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February 26 2024

Entry Point 51 - Missing Link Lake

Missing Link 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 a canoe landing at Round Lake with a 142-rod portage to Missing Link Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 5
Elevation: 1498 feet
Latitude: 48.0731
Longitude: -90.8301
Missing Link Lake - 51

1st Winter Trip to Tuscarora

by OgimaaBines
Trip Report

Entry Date: March 09, 2023
Entry Point: Missing Link Lake
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 1

Trip Introduction:
I built a UHMW Tobaggan in the later parts of February and this was its maiden voyage. I love seeking lakers on open water and this was the first time I was able to make it to the BWCA for lakers through the ice. I worked very hard, slept well, and learned a lot this trip. Very successful trip overall but there was a physical toll on the way out.

Day 1 of 5

Day 1, Left home about 530pm after scrambling to find a stove. My buddy had accidently taken my titanium, fold-down stove home to WI with him after our Winter camp a couple weeks prior. I found some Kni-Co stoves available onsite at a Twin Cities Cabelas. Was hoping to find one anyway so it worked out. My titanium stove is a bit small and I wanted a larger firebox, the trick was just finding something available that day. Once secured, the drive up to Grand Marais was uneventful, largely calling my wife and other family members to let them know I'll be out for a while. I booked a room at the Hungry Hippie Hostel just north of Grand Marais. Very nice place, quiet with heated floors. I did resarch for the coming days' weather and potential last minute sites and deviations from the plan. Slept very well, I was up at 8. Got a few last items and headed up the Gunflint. Was given permission by Andy at Tuscarora to park by the office, heck of a guy that Andy. Two crews were headed in to Tuscarora when I arrived. In packing the new toboggan, I realized I had no whiskey and that's just unacceptable. So I pulled the toboggan out on the lake to await my return, then went back 15 miles to Poplar house. A kind woman hooked me up even though it was not yet liquor store hours. Learned the importance of packing and securing each and every item on your damn zhooshkodaabaan(toboggan) tight. The tobaggan tipped about a dozen times on the beautiful trail to Tuscarora. Slid off the trail a couple of times, in fact. The crews that had come in before me had a nicely packed trail, which was appreciated. The last hill just off of Tuscarora was a challenge. I was skiing on my snowshoes down the hill but I was largely unable to control the toboggan and it went off trail, I drug it back towards the trail and finished the rest of the downhil with the sled facing backwards. I found a site on the south side of the lake and burned in the new stove, set up the tipi tent, cut some firewood, drilled my water hole, ate dinner and crashed.   


Day 2 of 5

Day 3-I found a spot in my bay for laker fishing but had only bites no good hookups, hardmouthed little suckers. I couldn't find my preserved minnows I'd bought for the trip and feared that they were with my whiskey in my gearroom at home. After fishing from 9-12, I loaded up half of my stuff, thinking I might move to another site but realized after review of the other southern sites on Tuscarora, my spot is just fine. I had blue skies all day so it was a great day for some traveling, I fished on the far western end (no luck) and came back to improve tent setup, dig in the stove and fish with the sunset. I enjoyed a jack and coke with the sunset and jammed to some tunes. Cooked up a vacuum sealed cordon bleu casserole, which is always a good bet. I had some fantastic stars this night and spent a good amount of the evening protecting my night vision and looking up. I always hold out hope for a UFO but no luck tonight; no northern lights either and no complaints.


Day 3 of 5

Got up to fish and while boiling my water for the day, I found my minnows! I hid them in a cooking pot. I put out some tipups and fished some new spots on the bay. Snow cover was about 30" to get down to the ice, so I experimented with a few different setups. Sometimes I'd dig the whole seating area out to the ice, sometimes I'd just carve in a spot for the hole and the flasher, sometimes just an auger hole through snow and ice. Pretty significant wind today as a system moves in, so I set up some wind blocks and filled the tipup holes with snow. generally, I could expect a couple inches of water over the top of the ice once I've drilled the hole with the weight of the snow, less towards shore. After 4 hours of fishing, I read from Calvin Rutstrum's "Paradise Below Zero" back at the tipi and took a breif midday nap. Caught my first laker through the ice in the BWCA after getting back out there. It flew up off the bottom in about 18' of water and I had a solid hookup! Good eater size, lots of trouble for that fish but I was so happy I made it happen. Pan fried trout and had frybread for dinner. It started snowing just before I turned in for bed.


Day 4 of 5

Woke up to heavy snow and a stiff wind out of the NE. I made the most of it. I cut lots of firewood, added a bunch of snow to the growing slush pit in my tent from the stove, and started organizing things for the trip out. I bundled up and took a hike up the gorge to Howl, saw some beautiful cliffs, boulders, and followed an otter track up the gorge. I heard some gurgling water but couldn't see the source fo the water, turned around as soon as the boulders and potential gaps under the 3-4' of snow became apparent. I walked north up the lake to the portage trail to Howl, went down the portage a ways but realized I'd likely get myself sore breaking all this trail so turned around about 1/3 of the way there. I went back to the laker spot and caught another appetizer trout to eat with my vaccum sealed Shepherd pie. Enjoying the sound of the wind and "shhhhhhh" of the snow hitting the tipi. It snowed and the wind continued all day until 30 mins before I hit the bed.


Day 5 of 5

Got up at 6am to pack up. In securing my sled, I gave it a test pull and realized today was going to be a real challenge. The 5-6" of snow had a dense, heavy, sugary texture. Temps were in the single digits and once I got halfway across the bay, in the sun, I stopped to ensure the bottom of the toboggan was clear of ice or that I wasn't dragging something. Nope, just a heavy load and poor pulling conditions. I was breaking trail the whole way, bear crawling up hills, and generally struggling for the next 4 hours on the way out. I unloaded half the gear on the first hill off of Tuscarora pulled up and went back down for the rest of the gear. On the bright side, I was tipping less and now understood the importance of a rigidly secured and well-thought out toboggan stack. About halfway down the train, after slipping uphill and coming down on my shoulder (no injury but likely close) I started using my military surplus magnesium snowshoes for walking sticks. Poor traction on those anyway, but generally good and bombproof design. As I made it to Round, I was counting 200 steps and resting then repeating. The blue skies were beautiful on the way out. I was of course hoping to see someone on the trail, but no cigar. This was probably the most physically challenging thing I've done in the past decade. To be honest, next time I'll be a little more judicious with the weight of the toboggan load and also seek to bring a partner for longer overland trails to help guide the toboggan on challenging trail spots. I ate lunch around 1pm at the Gun Flint Tavern. The next day, I had a very erratic heartbeat and low blood pressure until 4pm. I considered going to the emergency room, but after placing a call to some nurse friends, it was clear that I should've drank more than the 2 liters of water and several mouthfuls of snow on the way out, should have sought to use some wind breaking clothing, and the adreneline was still working it's way out of my system. I've had arrythmias before when dehydrated, brought it up to the doctor and since I'm not yet 40, he's not been concerned. Anyway, even though I knew how easy it is to get dehydrated, I didn't know HOW easy. Next time I'll double/triple my intake while traveling. Great trip overal with lots ventured and learned.


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