BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 23 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 1.5
Elevation: 1235 feet
Little Gabbro Lake - 33
EP 33 - Two Kids Under 7 Tackle the BWCA
August 02, 2012
Little Gabbro Lake
Number of Days:
We wake up bright and early at the Adventure Inn in Ely and load the last of the gear in the van and make our way to the entry point. Two friends have arrived early and taken two of our packs down the .75 mile portage before we arrive. They make a second trip with us when we arrive. One of our biggest challenges with this trip was having two out of the four people in our party under seven years of age since they would be unable to carry much. We paddle out after saying our goodbyes to our friends and a couple of pictures. The weather is perfect! It is partly cloudy and around 70 degrees. One of our first observations is people! We met someone coming out at the portage and saw quite a few canoes on the water. Our goal with the two little ones was to base camp on Gabbro Lake and not push the kids very hard. We scout the map and start looking for an island campsite since the six year old is really pushing for one. Every island we paddle to is taken. We finally stop on a small island for a snack. We soon realize that every campsite is taken. We push on to Bald Eagle Lake out of necessity. The first campsite is open! Should we push on or take it? We paddle past it but soon decide to turn around and take it. It proves to be a good choice since future explorations lead us to realize that this site is the best of the four sites on the west end of Bald Eagle. (in our opinion) We begin the long process of unloading the canoe and setting up camp. The going is slow due to the demands of the kids. The six year old is especially needy since she wants her fishing pole set up for fishing right way. After getting the six year old set up fishing we begin to set up our two tents, one for mom and the four year old boy and the other for the six year old girl and me. We set up camp and enjoy lunch on our own slab of granite next to the water. The light breeze keeps the bugs off. Mom and the kids soon get in the water to enjoy some swimming. I am a wimp and won’t get in past my knees. Those 90+ degree Georgia summer days have thinned my once thick Minnesota blood! We take a short paddle after the swim to explore some of those other campsites. This gives us an opportunity to try some casting and trolling but no luck. We get back to the campsite and mom works her magic around the stove and makes everyone dinner. This is followed by a quick fire so the kids can enjoy some smores. We then get the kids in their pajamas and read them stories in the tent around 8 o’clock. Mom and dad relax next to the water as the sun sets. Dad wets a line and enjoys a cigar and some Crystal Light laced with vodka. Who would have guessed a warm drink could taste so good? The wind has now died and this brings out the mosquitoes. The wind will not be in our favor the rest of the trip and the bugs are about to become an issue from here out. Mom and dad finally call it a night and get some rest before the next busy day.
Everyone is awake bright and early. The day begins with breakfast as we start to plan the day’s activities. We spend the first half of the morning around camp enjoying the wildlife and do some fishing. The campsite has a couple of chipmunks who are all too friendly. We are forced to constantly tell the kids not to feed the animals. These chipmunks have obviously benefited from campers in the past and are all too eager to beg for a Cheerio or two! We finally see our first loon of the trip as it swims by and dives under water for some food to the delight of the six year hold. She continues fishing after the loon sighting and soon starts calling for me. “Dad, I got a big one!” I ran down to see a pike splashing next to the shore on the end of her line. I look down and observe another fish’s tail sticking out of the pikes mouth. The pike manages to shake off and swims away before I can grab it. I soon realize that the fish tail that had been sticking out of the pikes mouth was actually the bluegill that had taken the six year olds leech and was still on the hook! The first fish of the trip and it is a bluegill that is soon attacked by a pike. At least we were able to snap a picture of the proud fisherman and her bluegill. Mom packs a lunch and we head out for our days adventure, a day trip over to Turtle Lake. We pack the canoe and take off. We decide to stop at the closest campsite to the portage for lunch before we tackle the portage. The highlight of lunch was watching a couple of chipmunks trying to steal our food and a red squirrel so bold that it actually tapped mom on the back! We finished lunch and begin the portage over to Turtle Lake. The going is rough! The portage is rocky and a little hilly but the real issue is the four year old. He is not doing well. The portage is longer than we expected and he eventually just lies down and refuses to walk. Mom and I finally decide we cannot go on. We start the process of turning around and we get a miracle. The four year old suddenly has a second wind! We fight on to Turtle Lake. We finally make it and spend the next couple of hours between paddling and stopping a couple times to fish and explore. We explore what appears to be the remnants of a forest fire from a few years ago that has left a nice young crop of Jack Pine. The four year old continues to make this excursion a chore for all of us. He eventually falls asleep in the canoe for the nap he so desperately needs but it only lasts about three minutes because he awakens during our last snack stop before the long portage back. The portage back to Bald Eagle goes much better and we quickly complete it. We paddle back to the campsite for dinner and other evening rituals. Mom and I are starting to feel the stress of a day and a half in the wilderness with two young children. We hold things together for another dinner and another round of smores for the kids. We get the kids in the tents for the night. Mom spends a long time with the four year old who has been fighting a nasty cough for a couple of weeks. More on this later. Time to go out and prepare the site for the rain chance that is predicted to be 70% by 3 a.m. We turn over the canoe and hang our food bag for the night. The only item left uncovered for the elements is a Nalgene with our happy and healthy leeches. Mom and I sit together on our slab of granite looking to the west as we discuss the fact that we never saw another canoe all day on Bald Eagle and realize our family may be the only inhabitants on the entire lake. We also take some time to discuss the things about this trip that have gone right and what has gone wrong. We decide a Thermarest inflatable pillow might be a good investment for each of us. The clear skies enjoyed during late afternoon and early evening have given way to cloud cover from the west. I soon notice the slip bobber floating off the rock is missing! Line is peeling out of the reel! I click the bail and set the hook on a small pike at sunset. The fish is small and released to grow but still a thrill on a trip where the expectations for fish were so low. Mom finally decides to bed down for the evening with the four year old. I stay up and sit on the rock and think about how awesome it is that I am sitting on this slab of granite, covered head to toe including a bug net on my head, and smoking a fine cigar and sipping warm Crystal Light and vodka through the netting. Would some ice be nice? Sure. Would fewer bugs be nice? Sure. It does not matter! It is worth it to give up a few luxuries to get a piece of this solitude for a few minutes that can’t be found in the suburbs of Atlanta. I make the decision at the last sliver of light to make my way to the tent. Before I do, I decide to walk past the tent to the other side of the peninsula to see if the full moon rising in the east will show itself before the clouds swallow it up. I was not disappointed! A peek between a couple trees on an offshore island reveals a full orange moon rising as the clouds prepare to cover it. I am disappointed I don’t have my tripod and camera for such an amazing shot but enjoy it for what it is for a couple minutes before calling it a night and retiring to the tent for some reading. I can hear consistent coughing from the other tent. I help mom get some medicine for the four year old who now struggles to stop coughing. She is forced to hold him and rock him to sleep while he sits upright. I soon tire and fall fast asleep also. I am awakened around 1 a.m. by the sound of rain drops hitting the tent and distant thunder. The thunder steadily gets closer but the closest strike never gets closer than six miles away. It eventually fades away as we finally do and the rain continues to fall.
We awaken on day three of our four day adventure. We quickly make the decision that this adventure stops at three days. A combination of the failure of our older of the two tents to keep the rain from soaking through and concerns over the four year olds cough force us to make the decision to pack it up and leave. Mom and I quickly pack and load the canoe and set off from our piece of granite. The kids turn and wave to the campsite as they say goodbye to the site and to the chipmunks that now have names. It is this moment that truly tells me this outing was a success even with a little rain, a bad cough and the struggles that come with taking young children into a wilderness setting. The moment was short and it was time to address the task at hand, paddling back to the portage. We get back into Gabbro and paddle for a while and stop for a snack. The morning has a thick layer of clouds. I fail as a navigator and lose my way. We stop to read the map and try to get our bearings. I think we are on the north end of the lake instead of the northeast end where we exit into Little Gabbro. We paddle for a while longer and stop again. I decide to get out the GPS. This is what we needed! We find our way out of Gabbro into Little Gabbro. I later realize that I was right where we needed to be during the first stop but did not realize it. We finally get to the portage and start the process of hiking out of the lake. We do not have friends this time around and I am forced to take three trips. (all three with a heavy pack and two of those taking the canoe half way also, I felt it the next morning!) We loaded the car and pulled away as the sun broke through the clouds. The trip gave us everything we could ask for and the two kids enjoyed it. They will come back again! We all will! Next time it will be September and we will be sleeping on Thermarest pillows!