BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 22 2017

Entry Point 38 - Sawbill Lake

Sawbill Lake entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Tofte Ranger Station near the city of Tofte, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 25 miles. Access is a boat landing at Sawbill Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 14
Elevation: 1802 feet
Latitude: 47.8699
Longitude: -90.8858
Sawbill Lake - 38

sawbill-temperance-burnt loop-who let the dogs out

by wkdoit
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 02, 2008
Entry Point: Sawbill Lake
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 3

Trip Introduction:
Crew-the dogs:Me WK,my 16 year old son Jack & and Nick.Nick is a 23 year old guy who I met at the new pub in my hometown.He is the only guy bartender I have ever liked. Great personality,positive attitude,seemed honest and hardworking.We had gone fishing and hung out a couple times. I had told him about the trip and he asked if he could go.He was enthusiastic.This worked out very well. My original plan was for Jack and a friend to use my spirit II and I would take my prism solo.The way it worked out was Nick took the prism,Jack and I the spirit.

Day 1 of 6


Saturday, August 02, 2008

[paragraph break]The plan was to leave about 4am.I rolled around till 4:45and woke up Jack. We secured the boats on the truck and drove to Nick's place to pick him up.We got to his house.I walked in an unlocked door,all the lights and tv were on and a burner on the stove was red hot with a pan on it.Nick was passed out on his bed, oblivious to the world.He had been to the town fest the night before and probably rolled in at 2 or 3 in the morning. I love this guy! I managed to rouse him, we got his stuff loaded and took off with lightning speed to the great northwoods. When we got to the other end of the next town, Nick realized he forgot his tent. We drove back to get it. It was still set up in his back yard. We loaded up and restarted our journey. [paragraph break]]Both guys slept most of the way up. This is fine with me.I like to drive, oftentimes with no music or radio for long stretches We got situated at sawbill campground. This is a VERY BUSY time of year. I am used to may/sept trips with few fellow travelers. The amount of people we encountered on portages was at times disconcerting, other times downright annoying. [paragraph break]We set up camp,threw the football around, then cooked steaks with salad Nick works at a restaurant so I asked him if he would cook the steaks over the fire. I would clean up. I can't cook worth a darn. This arrangement worked very well the rest of the trip. [paragraph break]I am very basic on my menus because like I said, I can't cook. Also it seems every time I go to bdub I get the feeling that we or I, don't really need to eat as much as we do. On this trip,the food plan worked perfectly.

 



Day 2 of 6


Sunday, August 03, 2008

[paragraph break]We put in around 9 am. We should have left earlier. The portages to Cherokee were packed with people. The crew ahead of us were Boy Scouts with 5 canoes and about 12 people. It made me think. If you are a bs leader shouldn't you show the young guys how to follow the rules ,not break them? Well first they made me think,then they made me laugh, and before they made me cry we managed to pass them. Their shenanigans on the portages provided many laughs for us the rest of the trip. We also had another group pass us and manuevered around at least 4 groups heading out to sawbill. Just an unreal amount of people for a wilderness trip. [paragraph break]We got to Cherokee, set up camp, ate some snacks and kicked back for awhile. Jack was feeling sick with a sore throat. Nick commented that the portages were a little more than he expected. He did great humping his gear and the prism, single portaging several times. Jack too. He was starting to get a bad cold and hung in there tough, also doing singles. We went fishing. Jack caught a couple northerns, which are always fun, Cherokee is a lake trout lake mostly. I don’t think it has real good fishing in August. [paragraph break]We ate rigatoni with my wife Nina’s homemade spaghetti sauce. The guys loved it. We made a fire, played some spades and crashed. Great first day if not for so many OTHER PEOPLE.

 



Day 3 of 6


Monday 8-4-08 [paragraph break]Humped to south temperance lake. I woke the guys early, because I thought some weather was coming in and we should pack up and go before our gear got wet. Good move. As it worked out, we got to the last campsite on s temperance about 5 minutes before it would have been gone. We hadn’t even gotten out of our boats before another group asked if we had it and several other groups followed. [paragraph break]This site is on the north shore. It is bare rock with very little tree cover. The trees directly behind most of the site are blown down. We set up a tarp for shade. [paragraph break]The 140 rod portage out of Cherokee is a nice one. Up and downhill, twisty and turny with bad canoe landings at each end. This was starting to get fun. [paragraph break]We kicked back, alternating between the shade created by our tarp and the sun and water available on our open site. We all got burnt to a delicate crisp. The kind that turns brown the next day. Jack and I couldn’t help but notice Nick’s nipple rings. I always wanted to trip with a rock star! We played cards, ate burgers, then went fishing. We all caught fish. Nick, a big beautiful smallie that he paddled across the lake to show us. We were all having a blast.

 



Day 4 of 6


Tuesday, August 05, 2008Tuesday 8-5-08 [paragraph break]My original plan was to have a layover day on s temperance, then hump all the way to burnt lake on weds. This would give us 5 portages on weds, starting with a 240 and ending with a 230. [paragraph break]I changed my mind. The sky was clear and cloudless and we had had enough sun. I didn’t want to spend another day baking on that rock. Also s temperance is not a pretty lake. The shoreline is mostly dying pines and flat. Another point was we could split up the two long portages on the way to burnt. I talked it over with the guys and we decided to travel to jack or kelly lake and find a site. I knew it would be risky because jack has only 2 campsites and kelly 4. I asked travelers going the other way and got no positive feedback regarding open sites. [paragraph break]Most fortunately, as we approached the campsite on a point on jack lake, a beautiful human being who was on the site exploring with his 2 sons, asked if we were looking for a site. He told us he had the other campsite on jack and the point was open and that it was a good one. What a great guy. This spot had lots of shade where we all read our books and did some serious chilling out. Jack was not feeling or sleeping well, but to his credit he didn’t complain. I complimented him on his toughness, thinking this would keep him going. We hit the bags early. Nick woke up at 10 pm and was checking out the stars which were intense with the clear sky. He told me that he knew all the constellations and planets because at one time he was really into astrology… I could tell. [paragraph break]Jack and Kelly are shallow weedy lakes mostly. Probably not great fishing, though on another trip I did catch some nice smallies in the rapids between weird and jack and some walleyes in the fast water from jack into Kelly. We didn’t fish them this trip.

 



Day 5 of 6


Weds 8-6-08 [paragraph break]I managed to get the guys going early. We were all psyched for the 230 rod portage out of Kelly which I was sure was going to be a bear. My reading of the map showed it straight up and downhill. We had been talking about it for a couple days and it was a major factor in our decision to travel on tues, splitting up the 2 long portages on this route. [paragraph break]As is often the case, our expectations were far greater than reality. This portage is nothing to fear. Actually, it is mostly flat and a typical bdub workout. We passed a group of 4 guys who were dawdling at the put in to burnt lake after their first carry. One of them told me they were heading for smoke lake. [paragraph break]We got searching for a campsite and landed on a beauty. Once again we secured a great site minutes before another party would have staked claim to it. The guys we passed on the portage cruised by and ended up with another one which didn’t look anywhere near as nice as ours. Our spot was on a point in the middle of the lake. It has good tent spots, good shade and is spacious. There was a bald eagle, an American eagle and a seagull all vying for a large amount of fish remains some slob had thrown in the water by one end of the campsite. Again it makes me wonder what is so hard about following the rules. Anyway, it proved to be quite a bird show. Throw in a couple of loons and we had a lot of sight and sound of these great symbols of the northwoods Very, very cool. I almost hate to say this here, but I will say burnt lake is now one of my favorite bdub lakes. Beautiful shorelines, islands, bays and good fishing in a nice medium sized lake. We all caught our share of the bdub allstars-wallies, smallies and northerns. [paragraph break]We played cards, then got ready for pan fried walleye and wild rice. Chef Nick wanted to cook the fish over the fire with the rice on the stove. I preferred cooking both on the burner, rice first. I relented. Nick got the fire started and then mother nature intervened. We got our only rain of the trip, a 15 minute shower that put out the fire, tested Nick’s accommodations and made the wood wet. There is something righteous about getting your way when you gave it away and got it back without doing anything. If you know what I’m saying. [paragraph break]We fished after dinner and caught more fish. Nick donated a walleye to the guys we passed on the portage. I told them to check out our campsite tomorrow because we would be gone by 9 or 10 am. Maybe we felt guilty about snagging the better spot.

 



Day 6 of 6


Thursday, August 07, 2008 [paragraph break]Nick and I got up early and went fishing. He bagged a nice 18” walleye which he kept. We later filleted it and he brought it home to enjoy. I battled a smallish but ferocious pike. Great fun. [paragraph break]We paddled back to camp, woke Jack up and packed. Jack was very sick. He and Nick finished off the pasta and sketti sauce for breakfast. I feasted on a peanut butter sandwich. It was amazing how good it was. Like I had never realized what peanut butter tasted like before. [paragraph break]We cruised through smoke and the 2 portages to sawbill lake Jack was hurting and did little paddling on the way out. This was fine because we took our time and milked it as long as we could before passing the sign on the island signaling our exit from paradise. We all showered at sawbill outfitters, returned our rental gear and climbed back into the truck and started to think about reality. Or was that lunch! We stopped for a good lunch in Two Harbors. [paragraph break]On the way home Nick showed all the signs of being bitten by the bdub bug. He was checking out my guidebooks and bw journals and talking about a trip in September, or a trip with his dog, or a trip with anyone at anytime. I think he even mentioned flying back in a plane. Absolutely classic. Jack and I laughed at him and I told him it gets in your blood like lyme disease. I’m working on a better analogy. [paragraph break]Summary [paragraph break]This was a great trip. A classic loop with good company, comraderie and a lot of good luck. This loop has good fishing, some good campsites and a nice batch of portages to enjoy. Take this trip at a slower time with a rookie. I guarantee he’ll get the bug too.

 


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