BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 08 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 11
Elevation: 1802 feet
Sawbill Lake - 38
Bannock Sawbill to Cherokee July 07
July 22, 2007
Number of Days:
Julie and I, in separate vehicles, left my house at 7:00 a.m. and drove up to St. Paul to drop her car at her brother’s house. Then we picked up David at the airport at 9:30. The three of us had a leisurely drive to Two Harbors.
We had lunch at the Black Forest. Nice place. Since we weren’t scheduled to check in at the Voyageur Motel until 6:00 p.m. we decided to pick up our permit at the Tofte Ranger Station to save time in the morning.
For future reference, don’t do that again. It was much farther than I had remembered. I think it was over an hour one way! Picking up our permit was a 2 ½ hour affair.
Once back to Two Harbors we checked in at the Voyageur Motel, walked around the harbor area, ate at the Black Forest again, went back to the motel to re-pack gear, and then to bed.
We were up fairly early, loaded the van, and were off down the road.
We stopped in Silver Bay at the Northwoods Café for breakfast.
The Northwoods Café is just a short drive off of Hwy 61. Good food, good prices, fast service.
We continued on to Tofte, and up the Sawbill Trail to Sawbill Lake. The place was a madhouse! There were 3 parties besides ours at the canoe launch. All were disorganized. Most were abusing equipment and/or each other. Not pleasant.
Even though we were the last to arrive, we were the first to launch (about 9:30 a.m.). Another group was arriving as we left. I think there are 14 permits a day for Sawbill. I could hear others spurring their group members on, worried about the competition. Geesh! I hate that! I felt like we were in some kind of cutthroat contest.
For the entire trip, portages were crowded, although we seldom saw others while paddling.
We had the wind at our backs on Sawbill. How often does that happen? The wind was from the south and we were heading north towards Cherokee. David and Julie were paddling my Wenonah Prospector 16, and I was paddling my new-to-me Sawyer Autumn Mist, 14’ 10” solo. We meet Don L. (eagle93) on the Ada Creek portage. We knew there was a possibility that it might happen. Don and another Galesville, WI teacher were leading a group of students on a trip. Fine group. Very organized. I spoke with a boy who must have been about 17. I bet he could have led that group himself. He seemed very competent … actually all the kids did.
In June of 2006, Jim/WI and I did this section and discovered that the old maps were no longer accurate, that the Ada to Skoop Lake portage was no longer 12 rods but instead 90 rock-hopping, ankle-spraining rods. I was prepared for it this time, but to my pleasant surprise it was once again 12 rods. A beaver dam down stream brought the water level back up so that it could be floated. It did, however, add a bit of a tricky pull over, but still much easier than before.
Also, there is a portage from Skoop to Cherokee Creek that is much longer than the published 180 rods on the map. Something to be aware of if traveling this route.
We made it to Cherokee lake by 2:00 p.m. and started checking out campsites. We were looking for one on a high point with good swimming. There were many campsites open on the lake but did not fit those criteria. The ones that were taken did.
We had checked out most of the lake and finally decided on a site at 3:00. It was the northeastern most site - #2055. It wasn’t the nicest site we ever had, but still a nice site. We had our own bay with good swimming and sunning rocks. There were 3 good, level tent pads, a nice place for the tarp, places to sit up high and places to sit down by the water. Good canoe landing.
The fire pit area was small but nice. It was, however on the edge of a fairly steep slope. You had to be careful walking around the fire pit.
There was tons of firewood all around camp. I have never seen so much available firewood, nor so close to camp. Literally there was firewood within camp.
We did a quick camp set up and then went for a swim and had a cocktail. We were tired.
Supper was great: steaks; southwest potatoes (box), and; salad with sun dried tomatoes, croutons, bacon, lettuce, and dressing. After dinner we sipped cocktails and talked until 10:30 p.m.
We were up at 6:00 a.m. but didn’t have breakfast until 9:00 – eggs, bacon, toasted bagels, and peanut butter. During clean up we had a hare jog through camp. He wasn’t being chased and he wasn’t scared of us. He was just passing through. He was the biggest hare I have ever seen. He was the size of a large raccoon. The three of us just looked at each other and said, “Did you see that?” This was a HOT day. We could tell it was going to be a hot one at 9:00 a.m. We later found out that the high for the day as recorded by Sawbill Outfitter was 93, the low 76, and the humidity 91%. To top it off there was no breeze.
We spent the day just trying to survive the heat – swimming, reading, napping, and finding shade. We went nowhere.
Supper that night was a Jim/WI’s famous recipe – Roasted Chicken Rice with Harvest Vegetables and biscuits.
Pancakes for breakfast.
This was another hot day – very HOT. In my notes I wrote “OPPRESSIVE”. Sawbill Outfitters recorded it as High 94, Low 64, 90% humidity. We swam early.
We did take a day trip up to Long Island Lake. We had to do something but didn’t feel like taking down camp and moving. We took just the Prospector 16 with Julie duffing. We explored the lake a bit and had lunch at a rock outcropping.
About 3:00 p.m. a front moved in so we headed back for camp. At first we were certain we’d get some rain. No such luck, although we did get some clouds and a bit of a breeze. The temperature did drop some, probably into the high 70s. It was some relief.
Spaghetti and cheese & garlic biscuits for supper. We had chocolate pudding for dessert down on the veranda (i.e. the water’s edge). However, the breeze died before dark and the mosquitoes came out. The buggest July I can remember.
Hot Grape Nuts plus for breakfast.
Another hot day - High 94, Low 65 with 90% humidity. There was however a bit of a breeze, which helped a lot.
We decided to move back to Sawbill to make our final day an easy out. We backtracked the way we came in. The situation was the same as the way in – crowded portages but it was OK while paddling. It was a long day with that heat.
On Sawbill we started looking for a campsite. We checked each one as we paddled south. Each site was occupied. Things didn’t look good. We went up the bay running NW, the one that leads to the Kelso portage. The first site was taken, but the other site at the tip of the bay was opened (Site #876). We claimed it at 3:00 p.m.
It was a nice enough site but worn. Nice canoe landing. We swam but the swimming was not good – too shallow. No firewood close by. Nice big fire grate/kitchen area. One of the tent pads was too close to the fire pit. Still, all-in-all the site was OK.
We were glad to get it. I’m sure all the sites on Sawbill were occupied that night. At 7:30 p.m. a group of six in three canoes came paddling back obviously looking for a site. They kept coming even though the site was clearly taken. I think they thought there was only one canoe and they were going to ask to share the site, because when they spotted my canoe, which was partially hidden by brush we heard one of them say, “No. There are two canoes there! Turn back!”
I hope they were heading out and not entering or passing through. They weren’t going to find an unoccupied site on Sawbill that night.
Supper was Chicken Teriyaki Noodles with Asian Vegetables and biscuits.
We stopped in Duluth for lunch at Grandma’s, then onto Minneapolis where we stayed overnight at some friends’ home.
Friday July 27, 2007
I took David and Julie to the Airport in Minneapolis. I’ll drive home.