BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 26 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1361 feet
Wood Lake - 26
Around United States Point
May 25, 2006
Number of Days:
As the alarm on my cell phone breaks me out of my slumber, I wake to realize that in order to end my day in Northern Minnesota, I need to get my butt out of bed get some job related things taken care of here in central Minnesota.
I finished updating software on 20 computers and installed a Linux server all before 9:00am. Now if I could just get through rush hour traffic. I still need to drive from St. Paul to Monticello and toss all of our gear in the pickup and tie on the canoe. Currently, I am two hours ahead of schedule.
After making just over 100 stops to pickup last minute items and complete final chores I made it to Ely just after 5:00. I had to pick up our permits, buy food and pickup a solo canoe for my brother who will be leaving our 3-man group a day early. I met Jenny at the Spirit of the Wilderness Outfitters who amazed with her "yeah we can just stack the solo right on top of your canoe" statement. Sure enough, by the time I left I had two canoes stacked on my truck. She didn’t even laugh at my canoe rack! I wish that I would have thought to take a picture of the odd rigging.
I got my Ely Steakhouse beer just before 7:00. After the ale was on the bar, I called my brother to check on their progress. They had just left Coon Rapids; which left me plenty of time to finish the beer and get a nap in at the cabin. Just after I put down the phone, Will Steger pulled up a chair next to me at the bar. He asked how I was doing, I said great and then I explained that I had met him a long time ago at a Perkins. After a few more words about his visit to Ely (he is living in Minneapolis for a year) I left to take care of a few more loose ends. I would have loved to spend the evening talking about all of his adventures while drinking Summit, but I got the impression that his stories had been told plenty of times for his taste. I was very happy to have met him again; I have always admired his accomplishments.
After spending most of the rest of my money in Ely, I drove out to Farm Lake where my father has started building a cabin. I unpacked the food and repacked into ice and then put it onto our old, but sturdy pontoon and headed across the lake. I arrived at the cabin to find in good shape. I flipped open the futon and took a nap trying to kill some time. I was awakened by my cell phone again. It will be nice to be able to shut it off for the next couple of days. Now that I was fully awake again and still waiting to hear from my brother and my long time partner in crime-Brent, I decided to drive down to the Wood Lake entry point and check it out as our little group was still uncertain as to where we would spend the night. On the way, I saw a bear leaving the road and heading into the woods. It had been a long time since I have seen one. I made a quick survey of the parking lot and decided that if we wanted to, we could catch a few winks there if we needed to.
I met my two companions at a bar in Ely around 10:00. We discussed our trip and eventually decided to stay at the cabin instead of the EP. That was probably a good decision, as we were pretty comfortable.
It is amazing how plans change when others are involved. I had wanted to get an early start, but when I tried to rouse everyone at 6:00, they told me to go back to sleep and that they were on vacation. We finally were up at about 8:00 and decided to grab breakfast at Vertin’s.
At the EP, we were met by a Ranger who was cleaning up the parking lot. I asked if he wanted to see our permit and he said “yeah, we better get that out of the way”. Since a lot of our gear was in the back of my truck he could pretty much see all that we had, and didn’t ask to unpack what was already packed. He wished us a good week and sent us on our way. I mentioned the previous night’s bear sighting and he took interest in the matter.
We had packed all of our gear into three separate backpacks, and the food into a daypack. I was pretty proud of the weight of my pack, I am sure that it was in the mid twenty’s. I did cheat a little by leaving my binoculars, camera, and GPS unit in the thwart bag. I also slipped a few my pots and pans in my brother's backpack. Hey, what are brothers for? This was his first BWCA trip since we were little kids and am pretty sure that he had never carried a canoe, he didn't care too much about the extra weight.
The first day took us from Wood Lake to Hula Lake, then into Good Lake and eventually into Basswood Lake. From the EP to Wood Lake, the 195 rod portage was dry with a slight downhill slope most of the way. The toughest of all the portages was the 131 rod from Hula to Good Lake. It was pretty muddy but all three were pretty flat and well used. After we picked off the leaches, we launched into Hoist Bay and pointed our canoes North East toward our day’s destination which was Washington Island.
Maybe a little explanation of this trip is in order. We started planning the trip during the first week of May. When we checked online, Wood Lake was one of only a couple permits that we could get. We thought that EP 26 would give us a lot of options for a four day trip and I had never been to Basswood Falls and figured this would be great way to get up there. Up until this point everything was going as planned. What I didn’t count on was the fact that motors were allowed on Basswood Lake. Not exactly my cup of tea, but that conversation is best left at the campsite. We found a very nice campsite facing south just north of Washington Island. Brent and I sent up our shelters in the trees, and my brother plopped down a blue mattress and spread out his sleeping bag on top of it. He slept there for a couple hours while the sun began to set. We broke out the fishing poles and I managed to catch a very nice smallie in the shadows right along shore. At this site we noticed three or four cement pillars. I would love to know the story behind them.
We woke to calm waters and a lot of sun. We broke camp and started north, our goal for the day was to reach Basswood Falls. We had a great day of paddling along the eastern shore of United States Point, zig zagging in and out of Canadian waters. We noticed that most of the campsites were taken and also commented on the huge tents and tables that were setup at a lot of them. We figured folks must have motored all that stuff in as far as they could, then ditched the motors in the woods and paddled the rest of the way.
We ate lunch on a small island on the north side of the point, technically in Canada I guess. After we were fueled up, we set off across a large segment of Basswood. The wind had picked up a little, but nothing to complain about. We were very fortunate to have such nice weather on that big water.
We made it to Basswood Falls and by this time we had all realized that we neglected to pack sunscreen. Our arms and necks were redder than “a fox’s behind during Pokeberry season”. We decided to see if any of the fishermen at the falls had any extra sunscreen. One of the guys we met was pleasant and very talkative. He mentioned that his group had 2-sixteen gallon kegs on ice back at camp. I would have hated to paddle or portage those up…oh wait…
We had been told of a nice campsite close to the falls. Although we wanted to camp further south, we wanted to check out this 5 star site. Brent had been in the area before but his memory was a slightly inaccurate. We ended up passing it and completed the entire mile long hike to the end of the portage. After we got back, we set off southwest into the wind to find a campsite for the night.
Again most of the campsites were full, but that is to be expected during Memorial weekend. The site that we did find was slightly northwest of the gaging station a few miles south of the falls. It was a small site tucked back into a small bay. Good shelter, but we opted to setup our hammocks on a more exposed point to take advantage of the shade and breeze. That night’s main dish was wild rice soup from Cache Lake Foods. I had forgot to get a spoon from my pack and decided to jump into the Encounter and paddle to our tents rather than hike around the bay. I had intended to push off and jump in the boat at the same time, but the canoe stayed and I went out the front. Basswood Lake during the end of May warmer than I thought it would be. I had just put on a fresh pair of socks and laced up my formerly dry boots. All three of us had a good laugh, only my pride was hurt. I won’t go into detail but the second attempt at getting in the canoe also landed me in the water. Neither Brent nor Ryan could figure out which time was more amusing. My vote was for the first time. I wish I could have blamed the whiskey for my bad luck, but I hadn’t yet ingested any.
My brother Ryan had to leave us a day early. So at about 5:00am he woke me up asking questions about a map. I helped him pack his gear and wished him good luck. I watched him paddle off, hoping that he had enough sense to make it back. He had four portages and 12 miles to cover and he is a Civil Engineer(that counts against him). I went back to sleep. Since we really had an easy day planned Brent and I slept in. At about 9 or 10 we woke up and started getting breakfast cooked and thought about breaking camp. We heard some thunder off in the distance and decided to leave our hammocks setup, but get our gear together. The storm eventually did get to us and with it came the winds. We each took shelter under the hammock tarps, I took out my poncho and spread it out over my gear to keep it dry. We heard lots of thunder and saw some small hail. It probably dropped close to twenty degrees during the storm and eventually we got cold and bored enough to jump back into the hammocks and wait the storm out. That is one drawback to hammock camping. If we would have had a tent, we could have played cards or at least had a conversation.
After the storm rolled on by, we loaded up the canoe and started our days’ paddle. The first open campsite we saw, we decided to take. The wind was blowing pretty strong, and we only needed to make about six or seven miles which we had already done. The site that we stayed at was the nicest of the three. It faced west, and I always enjoy watching sunsets. There were a couple nice red pines to provide shade, and it was the only campsite on the island.
Since we had some extra time, we decided to spend it fishing. We caught some sunfish and a few northerns. I managed to land a smaller northern and as I grabbed the Rapala with my left hand, the fish started flopping and before I knew it I was holding the fish in the air with one finger. The hook had gone deep, well passed the barb which I should have bent. It took two good pulls with a pliers to get the hook out. Builds character though right?
As expected the sunset was nice, and I went to bed thinking about my wife and son. Tomorrow I would get to see them again
We woke up early and left camp. The only note worth commenting on was that the Good Lake to Hula Lake portage was in worse shape because of the previous night’s rain. As we were getting to the portage we could see the water still cascading in small streams back into the lake from the portage. I had been wearing my sandals because my boots were still wet. With the canoe and pack on, it was only a matter of time before the mud took of my sandals and they began to be a problem. I slowly bent down and help them along with the gunnels of the canoe and walked the 131 rod portage barefoot. The mud was cool and felt good. It reminded me of being young again.
We got back to the EP about 11:00am. It was a busy place, and things got busier the further south we went.
The count for the trip ended up being 7 single portages just shy of one thousand rods, slightly over 1,500 if we count the mishap at Basswood falls. Just over 30 miles paddled. Lost count of the number of fish caught.