BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
July 14 2020
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.
July 02, 2008
Mudro Lake (23)
Number of Days:
Every moment from here forward is a new experience.[paragraph break] We had arrived at our outfitters and had been “briefed” on our packs, food and route the evening before taking off on our honeymoon adventure. The alarm woke us at 6am and we were on our way to Fall Lake after one last shower and breakfast. We were blissfully naïve and ready to roll. After being given a couple tips on how to pick up the canoe and pack our bags on the shore, we waved good bye to our outfitter and turned to face Fall Lake. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] Immediately we saw that this was going to be a really hard day of paddling against the wind. After a morning of very strong wind and very sore arms, we pulled in for lunch. We were pleasantly surprised at the taste of our first drink of filtered water. We started off again into a strong wind. We were too dumb to stay put and had an unrealistic idea that we “had” to get to our first campsite that the outfitter had marked on our map. We about killed ourselves with my poor canoeing skills, lack of strength, and our poor map reading skills. We stopped at Pipestone falls and shared a fishing spot with another group (a father and his son). We caught quite a few smalleys and one walleye. Mark was hooked! We couldn’t turn back now. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] We set up camp on the northwest end of Pipestone Bay of Basswood Lake. By 8pm we were in our tent fast asleep. What a hard day. There were tears (just mine), yelling, celebrating, grunting, and now…massive snoring!
I have to admit…after yesterday, I was ready to pack it up and head home.[paragraph break] We are awakened by the sound of smalleys chasing their breakfast out on the water. We unzipped the tent and peeked out. My breath caught in my throat as I peered out to the scene below. “I’m staying!” was all I could say.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] Mark hit the ground running and headed out to fish in the early morning mist. He caught quite a few fish including this 17 ½” smalley.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] After packing up, we headed for the Horse Portage. It took us awhile to get there because we were so worn out from yesterday’s struggles against the wind. As we approached the mile long portage, a foul smell filled the air. A dead moose was in the water right at the landing of the portage. Well, second day in the BWCA and I already got to see a moose…nice. The portage was quite another experience for us first timers. Our packs were heavy (I weighed about 115 at the time) and Mark was carrying an Alumacraft canoe with really crappy shoulder pads. Thank goodness for the resting spot right next to Upper Basswood Falls. We stopped on the rocks to enjoy our lunch and watch a Boy Scout troop swim in the water. We had some nice fishing too.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] After conquering the portage, we quickly found a campsite right next to some rapids. We saw our first bald eagle this evening sitting in a tree on the Canadian side of the river. We laughed about how he was a traitor! After dinner, we hit the hay. I don’t think I have ever been so tired. We fell asleep easily listening to the constant sound of water on the rapids. We called it nature’s own sound machine.[paragraph break]
Happy Fourth of July….why is it so quiet?[paragraph break]
We slept until 9am today. We have heard lots of people say they get up very early each morning in the BWCA. However, this is a real treat for us…to sleep until we naturally wake up is heaven. We got around and portaged around the rapids that sung us to sleep last night. Then on to portage around Wheelbarrow Falls. We named that one the “Mud Soup Bowls” as we gave our boots their first good workout. We then moved on until we arrived at Lower Basswood Falls. Little did I know that this would become one of my favorite spots in BWCA.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] We paddled on after spending quite a bit of time enjoying the sight of the falls. We settled in that evening at a campsite on Wednesday Bay of Crooked Lake just north of the narrows. After eating dinner, Mark decided to go out and do a little fishing while I stayed at camp to do the dishes and journal. While busy with my duties, I was only slightly startled as I had a visitor join me in camp. A deer swam up and got out of the river to come into our campsite to nibble on some branches. At first, I tried to stay very still as not to scare her away. However, with the sun sinking and my chores waiting, I decided to go about my business while she foraged around. She stayed in camp for about 20 minutes before wandering off into the woods.[paragraph break]
No alarm clocks….heaven![paragraph break] The sun shining into our tent woke us this morning. After a leisurely breakfast, we headed toward Thursday Bay. We had the poles out the whole way and caught some nice fish on Crooked Lake. The wind was picking up and by the time we got to Thursday, we weren’t up to fighting it again. So, we pulled into a little cove to eat lunch, fish, and wait out the wind. It only got worse and we decided to set up camp for the evening. We only traveled a couple miles today, but, hey….who needs to worry about schedules in here, right? We set up on an island at the mouth of Thursday Bay. Our campsite came with a complimentary fly swatter. We figured out why really quickly. We piddled around the island all afternoon in about 90 degree heat. The fish weren’t biting. We had hoped to catch enough for a dinner and were about to give up when Mark hooked a nice pike. He wanted to catch it so bad that he said he would “wrestle it if necessary” and after all was said and done…he did! What a fun sight to watch (and photograph!).[paragraph break] [paragraph break] [paragraph break] We enjoyed our first dinner of fried fish tonight. It was yummy! [paragraph break] Being novice in the BWCA, we had no idea about all the bugs we would experience. Being from Kansas, we are very familiar with mosquitoes. It was about this time of our trip that I started realizing that I was being attacked by a new villain. At the time I thought Minnesota had some wicked mosquitoes! Little did I know at the time, they weren’t mosquitoes. They were black flies. We had no idea how to avoid the little critters or even when they were biting me. Needless to say, it didn’t take too long to figure out the avoiding part (I am a college educated woman after all!). By the time we figured it out…I looked pretty bad and was pretty miserable. [paragraph break] [paragraph break]
Waking up to an alarm clock….hell.[paragraph break] We set our alarm on my digital watch for 5:30am and got out on the water quickly to avoid the wind (we were learning). We had an interesting thing happen last night. Yesterday, while paddling around our little island, we had taken a minute to look at a large pine tree that was leaning way out over the water. I had stated that it looked like it was about to fall over and how I wouldn’t want to be under it when it finally decided to go. Well, it went! There was a storm last night and the big ole pine gave up and plunged into the water. It woke us both up and I commented how the beavers must be celebrating this morning. We headed out across Thursday Bay. The wind was low and we had no problems getting across. Friday Bay was another story. Our goal was to get to the south end of Friday and then portage over to Papoose Lake. We paddled like maniacs and finally made it. What is the deal with the wind in our faces all the time? We did take a moment in the middle of Friday Bay to stop at some little islands. There was a bald eagle sitting on the bank and Mark paddled me over to see if I could get some photos. I got pretty close before he retreated up to the top of a tree. A small group of seagulls then proceeded to harass him while I snapped away. It was fun for me because that was the closest I had ever been to an eagle in the wild.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] As we portaged out of Friday Bay, the scenery changed completely. We were now making our way through a grassy creek with many lily pads and evidence of beaver and muskrats everywhere. We emptied out into Papoose and then followed the stream into Chippewa Lake. We pulled over a beaver dam instead of portaging and soon found ourselves in Niki Lake and then finally in Wagosh Lake. There was only one campsite on Wagosh and we got it. We were the only ones on the lake and it was a beautiful day. Later, I would decide that this was one of my favorite lakes in the BWCA. I don’t know why. It wasn’t that amazing, but I connected to it in some way. The campsite wasn’t even that wonderful. It sits on the top of a hill that you must climb from the water’s edge. Mark did a little fishing and caught us a nice dinner while I unloaded and set up camp and took a little afternoon nap. When he returned from fishing, we cleaned the fish and ourselves. We took our first “bath” in the FRIGID water by dumping water over each other. Holy Cow! Not pleasant, but I did need a hair wash! I had a little friend in camp that evening. As I took care of all our needs, I walked up and down that hill quite a few times. Each time I would head down the hill, a turtle would be making her way up the hill and I would startle her and she would scurry back down. I felt so bad for her because it happened about five times. Poor thing was probably cussing me out for disrupting her travels. Finally, we settled in and she made her way up to the campsite in the evening and settled in right by our campfire. A friendly garter snake met me on the trail earlier also. I don’t know who was startled more at that moment. He jumped up almost as high as I jumped when we saw each other. I have never been more amused by wildlife as I have here in the BWCA. Our evening was so relaxing on little Wagosh Lake. I think it was the first time that I actually felt like I had settled into this alternative life style. As we sat by the fire that evening with the sun setting over this adorable little lake, my body had finally shed all the tension and stress of my life at home. I think it was at that moment that I fell in love with this place and knew I would be back. [paragraph break] [paragraph break]
Bittersweet day on the trail…[paragraph break]
We got up a little later than we wanted this morning, but got out and going around 9am. As we paddle through Wagosh, we heard something fluttering around on the bank. We went to see what it was and found a bald eagle sitting on the shore. We slowly approached expecting him to fly away. I wanted some pictures, so Mark paddled me closer and closer so I could get some. It soon became evident that he would not fly away because he was injured. His leg looked injured and possibly entangled in some fishing line. It sickened us that he might be down due to human stupidity. We quickly paddled away to lessen his stress. I often wonder what happened to that beautiful bird.[paragraph break] BITTER.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] As we headed over the 300 rod portage into Gun Lake, we met a church group from Kalamazoo. We were piggy backing this portage to make it a bit easier to do. When we returned for the canoe, our packs and my camera bag werejjhh gone! We freaked out a bit until we found out that the men and boys from the church group had carried all our remaining items over for us. [paragraph break] SWEET.[paragraph break] We caught quite a few small mouth and I caught the cutest little cigar pike on Gun. The wind was calm and actually at our backs today. It was a first. It seemed as if we have been fighting a head wind the entire trip. Today’s paddle was so pleasant weather-wise. We then portaged into Fairy Lake where Mark had some good luck catching smalleys. We considered staying on Fairy, but wanted to get a little closer to our exit point before the day was over in case the weather turned on us again. So we paddled on to our last portage of the day putting us into Boot Lake. A lot of cool things happened on Boot that day. Mark’s second cast by the portage produced a smalley. That’s when the fun began! I saw a bald eagle sitting on a huge boulder and we watched a brown eagle (a young bald eagle?) fly over our heads and catch a fish out of the water where we were just fishing. We paddled over to the boulder and he let us get pretty close. Of course, my camera was out and snapping the entire time.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] While we were over looking at the eagle, we found a little stream that fed into the lake. Mark cast in and he immediately caught a small mouth. This was what we later called “the honey hole” in Boot Lake. Mark had so much fun watching me fish that he just sat back and watched and coached as I casted over and over pulling out fish. I caught around ten in just a few minutes. Was I starting to get the fishing fever? Hmmmmm. We stayed on Boot that night. It would be our last evening in the BWCA. It turned out that our adventures weren’t over yet. I had gotten behind on my journaling and was sitting in the tent trying to catch up on all that had happened. We were marveling at the fact that we had seen no less than six bald eagles on this lake alone. We had also gotten our first really good look at a loon. It let us paddle right up to it and I took some photos. We hadn’t had many loon experiences this trip. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] As we were getting ready to snuggle in for our last evening in the wilderness, nature called my name. I slipped out to the “facilities” in the last of the evening light. As I was heading back to the tent, something caught my eye out on the lake. I could make out two heads swimming across the lake. I called Mark out and asked him what kind of animals they were. We concluded that they were too big to be beavers and too small to be moose (darn it!) and that maybe they were small deer. We watched as they made their way across the lake and emerged on the opposite bank. Mark had grabbed my camera on the way out of the tent and I snapped this picture. It is the worst picture, but if you look closely, you can see their heads in the water. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] We were absolutely shocked when we realized that they were wolves! As they got out on the bank and shook off, it was obvious by their body shape and size and their gait, that they were wolves. Both of us must have caught a few mosquitoes in our gaping open mouths that evening. Maybe we hadn’t seen a moose (a live one) this trip, but we saw something that not many people ever get to see….wolves. Our trip was MADE! This lake had shown us so much wildlife. So, we decided that the only experience left for this trip would be a bear in camp. That would truly complete the experience. So…bring on the bears! No such luck, the night went by with no more visitors.
A parting gift…[paragraph break]
We awoke after a windy cool night and got our breakfast (Mark finally figured out how to make our scrambled eggs turn out right. Of course, on our last morning!) and packed up for our journey to the exit point. We were very close and not in too much of a hurry, but , of course, the wind was at our face and we had to get across Fourtown Lake. We fought wind across Fourtown as predicted. We saw a lot of people on their way in and out on this lake. We followed the narrow inlet to a little 10 rod that went around a beautiful stream. The BWCA had just given me the best parting gift ever. As Mark and I prepared for this trip, I had many images in my mind of what I would see and do up in Minnesota. As a photographer, I really was looking forward to the photo opportunities that I would have. One image that continually occupied my mind was a stream. I had planned how I would photograph this stream and could see it in my mind prior to the trip. As I portaged around this stream, I almost cried. It was my “dream stream” that I knew existed, but didn’t know if I would ever see it. Here it was right in front of me. We quickly portaged because there was another group of four men coming up behind us as we entered the portage. They seemed to be two dads (around 70 years old) and their two sons (about our age). They were struggling with their packs and we helped them carry over (Pay It Forward!). We sat down at the end of this portage and enjoyed a PB and J and some leftover snacks.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] I was itching to walk back and photograph the stream and we had plenty of time. Here are some of the results of my “dream stream” photo shoot.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] [paragraph break] After we were satisfied, we continued on across a little “puddle” and through a 140 rod portage. It followed a steep drop off with the stream at the bottom. Mark wasn’t thrilled about the drop off and even less thrilled when I would approach the edge to look over. It was really beautiful. We made our way through the numerous small portages that lead into Mudro Lake. Of course, the wind was howling straight into us. We had to paddle hard to make it to the far end where it narrowed into a stream. It only seemed an appropriate send off to fight the wind on our way out just like we did on our way in and throughout the week. As we followed the narrow, marshy path of the stream, we were becoming a little leery that we were heading in the wrong direction. The only encouraging sight was the aluminum scraped rocks under the water! It was obvious that many others had navigated this small stream. The stream ended at a small sandy “beach” with a portage ahead. We thought we had done our last portage! We finished with the 30 rod up to the parking lot. It was so strange to walk off the path up into a parking lot full of cars. It was actually shocking for me and made me catch my breath. We hadn’t seen any signs of society for 7 days and it smacked me in the face. We were back in the real world….UGH![paragraph break] [paragraph break] We had to wait awhile for our pick up. It was a mixture of sadness and relief to leave this place. Mark took some time to reflect.[paragraph break] [paragraph break] So, there it is…our first trip report. This was our first trip into the BWCA. We have been back five times since and now venture up to Quetico for more secluded trips. Mark has been badgering me to put our trip reports on this site for years. I finally got it done. We are in the process of planning this year’s trip and I am planning a “mother/daughter trip” for the end of summer this year. I hope you enjoyed reading this. [paragraph break]
Thanks for reading![paragraph break] Pixie Paddler[paragraph break]