BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
June 07 2023
Entry Point 27 - Snowbank Lake
Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1191 feet
Snowbank Lake - 27
August 22, 2008
Number of Days:
There was a stronger wind on Disappointment as we headed up the lake. The sky was cloudy with no sun showing at all. This would come back to haunt me for a short while. We literally began surfing across the lake, noticing most of the campsites on the south end were open. When we got to the middle of the lake we went straight to far and had to double back to the northwest. We noticed then the Borealis definitely was a better canoe in waves, sliding over the water and we liked how it handled. We were the only canoe moving up Disappointment and felt blessed the wind was to our backs. We didn't have time to stop and take pictures at least until the smaller lakes. We arrived at the 25rd portage to Ahsub Lake quickly did the short up and over with no difficulty. There was a young couple headed north on the portage having stayed overnight at the campsite just to the east of the portage. We meet a group of 3 aluminum canoes and 6 young guys headed into Disappointment. We shared what campsites were open and the fact that the lake was really building up waves.
CG was impressed with the difference in terrain compared to the west side where he has always gone. Ahsub was a clear and clean as I remember and definely much colder than Disappointment. The wind was still behind us and blowing strong down the lake as we headed to the next portage. The east end is in complete contrast to the main part of Ahsub, very shallow and a bog bottom. In a foot of water you could push the paddle all the way down without hitting a firm bottom. The landing has room for 2 canoes at the most and there are many rocks to avoid. Next was the 15rd portage into Jitterbug Lake which I remembered as being shallow and filled with waterlillys. We pushed our way into Jitterbug using the small log dock that existed on the east side. The wind behind us we quickly covered the lake to next portage. The wind had shifted slightly and was blowing straight north. We were shortly to the 40rd portage into Adventure Lake. After the 140rd portage starting the day out 40rds was hardly a warm up for CG. I was still struggling getting my breath. I was sweating and getting eaten by mosquitos and he was dry and hardly a mosquito bite. He sends me first as bait. The east side of the portage has a good landing and the portage itself is a gentle up and down. Adventure Lake was rolling with waves white capping most of the distance. We meet the young couple again and they were headed toward Ashigan, Ensign and Boot. We informed them of the bear activity and wished them good luck with the wind. The portage into Cattyman was less than 5 rods down a dry creek bed with a rocky shallow landing on Cattyman side. We had meet two groups on the trip so far and recieved compliments on the MR.
Given the low water levels I didn't think we could walk the short rapids on our way to Jordan Lake. We ended up taking the 58rd portage into Jordan the skies had cleared and temps were in the 80's with high humidity. CG started across with the canoe and I followed with a pack and rods. I was out of breath and not feeling well on the other side. I finished my water and CG gave me what he had left. He headed back and I took a few minutes to catch my breath and recover from the walk. I don't like struggling with catching my breath but humid air makes it much harder. I shortly joined Eldon on the other side and we finished the last long portage for the day. The portage is slightly up hill and drops off to a rock face which can be treacherous on the other end. We moved the canoe to the side and had a short snack of cheese and jerky. I decided to have a cigar, since we had a nice paddle coming up and into an area where CG would like to take photos. I tried to smoke one on Disappointment but had trouble keeping it lit. We headed cross-ways with the wind and headed to the narrow stretch of Jordan Lake. At least 2 sites on Jordan were taken and no one was paddling, don't know why! Maybe it was the white caps. Just entering the narrows of Jordan we meet a canoe with 2 older gentlemen and 2 youngsters. They were out for a day trip and trying to stay out of the wind.
We drifted down the narrows to the final portage of the day. The 5rd into Ima Lake. The landings are rocky at both ends and the east side is very rocky out into the lake. We looked over the map and I laid out the plan for looking for a site on Ima. We would hug the south/southwest shoreline and look at campsites available. We didn't check the first one in the big bay at the portage, wanting a site on the main lake. Wind and waves were picking up and no problems with bugs. White caps were readily available on the main lake. We hugged the shore heading for the west and south sites. The first one had a high rock face with crappy landing and no trees for hanging a bag. We worked our way south hoping the site by Alworth Lake portage would be open, but getting close we could see it was taken. We either had to go back or move on with the wind and down the pensuila towards the island on the east side. We surfed down the lake and cut the corner to take a break from the wind. The west site on the island was open, but waves were pounding on shore with winds in the 30's and higher gusts. We cut the waves at 45 degrees and worked around the backside of the island. The east side site was taken, which didn't break my heart since it ways grassy and weedy. One word, Mosquitos. I decided we would sneak up the backside or north side of the island and see if we could land. We found a shallow rock face to land and a short walk to the site. We we were home for the next couple days. The wind was really gusting and being on the water was not a good choice for the rest of the day.
We spent the afternoon setting up the bear bag, tarp and tent. The filter bag was filled and we sat down to lunch of jerky, cheese and crackers. I was tired and ready to rest. I had promised to make CG a crispy cheese casadea for supper and it kept him busy wondering what I was talking about. After trying several areas to cook we finally decided to cook behind the boulder near the firegrate. The quiet spots in the woods were not acceptable to me. CG could stand there and be fine, I was getting eaten alive by mosquitos. While cooking supper we a close encounter of the bird kind, grouse. We eventually counted a total of 8 during our stay. We headed to bed shortly after dark due to being tired and mosquitos.
We had discussed needing to name the Mad River Borealis. We both had picked several names but finally settled on "Gisselle". She is long, sleek elegance and class.
I am not sure if it was the water we were drinking or real, but I believe we meet a canoe with my ex-wife Gail and her husband coming into Thomas. I didn't realize it could be her until we had paddled past. We haven't seen each other in 10 years and both have gained some weight and I sure didn't expect to see her, so it didn't really click in my memory until a little later. Either way I hoped they had a good trip. Gail and I went on her first trip both in solo's in 1991.
We finished the short day paddle arriving at Hatchet Lake. The first site was open and had a good view of the west and breeze to keep the skeeters away. We set up camp, bear bag first, tarp and then the tent. I don't remember what was for supper could of been cheese/crackers/jerky. We had spent most of the afternoon fishing and just investigating the lake. Hatchet was similiar to Ima with the north shore line being hit hard by the 1999 blowdown and the south still having large pines standing. The second campsite was hit hard by the blowdown and has little to offer for shelter or cover. The south end of the lake is very shallow but the northwest corne was water over 40' deep. CG caught a nice northern but it was bigger than two people could eat so back to the lake. We decided the next day would be a fishing day and we could check out several of the areas that looked promising. We made a big pot of popcorn with butter and sat talking about the trip and how our friendship has grown in the last 6 years.
Paddling south the campsites were full and no one but the young couple from REI and we were paddling and they were taking a break behind the first island. We skirted the first island and headed almost straight south into the wind. Paddling hard and moving at a reasonable pace, we made the middle of the lake near the narrows and took a break to get a break and a compass heading. The paddle across Disappointment would be directly into the wind or quartering from there on. All the campsites were taken and now and we knew that Parent Lake was our next choice for a site if possible. The wind was blowing hard, I would say over 30mph with strong gusts. The MR was handling everything that thrown at us and we moved forward. We saw one group on the lake coming in and they were just landing at a site. We watched from a distance and they didn't need to paddle, making good time with the wind. We made the portage at the SW corner of Disappointment a little over an hour with a short break. There was anothe group sitting at the portage heading in and we informed them to check the south side for campsites since the west and north ones were taken. One guy was from Wyoming and anothe was finishing off a chinese take-out lunch. I told Eldon we would take the two portages to Snowbank rather than the 140rd we had taken on the way in. I knew paddling Snowbank was going to be difficult at best, but didn't know the biggest challenge would be Parent Lake. We decided that paddling out was our option.
The portage in Parent is very nice, little rock, nice foot bridge over a stream and mostly shaded. The Parent side has a gradual rocky put in, with big waves crashing on shore. Double portaging we moved the canoe and gear to the lake. This was not going to be an easy paddle and would be at a 45 degree or more crossing the waves. I walked out into deep water and held the canoe as CG loaded everything and tied things in for the travel. CG climbed in and I told him to start paddling and then climbed in with ease, we hadn't moved yet. I told Mr. Smead we needed more power and both of us started working harder than anytime in the trip. We took water over the front and sides at time. In order to keep a reasonable distance from shore we occasionally allowed the waves to push back towards shore. We then had to paddle hard to make progress again. The wind was switching to the SW and blowing consistently over 30mph and strong gusts. No time to rest, no time to look around just keep the canoe from being taken sideways and move forward. We were taking water on almost every wave with the direction we were moving up. Being close to shore if we needed to bail out and recover at shore we would, wasn't time to bail water, wished I had a bilge pump. Just as we started discussing or cussing the need to bail water, we noticed a couple sitting on the shoreline reading books. I thought they were at the second campsite so we had a little way to go. But it didn't look like a campsite and we asked if that was the portage. YES, it was we had made it and felt relieved. The landing was tough and waves kept trying to pound us into the shoreline. Unloading and setting things to the side we took a short break and talked with the couple. They were staying at the cabins on the eastside of Snowbank and reported that waves were big on the lake. It had taken almost 40 minutes to cross Parent Lake.
Moving to the west side of the portage we sat and checked the maps and picked the northside of the big island as our first goal. It provided the shortes crossing of big waves in that stretch. The crossing was uneventful. Given the challenge of Parent we found this stretch to be an easy paddle. We then headed to the small island just west and found a square stern canoe with a father and son fishing. They had hoped the wind would die down and were fishing. The last stretch was at a angle to the waves but we had no problems. There was a group south of us hugging the shoreline of the big island headed in and a family at the canoe landing. The family consisted of two daughters, mom and the dog in a canoe and son and dad in second canoe. The dad was standing in the water holding canoes for everyone to enter and the waves were making it extremely difficult. The first canoe was suppose to go south and to a campsite. They were blown north around a corner and we couldn't see them. I mentioned to the husband that being on his best behavior would determine his fate later that night. Low and behold the canoe with the ladies and dog came back around the corner. The dog was now in the middle of the canoe not the stern and wet. The dog was biting at every wave and paddle that came by and was having fun. Last time we saw them they were headed south along the shoreline. We just climbed out in deep water rather than using the loading dock. Unpacking we brought the pickup down close and began packing. Two young guys were just heading in, they were taking dress pants, shirts and ties off in the parking lot.
We headed back to VNO and showered and then downtown for pizza. We left town about 6:45 headed to Mankato.