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!
Number Chain Newbies--Guiding Five First-timers on Lakes One, Two and Three
August 06, 2022
Number of Days:
Our group all knows each other from involvement in our local Chamber of Commerce so we decided to first meet up that day at the Chamber's weekly breakfast meeting where we excitedly shared our plans with other attendees (making just a few of them slightly envious!). When the meeting concluded, we all rushed home to gather gear and then reconvened at my house where we loaded up and snapped a few photos before hitting the road to Canoe Country Outfitters in Ely. After checking in with them and securing a few last items of gear, it was off to Sir G's for pizza and beer. We then concluded the evening at the apartment over CCO's store with a few more beverages and lots of smart talk before our heads hit the pillows, full of anticipation for getting on the water early the next day.
Once I was back at the landing we were finally on our way. Paddling a canoe was new to most of us so we were not a fast group but made steady progress. After about an hour or so we made it to our first portage. As we started unloading I realized that our third canoe with Matt and Alicia, who had been right behind us, was now nowhere to be seen. As we backtracked around the first point from the portage, there they were...hung up on a rock. We pulled up next to them and transferred one of their heavy packs into our now empty canoe and that was just enough to help them float free. When we did the portage, this crew of first-timers performed like champs (again, my back was still tender so they did most of the hauling) so we were soon across and then over the pond and then past the second portage into Lake Two. Our target for the day was the southern end of Lake Three so we made quick work of Lake Two and continued into Three just as the breeze picked up and the lake got choppy. By the time we made it to the islands on the southern end of Three we had come through some whitecaps so we were ready to grab a campsite. Our first preferred site was already taken but our second choice, about a 1/4-mile away, was open so we landed there and after a quick walk uphill from the water were immediately pleased with our home for the next couple of nights. The fire grate and latrine checked out fine with plenty of options for shaded tent pads back in the trees. The best part of this site was the sweeping view of the lake and the way we were going to be able to see the sun set. After a lunch and getting camp set up we relaxed for the afternoon in our new wilderness home before enjoying a great supper and evening fire. As dusk came the hordes of mosquitoes reminded us that it was time to end our first successful day on the water and we all turned in for the night.
Fish was on the menu for supper so Jakob and I decided to check out the nearby channels for anything that would be willing to join us for our meal. Matt had brought along his fly rod so he was going to try his luck from shore. Ashley, Alicia and Debbie were content to just soak in the wilderness and the good company with maybe a few pages here and there from the books they had brought along. As Jakob and I worked the islands and channels that extended from our campsite we saw lots of structure that looked very promising. Unfortunately the fish that just HAD to be there were not tempted by what we were offering so after a few hours all we had for action was one strike that I did not get to the canoe and Jakob getting bit off once--probably from a northern when he was fishing for bass. We decided to take a break and return to camp. When we got there, we learned that Matt did not experience any more luck than we'd had. I also learned that one should really inform your fellow campers more thoroughly of your plans than just, "We're going fishing". Ashley raised a good point in that as folks who were new to this BWCA thing, they were kinda counting on me for guidance throughout the trip and my vanishing act without much idea of where to, or for how long, was maybe a bit unsettling. She was absolutely correct. That's the value of bringing new people into the wilderness: it is all seen with a different set of eyes and it amazes me that after all of the many times I've been to the BWCA, how much and how often I learn from first-timers that makes me a better wilderness camper.
It was now about lunch time and just as we were breaking out something to eat, a few raindrops fell. Once again this group clicked like an experienced crew and we had a sturdy tarp up in no time. The rain never increased beyond a few sprinkles here and there but the temperature did drop a few degrees so more hot coffee was in order. At one point Jakob and I decided to go out again for fish (this time with a more specific itinerary left with the others) but our luck was not any better than earlier. After we each got just a bit chilled by the cooler temps we returned to camp to start on supper, which was now going to be our freeze-dried beef stroganoff we had packed as a back-up meal. Debbie pronounced this dish to be rather tasty and combined with some Camp Chow cauliflower in cheese sauce we didn't miss eating fish (ok, maybe we did at least a little bit). Despite not catching anything, this beautiful campsite, camaraderie around an evening campfire and a stunning deep-red sky as darkness came, made our layover day another successful segment of this BWCA adventure.
While first glance at this cove site made it seem just "OK", it actually was quite nice with plenty room for our tents, lots of firewood right behind the tentpads and a really cool cliff that formed a backdrop behind the firegrate. There was the long latrine trail (to the top of that cliff) but other than that, there isn't a reason I wouldn't stay here again. By the time we got here it was already about 3:30-4:00. A look at the map told us that if we had chosen to travel counter-clockwise instead of clockwise when we entered Lake One earlier in the day, we would have come to this site in about 10-15 minutes and saved well over an hour of paddling! Since we had not had lunch yet, the first item of business was to ravenously dig in to our jerky and trailmix. After that I went off to gather firewood while Jakob wet a fishing line from shore (again, no luck). Matt hit his hammok for a well earned snooze and the ladies did a great job with the rest of camp set-up. Once those chores were done, Debbie and I decided to try some nearby structure that looked promising for fish. We were soon joined by Ashley and Jacob who fished from their canoe. After a few minutes, Debbie did hook into the only fish our group was able to boat the entire trip--an "eater size" northern. Since lunch had been so late and since there was already plenty of other food for anyone who wanted to eat more, we let the fish go. As the sun began to sink we decided to end the fishing and gave our left over leeches to a father/son who were camped nearby. Debbie and I had a pleasant conversation with them and then returned to camp for the evening fire and to snack on or cook whatever we wished to call supper. At this site the mosquitoes were almost nonextistent, compared to what we had experienced the previous two nights so a few of us enjoyed the fire until long after dark before turning in for what was to be our final night in the woods.
One of the distinct pleasures for me in canoe country travel is introducing new people to the BWCA and helping them experience the magic and wonder of the wilderness as I and so many others have. Based on the excited chatter at our post-trip meal of what fun they'd had, the recollection of particular highlight moments, how they want to come back, and how they'd do a trip "next time"--I'd say, "Mission Accomplished!".