BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
April 19 2021
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.
Back to Jack
October 09, 2014
Number of Days:
I was up and Adam by 6:30 and on the road by 7:30 leaving New Brighton and planning on picking up the Bell Magic at Sawtooth outfitters by around noon. It turned out to be near perfect timing. This would be the 2nd time in 40+ trips that I would be renting a canoe and did I love not having the hassle of tying it on etc.. I just love how between Stacy and North Branch ( I believe?) the pines on the East side are all lined up in perfect lines-- the beautiful cloud less sky was allowing the sun in the eastern sky to filter in and out of the pines like an old movie projector. [paragraph break] Exit #152 in Harris has always been my stop for bait (when not Vados) for over 20 years since my trips up North with my Uncle up to Lake St.Joesph. This would be no difference and I picked up a scoop of "river mix" minnows and a dozen crawlers. I asked the bait guy how long they had been without leeches and he said "about 3 weeks". Made good time through Duluth and arrived at Two Barbers (a nickname that has just stuck) around 10am. I could see Culvers was not open yet and didn't have time to wait and didn't feel like checking anything else but Subway as I knew they had breakfast. Subway it was and I was back on the road at 10:20. I lost about 10 minutes in road construction -- but arrived at Sawtooth at 11:35. Perfect. Loaded up the Magic on my canoe rack- grabbed a canoe yoke and was on my way up the Sawbill just after Noon.[paragraph break] Once you get to the top of the hill and plateau out after about 3-4 miles-- I always love the view to the West and Northwest with rolling hills in the distance. This was enhanced by nearly peak fall foliage (in fact, I was surprised on the "color" on the entire trip). I knew the Baker turn off the Sawbill Trail onto "The Grade" was just before a hard left turn that road signs showed and made a right towards the NE. Arrived at the Baker landing at about 12:45. A group of 3 cars (6-8 people) had the landing effectively monopolized ( I always love it that people will portage 400+ rods,, but can't carry their stuff 150' feet? ) so waited in my truck before I went down to "visit". One of the said they were sorry they were in my way,, I said no problem (but too myself I said , "it wouldn't be a problem for you if you hauled your gear another 150' :O) I went back to my truck, unloaded and filled out the permit and ate more of my sub. Once I had my gear down to the landing they left so I went back to my truck to grab my steak out of the cooler and I said - "Iam driving down also" :O). As soon as I was out of my truck and packing the food pack-- Housty9 comes around the corner at the landing in his Prism? at the tail end of his solo!!! The words out of his mouth after less then 2 seconds of eye contact were "WHITEWOLF??" yes I responded!! Housty? We chatted for about 20 minutes as I finished packing. I would've wanted to talk longer but it was around 1:20 and I always get a little anxiety before a trip (especially with 6 cars in the lot--which one turned out to be Housty and I eventually figured out I had 4 vehicles to contend with) and that Housty said there was large group of 3 canoes just going out when he came in. SO I feel bad that I ended our conversation on a rushed note. [paragraph break] First thing I notice upon getting in the Magic is how low the seat sits. I guess that is a good thing for stability but took some getting used to. I manage my way through the small 10 rod portage into Peterson and the tricky rocks at the pinches. Just 4" more of water and it would not be such a tricky encounter. In the open water I start to realize that this "Magic" rips and really holds a line!!! I start doing the Math with the 6 cars in the parking lot. Minus 1 for Housty = 5. Housty said there was a large group of 3 canoes just going up Kelly as he finished the portage out of Burnt. I figure that must be at least 2 vehicles which means I'am down to 3 vehicles. I'am starting to have some doubts whether I will get the peninsula site on Jack. As I go by the first and only campsite on Peterson-- I glance over at it and think that just last wk-end my good buddy Tim took his 4 and 6 yr old sons and his Mother to that site in absolute brutal weather. [paragraph break] Somewhat surprised about the literal 1 rod portage from Peterson into Kelly but not a big deal-- good to get out and stretch. Once on Kelly I notice a group coming around the point that leads into the Eastern part of the lake that holds several campsites. I ask them if any of the sites are open where they came from on Kelly and they say all of them and that a large group just headed N on Kelly- and that one site on Jack was occupied last night. My hopes of getting the Jack site are further declined imo- but this reduces the vehicle # left unaccounted for to 2 and perhaps 1 if the large group just ahead of me has 3 vehicles at the landing. Time will tell. [paragraph break] As I push up Kelly- the lake becomes much more river like and is loaded with dying lilly pads (as mentioned by lindylair)-- so much so that they actually slightly impede your progress by slowing the canoe or your getting tangled in your paddle. The effects of 99' derecho are quite apparent along the northeastern shore of Kelly.[paragraph break] I'am very curious as to whether the site that sits at the far N end of Kelly is open or not. If open -it is good and not so good news I think- for that means the large group is still ahead of me and likely camping on Jack but that I have a site close to Jack. As I go around the last turn in the winding "lake" I see the sight is open and paddle over to it to check it out. I have a decision to make-- camp here or roll the dice on the 2 sites on Jack or come back here or continue on to Weird. I also know from talking to the group on Kelly that one site on Jack was occupied last night. And the large group just in front of me. Screw it. I'am moving on.[paragraph break] The landing on the Kelly side of the portage to Jack is a pain. Even more ammo to not come back and move on if need be. I check the time on my cell phone and it's 3:35pm. Doesn't sound like late-- but the sun is getting noticeably lower in the mostly cloudy sky and I don't have a site yet. The landing on the Jack side is much easier to deal with. As I make my way N on Jack after squeezing through some tight pinches-- man is this moose territory!!-- I start remembering the lay of the land and that the peninsula site should be just behind that island-- or is it that island?? A quick check of the map shows my initial thought to be correct and I spot what looks like a grey tent right where the site should be high in an open spot in the woods. Not good. Or is it a large rock?? I start feeling much better as I see no canoe or other camp gear as I approach the landing. I made it!!! Before I take a site-- I always like to "check it out" (fire grate - latrine- etc) before unloading gear but as I took a few steps up the tiered - almost stairway- I thought that since its quite steep (funny how I don't remember this from 04') I decide to grab my main pack. I sling one strap across my left shoulder and trudge to the top. The first thing I notice as I reach the grassy/open/ plateau is a solar shower that someone must have left in a tree (I have found them before) and then I notice a tent sitting right where I saw it from the lake along with a some freshly split wood. An expletive comes from mouth as I descend back to the canoe. Finding a site is done. Finding an OPEN one is not.[paragraph break] As I paddle past the peninsula point-- obviously looking for the next campsite tucked back into the bay to the East-- my eyes are happy when I see an obvious landing with no camp gear to be found anywhere-- even as I unload the canoe!!! An open camp is found!! This site is not much but in a way is cozy for one. One rather large grassy area and a cozy fire pit surrounded by blow down from the recent July of 14' derecho. In fact-- the blow down made getting deep into the woods on a search for firewood impossible and this site turned out to be the most difficult site I could remember for gathering of firewood. Many of the trees blown over were still green and useless for firewood. This pretty much sealed my fate on fishing tonight -- which is fine by me as I just wanted to relax after getting camp chores done around the fire and do some photography during prime time fishing. Hopefully most of the blown down in this area is dried out for burning in the near future.[paragraph break] Tent is erected leisurely as I snack on crackers/jerky and cheese. With a decent amount of confidence I decided agst erecting a tarp and instead focus my efforts on firewood.[paragraph break]I try waiting until the very last minute in starting a fire so I decide to eat first at about 6:30pm. MH Beef Stew it is. As I'am letting the meal rehydrate- a distinct noise made by something large comes from the NW. I would continue to hear this noise throughout the evening. I string some Luci Lights up-- eat my supper while lounging in my new Helinox chair (AWESOME!!) and then hang out around the fire until around 9:30pm when I hit the sack. Baker Lake, Peterson Lake, Kelly Lake, Jack Lake