BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
December 10 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 14
Elevation: 1324 feet
"This trip will be taking off from Fall Lake up through Newton Falls portage onto Pipestone Bay campsites. 3 day, 2 night trip into the wilderness.
The Beatty Bunch do Moose-Knife
August 26, 2012
Number of Days:
Thankfully, before I questioned my fisherman, the guide from Canoe Country Outfitters arrived and loaded us up. We were boated down Moose and Sucker Lake and dropped off at Indian portage where we would enter in on Birch Lake. I sat in the front, the two kids in the middle on a bench seat, 4 packs behind them, and my husband in back surrounded by fishing gear. We shoved off like a barge and cheered when we remained 2 inches above water.
And the cheering continued as we experienced something that rarely happens to us – the wind was at our back. And a strong wind it was – our barge literally flew and skipped over waves. With 5 portages scheduled on our first day, we didn’t think we’d make it to Knife Lake until mid-afternoon but we made good time and even pushed the canoe up the creek near one of the portages. The wind was finally our ally and delivered to Knife before noon. In saying that however, many of the campsites were full or not appealing. We finally pulled into a camp midway down Knife and called it the “last resort” since we were getting too tired to go any further. Immediately, our twin daughters dug out their vintage Barbies and began playing in the exposed roots of an old tree. I put on my cozy slippers and organized the kitchen while my husband put up the tent… and everything seemed right in the world. We ended the day by watching the golden sunset and then cuddled up in the tent to begin reading a book together – this year we chose “Call of the Wild” by Jack London.
From high above the lake, we spotted a campsite on a point not too far away and we decided to check it out and stop for an early lunch. The site was beautiful and after we arrived we realized that the wind was gaining strength – which made us question our ability to get back to Birch if it continued. We decided to camp where we were and head back down Knife really early in the morning when the waters were calm. We spent the day fishing, exploring, and the girls made friends with some chipmunks.
We even paddled back to the lookout in the evening to watch the sunset – well, us and a bazillion mosquitoes! After our fair share of s’mores, we retreated to the tent where I became frightened of an animal that was trying to scratch its way inside. The girls shined the flashlight to illuminate a frog outside. In my defense, it was a really big frog. As the temperature dropped throughout the night, I was evidently the only one affected by it. While I kept layering my clothes, my husband and daughters were sound asleep, half out of their sleeping bags with limbs flailed all over one another. And still, as I lay there listening to their heavy breathing mingled with the wails of the loons, there was no place I’d rather be.
As we paddled back down Knife, I clicked endless photos while we sang a song that had been trapped in our brains since the ride up – The Brady Bunch. I’d purchased season 1 and the kids watched one episode after another all the way to Ely. Five hours of the Brady’s must be some kind of record. So there we were, happily singing and paddling, not realizing that it was long past sunup and the wind had absolutely remained still. We came to the Isle of Pines where Dorothy Molter used to live and make rootbeer and we found her beautiful ribbon rock.
With calm water still on our side, we decided to canoe for as long as mother-nature made it easy – which led us to a conundrum that every canoeist crosses. We came to the point where we had to decide to either stop and camp, or portage on and hope for a campsite on the other side. Our dilemma was a bit more complicated since we needed to make four portages before coming to the possibility of available campsites. We took a vote and determined to forge ahead. “And that’s the way they became the Brady Bunch!” Our daughters were troopers, often carrying packs that weighed more than they did. After tackling portages, hunger, and 90 degree weather, our daughters looked at the map and told us where to go. We got to Birch Lake and found the mapped out campsite available and absolutely gorgeous. Every tree had an imaginary yellow ribbon around it - as it felt like we were coming home from war. We naturally fell into our routine – quickly setting up the kitchen, tent, and Barbie fort. When my husband walked out onto the little island adjacent to our camp and saw loads of smallmouth bass, he figured that it was a two-night stop for sure, and we agreed.
With sore muscles and full bellies, Jack London put us all to sleep within minutes. When I heard my husband get up in the middle of the night for a potty break, I knew exactly why he didn’t come back right away; he was looking up in utter amazement at full moon surrounded by the star-filled sky, just as I’d done minutes earlier. The wilderness has a way of screeching everything to a halt and freezing us in our tracks to gaze across the water or marvel at the moon.
Laziness was on the agenda this day, well, that and medical attention. Back on day one, my husband slipped while unloading the canoe and sliced the back of his heal down to the bone. The gash continued to bleed through bandages and was unable to heal since his feet were always wet. You see, he only packed his favorite camping shoes, declaring that he only needed one pair. In the firstaid kit I found what I needed - antibiotic ointment, steri strips, gauze, and athletic tape – along with a little advice in packing extra shoes! Another hot day on tap, we spent time floating on our camping mattresses, lounging in the hammock and fishing between.
That evening we canoed down to a bay, which appeared to have been flooded by several feet of water. Dead trees stood in place and it felt like we were paddling thru an eerie sunken forest. After an astounding fish dinner, we sat on the rocky outcroppings and watched wildlife emerge. We watched eagles of all sizes swoop overhead and then we saw two wolves appear on the shore across from us – one white and one red. Our daughters then spotted an enormous snapping turtle floating in the water where we had been swimming all day! We lingered outside that night until the full moon was high in the sky – enjoying every minute of our last night but sullen to see the trip come to a close.
With a few sprinkles and dark clouds on the horizon we packed up our tent before it down poured. Like a well-oiled machine, we were loaded back into the canoe and on the water. As we rounded the first bend, the clouds broke, the sun warmed our backs, and the water once again remained calm. We slowly headed towards our pickup point at Indian portage, knowing that we’d be several hours early. We admired many beautiful campsites on the southern end of Birch and stopped at one to do some exploring. We arrived at the portage and as if it couldn’t get any better, a boat from Canoe Country was just dropping off a group and able to take us back to Moose Lake. With perfect atmospheric conditions, it was the kind of trip you dream about. But beyond the weather, it’s the time spent in the serenity of God’s country that contains the fuel to leave us desiring all of it again. When I first went as youth, my grandpa told me that he wanted me to look up at the stars and feel how powerful God was. I did that, and now, it’s a gift we’re giving to our children. As a mother, I loved watching my kids mesh with nature and just unplug. As a wife, it was satisfying to literally watch my husband’s stress level drop by the minute. No cell phones, TV or internet – it was just us. And I cherished every second. As for me, I'm recharged and ready for the next adventure!