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.
Out To Jack and Back - Father and Sons First Trip
September 03, 2019
Number of Days:
The trip was made possible in large part due to research on this forum. I also bought plenty of equipment including my kevlar Old Town Canadienne from members of this forum. Thanks to everyone who shares information about the bwca.
If I could give a one word summary of the trip it would be rocks. Rocks everywhere. Shin banging child tripping rocks. Different size rocks. Boulder fields after the portage. Protruding rocks smack dab in the middle of the portage trail. Odd angled rocks at the camp site landing. Rocks under my tent. Rocks of all different shapes and sizes.
Songs have been written. People mention “Canadian shield.” I never truly understood the uneven rockiness until I experienced it myself. I don’t know if words do it justice.
We moved every day. This gave us practice packing up and portaging. As I packed, unpacked and repacked each item in our outfit, I had the chance to question is this item worth it? Would I bring it again? Did I even use it on this trip? Is there a smaller lighter version of this?
The highlight of the trip was the fishing. We found fish and caught enough to have a fish dinner. It seemed like all the boys wanted to do was more fishing.
Gear That Worked Well
I was very pleased with the platypus 4 L gravity water filter. I was even happier when I handed it to my 12 year old son and told him to read the instructions and get it set up. He was able to perform this camp chore for the entire trip. This ensured our water supply and offloaded a chore from me.
I now know why people rave about their CCS tarps. We waited out a thunderstorm underneath one on our trip. We were dry while it poured down rain and thundered in the distance. The weather changed rapidly and I was glad I prioritized rain fly and tarp set up when we got to camp.
The sea to summit collapsible bucket was very useful. It helps gather water for the filter. It helps wash the dishes. It was by my side when filleting fish. It packs down compactly for transport.
The ugly stik fishing rod. I slipped on a rock and fell with this rod in my hands. (I think all members of our group slipped at least once on the rocks.) It survived seemingly unscathed and was good to reel in small mouth bass. I am not worried about fish breaking this rod.
Things to do Differently
I wet footed and portaged in my keen water shoes with darn tough wool socks. I was concerned before the trip that the water would be too cold, but the water temp was fine for wading. I would definitely wet foot again. This allowed the boys to keep their feet dry in their knee high rubber boots and helped save damage to the canoe.
The keens were three years old. I only wear them when canoeing, going to the beach or wading a river. I probably wear them ~20 days a year. They fell apart on day three. Luckily, I was leaving the next day and made it out with the shoes mostly intact. Based on my experience, keens are not BWCA portage trail approved.
I wanted to bring a back up to my MSR Pocket Rocket stove. I packed in a Trangia alcohol stove with the full cook kit and a bottle of fuel. I never used the cook kit or the stove. Next time, I will just bring another pocket rocket and an extra canister of fuel.
We never figured out how to make a nice camp fire. Everything I have read and heard recommends paddling away from camp, landing the canoe on shore and walking into the woods. I am not sure if it was the area I was in, but there was no obvious place to land a canoe other than the portages or camp sites. The forest was a tangled jungle of under brush that would have been madness to bush whack through.
I left home uncertain whether my 12 year old could carry the solo canoe himself. Practically, this meant that he could not carry it himself on the portage trail. It would have been better to find this out in the comforts of home rather than in the wilderness.
I set up my tarp using the knots I knew before the trip. Namely the bowline, taut line hitch and truckers hitch. I got even more practice with these knots on the trip. However, I wished I would have learned and practiced the prusik before the trip as I thought my tarp set up would have benefited.
~Baker Lake, Peterson Lake, Kelly Lake, Jack Lake