BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 29 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1191 feet
Snowbank Lake - 27
Snowbank Lake - June 2006
June 09, 2006
Number of Days:
Big Agnes Insulated Air Core REM Sleeping Pad
MSR Whisperlite Stove and Fuel Bottle
Katadyn Hiker Water Filter
Sea Line Waterproof Bag
Granite Gear Food Pack to accomodate 15gal Bear Barrel
Generic Backpack for Fishing Tackle / Day Pack
Campmor Nylon Tarp
Permethrin Clothing Spray - giving it a try for the first time.
The drive up to Ely on Thursday took longer than expected due to road work, but we still arrived in 7.5hrs. Upon arrival at Ryan’s we were bombarded by mosquitoes, giving us good reason for concern regarding the upcoming four days. After a short search for the gear needed to compliment our supplies, we loaded up Ryan’s canoe then met up with Lynn at VNO. She set us up with a bunk and another canoe, and we promptly headed to the Ely Steakhouse for some food and brew. Once our appetites were destroyed by a late dinner, we retired back to the bunk to repack all the gear and food. When all was said and done, everyone was asleep by midnight, ready for the excursion into the Northwoods.
After a well planned and executed trip up, the entire outing looked promising. We awoke between 5 and 5:30am to close up dealings with Lynn, get directions to the Snowbank EP and make some last minute bug protection purchases. By 6:30am we were bellied up at Britton’s for the ritual pre-trip breakfast. On our way to the EP we encountered a few deer in, and on the side of the road; a promising sign of wildlife for the weekend.
We arrived at the EP and were surprised to see so many cars parked at the canoe launch lot. As we began to unload, a Canadian Waters van pulled up behind us and unloaded eight people and four canoes. I’m not too familiar with entry point etiquette, in regards to who exits first, since our trips rarely cross paths with more than ten people the whole weekend. If there is one, though, this group surely had breeched it. We suddenly found ourselves hurrying to load and launch in order to claim any available campsites before this large group could.
Tom and I were able to launch quickly and first, but as Dave and Scott departed, the large group did so, also. Our group of four and two canoes, therefore, quickly turned into a group of twelve and six canoes. Tom and I kept out front, but the other group either didn’t know better or didn’t care to hang back to observe the rules of the BWCA. One thing was apparent, though – we were all heading toward the Snowbank-Disappointment portage. The wind was a manageable 8mph from the North with gusts around 15mph, but we still did a little shore hopping to stay out of the white water.
As we arrived at the 140 rod portage to Disappointment Lake, with the group of eight on our tail, we noticed four canoes and a lot of gear unattended at the landing. One person had just left back along the trail towards Disappointment; we were assuming to get the last of his group’s gear. After about 20 minutes of waiting, with the group of eight at our sides now (re-establishing the co-mingling of twelve people), our group decided to split up the large group by landing, packing up, and single portaging to Disappointment under the assumption the group already at the portage was eating lunch, or something of the screwing around sort. It appeared the group of eight was also planning on taking the portage at the same time. Needless to say, we were all pretty irritated.
As we started the portage, we came across the first of the already landed group. When all was said and done, we passed twelve young men and two more canoes, totaling twelve people and six canoes for their group. They all seemed to know each other, so the odds they were together as a group were pretty good – infuriating me more.
Once at the landing for Disappointment, we loaded and shoved off without incident, just as others from the group of eight were showing up. With only four of us, we were able to make better time, although it didn’t matter much since we overheard them mention they were heading way past us into Ima Lake. We were soon to find out this was one of the few positives of the entire weekend.
Our plan, originally, was to straggle to the campsite towards the north end of the lake on the island, and test the fishing as we went. That plan had quickly turned into one where we’d haul ass and find ANY available campsite. En route to our desired site, we passed every other site on the lake to find they were all occupied. After stumbling around the lake a while, which can be confusing to navigate the first time you’re on it, we were able to claim the only vacant site – the Northern most one along the eastern coast.
Once on shore at our soon-to-be camp, we noticed a set of bones on a rock, picked clean and bleached from the sun. A partial rib cage of an unidentifiable animal, no doubt someone had previously relocated from back in the woods to a shoreline rock, but the presence of old wolf scat near the tent pad still gave everyone pause. Another perpetually interesting wildlife encounter associated with our camp was the large abundance of dragonflies and black and white butterflies.
We set up camp at a leisurely pace since it was still early, pumped water, kept house a little, had lunch, then attempted to do some fishing. We caught nothing, but chalked it up to the time of day (midday) and the weather (unseasonably warm and sunny). The bugs at camp and on the lake were not nearly as bas as in town once we were doped up. The flies were large, but didn’t land nor bite, which was fine by us. We retired to camp for dinner and attempted a little shore fishing. I turned up a nice walleye, and Dave, Tom and Scott some smaller smallmouths, but all in all nothing to fill our pans. With the rest of the weekend ahead of us we decided to call it a night and turn in fairly early – around 11pm.
Distance in: 5.3mi
We, all awoke reasonably early to calm waters, so we tried some shore fishing, which turned up nothing again. The night was frigid, even for mid-June, so it was tough to guess what the day’s weather had in store. It turned out to be very sunny, mild and windy. We ate a decently sized breakfast and packed up for the day to fish. I had heard Disappointment Lake was appropriately named in regards to fishing. I had also heard it was ironically named in the same regard. A full day’s worth of fishing from canoe proved the former. Tom would boat a six inch smallie every now and again on his Gander Mountain special lure. Scott, in the process of boating a small rock bass, boated a five pound northern instead. Let it be known the best bait is live bait, preferably still on your lure. Other than those cases, the fishing was far from noteworthy. The action did pick up a little in the evening, but in the form of a sparse, tiny smallmouth bite.
We retired back to camp to lament on the day, with Scott later noting that 24oz of booze, per person, isn’t enough for when fishing sucks. I, with my Tullamore Dew, and he, with his vodka Kool-Aids, forgot about the fishing; for a while at least. We turned in about midnight with another cold night ahead of us.
More of the same. After breakfast we decided to take the canoe out fishing only around camp, so when we deemed the fishing to officially suck, which it did, we would be able to come back in to camp quickly. After another sunny day with a sparse early smallmouth bite, we were back at camp by 2pm to work on our canoes we had been whittling for the past two days. We continued to see canoe after canoe float by camp, as I realized this was definitely one of the most traveled areas in the BWCA.
Another dusk fishing excursion turned up better photos than fish, and we were promptly back in camp to unwind from, basically, nothing. More tales by the fire and a couple more drinks and we called it a night, oddly already looking forward to the trip back to Madison.
We awoke fairly early to pack up camp and get moving, as we had engagements to make on-time back in the “real world”. We were loaded and paddling by 8am, and with the now Southern wind, we made the Disappointment and Snowbank paddles in about an hour. On the way out, Tom and I crossed paths with a father and son coming from Parent Lake to Disappointment, and we briefly chatted on the disappointing fishing we experienced the past few days. We told them not to take our word, though, as we are far from professional angers. After loading up the van and downing a relatively cold (for four days in a closed van) Canadian brew, we were headed back to Ely to drop off all rented and borrowed gear and make the seven hour trip back to Madison.