BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

August 06 2020

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: 14
Elevation: 1802 feet
Latitude: 47.8699
Longitude: -90.8858
Sawbill Lake - 38

Sawbill, Cherokee, Frost-2 teenagers and lame parents

by Savagegirl
Trip Report

Entry Date: June 22, 2020
Entry Point: Sawbill Lake
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 4

Trip Introduction:
I have contemplated submitting a trip report for the past year.  June of 2019 would be our maiden voyage into the BWCA and the weeks following our return revealed a complete diary and  personal  trip report of our adventure  that  would  never be viewed by anyone other  the myself. I felt as though I really had no educational value to add to the forum.  We certainly had the trip of a lifetime, but it was our first and relaying this to so many seasoned explorers seemed, well, pointless or redundant at best.  In January of 2019, I announced to my husband and kiddos (15 and 12 at the time) that my ultimate wish for my upcoming 50th birthday would be for our family to experience the Boundary Waters together.  As a child, I spent 9 hours in the middle seat between my two older sisters riding in the back of our Ford station wagon every July traveling to Duluth, Grand Marias and Grand Portage.  My father's obsession with Lake Superior and the great ships that sailed it's vast depths would bring us to God's country every summer.  I remember well the late 1970's.  Following a meal in Grand Marias, we would load up and head out on the Gunflint Trail to the local dump.  Once there we  would  stare at the  mountain of trash until the first bear would appear to feast on the discards of the humans. Many times we would be granted the viewing luxury of watching two, three or four beautiful bears forage through the rubble.  Gone are those days; I've told my children that story so many times that it is now met with teenage eye rolls. It was a magical time for me and a memory that would affect me in a way my siblings would never feel.  I longed to walk the trails deep into the woods; to venture into a seemingly untapped world of wilderness. Don't get me wrong, the miles we traveled and the sights we saw were incredible and only fueled the fire within me to eventually experience more one day. My father was an explorer at heart. His great adventures hampered only by a polio diagnosis he was given at 15 years old.  Many years of surgeries and rehabilitation would miraculously allow him to walk, but he would never fully be capable of physically completely the adventures his mind had created.  I am confident that this is where my sense of needing more originated from. I would see the logging roads during our travels and wish we could venture further.  I am forever grateful to my parents for giving me this sense of adventure which would, 40 some years later, translate into a reality that I would share with my boys. A priceless gift; something my dad most likely never dreamed would emerge from a long station wagon drive up the North Shore. Our 2019 was incredible and would lead to an even more amazing and experienced 2020 trip.  Everything, and I literally mean EVERYTHING, I learned from this site.  I spent months, countless hours, researching our first adventure by viewing every trip report, gear guide suggestion and message board possible.  Yes, I'm a planner to a fault, but I am a realistic planner. I knew there were many aspects I could not control; the weather and the amount of other adventurists we would encounter were unpredictable.  I spent an immense amount of time reading every trip report and exploring every link to another site.  Do I think that is necessary for every BWCA traveler?  No.  You do you.  I felt as if I had the lives of my family's memories in my hands and I did what I did because it made me feel better.  Not everyone needs that, but I did ME ??  We embarked from Sawbill on June 22nd, 2020, which was the location and near exact date we left from in June of 2019.  I can't express to you how much we love Cherokee Lake and this is what drove us to begin our second adventure from the same starting point.  I think there is, for our family,  something about Cherokee that invokes a sense of adventure.  It's big, it has many islands, but it has solitude.  Cherokee, if you allow it, leads to the part of the Boundary Waters that feels remote. Last year we base camped on Cherokee (2 different sites) for 6 days and took day trips to neighboring lakes. This year, we would expand and camp on the lakes we had found the previous year.   Frost. Can't emphasize enough.. Frost.  A day trip to Frost Lake in 2019 led us to a year of reminiscing about it's beauty and a plan to camp there another time.  After 2 days at one of our 2 favorite sites on Cherokee, we packed up with our sights set on Frost.  Ok, so I'll add my own side note (I get to do that because I'm the one writing this!).  Gordon Lake, the main paddle to the Frost portage, is one of my favorites!  I'll admit that it's lure has much to do with an otter, my first ever encounter, that danced around us for nearly an hour in 2019; however, Gordon Lake is beyond beautiful. It has open paddles, coupled with narrow, cliff-lined travels that are, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful on this trip.  I know that Gordon is more of a waterway to other areas than it is a destination, but I feel like it is a much deserved notation on this trip. On June 24th, 2020, we arrived in Frost.  We had dreamed about this beautiful sand lined beach lake for 12 months!  The site we had eaten lunch on the previous year was open and we eagerly set up camp.  It was exactly how we had pictured. Amazing views, sand beaches littered with calf and cow moose prints and beyond beautiful tent pads gently nestled among the most enormous growth of blooming  Lady Slippers.  It truly was beyond imagination and I'm forever grateful for the place we called home for the next two days. We explored this beautiful lake for the next two days as much as we safely could do.  It was windy during most of the days, but the evenings were calm.  We fished, adventured to unnamed lakes and enjoyed a special lake trout meal.  The plan was to spend 3 of our 6 nights on Frost.  After the second night,  we woke to cloudy skies and slightly wavy waters. The following two days were originally predicted to be quite beautiful, so we decided to pack up and head back to Cherokee.  Upon arrival, we found our second campsite from the previous year was open and we claimed our stake. Although there is a great reward in discovering new parts of the BWCA, the familiarity of this beautiful site seemed exactly what we all needed!  Our camp was erected and we fished from shore, paddled to a cliff jumping site our oldest had eyed up the previous year and simply enjoyed every moment.  Our 6th day was met with sunny, warm and slightly windy conditions. This would be a day trip to Town Lake.  The paddle was amazing, the portage beautiful and the lake was lonely until our arrival. Our youngest would catch his first Boundary Waters fish, a very respectable Northern, which was safely returned to the waters to swim another day.  Our 7th and final day was a bit of a sad event for me.  I have boundless energy in the BWCA!  As much as I ache in the morning, I fine recuperation in building a fire and making breakfast for my family.  I can go days with hardly eating and still feel like I can portage for miles.  I knew I would miss this.  I knew this would be the last day of a family trip I may never have the privilege of experiencing again .  My oldest, set to begin his final year of high school, is scheduled to begin boot camp the USMC June  2021.  Following his father's footsteps, it seems a calling.  Our 14 yo adjusting life without his big brother seems unimaginable.  Perhaps ,in a perfect world we  have will  another opportunity to travel the Boundary Waters as a family; perhaps not.  No matter what the future holds for us as a  family or as individuals, I feel confident that we have provided our children with the skills and appreciation of the remarkable  BWCA and hope this gift will be passed down to many generations to come I could continue on I guess with the things we've learned.  Dehydrating more food, purchasing hammocks for the kids proving to be priceless and the purchase of four more comfortable sleeping pads. Again, I don't know if we can add more to the knowledge and experience from so many seasoned veterans of the BWCA. The only thing I'm certain of is that anyone with a love, appreciation and respect for the wilderness and their own family can do this.  Please don't ever be deterred by people calling you "newbies" or otherwise having never experienced a trip like this.  We, as a family, can only provide you with encouragement and strength. You do NOT have to have years of experience.  Do your reading, have a vision and know that you are giving generations to come an adventure of a lifetime. Peace out from a 51yo mom with a dream.

Report


I have contemplated submitting a trip report for the past year.  June of 2019 would be our maiden voyage into the BWCA and the weeks following our return revealed a complete diary and  personal  trip report of our adventure  that  would  never be viewed by anyone other  the myself. I felt as though I really had no educational value to add to the forum.  We certainly had the trip of a lifetime, but it was our first and relaying this to so many seasoned explorers seemed, well, pointless or redundant at best.  In January of 2019, I announced to my husband and kiddos (15 and 12 at the time) that my ultimate wish for my upcoming 50th birthday would be for our family to experience the Boundary Waters together.  As a child, I spent 9 hours in the middle seat between my two older sisters riding in the back of our Ford station wagon every July traveling to Duluth, Grand Marias and Grand Portage.  My father's obsession with Lake Superior and the great ships that sailed it's vast depths would bring us to God's country every summer.  I remember well the late 1970's.  Following a meal in Grand Marias, we would load up and head out on the Gunflint Trail to the local dump.  Once there we  would  stare at the  mountain of trash until the first bear would appear to feast on the discards of the humans. Many times we would be granted the viewing luxury of watching two, three or four beautiful bears forage through the rubble.  Gone are those days; I've told my children that story so many times that it is now met with teenage eye rolls. It was a magical time for me and a memory that would affect me in a way my siblings would never feel.  I longed to walk the trails deep into the woods; to venture into a seemingly untapped world of wilderness. Don't get me wrong, the miles we traveled and the sights we saw were incredible and only fueled the fire within me to eventually experience more one day. My father was an explorer at heart. His great adventures hampered only by a polio diagnosis he was given at 15 years old.  Many years of surgeries and rehabilitation would miraculously allow him to walk, but he would never fully be capable of physically completely the adventures his mind had created.  I am confident that this is where my sense of needing more originated from. I would see the logging roads during our travels and wish we could venture further.  I am forever grateful to my parents for giving me this sense of adventure which would, 40 some years later, translate into a reality that I would share with my boys. A priceless gift; something my dad most likely never dreamed would emerge from a long station wagon drive up the North Shore.

Our 2019 was incredible and would lead to an even more amazing and experienced 2020 trip.  Everything, and I literally mean EVERYTHING, I learned from this site.  I spent months, countless hours, researching our first adventure by viewing every trip report, gear guide suggestion and message board possible.  Yes, I'm a planner to a fault, but I am a realistic planner. I knew there were many aspects I could not control; the weather and the amount of other adventurists we would encounter were unpredictable.  I spent an immense amount of time reading every trip report and exploring every link to another site.  Do I think that is necessary for every BWCA traveler?  No.  You do you.  I felt as if I had the lives of my family's memories in my hands and I did what I did because it made me feel better.  Not everyone needs that, but I did ME ?? 

We embarked from Sawbill on June 22nd, 2020, which was the location and near exact date we left from in June of 2019.  I can't express to you how much we love Cherokee Lake and this is what drove us to begin our second adventure from the same starting point.  I think there is, for our family,  something about Cherokee that invokes a sense of adventure.  It's big, it has many islands, but it has solitude.  Cherokee, if you allow it, leads to the part of the Boundary Waters that feels remote. Last year we base camped on Cherokee (2 different sites) for 6 days and took day trips to neighboring lakes. This year, we would expand and camp on the lakes we had found the previous year.  

Frost. Can't emphasize enough.. Frost.  A day trip to Frost Lake in 2019 led us to a year of reminiscing about it's beauty and a plan to camp there another time.  After 2 days at one of our 2 favorite sites on Cherokee, we packed up with our sights set on Frost.  Ok, so I'll add my own side note (I get to do that because I'm the one writing this!).  Gordon Lake, the main paddle to the Frost portage, is one of my favorites!  I'll admit that it's lure has much to do with an otter, my first ever encounter, that danced around us for nearly an hour in 2019; however, Gordon Lake is beyond beautiful. It has open paddles, coupled with narrow, cliff-lined travels that are, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful on this trip.  I know that Gordon is more of a waterway to other areas than it is a destination, but I feel like it is a much deserved notation on this trip.

On June 24th, 2020, we arrived in Frost.  We had dreamed about this beautiful sand lined beach lake for 12 months!  The site we had eaten lunch on the previous year was open and we eagerly set up camp.  It was exactly how we had pictured. Amazing views, sand beaches littered with calf and cow moose prints and beyond beautiful tent pads gently nestled among the most enormous growth of blooming  Lady Slippers.  It truly was beyond imagination and I'm forever grateful for the place we called home for the next two days. We explored this beautiful lake for the next two days as much as we safely could do.  It was windy during most of the days, but the evenings were calm.  We fished, adventured to unnamed lakes and enjoyed a special lake trout meal.  The plan was to spend 3 of our 6 nights on Frost.  After the second night,  we woke to cloudy skies and slightly wavy waters. The following two days were originally predicted to be quite beautiful, so we decided to pack up and head back to Cherokee.  Upon arrival, we found our second campsite from the previous year was open and we claimed our stake. Although there is a great reward in discovering new parts of the BWCA, the familiarity of this beautiful site seemed exactly what we all needed!  Our camp was erected and we fished from shore, paddled to a cliff jumping site our oldest had eyed up the previous year and simply enjoyed every moment.  Our 6th day was met with sunny, warm and slightly windy conditions. This would be a day trip to Town Lake.  The paddle was amazing, the portage beautiful and the lake was lonely until our arrival. Our youngest would catch his first Boundary Waters fish, a very respectable Northern, which was safely returned to the waters to swim another day. 

Our 7th and final day was a bit of a sad event for me.  I have boundless energy in the BWCA!  As much as I ache in the morning, I fine recuperation in building a fire and making breakfast for my family.  I can go days with hardly eating and still feel like I can portage for miles.  I knew I would miss this.  I knew this would be the last day of a family trip I may never have the privilege of experiencing again .  My oldest, set to begin his final year of high school, is scheduled to begin boot camp the USMC June  2021.  Following his father's footsteps, it seems a calling.  Our 14 yo adjusting life without his big brother seems unimaginable.  Perhaps ,in a perfect world we  have will  another opportunity to travel the Boundary Waters as a family; perhaps not.  No matter what the future holds for us as a

 family or as individuals, I feel confident that we have provided our children with the skills and appreciation of the remarkable

 BWCA and hope this gift will be passed down to many generations to come

I could continue on I guess with the things we've learned.  Dehydrating more food, purchasing hammocks for the kids proving to be priceless and the purchase of four more comfortable sleeping pads. Again, I don't know if we can add more to the knowledge and experience from so many seasoned veterans of the BWCA. The only thing I'm certain of is that anyone with a love, appreciation and respect for the wilderness and their own family can do this.  Please don't ever be deterred by people calling you "newbies" or otherwise having never experienced a trip like this.  We, as a family, can only provide you with encouragement and strength. You do NOT have to have years of experience.  Do your reading, have a vision and know that you are giving generations to come an adventure of a lifetime. Peace out from a 51yo mom with a dream.

      

 


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