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

BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 17 2024

Entry Point 38 - Sawbill Lake

Sawbill Lake entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Tofte Ranger Station near the city of Tofte, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 25 miles. Access is a boat landing at Sawbill Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 11
Elevation: 1802 feet
Latitude: 47.8699
Longitude: -90.8858
Sawbill Lake - 38

Because I CAN!

by campnscrap
Trip Report

Entry Date: September 17, 2009
Entry Point: Sawbill Lake
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 1

Trip Introduction:
Since my trip in July with my daughter and chatting with everyone online, I decided that I wanted to try a solo trip. I wanted to see how I would do with the challenge. What follows is my crazy mind wandering and some insights into my days.

Day 1 of 4

Thursday September 17, 2009 8:56 pm

WOW! WOW! WOW! I can’t believe that I’m really here - that I’m really going to do this! A BWCA solo - never in a million years would I have ever thought I’d do such an adventure. I only hope that it is the first of many.

I was able to bug out of work a little early - thanks Ang! I figured it would take about three hours to get to Sawbill outfitters and I figured correctly. I pulled in at about 6:50 - the shop was still open so I was able to get my canoe, watch the video and get my permit. By the time I got the van situated it was too dark to take the canoe out or try walking with it ~ will just have to wait for morning.

The drive up was uneventful - thank goodness. I stopped in Two Harbors for gas and potty break & that was it - no other stops. As I got closer and closer to Tofte my anxiousness to be here grew - I think I was racing the clock. That made me think of the one statement Mitch said: “A car is not a time machine” and that is so true!

As I drove up Sawbill trail I felt a peace of mind that words just can’t describe. The sun was setting behind the Sawtooth Mountains, reflecting on the early fall colors, red and gold. The sky was a beautiful blue with just a few puffy clouds. In my mind I felt such a release and relaxation come over me ~ something about nature, Gods awesome creation and being one with it is just . . . . I don’t know, Fabulous? Fantastic? Awe Inspiring? And I haven’t even really started my trip yet!

As I was privatizing (is that even a word?!) the van (towels and pillow cases duct-taped over the windows) Mitch came over and introduced himself. It’s so cool that there’s this entire community of people brought together by one common passion - BWCA. Everyone that I’ve met so far has been so awesome. The willingness to accept new-comers, the sharing of knowledge and the trust of the members shows me that all is well with the world.

After I finished in the van I walked down to the boat landing. It was pretty dark so there wasn’t much to see. I’m hoping to capture some photos of those “White Horses” one of these cool mornings. After I was done at the boat landing I found Mitch again at his campsite and we visited for a while. It’s odd to me to feel like you’ve begun a new friendship when you haven’t even met them in person. I think that’s what draws me to The camaraderie ~ even without having met anyone face to face. We had a nice chat and I enjoyed meeting and getting to know him.

The CCS pack I borrowed from Kyle is FANTASTIC! That will definitely be on my Christmas/Birthday list - I haven’t even hardly used it yet and I already know that I like it.

I wanted to have a fire tonight but after getting things ready for bed and for tomorrow it’s too late and I need to get to sleep. The last couple of days I was like a kid at Christmas ~ so excited and ready to go! Today at work was the worst. Thank goodness I was busy so it made the day go fast.

I’m looking forward to the gorgeous weather that is in the forecast. Each day that it’s been sunny I’ve thought about Jan and GSP on their trips as well. I’ll be back before Jan and can’t wait to hear about his Quetico trip. I’d really like to try that. BUT patience is needed as I get some experience under my belt. If I can make it work I’m hoping to have four long weekend trips next summer. Lottie would like to go and so do Mom and Manda. I’ve got lots of planning to do this winter!

Time to read now before sleep sets in . . . zzzzzzz


Day 2 of 4

Friday September 18, 2009 7:18 am

It’s foggy this morning - the dense, think, pea soup kind. The trees across the lake are only a dark bruise amidst the white. The streamers of mist coming off the lake look like belly dancers the way they sway. The water is like a mirror and there’s absolutely no breath of breeze out there. I hope it stays that way! Somewhere on the water a fish just jumped and the campground is starting to wake up.

I was awake before 6:00 am but laid there until about 6:10 then decided to get everything out and ready to go. I still need to wait for the store to open so that I can pay for the campsite last night. Besides it’s awful foggy to be starting out yet - don’t know that I’d find the portage!

Took the canoe out for a test paddle - with just me in it boy was it wobbly. I’m hoping that loaded and trimmed it will be better. I can’t believe the difference in weight - wow. We are definitely going to have to invest in a lighter canoe for our family - even if it’s a solo for me - then I can take it whenever I want. Load the gear and be off.

I chatted with Mitch again for a few minutes this morning for a few minutes - such a nice guy.

Am trying to get a few photos but they’re just big, white blobs - the fog is just too thick. I can see why they’re called “white horses” I hope the sun comes out soon!

Portaging the canoe wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be though I know I’m not ready to haul it on long, tough portages. Just walking down from the store my arms got tired. There’s a hint of a breeze now starting to pickup - hope it doesn’t get too windy! I can see the trees across the way clearly now - only waiting for the sun. More later . . .

11:17 am - I took off from Sawbill campground around 8:15 am and made it to the portage to Alton in about 30 minutes. The water was pretty calm but the air was very foggy - those darn white horses. Once I reached the portage I decided to triple it - just to be safe - it was only a 30 rod. Wasn’t so bad - nice wide trail with a few rocks but not bad. I took a few pictures along the way and just enjoyed the solitude and morning calm. I heard a few birds, chickadees mostly and ravens. I made the portage without incident - okay, we’re doing good, loaded the canoe, went to get in and DUMPED it! Good grief - at least it was only in about a foot of water. Got my ass and feet wet and I’ve never moved so fast to haul gear around. The wettest things were me and my day pack. I need to get a better one - this is just an old school backpack - note to self, another item to put on the ever-growing Christmas list.

Okay, so now I’m wet but not freezing - re-loaded the canoe and was a bit more careful getting in this time - and off I went. Alton is a bigger lake, not as big and scary as Pine was. The water is crystal clear and there are a lot of rocks - I was hugging the shore so I had to really watch that - I didn’t want to come up on one too fast and dump in the middle of the lake. The water was calm so it was pretty easy to see them. I would paddle, paddle, paddle, and glide - nice and easy - soaking in the serenity that I’m finding here. I had a short bout of anxiety as I got into deeper water but it quickly passed. I slowly meandered along the shore until I found a camp-site - decided not to go as far as Kelso since I need to dry out and check the gear. I think I’m at site #867 - was shooting for one further north but this one works. It doesn’t have a very nice landing but I got unloaded without too much trouble. The tent pad is rocky and full of roots but I’ll make due - that’s what it’s all about anyway - doing it because I CAN!

First things first -find dry clothes. Nothing like standing butt naked in the middle of the forest ~ at least there haven’t been any skeeters to bite my bare butt. Ahhh dry feet - so much better! Didn’t take too long to set up camp - the tent is a bit of a bugger doing alone but I got it. Decided to use the footprint as an outie this time due to the condition of the ground; I don’t want holes in the bottom of the tent.

Once camp was set up I sat on the rock by the water just drinking it all in - oh, and eating an apple. I skipped breakfast - that’s bad - but wanted to get moving. There’s a campsite directly across the lake - at least it looks like one - but it’s unoccupied. I’ve seen a few groups go by heading north. Not sure if they’re day trippers or overnight paddlers. None of them appear to be looking for a campsite - they just kept on-a-truckin’.

This mustn’t be an often used site as there were a lot of sticks and branches down - ready made firewood! And the latrine hadn’t been used in quite a while. It’s nice and private here with a row of trees all along the shore to “hide” the site - black spruce and white cedar. Some of the cedar needles are brown - perhaps stress from a dry year? Of course there are birch trees aplenty. Up the trail to the latrine (why is it ALWAYS up hill?!) there are red and white pine. Behind the tent pad is a blueberry patch - I found . . . . Two. However, I’m glad they’re picked over then no berry seeking bears will come by. The sun is flirting with me - peeking from the clouds and then hiding again. I did put up the rain tarp - just in case. I don’t thin there’s rain in the forecast but better to be prepared. If I have my bearings correct the clouds are moving from North to South - but the compass is on the pack - waaaaaay over on the other side of camp and I’m too comfy to move.

I snacked for lunch - a bit of chex mix and some beef jerky. Maybe will have a pudding after a while.

The breeze is picking up and I’m glad that I stopped for the day. I’m chilly as I sit here and am contemplating taking the canoe out to explore the shore and find the portage to Kelso, but the sun is starting to peek out again and it feels so good. Besides that I’m not so sure that I want to fight the waves in an unloaded canoe. I left the knee pads in the van as the yoke is right where I’d want to kneel if I was gonna paddle that way.

All the weeks of planning and I’m really here and really alone. No phone, no fighting kids, no TV, no radio, no cars, no barking dog, no “mommy….” or “hey Lisa…..” Mitch said something last night that really struck me “This is my spiritual retreat.” And it really truly is. Besides that small bout of anxiety on the water I feel such peace and calm. The only sounds are the wind through the trees, the water lapping on the shore and the birds. There’s a few flies droning by and one red squirrel, but he hasn’t scolded me too much. I’m not lonesome yet. We’ll see how that goes in the dark! I don’t know that I’d want to do a really long trip alone - eventually I’d need someone besides myself to talk to. I think I’ve actually only spoken aloud a few times - the “oh SHIT” when I dumped the canoe and “hey little guy” to the squirrel. Hummed a little to myself on the portage trail - Johnny Cash (hee hee) - listed to that on the way up after my radio station didn’t come in any longer.

The clouds are puffy and gray on the bottoms. I hope that doesn’t mean rain - more later . . .

2:00 pm on the nose! The sun is out and I’m basking in the warmth. The sky is that brilliant blue that only Minnesota has and there are puffy cotton ball clouds floating casually by. There’s still a nice breeze and the waves are a bit more aggressive - again - glad I’m parked for the day. I have been completely and blissfully alone since before lunch when the last group of paddlers went by - I’m thinking they were day trippers from the campground.

Earlier I had to get the long-johns and sweats on - I was so chilly! Then I got my butt outa my chair (I’m sure glad I brought that!) and walked the trail behind the tent. I hit the jackpot! Found a downed tree resting on another with branches the perfect size for fire wood. I went back to camp, got the saw and hauled a whole bunch back to camp - made two trips! Spent the better part of about two hours breaking up and sorting it into piles by size. I should be able to have a nice fire tonight. AND, bonus! The wood is dry! I pulled a good one though and cut my finger while sawing. Dur, pay attention Lisa! It’s not too ad. Squeezed it for a few, cleaned it, put goo and band-aid on and all better.

I have yet to crack open a book or magazine - other than my journal. I’m enjoying just drinking it all in. I could live like this - I really could. But, that’s not going to happen so I’ll just have to be satisfied with visiting several times. What I think is so amazing are the parents who bring their kids and teach them about this at a young age. It’s so important to instill in them - while they’re teachable - this love for nature. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors. I wish mom and dad had continued camping and canoeing with us kids. Perhaps that’s why I’ve made it such a priority to always take the kids camping. However, now that I’ve been ‘real’ camping, car camping just won’t ever be the same.

I hear voices (and no, not in my head). The first since this morning. All day I’ve just enjoyed listening to the birds, water and loons. I thought I heard a trumpeter swan earlier today. Sounded like it was coming from over the ridge. I didn’t see it though. There’s a flock of geese across the lake that the paddlers disturbed earlier. They were honking and scolding so loud it just echoed across the lake.

I have a little visitor but he’s not as friendly as Booger was; he’s a bit shyer. He must be doing well for himself because he’s nice and plump.

The trees across the lake - and even in the campsite - aren’t as brilliant yet as I had hoped. There are a few smatterings of red and gold, but still more green than anything. With the cool weather coming next week, though, it won’t be long before they do turn.

3:10 pm - It’s about 65* - in the sun according to my compass/thermometer. I keep moving my chair around to stay in the warmth. I’ll start a fire pretty soon. I have neighbors somewhere but haven’t figured out where. I don’t see anyone - just hear the banging of the canoe and talking. The sound carries so far across the water that it’s hard to judge exactly where it’s coming from. I also keep hearing the loons but have yet to see them. I wonder if there are more here during the summer. I would think that some have begun their southward migration already. It’s so nice that there are virtually no bugs - a few here and there but certainly not like they’d be in the summer months. I’ve always enjoyed fall camping and that is one reason why.

I haven’t decided if I’ll stay here tomorrow as well or if I’ll pack up and move to another site. I think I’ll just wait and see how early I wake up and what I feel like in the morning. I’m sure sleepy sitting here in the sun - maybe there will be a nearly bed time . . . .oh but I want to sit by the fire - I didn’t get to do that last night and the fires that Em and I had on our trip were so pathetic.

The sun reflecting on Alton is shimmering like billions of diamonds and it’s so beautiful. I know I keep saying that but it’s true - I just can’t even put words to it that will justify it.

So, what have I learned so far? I’ve learned that I like having a chair to sit in, I brought too much food - again, I like having the mud boots for wet-footing it, BUT dumping the canoe fills them with water and defeats their purpose. Gear needs to be centered and stable and to double check before taking off. I’ve learned that I am thoroughly enjoying my alone time - even though so many thought that I was nuts for doing this trip.

I moved my chair down by the canoe landing - there are two big boulders set in the shoreline and I have the pack on there to finish drying out - it’s almost here. There are huge boulders all over in the camp and surrounding woods. I can’t fathom the force of the glacier as it moved the earth and these boulders around - that force is unimaginable.

It’s going to be a beautiful, clear evening. The wind is picking up and pushing what’s left of the clouds away. I hope to be able to stay awake and watch the stars. The darkness here is going to be so all encompassing, so almost suffocating I bet. I don’t think there’s much of a moon - if any - tonight either.

If the lake is calm in the morning I think I’ll try heading up towards Kelso and down through Sawbill. I’ll have to look at the map to figure out a good campsite. The water is pounding on the rocks so hard that I keep thinking there’s a moose or some other big animal nearby - but there isn’t - it’s only the waves. 4:07 and time to get the fire going. I’m hungry. BUT I’ forgot my steaks in the freezer at work. I was so anxious to get going I completely forgot about them. Good thing I had back-up! 4:32 pm I MADE FIRE! I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR!! And I did it WITHOUT lighter fluid. Only used two homemade cotton ball fire starters and a pile of good dry kindling, two matches and Viola - Fire. 5:09 “Suppers over and the dishes washed….” Stupid mess kit is tippy - another note to self - don’t use handle or better yet, get new mess kit! Trying to use the handle I dumped about ½ the noodles out. Still it was okay because it was too much food. Next time I’ll split the packages into four servings - the third size was too much food. It’s early and I know I’ll need a snack before bed. Maybe some peas or applesauce. Too full right now to worry about it. Supper was Thai Sesame Knorrs (Thanks Jan!) with chicken - I put it all in one pot over the fire and cooked it until the noodles were done - yummy.

I sure got myself a nice fire going tonight - yee haw. How grubby am I though? You don’t want to know. Thank goodness it hasn’t been hot - I hate getting sweaty. There’s not a cloud in the sky - it’s gonna be clear and cold I think tonight. Hope I’ll be warm enough! The sunset is going to be spectacular and I have a marvelous view of it. I’m glad that I chose the west facing shore.

6:51pm Sunset was glorious - I know it’s not truly 100% set yet, but it’s behind the ridge and will get dark soon. I sat on the rock and watched it set - took several photos and will see how they turned out when I get home. There’s something up with the camera - I s’pose it got damp in the dunking. Oh well, at least it’s still taking pictures.

My fire is still going - sort of. The larger pieces of wood that I found are kind of wet. Even so, it’s throwing off some heat - that feels good as I’m getting chilly again. It’s sizzling and crackling and the embers below are glowing orange. I should have brought some of those color fire makers that we used at Savanna - maybe next time.

There’s a raven nearby calling and calling. The breeze has died down some, but is still whispering through the trees. The wavers are a bit tamer, though certainly not calm. I packed up most of what I could so that if it’s calm in the morning I can take off and paddle on calm water - I just can’t handle those big waves. The Vagabond was tippy enough on calm waters let along on rough. I’m sure glad that I got that one instead of the prism. I heard that the prism is a lot more rocky - no thank you!

All the little critters scurrying through the forest - I swear those tiny ones make more noise than anything. I found mouse poop under my shirt that I left on the rock. Not sure if it was there before or after I put the shirt down - delicious.

I’m a little concerned about getting loaded up in the morning - the landing isn’t very nice and I sure don’t want to have a repeat of this morning. I’ll just have to be really careful and pay attention to EVERYTHING.

It’s so nice to sit by the fire with no bugs - there’s no hum of pesky mosquitoes or buzz of flies. The only gird I hear is that raven. There’s a commercial airplane flying over - I wonder what the BWCA looks like from that point of view….There are some clouds moving in from the south - I hope they’re not rain clouds. I f it cools off as much as I think it will there will be fog again in the morning. I sure don’t feel like I did much today - but I really did. Everything is “work” but enjoyable work, relaxing work. I read, journaled, made fire wood, took pictures, walked around - a hike would have been nice, but the only long trail leads up to the throne. At least there’s no scratching my ass from mosquitoes this time. Though I’m afraid that there are monster spiders hiding under the throne rim. I took a stick and swirled it around just to scare ‘em away - I hate spiders!

My fire is dwindling and not giving off much heat. Ohhhh I hope I’m not going to be cold. Time to pack things in for the night it’s 7:17 pm - that’s early but I’m tired and chilly. More tomorrow.


Day 3 of 4

Saturday September 19, 2009 time????? I’d guess about 7:30ish. Woke up this morning to the frequent slap-slurp, slap-slurp of the waves against the shore. They didn’t calm down overnight. I pulled the canoe out and gave it a go being unloaded and boy was she rocky in those waves. I can’t imagine what it would be like in real big waves. So, I’m not packing up this morning. I’ll just see how the day progresses. I’m sitting down by the rock watching the white horses across the lake. The sun is out as I can see it light up the trees across the lake. It has yet to make an appearance in my little site. A family of five hooded mergansers just nonchalantly swam by me - they either didn’t see me or just didn’t care. I was so busy studying them that I didn’t even think about a photo ‘til they were gone. They were all brown and about the same size as a mallard - it was either a bunch of juveniles with mom or all females - none of them were black. I had heard a “quack” but a different kind - I’m sure it was them. A yellow-bellied sap sucker just flew into the cedar tree and is knock, knock, knocking for breakfast. As I was trying to get a good shot with the camera - TRAIL FIND! Someone left a pair of kids black sunglasses - with flames - finders’ keepers. Isaac will like them. They’ll go with his flame pants. Cool.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a breeze but the fog is sure moving fast on the water. I would really like to move on today but with waves and tippy-canoe - hey that should be my new handle! I’m too chicken - I don’t want to dump again.

Somewhere in the back of me a blue jay is calling. The loons are as well as I still have yet to see them. I heard them all through the night. I woke up chilly - not sure what time it was as I didn’t look. I’m surprised that I wasn’t more scared - all alone in the dark. I put my ear plugs in, took my sleeping buddy, left the red lamp on my head lamp on and immediately feel asleep. I was pretty comfy until I got chilly. First thing this morning I went and cut some more fire wood, but then decided to just use the stove to heat water. Had Mountain House scrambled eggs - wasn’t as bad as I thought they’d be. I’d buy and eat them again. Sure was easy fixing. Made some hot cocoa to go with it and I’m all set. Now only if the water would calm down a bit so I could leave. Maybe when the mist is through.

The loons are toward the south end of the lake and their mournful cries echo down the corridor. Soulful and sad and eerie at the same time. AHA! Patience has paid off - a lone loon just landed about 50 yards off shore. Now I can watch him for a while. There’s a bald eagle flying over the ridge and water. It just swooped down for a fish. The loon is calling back and forth to the other loons at each end of the lake. Makes me wonder what they’re “talking” about.

Well my watch says 12:11 pm and the camera 1:20. So I really don’t have a clue as to the time. I hit one of the buttons on it this morning and may have changed the time - oh well, no big deal - kind of nice to not go by the clock either.

I decided that I needed to tackle that fear of waves ~ it’s ridiculous that a grown woman - almost 40 can be so anxious about it. So….I started packing gear, took an ativan, loaded the canoe and paddled north towards Kelso! Yahoo! I was very close to the portage and could have made it yesterday - that that’s okay. I enjoyed my day at my site. The portage entry was easy to find - a nice big sandy beach - would make for good swimming in warm summer weather. The portage trail, however, was a bit trickier as there were three different trails all leading in different directions. I left all the gear at the beginning and walked two of them. Second ones a charm - found the correct one. Wow, though, that trail is an ankle breaker of one. Roots, rocks, holes galore. I think in wet times those holes fill with water. It isn’t a long one but I sure had to watch my step. I again triple portaged it all, taking it easy and taking my time - no need for an injury. The canoe put-in on Kelso was very mucky and swampy, low water with dead trees sticking up and lots of grass. On my second step after putting the canoe down I sunk calf deep in sucking, stinky, foul black yuck. But it didn’t keep my boot when I pulled away. I had to really watch my step when loading - I didn’t want that nasty stuff inside my boots!

Shoved off from “shore” - if one can call it that - and was treated to a swamp full of water lilies and grass, hidden rocks, downed trees and very shallow water. Took a bit of maneuvering around but I finally made it to deeper water. With as murky and swampy as it is I imagine the mosquitoes and black flies are absolutely vicious in spring and summer. I didn’t see a one.

Instead of paddling North on Kelso I went right for the “river” heading to the Sawbill portage. I don’t know that I’d call it a river but instead a duck path through the swamp. It was deep enough and a lot shorter than I imagined from the map. Again, the portage landing was nice and easy. The trail to Sawbill a lot better than the Kelso one. Same triple portage - it’s actually not so bad doing that on those smaller portages. I took my time absorbing nature and the beauty. It smells so good and there are so many different ones ~ a dog would go bonkers I imagine. At the Kelso landing it was the detritus and murky water. When I pulled my boot out, it smelled like nasty fart. I know there’s a technical term for it, but I don’t know it off the top of my head. On the trail to Sawbill the pine scent was so strong. Not overpowering but definitely present. Sitting in my chair I smell the lake, decaying leaves, pine and every so often a waft of stale fire (as I’m sitting next to the fire grate).

I paddled through the west bay on Sawbill - still undetermined as to which directly to go. I turned North as I came around the peninsula and headed for the east shore. I just wanted to paddle til I felt like stopping - also had to keep in mind the further North I go the further paddle I have before going home - that’s tomorrow already! Anyway, I checked the map and my options were to shoot for the lone site in a bay (I’ll have to look up the number) or head further north to one of those sites up there. As I neared the bay, I decided to check it out - my arms were tired already - what a wuss. Beautiful little cove that faces west - the site was mine just waiting for me. Also waiting for me was another tricky landing. Boy I dislike those BUT I did it without dumping the canoe. I just got out in deep water to avid the shore rocks - deeper than my boots so the filled with water . . . Again.

The site sits up a small cliff and is very, very private. There are a lot more white cedar trees here than at the other one and they’re more mature. There are three nice tent pads - one back amidst the cedars - I took that one - the ground is kind of spongy so will make for softer sleeping - no knots or rocks in my back.

Got camp set up in no time and as soon as the tent was up I had a big gray nasty visitor crawl on it - a spider about the size of a quarter - legs and all. I took some pictures - they’re not the best - I was a-sceered to get too close - ewww. I tried shaking the tent but he wouldn’t budge. So I took a stick and flicked him off. The little sucker rose up on his legs like those attack kind you see on TV. I’m gonna have to look him up online. I was a murderer and killed it - with no shame, no sorrow. Don’t want the bugger near me or my tent. Of course there are probably a hundred more just like him lurking in the shadows just waiting to get me…dunh, dunh, dunh!

Found the throne - isn’t too far from camp and is an easy walk - but phewey this one is ripe - do my business and get out of there ASAP.

Had a couple of canoes come into the bay - not sure if they were wanting the site or just checking it out - but - ha ha eeeeesss mine! The sun is out and it’s gorgeously, deliciously warm - I actually got hot on the last portage and paddle. There’s more flies buzzing around today but still haven’t seen any skeeters.

I’ve had to fill the water jug right from shore - canoe was way too tippy to do mid-lake. I have the drinking water filter but am thinking that a base camp filter might be a good investment. One thing at a time.

On Kelso River I startled a flock of Canadian geese away. I just drifted slowly so I wouldn’t’ come at them too fast, but still must have been too much cuz they finally just flew away.

I just did the math and on this trip will be a total of 329 rods of portaging - that’s not including hauling the canoe down from the store. Wow-who’da thunk I could do this all by myself and on my 2nd trip ever to BWCA. I think the past several years of camping have really helped me to be ready. Most families move up in gear they purchase - tent, pop-up, RV etc. Our family has done the opposite. We’ve stayed with our tents, going to smaller versions, have not used airbeds the last few times and are real conservative about the amount of junk that’s brought along. Of course there’s still the problem of always too much food!

Ahhh, sitting here, journaling, listening to nothing but nature, looking out at the lake occasionally and eating a snack-pack - don’t know that it could get any better! Looks like there are a few clouds coming in from the west/southwest - hope they stay puffy and empty. Last night I sat and watched the fog move in - it was rather eerie. Heavy, white, low clouds came over and gradually settled for the night. That meant it also blocked the stars. Bummer.

Watch says 2:31 - seems about right. We’re having a spectacular Indian summer day - sunny warmth about 75* in the shade - no wonder I got warm gathering wood. Have now seen a couple of mosquitoes - the last remnants of summer to be sure. Lunch today was Knorrs southwest side with chicken - tasty - but too much. I went for a walk around my little cove - at least as far as I could go. It’s riddled with cedar trees and pine - as I walked through them they’d rub on me their sweet, spicy scent - mmmmm. I came upon a boulder field and didn’t dare walk in it - way too many ways to fall in and break a leg or and ankle and I most certainly don’t need that to happen. All of them are monstrous. I wonder if it was a river eons a go. I also followed a rail up past the throne and found that it urns into a steep ridge - no climbing that sucker. I wanted to go further around the cove on the north side, but with those boulders it’s too much of a barrier. If I wasn’t alone I’d try it though. I have yet to explore the south side - not sure if there’s a trail or not. Other than the landing being a bugger this is a really nice site. However, it’s been fairly sheltered from the wind so would imagine that the skeeters are bad in summer.

It’s setting up to be another gorgeous evening - there are only a few clouds now. While on my hike/wood search, I found a nasty thong. Not sure if I’ll pack it out. Ewwwww. I should just burn it - even though you’re not supposed to burn trash. It’s been there for a while because there’s even moss growing on it. Gross.

The waves on Sawbill sound like they’re big and fierce but they must not be too ad because there have been several canoes going boy out there. I think mostly day trippers because they’ll be gone for a while then come back the other way. If all goes well in the morning I should be back to Sawbill by noon and home by 4pm. Mark and the girls are going to Renaissance Festival - no thank you. Em is hanging with Alex and Brooke. I’m so glad that Emily and I took our BW trip this summer as it won’t be until 2011 before she’ll be able to do that again. Next summer Manda wants to go - even is interested in a Quetico trip - we’ll see. Then there’s Lottie and mom. Also want to do a group/girls solo with Trix - so much to plan - will there be enough time?! If no more surgeries are needed there should be.

Friday before I left Mark called - all excited - he got a job! Scenic Signs in St. Cloud called him back - after MONTHS and he’ll start some time next week. I’m so relieved - he needs to get out of the house and feel like he’s doing something productive. I just hope this is a good thing and that he doesn’t find out that they’re jerks to work for. In any case he was excited - as he should be!

4:14 pm - it’s getting to be almost time to make supper - if the watch is correct. I took that hike down the other side of the cove but the trail doesn’t go very far before it disappears and I didn’t feel like bushwhacking it. There also was another boulder field there. ON the map it looks like there should be a stream or creek on each side, but I didn’t find any. Perhaps it’s been too dry.

The sun is going to set tonight behind the trees on my cove so I don’t think it will be as brilliant as last night. I’ll just have to be patient and see. I read several pages this afternoon in the Root Beer Lady book. What an amazing woman. To think that she went against the grain of society and succeeded in accomplishing the things she was most passionate about is inspiring. I know in today’s society there’s the power women - but how many have taken the opportunity to do the truly hard things in life? The things one must do to survive without modern conveniences? I know none of my friends or family (Emily might) would ever attempt this type of trip. Why? My guess is the danger of being so isolated, the hard work and lack of knowledge and the enormous lack of desire. Isolated? Sure, I’m out here in the woods, no modern convenience - except my bag chair - no immediate access to help. What do they think pioneer women/frontier women did? They survived in what they did and they made due with what they had. Lack of knowledge? All life is a learning experience - everything new learned is a treasure. Research and asking questions goes a long way for preparing - in any endeavor! Lack of desire? This is something that will forever baffle me. I’m sitting in one of Gods greatest creations, one of the most beautiful and pristine areas in the world and I got here by sheer determination and desire. I did it - on my own with the cumulative knowledge of my fellow BWCA buds and a couple pieces of borrowed g ear. I don’t understand how one can NOT want to be here. But I also cannot understand another’s desire to visit L.A. or NYC. The crowd I see right now is the crowd I can handle - trees, water, moss, rocks and life - it’s thriving and rejuvenating my soul.

Tomorrow is time to go home. I suppose I’m ready….nah….I could stay another day or two. The guys were right though, moving each day is necessary on a solo - I’m glad I came over to Sawbill - will do Kelso another time.

Somewhere in the distance I can hear a chainsaw - at Sawbill campground perhaps? Looking at the map there doesn’t appear to be any other “public” areas. Depending on what time I leave tomorrow I may stop at some of the other forest service campgrounds along the way to check them out.

This is going to be a long trip report to type up ~ all my crazy mind wandering ~ my thoughts on paper. Even as I sit here I think “oh, there are my socks hanging in the tree to dry, better not forget those!” Getting up right now to put them away.

4:55 pm - Read some more and took photos of the little red squirrel that lives here. He’s been munching on the cedar cones/seeds having a wonderful dinner. He let me get pretty close so I hope the photos turn out. He must not be used to people food like Booger was cuz he’s left my stuff alone all day - even when I left it out to go walking around - what a good little guy.

I hear the unmistakable sound of paddle against canoe, though I don’t see anyone yet. There aren’t any close campsites so I hope they’re not after this one - cuz it’s all mine. I feel like a nosy, old lady sitting on her porch watching the neighbors. Except I don’t have any neighbors and I’m just waiting to see that canoe I hear. There’s a skeeter buzzing my head and it has a death wish - there - wish granted.

Must be some humidity in the air as it’s hazy across the lake though it doesn’t feel too humid to me. I took some photos, did some more portraits too - oooohhey are they bad! I have a bandana on my head and that makes me look like a cancer patient - greasy hair makes me look just gross. Will put hat on and do pix with that instead - maybe will be better.

5:28 pm - I made fire - again - still without cheating. Used dryer lint and Vaseline things for starters and the wood I found for kindling was nice and dry. The previous occupant had cut and split some wood - very nice. I’m not strong enough to split but I’ll leave a bunch of kindling and probably won’t use up all the big pieces. I’m not super hungry so don’t know what I’ll make for supper. As I gaze at the filthy fire grate I ponder the comment that guys will pee on the fire to put it out. If that really happens that is most disgusting and makes me hesitate to ever cook anything on it. I.e. my steaks - that are still in the freezer at work - along with my coffee filters - oh well, paper towels work.

I’ve got a good hot, crackling fire goin, but it’s not chilly ~ yet. We’ll see what happens when the sun sets.

6:54 pm - Everything is all snugged down and packed away for the night - all except me. Got some beautiful photos of the sunset - it tricked me and set directly across from my campsite - it was spectacular! I had supper of chicken and teriyaki knorr and peas. I ended up throwing half of it away - now I know for next time.

Fires still a crackling and throwing off heat. There’s no breeze and the cove is already calming - if it continues that ay it will be like glass in the morning. That would be just fine by me. There’s a large bird in the tree that is making kid of a whining noise - very quietly. It’s dark enough that all I’m able to see is a shadow o I can’t tell what it is. One thing I’ve noticed over here today is the lack of chickadees. There were several at the Alton site. Now I hear a prop plane flying around - I didn’t look up to see it though. I’m always curious as to their destination - is it a private plane? Government? Or just what? So nosy.

There have been vandals at this campsite - tearing away birch bark from live trees and chopping into the sitting log. I haven’t noticed any initials though. I used up the pile of fire wood that some wonderful person left - wish I was able to split logs like that but I tried and don’t have the strength. I did leave a nice big pile of different size kindling and there’s still one log left - I’m gonna just let this one burn out now. I’m not sleepy yet but suspect that once I hit the mat I’m going to be out cold. I do believe it’s warmer this evening than yesterday at this time. Would be nice to not wake up cold again.

There are so many of those little water bugs on the water that it looks like it’s raining though it isn’t. There isn’t’ a cloud to be seen. Would be nice to see some stars tonight or a moose or beaver. Prefer not a bear - they can stay away though that entire boulder field would make a great winter den!

8:00 pm - and I’m all set in the tent for the night. Cleaned up camp this evening so it won’t take too much to get packed to head home. I’m ready and I’m not. Ready for the creature comfort of my bed and to snuggle my boy. Sadly I haven’t been lonesome at all. Well…not sadly - surprisingly? I know others may get their feeling hurt that I’m not missing them but I REALLY needed this alone, me time. I’ll write more tomorrow before heading home. Gonna lay down now.


Day 4 of 4

Sunday September 20, 2009 8:04 am - I’m blissfully floating on almost mirror like water. The sun is up and I hear people and smell campfire I must be getting closet to landing - more later.

I’m definitely almost back. It’s such a quiet peaceful morning - the chatter of red squirrels, call of robins and fish jumping. There’s not even the slup-slurp of waves against the shore. The only sound is my paddle very now and ten. The campfire smoke is pouring out of the campground and creeping over the calm surface of the water like some eerie poison gas - something out of a movie.

Back at Sawbill campground: I’m finding that I’m not ready to leave yet. There are several groups that are unloading and leaving - men mostly. Unloading didn’t take long and went off without incident. Carried the canoe up to the store and took the van down to get the rest of the gear. Settled up at the office and visited with Bill for a few minutes. Decided that I’m not ready to leave yet - want to finish up this trip journal first.

I woke this morning at about 6:10 am and laid there for a while but not long cuz my body was screaming at me to get up and get moving around. I had to mind or suffer further punishment later.

As I packed (as all weekend) I’ve though about my friend on their various trips wondering how they’re doing, have they found what they were seeking? I know I did. I found peace and serenity beyond words. I found strength and courage in myself that I didn’t realize were there. I found that I can tackle those big waves and wind and that I’ll pull through. I learned that dumping a canoe isn’t so bad. Most of all my passion for canoe camping has turned from a small fire to an inferno - that needs to be fed - whether by trips, reading or new gear it’s going to grow and grow and never be contained.

That being said, I look forward to a winter of planning trips for myself and my family. Farewell BWCA until next time - and Happy Paddling!


Trip Reports
Trip Reports
Trip Reports
Trip Reports
Trip Reports
Trip Reports
Trip Reports
Trip Reports
Trip Reports
Trip Reports
Trip Reports
Trip Reports