BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 18 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.
Baker Lake - Daughter's First Trip! - 2021
July 26, 2021
Number of Days:
Sunday was our travel day from west-central Minnesota to Sawbill Outfitters / Sawbill campground. After a few stops for lunch and bait, we arrived in just under 6 hours. I reserved a campsite at sawbill campgrounds for the night so we settled in after getting our rental gear and the canoe tied to the truck. The campgrounds were PACKED! There were no less than 5 dodge vans with 8 teenagers each! I was crossing my fingers they weren't entering at Baker.
Once you put in at the other end, it was really shallow. The outfitter warned us that we would need to put the canoe on a line and pull it through and they weren't lying. My mistake was not wearing my Chaco sandals... I tried to dry foot it only to end up knee-deep when trying to hop from rock to rock. I think this section stress out my daughter and it was probably my fault because I was mad my boots were completely soaked.
After we got through that section, the paddle up Peterson lake was great. The portage onto Kelly lake was guarded by 'hippo' boulders that took some navigating but we were able to eventually paddle up to the landing. The portage itself is barely a portage. We didn't even put the packs on our backs and just carried them the 3 rods to the other side.
Once we were on Kelly, our original plan was to take the long portage to Burnt lake and look for a site. I could tell my girl was a bit overwhelmed so we started scouting the 4 sites closest to that portage. We ended up taking the northernmost site of the 4 that are grouped near the portage. It was a pretty site with two landings. The one on the northern side was a much easier/sandy landing.
This was my first trip with my new CCS Tarp with a ridgeline stuff-sack so it was the first thing I set up. I am Sooo pleased with my purchase! The site didn't offer much for shade so it ended up being a huge benefit. I watched this video and set up my tarp exactly as this guy did: https://youtu.be/GqlFP8C_z10.
After getting the rest of our camp set up and a snack lunch my daughter was wiped and settled into the tent for a nap. I enjoyed a little whiskey & tang in my hammock and soaked in the peace and quiet. A quick fishing trip around our site after that yielded no bites so we paddled back to start our dinner. Just as we started eating we started hearing thunder off to our west... uh oh. I do not own a weather radio (yet) so, I started prepping for a storm as calmly as I could.
Just as I finished battening down the hatches the storm was on us and made it into the tent without getting wet. Fortunately, the storm was mostly to our south so we only had about 10-15 minutes of thunder followed by a steady drizzle. My daughter was pretty scared but to be fair when she was 5 a tornado came through our neighborhood and flattened the house 3 doors down :( We settled down with a game of cribbage and fell asleep listening to the rain on the tent fly.
We planned a day trip over to Burnt Lake for some campsite exploration, fishing, and a lunch. We packed a day bag with our cook kit, stove, water purifier, snacks, and lunch. The portage to Burnt was legit. I'm not as spry as I once was so I needed a halfway break :)
Burnt lake was beautiful! Lots of islands and bays to explore and plenty of 'fishy' spots to work on our casting. We explored 3 sites and ended up stopping for lunch on the third. I know that this isn't a good practice because someone could be looking for a place to stay and think it was occupied. However, I knew my girl would need a latrine and we only saw 1 other canoe on the lake and they were without packs and definitely on a fishing expedition. We made it a shortstop and continued our tour of the lake.
We didn't have much luck fishing but we didn't work very hard. It was hard to keep her interested long enough. I managed to bring in a hammer-handle northern and a bass that was too small to eat. After that, it was back over the portage to Kelly and back to camp.
It was HOT that day so we were both motivated on our paddle and portage by the thought of swimming at camp followed by a nap! The water was perfect and the nap was replaced with some reading from the final Harry Potter book. For dinner we had hot dogs and beans and set out for some more fishing around camp. No luck again, but it was great to see her gain confidence in her casting and reeling artificial lures instead of waiting for a bobber.
We finished the evening with a game of cribbage in the tent while listening to the mosquitoes swarm outside. It brought joy to my heart to hear my daughter confess that she had so much fun that day and that the BWCA was much better than she thought it would be :)
During the takedown, I had a dilemma... While hanging the food pack, the rock I tied my rope to became wedged under a branch and I tried everything I could to get it down. It was so lodged in place that I was able to use it as the anchor to hang our food pack for the entire stay. The problem was, I couldn't get it down. I tried everything I could short of climbing the tree. I just wasn't going to risk injuring myself. So, in the end I had to cut the rope and leave it hanging from the tree :( This kills me because I believe in the 'leave no trace' principles but I didn't know what else to do. The struggle to hang a pack plus issues like this has got me seriously considering other options. 1) Barrel tied to a tree away from camp or 2) Ursak tied to a tree away from camp. I welcome thoughts and ideas.
We were on the water by about 7:30 heading back to Baker Lake. The final morning was beautiful. The water was like glass and it was a real treat to see how far my girl had come with her paddling. We also learned our lesson from the way in and both wore our water shoes. Knowing we were going to get wet made it much less of a pain.
By 9:30 we were driving away from the landing and heading back to Sawbill to return our gear.
Other Notes: * Traffic: Kelly lake is pass-through lake so we did have regular traffic past our site but it didn't bother us it all. It didn't feel like too much at all. Other than people paddling by our site we only saw/talked to 2 other groups. 1 on the portage from Burnt to Kelly and the other as we pulled up to the landing at Baker Lake.
* I brought waaay to much food. I probably could have cut out 10 pounds at least! I brought 'options' because I wanted to make sure my little girl was happy but I ended up packing most of it out.
* I am buying a weather radio before my next trip in September. * My new Helinox one camp chair is fantastic. I will never go again without it. I'm getting older and having a chair with back support at the end of a long day is worth the 2 lbs.