BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 23 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 2
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.
BWCA 2018. Solo - A Boundary Waters Story
June 18, 2018
Number of Days:
Overall it was a great trip. I got to meet some members from bwca.com and we ended up hanging out the night before in camp at Sawbill, and most of the first day of the trip. We separated at Jack/Weird portage. LindenTree3 went on to South Temperance, and mjmkjun went back to try and find a site on Jack that had been open on the way in. After they left was the first slip and fall that I had while trying to get water. I was lucky enough to have a father and son walk across the portage just as I went down. Small bruise to my ego, but none the worse for wear.
I was tired and decided to try and go back to find a site on Jack or Kelly instead of paddling and taking the roughly 300 combined rods to South Temperance. In retrospect, it was probably a bad idea. mkmkjun had said I was welcome to camp with him that night if I wanted so I tried to find his site on Jack. Turns out it was taken by someone else so I kept on going. I came around a bend to see the father and son team taking pictures of a moose and her calf! Very cool stuff and the first moose I had seen in the BWCA. I had picked Baker entry because I heard it was 'Moosey; and was NOT disappointed! The other party and I agreed that it was pretty awesome. I continued to paddle and look for a site, but both of the sites on Jack were full so I kept going.
By the time I reached the portage to Kelly, I was pretty well cooked. It was a nice day, but sun, not enough food/water, and a good amount of paddling into a headwind had taken it's toll. I took a break, had a protein bar, a granola bar, and filtered/drank a bunch of water. While I was getting my wind back, I decided to go and look for the mine entrance near the Jack end of the portage. After a short walk I started seeing old equipment on the ground and then found the entrance to the mine. Neat to see it, and made me wonder how hard i must have been to get all the stuff out there, work the mine, and then get it all back. Must have been a tough group of guys. A little while later, Greg and Mary came along and we chatted for a while. They were super nice! They were out 'looking for some exercise', and quickly grabbed my packs before I had a chance to protest. I thanked them profusely. They said it was no big deal, I seemed a little fried and they were glad to help. Saved my butt for sure.
I got onto the water after a couple more minutes and looked for a site on Kelly. Sure enough, they were all taken. At this point, I decided to try going to Burnt for the night. mjmkjun, and Greg and Mary had both said the portage was rough and they weren't kidding! So, it turns out that I had paddled much longer, and portaged the same amount that I had wanted to avoid. In addition, the portage to South Temperance was supposed to be way easier. Oh well, lesson learned, especially after the second fall while on the portage. I twisted my knee pretty good, but after a few minutes it was feeling better and I pressed on. Very lucky because at first I thought I had hurt it pretty good.
When I got over to Burnt I was very happy to find one of the sites open. Not really sure which one, but I am pretty sure it was one of the 2 north of the portage from Kelly. It was just after I got to camp that I realised my phone/camera/GPS had a dead battery. For some reason it would not take a charge from the portable charger or from the solar panel. No more pics, and navigation gone except for maps. I was most bummed about the lack of pics. I had managed to get around pretty well using only the map I had so wasn't too worried about that aspect. I set up camp, ate, drank a ton of water, and then made a fine dinner of italian sausages and some asparagus for a side. I watched the lake for a while, tried some more fishing and then went to bed a little after dark.
The next morning I woke up and it was beautiful and cool. I left camp set up, and paddled to the 58 rod portage into Flame. What a nice lake. I did a bit of paddling and fishing. Caught a couple small bass and another walleye, this one probably 20". All were released to fight another day. I went back to Burnt. Once I was on Burnt I paddled over to the portage to Smoke. I just walked the portage to stretch my legs and see another lake. After a quick look around, I walked back to my canoe and paddled back to the campsite. I ate a nice lunch of dehydrated Beef Stroganoff and some veggies. HUGE amount of food, but at least it took the guess work out of what I would have for dinner! Had a fire that night while looking at the lake and got to bed a little after dark. It was gorgeous day, and a nice cool night. I decided that I would leave a day earlier than planned. I had had a great trip so far, and the extra time on the way home would allow for some sight seeing and I wouldn't have to rush around to get back to the real world.
The next day, I took my time around camp and then headed for the nasty portage back into Kelly. Funny how your perspective can change after a little R&R. The portage was still tough, but I was in a far better state of mind and not nearly so wiped out. I made it over to Kelly a little after mid-day and starte back toward the Baker entry and the road home.
A few things I learned this trip -
1 - mjmkjun and LindenTree3 are SUPER nice guys. Shared their table with me and were more than helpful while we were together.
2 - When freeze dried food says 1 person they mean 1 1/2. When they say 2, they mean 7. This resulted in too much food which I was hoping to avoid.
3 - If more than one person that has been canoe tripping almost as long as you have been alive, with no agenda to 'scare the solo newbie' says a portage is rough, believe them. I'm looking at you Kelly to Burnt...
4 - Drink water, lots and lots of water.
5 - Yes, you really can smell that bad after a couple days! I went to the AmericInn in Tofte the night after I came out just so I could sleep in a bed and shower. Kristin, the girl behind the counter was amazingly polite, but I noticed she kept backing away from the counter and rubbing her nose. After the first time I tried to stay back a few feet to no avail. Sorry Kristin!!
6 - Greg and Mary (complete strangers, didn't get a last name) saved my A$$ on a portage. Just met them, they saw I was toast and each shouldered up a pack. The best people are BWCA people.
7 - Moose are awesome! Saw two on this trip and they were the first two I ever saw. Beautiful, casual interaction. I hope to see more as soon as I can.
8 - Did I mention the BWCA people being great??
9 - Clothes can be as heavy as everyone says they are. Don't let others convince you in the name of 'comfort'. If you are good with the choice out of the gate based on potential forecast, go with it and worry later.
10 - Double items are not really needed on a short trip. More than that is just crazy - don't listen to outside voices that have never been.
11 - The north shore rocks! Amazing scenery the entire way. Tettegouche, Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock lighthouse all delayed my trip home with no regrets.
12 - Google does a WAY better job of editing my videos than I do.
13 - No matter how confident you are, it's easy to slip and fall on slick rocks. And it sucks! More than once is even worse.
14 - Being lapped by someone 20 years your senior should not be an ego damaging moment, it should let you know that you need to paddle more!
15 - See lesson # 8.
Thanks again to jcavenagh, mjmkjun, and LindenTree3 for their part in making this a great trip. Not sure if solo is the route for me every time, but this trip was one of the great ones.