Boundary Waters Trip Reports, Blog, BWCA, BWCAW, Quetico Park

BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

May 21 2024

Entry Point 34 - Island River

Island River entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Tofte Ranger Station near the city of Grand Marais, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 19 miles. Two small portages leading to Isabella River. No portages on Island River.

Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1564 feet
Latitude: 47.7912
Longitude: -91.3332
Island River - 34

The Pow Wow Trail 2008

by Soledad
Trip Report

Entry Date: May 23, 2008
Entry Point: Isabella Lake
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
After reading Lost in the Wild by Cary J Griffith I really wanted to hike this trail. Although I had been interested in the Pow Wow Trail before, that book finalized it for me.

Day 1 of 2


Friday, May 23, 2008 Day One- Monticello, MN to Superstition Lake

Annie and I left my house at 5:30 and made it to Duluth by 8:00. We met Todd at Pizza Luce’s for breakfast. This was my third backpacking trip with Todd. The previous two were both around Snowbank Lake. I found out that Todd had been around the lake a few more times since our first hike. After breakfast which was pretty good, we debated about what we should do with the extra car. While going to school in Duluth, I had accumulated a staggering amount of parking tickets and that lesson among many others had been learned. We decided to park my car at Two Harbors and drive together to the trail.

We picked up our permits at the Isabella Work Station and watched the video. The rangers said that they had expected a group to register at 8:00am but they hadn't stopped in yet, so they thought we would have the trail to ourselves. We found the entry point at about 1:30 and started hiking at about 2:00.

The trail starts out real nice and easy with pine needles covering the path, and it stayed rather flat the entire day. There were some blow downs, beaver dam crossings and some swampy low spots, but the first part of the trail was pretty dry and clear. We passed a group of four that were headed to Pose Lake and they said we could share the site if we needed to, but we were heading the opposite direction. We also passed a group of day trippers (canoeing) that had made their way from Diane Lake and were eating a late lunch on Marathon Lake. I made a point to stop by Campfire Lake to take a picture and found the campsite to be pretty shabby. I wouldn't stay there unless I had little other choice in the matter. The fire grate is almost three feet above the rock upon which it stands-terrible for cooking. The site offers poor water access and the lake was hidden from view.

We made it to our destination at Quadga Lake, but after hiking the short spur trail found that it was occupied by a group of canoeists. The site was very nice with a great view of the lake and a good spot for at least one large tent. We decided to push on figuring we could make the next campsite on Superstition Lake before the sun set.

We were short on water so we filtered some right when the trail passed the first part of Superstition Lake. From that spot we could see that it was taken as well. It was going on 7:00, and we were getting tired so we decided to talk to whoever was at the site to see if anyone was already at the Mirror Lake campsite which was another mile or two up the trail. Alex was hiding behind his tent in only his boxer shorts, and was a little surprised to see us. Alex was from Chicago and was a real nice guy. He said that the next site was pretty bad and didn’t mind if we stayed. We took him up on the offer without too much arm twisting. I set out to get some firewood and Todd got some more water. Todd had brought some steaks and I made up some potatoes, carrots onions, green peppers etc. in tinfoil to compliment the meat. We both thought that the meal was one of the best we had ever had while backpacking. Although food always tastes better while camping, I am pretty sure that was the best steak I have ever had on a grill.

Six miles into the trail I had blisters on both heels from my boots which I will never wear again. First day on the Pow Wow Trail we saw 10 other people. Todd and I did not expect to see anyone at all so that was all a bit of a letdown especially when it came to finding open campsites. We figured we hiked about 10 miles that first day. No bugs, great weather pretty easy trail- it was a great day of hiking.

 



Day 1 of 2


Sunday, August 16, 2015

A little backstory: my wife is 7+ months pregnant, we have a 13 month old and we decided to take our 1st trip into the BWCA. I have a decent amount of experience backpacking and paddled outriggers for 8 years, my wife has camped quite a bit growing up and is a pretty solid paddler, our 13 month old slobbers and poops a lot, has a mean high five and has never camped. We talked to our friends who have a lot of BWCA experience and had a mixed group of answers to the question "should we go with a 13 month old and a pregnant wife?" More "you're nuts" answers than yes answers for sure.

We packed up and used had reserved a partial outfitter package. We got to the outfitter and grabbed our gear and permits. We rented a 1 hp, electric trolling motor which I thought would make up for the lack of my wife paddling while she was holding our kid... WRONG.. The 1 hp kicked into high gear was only creating drag as I paddled so we ditched that idea and stowed the motor. As we got through the river and entered into the mouth of the wind devil, ie Saganaga Lake tears flowed from the 2 ladies in tow, I lost my breath and energy and we all prayed we'd live to see another day. (I did research and was well educated into the dangers of wind at Sag beforehand) We had 15-20+mph headwinds with decent whitecaps hitting us as we entered Sag. Our goal was to make it to Red Rock Bay within 3 hours with the 1 hp. Once we entered Sag our goal was to make it alive to somewhere that was vacant, didn't have rabid animals or that was overgrown or trashy. As I paddled our top heavy canoe head in to the waves as hard as I could I wanted to hook a left and head west towards the islands and bays for cover but any movement west would have subjected us to being broadside to the south waves so I paddled harder south to keep a steady pace. We finally got a small break from the wind and waves and made a hard turn west. We caught cover into the first bay by site 361 and got lost for 30 minutes thinking we were further north and west. After realizing our mistake (of taking a 1 year old AND getting lost) we headed back north west. I realized rather quickly that for me to stay married much longer I would need to find a campsite and fast so I paddled to the next visible site which was 364. I paddled hard into the landing with a screaming 13 month old in tow, being out of breath, hanging onto my marriage and happy to be alive. We got into camp after >3:20 of paddling around 6:30. We quickly reviewed the site and setup camp. We were pleasantly surprised by our luck with this campsite. Here's a quick review of the site (364): [paragraph break] Pros:                   -Easy landing with a decent amount of sandy beach -Nice campsite to the north of the landing            -Great fire pit and sitting area around fire -Lots of nice trees for hanging and good cover          -Great hammock trees and view south of landing -BEAUTIFUL view south of landing and about 200 yards south with a relatively steep climb. View of multiple islands with a remarkable sunset. -Trails and paths were kept up quite well.  

Cons:                   -Motor traffic/noise. About 20 times a day -Below average fishing from site. Caught a large mouth after an hour of fishing -Not amazing wind break. Decent amount of exposure -A bear magnet based thanks to the previous campers: A fair amount of trash and food remnants. (Pasta at landing, peppers in woods, a few zip locks in the thicket, other random food strewn about camp) -Latrine was frequented by bears, fresh scat around latrine daily (presumably a mentally challenged bear as this latrine smelled like hell) Latrine was about 150 yards west and uphill. -Outside of kindling, good wood was hard to find close to camp. We had a good time with the views, the site and the access to the islands to the south for Northern Fishing. Caught a number of good sized Northerns (25"+) around the islands to the south (10 minute paddle from landing). I'd suggest camping here if you don't mind some motor traffic and a latrine that smells like death.

 



Day 4 of 2


Sunday, May 25, 2008 Horseshoe Lake to the trailhead

We got up at about 7:30, had a good breakfast packed up and headed for Pose Lake. The next part of the trail was probably the toughest portion of the trail. It hadn't looked like a crew had been up there to clear it for awhile. It reached (72f) which is a little warmer than I like when backpacking, but it wasn't bad. Although both of us had packed out cameras away, Todd and I both agreed that the best part of the trail was along North and South Wilder Lakes. That section offered the best views and although rugged, it really was the most enjoyable hiking. The site on North Wilder Lake was pretty interesting. Although we only took a short break there, I really did like the site. The fire grate was situated in front of a perfect rock which would provide a great backrest while looking over the lake. I would try to stay there if I hiked the trail again.

We met yet another couple who had started out from South Wilder Lake earlier in the morning. As we exchanged trail notes, they mentioned that they would have stayed at Pose Lake the previous night, but it was occupied. We wondered if it was that same group of people who we passed the first day.

While getting water, from a small creek, Todd and I tried to figure out what we should do if indeed the site was still taken. I am pretty sure that once we passed the South Wilder site the Pose lake site was the last one. Todd also mentioned that he needed to get back home early and that we would have to get to our cars, by 10:00 the next morning. We pretty much decided that we would hike out either way.

About a mile or so before Pose Lake, the trail changed and hiking was much easier. Pose Lake was in fact taken by that group we saw on the way in. We said our hellos, filtered water and then chatted away about the previous two days. They were good folks and were interested in what we had to say about the trail. The Pose Lake site was very nice, probably the best backpacking site on the trail (canoe sites were often better). We had hiked over 7 miles on a tough trail and had six miles to go. Luckily, the last six miles are like hiking on a golf course. A couple beaver dams to cross but nothing really exciting. I wouldn’t have made it out if the trail was like the first half of the day. I was exhausted, and mostly everything below my knees ached. This is becoming a trend in my trip reports I think.

We hiked those last six miles in two hours. The previous 7.5 miles took us around 6 hours give or take without a lunch break. That is a good indication of how much the trail changes.

Summary and random thoughts:

Last year while hiking around Snowbank Lake, we found hundreds of wood ticks each day, this trip we found a total of three- one on each of us. Hiking the Pow Wow Trail in 2.5 days is something I likely will not do again. The pain to accomplishment ratio simply doesn't work out. I really wanted to be able to compare the two routes, but I seem to have a tough time putting the trails into words. The Snowbank Trail starts out rugged, with rocks and pretty good terrain changes. I think I would say that the Snowbank trail is a little more difficult because of the ups and downs, but the vistas are better, I would also say that the campsites are better. I did enjoy hiking from lake to lake on the Pow Wow Trail. The lakes are small, intimate, and beautiful. I would bet that both trails are much easier to follow in the spring before all of the undergrowth gets a chance to take over.

Maps: Todd and I both brought McKenzie Maps, my revision was 2003 and his map last updated in 2007. The 2007 map did not show at least 3 backpacking sites that the 2003 map listed. This is a big deal when you are get around to the west and north side of the trail. We didn't see much difference in the trail itself on the two maps. I also took a look at one of the new Voyager maps for the area. Voyager fails to show any backpacking sites on the Pow Wow Trail. When I get my hands on a Fischer map, I will compare it as well.

Memorial weekend is not a good time to hike the trail if you are hoping to find solitude.

During the trip Todd asked why I like to backpack in the BWCA. I am still not sure if I can answer that. The sense of accomplishment is a big part and the hard work is very rewarding at the end of the day. It is also a unique way to see the lakes, walking around them instead of canoeing through them.

We didn’t see any wildlife except for two rabbits until we were driving back to Isabella and saw a two moose on the road. Cow and her rather large calf.

The Sioux Hustler trail is next on my list.

 


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