Boundary Waters Trip Reports, Blog, BWCA, BWCAW, Quetico Park

BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

August 02 2021

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

EPIC winter crossing 2021

by SoMNDan
Trip Report

Entry Date: January 30, 2021
Entry Point: Moose Lake
Exit Point: Saganaga Lake Only (55A)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 3

Trip Introduction:
Let me start by saying our group has a history of trips that commonly elicit the phrase, “You’re going to do what?!” Not that we are claiming to be all that extreme-We’ve met quite a few along the way doing things we never would nor could. Roughly 20 years ago, our trip leader started talking about winter camping, even in the BWCA, maybe even a long-distance crossing. The rest of us hadn’t seriously considered a winter night in our backyards and poo-pooed the crazy talk. Yet here we were, van dropped at lake Sag and spending one last night in a hotel in Ely, going through gear and stowing anything non-essential, making sandwiches at a feverish pace.

Day 1 of 4


Saturday, January 30, 2021: Day 1 - Fast Start - Moose to Knife

After scouring the streets of Ely for a cafe that failed to mention they weren’t really open at 5 AM after all, and loading up on Deli Express goods at a local convenience store, we headed Northeast for Moose Landing. Having the sleds packed the night before, loaded and ready to go meant we were able to unload quickly, strap on the backcountry skis and pulks and hit the lake by 8:30. Lighter pulks and the great ice we had been hearing about helped us cover the length of our 2020 base camp trip to the crossover to Newfound in just over an hour. As in 2020, we saw open water where Moose meets Newfound but were able to ski over the land crossing and avoid the soft water. Continuing to follow the sled dog trails through Newfound, over the winter use trail into Splash Lake went well and our hopes were high to at least get to the end of Ensign. Several sandwiches, energy bars and a few water breaks later, let’s just say Ensign is another big lake and we were seeing some light snow as we reached the end and hit the winter use trail through the swamp to Vera. The snow continued to fall so we pushed on through Portage Lake as the hotspots started on the heels signaling the blister making. Although we were starting to feel like the 50 year olds we are, we thought it would be best if we could reach Knife, where we expected the dog sled tracks to end, before the snow covered them overnight anyway. Vera was a tough go and we were really pushing by the time we saw the bay back to the winter crossing to Portage Lake. Since we had set a goal of 3 PM layup regardless, we decided to push on, needing to be able to say we made Knife in a day and after a short crossing, slid down the portage wiped out, but proud to set up camp on Knife. ~Moose Lake, Newfound Lake, Splash Lake, Ensign Lake, Vera Lake, Portage Lake, Knife Lake

 



Day 2 of 4


Sunday, January 31: Day 2 - Pushing ourselves to the point of no return - Getting off Knife

After a quick check to confirm we were still all-in, maybe half hoping someone would argue for the turn back option, we set off on day 2 with hopes of skirting the border, avoiding daily rations of maple syrup locked up in a Canadian immigration jail, and getting through Knife and on to Ottertrack Lake, beyond the halfway point in the crossing. Snow overnight was light but continued to fall as we packed up and reluctantly pushed off. Was it this island or that one where Dorothy doled out the root beer? Knowing we had a long day and little or no sled dog trails to guide us, we looked, but kept moving. Between the new snow and no dog track pack, we met tough going that actually got worse as the day drug on. Since we’d made 14-16 miles the day before, we were willing to stop at 8, 3PM either way. Let’s tell it like it is, Knife is a big lake. A 9 AM start and 6 hours on the ice and we were struggling as we crossed. By 3 PM, we could see the shores closing together from either side but were nearin total exhaustion, the kind were you see stars and feel faint. A shallow bay to the portage seemed to go on forever and required refueling stops to get to the end. Wet snow made the skis basically long snowshoes with great brakes. As soon as we’d crossed to Ottertrack, it was clear that we had no more gas in the tank, so we set up camp between the portage and campsite once we had crossed over. Getting set up and making water for supper was all we could manage. Again, we agreed to rest our aging bodies and make the big decision in the morning, based on the snow that continued to dust our tents. ~Knife Lake, Ottertrack Lake

 



Day 3 of 4


Monday, February 1: Day 3 - The point of no return - Ottertrack to Saganaga

First order of business Monday morning was the big decision. We were clearly past half way, but the path back had dog tracks and our trails. Another inch of fresh powder overnight would make a difference, but not a show stopper, either. Going forward meant no going back unless something catastrophic got in our way, since every step pushed us closer to Saganaga and further from Moose. Our fearless leader seemed surprised when we unanimously agreed to push on, almost disappointed. He made it clear after making Knife in a day and Ottertrack day 2, there was no shame either way. Nevertheless, we were driven to not give up, having come so far. We could tell from the maps and previous summer crossings that we were in for portages and pinch points on day 3-open water. Going was tough from the start on day 3, with the fresh snow and no trail to follow, we started out and rechecked navigation as we neared each of the narrows. With an earlier 8:30 start, once we got going, we had photo ops near the high palisades. Pinch points meant open water and despite careful navigation, we got some wet feet and one guy had to do a gear change , falling through with one leg up to his hip. Just after 1, as our energy had started to fade, we met our match! Monument portage had until then just seemed like words on a map. We knew it was long, but didn’t recall the slope. Until we saw it. Looking up, it seemed like an ungroomed downhill course for extreme skiers, bolder-strewn and straight up. It took some serious effort to get up the bank to get a full look at the hill. Now what? Not an annoyed now what, but knowing we now were too far to go back and not sure there was any way to go up kind of now what? Two engineers and a numbers guy put heads together and determined 3 guys per sled and follow what seemed to be a game trail crossing the hill. Two pulling and one following and uprighting when the pulks tipped, we made it in 3 tough trips through the deep snow. Yes, the trail does go over there trough the woods on both sides and makes the slope almost tolerable. Ready to call it a humbled day after some photos with the monuments, the downhills to Swamp Lake went well and buoyed by the accomplishment and improving weather, we pushed on with hopes of making it to Sag. Navigation posed some challenges getting off Swamp. Navigating another pinch point, luckily with solid ice, we kept going with hopes of making it to Saganaga. It was clear our goal of America’s Point was unrealistic but if we got close, we could still get out the next day. We stopped just at the last pinch point onto Sag and set up camp. We were technically on our last lake, but too tired at 4 to make it to America’s point. We set up camp, hoping this would be our last night in tents. ~Ottertrack Lake, Swamp Lake, Saganaga Lake

 



Day 4 of 4


Monday, February 2: Day 4 - Sag, Slush, Stop - Saganaga to Saganaga Entry point #55

Knowing if we pushed hard and navigated well, we were up early, packing at 5 and over the berm onto the main body of Sag by 7:30. Not far in, we hit our second slush patch of the trip, slowing our progress to America’s point. It was bigger than the first patch and required ski and sled scraping once we found good ice nearby. Even though it meant several more miles to go, seeing the rocks that meant Rocky Point and our turn east was a moment of relief. We were hoping that getting on to the motorized part of the lake would instantly mean snowmobile tracks and easier sledding. No such luck. As it turns out, snowmobiles have a much more restricted range on the southeastern part of the lake. We navigated between Munker and Long Island (most definitely not NY) carefully as the sun popped out and the cool wind started. Another smaller slush patch was just enough for some extra scraping after we cleared the islands. As exhaustion and the cooler weather just started catching up with us, and we were starting to wonder about our navigating, we spied what appeared to be orange markers. More thorough looking, we thought we were seeing 4, and headed across the bay. As we got closer, we saw the trails, snowmobile tracks headed south. Our blistered heels were screaming with excitement. Although the going was faster and the speed better, the trails seemed to go on forever and were hard to keep on a line. We were encouraged enough to keep going more or less nonstop and were glad when we made the land crossing, knowing we were close. Another mile or so down (or so it felt) and we pulled into the cove that meant the end of our trek at EP #55! Never before did 4-6 hours in the car sound so good! ~Saganaga Lake

 

Lakes Traveled:   Saganaga Lake,

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