BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
July 20 2019
Number of Permits per Day: 27
Elevation: 1356 feet
Moose Lake - 25
June 15, 2011 Solo Trip
June 15, 2011
Number of Days:
I depart Buffalo by truck and arrive in Ely about 3:30 PM and go directly to the Kawishiwi Ranger Station and pick up my permit. I then go to VNorth Outfitters where I had reserved a spot in the Upper Loft bunkhouse and checked in. From there I decided to go to the International Bear Center and spent some time there. Then I decided to go to the Ely Steakhouse for a steak dinner before turning in early at VNorth so I could get some needed rest for an early start the next day.
I woke up at 5:00 am, packed up and went to Briton’s for a big breakfast. After leaving Briton’s I went to fill my truck with gas and picked up a large coffee for the road and headed out of town toward entry point 25 on Moose Lake. The weather was nice with a slight breeze from the north east. (In fact, I had headwinds for almost the entire trip except for the last day where I had a tailwind.) I unloaded my gear at the entry point and parked my truck and was on my way up the chain of lakes by 9:00 am. After paddling for about 2-1/2 hours I arrived at the short 5 rod lift over portage between Sucker Lake and Birch Lake. (I could have avoided the portage and paddled another mile or so up to the border but decided to do the portage instead and eliminate some paddling.) I unloaded my gear off to the side and took a short rest and had a snack before carrying to the other side and shoving off again. My goal this day was to go as far as the east end of Birch and find a campsite early per the recommendations in Robert Beymer’s book. Beymer says to resist the temptation to go further than Birch Lake on day one as there is only one campsite between Birch and Knife on the US side. I am glad I did as suggested because I was already tired and I found the last available site about a quarter of a mile west of the 48 rod portage into Carp Lake and settled in there for the night. I was in the hammock by 9:00 PM.
I was up at 5:00 am and made coffee. My coffee time is an important part of my day and I usually have 4 or 5 cups before breakfast which I did. Breakfast consisted of granola with dried milk that was premeasured and packed into zip-lock bags. All I need to do is add water, mix and eat straight from the bag with a spoon. (No dishes to deal with.) My sweet Wife made the granola especially for me and it is full of goodies and sticks with me a long time. After packing up I paddled east to the portage to Carp Lake. I had to wait my turn as there were two other groups ahead of me. One was a guy doing a solo and the other group was a guy and a girl. I found out in short order that I had packed too much stuff because I had to triple portage to get all my gear across. Next trip will be different. I still had 4 more portages in front of me this day and they are not spaced very far apart. After the portage I paddled across Carp Lake to the next 25 rod portage into Melon Lake. Melon Lake is a small lake that I crossed quickly and then came to the 15 portage into Seed Lake. On Seed Lake I paddled past the portage to the Knife River about ¾ miles before I realized that I had gone too far and had to back track causing me to rack up some unintended extra mileage. I finally found the 15 rod portage and continued on Knife River to the last 75 rod portage of the day into Knife Lake. Knife Lake is a large lake that could be tough to paddle solo if there is wind, but I was lucky that I had only about a 7-10 mph head wind that day. It was slow going but I continued in a northeasterly direction following the south shoreline. I tried to stay close to the south shore in case a stronger wind should come up and also I needed to find a suitable campsite at some point and it would have to be on US soil. I followed the meandering shore and it took me quite a while to make it into the South Arm of Knife Lake precisely because I didn’t go in straight line, but I like to err on the side of safety. I was really getting tired at this point so I decided to take a campsite near a short portage to the Northern Arm of Knife Lake not far from where the South Arm narrows down. I was glad to have this nice campsite. Just after coming ashore a stronger wind came up that lasted for an hour or so and then quieted down again. I hung my hammock and rain fly and had dinner. After dinner I walked around this large campsite and I heard a grouse drumming and decided to see if I could find it. I don’t think the bird had ever seen a human before as I was able to walk quietly up to within about 8-10 feet of it and it still continued its drumming routine. The bird was about 25 feet behind my hammock and drummed all night until daybreak.
I was up again at daybreak and had a quick breakfast and headed out toward Ottertrack Lake for a long day trip of exploring. A short distance to the east of my campsite I took the 5 rod portage into the main body of Knife Lake on the Canadian border and proceeded north east to the 5 rod portage into Ottertrack. I paddled northeast on Ottertrack to explore the lake and then backtracked to the 20 rod portage into Amoeber lake. I now backtracked south through Amoeber lake to the 75 rod portage into Knife Lake. I them traveled south through a bay of Knife Lake to the 30 rod portage into the South Arm of Knife Lake. (This was the same portage I crossed this morning after leaving my campsite. I then proceeded west to return to my campsite for my last night on Knife Lake.
This day I arose early again and had my usual breakfast of granola and coffee. I packed up as quickly as I could because I wanted to get an early start across Knife Lake before the wind picked up. Knife is a big lake and can kick up some rough water on windy days and I did not want to be in that position. I paddled south westerly to the 200 rod portage into Vera Lake. The portage into Vera is a much tougher portage than what I expected. The portage is long and climbs steeply to the top of a large hill. It can be slippery on wet days but I was fortunate that today it was dry. This is by far one of the toughest portages I have ever done and I had so much gear that I had to triple portage this baby. It took me about 2 hours to get my stuff across. Total distance 1000 rods considering 5 trips across equals 3-1/8 miles. I was tired. Then I paddled west across Vera Lake to the 150 rod portage into Ensign Lake. This portage was also a tough one but not as tough as the one from Knife to Vera. I got all my equipment over to Ensign by about 3:00 PM. I then paddled west across Ensign into a fairly stiff breeze from the south that produced some white caps but my canoe handled them well. I took the first available campsite on the western shore and settled in for the rest of the day exhausted. I was flat out of gas and had no more go in me. I set up the hammock, rain fly and my chair and placed all my gear underneath the fly. Then I went for a dip in the lake to get cleaned up and made some freeze-dried beef stroganoff for dinner. I was in the hammock by 9: 00 PM and I was out like a light.
I was awakened by the swooshing sound of a bald eagle flying above my hammock at tree top level about 5:00 am. I was time to get up anyway so I hopped out of my hammock hoping to catch a glimpse of the big bird. The previous evening I had spotted some fish fillets in the water on shore that a previous camper had discarded. The eagle was eating them. I made coffee and had a fast breakfast of granola. I packed up and was on the water by 6:30 am. I was heading home today and I wanted to get an early start to get as paddling done as possible before the wind came up. As it turned out the wind was now at by back for the first time since starting out at the beginning of my trip. I literally flew the 5 miles west across Ensign Lake while encountering a light rain shower. I arrived at the portage to Splash and decided that the water was high enough to run through the small rapids without getting out. I shot right through without touching a singe rock. That was fun. Then I crossed Splash and did the 30 rod portage to Newfound Lake. This portage is like a highway and easy to walk. That was the last portage of the trip. The next 5 miles were easy with wind quartering from my left rear giving me some help, stopping once for a lunch break. I arrived at the entry point where I had put in at around 11:30 am. I packed my gear up the hill and loaded up for the return trip home.
The trip was 55 miles according to the map (although I followed the shoreline most of the time and did some backtracking so it was probably longer) and 15 portages. Was it tough? Yes! Would I do it again? Yes, but I would probably go solo along with another person who was also soloing in his own canoe. I would have all my own gear and food and just travel with another person. I was well prepared, had a satellite phone and in good shape but decided on this trip that it might be a little more prudent for someone of 63 years old to solo along with another person next time. I am not afraid of being alone but would prefer to have someone else along to talk to. I get tired of talking to squirrels! I followed my dream and I am happy I did!