BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 31 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1191 feet
Snowbank Lake - 27
change of plans
September 23, 2012
Number of Days:
got to our entry point on snowbank early on a chilly sunday morning. the car temperature read 31 and the winds were already blowing. after paddling into the wind across snowbank we arrived at the portage into disappointment. packs felt good but the canoe was a little awkward. found a sunny site on disappointment to have a snack and warm up. we decided to camp on ahsub and call it an early day. the first site on the left up on the cliff was occupied so we took the one behind the island on the north shore. a nice site with a good tent pad and overlook of the lake. we set up and talked about our route and options. our plan for this trip was to explore the areas above south arm of knife which had to be adjusted. after setting up camp we paddled back to the portage to hike up disappointment mountain on the kekekabic trail. found both backpacking sites, one in a cove on disappointment off the short spur you come to on the right. the second one off the next spur to the left was really secluded with overlook of ahsub and our campsite. after a short hike we got a nice view of disappointment before heading back to camp. got back to camp, made dinner, had small fire and headed to the tent early.
got another early start this morning. not as cold this morning but the winds were still blowing. we bypass the falls at cattyman, figuring we'd see them on the way back. it's beginning to look like rain and the wind is picking up. we portage into jordan and decide to camp instead of attempting ima in the wind. we find a really nice site with a beach. not many miles so far. we laugh and think maybe we should just go a few miles each day. we set up the rain fly anticipating rain, and sure enough, the sun comes out. we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring and lounging around camp in the shade, as it was getting rather warm out. the winds died down and we enjoyed a great afternoon that had us hoping it would be calm tomorrow. we were ready to do some miles and get in the groove.
woke up this morning to frost covered campsite. the winds were calm and there was a thick fog over the lake. no high clouds and it was looking like it might be sunny day. we had a quick breakfast and headed out for ima. we paddled off into the fog. the water was like glass and we could faintly see the other shore through the fog. as we approached the portage out we had three otters swimming around the canoe checking us out. of course by the time i got my camera out they swam off. when we got into ima the weather turned cloudy and we started to get some spotty showers. got out our rain gear at the campsite with the big trees just to the left of the portage into ima. got through ima and into fraser without another drop of rain and chose a camp on the north shore. plenty of presplit wood for the fire. somebody was either bored or had just bought a new ax. light snow mixed with rain started coming down about the time we were heading to the tent.
woke up and had another quick breakfast. calm weather and five portages ahead of us. stopped at strup and had lunch. slipped and almost fell in while packing up after lunch. soaked one entire leg. my fellow traveler thought it was quite entertaining and was laughing off and on the rest of the day. got to kekekabic and paddled/drifted for over an hour with a light wind at our backs. we began to smell smoke today from what from what we believed to be the quetico fire. the leaves to the south were beautiful. picked the far north east campsite with the large root wad, but only after paddling to all of the other sites on that end of the lake just to get a look. at dinner we finished the fist 11oz bottle of fuel. after our first ten mile day we also used a good amount of our rationed whiskey. the temperature started to drop and we had a small fire and called it a night.
cold this morning. took awhile to get out of the sleeping bag. left some socks on top of the tent that turned quite frosty. fired up the stove immediately and made breakfast burritos. had a short paddle to the first portage and the seven more after that before we stopped. since we were told the portage into south arm was closed we paddled through eddy and headed into jenny. we found out later when we got back that the closure was probably lifted about the day we passed through. had lunch on jenny with a large swarm of bugs. seemed strange that there were so many considering the temperatures we had been having at night. found a nice site on ogishkemuncie. or as guido called it ogishimefunky. later that night we discovered that the site was overrun with mice. at one point in the evening i shined my headlamp at the boat and saw at least 20 mice scatter. mice ran over the tent and fly all night and left some presents on the barrel for us in the morning. good raise fire area and loons calling to distract us from the infestation. on the west end of the island past the privy there is a nice area to view the sunset and there was a grouse out there enjoying it with us. the short portages and the short paddles made it hard to get into a groove today. even though not many miles it was pretty tiring.
got up early and had another quick breakfast. not sure why i planned so many hot breakfast when we normally tend to get moving early. the portage into mueller was a killer. i was thinking it was the hardest so far. after a short paddle through mueller we reached what was the hardest portage yet. mueller into agamok. after walking the packs through we scouted some trails that intersected the portage. we found the backpacking camp site and the bridge over the small shut ins. thinking we could save some effort carrying the canoe. we decided to try and paddle through the open water along the portage and avoid the 100 rods into agamok. we bushwhacked through what we thought was an alternate route. walked on large ankle breaking boulders and got into the next pond only to find that it was impassible. on the positive side beautiful and peaceful area that i'm sure not many people get to experience. we turned around to go back to the actual portage and almost lost the canoe as it slid into the lake while we unloaded. luckily guido jumped for it and saved it from blowing across the lake. he was a little wet but we had the canoe. two hours later we get to agamok exhausted. we sat in the sun and had some lunch. gabimichigami was extremely still. that along with the burnt landscape created a surreal atmosphere. two years prior we had paddled this section and it seemed that very little had changed. couple more portages and we were in little saganaga. found a great beach site on the south side of the peninsula on the west end of the lake. high camp overlooking the south and a zen garden like area on the east side. it was so nice we decided that we would stay two nights and take a day off to search for the ruins of the abandoned trappers cabin on crooked. that night we heard a moose bugling and then the sound of it crashing through the woods behind camp.
slept in a little this morning of our day off. at this point it had been three days since we had seen any other people. after breakfast we started on our day trip to find the trappers cabin. no wind at all on little saganaga. saw two groups of people.... three day streak broken. nice shut ins area along portage going into mora. tarry was badly burnt with a couple of step overs. as we approached the portage to crooked we spooked a large black bear. i walked back after portage hoping to get a photo of the bear but he was long gone. our first bear sighting in the bwca. after lunch on crooked we set out to find the cabin. not hard to find considering it was right on the portage. the paddle back was hot and tiring. after a six hour twelve mile round trip we were back in camp. ate dinner and had a small fire. there was a rabbit running around our site after dark with a full moon. we had heard that rabbits go crazy in full moons and this one surely was.
broke camp and headed into makwa. a large snowshoe rabbit ran right through camp. it was starting to turn white on its feet. i've never seen that before. weather was windy and it was a good day to stop early and relax in camp. had time to try out my new solar charger and got everything charged up. probably an unnecessary item but i love trying out gear. that evening we had quite the celestial display. first the sun and the moon aligned on the horizon causing the moon to turn red. then later that evening we had an intense display of northern lights. a first for both of us. we checked the weather radio and heard that a winter storm was moving in later in the week. at this point we decided to adjust our route again and begin to head east through the small lakes back toward sagana and fraser instead of continuing south down the kawishisi. this way we'd be closer to ending if weather turned bad and avoid a couple large lakes(alice and insula). we finished off the last of the whiskey and called it a night with 380 rods of portage planned first thing tomorrow.
woke up to clear skies which quickly turned to rain after breakfast. we hustled and packed up the gear and headed out. the 100 rod into hoe wasn't bad at all. the 80 rod into vee was a swamp with large wolf and moose prints. the site on fee had a tarp hanging by only two grommets with what appeared to be a cut hang line for food. we paddled by and saw no signs of anyone around. couldn't quite figure out whether someone abandoned camp quickly or left so no one would camp there? finished the day with a long 160 rod into ledge. had a couple of rain showers. got out the rain gear and set up the tarp but again it cleared up by afternoon. it was an early night with 410 waiting for us tomorrow. little did we know it would be more!
cold and windy this morning. packed up quickly and got moving. 200 rod portage to start. had breakfast on cap. as we got into sagus the winds started to become a problem. had lunch on shepo and discussed the wind on fraser and thomas. the winds were pretty bad but mostly at our backs. we managed to get some shelter most of the way through fraser and into thomas. after a short ferry across the winds we were able to turn our backs to it and surf into the triple portage into hatchet. exhausted we chose the northern site on the east bank. this was a very nice site with a great view and some shelter from the wind. the winds continued to blow and the weather radio was calling for some nasty weather for late wednesday and into thursday. we decided that we needed to get close to the take out and possibly cut the trip short by a day.
got up early to get a jump on the weather. portaged out to ima to find it perfectly still. we go all the way through into disappointment...also completely still. the calm before the storm? we paddle onto the southern end of disappointment and stay at the camp nearest to the portage so we have a quick out if needed. we relax in camp about mid day and scrounged through the remants of the food barrel. we listen to the weather radio which is now calling for 4-6 inches of snow and strong winds starting the next day. we begin to see and smell a hazy smoke from what we later find out to be a large fire northwest of us in minnesota. last trip we stayed at this site and watched a large plane dump water on a controlled burn on the north side of snowbank all afternoon. we decided to go through with our plans to cut the trip short and get out the next morning. after sunset three waves of ducks landed on the lake. before we headed into the tent we heard lots of gunfire coming from the camp up the lake. they must have had an infestation of mice.
up early to the sound of the wind. we get up and head out through parent into snowbank. the wind was blowing from the east on both lakes as we paddle out. we get to the landing and are told by a usfs worker that the bans were lifted a day or two after we started. by the time we get back to ely the snow and winds were blowing cold from the northwest. we think we made the right choice. on one hand it would have been nice to stay out in the snowy conditions... but then again...steaks and drinks at the ely steakhouse after 12 days was pretty nice also