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April 13 2024

Entry Point 49 - Skipper & Portage Lakes

Skipper and Portage Lakes entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Gunflint Ranger Station near the city of Grand Marais, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 28 miles. Access is a 320-rod portage from Poplar Lake or a 230-rod portage from Iron Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1865 feet
Latitude: 48.0517
Longitude: -90.5366
Skipper & Portage Lakes - 49

Time away from the real world.

by nofish
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 16, 2012
Entry Point: Skipper and Portage Lakes
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
My wife and I started going to the BWCA together last year. This was our second trip together and first time into this particular area.

Day 1 of 5

Wedesday, August 15th

Day before entry:

I had to go into the office for at least part of the day on Wednesday before heading north, needless to say I wasn’t as productive as I could have been during the few hours I was there. While I was at work the wife was at home getting a few last minute things ready to go. When I got home we threw the dog in the car and we were on the road headed to Rockwood Outfitters by 1pm. The drive up was uneventful with minimal traffic. We pulled into Rockwood about 6:45 and got settled in to the bunkhouse. We found the bunkhouse to be clean, comfortable and really spacious considering it was just the 2 of us and a dog in a room that slept 8.

We had heard great things about Trail Center so we headed off to find some dinner. The reviews I had heard were spot on. The food was great and we had a great server. After dinner it was back to the bunkhouse and an early bed time.


Day 2 of 5

Thursday, August 16, 2012

We were up and showered by 7:30 only to find wind and rain waiting for us. It turns out that the wind and rain would really dictate the rest of our day and in turn the rest of our trip. We were off to Trail Center in time to be their first customers of the day at 8am sharp. I highly recommend their bread pudding French toast with the pumpkin syrup. [paragraph break]After breakfast we loaded up the canoe and shoved off from Rockwood into a 20-25 mph head wind with intermittent rain, mist and higher wind gusts. The conditions weren’t dangerous but they were very unpleasant. By the time we crossed Poplar Lake to the 315 rod portage to skipper we were pretty wet and already sick of the wind. [paragraph break]We made relatively short work of the first leg of the portage, me carrying the canoe and PFD’s and my wife carrying our large granite gear portage pack that we bought for the trip. My agreement with my wife is that if she carries the heavy pack then she can single portage. So when I set the canoe down at the end of the portage I was headed right back to get our last load as my wife rested with the dog. [paragraph break]Just as I was starting to make my way back to the start of the portage I came across a large group who was right behind us. I chatted with them briefly and found out we were both targeting the first and only site on Skipper lake which was the nearest campsite. Initially I was hoping to make it to Rush or Banadad that day but we just weren't up for fighting the wind and rain all day. Once finding out we were in a race I double timed it back over the 315 rods jogging most of the way. Normally I take my time and soak up the forest but given the crappy conditions I wanted to make sure to get the site on Skipper. On my way back I passed all 7 members of the group each of them fully loaded with gear. As soon as I got back to the start of the portage I broke out laughing as I knew the race was over and I had already won. Sitting at the start of the portage was enough gear to last an army of people a full month. I didn’t even bother to count the packs as they were piled everywhere including on top of my 2 small packs. It was clear that they were at least going to be triple portaging. I can’t even imagine triple portaging a 315 rod portage. As soon as I finished up the last leg of the portage I was treated to yet another piece of amusement from this large group. One member of their group talked about looking forward to lunch as he opened a big back pack full of 10 foot long subs from Subway that they purchased on the way to the EP. Not only did their lunch require an entire medium sized pack of its own it also created enough garbage that they still needed a small pack to carrying the garbage with them for the next week. [paragraph break]Being done with the portage we shoved off and left the group to finish up their triple portage and headed off to make camp on Skipper Lake. The site turned out to be a nice site with a nice rock face for sunning yourself (when there is sun) and great views to the west. Only down side is that the sitting logs by the fire left a lot to be desired. [paragraph break]We made camp and completed all the chores including me building my standard pile of fire wood and were relaxing for quite awhile when finally the large group behind us paddled by, at least a good 2 hours behind us. I hope they stopped to eat those subs somewhere in that time.[paragraph break]We spent the rest of the day lounging around and doing a little fishing and generally trying to avoid the intermittent rain that was still hanging around. Steaks and potatoes for dinner followed by an early bed time. Day one was complete.


Day 3 of 5

Friday, August 17, 2012

Day 2 started early for me and the dog. We were up by 6:30 and fished around the campsite for awhile before my wife got up. Caught a few small pike and missed several other bites but that’s about it. Breakfast was eggs and potatoes. [paragraph break]The decision of the morning was whether to base camp it on Skipper for the rest of our trip or pack up and head west. My wife liked the site and liked having a lake to ourselves so she wanted to stay put. I really wanted to make it to Banadad on this trip but I didn’t argue with her decision. I hadn't mentioned it to her by this point but my shoulder tendonitis had been really hurting since we first put in the day before and I had been gritting my teeth the entire way on the previous days travel. I wasn’t going to let it stop the trip but I also wasn’t going to force the issue. So instead of moving camp we opted for am easy and slow day trip to Rush Lake instead. [paragraph break]The wind had died down a lot and was probably only 10-15 mph out of the west. We made short work of the paddle on skipper and started navigating the creek that led to Little Rush. It was a short portage but it required walking the canoe through the creek. Not hard but the footing was tricky. Once through the creek we paddled the shoreline of Little Rush checking out the burn area as we cruised by. The portage to Rush was a muddy start but not bad. Just a shrot up and down portage with good views and lots of raspberries bushes. Unfortunately we were a little late and only found a few handfuls left. [paragraph break]We stopped at the first campsite on the north shoreline for lunch. Seemed to be a nice site with a huge pine offering shelter in the middle of the site. We fished and relaxed at the site for awhile. Only caught 2 small pike. After exploring Rush a little more we headed back to Skipper making it back to camp around 4pm. Took a little nap to rest up for dinner. Tonight's dinner was a Bear Creek pasta dinner, not too bad at all. Not exactly home cooking but pretty good for a just add water meal. Spent the rest of the night fishing and watching the sunset.


Day 4 of 5

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The day started pretty much the same with me and dog up early for some fishing from camp. Once my wife was awake I attempted to take the canoe out solo to do some fishing for walleye while she read and watched the dog at camp. I made it about 200 yards from camp toward the opposite shoreline when my dog decided it was not ok for me to leave the pack. With me across the lake my dog dove off the rocks and into the water after me. He made it across the lake to where I was and followed me back to camp. You could see the relief on his face when we were back at camp. Almost like “oh boy that was close, thought I lost you there for a minute”. I guess I found out just how loyal and attached my dog is to me. [paragraph break] After I abandoned the fishing idea we cooked up some pancakes for breakfast and decided to take it easy around the site for the day. My shoulder was still hurting pretty good and I wanted to rest it for the long portage back to Poplar the following day. The day consisted of more fishing, napping, reading, playing with the dog, swimming, and general laziness. [paragraph break]After dinner we concluded the day with a sunset paddle around the lake. During the paddle I trolled a crank bait and caught the lone walleye of the trip. Would have been a good eater size around 16-17” but we had already eaten so back it went. It was a very peaceful paddle with a great sunset. Even the dog appreciates the sunsets up there. Each night he sat on the rocks looking west as the sun went down almost looked like he was soaking it up like we were. Back at camp it was a cup of hot chocolate with Baileys and some star gazing and then bedtime.


Day 5 of 5

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday was more of a no nonsense kind of day. Up early and started the chores of breaking camp. Quick breakfast of oatmeal and on the water toward the EP by 9 am. The 315 rod portage back to Poplar felt a lot longer today compared to Thursday. My legs were fatigued and my shoulder was still hurting. Ran into another group of 4 that were up from Louisiana. Made the first trek across and headed back for the last load. The last leg was a real bugger. My pack was a lot heavier this time as I swapped some of the gear around in order to make my wife’s pack lighter for her (I’m such a great husband). I was really feeling the extra weight by the end of the portage and ended up busting up my shin on a log across the trail. I saw the log coming and even saw the jagged chunk of broken branch sticking off of it and thought I better be careful so I don’t hit my leg as I step over. But apparently the thought never got far enough south to reach my leg as I stepped over with one leg and stepped right into the branch with the other. The branch left a pretty good cut that was bleeding pretty good by time I reached the end of the portage. I opted to wait for first aid until back at Rockwood which was only a short paddle away. [paragraph break]Back at Rockwood the trip was over. We cleaned up, tended the wounds and mentally thought about the next trip. On the way home we stopped for pizza in Grand Marais and topped it off with a few of the World’s Best Donuts. A fine way to end a trip. [paragraph break] Overall the trip wasn't exactly what I picture and planned in my mind. I really wanted to make it further in and to see a few more lakes but with a bad shoulder and a content wife I knew better than to push it. In the end being flexible still allowed us to have a great trip without feeling the disappointment of the trip not living up to what I had hoped for. After all there is always next time.


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