BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

September 27 2020

Entry Point 25 - Moose Lake

Moose Lake entry point allows overnight paddle or motor (25 HP max). This entry point is supported by Kawishiwi Ranger Station near the city of Ely, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 21 miles. Access is an boat landing or canoe launch at Moose Lake. Many trip options for paddlers with additional portages. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 27
Elevation: 1356 feet
Latitude: 47.9877
Longitude: -91.4997
Moose Lake - 25

Thunder Point: The view that was worth it. Barely.

by Nelsonti
Trip Report

Entry Date: September 04, 2020
Entry Point: Moose Lake
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 7

Trip Introduction:
A Realtor, Engineer, Landlord, Parts Salesmen, Maintenance Supervisor, Pharmacist, and bio-chemist walk into the BWCA.... and calamity, hilarity, and a whole lot of fun ensue. I am a BWCA regular, but not necessarily a guru. We had a terrific group of a lot of different folks and personalities, and that ended up being the best part of the trip. How the group melded instantly and then throughout the trip was awesome, and certainly not the norm. We had guys fall into the traditional roles such as "Camp Cook," "Guy Who Carries Heavy Stuff," "Guy Who Does Not Carry Heavy Stuff," "Guy Who Tells Stories About How It Used To Be," "Guy Who Brought Too Much Stuff," and "Pyromaniac." But we had other, less noticeable roles too. It was, in retrospect, a fantastic trip. Especially since we were a raw group who packed WAYYY too much stuff, and bit off a tad more that we should be chewing. I won't say who actually came up with the packing list.....

Day 1 of 4


Friday, September 04, 2020

We got into Ely on the night of the 3rd. A lot of prep had gone into the trip. We decided to do a Knife Lake Trip because I had heard that the fishing on the lake was supposed to outstanding and some of the best in the BWCA. I set up the canoe rental through Piragis and the tow rental through them as well. I have never done a trip like this with 7 people, so naturally, I packed enough food for 14 people.

We met at our lodge at about 8:30 PM and we all had a couple of Beers. Before we get any further, let me introduce you to the members of the trip. We had me, my dad, my dad's best friend Andy, my Uncle Tim, my buddy Trevor, my brother-in-law Andy, and my father-in-law Dave. Me, my dad, and Trevor had done a BWCA trip on the Sawbill Loop in about 2005 when Trevor and I were in Boy Scouts. I think that was their only trip up here, but they are both very experienced outdoorsmen. My dad's buddy Andy had not been to the BWCA since about 1975, and that was on Knife Lake. How cool is that? Back to Knife Lake after 45 years away. My Uncle Tim lives in Denver and hadn't been to the BWCA in decades, since he did a solo trip here. Dave and Andy do Canada trips yearly, but were BWCA Greenhorns. They proved to have more than enough grit for the trip! So, after a few beers and getting acquainted and catching up, we hit the sack because it would be an early morning.

At 4:30 AM the alarms went off and we packed quick and sucked down two pots of coffee. I was not expecting punctuality to be one of our hallmarks, but that was one of our many strengths throughout the trip! We were at Piragis at 6 AM when they opened, loaded up the canoes, and were at Vosburg's for our tow across Moose Lake at 7 AM. Amazing! Since we all drove from different locations and got in so late, we didn't really have a time to catalog and triage our gear. And we had a lot of it. When we unloaded at Vosburg's the chauffeur's eyes were at big as our packs. They said it wasn't the most stuff that they had ever seen, but the most this year. Ah well, I'm an over-packer, and at least we were prepared for every continency. It was a beautiful morning and the wind was at our back (foreshadowing? Nah.). What could possibly go wrong?

Once at the Portage, we spent some time and consolidated our gear. That helped a ton and made the portages a lot more tolerable. The second portage into Knife Lake is a little longer (40 rods) than most of them and that one I quadruple portaged. Wow. But, that just shows how much better we got. By the end, we were all just double portaging. That's a serious statement when you see what we brought.

In all reality, I was really amazed at how well it went. We had a huge range of camping/canoeing experience and ages ranging from 30 to 61. We had no sprained ankles, no strained muscles. It was 6 portages and these guys crushed it. I have a military background and we have a phrase called, "Embrace the Suck!" That became a mantra, and once we admitted to ourselves that the BWCA was made by God to be A Fine and Pleasant Misery, we had a great time.

Once on Knife, we decided to check Robbins Island. We found the Westernmost was open, but was pretty wooded, so we decided to head to the South Shore. We found the first site just south of Robbins Island was open, commanded a good view of the lake, and had a nice area for tent pads. We claimed it and decided to unpack. We ended up having 2 six man tents and a four man. We ended up just using one of each. We were all pretty beat and famished, and after carrying in the food we recognized our great need of gluttonous behavior so we wouldn't have to carry it back out. So, we ate. And tapped into the whiskey. Everyone brought Scotch and Bourbon, so I took the alternate route and brought Blackberry Brandy. I thought we'd never drink it all (foreshadowing!).

After we each ate about 2 lbs of food we went out and fished for a couple hours. It was not fast and furious. For what we may have lacked in BWCA experience, we totally made up for it in serious fishing experience. With the exception of Uncle Tim, we are all really avid fishermen, so for us to struggle to catch fish like this left only one conclusion: They weren't biting. We even brought depth finders for the first time - I think it was very effective for future fishing trips. Uncle Tim caught a 14 inch small mouth and Trevor caught a smaller northern. We got several very small smallmouths and decided to head back to camp for steaks.

My dad picked out some amazing New York strips and they may go down as some of the best steaks that I've ever eaten. While everyone decided to stay in camp and have a campfire, Trevor and I hit the water and fished for a bit. Again, it was slow, but a beautiful evening. That night we hit the whiskey pretty hard, but it was good fun and everyone enjoyed catching up. Andy, our resident pyromaniac, put on enough wood per stoke to see the fire from space (not really), and we had a great time. We were tired from the early morning and portaging, so we headed to bed around 10:30 PM.

 



Day 2 of 4


Saturday, September 05, 2020

Since our primary motivation for the trip was fishing, Saturday we fished pretty hard. After a breakfast of pancakes and bacon, and about 5 pots of coffee, we hit the water and pounded it to a froth. The fish of the trip and highlight of our fishing was my brother-in-law Andy's first cast of the day. He dropped his jig down in about 10 feet of water and probably hit his 20 inch smallmouth bass on the head. That was the first fish of the day! I lost what was probably a nice northern when it bit through my monofilament leader of my inline spinner. We also gathered firewood from the shoreline periodically if we saw some that was down and dry and convenient. Throughout the day, we picked off a few fish, including Trevor's 18" walleye. We were hurting for fish to eat, so we decided to have a late lunch and fish until dark. This proved to be a good call because we got a couple more walleyes and northerns. Thank the Lord! We would not starve!!

Once back, we made quick work of the fish. BIL Andy filleted the last fish and used a really interesting technique of filleting out the "Y Bones" of the walleye. I had never seen anyone do this with a walleye, but the fillet turned out really nice, so we were all duly impressed. One of the few foods we carried with the water removed (dehydrated ;) ) were the Hungry Jack Hash Brown Potatoes. These were an awesome compliment to the fish and will be on future BWCA menus. This night we had an awesome campfire and solved all of America's and the world's problems. Sadly, we did not appoint a scribe to take down our notes, which certainly would be archived in a Smithsonian Museum someday or the Library of Congress. So, we will have to piece together our masterpiece through the haze of slight hangovers and passed time. Andy implemented a Talking Stick, which added some sort of organized discourse to the conversation. It was indeed one for the books. As we went to bed that night, very late, we noticed that carrying out the whiskey would be significantly easier on the way out. This was a great day, and although the fishing wasn't great, it was an awesome and low-stress day camping in the BWCA.

 



Day 3 of 4


Sunday, September 06, 2020 As we woke up on Sunday morning, it was a perfect day! It was about 75 and Sunny and there was little wind. We all jumped in the lake to rinse off and suddenly we heard this low growl to the north!! After further examination, we discovered stormheads far to the north. As we monitored this, we decided that the storm would bypass us on the Canadian side and we weren't going to get wet. After the near miss, it was overcast and calm. Someone said we should head out and go fishing. Another said we should fish close to camp in case the weather whipped up. Then, on a whim, someone - I'll never remember who - said, "Heck with it! It's nice out. Let's go to Thunder Point and seize this opportunity." We all got in the canoes and paddled east. No fish bit except a few tiny smallmouths. As we approached Thunder Point we noticed the wind picking up. Blowing straight out of the west, which was the direction back. We could see the whitecaps forming on the big bay, but we were here and it was the last day of the trip. Carpe diem, right? So we paddled to Thunder Point and with the wind were going at what one could call a considerable clip. Paddling back? That was "future us" problems. We hiked to the top of Thunder Point and I have to say that is an incredible view - if you frequent the BWCA and have never been there, I highly recommend it. We shared a nip of blackberry brandy and took some selfies. It really was a great moment and worth the hike. While up there, we analyzed the wind and realized that there was no "good way" to get back and avoid the wind, so we decided just to head right into it and get to the south shoreline. We all decided to stay close and went for it. There were about 2-3 foot rollers and we did get a few lapfuls of water, especially the canoe with 3 people in it. However, our plan and execution was solid and we made it behind the islands a half mile away with a lot of effort, but no incidents. From there, it was a tough paddle back, but doable. There were a few others on the water as well during that time as well, which made us feel better. While taking a break in a sheltered cove, I said, "Well, that view was worth it, eh?" I was met with silence and Andy saying, "$&%# that view!!!" We had a great laugh and headed back to camp. Back at camp, spirits were simultaneously high knowing that we had just done something really memorable and cool, but also subdued knowing that we had to pack up camp and get ready to leave early the next morning. The temp had dropped 20 degrees since the morning so the fishing we did was ineffectual. We had a great dinner, campfire, and called it a night early. One note is that we had 30 mile an hour winds that night, straight out of the north, so the tents were rocking and rolling! It made for a somewhat fitful night!

 



Day 4 of 4


Monday, September 07, 2020 We all woke up at 5 AM and broke camp. We were on the water by 6:30. It was really windy when we woke up at 5 AM still but when the sun came up, the wind calmed and we had a really beautiful paddle back out of Knife Lake past Isle of the Pines. I have to say that Knife Lake truly is one of the most scenic lakes I have been to in the BWCA. I would go back for sure, but probably earlier in the year when the fishing is better. We actually made it back through all the portages ahead of schedule. Our tow was set up for noon and we were at the tow pickup by 11 AM so we made two pots of coffee and relaxed. Our good time was helped by further consolidation of our gear and only double portaging each portage. We got a lot better as a group as the short trip went on. We all agreed that it was a great trip and that each of us had a great time. I met with Andy to exchange some gear on Tuesday after the trip, and even though he said his camping days were done and he wouldn't likely go back again, he was so happy to have gone and had the time he had. We went over his maps and mapped the areas we went, so he could have them framed. That was really meaningful for me. Four of the guys who went on the trip were 58 or older. While that's not old, there is going to be a last BWCA trip for all of us someday and in a way, I think it was a passing of the torch from my dad and his buddy to me. This was the first trip that I had planned and they had gone with me. I have so many great memories from all the trips we've done to Canada, this one added to that list in a sentimental and meaningful way. (I'm still going to try to convince Andy to go back again someday!)

Lastly here is what we learned - what we would sustain and what we would improve:

Sustains - Absolutely the group we had. We had 7 very different personalities and age ranges and we got along AMAZINGLY. Everyone contributed in great ways and we had a blast together. - Inviting new people. My Uncle Tim or BIL Andy had never come on a trip with us, and they were awesome additions and the trip would not have been as good without them. - The gravity water filter. So light and easy to use. I will not backpack or canoe without it anymore. - Basecamping. We had a short trip and enough new guys, that not breaking down camp everyday was the right call. - Blackberry Brandy. Just because you can drink whiskey for every meal, does that mean you want to?

Improves - Bringing two stoves was a bad idea. We only ever used one. That was a lot of weight. Plus I had my MSR Pocket Rocket, so we would have been fine without the second stove. - Bringing two 6 man tents. Again, we only used one so it was a lot of extra weight. - We should have packed everything the morning of or the night before instead of sorting it out at camp/at the portage we were dropped off at. That would have helped us be a lot more efficient. - Knowing now that the fishing was as poor as it was (everyone we talked to had really tough luck also), I could have picked a lake that was easier to get into and smaller so we wouldn't have had to combat so much wind. It was pretty windy everyday and that made fishing hard. - My canoe trolled a lot, so we should have brought rod holders. That would have been a game changer.

 


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