BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

September 20 2017

Entry Point 60 - Duncan Lake

Duncan Lake entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Gunflint Ranger Station near the city of Grand Marais, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 30 miles. Access is from W. Bearskin Lake with a 75-rod portage to Duncan Lake and Stairway Portage. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1432 feet
Latitude: 48.0709
Longitude: -90.4517
Duncan Lake - 60

EP60 - Base Camping on Rose Lake

by dolson929
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 09, 2012
Entry Point: Duncan Lake
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 4

Trip Introduction:
A group of four traveling across Hungry Jack, Bearskin, Duncan, and Rose. The real start to this story goes back a few years ago. One casual evening my wife and I along with two friends were fishing at a local park (CG Ravine) and just happened to see a beautiful cedar strip canoe in the water just off the fishing pier. I loved everything about it, I wanted one, and I began looking into building one myself. With the blessing and much hard work from my wife, we built our own cedar strip canoe in our garage. It is a NorthWest Cruiser (plan available from NorthWest Canoe in St. Paul, MN) I love camping and have canoed for fishing but I had never been to the BWCA before nor done any portaging. Still, something, solitude?, adventure?, whatever "it" was, IT was calling me, loudly. Since completing the canoe project I had been dead set on getting that thing up to the BWCA where it belonged. Over many many weeks and months of accumulating gear and pouring over books, maps, charts, the spreadsheets I seem to make for anything and everything,, and any other advice and resources I could tap I finally got the plan all squared away for our first trip. The wife and I along with another couple would be heading to Rose Lake via EP 60 to base camp and see the waterfall along the stairway portage, the tall cliffs and overlooks along the Border Route Trail, do some fishing and take in the August meteor shower.

Day 1 of 5

Thursday, August 09, 2012 [paragraph break]The wife and I woke up early and got ready to go, most everything was staged last night except for the cooler we would use at the outfitter and some miscellaneous odds and ends that we had to wrap up before leaving. With the truck packed we left home, picked up the rest of the group and started the journey to Grand Marais. The drive was largely uneventful with the exception of the wind and rain that inevitably occurs on the first day any time the four of us set out on a camping trip together. We stopped at Palisade Head on the way up. Wow, steep drive up that hill and you end up with a great view at the top. The cold wind was really blowing up there and we could only stand it for a few minutes before retreating back to the truck for lunch. Post lunch our next stop was the Grand Marais Ranger Station to pick up the permit. We watched the video (which I had already watched on YouTube), passed the quiz, got the permit. I was getting frickin' excited! We were really doing it!![paragraph break]After getting the permit we walked around a Coast Guard station in Grand Marais for a bit as we were making awesome time. After walking and getting a few photos it was time to cross the line into canoe country, time to drive the Gunflint Trail. As we begin the drive out of Grand Marais I promptly start up the Jerry Vandiver "True and Deep" album I bought from itunes two days prior.[paragraph break]We made it to the outfitter, chatted for a bit and finished up the day with a hike up to Honeymoon Bluff, dinner at Trail Center, (MMmmmm chili burger) and a nice drive down back roads hoping to catch a look at some wildlife. [paragraph break] Side story: A year ago or so my wife and I took a trip to Duluth but decided to drive to Ely just for fun and to hopefully see some wildlife along the drive. Well while driving my wife said she would love to see a bear or a moose and I say "or a fox", to which she replied NO!, not a fox, you can see those anywhere. Moments later what jumps out from bushes along the side of the road, a fox... Needless to say I was blamed as the reason we did not see a moose or bear.[paragraph break]Back to driving down the back roads: My wife says she would love to see a moose or bear this trip and one of our friends (not knowing the previous story) says "or a fox". I couldn't help but burst out laughing as my wife yells NOOooooo! Guess what we saw while driving that night... 3 foxes. That was enough adventure for that day so we returned to the outfitter to get a good nights rest and prepare for the Friday entry. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] [paragraph break] [paragraph break]


Day 2 of 5

Friday, August 10, 2012 Hungry Jack Lake, Bearskin Lake, Duncan Lake, Rose Lake [paragraph break]We woke up about 6:30am or so, had breakfast, got all the gear ready and set off on our adventure. The morning was a little brisk in temperature but the lake was beautifully calm as we crossed Hungry Jack Lake to the portage to Bearskin. The paddle to the portage was short and sweet. The portage itself obviously gets used quite a bit which made for an easy uneventful carry. I made it through my first portage! woohoo! [paragraph break]We paddled out away from the portage, around the point and headed west to the portage to Duncan, where we will officially cross into the BWCA. Being the first trip I am a bit nervous about being able to find the portages and campsites using a map alone so I packed my GPS loaded with the campsites and portages just in case. We made quick work of Bearskin and locate the portage easily without electronic assistance. This portage was nice with a few moderate elevation changes but I was walking slowly and my shoulders were definitely feeling the weight as I was portaging the canoe, something was getting pinched up there in my shoulders but I made it without setting the canoe down. I trudged back to the start of the portage and ended up coming across one of the other members of our party already carrying my pack up the trail, Yay! I took over my pack and we made it onto Duncan. Hello BWCA!!! We were all feeling good so we agreed to stick to our plan: go north and get to Rose Lake. [paragraph break]We passed a group heading south that indicated they had just left a particular site on Rose. Finding an empty site was one of my biggest concerns so this set my mind at ease for a bit as we had not seen anyone else heading in the same direction as us. It may still be open by the time we get there. The wind was blowing pretty good as we continued north but calmed as we entered the narrow northern stretch of Duncan. I was really hoping to come across a moose or something like that as we moved through the northern tip of the lake but we got shut out, no wildlife yet. We found the stairway portage, unloaded the canoes, and I took the pack first to get familiar with the portage before bringing the canoe. [paragraph break]Wow talk about rocks and roots! This portage was certainly doable, shorter then the prior portage, but a lot more elevation to deal with. I skipped stopping at the falls since we would stop back later in the trip to explore around this area. Portaging the canoe was actually more comfortable on my shoulders this time, now it was the legs getting the abuse. I did set it down for a bit as I waited for a different group leaving Rose to make its way up the steps. Oh and if you were on Duncan or Rose and thought you heard loud booming thunder sometime before noon under perfectly clear skies, it was probably just me accidentally banging the rear of my canoe on boulders as I stepped down the portage. [paragraph break]Ahhh Rose Lake, what a beautiful site to see, wait, what's that? wind, waves, crap. The wind was really blowing steadily SW with decent waves, nothing we couldn't handle but it would be a workout heading to the East. I began to wish we had all practiced canoeing on windy days prior to the trip. We set out against the wind, paddled hard, took a little water over the bow, looked for the campsite in one of the bays we came to but it wasn't there. I thought we should be there by then but paddling against that wind definitely slowed us down more than I thought. We continued East (with some reassurance from my GPS that we didn't pass it) and finally found the site the other group had vacated. It was a large well traveled site with a great canoe landing, good height off the water, no bugs, and a great NE view. We got the lay of the land, set up camp, had sandwiches, gathered wood, filtered water, hung the food pack way up in a tree and completed other camp chores. As evening came upon us we ate dinner and sat around the campfire looking up at the stars watching for satellites and meteors. It was a great first day. [paragraph break]


Day 3 of 5

Saturday, August 11, 2012 Rose Lake [paragraph break] Today we made a fishing / exploring day trip to the west end of Rose Lake to have lunch at the last campsite or at the portage into Rat Lake. I was hoping to see the border route trail cliff overlook and maybe even get to the Height of Land portage. We set out from the campsite trolling for fish as we headed west and I had no action until getting into the narrow section of Rose west of the falls. I had a good sized fish but it hopped off before I could land it. I gave up on fishing as it was afternoon at this point and we continued west. We came across some swans sitting in a bay. Beautiful birds, very cool to see! My wife and I were always a ways ahead of our friends and we left the swans to continue ahead to the west. [paragraph break]I should have been more clear regarding the days plan and stayed closer to the friends to maintain contact. By the time my wife and I got to the end of Rose we sat and waited for a long time. We kept looking back to see if the friends were coming around the bend and within sight. We sat and waited for quite a while, getting frustrated as more and more time passed and we saw no sign of them. We began to realize the sun was going to burn us up if we stay there on the lake much longer. We did not put any sunscreen on prior to leaving for the day and the sunscreen was with the friends, doh! My wife and I had quite the dilemma at that point, backtrack to see what was taking them so long, or continue on our own adventure. We chose to head back and get some sunscreen on. It was disappointing but it was the right move. Sunburn would ruin the trip, missing a point of interest destination only gives me another reason to go back there at some point. We came to find out that they had found a fish that they were determined to catch near the same bay that had the swans. Their progress halted for the day as they hunted their prey in that area. [paragraph break] Now with the group back together we tried to pull up on shore to put together some lunch. Unfortunately we couldn't find a good clearing that would work to cook some ramen and keep the canoes from bashing rocks so we decided to just swing back to the site for lunch instead. We cooked up the ramen, did the dishes and were getting ready to head out to do more fishing when we heard something in the distance.[paragraph break] MMmmmrrrahhh!...MMmmmrrrahhh!...MMmmmrrrahh! We look out in the distance and see two dots on the water. The loud noise was coming from a black bear cub (I not sure if you would still call it a cub at this point in the year since it was getting to be good sized but that's what Ill call it unless I get corrected by someone) swimming behind its mother. They were coming towards the site. My heart started beating pretty good at that point. I've heard they act more like giant raccoons than a grizzly but man seeing two bears coming right towards our site made me nervous. We watched for a while as they got closer, hoping they would end up going somewhere other than out site but as they closed in there was no doubt where they were heading. They were close enough we could see their faces clearly. Although the cub sounded like it was struggling a bit I banged pots to turn them away from our camp and hoped the cub and mother make land somewhere else along the shore. As soon as the mother heard my racket she doubled back to the cub, swam around it once or twice, kind of head butted it, and made like a lightning bolt back to the Canadian shore across the lake. The cub was like WTF we're almost there! but turned around to follow mammas lead and slowly began its paddle north across the huge lake. It was making that horrible "I'm dying" MMmmmmrahhh sound the entire way. Although I know I needed to bang the pots when I did I still felt bad for making the poor little guy swim all the way back after getting so close to a tasty snack. Once they were on their way my wife and I started fishing again while our friends apparently decided they would trail the cub over to Canada. I certainly would have preferred they had not done that but by the time I figured out what they were doing they were well out of earshot and all I could do was think "It was so cool to see a bear but WTF are they doing way over there!?". Evidently, they wanted to be there in case the cub couldn't make it, as if they were going to do an emergency Baywatch swim rescue of a black bear. They eventually came back to the US side of the lake. The rest of the night was uneventful, fishing, dinner and a drink, stars (lots of satellites and shooting stars!), ZZZZzzzzzzzzzs. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] [paragraph break] [paragraph break] [paragraph break]


Day 4 of 5

Sunday, August 12, 2012 Rose Lake [paragraph break] Today's day trip centered around the falls and getting to some of the overlooks along the border route trail. We hung out by the falls for a while. Very nice place to relax. My plan was to hike west to see the overlook that my wife and I saw from the lake yesterday but she is not much of a hiker over rough terrain and there was no way we were going to make it there with smiles on all of our faces so we cut our losses, turned around, and settled for the overlooks east of the falls. We heard the bear cubs MMmmmrrahhh again that afternoon, it sounded like it was further east towards the end of Rose Lake that time. [paragraph break]Speaking of sounds, later that evening we heard a weird noise, It was like the sound of a strong wind blowing but it was coming from the sky above. It was not the result of rustling of trees or a normal wind blowing around land / objects sound. It was definitely something in the air, as it quickly zipped across the sky from roughly south to north you could follow it with your ears but it was cloudy so you could not see anything. We were all left very confused after that. Border Patrol Drone? [paragraph break] [paragraph break] [paragraph break]


Day 5 of 5

Monday, August 13, 2012 Rose Lake, Duncan Lake, Bearskin Lake, Hungry Jack Lake [paragraph break]We woke up to a light drizzle that lasted about half an hour or so before clearing up. Thank goodness no thunderstorm, Although it was lined, I still didn't want to find out what my pack weighs when its wet. We packed up all our gear, left the campsite, left the lakes, left the BWCA. It was an awesome first time BWCA trip for me, I really loved being there. I'm sure Ill be going to the BWCA again next year, time to start planning a route... [paragraph break]


Lakes Traveled:   Rose Lake, Duncan Lake, Bearskin Lake, Hungry Jack Lake,

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