Sawbill to Lake One, Across the Center of the BWCA
by TominMpls

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/02/2018
Entry Point: Sawbill Lake (EP 38)
Exit Point: Lake One (EP 30)  
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
My teenage daughter M and I have done several BWCA trips together, mostly just the two of us. All of our trips together have been from Echo Trail entries, and they've always been loops. We decided to try something different and, logistics be damned, cover some new ground. We liked the idea of a point-to-point trip, since this would get us deeper into parts of the BWCA that people rarely see, and would give us more solitude.

People rarely do point-to-point trips for a reason. To make the logistics work, we had many requirements and some preferences: with only one car, we wanted the car to be at the exit, not the entry, so we could leave whenever we reached the end without trying to coordinate a schedule or meet a shuttle. We wanted to do all the logistical shuffling the day before our entry, not the same day, so that we could wake up and go straight to the wilderness. We wanted an entry point that would allow us to sleep right at the entry, with no logistics involved in getting to it without a car. We wanted an exit that would be easy to meet a shuttle at to take us to the entry. And given the hoped-for solitude of a point-to-point trip, we didn't really care if the entry and exit day were a bit crowded.

Sawbill, with both an outfitter and a campground right at the entry, and being about the right distance from the Fernberg Road entries, became the obvious target, and a quick call to Sawbill Outfitters confirmed that they could shuttle us. Though I played with other exit points, once we'd chosen Sawbill as the entry it quickly became clear that Lake One, despite being the freeway on-ramp of the Boundary Waters, was the logical exit point, as it met all our requirements without putting us on a motor lake such as Snowbank or Moose.

The hassle and expense of a point-to-point trip were largely mitigated by the fact that this year we finally own our own canoe and are finally now completely self-outfitted, so there would be no rental costs; and M loves Ely, so the extra time in Ely to make the logistics work was a perk, not a disadvantage. It padded out our seven day, six night trip to nine days.
Part 1 of 9
Saturday, June 30 - Two Days To Go

We got up Saturday morning and threw our relatively small amount of gear into the car. Our two portage packs together weighed 102 lbs - 55 in the Guide and 47 in the Pioneer - and our only other gear was a small bow bag, two map cases with four maps each, the paddles, PFDs, and canoe. The drive up from Minneapolis to Ely was uneventful except for two things: on my first trip to the BWCA with my own canoe, on highway 33 we were flagged into a DNR checkpoint to check for invasive species, which was fun and interesting since I'm involved in a project on these in my professional capacity but had never seen one before. They were quick, pleasant, and remarked on our beautiful canoe, and we were on our way. Just a short while later, on 53, a black bear ran across the road a few hundred feet in front of us, which was an exciting way to start the trip.


We arrived in Ely, checked in to the Adventure Inn, and got a delicious late lunch - per usual - at Insula. After lunch we bought a few last-minute things and window-shopped at Piragis and wandered around Ely, doing all the things we usual do, and eventually got a light "dinner" of duck wings and pretzels at the Boathouse, then hung out at Crapola's "Crapola Fest" which was happening. Live music, beer, and games for a little while, then an early night to save our energy.