BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 19 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1191 feet
Snowbank Lake - 27
The Trip From Hell
June 21, 2002
Snowbank Lake Only
Number of Days:
It had just been about two months earlier that Beth had conned me into going on this crazy crusade that she, in turn, had been talked into by her boyfriend and his two buddies. Having moved from NY to MN, I had never been camping in my life, not even in a back yard, and had never seen an animal that wasn't in a zoo. Somehow she got me to agree to go along and a month after graduation, there we were sitting in Aksel's driveway. No one had a clue what they were doing except maybe Kevin who had been the master behind our camping excursion. Kevin, Aksel, Ryan, and Beth had planned the trip as a last hurrah before college. We had the diesel van loaded up, hooked to our trailer carrying our vessels. Kevin's car finally came up the driveway but when he stepped out, he didn't look so good. He was really sick and wanted to call the trip off. If Kevin wasn't going, no chance I was either, he seemed to be the one that knew that most about what we were doing. The guys pretty much forced him to get his stuff in the van and quit his whining. The whole drive up to Ely the back doors of the diesel van were open while Kevin laid on the floor puking out the back with Ryan and Aksel holding onto his ankles so he didn't fall off. Great start. We finally made it up there but it was dark. We found a place by the side of a back road in the wood somewhere and pulled the van over. Very safe, I know. We blew up and air mattress and crammed into the back of the van. The air mattress, of course popped from the weight of five people. This was the worst nights sleep I have ever gotten. I was scared of what lay ahead, real scared.
We got going late in the afternoon after getting our permits and taking our sweet time in town. Finally, the five of us put our two canoes in the water of Snowbank lake and prepared to set off into the wilderness. I was in the middle of the canoe with Ryan and Kevin paddeling. We were all tired but somehow pushed on to Boot Lake. Originally, we had planned to make a huge loop on lakes that I can't even remember, however that never happened... We started the portage to Ensign Lake which was so exhausting for people who were out of shap and had not gotten any sleep. This 220 rod portage was made even worse by the fact that we brought the crappiest gear and way to much of it. Like I said, we didn't know what we were doing at all so we had borrowed some canoes which I think are the heaviest canoes known to man. We ended up having to do this portage twice to transport all of our crap. This portage was mean too, just when we thought we were going to die, a glimmer of hope appeared when we saw water. This was not the portage though, just a a teasing lake, what a dirty trick. The black flies were everywhere. They gathered like black clouds and were all over you if you stopped moving, so we continued on. We finally made it to ensign which was crowded. Just our luck, we seemed to have picked the week to camping that ever boyscout troop in America had chosen. Sweet. We found a site and set up camp, meanwhile the clouds were getting dark. The wind started to blow fiercly and out campsite had no protection from it.
After another crappy night of sleep, we awoke to find all of our stuff soaked, our gorp eaten by squirlls and Beth was sick from whatever Kevin had. We spent a whole day at this crappy campsite trying to nurse our wounds. I was ready to head back but the guys wanted to push on the next day.
Finally, a good night of sleep. We left our crappy campsite and pushed on to Ashigan, Cattyman, Gibson, and then Jordan. On one of these portages, can't remember which but I think its Cattyman, there is a water fall which is really nice. It would have been better if it wasn't crowded by the boyscout troop from hell. Seriously, 14 year boys with their scout master drinking glass bottles chalk full of alcohol. I am no expert but something tell me they weren't trying to earn a badge. This was by far the best part of the trip. Our campsite was secluded and huge. There was also lots of things to explore and even a nice trail to the biffy. We decided to revamp our trip after realizing that what we had planned would take too long. We decided the next day we would do disappointment mountain and then leave the following day. We spent the remainder of our day swimming and hiking. We even found a really cool cave. The picture is from the following year when we returned to this campsite, but this is what the cave looked like.
We set our sites on disappointment mountain but before we left our Jordan Lake campsite, disaster struck. Our canoe had sprung a monsterous leak. We tried to patch it, but were unsuccessful. Ryan ended up with fiberglass all over his hands that stayed for days because we didnt bring any gloves. Our canoe was taking on water fast. We put most of our gear in the other canoe but I couldnt fit so I had to sit in the middle of the leaky canoe. We decided we should just head for Snowbank and get out of the BWCAW before we died. The weather was horrible, windy and rainy. I was soaked up to my waist, desperately bailing the canoe with a pot. We decided we should ride out the night on Disappointment Lake. I tell you, this lake lived up to its name. There were no campsites available. We stopped to dump out our canoe and kept pushing on. We finally made it to the portage and quickly made it to Snowbank. The water was choppy and a few times I honestly thought I was going to die either by drowning or from hypothermia. Somehow we made it to the van, loaded up and left. This was my first ever camping experience and it was really really bad. I laughed, I cried, I actually cried alot, and the next year I returned. On that trip, I vowed for a better trip where I would be dry. Kevin put our canoe in the water with me inside and all of our gear and then our canoe capsized...but that's another story.