BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 28 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 5
Elevation: 1664 feet
Hog Creek - 36
Polly Lake Bluff Charge - Version 2.0
August 28, 2001
Number of Days:
I was on the same trip as Chilly and this my version....
Sometime late summer we convinced our “City Slicker” roommate Chris that he definitely needs to experience the BWCA. Those of us who have been up there before took care of all the plans and accumulated the gear. Chilly and I had been up there a couple times growing up, and two of the other guys had been in once before, so four of us knew what to expect. We were ready for our 1st trip to the Bdubs without parental supervision - We were totally psyched. After going over all of gear with everybody throwing in their 2cents about what we should bring, we were ready. After a couple blinks of sleep, we eager young men left our “college house” in Duluth before sunrise and were headed up Hwy 61 ready to take on the wilderness. We stopped in at the Tofte station to get our permit, and found out about a nuisance bear in the lake Polly area. I remember thinking to myself “Yep I know, put the pack 10ft in air…I’ve been up here a few times, plus I’m an Eagle Scout…Yogi has nothing on me”. Soon enough we were out of there and on our way to Kawishiwi Lake and paddling our way towards Polly. We were young, strong and eager, but damn our food pack was heavy. Easily over 100lbs, but it would be worth it for that 1st dinner. It seemed we got to Polly in no time and we were ecstatic that the island site we wanted was open. The 1st thing we noticed was this site had the “perfect” branch for hanging our food pack. We had found our “home” and in no time we had the tents up, fire wood accumulated and the charcoal grill going(YES we brought a little charcoal grill with us). Dinner consisted of huge slabs of cheap steak with corn on the cob. It took a while since we could only fit 1 steak at a time on the grill, but it was worth the wait. That 1st meal alone dropped over 10lbs from our pack. After we filled our bellies 4 of us went out fishing leaving Chris (aka “City Slicker”) back at camp since he didn’t know how to fish. On all of my previous trips, the dad’s were overly cautious (rightfully so) and didn’t want us out on the water after Sundown. Well the dad’s were not on this trip, so I was staying out as late as I wanted since the there wasn’t a ripple on the lake. We caught a couple smallies and provided Chris with his 1st BWCA Sunset photo op. Plus he had got to play around with the video camera we lugged in. We ended this perfect 1st day sitting around the fire trying to figure out which line on the camp cups we should be filling the Everclear up to and how much Kool-Aid it takes to make the burning taste go away. While we mastered this chemistry lesson, Chilly talked all of us into trying to get to Wolverine Lake the next day. The 4 fisherman peer pressured Chris and he finally obliged. Yes, this was the perfect 1st Day for a couple know-it-alls.
After breakfast the next day, we prepared our day packs, went over the map again and made our way back down towards the Kawishiwi River. We turned right where the river went left and started our exploration to Wolverine. Wow this was sweet! We were convinced we were off to our own little secret Bdubs fishing Eden. We were plowing through everything in site. Along the way at one of the many mini-portages, Chris leaps out of the bow to do a quick recon and while he was running through the brush he gets stung numerous times in the face by bees. He said he felt “something” but it wasn’t that bad. While he confirmed he had been stung before and wasn’t allergic, I scraped the stingers out of his chin. I was very impressed that our City Slicker was bustin’ ass through the brush while getting stung by bees and still having fun, even though he was a little bummed when I told him that we didn’t put any EC in the day pack. After our little first aid moment, we were on Wolverine. This was so cool; we were there in no time flat and catching fish as soon as the lures hit the water. Chilly, Mike and I were the avid fisherman of the group, Dogger (“dough-grrr”) had some experience, and Chris was clueless. One of the very 1st casts Dogger launches his lure to the top of a tree. I still have no idea where he was aiming. Chris takes out the video camera and starts talking smack, a lot of smack, especially for a guy who doesn’t fish. Soon after, Karma sets in and Chris catches his own tree, so obviously Dogger grabs the video camera & supplies his own colorful commentary. After all these shenanigans, we lazily floated down the lake and started a friendly fishing competition. I don’t remember what the wager was, but I’m willing to bet it had something to do with E.C. shots back at camp. It seemed like these little northerns were hitting on every other cast. Everyone was catching fish but Chris, but after an hour of frustration he finally caught his 1st fish. Being the good friends that were are, we convinced him that every fisherman must kiss his first for good luck. We all got a good laugh watching him pucker up to that little slimy snake. We decided to celebrate by taking a break for lunch, and since we were having another “perfect day”, we had to enjoy our lunch with “a view”, so we paddled over to the high spot on the point to enjoy our lunch. Somebody invited a couple 1000 ants, but we were so relaxed and carefree we didn’t mind. While enjoying lunch, Chris got bitten by a mosquito, but in his mind it was another bee. He shrieked, jumped up swatting everything in site. I’m surprised somebody didn’t roll down into the lake we were laughing so hard. After Chris settled down, packed up and meandered back out and to our island paradise
Since we were having our second “Perfect Day”, the EC seemed to be going down quite smoothly. Later that evening after we engorged ourselves with a couple pounds of spaghetti, got the fire going, and tidied up camp. Because we were warned about a bear in the area, Dogger & I were nominated to hang the food pack since we are the tallest. So us two 6’4” guys attached the pack to the rope and pushed/pulled it as high was we possibly could using our paddles, easily over the recommended 10 ft. Knowing that our food was now safe and we could continue relaxing, we attempted to catch a couple crawfish and minnows. While we were productive catching them by hand, somebody suggested we try using the wicker paper plate holders and before you know we were catching dozens of minnows. We ran out of room in our kitchen pots so for some reason we thought we should fill the canoe up with water and use that as our live well. The five of us were all knee deep wading around with a wicker plate in one hand, flashlight in the other, flipping our little victims into our huge new live well. We were as happy as pigs in mud, until we had a visitor show up.
While in the lake, I heard a massive grunt and heard a rope stretching. I quickly pointed my huge Mag-lite towards the back of our site to discover a huge bear on its hind legs right under our pack. It then jumped up, clamped on with its front paws and used his weight to stretch out the rope and bring the bag down. I have had a couple incidents with bears in the past and remembered that I should run up to it with my hands above my head so I seemed as large as possible and make loud noises and he should leave as quickly as he arrived. I ran out of the lake, grabbed some pots and started banging them over my head yelling at him. The bear was back up on its hind legs looking down at me and gave me the “what are you going to do with those?” HOLY CRAP this was the biggest bear I have ever seen. It ignored me and with one swipe it sliced the bottom of my brand new #4 Duluth pack, and all of our food dropped to the ground. This bear just broke its huge green canvas piñata and wasn’t willing to share. About this time, all 5 of us were us there, yelling and had all our flashlights on him. At this time I still wasn’t that scared, now that there were 5 of us, we would persuade him to leave. I guess we were blinding him with all our candle power, or maybe he didn’t like how we were acting paparazzi with the video camera in his face, so he charged us. And not just a couple steps, he cleared us back to the lake. NOW I was scared. I haven’t had a bear do this to me before. I knew now he wasn’t leaving. Our first reaction was to get in the canoes and get off the island. It must have looked hilarious watching 5 guys trying to lift a canoe that was half full of water and bait. While we were struggling with this, I remember asking “Where are we going? It’s almost midnight and probably not a good idea to try to leave”. While we were trying to come up with a plan, Chris discovered that Yogi was getting into the pita bread. That was the straw the broke the camel’s back. He picked up a grapefruit sized rock, ran up to him and pegged him right behind the ear. Yogi took off away from the pack towards the NE side of the island. We gave chase and watched as he ran into the water and swam away. We had Won! Once regrouped around the camp fire, we all still were shaking with adrenaline. Dogger ended up catching some toes on some roots while retreating and mangled his toes. Chilly continued to have a death grip on the hatchet. Chris was stoked since he got all of this on video. We ended up breaking 1 paddle and flattening a kettle, but we didn’t care, we thought we faced death and won. “SNAP!” a twig on the ground cracks back in the woods “What the hell was that?” somebody asks? We instantly went from macho war heroes to terrified girly-men. We all bunched together and walked towards the carnage that was our food-pack. It felt like we were on top of each other, we must have looked like the gang from Scooby-Doo. We all pointed our lights into the woods and there was Yogi, trying to sneak back to his prize. He left the on the East side, turned and swam around to the West side, he had button-hooked us! He took one step and that’s all it took for us to sprint back to the fire. I think we all agreed that we were done, didn’t care, he can have what ever he wanted. For the next couple hours, we all were huddled around the fire while this bear sat a few yards from us eating all of our heavy food that WE humped in. He definitely got the last laugh. There wasn’t enough money in the world to convince us to get into out tents with a bear on the island, so we huddled as around the fire all night long, freaking out at every little noise we heard. I do remember somebody asking our “City Slicker” Chris where he got the nerve to run up and throw the rock at the bear. He explained that he was upset since he splurged and got expensive pita bread. Plus 2 days before our trip he watched “The Edge” and knew that if Hopkins and Baldwin could take on a bear, than so could he. For the moment that laughter seemed to calm us, of course until the next twig snapped. We all knew then that Chris would turn into a legit Bdubs diehard.
Once there was enough daylight, we left our friendly fire and combed the island searching high and low for our fuzzy visitor. He was finally gone and we convinced ourselves that we could finally get some sleep. Eventually we all woke up, picked up the garbage, packed our things and headed out later that afternoon. We were amazed how one animal could inhale so much food in one sitting, he ate almost everything he had. We replayed the previous evening’s event countless times on the way out, making fun of each other and our cowardly ways. Like in many aspects of life, it seems a young man has to learn some things the “hard way” and we definitely learned a lot from our shortened trip. Our one motivation on the way out was to make it down to Two Harbors before the liquor store closed. Our bosses thought we were still in the BWCA, so in typical 21yr old fashion, we stocked up, and immediately cracked opened the cans and mixed our cocktails once we were home. We had our 1st Bdubs video to watch…and besides; we still had two days to unpack.