BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 23 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 13
Elevation: 1230 feet
My son Remy and I, and my friend Keith and his son Charlie put our canoes into Lake one at 9:30 Monday morning after dropping off a car at the Snowbank Lake landing. Lake One can be tricky to navigate. On our way to Lake Two we turned East too early and ended up paddling about a mile out of our way into a dead-end bay before we realized our mistake. We blamed the fact that Lake One was split between Fisher Maps #10 and #4 for our error. If the entire lake had been visible at once on a single map, we would not have made the wrong turn. Once we got back on course we portaged the 30 rods into a pond and then portaged the 40 rods into Lake Two. The weather was nice, and there was a bit of a tail wind out of the West. We stopped for lunch on the shore of Lake Two. After lunch we canoed through the North end of Lake Three and into Lake Four. We stopped for the night at a campsite on the West shore of Lake Four, just North of the channel heading toward Hudson Lake. We had to battle swarms of mosquitoes as we set up the tents. We then had a nice refreshing swim. Because we had brought steaks along for the first night, we didn't go fishing.
On Tuesday morning we had a bacon and eggs breakfast then packed up camp and headed out in our canoes. As we canoed past our campsite, we realized that Remy & I had left our hammocks pitched between trees. We landed again and quickly packed them up. Once again we had beautiful weather. We paddled East and completed 3 short portages before entering Hudson Lake. The 105 rod portage into Lake Insula was exhausting! Lake Insula is a large gorgeous lake broken up by multiple islands and penninsulas. We had lunch at a campsite on a large island just East of Hudson Lake. It felt like we had a tail wind as we were heading East, and then as we turned North it seemed like the wind shifted and was at our backs once again. We navigated Lake Insula flawlessly and camped for the night on the island just West of Williamson Island. After setting up the tents and a refreshing swim, Remy & I got back into the canoe and tried to catch some fish. We had no luck! At 9PM that night, just as we were going to bed, a thunderstorm rolled through. That night I was awakened several times by the loud croaking of bullfrogs from the shallows around our island. What noisy neighbors!
By Wednesday morning the weather had cleared, but the wind was now coming from the Northwest, pretty much in our faces. We paddled to the North end of Lake Insula and tackled the largest portage of our trip. The 180 rod walk to Kiana Lake actually seemed easier than the 105 rod carry into Lake Insula. We headed onward into Thomas Lake where we really started feeling the headwind. We finally made it to the campsite just Northeast of the portage into Thomas Pond in time for lunch. After lunch we proceeded across Thomas Pond and into Thomas Creek after hiking across the famous Kekekabic Trail. We managed to easily run the rapids in Thomas Creek and avoid the 2 short portages. We camped for the night on Hatchet Lake at the northern campsite. It was cool and windy, so we didn't swim. There was lots of threatening weather going by to the North of us, but we stayed dry. After supper we canoed back to Thomas Creek to fish and look for moose. No luck on either count, but we did see a beaver swimmming.
The weather was nice again Thursday morning, but the wind was out of the West which was the direction we were heading. We portaged into Ima Lake and canoed across it. Before portaging into Jordan Lake, we watched a bald eagle sitting in a tree get harrassed repeatedly by a seagull. The narrow channel leading into Jordan Lake is quite beautiful. It is narrow like a river with big rock outcroppings. We paddled across Jordan, Cattyman, Adventure, and Jitterbug Lakes. We found the Eastern campsite on Ahsub Lake taken, so we camped at the Western campsite which had a great place for swimming in front of it. There was a very brave loon in front of the campsite who didn't seem to mind if we got close to it. We tried our luck at fishing, but only caught 1 smallmouth which was too small to eat. Between 5:00 and 7:30 that evening we saw a number of canoes heading across Ahsub Lake from Disappointment Lake to Jitterbug Lake. We weren't sure where they were planning to camp, but it was getting late.
On Friday we awoke again to good weather. We paddled the length of Disappointment Lake and portaged into to Parent Lake and then on to Snowbank Lake. It was July 4th, and as we entered Snowbank Lake the sounfd of firecrackers reminded us we weren't in the wilderness anaymore. After a brief splash war on our way across Snowbank, we made it to the landing and our car was still there. What a great trip!
Solo 2008 - a quick solo out of Lake One
October 03, 2008
Number of Days:
I finished packing up the car and headed out of Saint Paul about 5:00am. This was going to be my second solo trip and even though it was short I was pretty nervous and excited. The drive up went by without incident and mid-morning I pulled my way into Ely. I stopped at Piragis and picked up a second book to read for the trip and to look around for a little bit. I then stopped at Red Rock on the way to the landing to pick up a new paddle I saw they had on clearance and headed out to Lake One.
Two hunters were heading out at the same time, and I'm not sure they had ever done this before. They had a Wenonah MNII I think, and it was so heavily loaded that they looked to have about 4" of freeboard. If they did manage to get anything I'm not sure the canoe could have handled the added weight. They also seemed to have a hard time witht hte steering and saw them several times have to back paddle t avoid hitting a rock face or the shore. They seemed to be getting a little better at it as I passed them and I hope they ironed it out for the rest of their trip.
The weather was stunning, which I think explained why there were so many people out. I decided I wanted to at least get down to Horseshoe for the night. I packed much lighter this year than last and was able to easily single portage. To trim my little Wenonah Sandpiper, I used a small backpack in the front, with a half full CCS pack in the back. When I got to the portage I put the small pack in the CCS pack and headed over the portage. My graphite Sandpiper, though pretty small, weighs only 22 lbs so it's a dream to carry.
Soon I was making my way across Lake Three and found my way to the portage to Horseshoe. I saw a canoe stashed in the woods and figured some hunters were wandering the Pow Wow trail, sure enough I ran into them just as was putting into Horseshoe. I did wear a blaze orange cap and had a blaze orange vest lashed to my pack while I portaged. I didn't want any hunters mistaking a 13 foot black canoe for some sort of evolutionary advanced Moose that had become more streamlined and needed only two legs:) [paragraph break]
Horseshoe is a very pretty little lake. I checked out the first site on the north and it looked just fine, but I decided I might as well check out the next one as well. There didn't seem to be a clear cut winner so I choose to park it at the second site on eastern half of the lake. I set up the tent, found some wood and sat on the shore and read for the better part of the afternoon. I was reading Rob Kesslering's "River Stories" which I recommend to anyone interested in canoe adventures. I have been fortunate to get to know Rob over the past several months, and it was fun reading stories I had heard him touch on while we were hanging out during the summer.
I also took some time to snap a few photos. It was a pretty nice little site, with plenty of room for a bigger group if needed. [paragraph break]
After the sun started to retreat past the horizon it got pretty chilly, so I moved the party to the fire ring and watched the sunset while sipping some Grand Marnier, eating dinner, and reading the book. A great ending to a beautiful day.
It got cold the first night! Not sure how cold, but obviously below freezing as evidenced by by my slushy dromedary bag and the frozen puddles on the rocks in the morning. Speaking of the morning. This was simply the most beautiful morning I have ever witnessed. It was perfectly calm and quiet. As I watched the mist rise from the lake during the sunrise a moose suddenly broke the silence when it called out from the far shore. Unbelievable. I took a bunch of pictures, and while none do the moment justice, I'll let them speak for themselves.
Little did I know that by the end of the day, I would have paddled my most memorable day in the Boundary Waters I've ever had. After hearing the Moose calling out in the morning it sounded as if it was near the portage. Now would probably be a good time to mention I have never seen a moose in the wild. I have been to the BWCA at least a dozen times and every time come home empty handed in the moose department. As I walked the portage into Brewis Lake I thought to myself "maybe this will be the day I finally see a moose" As much as I wanted to see a moose, I really didn't want to run into one of the portage. As I looked down to where my next step would be a saw a nice fresh moose print. then several more in the mud along the way. I'm sure it was made by the moose I heard earlier in the morning. It may have seen me, but I never saw it.
Without much fanfair I made it into Harbor Lake, then North Wilder. The day was absolutely beautiful. As I paddled through North Wilder, I decided I'd have to come back through someday and camp there. After a short portage I was setting into the creek that runs out of North Wilder and up to Hudson. It was a beautiful little creek and again said to myself "If I'm going to see a moose this trip, I'm sure it will be in here"
I haven't paddled many streams like this. It was so quiet it hurt your ears. There was something both stunningly beautiful, and silently eery about paddling through there. The stream was often no wider than 15' or so and was surrounded by tall grasses that made you feel a little bit trapped.
I had been paddling about 15 minutes or so into the creek and as I turned a tight curve I saw it. There just above the grasses was the rack of a bull moose. I couldn't even see the body of the animal from my vantage point down in the canoe. He ran off in a trot as the antlers seemed to glide effortlessly above the grass. How something so large could move so quietly I'll never know. At this point I couldn't have been more that 20-30 feet from the bull. He took off to the east and started to grunting and bugling. Within seconds I heard a call back! There were now two very close to me, but the somewhat scary part is I couldn't see them, and I was stuck in the stream wherever it took me. I slowly paddled, not wanting startle such an animal so close. Around the next bend I saw them. A hillside cast a shadow on them and they were hard to see at first but there they were. A bull and a cow were standing on the shore very close together. I froze. I was maybe 80-100' away at this point. Then I heard a splash to my left and up pops the head of another moose! This time a calf was feeding in the stream. I'm guessing the bull saw me coming, than ran off to warn and join the other two. I managed to snap one photo during the first view of them. It isn't very good, but if you look closely you can see the two of them on the lower right, and if you pan left over the grass you'll see the ears of the calf.
I watched them for a short while, not really realizing that the slight current and my last few paddle strokes had given me enough momentum to keep getting closer to them. The bull then called the calf over to the two adults. My heart was beating through my PFD. I had a whole family of moose right in front of me! I wish would have taken more pictures, but I guess I was too caught up in the moment. At this point my momentum had brought me within about 40-50' of the group and the bull decided that was close enough. He took a few steps into the water toward be and made it clear I had come close enough. My heart went from beating through my chest to a halt. I was worried, I had them trapped. The hillside behind them was near vertical, maybe 15-20' up and they didn't seem to have anywhere to go but toward me. Luckily for me I underestimated their climbing skills. The bull again barked some orders and the cow and the calf scrambled up the hill fairly easily. Once they were up the bull turned and went up himself, thought not so gracefully. He crashed into trees with his antlers and stumbled several times before cresting the hill. There was one point he slid back down about 8 feet and I wasn't sure he was going to make it over.
I sat there motionless for what seemed like ages, though was probably only a minute. I slowly started to paddled, repeating in my head what I had just witnessed. I went from never having seen a moose to seeing three. I was in awe. It was the most amazing thing I had ever witnessed in the wild. In some respects it was unfortunate that I had no one there to share it with, but in other respects that moment is mine alone. No other person saw exactly what I saw or ever will. I'm smiling even now as I'm typing away and trying to explain what those few minutes meant to me.
Last year I ran into some moose hunters on my solo trip and they asked me if I had seen a moose. I replied "Nope, sorry I can't help you. I've never seen one up here". I decided at that point if I ran into any hunters this year, my answer was going to be the same.
After all that excitement I will admit I made a bit more noise during my time in the creek. I decided one close encounter was enough for one day.
Pretty soon I was on Hudson lake, and made my way over to Lake Four via the short portages.
I saw a few other groups, and one other solo traveler on my way to Lake Two. Almost all the campsites were open until part way through Lake Three. Then I started to notice most sites were filling up and a few canoes wandering Lake Two looking for sites. I happened to get to the site on the point right in the middle of the lake and it was open, so I though I better just take it. I set up camp, tried to find some wood down the shore as the site was stripped bare of anything that could be even remotely considered "dead and down". The previous campers had cut a live pine down and tried to burn it. I dislike the fact they did that, but I decided I could cut it up, dry it on the grate while I burned the drier wood and then burn it as the night went on. I settled into my routine of reading and sipping and snacking. To cap off such a memorable day, I was rewarded with one of the prettiest sunsets I've ever seen there. Once again pictures don't really do the moment justice, but I'll let them try.
Soon after I finished Rob's book then started in on "Three Cups of Tea" and headed to bed.
When I awoke the wind had picked up slightly, so I decided I better get a move on before it got any worse. I packed up camp pretty quick and hit the water. The other camps were silent and it was pretty cool to feel like I still had the lake to myself while the others were still in their sleeping bags.
As I traveled across Lake One, the wind picked up even more, and I was glad I left when I did. I knew the weather was supposed to turn for the worse the next couple of days and I was glad to beat it out of there. I was back to my car by about 10:00,loaded things up and headed to Ely. I stopped in the Chocolate Moose for a little breakfast before the ride home. From their loft I ate breakfast with a close up view of their moose mounted on the wall. While it obviously reminded me on my brief encounter on that creek, it was nothing like the view I had just 24 hours earlier. That view was mine alone.