BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 08 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!
Lake 1, 2, 3
September 04, 2020
Number of Days:
Author: These notes were generated by John Wilhelm after the trip.
General Comments: The trip was designed to be an adventure in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). The goal was to find an affordable adventure for me and my friends. We picked the Labor Day Holiday for a 4-day event in hopes that it would be far enough into the year that the Covid-19 Virus would be tamped down enough for a group trip. We also wanted to pick a time with reduced bugs and some fishing potential.
Unfortunately the virus did not abate sufficiently to ensure that those flying in and then back home would not increase their exposure to the disease. We had 9 participants (John, Alex, Brian, Brayden, George, Larry, Don, Rick and Brett). In the end it came down to John, George and Brian. Even though we lost participants to flying, injury and jobs we had a great threesome for the adventure.
*Venue: The choice of location was a good one. BWCA is a unique place and worth experiencing. I would go again. BW was the only option as Canada shut down access to Quetico this year for Americans. Ely, MN was easy to get to but the restaurants closed early on arrival and departure days. Brittons was a great place for a big breakfast but we should have skipped it and left earlier on the crowded weekend. I have no information to compare Ely and Gunflint options.
*Outfitter: The choice of outfitter (VNO) was mostly good. The event planning, advice and personal touch was great. The pricing for a full outfitter package ($412) was also great. VNO offered free lodging the night before we paddled. This was really a good benefit. They also had free showers after we got back. The biggest question mark was why they put 3 large men in a 3-man Kevlar canoe. Recommendation 1: We should have had a 2-man and a 1-man. I would also consider an Aluminum canoe over Kevlar. They have a keel for tracking and are heavier and sturdier in rough water. They also have higher gunnels. The tradeoffs are weight (portaging) and speed. Neither of these advantages is offset by the constant fear of tipping over in rough water. Recommendation 2: I think we can provide almost all gear and food for a trip except for the canoes. The only issue would be for those who are flying in. It might be too much stuff to bring on a plane so the outfitter is a good fall back.
*Gear: We had all the gear we needed from the outfitter. As stated above, my biggest concern on the whole trip was the decision to go with a 3-man canoe. Otherwise, cooking, sleeping, paddling, and water bag gear was all good. I like the Primus cook top and might look for one. The MSR two-bag water system worked really well. The key is getting the filter saturated for the first time then the flow improves a lot. As to personal gear, I am the only one who brought something extra. I brought my Thermarest camp cot. I am glad I did. George said he would have liked to have a camp chair. We had a 5 man tent and needed all the room. You could get by with some gear reduction if you really pushed it. This could include micro-camping with hammocks. Recommendation: travel light and think twice about bringing extra items.
*Food: The food was great. There was actually too much food for 3 people. The serving sizes are in increments of 2 so we were provided with food for 4. This meant we had additional weight and leftovers. Recommendation: put the food out on a table the night before and look at each meal. Eliminate extra food to reduce load.
*Timing: There were no bugs and the cool temperatures were manageable. It was really windy at times and it rained on us briefly on the way home. There were a lot of people on our lakes due to ease of access, holiday timeframe, and Covid vacationing. Recommendation: Do not go on a holiday weekend. A week earlier or later would have been better. If base camping, go mid-week rather than on a Friday or Saturday.
*Group Size: The odd number was a problem...but mostly because of canoeing and food. 4 people and 2 canoes would have solved both problems.
*Navigation: This was the only thing that we really argued about on the trip. It was difficult to navigate by terrain association and map alone. Some of the campgrounds were also not where they were depicted on the map or were decommissioned. We used our map with the compass and elapsed time on the trip back to EP30. This worked much better than terrain association alone. Islands become peninsulas when the water level changes and everything was farther away than we thought, especially on our first day...rookie lesson.
*Recommendation: spend more time getting oriented, consider a Sat phone or GPS, and make sure you have a good map and compass.
*Fishing: I believe that we had the right gear and lures. We could not fish from the canoe when it was loaded because it was unstable. Brain and George took it out empty one afternoon but it was still unstable given the wind and waves. I quickly decided that this was more of a camping adventure with friends and retooled my expectations accordingly. We had plenty of food so we did not need to rely on catching fish to eat. Recommendation: don’t rely on catching fish to eat or have a good time. There is plenty to enjoy and fishing should add to that enjoyment not be essential to that enjoyment.
*Portaging: We did not have any real problems with the 4 portages (2 in and 2 out). They were short and not steep. Brian gets the Lou Ferrigno award because he solo carried the canoe on all 4 portages. George and I would have tandem carried the canoe. The Kevlar canoe was a good choice for portaging, but as previously noted, not great for 3 men and bad weather.
*Camping: We stayed in two campgrounds. Both were more than acceptable. Both had a good seating and cooking area, good tent pads, good canoe access, and good latrine services. Watch out for setting up tents under deadfalls. Use a laundry line to hang things. We did not use a bear hang but probably should have. It can get windy so putting your tent in a protected area is wise. We were lucky with firewood. If we stayed longer we would have had to go looking for some in the canoe. We left the axe but took the saw. This worked okay and saved weight. Our permanent camp was very relaxing. Recommendation: Don’t be too picky when looking for a campsite on busy weekends...they go fast. Find a decent spot earlier in the day, set up and enjoy the location and the fishing.
*Clothing: I took only two pairs of everything and really only needed one of most things. I think Brian and George took more things than they needed. We had dry bags for our things. George had a pair of biking gloves that worked well for paddling. We used stuff sacks for pillows. Footgear was an important decision. I wish I had taken some sandals to wear around camp. Brain had tall waterproof boots but these would fill up sometimes. George had water shoes and I had neoprene paddling/scuba booties. We didn’t have sunburn problems. Recommendation: no cotton clothes (jeans, socks, shirts). We did not really need our rain gear but I think it is important to have it with you. Take less.