BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 20 2017
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1497 feet
Summary: A 5-day loop from Baker up the Temperance lakes to Cherokee, and back through Sawbill and Smoke lakes back to Baker. A fairly difficult trip.
Day 0: We drove up from Stillwater in the morning and camped at one of the 5 walk-in campsites at Baker Lake, and it was nice.
Day 1 (Baker to S. Temperance) - A beautiful day, we decided to paddle all the way to South Temperance the first day which was a great paddle with easy portages except for the last one. We picked the campsite on top of a huge rock that was close to the middle of the lake. Tried fishing some but no luck
Day 2 (Rest) - In the night, we encountered the worst storm of the entire season. While we were there 19 people had to be rescued from the BWCA. We had about 50mph straightline winds, and I'm still surprised that the huge tent we had stood up to it. We slept in and took a rest day because of the intense winds. Amazingly beautiful sunset.
Day 3 (S. Temperance to Cherokee) - We left as early as we could to beat the heat, but it was no good. The lengthy, hilly portages were challenging and by the last portage we were pretty beat. We overpacked and single portaged which led us to speedier exhaustion. Still amazing weather. North Temperance was a beaut- I wish we had stayed there instead of South. We took the southeasterly facing campsite on Cherokee on the southeastern skinny island. Neat little site.
Day 4 (Cherokee to Sawbill) - Left a little later in the day but it was ok. We took our time going down the river letting out of the southwest part of Cherokee and it was a great area. BEWARE: The area between Ada and Skoop Lakes appears to be floatable, but a dam built recently has made the portion impossible to float. Be prepared for a long portage through muck and water. A guy that we saw there said he had been going to the BWCA for 40 years at least once per year and it was the worst portage he had ever seen. By the time we got to Sawbill it was pretty hot. We paddled all the way down to the site next to the portage onto Smoke.
Day 5 (Sawbill to Baker) - Cooler, cloudier weather for the first time on the trip. We were pretty hungry (I underpacked food a little and I felt really bad) and we were taunting each other with vivid descriptions of the burgers we were going to eat ASAP after getting out. We paddled back to Baker and returned our gear to Sawtooth outfitters.
Overall great route.
16 Y/0 SOLO into EP#39 Baker Lake near Tofte
August 02, 2017
Number of Days:
After the portage, I navigated my way into Petersen Lake via the little creek. At first I worried that it was impassable, but then I told myself, "The Forest Service would have made it a longer portage if I couldn't get through". It happened that my imagination was far worse than the reality of the situation. The creek was very passable. Just look out for rocks and avoid them. As I rounded the corner and exited the creek into Petersen, I was met by the fury of a cold Boundary Waters wind, blowing me backwards into the reeds as I checked my map. Crossing Petersen was much easier than I had anticipated. The wind was strong, but I was stronger. Once I got the canoe angled towards where I needed to go, staying on course was relatively easy. From what I saw, Petersen was a very pretty lake. I guess I'd like to say that I am surprised that the Forest Service only decided to put one campsite on that lake. It's certainly big enough for 3-4 campsites.
Once I traversed Petersen, it was time to portage into Kelly. Well, not portage. I just emptied my canoe, carried it half a rod over a sloped, flat rock and boom, I was in Kelly. I reloaded my canoe and set my sights on finding a campsite. After about 10 minutes paddling, I reached the point campsite on Kelly.
My trip was only two days, so I wasn’t all that discriminant when choosing where I would be staying. Basically when I arrived at the campsite I threw everything that I did not need for fishing onto shore, and went back out to fish for a couple of hours. That ended up being a rookie mistake that affected the overall well-being of my trip. Grant you, I still had the trip of a lifetime, but I failed to notice that my campsite had little to no firewood at all. So, the lesson is, scope out your campsite before it gets too late in the day to pursue another one.
The two nice-sized walleye I had on my stringer for breakfast the next morning were the perfect cap off to a day of fishing, cooking, relaxing, and hiking. I woke up the next morning and had a wonderful fish fry. The second day ended up being very cloudy and very cold. Like 43° cold. I didn’t know that at the time, so I made the decision to go fishing right after finishing my fish fry. I caught two more walleye and a perch, which were the ones that made it onto my stringer. I also caught some smaller rock bass and a four-pound smallmouth, but I didn’t keep them. Before anyone comments “smallmouth are perfect dinner fare!”, I know they are, but I already had two walleye and a perch on my stringer. My dad raised me fishing by saying “take only what you can eat”, and I hope that those people understand. Now I can’t say that the fishing was better than the fly-in fishing trips I’ve been to up in Ontario, but I didn’t find it super hard to catch fish either. My 1/4 and 3/8 oz jigs tipped with leeches were getting smacked by all species. The total list of all species I caught out of Kelly include: pumpkinseed, rock bass, bluegill, smallmouth, walleye and perch. Six species of fish in two days on only one type of setup is pretty good. If you’ve made it this far in my report and you want to help me out, consider leaving some fishing advice or a favorite fishing lake in the BWCA. I know some people are reluctant to give out advice like that, but I’ve learned that it’s better to ask than not.
Later in the day, probably around 3 or 4 (I didn’t have a watch (another rookie mistake)), a storm moved in very quickly. I hustled back to my campsite, only to notice that the previous day I put my rainfly on inside out! Water was dripping in in two different places, so I had to hurry and flip the thing the right way. Besides going back out into the storm and cooking myself dinner, I spent the rest of that day cold in my moist tent. I woke up the next day warm and dry, but I was ready to leave.
What I learned: 1. Being alone is harder than you think it will be. Everything takes more time than it does with other people-whether that be setting up camp, cooking, canoeing- when on a solo trip just be prepared to spend more time than you think you will have to. Also, it can be weird not to have anyone to say anything to. Nothing breaks the silence of the Northwoods when you are on your own. It was equally intimidating as it was meditative.
2. How to filet a fish. I brought enough food to last me the whole trip without fishing, but I, like most people on this site, prefer a fresh walleye filet over a package of dehydrated rice and beans. I watched a couple of videos on YouTube before I left. The first one didn’t go great, but as I practiced it more and more, I ended up being able to do it perfectly.
3. Bring a filet knife sharpener. I lied in the last paragraph. I did it perfectly with a dulled knife. Which means I didn’t do it perfectly. I could have been a lot faster and safer if I had something to sharpen my knife with
4. People thought it was weird my parents let me go alone into the BWCA as a sixteen year old. My parents trust me a lot, and the trip was my idea. I was thankful enough to have them fund my trip and let me go. I brought a satellite phone, and called them a couple times. This was my 5th summer in a row going to Canoe Country, but I knew being alone would present its own challenges. Despite this, I thought I could do it and I’m so thankful I did.
Thanks for your time and happy camping!