BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 23 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1191 feet
Snowbank Lake - 27
3-day out-and-back to Fraser Oct. 2017
October 09, 2017
Number of Days:
By the time we had portaged to Disappointment, it was full daylight and the wind was strengthening out of the northwest. For most of the morning, it seemed like the sun was racing increased clouds from the southeast, and losing. After a mostly clear start, it turned into a mostly cloudy day.
The lakes were empty as we worked our way toward Hatchet, and our only encounter with other paddlers was a young couple, homeward bound, at the lift-over between Jordan and Ima. They warned us that, "that last lake (Ima) was a real struggle." With the wind at our backs, we had no trouble.
The baggage for this trip was two Duluth packs, neither terribly heavy, in our Wenonah Jensen 18. On all but the shortest portages, we each started off with a pack. At the halfway point, I would leave my pack to the side of the trail, and return for the canoe; meanwhile, Tammy completed the portage and then retrieved the mid-portage pack.
Our plan was to camp on Hatchet, but because neither site offered shelter from the cold wind, we pushed on to Thomas. There we took a right turn out of the portage bay, and set up camp at the first site (No. 1680), which was nicely sheltered. We changed into warm camp clothes and spent a couple pleasant hours by the fire before an early supper and then bed about 6:30 p.m.
We rekindled the fire, and took our time making coffee and oatmeal, enjoying the sun and slowly peeling off layers of down and fleece as the day warmed. Tammy read by the fire, and I enjoyed packing up camp at a leisurely pace. We were on the water at 10:30, paddled the channel from Thomas into Fraser. We paused for water and trail mix on a small island that offered a nice view, shelter from the northwest breeze, and plenty of sun.
As we snacked, we reached a near-simultaneous conclusion that this -- enjoying the view, sitting comfortably in the sun -- was our new plan for the day. We paddled about 5 minutes back to a campsite (No. 1395), unloaded the canoe and began gathering firewood. It was not yet noon. This is not our typical trip pattern; usually, we are up early and travel most of the day. As we discussed this change, Tammy and I realized just how tired we had been for the past few months, and gave ourselves permission to simply relax. Because I enjoy making camp, I worked slowly at that during the afternoon while Tammy finished her book sitting in the sun. We enjoyed our usual freezer-bag supper, took an evening paddle around a nearby bay, and sat by the fire for a couple hours in the evening listening to a ruffed grouse drum in the woods behind camp.
As we traveled back toward Snowbank the lakes remained empty except for a couples of distant eagles, an occasional raven, and a few last ducks in the marshy areas. As we paddled down the handle of Hatchet we heard the flat report of a shotgun somewhere to the south -- a hunter, perhaps after grouse or ducks.
Our plan had been to get only to Ima. But when we stopped there at a south-facing island campsite, we realized we were enjoying the rhythm of paddle and portage on this day. We resumed our journey toward the entry point and it was not until we were near the end of the portage from Disappointment to Snowbank that we suddenly felt physically spent. We had a snack, drank some water, and braced ourselves for a windy paddle back to the landing, which we reached about 4 p.m.
This was not the trip we had envisioned when we left home, but we agreed it had been enjoyable, with satisfying measures of hard work and relaxation. We had sought quiet, and we had found it, seeing only one group on Day 1, and another outbound on Disappointment on Day 3. We treated ourselves to dinner, spent the night at Ely's Adventure Inn, and the next morning headed east on Minnesota 1 toward the north shore, where we walked the Superior Hiking Trail for a couple of days.