BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 20 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1166 feet
On the Water- Monday July 20th-
On the water late considering how far we need to go today. Up the Horse river to the falls by 6pm. Started raining and NO campsites available. Mudrow-Alruss-Tin can Mike-Horse Lake-Horse River-Basswood. 13 miles by water. (not counting portages)
Tuesday July 21st-
Rain all night, all morning and all day. Went north by petroglyphs, table rock and the the Crocked Lake Narrows across Thursday bay to campsite. Basswood-Crooked Lake-Wednesday Bay-Thursday Bay. 11 miles in the rain.
Wednesday July 22nd-
Up early and calm winds to take advantage of, considering the big water we have to cross. Found beaver dam to lift over and did a portage from hell between Pandos lake and Chippewa Lake. VERY steep and slippery after rain. Many mud holes. Then the mile portage after Wagosh Lake to Gun Lake. Never saw another soul in a canoe or campsite the entire day! Thursday bay-Friday Bay-Pandos Lake-Chippewa Lake-Wagosh lake-Gun Lake. 11 miles by water.
Thursday July 23rd-
Finally had a dry night. got everything dry!!! A few portages today to Fourtown Lake campsite. Easy day by comparison. Gun Lake-Fairy Lake-Boot Lake-Fourtown Lake. 6 miles. Put the long miles at the first of the week for a buffer for contingencies!
Friday July 24th-
Last day. Stormed last night bad. A few portages today with one bad one between Fourtown Lake and Mudrow lake. To entry point by 1pm. Ready for a hot shower! 4 miles
45 miles by water
13 miles by portage (3 trips each)
58 miles total.
August 11, 2009
Number of Days:
Monday is my drive up day. I get up early and got over my gear one last time to ensure every last piece was present. I toss everything into the packs and bagged up clothes for the overnight, entry and exit.
I get on the road later than planned but with sufficient time to reach the Kawishiwi Ranger Station to pick up my permit after I arrive in Ely. The drive up from the cities is uneventful and I have my permit in hand by 4:00 PM, pleased that I had not been required to sit through the "bear movie".
I check in at VNO and do a little shopping at Priagis. I have dinner at the Ely Steak House and then head back to VNO to line my packs and properly load my gear for the next day's entry. I turn in around 9:00 planning an early departure in the morning.
I get up at 4:15, showered up, load my gear in the car and check out at 5:00AM. I head over to Britton's for breakfast and am waiting at Piragis before the 6:00AM for the rental office to open so I could pick up the Merlin II that I had arranged for this trip. We take care of the paperwork and load it up and I am off down the Echo Trail.
I arrive at the Mudro parking lot around 7:30. The first thing I need to do is change out the seat drops in the Merlin with a short set I had made that would raise the to the rails and allow me to kneel (my preferred paddling posture, especially in a solo). Then I need to rig the canoe with painters, lash in the spare paddle, figuring out just how all my gear would fit.
I also have to figure out what my portage routine will be. In addition to my main pack I have a day pack and my thwart bag. I also have my Cliff chair, a kneeling pad and my paddle and life jacket to contend with. Typically on tandem trips I can just lash the Chair to my pack and don't have the pad to contend with (I have glued in pads in my tandem canoes). However, the canoe was to narrow for me to keep the chair attached. That meant I had to strap the pad and chair to to pack at each portage and remove them after but those were really the only extra steps outside my normal route. My thwart bag clips on D rings on the front of my shoulder straps and I have carabiners on my life fest that clip it to my pack. I carry the day pack with the canoe on my first crossing and follow with the main pack, and its attachments and the paddle. Both loads are perhaps 60lbs.
I make the 30 rod portage to the narrows. The water is high enough that I am able to put in at the nice sandy beach at the end of the trail. At 8:27 I finally made the first stroke of my solo career. At 8:29 I paused to put on some bug dope, then resumed my journey.
My planned course for the day was to take me through Mudro and Sandpit, at least as far as Tin Can Mike.
The paddle up the Mudro narrows was peaceful. I really started to get a sense of the solitude I would experience on this trip. I soaked it all in. The windy coarse gave me a chance to use some of the freestyle strokes I have been practicing. I am pleased that the water is high enough that I can weave through the rocks at the opening into Mudro Lake rather than portage around them like we did last fall.
Heading across Mudro I realize that I am not making very good time with my C stroke. Reluctantly I change to a NAT style (sit-N-switch). While less graceful this nearly doubles my speed. I would stick with this paddling style for most of my open water paddling on this trip, throwing in freestyle moves close to landings or anywhere else delicate maneuvers were needed.
I get across Mudro to the landing to Sandpit in short order. This portage to Sandpit has a reputation of being a challenge on the Sandpit side. Yes there is a bit of a descent and yes its rocky but its a short stretch and I really didn't find it to be all that bad.
The trip across Sandpit is also pretty quick and I head over the portage to Tin Can Mike. This porage seems shorter than it is marked, maybe becuase its pretty easy, but the boardwalk at the end is as impressive as advertised, and yes, it does have a passing lane.
Its only about 10:30 when I shove off on Tin Can Mike and I've pretty much made up my mind I don't want to stop yet. I reason I'll continue on to Horse and take a camp on the south end. The paddle across Tin Can Mike is nice. From a distance the two campsites on the west side are not impressive but the one on the point to the east shows promise. No matter, I am committed to forging ahead.
When I get across to Horse its approaching noon. The first campsite is visible from the portage, not much wood around it. Not sure I'd be real interested in a tent, let alone a hammock. The second site looks better but is occupied.
So now my choice is head up the west shore of Horse to check another site, which does look open from the distance, or continue on to Fourtown. I chose to continue on.
The portage out of Horse is certainly a pretty one. Classic BWCAW stuff. Lots of ups and downs and rocks and roots and pine needles every where (I love that). The landing on the other side is really the first on of the day that wasn't just a gem. A buch of big rocks and dropped off sort of quickly. A real wet footer. By this time its almost 1:00PM, its hot (90) my gatorade is running low and I'm getting hungry. I'm ready to make camp.
Off across the small bay I go towards the marked ten rod portage around some rapids that separate this bay from the next. The landing isn't great but I deal with it. By this time I am getting tired of unloading/loading the canoe though.
Across the next little bay to a surprise, an unmarked 10 rod portage. This wasn't really all that bad but I was in no mood for surprises of this sort at the time.
I cross this bay, which is actually part of Fourtown according to my map, and land at the first campsite on Fourtown, which happens to be unoccupied, at 1:47. BTW there is a streach of rapids and a couple drops here to which are accompanied by another unmarked portage.
Aside from a lack of formidable trees in the fire area for tarp rigging this is really a nice site. It is on a little point and there is a huge clearing surrounded by a narrow band of forest. Lots of flat area for tents and some nice big trees for hanging hammocks.
I set up my camp tarp well enough to cover my gear and then rigged my hammock with a second tarp over it. This would be the first trip for my hammock, which I made myself. I was pretty exited about using it.
I had some lunch and pretty much tried to just stay out of the sun for a while. I really didn't get around the side of the camp to see the drops exiting Fourtown until around 4:00. As soon as I did I got my trunks on an proceeded to play in them. I found a number of cool spots to hang out in the current. Kind of a natural cool water whirlpool. So refreshing. I played for an hour or so and took some self portraits.
After my swim I pumped some water, had dinner and collected some firewood. No cutting/splitting on this site. Around 8:00 I started up a small fire, enjoyed a bourbon and a couple cigars and wrote in my journal. I only kept the fire going for about an hour, turning in a little after 9:00.
It was kind of hot and I had a hard time getting to sleep until it cooled down somewhat. But I sure slept good once I did. There were not swarms of mosquitoes but those that were there were certainly hungry.
[paragraph break] North end of Mudro at the portage to Sandpit. [paragraph break] My first hammock hang! [paragraph break] Relaxing in the rapids near camp.[paragraph break] A couple sunset picks[paragraph break]
I get up at around 5:20 and start packing up my camp. The hammock and its trappings are new to me and it winds up taking a lot longer to get everything packed up than I expected. This would improve each day on this trip. I'm not convinced the hammock is faster to deal with than a tent.
I finally shove of at 7:01. Destination for today, Gun Lake. At this point I am pretty glad I made it all the way to Fourtown Tuesday. The trip from Tin Can Mike to Gun would have been 10 miles, this will be much more manageable. I weave my way across Fourtown sticking relatively close to shorelines or islands. It takes me about a half hour to cross.
The landing at the portage to Boot is another one of those big rock landings. With a careful location choice and footing I manage to unload with out having to step in over my Gator Socks.
The portage to Boot is easy, but narrower than most of the earlier portages. There are also more deciduous shrubs along the trail. It has a fairly remote feeling. The Boot landing is pretty easy.
I cut across open water crossing the south end of boot then turn north and follow the east shoreline much of the way up the lake. Its getting breezy and while I don't hug the shore I don't get to far from it.
The landings on the portage to Fairy are both rock but nice and the portage is a snap. I quickly cross Fairy for an another easy carry to Gun.
On Gun I head up the west shoreline to the northern part of the lake. There is a campsite on the north shore of the southern bay of Gun. As I am paddling up Gun I see a dark canine form cross the camsite right behind the fire area. Might have been a wolf but I'm not sure. It looked a little big for a coyote to me but it was a long way off.
I paddle around the point and headed east. My intention is to check out the "trigger" site since I'd heard it was good. I paddle right past the site on the north side of that point. As I approach the trigger site I see a tandem just pulling away from it. They had been there the night before and said they thought it was a great site. I swoop right in and secured my camp for the day, it is only 9:45AM.
This is a nice campsite. There are two large primo tent pads on either side of the camp area. Suitable trees for hammock hanging are space a little wide but I can make it work. The fire area has a really slick log arrangment and there is a line of trees separating the camp from shore and providing some shade. Some one also constructed a livewell in the one spot where the water comes right up to camp.
I start setting up then take a lunch break before finishing. The I basically putz around camp all afternoon. Again, trying to stay cool.
The wind really picked up in the afternoon and that got me a little concerned. What if I got wind bound? I had plenty of food but if I couldn't make it out on time my wife would freak out. This being my first solo, I'm not sure just what my little canoe and I can handle safely in terms of waves.
I go out in the wind to pump water. Getting turned sideways in the waves while doing this was pretty uncomfortable but stable enough. Cutting into the waves was just fine. The canoe itself didn't really seem to be affected by the wind at all. I had no problem turning it any which way or keeping it on a heading. Still, the waves were a bit much for comfort.
I have supper and finish my day off with a campfire, bourbon, cigar and writing in my journal. While I am relaxing a beaver comes up on shore in front of camp and snags some branches from a shrub. He proceeds to swim around the side of the campsite and sits in a little bay munching on them. I follow him around and watched him eat from less than 20ft away. I don't think he knew I was there. I quietly head back to camp after watching a while and he just keeps on munching.
I turn in around 9:00 again. It is hot so I have trouble getting to sleep. Also the mosquitoes are out in swarms and they don't let up around 11:00 like they did back on Fourtown.
I get up around 5:30 again and pack up camp. This goes a little quicker than yesterday. I toss a couple snacks in my thwart bag and shove off at 7:00. Its clear and calm as I paddle up the "barrel" of gun.
My original plan had been to camp on Moosecamp today but I'm still concerned about getting wind bound so I will be making my way to Fourtown.
The portage into Bullet has rocky but decent landing on the Gun side. The Bullet side is also rock but a bit more of a wet footer. The trail has a remote feel to it and the stream between Gun and Bullet floods part of it.
I cross Bullet and scull up to the landing on the portage to Moosecamp. There is a small bobber floating at the landing and I snag it. Near the Moosecamp landing there is a small but steep rockface. While crossing it with the canoe and my daypack, I loose my footing and land on my backside. I'm fine but when I try to get up the canoe isn't coming along the way it should. I make another attempt but that doesn't go any better. I finally realize the problem, the portage yoke is broken. I grab the gunnels, get up and carry the canoe the rest of the portage.
I stuff the short end of the broken yoke in my day pack and load the canoe up. Fortunately there will be no more portages today. The Moosecamp landing is pretty mucky but there are some rocks to work with and it's OK if you can stay on them. I manage pretty well and paddle away from the portage. Its 8:25.
The Moosecamp river is thick with lily pads and thick grass over most of its surface which really kill your guide. There is one log jam and a huge beaver dam that require unloading the canoe. At the beaver dam I step into muck up to my knees. Good thing my shoes are on tight. Of the remaining 5 beaver dams one has enough water flowing over it that I can just push myself across. The other four require only lift overs. It takes me around two hours to traverse the Moosecamp River.
As I coast out int to Fourtown I am greeted by a stiff breeze from the south and one foot waves. I make my way across to the southern part of the lake. The canoe is plenty stable heading into the waves. I don't hug the shoreline crossing the bay north of the big island. A decision that I question a couple times when the wind picked up. I make it across to the point east of the island. I pass two occupied campsites on this point. There are supposed to be three but I recall looking for one last year there and not finding it.
I head across the southeast bay to check out the three southern most campsites. I can see the one on the inside of the piont is occupied but the one back in the bay looks like it may be open. I head that way but as I get closer I see a tent is setup there.
At this point I have been kneeling in my canoe for over three hours. My boots are on pretty tight (remember the mud) and my knees and especially my ankles are just killing me. I pull over on a ledge south of the campsite and drag myself out of the canoe.
I loosen by boots just sit there on the rock for five minutes with my legs stretched out. I get up and start pacing around. My knees and ankles just ache. After about 10 minutes of walking I'm pretty loosened up. I have a cliff bar and some gatorade before boarding the canoe again.
I head around the point to check out the campsite nearest the entry point. This one is also occupied. I decide to head over and look for the "lost site". My only other options are to back North (not what I want) or to keep going out of Fourtown and hope I can snag a site on Mudro or head back up to Sandpit etc.
I cross the bay and start up the shoreline where the "lost site" is marked. A few spots look like they have promise but nothing. Finally I happen on a site, its not the "lost site", this has another mark on my GPS. Who cares, its a very nice looking site and its open. This will be home for the next two nights. Its 12:25.
This site has a nice fire area with lots of flat "kitchen" rocks around the fire grate. There are logs angling off on each side and more flat rocks at the inside ends of each with a space between them. Very nice.
I'm able to rig the camp tarp right at the edge of the fire grate and stretch back over the middle of the seating area. The ground slopes up behind the fire area so there is lots of space under the tarp. A lone jackpine behind the tarp provides a branch to throw a cord over to pull up the center of the tarp.
I rig my hammock between a couple nice white pines, pretty close to shore. A nice breeze is blowing in so I raise the front edge of the hammock tarp to take advanate of it and give me a view.
I'm whipped. I have some lunch and again just tinker around camp trying to stay in the shade, which is pretty easy at this site. There are nice trails along the shore line. I grab my axe and saw and head down the trail. I follow it past where the "lost site" could possibly be. If there ever was a site its been gone a long time. I find a nice chunk of downed aspen in the woods and saw a few feet off of it to drag back to camp.
I head out in the cnoe and pump some water. Back at camp I make dinner. After cleaning up I cut and split my wood.
Around 8:00 I start a fire an write in my journal. I hear a noise and look up to see a doe just at the edge of camp. When she turns away I try to move toward my camera. I just about get it when she starts walking, calmly, across the back of my camp. As soon as the tarp is between us I pull out the camera. About that same time she must have winded me because I heard her woosh off into the woods.
I enjoy a bourbon and a couple cigars by the fire. I stay up a little later than I have been writing in my journal by headlamp.
I sleep in a bit this morning. No hurry getting up since I am not moving today. I heat some water for my jumbo French press mug and enjoy morning coffee. I have a hot breakfast of oatmeal and brown sugar. This is the only proper breakfast I had on the trip, all the other days wanted to get moving early so I could travel when it was cool and calm.
After cleaning up from breakfast I decide wash a change of clothes which I would put on later after cleaning up with some wipes. I went back to the aspen and cut off some more wood for the evening fire. Other than going out for a paddle near camp and getting some water I pretty much just hung around camp trying to say cool. I did take a swim in the afternoon.
A little after 2:00 I am in camp digging in my thwart bag and I hear a noise outside camp. I look up and there are two deer about 30 yards away, on the trail outside camp. This time I am right by the camera so I grab it. The deer are both bucks. They wander away from camp, I snap a few photos but they are pretty far away. They wander out onto a point down shore and I snap a couple more photos. I figured that was all I'd get but then they started back towards camp. I sat down on my chair and waited for them. Sure enough they came all the way back. I snapped couple much better photos. The hung around the edge of camp munching on shrubs. Each of them looked up at me repeatedly, but I wasn't moving and they couldn't wind me so they just kept calmly eating. Eventually they wandered in to the woods behind camp but they were around for a half hour before doing it. I never spooked them, pretty cool.
I have dinner, clean up and round out the evening with a fire, bourbon and cigars. There is some weather moving in from the west. I turn in around 9:00 but again its too hot to sleep. By the time it cools off a bit the storm is moving in. There is lots of thunder in the distance. It doesn't move in fast but by about 1:00 it starts raining. There is a lot of lightening with the storm which has me a little uneasy laying between two trees in my hammock. I don't sleep much until it passes around 3:00. By 4:45 another wave is coming in.
I get up at 4:50 and hastily start packing up my hammock. I get everything organized and loaded into the packs, except for my camp tarp. That I tightend up just as it started to rain. I sit under the tarp in my rain gear having some breakfast. As soon as it lets up I take the camp tarp down and shove off. Its 6:45.
I stick within a few minutes of shore all the way out of Fourtown. There is just a bit of breeze now and no more rain. It actually clears up nicely as I am exiting.
The short portage out of Fourtown, especially the initial vertical up the rockface is a real exercise in foot placment. It's possible to walk along the river bed and avoid this climb but I'm up to the climb.
A short paddle and I am standing on the south end of the rocky 125 rod portage. This portage has some very pretty scenery, all the portages south of Fourtown do, but you have to be mind full of your footing all the way. It seems longer than its stated length but I attribute that to shorter steps needed to keep footing.
Another short paddle and I reach the 30 rod portage into Mudro. The landing on the north side is literally a rock field. The portage is rocky but very scenic. I cross it, pausing to snap a couple pictures.
I paddle across Mudro. The skies are mostly clear now and there is a slight breeze. As I head up the narrows toward the entry I switch back to freestyle strokes and reflect on my journey. I feel a deep feeling of accomplishment. I've conquered the wilderness on my own and I know I will be back to do it gain.
I arrive at the landing and take the 30rod walk down the sandy trail to the parking lot. It is 9:58 when I cross the portage for the final time and mark the official end of my trip.
There is a weak cell signal from the parking lot. I cannot make a call out but I text my wife and let her know I'm OK. Then I put the factory seat back in to the canoe and get my gear loaded up. I have some clean dry clothes in the car so I change and pull out of the parking lot.
I drive back into Ely and drop the canoe at Piragis where I explain my incident with the portage yoke. They are quite impressed with my repair job but I still have to pay for the Yoke. They are nice and only charge me their cost. I take the broken yoke home, I'll get a new piece of wood and repair it for my own solo canoe someday.
I pop across the street to a little shop and get and iced late to start the drive home. On 35 I hit a chunk of asphalt that's sticking up a blow a tire. Kind of mood killer, good thing I checked my spare before I left. I get that changed and continue on.
On my way back in to Apple Valley I made a quick stop at "wing night" to say hi to very one and let bit of my excitement spill out. I was so pumped! Great way to cap off a trip.
I'm already pondering my route for next year's solo.