BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
October 03 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 1.5
Elevation: 1235 feet
Little Gabbro Lake - 33
What a blast! Gabbro - BE - Pietro - Kawishiwi - Clear
June 21, 2008
Little Gabbro Lake
Farm Lake (31)
Number of Days:
Today (Saturday) was my Dad's 70th Bday so we had a small celebration and headed to Britons for breakfast 5:30a. Keegan had a breakfast plate almost as big as he was!! A quick stop to see TGO and pick up some leeches and minnows and we were off. We had a good time meeting Jim the "Crankbait King" and he gave us some good fishing advice for the boys. We hooked up with Josh at MTA and hit EP 33 by about 7:15a. We had a bit of perplexing start in that there were 3 groups entering at 33 this morning yet there were only supposed to be 2 permits granted. One group was a bit sheepish when I asked about their permit and they told some story about a screw up at the USFS. This same group also failed to show much etiquette and more or less took over the launch area despite arriving last amongst the 3 groups. We worked the portage to Gabbro and changed into our wetfoot gear. I would be paddling with Keegan and my Dad with Raleigh.
We paddled our way out of Lil Gabbro and into Gabbro heading for Bald Eagle. Our target was the first campsite in B.E. (1719) so off we went throughly enjoying the beauty and quiet. To our disappointment we reached the campsite only to find our "friends", the extra party from EP 33, occupying the site. We check around the bend into B.E. and ended up heading back into Gabbro and taking the first campsite (1717) and settling in. This is a really nice campsite which could easily support 3-4 tents. Other than seeing lots of paddlers going by we really enjoyed the site. The boys hit the back bay looking at the rapids and did some fishing. Dad and I made camp and I set to work cooking some fresh walleye and northern the boys caught for dinner. All and all a great first Day despite some sporadic rain.
Raleigh took off after dinner to the back bay to take a shot with some minnows in the weeds. Just about the time I was going to get him with the flashlight he came around the bend with a huge smile and 2 nice Crappie. He had found alot of crappie action but only kept the 2 big ones as he was worried about keeping the fish cold till morning. We spent a while star gazing and then hit the sack.
About half way through the portage you start to see the area that burned last year. Here are some pics: There are many flowers to be seen along the portage due to the fire including a rare find of 7 Lady Slippers!!! One section of the portage near where we took these pictures was very wet and at one point I was up to my knees in muck. The mosquitoes seemed to be rather hungry on this portage. We repacked the canoes and paddled the pretty little river before the next portage into Gull.
The short portage into Gull is easy from the river. We met another group heading towards B.E. and had a brief chat. We paddled to the point outside the bay that holds the portage to Pietro and ate a shore lunch. Dad went out to pump some water and to our relief the water from Gull (and Pietro for that matter) had much less tannins than Gabbro and B.E. and was much more drinkable particularly for the boys.
There appeared to be only one campsite on Gull occupied. We hit the portage to Pietro as we had hopes of possibly making it to Clearwater this night. The portage from Gull to Pietro is a mess. The majority of the portage is a swamp and due to high water it was muddy the entire way. We did find two "alternative" paths off to the right that others had used to keep you out of the muck on our 2nd trip through and these were helpful. On the Pietro end of this portage we found 2 ground bees hives. Luckily we were able to load up and get by without any stings. If you are in this area be very careful where you set packs!!! We held up about 15 yards short of the end during our dbl portage.
By the time we got through the portage we knew we were going to spend the night on Pietro. We checked all the campsites starting with the southern most and found the only real good campsite was the one closest to the portage to Camdre (1738). We had the lake to ourselves. While my Dad and I set up camp the boys tossed out some slip bobbers with leeches right off the campsite shoreline. Keegan's bobber had barely settled on his first cast before it went under with authority. He promptly reeled in a nice smallmouth. When the same exact thing happed to Raleigh we knew we had the right spot. For the next 45 minutes the boys were in the midst of a smalley frenzy as the caught and released more than a dozen fish each. We kept 4 bice ones for dinner. At one point my Dad and I just sat down and watched as the smalley jumped and fought on the other end of the boys poles. What a joy to watch!!
Pietro can be sliced lengthwise in regards to fire damage. Sadly the NW side with all the campsites is on the burnt side. Pietro must have been a beautiful lake prior to the fire. The undergrowth is well on its way back. and we saw many loaded blueberry bushes in parts of the lake. The fishing on the lake was awesome. There is obviously plenty of firewood and the 3 campsites we were able to find all had latrines. While the campistes are not pretty due to fire damage the fishing is awesome and the lake worth visiting. We finished our dinner of smallmouth and potatoes and hit the sack pretty weary with some rain starting to come down.
Once back in B.E. Keegan and I hugged the shore and got pushed by the wind backward a couple of times but we finally made it into Gabbro still pretty dry and stronger for the experience. Our intent was to grab a campsite in the B.E./ Gabbro rapids area but all were taken. We ended up paddling all the way to the other end of Gabbro and finding campsite 2135 open. We were tired and it was dinner time so were we about ready to take whatever we found. Wow, what a campsite! On a island with a beautiful view, a fire pit on a cliff looking out over Gabbro and tent pads cushioned by lots of pine needles!! Heaven sent!
Once again Raleigh took off to the opposite side of the island to fish the rock cliffs for walleye. He had good luck and caught several fish. We set up camp and ate a late dinner. While we finished up dessert the boys got to see there first Northern lights display. While it was a bit dim it was impressive nonetheless.
We wanted to try and run the rapids and skip the 120 rod portage. After a look at the rapids we realized the portage was the way to go. The first run looks like fun and very navigable but the next set 50 yards or so downstream would have been to tough for us.
We hit the portage and quickly made our way to the Kawishiwi. This portage was in great shape and easy to travel. The trip down the Kawishiwi was delightful. We ate lunch along the way and enjoyed the scenery.
We arrived in Clear Lake to the sounds of a Scout troop on the first campsite, sounded like they were having lots of fun! We finally found a campsite (1689) open and settled in with rain showers on the way. We quickly set up camp so we would have some cover and then cooked our final dinner which again included some fish. After dinner the skies cleared and we set out to fish the lake. We ended up taking several walleye and the boys got into a big bunch of panfish and smallmouth which kept them busy for an hour or so. We noticed a lot of crayfish and minnows in the lake. The boys decided they wanted to forego fishing the the next morning on Clear Lake and head back early in hopes of catching their other grandfather at our exit point before he went out for the day so they could fish with him. Grandpa Dick grew up in southern Minnesota and the boys absolutely love to fish with him. The mosquitoes were pretty brutal for some reason on Clear so we called it a night.
The portage heading toward Farm was excellent. Well traveled and very dry for the most part. We waved goodbye to our last portage, we hoped, and took a nice paddle down he river. We ran both rapids heading in that direction not needing to portage. The rest of the paddle was very leisurely, this part of the river has little or no noticeable current and we enjoyed the scenery.
The fishing was great but next time we need to spend more time in this arena. We saw at least one bald eagle every day and the list of other wildlife includes: beaver, whitetail, snakes, herons, turtles, ducks, and otters.
I know we can trim the food pack a bit and still eat like kings. We did pretty well not over packing on clothes. I think next time we will leave the lantern behind and just rely on flashlights. Good sandals and warm socks are a must and I might rethink taking boots for the portages and just do them in our wetfoot gear.
What an excellent adventure. My Dad was really excited to have gone back and truly enjoyed the trip. He convinced me that it is more about attitude than age in that at 70 years he more than carried his weight on the trip. In fact he found that he would rather portage the canoes than the Duluth packs so after the 2nd day he carried the canoes on 95% of the portages and left the packs to boys and I. The boys are already talking about next year. Raleigh called one his best friend back home the day we got out and started recruiting him for next year. I was truly amazed and impressed at my boys ability to carry there weight and help out when necessary. When I asked Keegan to "dig in" when we were in the whitecaps he gave me all he had and we made it. I suspect they both learned a lot about themselves during this trip. I can't wait to get up there next year. I think these picks say it all.