BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 26 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1392 feet
Farm Lake - 31
First Visit to Boundary Waters
September 03, 2006
Little Gabbro Lake (33)
Number of Days:
Sunday morning by 7:30, we were up and ready for our boat tow to Entry 31. It was a calm, beautiful morning and in no time we were paddling up the North Kawishiwi River, captivated by the surrounding beauty. We reached our first portage, listed as 170 rods, which brought us to Clear Lake. We had no problems as adrenaline and enthusiasm were at a high point. The portage was initially uphill then leveled off before descending to the banks of Clear Lake. By then we were realizing how warm the day had become (low 80’s) and how pretty and quiet Clear Lake appeared. John had marked a couple of sites for us to check out and after exploring our options, chose a very nice site that provided great views of the lake along with privacy and easy access for our boats. We set up camp and then went fishing. The Northerns were cooperative and Jeff had one that hooked itself badly so we decided to try it for dinner. I tried a fillet style recommended for Northerns which worked beautifully. It was a great dish to add to our dinner and we all agreed that fresh Northern make good table fare.
We had chosen early September for our trip due to lack of bugs, a full moon and diminished crowds, and we realized all three. We had great fireside conversation and good drinks, then retired for the night. We had already decided to lay over another day.
We woke to sun and a beautiful mist coming off the lake. It was a captivating sight and we made sure to get some photos. We had a great breakfast of fresh eggs, hash browns, bacon and coffee. It was apparent it was going to be another warm day, so we dressed accordingly and planned our day, which was more exploring and fishing. Once again, the Northerns were cooperative and then we discovered a cove where the smallies were aplenty. This time, we were able to return all fish. It was a great holdover day, with good fishing and swimming, and fantastic weather. After dinner, we once again had great fireside conversation, along with good drinks and a beautiful full moon. We decided to break camp in the morning and move on to the Kawishiwi River, Little Gabbro and Gabbro Lake.
We woke early and realized the weather was going to be a carbon copy (dating myself) of the previous day. As we were breaking camp, I realized that I really do prefer setting up rather than breaking down camp. We were on the water by 9:00 AM and had no trouble finding the portage; it was right where the map indicated. It was a relatively easy portage until the very end, as beaver activity had made the final 10 rods wet and mucky. The put in was shallow and we pushed the canoes until we were out deep enough. The river is quite beautiful, with new sights at every turn. We were able to avoid a portage by following our outfitter’s suggestion. John had said to stay right of the islands, which was great advice. We followed a narrow channel, just wide enough for a canoe. I suspect this would be difficult, if even possible, during periods of high water due to strong currents.
From the Kawishiwi River, we took our second portage to Little Gabbro. This portage was more uphill than down, but overall not bad. There was a nice sandy exit. Before exiting, we checked out an old dam from logging days and then continued on to Little Gabbro, looking for the channel to Gabbro Lake. We were greeted with a wonderful view of a nice size lake, but also a stiff breeze. We continued on to a site suggested by John but found it occupied by a good sized group. So we paddled on, looking for another site John had marked. We found the site, it was open and indeed it was a great site – plenty of room for our two tents, plus a tarp, with the fire grate and sitting area overlooking the lake. Also a good tree for hanging the food packs and a boat landing that was a rock slab that slowly rose out of the water.
After settling in, we took a swim to refresh and finally broke out the fishing poles. Fishing was slower that afternoon and the fish were smaller but still big enough to keep our interest.
On a trip to find firewood, we saw evidence of a fire years ago (discovered later the fire occurred 10 years ago) and also the skeletal remains of a monster Northern (over 40”) on the edge of the shore. One can only guess what may have caused its demise. On the way back from our wood gathering, we again dropped our fishing lines. We were convinced that the warm temperatures (still low 80”s) had driven the fish deeper. Just as we were verbalizing that conclusion, a Bald Eagle circled nearby, then swooped down to pluck a large fish right off the surface and fly off with his catch. So much for our theory.
Back at camp, we had a leisurely dinner, then sat around the fire, drinks in hand, noting the many enjoyments of the day. We had previously decided that we would base camp from Gabbro Lake if we were happy with the site. As noted, the site was great so we planned to stay for three nights. The full moon continued to light up the woods and we eventually made our way to the sleeping bags.
We woke to another bright, sunny morning. Before breakfast, Jeff and Sara went off for some early morning fishing and the hope to see a moose or two. They returned without finding the big one or any signs of moose. Since we were not breaking down camp, we had a great breakfast of French toast, bacon, coffee and juice.
The day was spent paddling around Gabbro, fishing often with some success but no sign of Walleyes. Back at camp, we took turns using the Sun shower and then hung around camp, reading and basking in the warm sun, as well as completing the chores of wood gathering and water filtering.
Late in the afternoon, storm clouds started gathering and while they were distant, they appeared to be heading in our direction. So we secured the tents, put up a rain tarp and made sure all gear was protected. We had an early (and quick) dinner of Mountain House Spaghetti. The storm hit within minutes of our hasty dinner . Sara and I took refuge in our respective tents while Jeff and Bette stayed under the tarp for a short time, but as the lightning strikes came closer, they both made a dash to the tents also. The storm subsided after an hour and a half, and we emerged from the tents briefly but rain started again (this time no thunder or lightning) so we retreated to the tents for the night. No campfire or drinks tonight.
We woke to gray skies, very cool temps and a lot of wet gear, which fortunately dried easily throughout the morning. We treated ourselves to a hearty breakfast of pancakes, bacon, cocoa and coffee. During breakfast, we planned our day’s activities and also discussed that this would be our last night on Gabbro Lake as we planned to move on the next morning. We hoped we would see the moon again and enjoy another campfire.
We spent the day exploring Gabbro, wetting our lines frequently, and stopping for lunch on a pretty little island. We got back to camp about 5:30, began preparation for dinner and watched more storm clouds begin to gather. As we watched dramatic cloud formations approach, we decided to delay dinner until the storm passed. Optimistic thinking on our part, but it worked – apparently we were on the very edge of the storm as it rained for only 10-15 minutes. We were able to have (what we thought would be) our last night at that site sitting around the campfire, talking about our wonderful first experiences in the BWCA No moon tonight but when we hit the sleeping bags, we fell asleep listening to the call of a solitary loon.
It was a cold 36 degrees and foggy at 7:00 AM. We had planned to break camp that morning and spend our last night at a location closer to our exit point. Because of the temperatures, we wanted a warm and hearty breakfast which we accomplished by having oatmeal, coffee and cocoa. None of us had much desire to break down camp as we really liked our location. But we also wanted to see more of the BWCA. We had started a fire to keep warm so as we drank our coffee and cocoa, we discussed our options and finally took a vote – stay or
move on. It was unanimous that we would stay for our last night but we wanted to do something different. Jeff broke out the maps and after discussion we decided to take a trip to Bald Eagle Lake.
As we set out, after dousing the campfire and packing our lunch, we again had a great view of another Eagle coming down and picking a fish off the lake surface. The breeze was to our backs as we approached the connection from Gabbro to Bald Eagle. The low water level meant we had to exit the canoes and line them through the water until it was deep enough to jump back in.
Once on Bald Eagle, we did some fishing but found we were more interested in exploring. After paddling for some distance, around numerous islands and coves, we picked an unused camp site to rest and have lunch. It appeared that the site had recently been used, with debris in and around the campfire. We were able to clean up the site, and enjoy the views. From that location, as we looked across the lake, we could see the edge of where the Pietro Lake/Turtle Lake fire had come quite close to the edge of Bald Eagle Lake. The area will take a while to recover.
The weather had turned sunny but windy as we pointed the canoes in the direction of Gabbro. We were able to use the islands on Bald Eagle as a buffer until we reached Gabbro, where we were facing right into the wind. It was a tough paddle back to our camp site.
We spent our last night as we had spent most prior nights, with conversation and drinks around the campfire. This night, the fire was more for warmth than ambiance.
Another beautiful morning, with fog and mist rising from the water. It was cold but we kept warm working at breaking down camp and ensuring we left no visible evidence of our stay. The day before, after returning from our excursion to Bald Eagle Lake, Jeff and I had secured fire wood for the next fortunate group to choose that location.
We loaded the canoes and set off for Little Gabbro Lake and our exit portage at entry point 33. Once on Little Gabbro, a canoe with a couple and a dog were 5 minutes ahead of us. As they reached the shore, the young lady stepped out of the canoe and found herself up to her knees in mud. The low water had left us yards short of good footing. Her partner turned the canoe to a small weed infested channel and was able to maneuver to more solid footing. It was easy to wait for them to unload and follow the drier way ashore.
The portage from Little Gabbro to EP33 was listed at 200 rods but seemed longer, maybe because we really didn’t want to leave. We reached the parking lot at the predetermined time and our pick up was right on schedule. As we took seats in the van, our driver pointed to a small cooler, packed with cold beer and soda. Now that was completely unexpected and much enjoyed!
Back at North Country Canoe Outfitters, we showered and changed into regular clothes before heading into Ely for some sightseeing and dinner. We enjoyed the friendly people and interesting shops, as well as dinner at the Grand Ely Lodge. We had drinks on the deck, overlooking a pretty lake, before moving inside for dinner.
Conclusion: As we have had time to reflect upon our Boundary Waters trip, we realize it was indeed a special experience. The weather was great, the scenery fantastic, and the wildlife so enjoyable. Although we did not see any of the larger mammals, we enjoyed the eagles, ospreys, cranes, turtles and the boisterous loons. Even the little critters - garter snakes, chipmunks and squirrels - were entertaining.
We feel we saw a great deal during our first visit and know there is still so much more to discover.
The four of us each had a wonderful experience and we are closer for our time together. Visiting this website has more meaning and always helps to bring us back to "our time in the Boundary Waters".
We are already planning a return trip, but this time it will be just Bette and me. Sara was fourteen weeks pregnant when we went on this trip so next summer they will be busy being first time parents, and their canoe tripping in the BWCA is on hold for a few years.
Our late August 2007 trip will definitely include a return to Ely, the North Country Canoe Outfitters and most definitely another visit to “Brittons” for breakfast after our 6 day BWCA trip. You can all expect to be asked for information and suggestions once I have my entry point permit secured. I am indebted to this site where so many have given helpful information, both directly and indirectly. Thanks to all who have given information and made suggestions for our first trip – you and this site are tremendous supporters of the Boundary Waters. I hope to return the favor.