BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 21 2017
Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1865 feet
Skipper & Portage Lakes - 49
My B's and Me on the Skipper Lizz Loop
July 25, 2012
Skipper and Portage Lakes
Lizz and Swamp Lakes (47)
Number of Days:
Everyone is up packed and ready to go. The old Buick tripping car was loaded with girls and gear! Nort and Evie Bell were tied down tight on top! Everyone was excited for our trip and ready to roll! [paragraph break] Hinckley was our first stop. Gas and caramel pecan rolls at Tobies. Both necessities for the trip! [paragraph break] The next time we put the car in park was in Grand Marais. We needed a break to stretch and refuel before heading up the Gunflint Trail to Rockwood Lodge. It was a pleasure to finally meet Mike and Lynn, the owners of Rockwood. After reviewing our trip plans with Mike he said, “When you get on some of those portages you will wish you weren’t there.” Lynn had a better attitude. She said “If guys can do it why can’t you?!” As we checked out Poplar Lake from the landing at Rockwood we chatted with bbrown6057 from the BWCA.com site. He had just finishing his trip. We called mocha. She came down to Trail Center and had dinner with us. TuscaroraBorialis, vickieh69 and their, group walked in as well while we were eating. What a nice surprise to see them again! Mocha’s outlook on our trip route was better than Sue's from Tuscarora Outfitters, who we also met at Trial Center. Mocha said “It’s doable”. Sue’s quote was,” That will be hell!” After dinner it was back to the bunkhouse at Rockwood. We shared a few stories and discussed our trip with Rick who had just introduced himself to us by the bunkhouse. He was quite interesting (?). When he saw our alarm clock he was not impressed. He told us to wake ourselves the way the Indians did…not with an alarm clock! His story was they drank a lot of water before going to bed. Then in the early a.m. they would have to get up to relieve themselves. I guess you adjust the hour you get up by the amount of water you drink! No we didn’t try it.[paragraph break] As we made preparations for our departure the next morning we wondered what this trip will truly be like.
Poplar Lake, Skipper Lake, Little Rush Lake, Rush Lake, Banadad Lake
The morning was cloudy and looked like we would be in for a wet day. We cleaned our belongings out of the bunkhouse and headed for the car. Under the windshield wiper was a note that read: May God Bless You on your trip. He will help you carry your pack when you can’t and He’ll start your fires when it is wet. Love Rick and Elaine P.S Drink H2O. It will get you up!
The girls like a challenge and after hearing...you will wish you weren’t there…that will be hell… and now having people pray for us… their determination to complete this trip moved up a notch! We loaded up the canoes and headed out. Myself and B1 in the sterns and the twin B’s in the bows. It was a bit windy as we headed to the 320 rod portage that would take us into Skipper. As we paddled I questioned the direction B1 was headed. Looking down at the map I called the girls back to go south more to find the 320 portage. The B’s said “Are you sure?” I was sure, it says 320 right there on the map! After all I did say the night before what a good sense of direction I have! As we paddled I realized I was heading to the MEEDS 320 not the SKIPPER 320. Oh poop! We have to head back to the north. I told the girls I was wrong and was looking at the other 320. An explosion of “We told you mom!” came flying my direction. Lessons for the day: 1.) Moms aren’t always right! 2.) Admitting it can be a brutal! 3.) And keep your map close enough to your eyes you can actually read it! Thankfully we didn’t go all the way to the Meeds portage before I noticed my mistake![paragraph break] Poplar Lake B1 and B2[paragraph break] B3 on Poplar[paragraph break] As we pulled our canoes onto shore at the Skipper portage a motor boat pulled up. A dad and his son jumped out and started to walk the portage to fish on Skipper Lake. The older gentleman (the grandpa) tied off the boat. I was the last to load my pack. As I headed toward Skipper I heard him say, “Do you mind if I carry a few things for you? He was already picking up our paddles and a small bag. When you walk a mile with an 80 year old man that has been coming to the area since he was two, you learn a lot! Pete was his name and he knew every step of that portage! Pete even offered to carry my pack! He told me when he was younger and in better shape he could cross the 320 in eighteen minutes! And I believed him! What a charming man! [paragraph break] B1 loaded up.[paragraph break] B3 resting on the somewhat overgrown Skipper Portage.[paragraph break] B1 is back for a canoe. [paragraph break] The B’s are ready for the paddle across Skipper Lake. (Note the “marshmallow” portage pads. I will explain at the end of the report.)[paragraph break] We paddled through Skipper in the light rain. We were able to sneak through the rocks and down trees into Little Rush avoiding the 21 rod portage. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] The Little Rush to Rush portage had one bad rocky area. The west end of the portage was Raspberry Heaven! There were millions of bushes …all full of ripe raspberries! As far as you could see in the burn area there were raspberries! We ate and ate and then picked some to put in our pancakes the next morning! Mmm![paragraph break] One canoe heading to Rush through the raspberries.[paragraph break] B1 can’t eat them fast enough![paragraph break] Raspberries all around the burned trees.[paragraph break] Rush Lake was affected by the burn but still a nice lake. It rained off and on. As we paddled the girls sang… the entire length of the lake! (Many songs they learned from One Match.) They tapped on the canoe keeping the rhythm as they harmonized. I would have made them stop if there had been other people within a mile of us. But we were ALONE and loving it! I was not blessed with the voice and talent my daughters have so I’m only allowed to sing when bears come! A sure scare![paragraph break] B2 on Rush.[paragraph break] B1 and B3 singing their hearts out and making the best of the icky weather.[paragraph break] More fun![paragraph break] The 10 rod portage to Banadad Lake was interesting. Rocks, a stream, a bridge and mud! B’3 broke through the bridge with one leg! Watching the way she went down I could see a broken leg out of the deal! Thankfully she only got a scrape and bruise! [paragraph break] My B’s on the bridge.[paragraph break] Me, happy to be with my B’s in the BW![paragraph break] We loaded the canoes for the last time. Banadad Lake would be our stopping point for the day. We were looking forward to the island site on the west end of the lake. As we got closer we could see a green tarp but no canoe or people. So we headed for the site up in the north arm. Not great but it would work for a night. We put up the tarp, started the fire and tried to dry out what we could while it still drizzled on us. I know this site hadn’t been used this year and maybe not even last year! [paragraph break] B2 found a new hanging system to dry her socks and have fun at the same time. B3 questioned her invention![paragraph break] The latrine was almost invisible at first! After a few trips we started to see the trail emerge again!
Banadad Lake, Sebeka Lake, Ross Lake, Cave Lake, Long Island Lake
We woke up to SUN! We needed this! Our trek to Long Island Lake would be straight through. There were no campsites between Banadad and Long Island so stopping wasn’t an option. After breakfast we broke camp and headed to the 95 rod portage. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Pancakes with fresh raspberries.[paragraph break]We were thankful it was dry! Slippery rocks are not fun! After finishing the entire trip, the 95 rod portage from Banadad to Sebeka was voted the portage we liked the least. Due to the rocks, ups and downs, switchbacks, plus needing to watch our footing carefully it got the “pain in the rump portage” vote .[paragraph break] I usually lag behind taking pictures as we walk the portage back for the second load. It made me smile to see the pink water bottle left on the trail for me by the B’s. They are so thoughtful! Pictures never show the full depth of what is was like but here are a few.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] Now on Sebeka Lake, we agreed it reminded us of Slim Lake north of LIS. The 180 rod from Sebeka to Ross was longer but easier than the previous 95 rod. Every now and then there was a mud hole to slosh through. Rock slabs with moss growing on them took me down…but only once. The moss gave way and I dumped with a pack. At least it was a soft landing! The path was rather overgrown in some areas.[paragraph break] This picture is taken from the end of the 180 looking into Ross. [paragraph break] Ross was a unique little lake. [paragraph break] Ross is small in size yet had a huge rock cliff on the east end. [paragraph break] When we landed at the beginning of the 195 rod portage to Cave Lake we noticed a USFS canoe stashed just off the portage in the brush. As we made our way with the packs we ran into the two USFS workers. The task they had ahead of them was to build a bridge at the bottom of a hill where water was pooling. The gentleman said he had been watching this area get worse for years. “Visitors” to the area had attempted to remedy the problem by detouring …but that just made matters worse. The bridge was to be done by the end of the week. We got a little muddy here! We also learned the workers were the occupants of the Banadad island site we wanted.[paragraph break] We have never in our lives seen so many baby toads! The portage was infested with them! At times you couldn’t put your foot down without stepping on them. This portage was also overgrown and when we separated the foliage and as we walked the toads scattered! The tiny little guy shown is being compared to B2’s pinky fingernail. We had our first mosquitoes on this portage but not enough to get out the bug spray.[paragraph break] This is the hill that dumps water into the bridge construction area.[paragraph break] The start of the new bridge.[paragraph break] The detour.[paragraph break] One of the million baby toads![paragraph break] Cave Lake was small and must have had a lot of iron in it because the water was very brown! [paragraph break] B2 ready to start the paddle across Cave Lake[paragraph break] B3’s first canoe carry! You go girl! Heading west on the 109 rod portage to Long Island Lake! [paragraph break] We did it! After a 95, 180, 195, and a 109 rod portage we are all smiles knowing our next stop will be a campsite! [paragraph break] We decided to head to the island sight closest to the Muskeg portage. As we paddled we saw lots of people! We had just come through seven lakes and had only seen the two USFS workers! We were worried about getting a campsite. As we rounded the corner of island…the site was open! Woo Hoo![paragraph break] [paragraph break] It took us seven and a half hours to go from Banadad to our Long Island campsite. We weren’t rushing but kept moving. The girls worked hard and I was proud of what we accomplished that day! They were HUNGRY so I made their favorite dinner. A big pot of chicken alfredo and carrots! [paragraph break] I think it was gone in all of two minutes! [paragraph break] It was a beautiful evening to relax! [paragraph break] B2 fishing.[paragraph break] The B’s found a high perch to watch the sunset from![paragraph break]
Long Island Lake, Karl Lake,
We all slept in. We planned to stay at this site another day. We wanted to paddle and explore Long Island Lake and Karl Lake. After breakfast we all got in one canoe to paddle around, fish and see the sights. We only saw one open campsite on Long Island and Karl looked to be full also![paragraph break] Here we go![paragraph break] This chubby snapper turtle was about two feet ACROSS the shell! Nose to tail…not sure? He was HUGE! I have only seen one snapper turtle that was bigger. That was on Good Lake in the BW. [paragraph break] I was surprised how close we got before he headed into the water. [paragraph break] What a boat full![paragraph break] B3 caught a baby![paragraph break] When we got back to camp I made dinner and the girls… [paragraph break] …fished[paragraph break] …tried to walk on the rocks out to the island[paragraph break] …found a friend [paragraph break] …and watched him eat leaves off a twig for what seemed to be hours.[paragraph break] …and then gave a clump of moss a face.[paragraph break]Before we went to bed B3 went to the latrine and she saw a raccoon! They aren’t supposed to be in the BW!
Long Island Lake, Muskeg Lake, Kiskadinna Lake, Omega Lake, Winchell Lake
We packed up camp and left for Muskeg Lake by 7:40 am. We knew we had a few more tough portages ahead but we were well rested from our layover day on Long Island.[paragraph break] The B’s can set up this tent and take it down in record time! The only time I’ve put it up is at Wingnight! [paragraph break] Leaving camp on Long Island.[paragraph break] A gorgeous morning! [paragraph break]The 20 rod portage from Long Island to Muskeg was nothing but rocks trees and a beaver dam. This was the largest beaver dam the girls had lifted over and it got interesting to say the least! [paragraph break] This would be the beginning of the portage![paragraph break] And that would be the stinky beaver dam![paragraph break] Canoes are up and over![paragraph break] The B’s aren’t wet-footers! Some how they made it thourgh![paragraph break] B3 LOVES rocks!!! This slab was just above the beaver dam.[paragraph break]With the beaver dam behind us we were moving on to the little 4 rod portage into Muskeg.[paragraph break] Looking back west toward the beaver dam. [paragraph break] Paddling the narrow water to the 4 rod portage that leads to into Muskeg.[paragraph break] This is where the 4 rod portage started.[paragraph break] But we were able to bypass the portage by pulling over a small beaver dam.[paragraph break]Muskeg Lake was very quiet! I could have here but we needed to move on to the 185 rod portage into Kiskadinna Lake! The portage people warned us about![paragraph break] Paddling across Muskeg was the first time we had the twin B’s together… [paragraph break] …and B1 with me![paragraph break]The 185 was a grunter but it had its areas of reprieve where the going was easy. [paragraph break] This is the start of the portage. [paragraph break] On the worst part I tried to show depth by placing the Bs down the hill. B1 is at the bottom in the first picture and doesn’t move for the second. [paragraph break] the twins walked down past B1 who hadn' moved. That stretch was the worst but is very doable if you take your time.[paragraph break] A few roots to keep you humble![paragraph break] I was glad we were doing our loop east-to-west going up hill not down!.[paragraph break] The end of the Kiskadinna portage. Smile… ok… keep moving.. break is over![paragraph break]Now on through Kiskadinna to the 35 rod into Omega.. I said it again on Kiskadinna,” This sure is a pretty lake.” The B's told me I say that about every lake!!![paragraph break] Looking at Kiskadinna.[paragraph break] Here we could see the stairs that would start our next portage.[paragraph break] On this portage my favorite memory of the entire trip occurred![paragraph break] I’d say the first section of this portage was more of a grunter than the Kiskadinna portage. [paragraph break] This is the landing on the Kiskadinna side of the 35 rod portage. I took the picture form the steps we would soon climb again.[paragraph break] The beginning of this portage is tight and strait up and tight at the landing with the canoes! I banged the bow of the canoe on a rock just going up the first step! [paragraph break] B1 heading up with Evie Bell shouldered. Oh joy![paragraph break] More joy![paragraph break] The joy truly started after I climed this hill with the canoe![paragraph break]So here is my favorite story! B3 said she would carry the canoe on the flat part of the portage after I got it up the big hill! I sweat my way up slowly not wanting to tumble down backwards. I probably even grunted a few times! As I set the canoe down at the top of the hill…a grouse started to drum! B3’s eyes got as big as saucers! She was staring at me with a VERY worried look on her face! I said “Do you hear that grouse drumming?” VERY relieved B3 said , “OH MY GOSH MOM I THOUGHT THAT WAS YOUR HEART!!!!” The poor kid thought her mom’s heart was going to explode after coming up that hill! She knows grouse drum but had never heard one in the wild! I will tell that story for years![paragraph break] We definitely needed to refuel after that morning of portaging! B1 said she needed Scotch and B2 wanted a Beer! These were the slang names they gave the Butterscotch candy and Root Beer Barrels![paragraph break] Me inhaling my chicken ranch roll-up! [paragraph break] B2 and B3 filling their tanks![paragraph break] As we paddled east on Omaga we noticed the weather was changing. It looked like rain could be moving in. There were two otters playing in the water just as we rounded a small island. They are so cute! The only site we saw was occupied by four men. When they figured out we were female they quickly changed their posture! I pretended not to notice. When we got around the point and were heading south to the 44 rod portage, B1 paddled up and said, “Mom did you see those guys back there?! They stood up straight, puffed up their chests and suck in their beer guts when we paddled by!” She thought that was hilarious! I had to laugh too! [paragraph break] Looking East on Omaga.[paragraph break]The 44 rod portage to Winchell was rocky but flat! No heart explosion on this portage! When we came to Winchell we were greeted by wind. Not enough for rollers but enough to make the paddling harder. The plan was to go south through the bay and head west on the large part of Winchell to find a campsite. The first campsite was taken so we paddled to the west finding the next site to be open. It’s was a huge site with big rock slabs that ran deep into the lake. We unloaded and were sad to see someone had thrown all their leftover veggies and fruit around. Onions, green peppers, carrots, watermelon, oranges and grapes! And down by the lake it looked like they dumped a large bowl of pancake batter into the water. Grrr! [paragraph break]We heard thunder! In ten minutes we set up the tent, threw up the tarp, shoved our gear under it and BAM! RAIN! It poured buckets! The lightning and thunder was unbelievable! We were under the tarp when lightning struck somewhere close! The flash made our tarp look pink! It was eerie! There were little rivers running on the ground all around the tarp. The storm lasted about 40 minutes.[paragraph break] Again to entertain ourselves we watched a caterpillar try to crawl up a rock! We made a game out of it by guessing how long it would take the caterpiller to reach the top. Then it would fall and we'd start over. Hey it was a way to kill time![paragraph break] [paragraph break] Da a da….more than a river…da da da ! Another song the girls sang off One Matches CD![paragraph break] Still smiling! The best thing a mom can hope for in bad weather![paragraph break] A little break in the rain.[paragraph break]When the rain let up a group with kids paddled by still looking for a site. I felt bad for them. They were soaked! When the rain stopped we spread our things out to dry and made a quick dinner.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] In a half hour it was raining again! We grabbed our gear and got it back under the tarp and headed for the tent. We had to line up our shoes to redirect the rainwater that was still running down the hill toward our tent. It worked great! This was one time I was thankful the B’s all have big feet![paragraph break] [paragraph break] It rain hard until 8:10p.m. We played Pass the Pigs for awhile and then crashed. The second blast of the storm hit about 12:30 a.m. We learned when we returned to Rockwood that it had rained two and a half inches that day/night.
Layover on Winchell
This day was spent… hanging out gear to dry and getting it back under the tarp… over and over… as it rained off and on until 3:00p.m. Sunshine…rain…sunshine...rain… In between rain showers we fished, did some beading crafts, took pictures, went for a swim and got organized for departure the next day.[paragraph break] Camp or circus?[paragraph break] Three B's on a rock. [paragraph break] Clean hair feels so good![paragraph break] We were wondering if this eagle would nab one of the baby ducks below his tree! [paragraph break] Dry clothes, a warm rock and free toes![paragraph break] My trio of B’s!
Winchell Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Vista Lake, Misquah Lake
We were up early and packing in fog. We couldn’t have asked for better weather to paddle out of Winchell in! The lake barely had a ripple, the sky was blue and it was warm![paragraph break] Fog rising on Winchell [paragraph break] Leaving our camp on Winchell much cleaner than we found it![paragraph break] BW beauty![paragraph break] We were greatful the wind wasn't blowing! Perfect weather...again![paragraph break]We stopped to explore the waterfalls that come out of Tremble Lake. I would have like to walk up to the lake but time didn’t allow for that.[paragraph break] I’m not sure of the real name of these falls. [paragraph break] B1 at the falls.[paragraph break]Our paddle on Winchell was perfect! We arrived at the 60 rod portage to Gaskin and were met by a HUGE toad! Maybe he just looked big compared to the babies on the Cave portage.[paragraph break] [paragraph break]We met a young couple who told us that all the sights on Gaskin were taken. That was okay because our plan was to camp on Horseshoe and paddle down to Misquah for the day.[paragraph break] Looking north into Gaskin. The portages are getting much easier![paragraph break] Paddling Gaskin.[paragraph break] We were greeted by this big guy at the beginning of the 102 rod portage to Horseshoe.[paragraph break] No B3 isn’t showing off a turkey she shot…It’s a mushroom![paragraph break] This scat wasn’t on the portage trail when we crossed the first time. When we went back for the canoes we found it the middle of the trail! Nice to know we weren’t alone! : ) [paragraph break]After crossing another easy portage we were now on Horseshoe. We took the site on the right just as you head north on Horseshoe. It was well used but had critters to entertain the B’s.[paragraph break] B1 didn’t like this bug on her shrit![paragraph break] The sad frog with only one eye and it's helper. : ([paragraph break] Another toad![paragraph break] Finally a good loon pic.[paragraph break] Teach me to fly![paragraph break] B1 was shocked when she fell off the log! [paragraph break] Mom I found firewood! A whole tree![paragraph break]We headed to Vista and Misquah for the rest of the day. The 21 rod portage was a little rocky but relatively easy. Vista is a nice little lake. The campsites here were also full and people were out fishing. [paragraph break] B3 again caught a fish. This time it was a Walleye![paragraph break] The B’s by the rapids on the 50 rod portage from Vista to Misquah. This portage was rocky but much flatter than the portages on the first leg of our trip.[paragraph break] On the way back to Horseshoe from Misquah I got a floor seat! I hardly had to paddle! What a treat! [paragraph break]We got back to camp and had a spaghetti dinner while we listened to someone north of us trying (and failing) to make a noise like a loon. B2 couldn’t resist! She walked down to the water and called back. A mans head instantly popped out from behind the trees at the camp to the north. The guy had a puzzled look on his face and that was the end of the loon calling! We were getting ready to hit the sack and I made one last trip to the latrine. As I sat on the “relief stool” a little bunny hopped over and watched me. I had not seen a rabbit in the BW before. And the way he looked at me I don’t think he’d ever seen…. a woman before!
Horseshoe Lake, Caribou Lake, Lizz Lake, Poplar Lake
We packed up and left Horseshoe at 7:30a.m. Today was bittersweet. Sad to leave but looking forward to a real shower![paragraph break] Ready or not here we come….home![paragraph break] This is a “timeout” BW style! B2 really wasn’t a bad kid. She just wanted to see what it would be like to sit on that rock…in the middle of the lake![paragraph break] One last group photo![paragraph break] B2 threatened to leave me at the portage for putting her on that rock! I reminded her that the rock “timeout” was HER idea![paragraph break] We made note of the width of the heavily traveled 73 rod portage. Although for such a popular area we didn’t see many people which is odd for this time of year. [paragraph break] Nort and Evie Bell being carried by the twin B’s! Now this is progress! [paragraph break]Paddling and portaging from Horseshoe to Caribou and on through Lizz and Poplar was uneventful compared to the rest of our trip. The portages were easy, the lakes were calm and we were a bit sad it was over.[paragraph break] The 51 rod portage to Poplar was the last of the 21 portages we had done… all doubled! [paragraph break] Our sixth mother daughter trip was complete.[paragraph break]Shower time at Rockwood!!!!!!!!!!!![paragraph break] Thank you Mike and Lynn! [paragraph break]We headed north and had dinner at the Gunflint Lodge with Mocha before starting the five and a half hour drive home![paragraph break]**Note: The” Marshmallow” portage pads were a very last minute idea. Due to our narrow shoulders it’s hard to find a pad that is comfortable for all of us. I had the idea to make my own using memory foam so they formed to our shoulders. The trouble was that memory foam expands. It wasn’t as comfortable when it was smashed tight. So I left it poufy allowing it to form to our shoulders! Looks funny, works GREAT!**