tested me, but I made it through in decent time. Took me about 10 minutes to find the portage into Lake of the Clouds, I thought it was further West than it actually was. Made it to Gijikiki around noon and took a nice accidental swim up to my shoulders. Since I was soaking wet and pretty tired, I set up camp on the island site on Gijikiki(site #2007).
Hung my clothes up to dry and climbed inside my sleeping bag, I was freezing. Probably was only in the lower 50s that day, but combined with the wind and my soaking wet clothes, I was really cold.
Took a nap and woke up to much better weather, the wind had calmed and it was sunny. Cooked dinner and hung out around the fire pit. This site's fire pit might be the best I saw on my trip, it's huge and has plenty of seating for a large group.
After checking the forecast I decided to change my route. The plan for the next day was originally to head Northeast up Ottertrack and come back down to the South Arm through Ester and Hanson. A bunch of rain was in the forecast so I decided to be lazy and do another layover since I really liked this site anyways.
Woke up a bit late to a light mist. Made breakfast and retired to my tent as the rain started coming down a bit harder. It was off and on all day until about 4 p.m. Steady downpour from 4 to 7, but I managed to stay dry and I cooked dinner under the tent/tarp combination I'd created. More rain was in the forecast for the next day, and I decided I'd wait until tomorrow morning to plan the rest of the day.
My view for a good part of my stay on this site.
Awoke around 6 a.m. to a light mist, just like the day before. Decided to try for Carp today. As soon as the canoe was loaded the rain started coming down a little bit harder. The portage from Gijikiki to Ottertrack was pretty challenging in the rain, I think it drops close to 100 feet. The wind was at my back for most of the paddle down Knife, but it was hitting me about a 35 degree angle, so I brought out the single blade for this portion of the paddle. Made it to Thunder Point around 12:30 and made the trek to the top for some pictures/lunch. Managed to send and receive a few texts on top, just enough to let my parents know I was still alive.
Got back on the lake a little before 2 p.m. and started towards the "potholes" between Knife and Carp. I'm not sure if that's a common term for those lakes, but my Dad always calls them that, so now I do too. I was pretty tired from the paddle and a fish dinner sounded pretty great. I was out of nightcrawlers, and even though I never have luck on Jitterbugs midday, I decided to throw a few out as I passed through the potholes and into Carp.
Picked up 3 smallies in the potholes and another 3 on Carp. Let all of them go except for 1 and headed to the Carp site (site #1241). Luckily it was open and I made camp around 6 p.m. Cooked dinner, did dishes, and went to bed around 9 p.m.
The last full day of my trip (or so I thought). Slept in until around 7 a.m., looked outside, not a cloud in the sky. I could tell it was going to be a good day. Made pancakes and coffee and headed out to where the rapids come into Carp from Knife/potholes.
Picked up 4 smallmouth and 2 largemouth on Jitterbugs before 11 a.m. They stopped hitting on Jitterbugs so I went to shore to take a break and have some lunch. I still had plenty of daylight left but no more worms. I decided to try to catch a few crayfish to see if the smallmouth were biting on them. Best damn decision I made all trip, I wish I would have done that sooner. I caught around 30 crayfish and had a hit on every single one. I filled up a stringer for long enough to grab a picture (proof for my dad/brothers) and released everything else I caught the rest of the day. I used my ultralight St. Croix rod and some of those 18 and 19 inchers put up a 10 minute fight. Amazing day fishing, couldn't have asked for a better last day.
Storm rolled in around evening time, but I had dinner done before then. The plan was to head out early the next day, get back to Latourell's, head into town for dinner, then grab a room somewhere around Duluth.
Got a nice early start and took my time getting back to Moose. Did plenty of fishing along the way and turned up a few decent smallmouth. Got back to Latourell's around 2:30 p.m. and Bob Latourell tells me that my dad had rented out a cabin for a few days to surprise me! I throw all my gear in the cabin and take a hot shower. My dad thought I was headed back the next day, so he was out fishing Basswood. I knew he wouldn't be back until late, so I ran into town and ate at the steakhouse. I met him back at the cabin around 8 p.m. and we made plans to fish Moose/Newfound the next day.
Woke up early, had a big breakfast and went out fishing. Did pretty well all day and ended my trip with this 21 incher! What a way to go out!