BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 28 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.
Solo Trip to Pipe Lake
May 30, 2019
Number of Days:
Days Zero and One
My car was loaded up on Wednesday and rather than taking the bus to my downtown Minneapolis, I drove in, found a surface parking space where my canoe-topped vehicle didn’t take up too much space, and tried to get some work done. At 3 pm, I called it a day and jumped on 35W, heading north. By 6 pm, I was at Duluth Pack, watching the new videos. (Apparently some of them can be watched online?) Permit in hand, I headed up 61, taking Caribou Trail inland at Lutsen and arriving at White Pine Lake National Forest Campground as dark fell. I was the only person at the campground and quickly set up my new Big Agnes tent, set an alarm for 4 am, and slept fitfully for five hours. At 4 am, I made some coffee, packed up, and was at the Homer Lake put-in by 5:30. My old canoe was on the still water by 6.
Two cars were next to mine in the Homer Lake parking lot and I wondered if I’d find solitude on Pipe. Passing the first campsite on Homer, a large tent was set up and it looked like the occupants of both vehicles were sleeping in that morning. The water was topped with pollen and other springtime residue, but stayed flat as I passed the second campsite being guarded by a bald eagle at the top of a white pine tree. I let him keep the site and continued west.
Two years ago, I took my daughters and parents through this entry point on our way to Vern Lake. We only made it one night on Vern. Massive thunderstorms meant my companions were ready to go early. The forecast was much better this trip. Slight chances of showers each day are no worry when a tent, a tarp, and no movement are on the itinerary.
As I hit the lovely series of portages leading from Homer to East Pipe and then Pipe, the black flies came out in force. Protected by my head net, my only worry was their rather annoying company. I had targeted either the far west or far east site on Pipe Lake, but paddled right by the east site. No giant rock outcropping on this lake meant that the campsites are a bit inconspicuous. In retrospect, the east site seems to be significantly further east than the McKenzie shows.
I landed at the west site by 11 and while it certainly wasn't five stars, it would be sufficient. A quick stroll through the site showed an excellent tent pad, a decent kitchen area, and a ton of moose poop.
The sun came in and out as I set up camp (tent, hammock, tarp, gravity filter, chair, wood). I was traveling heavy since there were only short portages and base camping.
By late afternoon, I was back on the water paddling around what seemed to be very high water. I lost a number of jigs to snags, but caught a few pike, and a few smallmouth, one of which would be my dinner.
After cleaning the fish across the lake and disposing of the remains, I settled into a fish dinner by the fire, and a relatively early bedtime.
~Homer Lake, East Pipe Lake, Pipe Lake
I woke up cold at 7 am. A quick fire and a mug of coffee solved that problem. The lake was choppy that morning so I stayed by the fire for a couple hours reading, journaling, and drinking coffee. By 10 am, the sun died down so I packed up a lunch and hit the water. Trolling the south shore with a fire tiger spoon landed a couple pike, but nothing else. I explored the central site a bit and then found the east campsite, which might be the nicest on the lake and had my lunch there (BW hot dogs - meat stick, cheese, tortilla).
I was back in my hammock at 2 pm for a nice nap. Well-rested, I grabbed my Silky Tomboy and paddled down shore to harvest some firewood.
With a huge pile processed, I was on the water at 5. The lake was glass as I trolled and casted. I only caught one battle-scarred northern pike unfortunately. There would be no walleye for dinner. At 8, the wind picked up and I battled back to camp. Supper was a simple chicken noodle soup. I stayed by the fire until 11, enjoying being the only person on the entire lake.
Woke up cold again at 6 am. My sleeping bag may be on it's last legs ... or I'm just getting old. A nice fire, and then a leisurely morning packing things up, enjoying the sun, and savoring the last few hours of solitude.
The winds were out of the west as I headed back across Pipe. I barely needed to paddle and I was on East Pipe again. The paddle through Homer was also quick as the wind was at my back the whole time. I was back at my car by 1 and home by 7.
These short trips are life-giving to this introvert living in an extroverted world. I'll be back up in a couple weeks with my dad and sons. Lots more travel and movement on that trip planned. Can't wait.
~Pipe Lake, East Pipe Lake, Homer Lake
Lessons from this Trip: 1. Take a lot of comfort gear on short, solo, basecamp trips. It's worth it. 2. Lighten up on food. I don't eat as much as I think when I have to cook. 3. Bring a warmer sleeping bag. 4. Bring more jig heads. 5. New gravity filter is a huge win. Why haven't I got one of these before?! 6. My fillet skills are weak. 7. NF campgrounds are perfect for the night before.