BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
October 02 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 11
Elevation: 1802 feet
Sawbill Lake - 38
Sawbill to Cherokee 2007
June 13, 2007
Number of Days:
I have been hearing about the BWCA in bits and piece for a number of years. Last summer, we spent a long weekend at Bear Head State Park. That was enough for me. I wanted to go into the BWCA next summer.
I've been planning, purchasing and packing for this trip since April. My former co-worker, Steve Gendron has been a great help and BWCA.com has provided me with invaluable tips and information.
"Forecasted" weather conditions show for a cooler and drier weekend. They wound up being a little off. I tried to get through work today but it just wasn't happening. Left early, made some last min. purchases and finished packing for a quick start the next morning.
Steve and his son Charlie have headed up to Sawbill Outfitters today. We will meet up with them tomorrow.
Rolled out of bed at 3:15 AM. Woke up my son (Aaron), steered him towards the truck and we were on the road in less than one hour. A couple of quick stops along the way (dry goods, b-fast and crawlers) and we were at Sawbill by 10:15. Picked up the permit, watched the video, loaded up and we were on Sawbill Lake by 11:30 AM
Due to our start time, we were not going to make it to Cherokee today. We paddled the 3 miles to the Northwest end of the lake and set up camp. It was a nice open site but the last campers there had left a smoldering fire. Not to smart considering the forest fire earlier in the year. The campsite had a nice cross breeze and an excellent view of the lake.
The boys helped us with the initial camp set-up and we then let them go fishing whiles Steve & I took care fo the rest. My son mainly fishes with a Northland Tackle Whistler Jig and attaches a Bass Asassin tail. I kept trying to tell him there are more lures and jig combinations out there. Guess who pulled in a small Northern, a 12" Walleye and a Smallie that afternoon? Not Dad, Steve or Charlie. I managed a 20" Norhtern on a Mepps Syclops.
Steve taught me a lot today about making camp in the BW. Due to use, we could not find much wood near the camp site. Took the canoe across to an island and found all we needed. None of the trees had any good branches for hanging the food bag but we were able to get the bag up in-between two bare trees for our liking.
Dinner was steaks and alfredo noodles w/cookies and Hudson Bay bread for dessert. Made a couple of bourbonades and were in the tent by 10:00 PM.
Woke to a beautiful morning but it warmed up quickly. We had 4 portages to get us to Cherokee Lake. We went through Ada Creek, Ada Lake, Skoop Lake and then the Cherokee Creek before we got to Cherokee Lake. By the time we finished the second portage, temps were in the mid 80's. After the crossing Ada Creek, my son realized that he had left his glasses at the last portage. luckily, we hadn't started the the next portage before realizing his loss. A quick trip back across the creek and we were on our way again.
The last two portages took their toll. The 110 rod portage between Ada & Skoop was a muddy rock field and the 160 rod portage from Skoop to Cherokee had you going uphill twice. We double portaged the whole route. These four portages would not have been to bad if they were sperad out acroos a further distance.
By the time we hit Cherokee, we were hearing thunder and ahd a smattering of rain drops. Part way into the lake a good front was moving in. We pulled up on a point based campsite and waited out a pretty fierce but short t-storm. It was quite the experience to watch it roll in develop, let loose and move on.
Found a nice site just east of the Sitka Lake portage. It had a great western view and some nice pads for setting up tents The boys helped w/set-up and went fishing w/no luck. Had B-Dub pizza for dinner (the kids loved it) and watched the sun set while drinking bourbonade.
Slept in until 8:30 AM. Got out of the tent and had coffee w/Steve while we watched the day unfold. Nice quiet morning and the boys did not roll out of bed until 10:30. We were staying here for another day, so a wake-up call wasn't warranted.
We decided to spend the afternoon fishing. Not much luck until I anchored the canoe in a small cove. We were pitching grub tails on whistler jigs towards a group of lily pads. I though I have snagged until the line took off in a different direction. Was able to reel in a 30" Northern for that nights dinner.
Good wildlife viewing today. Loons, a bald eagle and some 2 hawks or raptors which I could not identify. Fired Northern and Zatarains for dinner. Passed the evening telling stories around the fire and sipped a couple of drinks. Headed to bed in colder temperatures which allowed for better sleeping.
Back on the 4 portage route to Sawbill Lake. The longer portage were at the start and this made the trip back easier. I found that singing "100 bottles of beer" to myself, kept my focus more on the song than the work I was doing.
Cooler temps made the trip back smoother. Rain into some light but constant rain for the second & thrid portages. By the time we hit Sawbill, the rain had ended. Three sites down from the portage, we found another campsite with a wester facing opening. View was nice but tent sites were smaller that we would have hoped.
Stev & I let the boys head out for fishing in the late afternoon. They didn't have any luck but were probably happy to get away from the adults. Had Bear Creek Tortilla Soup w/added chicken for dinner. Had a nice fire and watched a beautifull foll roll on to the lake.
Woke up to a cool morning with overcast skies. Fished a little from shore. Only manage a 8' Smallmouth. We wanted to be on the road home by noon, so we had to kick the smaller cubs out from their overnight hibernation.
Broke camp and headed back towards Sawbill Outfitters. Ran into a strong head wind the whole way back. Aaron (my son) was pretty tired by the end of the trip. I had to alternate paddling on both sides of the canoe to keep us in a straight line. Ran into showers for the last 1/4 of the trip but they had quit by the time we hit the landing. Packed the vehicles in a semi-dry state.
Showered at Sawbill Outfitters (best $4 I spent the whole trip) and said our good-byes to Charlie & Steve.
Before we left for home, Aaron mad a comment that capped the whole tripp of for me. "Dad, I'd come back here again!" It made the whole planning process, time off and work worth it in spades.
We stopped at Grandma's in Duluth for a chesseburger, ruben and ice cold cokes. Like I stated at the begining, this was my first trip to the BWCA but it not be my last.