BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
July 07 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1497 feet
Summary: A 5-day loop from Baker up the Temperance lakes to Cherokee, and back through Sawbill and Smoke lakes back to Baker. A fairly difficult trip.
Day 0: We drove up from Stillwater in the morning and camped at one of the 5 walk-in campsites at Baker Lake, and it was nice.
Day 1 (Baker to S. Temperance) - A beautiful day, we decided to paddle all the way to South Temperance the first day which was a great paddle with easy portages except for the last one. We picked the campsite on top of a huge rock that was close to the middle of the lake. Tried fishing some but no luck
Day 2 (Rest) - In the night, we encountered the worst storm of the entire season. While we were there 19 people had to be rescued from the BWCA. We had about 50mph straightline winds, and I'm still surprised that the huge tent we had stood up to it. We slept in and took a rest day because of the intense winds. Amazingly beautiful sunset.
Day 3 (S. Temperance to Cherokee) - We left as early as we could to beat the heat, but it was no good. The lengthy, hilly portages were challenging and by the last portage we were pretty beat. We overpacked and single portaged which led us to speedier exhaustion. Still amazing weather. North Temperance was a beaut- I wish we had stayed there instead of South. We took the southeasterly facing campsite on Cherokee on the southeastern skinny island. Neat little site.
Day 4 (Cherokee to Sawbill) - Left a little later in the day but it was ok. We took our time going down the river letting out of the southwest part of Cherokee and it was a great area. BEWARE: The area between Ada and Skoop Lakes appears to be floatable, but a dam built recently has made the portion impossible to float. Be prepared for a long portage through muck and water. A guy that we saw there said he had been going to the BWCA for 40 years at least once per year and it was the worst portage he had ever seen. By the time we got to Sawbill it was pretty hot. We paddled all the way down to the site next to the portage onto Smoke.
Day 5 (Sawbill to Baker) - Cooler, cloudier weather for the first time on the trip. We were pretty hungry (I underpacked food a little and I felt really bad) and we were taunting each other with vivid descriptions of the burgers we were going to eat ASAP after getting out. We paddled back to Baker and returned our gear to Sawtooth outfitters.
Overall great route.
Long Weekend at Kelly
August 19, 2010
Number of Days:
Left Shoreview early in the morning, headed towards EP 39- Baker Lake. In the van are me (David) and my son Isaiah, my friend Scott and his son Skip. Atop the minivan are 2 canoes… my not-made-for-the-dbud 16’ Mad River Adventure and Scott’s 17’ Lund aluminum. As always, the canoes rest upon two 6’ barbells; why buy expensive bars when you can securely affix inexpensive, strong bars?
Before noon we were at Sawbill Outfitters… to pick up our permit and browse thru the store.
At early afternoon we are at the Baker Lake entry point. Our intentions are to get to Kelly (not far away) and set up camp. Scott and I were here 2 months earlier, exiting; at that time we thought this was a pretty area that we wouldn’t mind loitering at for a weekend; now we are set to do that.
The Baker Lake entry point is super easy to put in/out; access is right on the lake… and it is very scenic; I like it. At the 1st portage, to Peterson, the difference in water level between June and August becomes apparent; we portage sooner and longer, over unruly rocks… though these portages are still short. We pass people moving in the opposite direction; we pass pleasantries; they are from Shoreview too.
After Peterson comes Kelly… and on Kelly we find an open campsite, but then tool around a bit to compare it to other campsites; 1 other campsite is not as nice and the others are taken; we go back to the 1st campsite… which is on the peninsula opposite the portage to Burnt.
Weather is great… campfire is nice… and we sleep fine.
Weather is great. We fish… trolling the shores all along Kelly. Dad’s fish more than kids, who opt to hang at camp while we dads paddle. We caught a walleye and a smallie… but there isn’t much action.
Just before supper the Forest Service folks visit; they check our permit, check the latrine and make small talk. All is in order; the visit was fine.
The campfire involves wine, cheese, crackers and trivia. Soon after we retire to our tents, the rain starts; we sleep well. During the moments at which I wake in the night, I think I hear critters outside… but that doesn’t interest me much; I fall back asleep quickly.
Rain with short respites, followed by more rain. I get up and make breakfast in the rain, and we soon adjourn to the hammocks under the tarp to play cards. At times like this, the 5-gal bucket with gamma lid shines… because it is clean in the rain, easy to access and get snacks out of… and the doubles as our card table. At lunchtime, it’s still raining… and we’re still playing cards, dice and killing time.
I look up from my cards and see a bear nosing about our cleaned dishes… about 30 feet away. Wow! I immediately jump up and shout “Hey! Hey” and clap my hands. The others are startled as the bear scampers away. I tell them a bear was just there; they didn’t see it. I always wondered what I’d really do if I saw a bear, and now I know; I’d instinctively do what I’ve repeatedly read that I’m supposed to do. :) The bear looked neither small nor real large… and so I wonder if he was a cub or not.
Fast forward 2 hours; we’re playing cards down by the lake when Isaiah looks up and sees that same bear, nosing around; Scott and I see him too, a couple of us shout and he runs off; we grab pots and bang them long and hard for a while, to encourage him to keep moving on. Only Skip hasn't seen the bear.
Weather is clear… we paddle and fish more… and we see no more hints of bear while in camp.
But after nightfall… yep… I’m pretty sure I can hear him walking around while we’re in our tent; we’re leaving the next day anyway… but at this point, I’m thinking I’d break camp for sure in the morning regardless. I left all gear in the open, all packs opened… and hung the food pack + garbage far away and high up…, and so I don’t see much reason to go chasing bears in the night; I go to sleep. It turns out my buddy Scott heard him too… and did not sleep so well.
The morning is cool; I have my long shirt and rain coat on just to stay warm in the chill air. I see no evidence of a bear visit; perhaps I was just imagining stuff.
I retrieve the food pack, Skip joins me and we start breakfast. Bear! Skip sees a bear, and yells to scare her off; the kid is good! Skip says this bear was bigger. I didn’t see her, so I start walking the edges of the treeline looking for her. Yep; then I saw mama, about 25 yards in; she is much bigger than the other bear. We bang pots and yell… and she walks slowly away; she does not scamper like her nosy cub did.
Well, we woke Scott and Isaiah, and the presence of a persistent bears, one apparently taught by mama how to rummage for scraps, is beyond doubt now. Time to break camp! We ate quick, and split. We portaged back to Peterson, then to Baker.
Goofy observation: the bears saved our rainy day from boredom; once the cub showed up, we weren’t sitting around focused on the rain anymore.
Our goal was met: we enjoyed a short base-camping trip with our boys. Scott and I agree that our next trip with these boys will need to be more active; we’ll move from camp to camp with them.
OK, we encountered bears... and probably did some things right when doing so; I don't think I gave them any positive reinforcement (no easy food).