BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
November 13 2019
Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1191 feet
Snowbank Lake - 27
June 18, 2011
Number of Days:
I guess you could say the trip North began after first fishing the keys to the car out of my Mom's rhubarb. To make a long story short, we borrowed a vehicle that had just come from the shop since the last family trip we took ended up with me leaving my dead engined car (I was assured by the mechanic it was simply the old girl's time to go) in a mountain town in Idaho. May it rest in peace! [paragraph break]
After getting the other two party members and packing the last of our stuff, we got a relatively early start Saturday and put in at Snowbank lake. There were a ton of EPs to choose from, but this is the point from which I took my first BWCA trip so many years ago. I musta thought, heck, since this is Anthony's first trip, why not burn out his shoulder muscles paddling across a huge lake right from the word go? It was interesting having somebody brand spanking new along because we take a lot of things for granted now that we didn't really appreciate before.[paragraph break]
With a few portages and lakes behind us, we got in a tiny bit of fishing. In the past we did a lot of paddling which I love and am happy with, but I was bent of doing a considerable amount of fishing this time to see just what was in those lakes. Anthony cast in between some downed trees and a Northern struck repeatedly, missed, and ended up with my lure in his mouth. I wanted to keep and eat everything but we still had a bit of a ways to go and the guys had a healthy dislike of the Y bone potential. It went untested, but I think I can filet them out..
We paddled through Disappointment, that night we slept on Jordan and woke up the next morning to rain.
We were always taught when it rains, to never pack a tent wet, but on this trip, we would have gone nowhere if we hadn't done some of that. We managed the moisture the best we could in carefully chosen relatively dry sites, and ultimately probably wouldn't have moved had the rain poured down on us or had it rained continually to the point the temps finally dropped (which it did the last day). We spent a lot of the day trying to wait out the rain, leaving little time for travelling. That night we slept on Hatchet, which was the sloppiest I'd ever seen it with people's trash and handmade statues, with more rain that evening. We woke up the next day to a tent sprinkled in mayflies. Greg making dinner!
Anthony, here more than happy to strike a pose! (Disclaimer: I take full responsibility for the frame pack, any other glaring inefficiencies standing in the way of a streamlined fashionable BWCA travel style, but we made it work and could do all our portages in a single trip!)[paragraph break]
Tragedy struck that day in a form I least expected. We decided to do try some trolling for trout. With our line out and us gently moving along, Anthony suddenly says "I could learn to love this." Other fisherman begin moving into the area and then I hang up on a rock. No big deal, so we start to turn the canoe around slowly and then bang, I see the line shoot up the rod towards the rod tip! I sense all my line and lure is gone forever when magically a tiny knot is tied around one of the last eyes and holds tight. I grab the line, and hopeless amateur I am, start putting it in the bottom of the canoe in a big pile. Well that big pile becomes a big knot and we had to pull to a campsite to fix it. I'm in the right place. I know how to get down to the fish. Other people are working the same area, when I hear just the happiest guttural "Yeah!" come from out across the lake. I know what the guy's got, so I work harder at the knot. Not much more than five minutes later I hear "I got another one!" I think I'm going to die now, and irrationally I consider chewing the knot to pieces with my teeth. Well, that knot took two days of my precious time before I gave up on it, and we left the spot, me pouting. Through Fraser up to Kekebabic, we really got into a groove, and covered lots of ground. The weather was relativey nice and Anthony really loved, loved, loved the change from flat to granite cliffs landscape. Kek was gorgeous, the stars came out that night, and Greg was game for some cliff diving. [paragraph break] Then came the wind.
We woke up to it. Blowing wind from the East made the lake an unpredictible swirl of waves then whitecaps. Again we sat tight waiting for the weather to change. We tried to leave later that day going right into the wind. The waves were big, we took on a little water, but it wasn't til we reached the point that it sorta became madness. We stopped, walked over the hill, and things looked bearable. Another group had come up the other side of the lake and sat waiting to see what we were going to do. We tried to keep going (Anthony in front, which turned out to be a bit too freaky for his experience level)and then the wind churned the water into a wild chop. I got out voted and we turned around and went back to camp. It wasn't much fun resetting up camp, and I watched from the fire ring to see how the other group was going to reach the opposite portage and campsite side of the lake. They crossed nearly horizontal to the wind which was terrifing to watch but they apparently made it. More rain plus wind that night.
In the morning Anthony asked me what the plan was for the day, and where we were going to stop for the night. I told him our only goal was to get off the lake without tipping. With a little more experience with the conditions and more determination than ever to escape Alcatraz, we went West with the wind, and white knuckled the ride along shore to the Pickle lake portage. The guys seemed to like the Hawaii Five-0 factor, but I was incredibly relieved to get ashore dry! We had wanted to go to Knife, but with the conditions, went through the smaller lakes to Missionary through more rain to our next campsite. The wind blew all day, our boots got wet again, and after days of rain/wind, things began to get cold. We started a fire, Anthony climbed into the tent, (He has more survival sense than us at times!) and an epic boot drying fest began. Then the talk about leaving early began. I love toughing it out to the end, but we spent so much time making fires with wet wood, drying stuff, etc, that I could see the upside to eating in Ely!
The next morning we agreed to go and loaded up the canoe. For the first time in days we actually got to talk to other campers on the portages, who all had their own tales to trade. Up to Vera, then to Ensign and out through Boot to Snowbank. Getting into the canoe at Snowbank, we were all a bit lazy and spent. With me in front, Greg in back, Anthony standing on the rock landing placed a booted foot into the center of the canoe. The next thing I saw was the water below and the solid rock that was about to brain me. My only thought was "We're going in." Suddenly we lunged away from the rock to the left and after a small but obvious and unneccesary reminder that we don't stand in the canoe, continued out into the lake. I pretty much thought we'd have to turn back if the wind did anything like it did on Kekekabic, and I was super nervous about crossing the big lake, especially after nearly tipping at the portage. It was only moderately wavy near the center and the guys decided that was an excellent time to sing "Old McDonald Had a Farm." My phD candidate brother and teenaged cousin! It made me laugh, it was so sudden and out of context![paragraph break]
Finally we pulled up to the parking lot, got our stuff loaded in a fraction of the time it took us to get it out the first time, and discovered the cache of candy we'd left in the car for the return ride! In a car helplessly steeped in humidity from our wet gear, we headed to the outfitter to return the canoe. An epic shower later and we were off to dinner. The only thing left for me to wear pants wise was a pair of bright pink flannel pants. Yeah that was me if anyone saw that... The guys ordered a huge burger each, both getting an additional patty, and enthusiatically high fived each other every few minutes. With a restuarant meal, an epic shower out of the way, and a warm bed coming you'd think I could forget about our trip. But we were already talking improvements and shooting for an August trip with miraculously good weather. I think the kid will come with us again someday, and that's the yardstick I'm using for this trip.