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

BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 14 2024

Entry Point 37 - Kawishiwi Lake

Kawishiwi Lake entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Tofte Ranger Station near the city of Isabella; Tofte, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 33 miles. Access is a boat landing at Kawishiwi Lake.

Number of Permits per Day: 7
Elevation: 1653 feet
Latitude: 47.8390
Longitude: -91.1036
Kawishiwi Lake - 37

Nightmare on Beth, but alls well.

by scotttimm
Trip Report

Entry Date: June 26, 2023
Entry Point: Sawbill Lake
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 9

Trip Introduction:
Our annual family trip did not go as expected.

Part 1 of 5


If you're among the network of people who provided assistance or care to our family this past week, know that we are profoundly grateful. Had we not had help, especially during that evacuation, this would be a very different trip report.

This was my perspective, I’m sure other members of our party have different memories and experiences. This is mine.

The days leading up to this trip made it feel like it would be an epic one. My son Grant "Timber" is in his first summer as a crew member at Sawbill, and he was excited for his first vacation and to share all he had learned with his old man. I had scored Taylor Swift tickets for my wife and two girls for Christmas, and the date landed on the Friday of the weekend we usually paddle in. They described the experience as "life changing" - and all were pumped to listen to TS all the way up to Sawbill. Weather looked a little iffy - but it was clearing, was cool and we were in great spirits. We enjoyed the Sawbill shop, roasted smores and hotdogs, enjoying a campfire in the campground before we entered the Fire Ban area. Last year's family trip to Stuart was a little hairy - and we got wind-bound on Stuart so we had to do that cursed portage twice. This time would be easy and relaxing, we told ourselves...

We figured we would paddle by the island campsite on Alton to see if it was open, otherwise we'd head to Beth. The kids wanted to fish, swim, jump off rocks...and the adults were ready to turn our brains off a bit, read, paint, fish...the usual. The island site was taken, so we continued on to Beth. Bugs were bad on the portage but otherwise seemed normal. The first few sites on Beth were taken, but the one we hoped for in the NW corner was open...perfect! Good breeze, no bugs, we rested, ate spaghetti, took a quick dip, and with the campfire ban retired early to bed. We were slightly tired, but it wasn't too hard of a day at all. Each of our girls had a friend along on the trip - and my wife's cousin ("S") and her daughter ("E) were with us. They had traveled from CT, this was their 5th or 6th trip. My wife was trying out a Hennessy Hammock for the first time. I quickly drifted off to sleep in mine.

Sometime around 4:15-4:30 am I woke with a start - I thought I heard screaming. My wife, 10 feet away, said it was coming from her cousin's tent. I heard her scream "mommy, mommy, mommy, WAKE UP!" I don't remember how but I was in that tent in a flash. E was rocking back and forth in fetal position in the corner, and S was locked up in a seizure, foaming at the mouth. It is hard to separate your head from your heart in emergencies like this. I had taken Wilderness First Responder training decades ago, and remembered I could only try to keep her safe and comfortable, and make sure the airway was clear. She had a mouthpiece she wore at night, but it was clenched safely in her teeth and I didn't want to attempt to remove it and risk her choking on it. My wife and daughter got E out of the tent and into the Bugout, where my daughter was consoling her. Grant fired up the Zoleo app and through their medical chat option, we began communicating while I sat with S. I asked for the time to get an idea of duration of seizure and we figured it lasted about 20 minutes. We decided to hit the SOS button on the Zoleo which sounds like a rocket about to blast off.

 



Part 2 of 5


We were seamlessly connected to 911 through Grant's phone - they had our coordinates and a background on what happened. I relayed all the important info that I knew/observed. S had pulled out of the seizure - was very confused and had kind of a funny child-like wonder about her. After another 10 minutes she began to return to her old self, completely bewildered and not remembering anything. She remarked that she felt hungover, slight headache, though none of us brought alcohol on this trip. I talked both privately and then with S and the responder together, and the strong advice was to medically evacuate. With no prior seizures, it was a big red flag, and they were concerned she might seize again on the way out. S agreed it was best to follow the medical professional's recommendations. I think float planes were out of the question because of the Canadian fires, but not sure I remember why (smoke=dangerous?). They had EMT's on the way to Sawbill with an ambulance, Sawbill was tuned in, and were ready to paddle in on arrival. At this point, it was getting near 7am. I think they got the call just before 6am. Looking through the little "wilderness medicine" book in the first aid kit was reassuring - we'd done all we could and given her something sweet which helped. My brother had been on the receiving end of a scary Zoleo SOS notice - and through the device I asked him to reach out to all the parents and family letting them know the situation and that the kids were all ok. He had everyone’s contact information from our trip plan, and our exact location from Zoleo. I was also able to communicate with S's father, who was rightly very concerned but calm.

We decided that Grant would paddle my wife and E out to follow the ambulance, then return either the same night or in the morning. The EMTs arrived in camp around 9am, they were very professional, straightforward, kind and knowledgeable. We had E and others pack up all their stuff, so they would have it and so we wouldn't have to portage all their gear as well. The medical crew and S paddled off, followed shortly by Grant, my wife and E. The teenagers and I just stood around for a bit, stunned by what had happened.

 



Part 3 of 5


Grant and crew arrived just after the ambulance left, and they were told that she had another, longer seizure - that her condition was deteriorating and they called a helicopter to Lutsen to fly her to Duluth. She had a near 30-minute episode on the water of Sawbill, they administered care in the boat. When I heard this later I remember thinking, "that could have been you, or that could have happened with her daughter in the boat..."

That day and the three that followed are a little blurry. We got sporadic updates from Grant, my wife, and my brother. Winds picked up, Grant was exhausted, and he wisely decided to crash at Sawbill and return first thing in the morning. The EMT's, as they were packing up, told Grant that her condition was deteriorating rapidly so they flew her out of Tofte. All our hearts sank but I was especially worried about him - without either parents after trauma like that. I am grateful for my brother, who called him later that night to help him process and check-in, and the teens and I talked a lot about what had happened. It was good to talk though our emotions and support each other. We stress ate a lot of snacks. We wanted to try to salvage as much of the trip as we could for the kids, one of which - was in the BWCA for the first time. We paddled to the rocks on Beth and the kids achieved stress-release through jumping into the water on the famous Beth "cliffs" (with life jackets and shoes, of course). They asked why I wouldn't jump in...to which I responded, "well, I'm the only adult left...let's not tempt fate, shall we?" All agreed, and they were especially careful the whole trip. We came back to camp as a thunderstorm rolled in. We fished, swam, played cards, ate a lot of snacks...and dodged torrential rainstorms in our tents and the Bugout. We found that an XXL rainsuit, when pulled tightly around both your bare bum AND the privy, creates a blissful barrier against mosquitos (this would be dubbed the "pottycoat", but said in a British accent like "petticoat"). In a bad British accent: “Daaaddy, do you have the pottycoat, I simply must drop the kids off at the pool…” It helped with the bugs, and it helped to laugh. We had a lot of emotions - worry, stress, enjoyment - and guilt for trying to enjoy ourselves when we knew my wife, E and S were all still up to their necks in stress. It was hard. It was fun. It was fun and hard and emotional all at the same time.

 



Part 4 of 5


Grant paddled back the next morning in a solo to cheers from the other teens. It was good to have him with us again, plus we had challenges that everyone would have to step up to and we needed all the help we could get. We lost three people and added a canoe. Spreading the kids out, we still had an extra canoe to deal with. Grant had done a little research, and found a thread on bwca.com about towing canoes, using Cliff Jacobson's method (which works great, btw). On Wednesday, which felt like two weeks had passed, we had heard that S was stable, CAT Scan and MRI were clear, and they planned to drive to our family's cabin near Grand Rapids on Thursday. We decided, with more rain in the forecast, we had a window to get out on Thursday as well and could reunite at the cabin. It POURED rain Wednesday night, so when Thursday morning came I let the kids sleep in while I puttered around camp, drying off rainflies and packing up what I could and drying things out. The forecast showed a break from 12-4pm, so we shoved off just after noon.

The kids hit those portages like true champs, a well-oiled machine. Everyone would have to do two bags, plus my daughter taking a canoe on one portage trip, while Grant and I double portaged the other four canoes. And we had a dog. We made a plan to do "portage and a half", the girls paired off, setting their watches to ring approximately half-way considering the 10 rod/min rule. It was a pleasure passing by the dropped bags and seeing my strong young women kickin butt. Executed flawlessly. Record efficiency for this crew, they were awesome. With a dog in tow! I was extremely proud, and we pulled into Sawbill just before 3pm, with thunder and more torrential rains incoming. I walked into Sawbill, started a tab, and told my kids and the gals at the register, "whatever they want, they get." I then thanked as many Sawbill Crew members as I ran into, and asked them to pass my thanks on to the owners. I learned, earlier the previous day, my wife was driving E and S home from the hospital and hit a huge hole, concealed by water, that blew out two of their tires. AAA to the rescue for the tow and fix. When it rains...

It was a white-knuckle caravan of cars to the cabin, through driving rain, hail and fog. I just kept praying to get us all back together safely. When we finally arrived, many hugs, laughs and tears were shared. We waterskiied, tubed, fished, drove the ATV, and ate dinners around a campfire. Grant was able to salvage a good couple of days of vacation, and experienced some vicious ejections from an inner-tube at the mercy of his uncle. My daughters sharpened their waterskiing and slalom skills. Alls well that ends well. Still processing though, all of us are, I'm sure.

 



Part 5 of 5


We all learned a lot and were humbled by this trip. Everyone needs to know how to use the Zoleo - and I will NEVER trip again without it. The detailed trip plan (with all contact info) that I have a habit of sending to my brothers and parents came in CLUTCH. Big thanks to my brother for taking point, keeping everyone in the loop, and consoling Grant when he was by himself at Sawbill. My wife is an absolute superstar, and a fantastic teammate. We team well in a crisis, and without much discussion a plan was hatched - she took care of E and S - I got the teens and the exit. We both agreed that we needed to focus our energy and stress on those specific assignments, and tried to “shut the drawer” on stress/worry of the other’s responsibility – easier said than done, but it was effective. I'm grateful for her, and I know I'm a lucky guy. The teens developed a lot of character, worked through a really challenging experience, and took nothing for granted. Every single one of them were rock stars. The older girls were amazing with the youngers and their old man. The EMT's were amazing, comforting, and they deserve praise and support. Sawbill's immediate response to Grant was, "how can we help?". I feel so comfortable and trusting having him work there - even more so now. I'm thinking of doing some refresher first aid courses, I'm depending on training that's more than 20 years old. I guess I should be signing my kids up too. The teens are feeling even more confident in their skills - my oldest daughter (almost 17) and her best friend have a Sawbill permit for later this summer...and Grant is going in with his HS buddy next weekend. While my gut reaction is to keep them close, I'm now pretty darn confident they can handle a crisis and whatever the BWCA throws their way. We'll be base camping at the magical Sawbill campground, monitoring the girls closely as they head back down the Lady Chain. I’m meeting with Grant’s buddy in a couple of days, where we’ll review the route, have him try the Zoleo out, and talk over what to do if Grant gets hurt. I'm sure we'll worry, but I'm also proud of the young women and young man my kids are blossoming into. Brave and capable.

First thing my wife said to me when we met up at the cabin? "Next year we're going to the F*CKING BEACH." I think I better listen. And I think everyone should take a Zoleo or similar device. And review your emergency plans. And hug your loved ones more. And be kind, because a lot of kindness is what gets us through the hard things. And maybe I should patent the "pottycoat". Stay safe friends, and enjoy that sweet fruit that is life.

 


Routes
Trip Reports
a
.
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
.
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
x
Routes
Trip Reports
fd
hgc
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports
Routes
Trip Reports