BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

April 30 2017

Entry Point 68 - Pine Lake

Pine 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 60 miles. Access through McFarland Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1214 feet
Latitude: 48.0505
Longitude: -90.0572
Pine Lake - 68

Prisoners on Pine

by TuscaroraBorealis
Trip Report

Entry Date: May 28, 2011
Entry Point: Pine Lake
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
My wife Vickie & I were married last fall. We had a small ceremony, but, never had a formal reception. We decided to have a wedding celebration at Gooseberry Falls State Park to formally mark the occasion. This would also serve as our jumping off point to a trip into the BWCAW. Sort of a belated honeymoon? Since Vickie was nearly 8 months pregnant we decided on a trip with no portaging. (At least not for her) Pine lake met that criteria & had Johnson falls to boot. Plus, I thought we might sneak up to Gadwall and/or Vale lake to do some fishing.

Day 1 of 6


Saturday, May 28, 2011

We had hoped for the best but, the weatherman forecasted thunder & rain last night. And the day started out rainy, windy & cold as we began setting things up at the lakeview shelter at Gooseberry Falls state park. Beyond the weather we also had a small heart attack when we blew the power & had no way of heating the food! Fortunately the park maintainence man got the 1938 wiring figured out and restored power about an hour before people were to start arriving. [paragraph break]

There was a nice fireplace inside the shelter. That, coupled with my fish house heater, kept it fairly warm inside. As the day progressed the clouds broke up a bit and it wasn't actually too bad. Can't thank our parents enough for all the did to make this day possible! [paragraph break]

For the most part the food all turned out great. Only the potatoes wound up being a bit cold as we had to rotate which roaster/pan got to be plugged in. There was a scare when my 6 year old nephew Collin wound up wandering off & was escorted back by a kind park ranger. But, all & all it was a great time & it was nice to see & socialize with many people I hadn't seen in years. [paragraph break]

After the party we stopped by at the cabin where Vickies' parents & brother was staying to bid them farewell. While there, it started hailing for a short time & we later heard there were high winds & tornado sightings that did damage in the nearby area and counties. Fortunately that weather didn't hit during our party. We only encountered sporadic rain as we drove north up 61 to spend the night at C.R. Magney state park. Vickie was impressed with the double rainbow we saw as we neared Tofte. Once at the park we set up camp quickly in the light rain. We went for a short walk around the campsite before turning in.[paragraph break]

 



Day 2 of 6


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Awake early for the drive back into Grand Marais to pick up our permit at the Gunflint ranger station. As expected, we arrived in town too late the night before. I've been to Pine lake a number of times in the past & know of it's reputation for wind & waves. So we waste little time in town and start making tracks. There is a light mist along the shores of Gitchee - Gumee which helps illuminates countless spiderwebs along the roadside. Nothing serious. But, the Arrowhead trail is a bit rough, wet & muddy as we near McFarland. We arrive and push off into cool but, otherwise, ideal conditions.[paragraph break]

I had done a winter trip through this very area this past January. And now was being afforded a unique opportunity to juxtapose the area in contrasting seasons. Without the hindrance of wind we made good time to Pine without over exertion. The current was a bit too quick to paddle through. So I did the gentlemanly thing & walked my 2 ladies (Vickie & The Black Pearl)through the cool, swift water. I would think it appropriate that the forest service should employ a band of drummers & trumpet players to be permanently stationed here to play the Hawaii 5-0 theme song. As more often than not the waves I've encountered here on Pine are usually surfable. :) Thankfully, nothing more than a good ole fashion (and very paddlable) walleye chop with plenty o' sunshine overhead greets us today.[paragraph break]

Proceeding down the northern shore we stop at the second campsite to the west from the portage to take a quick break. Excellent views of the high, steep cliffs along the southern shoreline can be contemplated & appreciated from this vantage point. The site itself was situated in an impressive stand of "pine" trees. Go figger. :) But the overall slanted terrain made this site a bit undesireable in that respect.[paragraph break]

Continue pushing on down the north shore of the lake. A small jet plane flies past just overhead. Couldn't have been more than 1000 feet up. Kinda ruins our serene setting for the moment. At the large point where the lake narrows we decide to cross over to the south shore. The lone site on this side is our targeted camp. Also we make a little pit stop & scout out the portage trail up to Gadwall lake. It appears we are the first to cross the trail this paddling season as there are a few easily moved broken off branches & small trees across the trail. Surprisingly, there is a rather large marshy area to be negotiated. We take time to admire the bright yellow flowers growing here before we make the "grand ascent" to Gadwall lake. Somewhat of a shock? At the top of the trail near the lake there is a designated trout lake sign nailed to a dead tree. Seems inconsistent that they would allow a sign such as this here? We check out the lake & start back down.[paragraph break]

I am almost always a double portager. And one thing I like to do is pick up birch bark on my way back across the trail. It goes without saying that the campsites are usually picked over pretty good. So it's much easier to find good stuff along the trails. And since it weighs next to nothing it's easy to stuff some in a pocket for safe keeping. Since this will be our only "portage" of the day, it is decided we'll do our gathering here. We find plenty on our way down. Also we find some fresh moose tracks in the marshy area. Stopping to listen closely we only here the distant drumming of a grouse. The moose, apparently, has disappeared.[paragraph break]

Contemplate stopping & checking out the Vale portage as well. But, we decide to press on to out target campsite to get things setup. Good fortune is not with us this day as we find the campsite occupied. We change course and paddle back across to the north shore. The site nearly directly across from Vale lake just west after the lake starts to open up looks inviting. We paddle up to find it open, and, immediately appreciate the excellent landing. Camp goes up quickly & relaxation becomes the next overriding objective. [paragraph break]

Later, while scavaging for firewood we came across an interesting marker. On the eastern perimeter of the site very near the lakeshore there is a cemented marker left behind from a surveyor back in 1936. I think it would be interesting to hear the story of how this came to be here.[paragraph break]

Ribeyes & taters for supper. Nothing more need be said. [paragraph break]

After supper we lounged around and soaked up some of the picturesque surrounding scenery before night fell. [paragraph break] McFarland Lake, Pine Lake, Gadwall Lake

 



Day 3 of 6


Monday, May 30, 2011

Gloomy & gray this morn'. A quick breakfast of oatmeal & dehydrated apple slices supplemented by some leftover steak & potatoes from last night. Destination: Johnson falls.[paragraph break]

The lake is reasonably calm as we push off & I am able to unhook the spoon that got snagged last night while fishing from shore. What wind there is at this point in the morning comes uncharacteristically out of the east. So we make surprisingly good time. It starts raining as we near the landing. The water levels here are as high as I've seen them, making the landing much more accessible. Some mossy trees catch my eye as we are pulling the Pearl up onto shore. [paragraph break]

As you would expect. The trail back to the falls is wetter & muddier than usual, with plenty of standing water to traverse around or through. As always, the falls make the hike back all worth while. We take several pictures. But with the rain coming down the quality of most of the shots is not the greatest. [paragraph break]

Ever the rockhound. Vickie finds a few suitable specimens for the collection in the near vicinity of the falls. With the persistence of the rain, we don't linger as long as we might of otherwise. We head back towards the Pearl. [paragraph break]

The wind/waves are beginning to gather some momentum as we push off. Since I had the fishing pole along I decide to drag the silver spoon I had on behing the Pearl on the return voyage. Not holding out hope but, maybe I'll get lucky? At least it has stopped raining.[paragraph break]

We paddle past the western most site & see that the 2 aluminum canoes are still there. We make it all the way to the site just before ours & we decide to pull off & catch our breath a bit. This is a pretty decent site. The exposed rock slope makes it appear as there is something of a natural sidewalk underfoot. Some neat large rocks are also scattered about. But we both agree that we prefer ours. [paragraph break]

As we continue navigation on the water highway it is readily apparent that the waves have gotten noticeably pushier. Still manageable. But, we have to put our backs into it some. We find a small sanctuary to pull over & rest without having to get out of the canoe. After that short break we are able to continue on back to our site without further incident. P.S. No luck fishing.[paragraph break]

Back at camp Vickie prepares some creamy wild rice soup for lunch while I work on supplementing our firewood supply. By this time the waves in the lake are starting to reach the uncomfortable level. And we forego any ideas of getting back out on the lake today unless things calm down considerably. We both eat up some pages in our respective books. Also I sporadically continue working on the firewood situation & Vickie decides to make a batch of banana nut muffins. Also. We both love our new Sawyer 4L water filter system.[paragraph break]

Around this time we see 2 aluminum canoes go by. One fairly close to shore, the other paddling right down the middle of the lake. It is still quite windy & wavy. Not impossible conditions. But enough so that you would quickly lose considerable ground if you stopped paddling for any length of time. You could tell the canoe in the middle of the lake was really struggling to make headways. We wonder aloud why they would paddle right down the middle of the lake. AND especially this lake! One of the mantras I try to live by is "to each there own." But this got me to thinking. Of what possible benefit could they be deriving from such a strategy? Wildlife, scenery, fishing, & most important safety all would offer far greater chances for success nearer the shore. The best we could come up with was, they wanted to insure maximum privacy for anyone they might cross by who was at a campsite. ????? The wind never relented enough before evening to entice us to want to go out on the lake. So we stuck close by camp the remainder of the day.[paragraph break]

Pine Lake

 



Day 4 of 6


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crisp, but beautiful morning. The lake has calmed overnight. Not much more than a ripple as we make our way towards Gadwall lake to do some fishing. As we near the southern shore it is impossible not to notice the fine yellow blanket of pollen that yesterdays windy conditions deposited onto the lake. [paragraph break]

I take everything up the portage including our daypack so Vickie is free to walk up the trail without the burden of carrying anything besides her camera. I sink mid calf deep at a few spots in the low marshy area. At the end of the portage I flick the one & only woodtick I see this trip off my pant leg. We load up a begin circumnavigating the lake in a counter clockwise direction.[paragraph break]

I am immediately smitten with Gadwall lake! Even though I had just climbed up a seemingly interminably steep trail. There were still high bluffs and hills the rose up behind the southern shores serving as an awe inspiring backdrop. Giving it an authentic mountain lake feel. There was a beaver hut in the SW corner of the lake. And just ahead there appeared to be an impressive stand of old growth pines. [paragraph break]

As we paddle along I happen to notice something bright white back in the woods from shore. Too white. We pull off to investigate. It turns out to be a styrofoam cooler filled with water and various items. Vickie then notices something even more alarming. A collapsed shelter! Built from sawed down trees. Using tarps and rope to hold it all together. There were even candles inside. Pots & pans hung from nearby trees. Various empty food packages and garbage was strewn about. Most of the packages had expiration dates of sometime in 2011. But some of the trash was clearly from days gone by. Suggesting that this site was likely a long time semi-permanent base camp used annually (or more?) by the same group of individuals. [paragraph break]

This was far & away the absolute most reprehensible thing I've ever come across in the BWCAW. It's one thing to find a piece of a wrapper, twisty tie, or some partially burned garbage. But, this was just flat out blatent, "I don't give a F@%K about the rules, what anybody thinks, or the consequences. ZERO respect!!!

VERY SAD.[paragraph break]

I will say this. The area they chose was choice. It was situated in one of the nicest stands of trees I've had the privilege to come across. Large old growth red & white pines were present as well as some huge cedars and even some outstanding birch trees! Even though we had a nice cache of birch bark back at camp. I couldn't resist grabbing a few of the premium pieces that were laying on the forest floor. Seemed ashame not to put them to good use.[paragraph break]

Reluctantly we leave most of the carnage behind. As we have no way of carrying tarps,rope, pots, & pans etc. Especially with only one daypack along and Vickie being nearly 8 months pregnant.[paragraph break]

We return to the Black Pearl and set about to try and catch some supper. After about our third circuit around the lake without a bite. I begin wondering if someone has a base camp up here then maybe they have also taken more than their fair share of the stocked fish as well. I set my rod down to dig out a Clif bar. Wouldn't ya know it?! Fish on!!! I manage to get a good hook set and bring a nice brookie up to the canoe. One item that is still safely tucked away in the van is the net, so I'll have to try and grab this one by hand. This one goes nearly 18 inches. We have our supper![paragraph break]

We pull off to finish our snack break. It seems there are several ideal locations around the perimeter of Gadwall where people have stopped. Some complete with charred wood & ash from fires. One even had a makeshift fire ring. This lake is beautiful, but, it appears to have taken alot of abuse as well. [paragraph break]

With renewed vigor we ply the waters of Gadwall lake in search of more thrills. A light persistent rain begins to fall. It doesn't take too long and my rod tip bends over again. (Naturally as I am putting my rain gear on.) This one is really a fighter. With no net, I have to play him out a bit longer than I like. But I get him up. This brookie goes over 18.5. We already have enough for supper so I let this guy go. We catch a few more smaller fish, which we release as well, before decideing to call it a day.[paragraph break]

As we're paddling back we notice a loon nesting very near to where we landed to check out the collapsed shelter. We hadn't even seen her there earlier. Hopefully we didn't disturb her too much. She seems to be staying on the nest so we figure everything must be OK. [paragraph break]

We stop at the portage landing to savor Gadwall one last time before heading back. The lake had treated us well & we were thankful. [paragraph break]

The sun had popped back out shortly before we laft Gadwall. It had been kinda of a weird day so far weather wise. Didn't seem like it knew what it wanted to do? There is not much more than a trace of wind as we push back onto Pine lake. We discuss possibly going to the Vale lake portage if only to hike the trail & do some exploring. But we had not had a proper lunch yet and decide to paddle back to camp to eat. We could come back later if conditions permitted it.[paragraph break]

It started out as a leisurely paddle back to camp. The sun was out, little to no wind, what more could you hope for? Our crossing target was the point just west past the portage trail to West Pike lake. We had made it about 3/4 away across when it became obviously apparent that a malestrom of wind & waves was coming from the west, our way down the lake. I kept heading for the point. We were about 100 yards out when we were hit with the full flurry. Getting blasted by 2-3 foot waves I knew we'd never be able to continue paddling in the NW direction we were heading. It was a large gamble but I thought if I could turn the Pearl and ride out the waves in a NE direction we might have a better chance of making it to shore. WRONG!!! Getting caught in the trough of the waves I wasn't able to get her fully turned. We rode out a couple of roller coaster waves but ultimately we succumbed to the fiery of Mother Nature & over we went.[paragraph break]

Our PFDs' made us like bobbing apples in the water. Vickie alertly grabbed the Duluth pack before it floated too far away. We both still had our paddles in hand. I screamed,"Stay close to the Pearl and hold on to her as best you can." At first we tried with the bottom up. Though filled with water. We found it easier to hang on with the Pearl right side up. It was easier to keep track of the pack and our paddles as the Pearl did a great job of keeping them corraled inside the canoe. While we concentrated more on hanging on and kicking towards shore.[paragraph break]

Mercifully there was a reef that ran out from where we were washing to shore. So the last 30 yards or so we could just hop from rock to rock. All told we were probably only in the water for 5-10 minutes. Long enough to gain a greater appreciation of the Gordon Lightfoot lyric, "Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?" Being in the water we didn't even notice that it had started raining pretty good as well until we crawled up onto shore.[paragraph break]

Quickly emptied the water out of the Black Pearl and secured it onshore along with our paddles. I could not lift the Duluth pack and had to just roll it up on a large rock until some of the water had drained off. At least it had floated. We then disrobed and wrung out our clothes. I then returned to the Black Pearl where the birch bark I had gathered up on Gadwall lake was still safely tucked away in the back pocket of my canoe seat.[paragraph break]

Even though it was soaked, our camp stove fired right off as soon as the spark from my firesteel hit it. It provided a small measure of warmth while quickly drying out, then igniting, the birch bark for our fire proper. The rain prevented the fire from taking off as quickly as we had hoped. But once the fire was well established the sun popped back out and the lake was once again relatively calm. Our quick dry clothing did just that. We warmed our bones beside the fire for a short while. [paragraph break]

Thoroughly doused the fire before we left. Even though it wasn't raining anymore, we donned our rain gear as an outer shell wind breaker. We were mostly dry, but still had that "damp" feeling. Neither of us had gotten to the point of shivering cold. More like just past the goose bump stage. I think it had all happened so quickly that we were still running on adrenaline when we got to shore. Also. It was a reassurring feeling that out clothes and gear didn't fail us when we needed them most. Even beyond that. I can't say enough about Vickie keeping her wits about her & never panicking. Which would've undoubtedly exasperated the situation. We got through it. Thankfully laughing after it was over.[paragraph break]

We paddled back to camp with the wind again quickly gaining momentum. We unload at our landing and take stock of the situation. In the final analysis we lose our fishing poles, my small tackle box, Vickies' cap, the chapstick that I had in my pants pocket, & a big chunk of my pride. All things considered? Not too bad. The last picture of my tackle box.[paragraph break]

Upon our return to camp we notice a seagull hanging around. With all the excitment I had completely forgotten about our brook trout we kept for supper. He had survived the ordeal, but just barely. And now the seagull wanted him for his supper. So I couldn't relax just yet. I set about fileting our brookie than wrapping him in a small wet towel and placing a rock on topof it. Let evaporation keep the filets cool until we're ready for them.[paragraph break]

By this time the wind is absolutely out of control. Waves are splashing up off the rocks and the spray is hitting us sitting some thirty feet away. And it just doesn't let up! We are beyond thankful that we are in camp.[paragraph break]

The brook trout is the best meal of the trip in my opinion. Served it with some mashed potatoes topped with bacon bits & cheese. Vickie makes up a couple batches of muffins. One for desert tonight & the other for the trip out tomorrow. We spend the rest of the evening marveling at the sustained intensity of the wind/waves. As a testament to how far reaching being trapped in a Pine lake prison camp went. I dub the small lone red pine down by the lakeshore a "Charlie Brown lob tree in the wilderness." :) Pine Lake, Gadwall Lake

 



Day 5 of 6


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The wind NEVER lets up all evening! We wake to the continual dreadful sound of waves crashing onto the rocks. We eat breakfast and begin the process of tearing down camp. We told everyone we would be back today. So, our shakey plan is that maybe we can slowly make it from campsite to campsite or point to point. Sounded good in theory. [paragraph break]

The waves seem to have let off some from last night. We push off, and things intially go surprisingly well. We make it to wear the lake starts to narrow just before the portage to West Pike. Our attempts to paddle past here prove to be futile. We try to walk the canoe a ways. Figuring if we can just get past the point. Walking on wet slippery rocks with 2 foot waves pounding us & the canoe is a certain recipe for disaster as well. We somewhat of a small opening and reconnoiter.[paragraph break]

The Black Pearl has already sustained some damage (scratches). And in order to prevent any more, or something more fatal, we pull the packs out and bring our ship to shore. The wind is picking up now and it appears we will be "prisoners" here for the forseeable future. [paragraph break]

I manage to find a small opening with a mossy blanket back in the woods a bit. After gathering some small firewood we have our second illegal fire of the trip as we contemplate our next move. Vickie pulls out the extra batch of muffins she made last night to aide in this endeavor.[paragraph break]

Studying our Voyageur map we notice there should be a campsite just past this point. But how far? And what kind of effort would it take to get there? After some time I pull out my GPS. This past winter we had loaded a BWCAW map onto it complete with capsites & portages. It indicates that the campsite is only a mere 1000 feet from our present location. I tell Vickie to wait here & I'll go see what kind of effort it will require to make it there.[paragraph break]

I find that the actual distance is a bit further than my GPS indicates. But, after some short intial bushwhacking, there is a faint trail most of the way. I tell her to grab her water bottle and whatever she thinks she'll need & we'll head over. I then determine to portage all our gear over. When Vickie questions this logic I reply, "What else am I gonna be able to do today anyways?" It takes some doing, but I manage to get all 3 of our packs to the campsite leaving the Black Pearl behind. Along the way on one of the trips back 'n' forth I stumble across an old Schlitz beer can circa 1973. The beer that made Milwaukee famous! Or so it says on the can. :)[paragraph break]

As soon as I get back to camp it looks as if it will rain. It never does rain. But, I quickly set up the tent never the less. This site has a very expansive feel to it. Yet there are no real good tent pads. There are trails running in several directions. Thankfully one from the way we came. I didn't follow it that far, but, I surmise you could walk all the way to the West Pike portage trail from here as well. I really hope the wind dies because the landing is a miserable rocky mess & loading the canoe there in bad conditions would be a ankle injury waiting to happen.[paragraph break]

We have chicken fajitas for supper. The wind seems to be letting off just a bit. We hike back to where we stashed the Pearl. We are finally able to walk it around the point. We try paddling but the water is still too rough. I drop Vickie off & walk it back along the shoreline to the campsite. At least we've now got everything here ready to go if it every lets up.[paragraph break]

We hold out hope that the wind will let up at somepoint & we can still paddle out tonight. But by the time things slowly start to calm we have already made the call to spent the night here & get a REALLY early start in the morning. [paragraph break]

We retire to the tent early. Play a few games of cribbage then call it a day. The wind finally relents about 8:30 - 9:00. After a day 1/2 of having the wind ringing in our ears it was quite the pleasurable contrast to be able to hear loons calling and other birds singing again. Of course Vickie took this to the extreme and must've heard every mouse within a mile of our camp that night. I recall being woken up on a few different occassions. "There's something running into the tent!" "There's a bear digging into the barrel!" "Did you hear that?!?" LOL [paragraph break] Pine Lake

 



Day 6 of 6


Thursday, June 02, 2011

The bear barrel was right where we left it. Complete with our pans on top of the barrel with the empty beer can I found still inside of them. We ate the last of our Clif bars for breakfast & were on the water EARLY. [paragraph break]

It didn't even seem like the same lake? It was glass & there was a incredibly heavy fog. We kept her pretty close to shore. More so we knew where we were than a concern over big waves. I'd swear if it wasn't for the yellow orb in the sky I'd scarcely know which direction we were headed. [paragraph break]

It was surprising how quickly we moved down the lake. We encountered a couple of canoes coming in as we neared the "portage" into McFarland. The fog was starting to lift just a little as we shot the rapids out of the BWCAW. We made it! At long last we had finally escaped from our Pine lake prison.[paragraph break]

We encountered many ducks & mergansers while paddling on McFarland. There was even a beaver out for a morning swim. He lingered for awhile then gave us the trademark tail slap & disappeared. I don't know what time it was when we got up this morning? But we paddled over 3 miles on Pine plus the entire length of McFarland and it was only 7:15 when I pulled the van down to the landing.[paragraph break]

We loaded up & were on our way. It appeared they had patched up the rough spots on the Arrowhead trail. As soon as we had signal we let everyone know that we were OK. Blue Waters Cafe was serving us a hearty breakfast by about 8:30.[paragraph break]

We then headed for my parents home where we were finally able to open the gifts & cards we had recieved. What a trip![paragraph break] Pine Lake, McFarland Lake

 

Lakes Traveled:   Pine Lake, McFarland Lake,

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