BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
October 24 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.
Jack lake wildlife adventure
September 20, 2021
Number of Days:
Our annual trip started out significantly different than most. We had favorable tail winds, and our kayaks effortlessly floated us from portage to portage, and low stream to low stream. We are more seasoned with battling head winds and using significant effort to move our vessels through white capping waves.
The couple portages were not bad, some ankle biters throughout the trails, some scrapes and scratches causing bloodied ankles (which a leech found) and some of the largest downed trees I have ever seen. Note: Likely they’d been laying for a decade, but the winds that took these down must have been pretty impressive.
We found the small streams within Peterson and Kelly Lake to be very low. There were the remains of many of travelers scrapped against the rocks below, though it wasn’t a significant amount- this was a testament to the lower than average water levels. We did have to get out of our kayaks and push/pull them over a few spots.
The winds helped the paddle, but behind them some cool air and rain that followed. And it came down quick. Right when we felt like bragging about the favorable conditions, the rain started. Rain, winds and storms do not break our morale, we embraced it.
As the paddling started to became a little more aggressive we came around a bend on Jack Lake and there he was - standing tall, and stoic a huge (especially from a kayak vantage point) bull moose. He looked at us, and confidently knew we intended him no harm - more likely he sized us up and dismissed us as a threat. After a few minutes of gazing he disappeared into the woods, and our paddling picked up. After that, the rain wasn’t even a real thought (for a while). With adrenaline and excitement of being 2 hours in and seeing a moose pumping, rain wasn’t going to deter us.
We found the exact site we had planned on, on the main east point of Jack lake. It was an elevated site, and after online reviews and some cross talk with other adventurers this was “the site to have.” We thought it was an okay site. The view wasn’t great (maybe late fall it’s better), and the tent pads were okay, but had standing water from the rains. Little things like good placement for tarps ect were lacking. It’s tough though to critique anything while in such a great place.
We managed to get a tarp up run the rain and waited until dark when the rain died down to set up camp. We ran into a couple small bunnies as we were setting up too! After getting a pathetic fire going, we grilled up a steak had a drink or two and went to bed.
We awoke to a large flock of Canadian Geese honking right next to us. They sounded as if they were in our tent, but of course they were just off the shore on a rock. We made some coffee and headed out to find the walleye on Jack. Instead of walleye, we found a plethora of smallmouth bass. We caught multiple quite large smallmouths, mostly just on a hook and a worm or leech. We even caught some right off shore at our sight (see pic)! The lake was filled with geese, ducks, multiple beavers, snow geese, and bass. A full day of fishing, and only one small walleye to show for it (let it go, 13"). We feasted on Taco's for taco Tuesday that evening and enjoyed a quiet peaceful night.
Another beautiful day! We were awoken once again by the geese. They definitely are loud!!! It was super foggy, to the point where you couldn't see across the super small lake. The sun burned the fog off pretty quickly, and we set out for another day of fishing. We ventured off into weird lake, which involved a paddle up the "river" that entailed of lots of weeds/lillypads. As we were fishing near the portage into weird, a two man group was paddling by. They asked us what sight we were on, and after we told them, they asked if they could join us on the sight. We were taken off guard with this questions, as we have never been asked that before. I would be curious to hear what other people think of that? We come up to honestly get away from people, but also don't mind company a times. We told them if they couldn't find a site on weird, they could come back and join us. It was still early (2pm), so it wasn't like it was going to be dark soon.
We brought one walleye back (16" or so) and ate it up for an evening snack (see pic). We hung out at the sight enjoying a nice fire and had some brats for dinner. We stayed up later that night, and around 1030-11pm we heard two bucks (more likely) or moose fighting. The sound of antlers smashing into each other and grunting was really cool. It sure sounded loud, so we believe they were moose, but that may just be us wanting to embellish the story. Either way, it was very neat to hear.
On our way out, the paddle experience isn’t comparable to the past. It was the quietest, most calm paddle I have ever experienced. If possible, it was too quiet as if we were alone on a different planet. It was pretty awesome - and we didn’t come across a single group on our way out.
As we paddled through Kelly Lake we spotted what initially appeared to be ducks playing in the water, as we got closer we assumed maybe these were beavers. But, as we got even closer it was the beavers nemesis, a playful bevy (I looked that up) of otters. They were loving life. Fun to watch them.
An interesting takeaway happened at the entry point on Baker lake, a fellow whom had traveled from Wyoming asked how often we came out to the BWCA. We told him we averaged this into an annual trip and baffled he laughed and said “you live this close and only come out here once a year?” ... well stranger, you won’t get a disagreement out of us!