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BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

June 13 2024

Entry Point 50 - Cross Bay Lake

Cross Bay Lake 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 45 miles. Access is thru the Cross River with two portages to Ham Lake and a 24-rod portage to Cross Bay Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1670 feet
Latitude: 48.0760
Longitude: -90.8222
Cross Bay Lake - 50

Mavis, Missing Link & Snipe the hard(water) way

by TuscaroraBorealis
Trip Report

Entry Date: January 29, 2013
Entry Point: Missing Link Lake
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 6

Trip Introduction:
Our annual winter trekking trip would take us to Missing Link lake area & points beyond.

Day 1 of 6

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I made it to Duluth a little earlier than expected, so I spent some time browsing around one of my favorite shops - The Duluth Pack store. After killing some time there, I met up with Mark at the London Road McDonalds which was in close proximity to his sons apartment. (who is currently attending UMD) After transferring his gear into my van we were on our way northbound.

After a quick stop in Two Harbors for some last minute grocery items, we continued up the north shore unimpeded to Grand Marais.[paragraph break]

Fueled up at the Holiday station, then headed over to Sven & Ole's for pizza and a few drinks. Called home to check in one last time, then proceeded on up the Gunflint Trail to Tuscarora Lodge & Outfitters.[paragraph break]

A plate full of delicious chocolate chip cookies greeted us upon arrival at our cabin. Settled in, and enjoyed the 6-pack of Blue Moon's & fresh orange slices we had procured for just this occasion. Shawn & John wouldn't be arriving until late, so we left a light on for them as we turned in.[paragraph break]


Day 2 of 6

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mark made a tasty, high energy egg bake for breakfast. Afterwards, we slowly begin to get things ready to head out.[paragraph break]

I had built my own UV resistant UHMWPE toboggan over the past off season. Also, I had Dan at Cooke Custom Sewing make me a connover bag for the top of my toboggan. So I was anxious to see how these items would perform.

There was only about 6-8 inches of snow on the ground, and even less out on the lake. That, coupled with the fact that there was already a trail across Round lake, made the decision not to wear snowshoes a no brainer.[paragraph break]

A noticeable breeze nipped at any exposed areas as we made our way across the lake to our first, and hopefully only, overland trek. Soon we were at the portage trail to Missing Link Lake. Nothing overly steep, but it does slowly climb most of the way going in this direction. At about the mid point of the trail there was a sizable ice dam to negotiate. Icicles hung precariously from many of the rock ledges too. It was awfully scenic but, the ice on the trail made it challenging to get through safely. Fortunately the only mishap was when Mark broke through a weak spot getting his foot wet. After getting past this area it was mostly a matter of tracing the toboggans along the twisting, turning trail. And, we all had a couple of minor incidents - momentarily losing the trail. [paragraph break]

The middle site on Missing Link lake was our target site, and fortunately it was open. (Although Shawn & John headed further south down the lake to check out that site before fully committing.)[paragraph break]

Our chosen site climbed up out of the lake to a nice (though incredibly exposed) fire grate area. A little further up the rock knob afforded a commanding scenic view of Missing Link lake. While this setup would appear to be ideal for summer usage, for more protection from the elements, we decided to move our kitchen area back under the rock knob into the woods a bit.[paragraph break]

John, Mark & Shawn began leveling off an area for our shelter and designing a kitchen area. Meanwhile, I hiked down the southwest shoreline to find some firewood & later punched several holes for water & some possible fishing. [paragraph break]

Soon things were starting to come together. With most of the major immediate tasks completed, Mark began preparing a broccoli - cheddar soup & polish for supper. [paragraph break]

After supper we each kicked back a bit and relaxed, indulging in several warm drinks before turning in for the night.[paragraph break]

[paragraph break]

Round Lake, Missing Link Lake


Day 3 of 6

Thursday, January 31, 2013

It was a cold morning but, I really enjoyed watching the sun climb up over the tree tops across the lake while I set about bringing some water to a boil. [paragraph break]

John & Shawn had a boy scout dinner they wanted to attend later this evening in Grand Rapids. So, shortly after breakfast, they grabbed a few essentials and made their way back to Tuscarora Lodge.

[paragraph break]

This left Mark & I at camp alone until they returned tomorrow. (We also expected Greg (SevenofNine) and his buddy Scott to show up at some point tomorrow as well.) One undeniably attractive feature of Missing Link lake is that it is surrounded with many great potential day trip options. Tuscarora, Snipe, Mavis were all potential destinations on the agenda. We even talked about trying to get back to Blue Snow lake. And, if it hadn't been so windy we may have headed off towards one of them. As it was, we felt it was more prudent to stay close to camp today and finish getting camp organized and bolster our firewood reserves. [paragraph break]

Being located on a main travel route, the low hanging fruit near camp had been virtually picked clean. My search to the south the previous day had provided enough to get us started, but the steep shoreline made it a difficult process. So we headed north and found a nice cache of downed wood a few hundred yards up the western shoreline. Some were a little larger than what we were ideally after but, I set about sawing them to a more manageable length while Mark went back to camp to retrieve a toboggan to haul our bounty. [paragraph break]

Once back in camp we begin alternating between processing our firewood, fishing, finishing setting up camp & snacking on the various sausages & cheeses we'd brought along. Fishing was slow so, eventually, Mark started piling up snow for a quinzhee but, the lack of powder brought this project to a premature impasse. Never the less, our efforts around camp today meant life would be that much easier for the next few days. [paragraph break]

Supper is a tasty teriyaki marinaded venison wrap. We enjoy a quiet evening gazing at the star filled sky. Which, while beautiful, is a clear indication that it is going to be a cold evening/morning.

[paragraph break]

[paragraph break]

Missing Link Lake


Day 4 of 6

Friday, February 01, 2013

Woke up a little earlier this morning. Without Shawn to fire up his wood stove in the morning things were considerably cooler. So much so, that Mark had some issues with his feet being very cold. So, eventually he worked his way over and got the stove going. Needless to say we lingered in the shelter a bit longer this morning.[paragraph break]

While it was quite cold upon our eventual emergence, there didn't seem to be any wind. So, it was decided on that we'd try and make it back to Mavis lake today to try some fishing. My Voyageur map doesn't even show a portage trail & neither did my old fisher maps or any online. Only McKenzie maps showed a portage that started as a fork of the Snipe lake portage. That didn't seem right to me. So I e-mailed Steve Persons (DNR fishery supervisor for the Grand Marais area) and he informed me that the forest service had moved the portage sometime prior to 2003, when the DNR last did their survey of the lake. He claimed the portage now started near the middle of the northeast shoreline of the northeast arm of Missing Link lake. And, actually gave me map coordinates. [paragraph break]

So armed with this information, we were about to embark on our journey when someone called out from the lake. Here it was Greg (SevenofNine) and his buddy Scott. We welcomed them into to camp & showed them around a bit. Greg mentioned that his vehicle had said it was -21 F when they left. Both Mark & I firmly believed that it had been even colder than that earlier in the morning. [paragraph break]

After getting everyone acquainted & some brief conversation, we told them to make themselves to home as we were headed for Mavis lake.[paragraph break]

We decided to make a straight line towards the Mavis portage. So we wound up breaking trail for most of the distance. Once we were well into the NE arm we hooked up with an old path. It soon became clearly evident that someone else was just in the area and had been looking for the Mavis portage as well. I investigated some of their false trails before finally finding the true path. It looked as if they had camped at the start of the path, because there was still a decent pile of freshly cut firewood. Indeed, the campers had blazed a trail all the way back to Mavis.[paragraph break]

The portage was quite overgrown and had blue tape marking the trail every 20 feet or so. (Upon closer inspection there was also some old orange tape that had faded to white along the path as well.) The trail twisted & turned tightly with a few quick drops. Then, at the bottom of the ravine was an incredibly steep uphill section. Not quite straight up but, just enough to get a few marginal footholds. Mercifully the trail leveled off after this section but was still a snaky trail. Finally, there is a long downhill section to the shores of Mavis.

We made our way out across the lake some and punched a handful of holes. I marked a couple of fish right off the bat. But, that would be as much action as we would get today. A couple of unfortunate circumstances conspired to wear down our resolve. While it had warmed up considerably from this morning I believe it was still below zero, and once we got to Mavis the wind picked up. This made doing anything that required dexterity (changing lures etc.)really tough. It seemed anytime we pulled our hands out of our mittens or pockets that the countdown was on. It only took a minute or so and our fingers would numb right up. Also, there was just a little slush on the lake which, as Mark found out, presented problems too.

[paragraph break]

So, after maybe 2 hours of spending more time cleaning out our holes, boots & fishing line we threw in the towel and decide to make our way back to Missing link. [paragraph break]

Once back on Missing Link it seemed like a whole different world. Figures. The wind had completely let up! It was actually a very nice, comfortable trek back across the lake. Ah well, it was still nice to have been able to get back to Mavis and see what it was all about. We both agreed that getting a toboggan across that trail was the easier mode of travel versus a canoe. But, IMHO, definitely a 2 person operation in both cases. [paragraph break]

Shortly after getting their shelters up, Greg & Scott had wandered off down the Tuscarora portage exploring that trail to it's termination at Tuscarora lake. In the meantime John & Shawn had made it back to camp, so there was something of a mutual convergence all within the span of an hour back in camp. Everyone got better acquainted, then Mark got a late lunch of chicken noodle soup started. [paragraph break]

During the BS session that ensued after lunch we learned that Shawn had won a covetous Boy Scout leadership award at the dinner he & John had left to attend. And, everyone pitched in and added to the firewood pile while being sure to take a little time to explore, contemplate & appreciate the wondrous beauty that surrounded us. [paragraph break]

It seemed as soon as lunch was done, Mark was already starting on the chili for supper. Funny how the shortened daylight & longer preparation times make these tasks almost meld into one another.[paragraph break]

Afterwards Shawn & I supplemented the wood for inside the tent. Needless to say the stove was a welcome luxury & made the cold mornings much more tolerable, as well as providing hot drinks & oatmeal to get us going. [paragraph break]

[paragraph break]

Missing Link Lake, Mavis Lake


Day 5 of 6

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Groundhog day! I think he seen his shadow? We linger in the warmth of the hot tent once again this morning before braving the elements. The consensus is to head for Snipe lake once we get going.[paragraph break]

Scott noticed an interesting consequence of the condensation from Shawn's stove pipe. Fortunately it causes us no problems on our trip, and is just a fascinating ice formation. [paragraph break]

Soon we are retracing our route from yesterday. Eventually we cut off and head east towards the Snipe lake portage. It is a glorious bluebird day with no wind to hinder our progress. It appears that someone has already traversed this portage with a toboggan as well. But, curiously, the toboggan tracks do not continue all the way to Snipe. We surmise that whoever made these tracks must've been looking for the Mavis lake portage and erroneously started down this trail. [paragraph break]

Once we past the toboggan trail, we follow the animal tracks down to Snipe lake. Fox, fisher, rabbit & wolf tracks are all seen. In fact, I break trail across Snipe lake following the remnants of a wind blown wolf tracks all the way to campsite #554 were we take a break. [paragraph break]

In the midst of re-hydrating & snacking, Shawn & Mark regale the rest of the riff-raff with their mastery of fire starting. Our patrol leader Mark shows why he has earned that title by out dueling Shawn.[paragraph break]

[paragraph break]

While all the lakes we visited on this trip were beautiful in their own right, everyone agreed that Snipe was definitely the pick of the litter. The view of the narrows just south of this campsite was particularly scenic. Unsure of the ice conditions through the narrows, we avoided closer inspection and admired the scene from afar. [paragraph break]

After our short break we pushed eastwards through the narrow pinch of the peninsula and gazed upon that section of the lake for awhile before eventually retracing our trail back towards camp. [paragraph break]

Once back on Missing Link, Shawn wanted to see what the Mavis lake portage was all about. So, I volunteered to go with him while the rest of the gang headed back to camp. On our hike back to Mavis lake Shawn was impressed that we were able to get a loaded toboggan back here. Shawn also pointed out a spot where a grouse had dove into the snow just off the trail & spent the night. [paragraph break]

Back at camp Mark & Shawn continued their fire starting competition. [paragraph break]

Well, if you haven't figured out by now? Mark is our principal menu planner & chef. Tonight he would achieve his zenith of wilderness cooking. He worked his way backwards. Starting with the apple pie for dessert. [paragraph break]

As anyone who has ever cooked anything in a dutch oven knows, it is a time consuming process. Especially in the winter. Fortunately for us, John did a masterful job of coal maintenance and stove rotation. The rest of us kept up the conversation around the fire & Shawn even snuck off to do some reading & keep the apple pie warm while waiting for supper. [paragraph break]

The main course was a venison & wild rice stew. The recipe even called for 2 cups of sauvingnan blanc wine which Mark had along. After the stew was nearly finished, a layer of biscuits was added to the top to bake. This was certainly a highly sophisticated, dare I say cultured, recipe that my gruff, red neck palate had never seen the likes of.[paragraph break]

Well, I'm going on record to say that, to date, this was easily the best meal I've ever had the pleasure of consuming in a wilderness setting. Regardless of season. Looking back, this meal was certainly one of, if not THE, highlights of the trip. [paragraph break]

Shawn pulled out his homemade raspberry tea as our final night cap. I'm not sure how it actually got started? But, eventually everyone was croaking out the Don McClean anthem "American Pie". It was a something of a serendipitous moment when I realized that tonight actually was the anniversary of the day the music died. I think it's safe to say we all went to bed with satisfyingly full bellies. Since we were heading out tomorrow, it was really a grand culmination to the trip. [paragraph break]

[paragraph break] Missing Link Lake, Snipe Lake, Mavis Lake


Day 6 of 6

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Greg & Scott were up & headed back early this morning. We thanked each other, and bid them farewell & a safe trip. As we finished up our oatmeal breakfast, Mark made a proud confession. For the first time, he had taken an empty container to bed with him & now it was full. [paragraph break]

Slowly, we began the process of tearing down camp. Somewhat surprisingly, we were able to leave behind a fair amount of firewood. It's always a bittersweet feeling having to leave a place that served us well as our home for the past several days. Of course the wind was starting to gain some momentum as we neared departure time. [paragraph break]

Remembering the icy trail back to Round lake, I put my yak traks over my boots to provide some extra traction. All things considered, the trip back across the portage went surprisingly well. Once back on Round lake everyone marveled at the fire damage (from several years back) along the western shore. The traverse across was quite windy but, we all managed to make it without serious complaint. [paragraph break]

From there it didn't take long to get loaded up. We wished each other safe travels and were on our way. Soon after getting back to the Gunflint trail, Mark & I had a pine marten slink across the road in front of us. We then motored to Trail Center for burgers and a few drinks. Mark had a couple of Flat Tires in homage of his brother Keith who was unable to join us on our adventure this year. We even found out that the official low for the morning of the cold feet was -34 F at the end of the trail. [paragraph break]

All and all this was a great trip. Unfortunately John & Shawn had to miss a day. And, their having to spend the coldest night at the Radisson in Duluth did nothing to earn any points with Mark or I. But, we eventually forgave them. Greg & Scott were also a fun pair and were definitely welcome additions to the campfire banter sessions & overall enjoyment of the trip. [paragraph break]

For the most part I was very happy with the way my new toboggan performed. And, the CCS bag did exactly what I wanted it to do. But, sometime in the near future, I think I'll have Dan add a few more lashing straps to keep the bag better centered. It should go without saying that we ate quite well, Mark & John did a superb job of planning & executing the menu. And, more importantly, we had no really serious issues come to the fore front. At times it was a bit too windy & fishing could've been better; but, in the final analysis, we were able to enjoy some quality time in God's country. So, I thanked the 3 men I admired the most, (The Father, Son & Holy Ghost) for being such gracious hosts. The day, the music died.......

Missing Link Lake, Round Lake


Lakes Traveled:   Missing Link Lake, Round Lake,

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