BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
April 08 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1191 feet
Snowbank Lake - 27
(No) Disappointment in August
August 25, 2006
Number of Days:
We hit the road early Friday about 1am and headed for Ely. I wanted to get to Ely by 6am when the permit station opened. There had been several posts on BWCA.com regarding the critical shortage of open campsites on Disappoint due to overcrowding. Hopefully our early start would be rewarded.
Arriving in Ely at 5:30am, we stopped at the Holiday station and picked up a couple of sausage and egg muffins. Driving up to the permit station turnoff, we discovered another car already waiting at the gate. Was this a sign of things to come? After a short wait and THE MOVIE, we were issued our permit. A quick stop for leeches at Skubes, and we were off to the Snowbank EP.
After unloading our gear at the canoe landing, we saw another vehicle pull up. It was a group of six, three adult men and three older teenage boys. This was exactly what I didn’t want – a campsite race. But the race was on! We had about a fifteen minute head start on the other group, but being that they had more muscle, I knew it would be close at the portage. We crossed Snowbank Lake under overcast skies with a pretty stiff wind in our faces. The waves at times broke over the sides of the canoe and sprayed us. It looked and felt like it could rain at any time. We made it to the 140 rod portage five minutes ahead of the other group. We double portaged without incident. As we were pushing off from shore on the Disappointment side, a man and woman were coming off in a canoe. We spoke briefly and they kindly gave us the location of a campsite on the north end of the lake that they had just vacated. We wished them well and continued on our way. We soon came across another group of three canoes headed towards the Snowbank portage. They too shared the location of the site they had just left. Two open campsites, vacated in the last hour…things were looking pretty good.
The closest open site, just vacated by the group of three canoes, had already been claimed. It was the south island campsite. A group was unloading as we paddled by. It now started to rain. The raingear came out and we pushed on. There was an open site on a peninsula on the east shore, but we opted to pass on it. We headed west to the site the couple had recommended and found it available. And it was a gem! The rain had all but stopped by this time. The canoe was unloaded and we setup camp. After a quick lunch of venison sausage on dinner buns, the food pack was hung. Then we both lay down in the tent and took a much needed nap.
When we woke up, we took some time to explore the area around our campsite (find the latrine). Then we struck out onto the misty lake to find some active fish. We put our leeches to work at the end of some home-made spinner rigs. I picked up a 28 inch pike. Ben landed a decent largemouth bass. We fished the shorelines close to camp until we got hungry, then headed in for a dinner of macaroni and cheese. That evening we stayed out fishing until almost dark, catching a releasing numerous fish. There would be no campfire tonight. We were both pretty beat when we got back to camp and went right to bed.
We woke up the next morning to a foggy Disappointment Lake. Got lots of great computer wallpaper shots with the digital camera. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal and coffee/hot chocolate, we headed out onto the lake. With the overcast skies, the smallmouth action was hot. We kept a few for the stringer. Later we went in for some smallie shore lunch with fried potatoes and onion. After cleaning up, we just relaxed around camp. Ben whittled some spears from long branches he’d picked up on a wood run. Later he took out the canoe solo and just paddled around the shallows. I was entertained by the pine squirrels cutting down and gathering pinecones and stashing them in the trees behind our tent. They were not the least concerned about the new neighbors and just went on about their business as if we weren’t even there. We also had a snapping turtle pop up several times to check things out.
For dinner we had B-Dub pizza – a recipe I’d seen on BWCA.com. It was a big hit! Later, as we headed back out for some more fishing, a couple of gentlemen with thick southern accents paddled up in a loaded canoe. They were dragging tail and looking for a place to setup camp. I steered them over to the site we had passed on a day earlier. I wished them luck. I knew their chances weren’t good. We had seen some canoe traffic earlier in the day on that side of the lake.
That evening, the still conditions were perfect for fishing top water baits. I had purchased a couple of new poppers just for this occasion. The bass could not resist. Ben landed a nice 16.5 incher off a rock pile near the island closet to our campsite - his largest smallmouth ever. I had a huge smallmouth spit the hook after going airborne. My son and I both became big top water fans after this trip. We fished until dark and then headed into camp. We enjoyed some nice conversation around the campfire. We talked about school and girls and baseball and bats! The bats were very active during this trip, zigzagging between trees and branches, sometimes passing within inches of us. We listened in silence at times to the sounds of the night. The loons were especially vocal this evening. Later I doused the coals and we retired to the tent for the night.
After breakfast the next morning, we headed back out onto the water. The weather had changed – the sun was shining. This forced us to fish the shade along the eastern shoreline. The fishing was noticeably slower. We decided to do some exploring instead. We found a marker someone had erected in a north east bay. It was a long pole anchored in a rock base. Paddling up to it, we got out and stretched our legs. This bay was chock full of lily pads and minnows. Every so often, hundreds of minnows would suddenly break the surface of the water, probably trying to escape a predator. The sky was almost completely clear now. We made our way back to camp for lunch.
After lunch we decided to take a little afternoon trip. We portaged into Ahsub Lake, paddled through Jitterbug and then walked the portage to Adventure. I snapped a couple of pictures of Ben goofing around on a rock and we decided at that point to head back. Ben wanted to do some late afternoon fishing. It sounded good to me. We both wanted another chance at a big smallmouth. I took a quick swim when we got back. The campsite had a nice gravel bottom wading area that dropped off quickly to deep water. Ben rinsed off with a sunshower.
After a spaghetti dinner, we headed back out to the island and rock pile where Ben had caught his all-time best smallmouth. As the sun got lower in the sky, the fishing heated up. We had swirls or strikes on nearly every cast. As we came around the north side of the island, Ben cast his popper next to a large rock. There was a large boil in the water and the popper disappeared. Ben set the hook and after a seesaw battle royale, landed an 18 inch smallmouth - a new all-time best. After a quick picture the fish was released. Ben was pumped! Soon the sun began to set and we headed back into camp. That night, our last night, we sat by a crackling campfire under a starry sky reliving the events of the previous days. Later, as the fire burned down, the northern lights danced faintly across the sky…a memorable BWCA night. Eventually we crawled into the tent and fell asleep.
The next morning we slept in. It was another still and sunshiny morning. After breakfast we tore down camp and packed up. I setup the timer on the camera and took a group photo, then with the canoe loaded we shoved off. Looking back at our campsite, I had that sinking feeling that I always get when a BWCA trip is winding down - sorry to leave but thankful for the experience. As we paddled across a glassy Disappointment Lake, two loons did a belly slide landing nearby, joining four others already on the water. They all began fishing together. We portaged into Snowbank Lake and found our way back to the entry point canoe landing. Once all the gear was loaded up on the vehicle, we drove towards Ely. After stopping for lunch at the Ely Steak House, we headed for home. As the Ely water tower disappeared behind us, I reached over and shook my son’s hand, congratulating him on completing his first BWCA trip. I told him maybe we could do it again some time. “Dad, we ARE coming back next year, right?” he said.
The planning has already begun.