BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
April 07 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 27
Elevation: 1356 feet
Moose Lake - 25
Wildlife with foot fetishes?
July 27, 2012
Number of Days:
We woke up later than we normally would – 8:15. Two large groups of canoes went by before we had breakfast started, which led us to feeling a sense of urgency about getting moving today.
A quick batch of oatmeal was whipped up, along with our first attempt at camp coffee. We purchased a small percolator prior to the trip and decided to use the Foldgers coffee grounds inside a bag (like a tea bag). Turned out pretty well, but we cut the steeping time short so we could pack up the kitchen gear. Tomorrow we boil the water with the grounds in for full flavor. Real coffee beats instant any day, though! Our campsite was close to Thunder Point and we couldn’t resist making a stop there. The quarter mile long trail ascends rapidly – just enough to get the blood pumping. The view from the top was well worth the time and effort and provided some nice photo ops.
Paddling east into Knife, there were fewer people and many open sites. We stopped for lunch at a peninsula camp site with a gorgeous view and wild blueberries! Despite the poor crop this year, we managed to grab some good ones. More boats were congregated near the portage into Eddy Lake – day trippers taking photos of the falls. The 25 rod portage was steep, but we single tripped it and got ahead of the crowd. We figured we would come back and check it out after setting up camp.
With two sites on the west end of Eddy, we thought we’d secure something off the beaten path and score a bit of solitude in this busy area. The first site, on the north shore, had a gently sloping, gravel swim spot, lots of shade and a fire ring near the water. Perfect, except for the fallen spruce tree right over the fire grate. Paddling on, we discovered the western most site was taken. Back we went to the first site. Dave whipped out his camp saw and in about 30 minutes we had the spruce tree cleared out and a perfect camp site. A quick dip in the water cooled everyone off, followed by a lunch of summer sausage, pita bread and peanut butter. Dave and Audrey did some fishing in the cove across from camp, but the only thing they caught was a tree trout. Exploring was next on the agenda. We paddled back to the portage from Knife into Eddy to see the falls – wow! There’s one large falls into a pool with another large falls. It was definitely worth the time to check it out. A short paddle to the east end of Eddy led us to the third camp site (taken) and the portage into Jenny Lake. I decided I had to dip my toes into “my” lake, which actually turned out to be Kek Pond since I misread the map. Ah well…we did get to see another nice falls about halfway along the 15 rod portage into Kek. Dave made some casts into the base of the falls coming into Eddy and had a smallie on, but lost it at the boat.
It was already dinner time when we arrived back at camp. Dinner consisted of cup o’ soup, sweet potato fryin’ pan bread, Mountain House Chicken Teriyaki and raspberry vanilla mousse. Our neighbors at the western site came home and started cleaning a mess of fish on the rocks across from our camp site. It looks like they had a good day. With everything cleaned up and a fire going, all we had left to do was hang the food pack. Oops! This campsite was awesome, except for its lack of decent trees for hanging a pack. Dave paddled down shore and dropped the food pack away from camp…we had to hope for the best. Just as that problem was solved, another descended on us – skeeters! We did see a bald eagle fly in several times to clean up the fish guts left by our neighbors before diving into the tent for refuge.
I woke at 6:15 to the sounds of loons swimming and fishing in front of our site and the neighbors talking at their camp. I gently roused Dave and Audrey and got breakfast started: oatmeal and Cream of Wheat. I made a note to myself that C of W is a lot harder to clean up, so I won’t pack that again! We changed our camp coffee method to boiling the water in the percolator and then steeping 3 of the Foldgers coffee bags in the water…excellent results.
Our neighbors were packed up and gone by the time we left our site at 8. We paddled back to the east end to explore the real Jenny Lake. The portage into Jenny was steep with a pretty falls. Audrey snapped some pictures before we headed back to the canoe. We knew from the previous day that the portage into Kek Ponds was a walk in the park.
When we arrived at the start of Kek Ponds, 3 canoes were just paddling away. They were younger guys and strong paddlers. We figured we would just be arriving at the next 10 rod portage as they paddled away. It turns out they were struggling at the portage in terms of getting gear out and getting the canoes up on their shoulders. We noticed that there was only a small riffle that we would be portaging around, so we unloaded a bit of gear on shore and Dave walked/dragged the canoe up the rapids. Audrey and I reloaded the gear on the other side and away we went. We were able to pass them and forge ahead. I’m sure they appreciated not having us behind them waiting and/or observing their techniques.
Kek Ponds are quite shallow, hence the reason there are no camp sites (no fish?!). The remaining 20, 15 and 5 rods portages were easy. We ran into a couple we had seen the day before; they recommended the site they had just left – a site next to a high, massive cliff. It would have been a good one, but we wanted to make it to the west end of the lake. The wind made for tough paddling. All of the east end sites we could see were taken. We paddled and paddled. Audrey was getting hungry and thirsty and her spirits were low. We made a pit stop at the island across from Pickle Lake portage for lunch. After eating, our attitudes improved. We examined the map and made a last minute decision to leave Kek and head across the 80 rod portage into Pickle. The path was a slight uphill with a good drop on the other side. Pickle Lake looked to be pretty battered by the 1999 blow down and was very much empty. We again decided to press on. A short 25 rod portage led us into Spoon Lake, which Dave had read would be better fishing. The scenery was definitely better! We paddled to the round part of the spoon and checked out the first two sites – they left a lot to be desired, but would do in a pinch. We continued on to the 3rd site in the handle of the spoon on the south shore. Eureka! This was a 5 star site! It has a fire grate situated up high, overlooking the lake. Three level tent pads were nestled in the shade and void of rocks and roots. The latrine was just a short climb out of camp on a nice path with a gorgeous view of the lake as well.
We set up camp and gathered firewood, working up a sweat in the process. A quick dip cooled everyone down. Dave grabbed the snorkel and went out exploring. Audrey and I noticed some storms approaching and could hear thunder, so we went about battening down the hatches. Dave realized what was coming, so he quickly got back to camp and helped us get everything situated. The ensuing downpour gave us an opportunity to hang out in the tent and play Moose Farkel. While peeking out of the tent, we spied a frog sitting in a hole at the base of the tree across from the tent. Even after the storm passed and we exited the tent, he continued watching us from this spot. The break in the rain gave us an opportunity to string up a tarp for shelter. More storms arrived with thunder and lightning, making us thankful we put the tarp up! Finally, a break in the storms allowed us to get dinner made, use the latrine and stretch our legs. Cop o’ soup for starters, followed by more fryin’ pan bread, Spaghetti, coffee and hot chocolate and apple cobbler. The anglers made some casts from shore while I cleaned up the dishes. Thunder and lightning was again imminent, so the decision was made to get the food pack put up as soon as possible. A quick run through the bedtime routine and everything was ready to be hoisted up. Dave hung a clothesline under the tarp so we could attempt to dry out our wet gear. We went back into the tent, resigned to the fact that we might be in for the night if the storms continued.
Clouds gave way to a gorgeous sunset, which gave us the chance to get out and wet our lines in the east end of Spoon. A small creek coming in from a swamp looked like a good spot. We tried various lures: Lil Doctor Spoon, Rapala, Johnson Silver minnow. No luck…just some follows. Guess that’s why it’s called fishing and not catching. On the positive side, all of the nighttime chores were done, so we could head directly into the tent upon our return. We tried to play cards and write in the journal, but our eyelids weighed a ton! At about 2 a.m., another powerful storm arrived. It was so dark that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I finally got back to sleep once it blew over.
Morning on Spoon brought decision making. Do we stay at this great site or continue on in hopes of finding better fishing? After a pancake breakfast, Dave was able to get a fire going, even in the damp conditions. We assessed the weather – cloudy, but not threatening. Let’s go! We packed up and headed out at 11 a.m. – a late start for sure.
Portages today were rocky, wet and slippery, and in some cases, very steep! I slipped twice and fell and it was tough getting up, despite the fact that my pack was lighter (less food). Dave managed to single portage the Big Blue pack and the canoe all but the final 20 rods of the portage into Vera, where he left the canoe against a downed tree that blocked the trail. I had a tough time there as well, having to crawl on my hands and knees to get under the tree. There was only one site occupied on Vera. We paddled to the western most site on the south shore and checked it out – too open for my liking. We paddled back to the previous site sitting up high above the lake. It had a nice swimming spot, but the site and tent pads were waterlogged. We planned to stay here 2 nights, but this site was less than ideal.
We were all tired and warm, which led to some cross words. We decided this site would have to do, and once the decision was made we got right to setting up camp and eating lunch. The gear was laid out to dry in the sun. Dave and Audrey discovered that crayfish inhabited the area around our canoe landing. They managed to catch 6 big ones and cooked them up in boiling water. Both report that the claws were very tasty, but the tails had a fishy taste. We cooked up our real dinner of lasagna, garlic fryin’ pan bread, and chocolate mudslide pie for dessert. No one is starving and we are eating quite well! Everyone set about the evening routine of me cleaning up, Dave prepping the fishing rods and Audrey getting drinking water pumped into bottles – she’s become a great camp helper. With chores done by 8 p.m. and an almost full moon in the sky, we set out to do some fishing. Audrey wanted to get a photo, so we paddled close to a beaver. Three tail slaps later, the beaver was gone along with the photo opportunity.
On our way to the opposite side of the lake, we stumbled upon a rock reef that runs east-west and is not marked on the map. We worked the reef area and I landed my first ever burbot using a gulp minnow. We threw the burbot back and continued fishing the reef. I landed a 13” walleye on the gulp minnow, which Dave saved for breakfast. The skeeters arrived quickly, and since we kept getting hung up on rocks, we headed back to camp for some shut eye.
Slept late today…nowhere to be! It also happened to be our 13th anniversary. Eleven out of 13 anniversaries have been spent in the BWCA. I missed 2003, the year that Audrey was born, so Dave took his dad, brother and nephews along. In 2009, my broken leg prevented us from making the trip.
A good part of the morning was spent lounging on the giant rock in our campsite. Audrey was quite the butterfly magnet; they kept flying around her and landing on her shoe, then her shoulder and finally her finger. She was also visited by a gigantic, 5 inch long roly-poly green caterpillar with red dots evenly spaced around its body.
Out on the water, our afternoon fishing exploits were not rewarded. We talked with other anglers who mentioned the previous two days had been good, but not so much today. We ate lunch in the canoe before returning to camp to swim in the landing area. Audrey and I went back to lounging in camp, while Dave put a large rock in the front of the canoe and went out to the reef by himself to continue fishing and snorkeling. No treasures or fish were found. The hammock was strung up for Audrey so she could nap and read a book. A hummingbird buzzed around and loons swam by – a lazy day to be sure! The loons really like the reef area.
After another great dinner (Chili mac, bread, cinnamon rolls for dessert), Audrey spied a snowshoe hare in the woods close to camp. She was able to get very close to it and snap some photos. This was a first for us as we had never seen one in the BW before. Earlier in the day, I had my own animal encounter (#2).
While standing in the water admiring the scenery, I had small crayfish crawling all over my feet and nibbling or scraping them. It was odd, but it didn’t really bother me, plus it was interesting to watch. Unfortunately, a larger crayfish came over and pinched my ankle. That put an abrupt end to my communing with the crayfish. There was considerable boat traffic today, including a large group looking for a site around 8 p.m.
Other than getting snagged a bunch of times on the reef, fishing after dinner was also uneventful. During our exploration of a bay, we located a loon’s nest tucked into the grass on a very small rock island. All that remained were a few egg shells. The full moon was shrouded in clouds…returning to camp at 9, we just missed the bloodsuckers’ attack. Just as we are getting to sleep, we heard a whippoorwill.
Today was to be an epic paddling day of almost 10 miles. We packed up and left our Vera site at about 9:15, anticipating a 5 hour travel day. The west wind had other ideas. Our first portage - 180 rods as listed in the books - went smoothly and afforded us a great view to the southeast at the top of the first hill. The second hill allowed us to take in Ensign Lake views. Well worth the climb! We dropped some gear half way and continued to the end of the portage, dropping gear and going back for the rest.
Ensign was an incredibly busy lake, thick with canoe traffic. We saw at least 30 canoes on the water with many open camp sites as people seemed to be en route to the next spot. We really had to dig in and paddle against the wind. On the positive side, the wind provided some cooling from the sun beating down on us. A riffle of steadily flowing water allowed us to skip the portage into Splash Lake. This lake is mix of swamp on one end and high cliffs on the other, with one camp site. We thought this would be a nice spot to return to someday.
The final portage of the day into Newfound Lake was an easy path. On the other side, we faced 5 more miles of paddling into the wind. My shoulders and arms were already fatigued, but what choice was there? Must. Keep. Going. We set our sights on Horseshoe Island for lunch, which gave us the push we needed to fight the wind. We sat on the southwest shore to eat and watched the canoes paddling by in both directions. A few towboats zipped by as well.
Back on the water, we continued to fight the wind. The Boy Scout canoe base was a welcome site! We arrived at the landing at 3:15 - a six hour paddle including our lunch stop. Homemade oatmeal cookies called our names. Note to self: always have some kind of treat waiting in the car! After gorging ourselves on cookies, we loaded up the car and headed to Fall Lake campground for our final night before heading back home. Another excellent trip!