BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 28 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 7
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!
A jaunt around the numbered lakes with Julia Child
July 26, 2006
Number of Days:
The morning dawned mild and sunny. We rolled out of bed with great anticipation, although we’d been
up way too late the night before. My goddaughter Alex had driven up from Kansas City to join us on our
annual “family” trip, and we’d stayed up pouring over maps, menus, repacking her gear, and loading
car. Alex hadn’t been to the B-Dub in many years, and had borrowed most of her gear from my pile of
retired equipment- a rain poncho, polypro long johns, and my ancient ex-kitchen pack(a choice that
would come back to haunt us). I take several trips each summer, but one is reserved for a fairly large
group of kids and adults, and this was it. Soon my friend ML drove in with her car loaded down and her
kids bouncing around in keen anticipation. Our group this year numbered 7- myself and my hubby Bob
(both 47), my son Jesse(23), Alex(also 23), ML(45) and her 2 kids Jules(12) and Aurora(10). We had
planned to have 1 more adult and his canoe(my friend Gary), but he’d had to pull out at the last minute,
so we were down to 2 canoes- a tight fit but we’d make it. We did one last quick gear check and
north to Two Harbors for a big breakfast at Judy’s Cafe- a tradition for this crew, as hungry kids are
Soon we were back in the cars, blasting up Hwy. 2 towards Ely, where we picked up a couple life jackets
from the nice folks at Voyageurs North and extracted the kids from the gift shop. We headed over to
ranger station and the young folks watched the video while us old folks talked to the ranger and got
permit. I picked up an interesting tidbit of info from the ranger- those cryptic numbers on the latrines
actually identify the campsites on each lake in case of an emergency. Good to know! Again, the children
were forcibly extracted from the gift shop, and before we knew it we were pulling into the landing on
Lake One. It was a pretty late start, but I’ve learned to just roll with the punches where kids trips are
concerned...I had hoped to get to Lake Four today, but I was starting to have a sneaking suspicion that
this was not in the cards, since it was already noon.
We decided to give everyone a chance to paddle and portage a bit, so we took the route through
Confusion Lake, with it’s 3 short portages. It definitely slowed us down, but it was good for the kids to
stretch their legs frequently after sitting in the car for 2 hours! Besides, it’s really a pretty paddle with
several breaks, so the kids could paddle some of the short hops, and I like Confusion Lake. By the time
we cleared the final portage out of Confusion, everyone was pretty hot and hungry and we started
looking for a campsite. Just when I was thinking that we were going to have to portage into Lake Two,
we lucked out and found a sweet little spot tucked behind a peninsula/island on the East side of the
lake. It had a huge standing stone- our own personal Stonehenge. The tent pads were sort of sloped,
but workable, and we piled out of our overloaded canoes and laid into a quick lunch of trail mix,
The kids went swimming and we set up camp. We soon discovered that we had a camp “host”- a
voracious red squirrel who got named “Sam”.....I’m not sure why. Sam would climb into the bear barrel
it was left open for a minute, so we had to be on our toes. Jesse, Aurora, and I went off in search of
wood and hit the jackpot- a huge jack pine across the bay had fallen years ago and pulled down it’s
smaller neighbors, so there was loads of dry wood waiting to be sawed up and brought to camp. Alex
snapped this shot of us returning and christened us “Paul Bunyan and his Babes”!
Dinner is everyone's favorite part of these trips- we eat like kings and I had pulled out all the stops this
year, thanks to some great ideas I’d gotten from the camping recipe forum. Our first night pretty
standard- burgers , cheesy rice, and peach cobbler for dessert. I made a pot of coffee in the french
press and hot cocoa for the kids, and we sat around the fire watching the lake fade into the night, and
the beavers who were busy ferrying sticks around the bay.
I was awakened by the sound of people moving around the campsite....guess my new job working
overnights at the Emergency Vet Clinic has ruined me as far as being the first one up! I was last up
every morning on this trip..weird but true. Anyhow, I got coffee and breakfast going while the rest of
the crew packed up camp. Breakfast was scrambled eggs with ham and fried potatoes, bagels toasted
over the fire, french press for the grownups and "crappucino" for the youngsters. We discovered last
year that 1/2&1/2 can be frozen, which has improved morning coffee for us- it separates but otherwise
suffers no ill effects, so if you don't mind it looking odd it tastes just fine.
We waved goodbye to Sam and headed for the "freeway", as we affectionately dubbed the portages
between Lakes One and Two. After the relative quiet of the portages around Confusion, it was a shock!
We spent a fair amount of time trying (in vain) to comply with the 9 and 4 rule, and finally just made a
break for it. As we finished the second portage, Alex's pack finally gave up the ghost...after 20 years of
service, the straps broke. I managed to tie them back to the pack, but it was clear that this pack wasn't
taking on many more portages. We talked about it and decided that with the congestion and the pack,
we would hunt for a base camp and take daytrips for the remainder of our trip.
We paddled through Lake Two and into the start of Lake Three, and saw a beautiful site perched up on
a big outcropping of granite just as Lake Three begins to open up. Some members of our group wanted
to try for an island campsite, but we agreed to drop most of our group off to hold the spot while Jesse,
Alex, and I paddled around to check it out. Sure enough, every site we passed was taken- and it was
early in the day, probably before noon. By the time we got back to camp, the kids were busy swimming
and we decided that this was going to be a fine base camp. The tent pads were shady, the kitchen area
was flat and out of the afternoon sun, and there was a huge white pine gracing the latrine. I set up 1
tent while Bob and ML set up the other, and Jesse and Alex went off in search of wood. We lounged
round camp eating beef jerky, gorp, and oranges, taking naps in our shady tents, and getting settled. I
was astounded at the shear volume of canoes that kept pouring past our camp....I have no idea where
all those folks camped that night!
Finally the kids started looking kinda hungry again and we got dinner going- a huge pot of chicken wild
rice soup and fresh biscuits with butter. It had been a hot day but the night was pleasently cool and we
fired up the french press again. We hung out by the fire drinking coffee and telling stories- the kids
never tire of hearing stories about the old folks when we were young, especially stories about my
adventures on the canoe trails as a kid. Night descended and the stars came out, and eventually the
kids got tired and went to bed....we weren't too far behind them.
We were a little slower getting out of bed this morning- Alex and ML were not accustomed to getting as
much of a workout as we'd had and were both feeling pretty sore. This ended up being a layover day.
We had a couple leisurely cups of Joe, and I made apple pancakes for breakfast with butter and maple
syrup. Somewhere during this process, we discovered that one of the lovely cedars in our kitchen area
had a nest of paper wasps living inside of it! Wasps were busy flying in and out of the base of the tree.
One member of our group, who will remain nameless, thought it might be possible to burn, smoke, or
otherwise exterminate the little buggers, but commonsense prevailed and we realized we'd just have to
co-exist. In the guilty party's defense, s/he HAD just been stung, hard, on the ankle at the time that the
murderous thoughts transpired!
We spent the better part of the day playing water Frisbee, laying in a large supply of firewood, going
over the route for our daytrip the next day, and attempting(in vain) to catch some fish. For some
reason, we never have much luck in the BWCA, although Jules is a pretty good fisherman otherwise. We
did get a visit from the Rangers- my first ever permit check. They were real nice, and ended up knowing
Bob from the DJing that he used to do around Duluth, so we had a good chat about bluegrass, the
Grateful Dead, and music in general. We also discovered that we had a pretty active local population of
turtles, mostly painted turtles and one big snapper who got named "Big Head Todd".
Dinner was pretty simple- scalloped potatoes with summer sausage, and for dessert....peanut butter
brownies. There is nothing like a fresh, hot brownie by the fire-MMMMM good! It was too windy as
night came on to keep the fire going, so we retired to our tents for the night.
The day dawned clear and lovely, and promised to be a great day to explore! It was also Jules's 13th
birthday and we had the best meal of our trip in store for us when we returned to camp. I fried up a
huge pile of potatoes, onions, and summer sausage with melted cheese on top and we were ready to hit
the water. It was nice to be able to let the duffers stretch out in the canoes, and I resolved yet again not
to go next year without the 3rd canoe.
With the kids in the bow of the canoes, we headed across Lake Three, winding between islands and
checking out cool rocks. By the time we'd gotten to the far end of Lake Four, the kids were bushed, hot,
and hungry again, so we stopped for lunch. We swam and explored the campsite we had stopped at,
which was very pretty and already stocked with firewood for the next lucky camper. Lunch was simple
but good- crackers and cheese, spearmint leaves, and trail mix.
Jesse and Jules decided to stay put while the rest of us headed over to Bridge Lake to continue
exploring. What a pretty paddle, and a welcome change from the open expanses of the numbered
lakes- it was narrow with high banks and rocky outcrops, and I got some great photos of lichen and
this cool rock that looked like an upside down park bench. We also saw a bald eagle and a deer
drinking by the side of the water. Best of all, we were paddling back to rejoin the rest of the group
when we saw what looked like loon and a smaller duck. As we got closer we saw that it was an adult
loon and a baby- still fairly fluffy and about 1/2 the size of the adult. The adult dove and the baby
swam around pepping pitifully, then the adult surfaced pretty close to our canoe, looking mightily
pissed off. We paddled off quickly! We collected Jesse and Jules and began to paddle back to camp- by
this time it was mid to late afternoon. A group of canoes was huddled together looking at their maps,
and I paddled over to see if they needed anything. They were hunting for an open campsite and looking
pretty frustrated, so we directed them to the site we had just left and wished them well, then paddled
As I mentioned before, this was a special birthday dinner for Jules. We made 3 cheese tortellini with
Alfredo sauce, sundried tomatoes, and pouched chicken and it was stupendous! Thanks, I think, to
Arkansas Man, who suggested the tortellini. For dessert we had another suggestion from the recipe
forum- openface blueberry pie made, of course, in the jello mold oven. Holy Cow! I'm not sure I have
ever felt quite so decadent in the wilderness. We sang goofy versions of the birthday song and
treasured our last night in the woods together.
We piled out of our tents to find a different sort of day than the ones we'd had so far- rain was threatening
and it was kind of chilly. We had a good paddle ahead of us, so I knew breakfast was needed but it was
quick. While I cooked and made coffee, the rest of the crew broke camp and packed our gear. By the time
the breakfast dishes were washed and the kitchen pack was ready to go, lightning and thunder and rain
were in full possession of the sky. We huddled in the woods watching lightning strike the islands across
the lake from us and trying not to get crabby. During one break in the downpour, ML and I quickly
grabbed everyone's polypro and wool socks and made sure the kids put theirs on. Alex discovered why I
tried to talk her into buying good raingear instead of borrowing my poncho- she got pretty wet from the
knees on down.
Finally the worst of the electricity seemed to have passed us by and we piled into the canoes in the rain
and headed for the portages that would take us home. As we paddled the rain mostly quit but it was
pretty cold, and we switched paddlers a few times to keep folks from getting too cold duffing. We made
good time, and before we knew it we were coming around the final bend and the landing was in sight.
We had just got the canoes and gear loaded into/on the cars and had changed into our clean dry
clothes when the sky let loose with more rain. We headed into Ely and returned our life jackets and got
a great recommendation from Voyageurs North for a place to eat, Ely not being our usual entry point.
We had a huge meal at Verteens(sp???) and by the time we left Ely it was hot and sunny again. The miles
flew by too quickly, and before we knew it we were unloading the canoes and talking about next year.