BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
May 16 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1595 feet
Isabella Lake - 35
Drie Maedichen auf der Wasser (Three girls on the water)
May 28, 2010
Number of Days:
The alarm went off at 3:30 am causing groans all around - no one had gotten much sleep. Excitement, last minute packing and just the thought of "we need to hurry up and sleep" caused everyone to NOT be able to sleep. Last minute items were put into packs, the girls all got in the van and away they went. On the road at exactly 4:00 am as desired. A short stop in Hinckley, a mere 17 miles from home, for fresh water bottles on the drive and doughnuts. No, they didn't stop at Tobies - being from the area, Tobies in their humble opinion is a bit over-rated and they prefer Cassidy's. Got gas in the van and off they went. The drive went very smooth and there wasn't a lot of conversation as everyone was so sleepy tired. Amanda did well driving and it was a good thing to ensure the safety of all. They were hoping to catch the sunrise over Lake Superior as they went North, but the sun beat them and by the time they reached Duluth the sun was already up and shining brightly. As always the drive along the North Shore was pleasant and perfectly picturesque. Amanda and Lisa had made the drive up there countless times, but it was only the second time for Lottie - she still enjoyed the awe and beauty of Lake Superior. No stops were made for any sight-seeing as they were on a mission to get the canoe and be on the water ASAP. They made such good time that they arrived at the outfitters an hour before opening. The van was parked, seats were reclined and all took a nap for an hour. Amazingly, Lisa's internal alarm clock woke her up a few minutes before 7 am and the "open" sign up lit in the window. She woke the girls, who grudgingly crawled out of the van, though a big stretch did feel wonderful after that long ride. A visit with Mike in the shop was great - so great it was an hour long! He was a wonderful help in getting the permit changed to be picked up from him instead of the Tofte Ranger Station and adding another person to it. He went through and showed how to use the cam-straps for the canoe as Lisa had never used them before. They took the gear out of the van, put it in the canoe and confirmed that there wouldn't be any trouble with space. The canoe had a 1200 lb capacity which was way more than adequate. The Canoeist now has a customer for life - Mike is an awesome guy!
After the canoe was loaded on the van it was back on the road again. Turning off onto Sawbill Trail was exciting for all as that meant they were almost there. Everyone was so excited and just couldn't wait to get on the water and do the search for that perfect campsite. It didn't take too long to find the turn to Hog Creek and the excitement grew. BUT, when they reached the parking lot their hearts were dampened a bit as the parking lot was packed full of vehicles. Of course none of them were parked straight at all - if only people would be able to park in a straight line, it would make life so much easier is what they all said. They were able to squeeze the van into a skinny spot between two pickup trucks.
The canoe was unloaded and carried down the steps to the creek along with the gear. Van was parked; last minute potty break at the outhouse and then a shove-off from shore set them on their way down Hog Creek toward Perent Lake. The creek seemed low to Lisa, you could see water lines from previous years on how how it had been. There were turtles sunning themselves in the sun on the rocks and logs sticking out in the water. Some of them were brave enough to ignore the girls silently slipping by and some weren't so brave, making a quick dash into the water to be out of sight. After what seemed like only minutes they came upon an area of rapids and decided that the water was too low to try and "run" them. There were signs that in the past others had done so, aluminum and paint scrapes on several of the rocks. However, this group was going to portage around that. The portage was a short one - 15 Rods at most but it was an ankle breaker with several boulders and rocks to watch out for while carrying gear. Because it was so short, they double portaged and did a two person carry with the canoe. Neither one of the girls had ever portaged a canoe and Lisa wasn't up to it so that just made it easier. It didn't take long and the canoe was re-loaded. Of course the portaging made them all warm so off came layers of clothing and on went the sunscreen. Lisa had been warned that there would potentially be a lot of "bank crashing" due to the many twists and turns in the creek - and she was told correctly. It was difficult steering while going with the current. It didn't look like a fast current, but watching the underwater grasses and water flowing over the beaver dams it was clearly evident that there was a pretty good current. They passed over about 10 beaver dams, some old and some fresh. Some they got stuck on and had to get out and push - others were an easy float over. Lisa was worried about scratching the canoe from those dams, but there really wasn't much they could do about it so onward they went. Fortunately for them they kept to the "no looking at watches" to give them the sense of freedom that was desired. The paddle down Hog Creek was uneventful - no animals except birds and a few fish. Shortly into the paddle they met up with a man going solo. They chatted with him for a bit and asked how busy the lake was. He told them that he knew of one open campsite. Thus the reason for the full parking lot. This gave them all a sense of urgency to get moving a bit more quickly. It was discussed and decided that the first open campsite that was found would be taken - even if it wasn't the "perfect" campsite. On they paddled which seemed like forever now since they were in a hurry.
As they neared the end, the skies clouded up and it became chilly. They were wondering if the creek would ever end. Lisa was second guessing herself in had she navigated it incorrectly and taken a wrong turn somewhere. BUT, finally the creek started to widen and they knew that Perent Lake had to be getting closer. They could tell from that and the call of sea gulls. Lo and behold, around the bend there was the Lake opening - both Amanda and Lisa had "Just around the River Bend" song from Disney's Pocahontas movie running through their minds. They halted the paddling and found that the first two campsites on the lake were taken - bummer. They then had to decide which direction to take. Perent Lake is a big lake riddled with islands. Going north there are many campsites along the shore and on the islands of which Lisa was sure most would already be claimed. After more discussion it was decided that they would follow the south shore and see what they could find. The first campsite they saw was taken by a group of guys that had a HUGE tent and coolers. Newbies? Not sure. Comfort campers? Probably. After only what seemed like a few minutes they found an open campsite directly across from a little island - it was a beautiful view. They pulled up, checked out the site; it wasn't perfect but would suffice for the two days that they planned to stay. Lisa didn't want to risk passing this site up to search for a better one only to not find one and then return to find that one taken. So, the unpacking and set up began.
Both the girls were so excited to check out the campsite and to find the trail to the latrine. Neither had any experience with a latrine in the woods. Lisa was quite amused by their enthusiasm to try this first experience. Amanda was the lucky one to clean all the spider webs off the pot. IIt was obvious that it hadn’t been used since last year other than the two playing cards stuck on the fire grate. There also was a tree that had fallen over the trail to the throne, but they didn't have a sturdy enough saw to cut it up and move it out of the way. It would have been great if they had been able to; would have been nice to cut it up, split it and stack it to dry. Oh well, perhaps the next guest at the site will be able to do that. For now it's too wet of wood to burn anyway as it was a fresh fall - the pine needles were soft and green not even turning brown yet. It didn't take long to get camp set up and everything was on a slant - the whole site. Also in the site were several patches of Lady Slippers but they weren't quite blooming yet; it would be a few days before they would open. Lisa was really disappointed as she had hoped to get some photos of Lady Slippers this year. The Star flowers were up and blooming and some other little white ones down by the lake shore that she couldn't identify. They were like ground cover - similar to phlox that grows in peoples gardens at home. There were iris' growing by the lake as well, but of course it was too early for those to be blooming yet - there were only the leaves, no buds were showing yet. There were a few wild-strawberries and that was about it. Lisa was surprised that she didn't see any trillium. Maybe trillium doesn't grow in BWCA? The girls were careful to not disturb any of the new flowers that were growing in the tent pad but inevitably some of them did get crushed. Once the tent was set up they set about getting the kitchen area organized. It didn't take long to get things in order and then it was time for a rest as all were exhausted from the long day. Amanda retired to the tent for a "short nap", hah, yeah right; she slept for like three hours. Lisa and Lottie sat around outside taking things in, chatting and journaling. After several tries to wake Miss Amanda up they finally succeeded and supper was made - chocolate chip muffin mix pancakes, fruit cups and chips. Not quite the health nut food, but it had the necessary calories that those teen girls needed. Unfortunately the greasy/sugary pancakes made Lisa sick but a couple Percocet and that problem was fixed - for a while anyway. Some previous occupant of the campsite had left a bunch of long, downed braches that only needed to be cut up for firewood. While the girls cut up the branches Lisa got the fire going using the wonderful home made fire starters that Kendra brought to her while in the hospital. That was the best gift - better than flowers or a card - she received. They sat around the fire - mesmerized because fires are just that way. Lisa didn't bring stuff for s'mores so the girls just took turns playing the fire stick, making glowing shapes in the air and smoke squiggles. All afternoon the clouds looked as if they'd be dropping rain, but they held off. Just as everyone was talking about going to bed it started to sprinkle. Last minute trips were made up the trail to the throne room and into the tent everyone went. It was about Eight o'clock - Lottie and Lisa were beat - they didn't have a three hour nap. It was quite snug in the tent. Though it says it's a three person it's only seen solo or tandem use. AND Lottie, being 5' 10" tall was put in the middle. Poor thing, by morning she had slid down the slope and was curled in a ball about two feet from the head of her bag.
By that time Lisa was up and could hear the girls on the water though she couldn't see them. She spent time journaling an looking at all the tiny fish in the water. Some were brown, some had a blue tinge and some were larger and tiger striped. There were tan ones that were almost iridescent - she could see the "guts" of the fish inside. When she sat still enough there were schools of them that would swarm around the rock she was sitting on. Soon tiring of having her butt on a hard rock she decided that she needed to climb out on the downed cedar tree that was hanging over the lake. She made her way over there, avoiding the water and as many spider webs as she could. The old cedar wasn't as sturdy as she thought and it wiggled a bit when she climbed on it. Once out in the "crook" of it she sat for a few minutes enjoying the sunshine, the view and the silence (the girls weren't talking anymore). Once she climbed down, the girls came paddling from around the west end of the island - they were hungry and out of water. After beaching the canoe - they did it correctly and on their own! - such quick learners - they had lunch of cheese and crackers, more fruit, pudding and any other snackies they could find. The beef jerky was just about gone - of course that's always the first thing to go. They spent the afternoon lying around the campsite chatting and being silly. They drew charcoal tattoos on each other trying to make them look unique and "tribal." However, it wasn't as easy as it seemed. Still it was a fun memory that they made and will always remember. After they finished with that Lottie decided it was time to take her first swim in a Minnesota Boundary Waters Canoe Area lake. She put on her swim suit and water shoes and braved the chilly water - leeches and all! She discovered that the lake directly out from the campsite was quite shallow and she was several yards from shore and the water still was only up to her belly button. She didn't like the "mushy" feeling on the bottomed of the lake - she preferred the rocky area near shore. She did dunk herself completely in the water and swam around for a bit. Lisa and Amanda watched from shore being her cheerleaders encouraging her. It didn't take long for her to be chilled from the early spring waters and she only stayed in the water about 10 minutes. As she came to shore she was covered in . . . . goose bumps . . . . no leaches - she checked very well! Supper that night was pouched chicken with Knorr's Teriyaki noodles for Lottie and Lisa and mashed potatoes for Amanda. Everyone was starved for supper that night and ate quite a bit. They talked about what a fun weekend they had and how sorry they were that it would be ending tomorrow. They got the fire going and cleaned up around camp - took down and packed up the things they could to leave as soon as they go up in the morning. It was decided that instead of cooking breakfast they would pack up, snack and stop at a restaurant on the way home for breakfast. There wasn't much to pack up they'd kept a pretty clean camp site. One more trip to the latrine, water poured over the fire and into the tent they went.
Lisa was the first one awake that morning - she awoke to Lottie "snuggled" up against her in their crowded tent. The night before it was decided that the first one awake would wake the others and they'd get moving and on the water before the wind picked up for the day. Paddling on a glass lake is so much easier and so much more peaceful.....but the lake that morning wasn't like glass....however it as still peaceful as only it can be in BWCA. Surprisingly Amanda was the next one awake, and, the easiest one to get up. Both she and Lisa were dressed and had their gear mostly packed up before Lottie got up. They had to shake her a few times to get her moving. They opened the tent to what looked like would be a beautiful sunrise, but being in such a protected spot they didn't see it.
The girls got the canoe loaded, one last latrine call, a last canvassing of the campsite, courtesy pile of firewood left and stacked, Lisa was "princessing," Amanda was stern and Lottie bow. They shoved of and said good bye to their cute little site and all the islands. It was an easy paddle that morning with the wind at their backs; they didn't need Lisa to help much so she was able to take some last photos. As they neared the entrance to Hog Creek they came upon a solo fisherman who pointed out a cow moose and calf on the north shore not too far away. It was too far to get a decent photo, and the girls wanted to paddle closer, but Lisa wouldn't let them. She told them that one of the LNT rules (in Lisa's book anyway) is to leave the wild life alone. And, they don't especially want to piss off a mama moose! After the "oohs" and "ahhhs" of seeing a moose in the wild they headed back up Hog Creek to the parking lot. The paddle back didn't seem to take as long and they didn't have as many "bank crashes." Perhaps because they were paddling upstream instead of downstream they had a bit more control over the canoe. During the paddled the clouds stared to come back a bit - not much but they could tell that it would rain at some point. As they reached the portage around the rapids the girls decided that they wanted to go for a swim. Everything was portaged to the end of the portage, the girls walked the rocks by the rapids, Lisa walked the portage trail and found another trail out to the rocks in order to get fun photos of the girls. Photos were taken and then a swim in the pool was in store. The water was too cold for Lisa, but the girls didn't care a bit - they had a blast swimming and splashing each other just like little kids. They had a lot of fun. Once they decided they were too chilly they headed back to the canoe, loaded back up and finished the short paddle back to the parking lot. Didn't take long to get everything loaded back into the van. Getting the canoe put back on was a bit o a challenge - that took the longest. In the end, the goal of making memories was accomplished and a great time was had by all.
Amanda and Lisa are headed to the Quetico in July. Someday Charlotte will visit again and another trip to BWCA will be in her future.
This isn't the end, it's only the beginning.....