BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
April 18 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 4
Elevation: 1500 feet
Brant to Tuscarora via Little Sag Route:
Bat - Mud
Gillis - burn area is evident:
Peter - first lake trout:
Little Sag - green trees again!
Mora - gorgeous divide of burn and green
Tuscarora - second lake trout!
Missing Link - with lighter food pack, the portage is OK
Far Reaches of the Gunflint
July 13, 2009
Number of Days:
After two hard days of travel, 1200 miles total, we all slept well the night before and awoke at about 5:45 am and prepped for the days ahead. Although we have been making a trip to the BW for a few consecutive years, this year we decided to add a bit of excitement and prepare all of our own food. I got a dehydrator for Christmas and was more than excited to use it in preparation for this trip. We had a good breakfast courtesy of our outfitter and hit the road for an entry on Seagull Lake. After having our permit checked by a forest service ranger, we were on our way.
Our destination for the day was Jasper Lake, knowing that it is in the burn area but not caring much. We all find the burned out lakes kind of interesting in some strange way. I rigged up a deep diving crankbait for the trip across Seagull and within the first half mile hooked up with a nice walleye. We fish a lot on our trips here but not really for walleye. In four years it was the first one I ever caught. Very cool. Would have liked to have a pic but the wife decided to let it off the line while netting it. Oh well.
The paddling across Seagull was otherwise uneventful as was the paddling through Alpine and onto Jasper. We had been through here the year before and knew that the sites on Jasper were well scorched but that the ones at the western end of the lake were in decent shape. Headed for them but naturally they were occupied. Stopping on another site for lunch, we decided we should have lunch before moving on. This site was in miserable shape. Our first experiment with our own food was nothing more than disgusting. The plan was for refried beans, salsa/cheese burritos. We vacuum sealed the beans but apparently once exposed to air they sour rapidly. Rancid is a good word for them. Oh well, it was the only meal on the whole trip we were not satisfied with. We eventually settled on a site on the southern part of the lake. It was sunny when we set out in the morning but now it was drizzling, chilly, and downright nasty. We had an early dinner of bratwurst (because of lack of lunch), fished for a while near the site catching smallies and pike, and headed to bed early. IN THE RAIN!
After a night of persistent rain and strong winds, I woke up at daylight to a bit of calm weather. Our tent came through unscathed as it always does but my parents were not so lucky. The sides of their tent kept caving in due to the high winds and they did not sleep too well. I had to inform them that I slept like a log. They were jealous. Eggs and pre-cooked and vacuum sealed bacon (great idea) were on the menu for breakfast.
We were looking to be adventurous this year, even after the drama of the prior year. See "Seagull to Round and trouble on Kekakabic" in trip reports. Our goal for the day was Toe lake off of South Arm of Knife. We wanted to try to avoid paddling the length of Ogishkemuncie and after consulting with our outfitter and people on BWCA.com I figured it would be possible to take the old portages from Ogish to Holt to Nabeck to Nave and then onto South Arm. We decided to give it a try. We found the portage from Ogish to Holt, loaded up and started a trek/half bushwhack on the old trail. The going was rough and before we even reached Holt Lake (even though we were almost there) decided to turn back. If it was just my Dad and I we would have kept on but the women wanted no more of it. Although my wife looks happy in the picture, trust me, she wasn't! We got back to Ogish and grabbed a snack to ease our hunger.
With our effort thwarted, we wanted to press on and plan B was to go as far as possible to get close to Toe Lake. As we headed west on Ogishkemuncie, the rain and wind, which had been a drizzle all day decided to kick up. The squalls were rolling in from the direction in which we were headed and traveling was tough. We pulled into an empty campsite for lunch and quickly decided this would be home for the night, plan C. Once again we have an early dinner of homemade, dehydrated chili (yum-yum) and all turn in early. IN THE RAIN!
Dad and I woke up before our wives again. We have yet to do much fishing because the winds have not died down too much, even in the morning. It is another drizzly morning but we want to get an early start. We all have a quick breakfast of cliff bars and oranges, and head on our way hoping that today, we will make it to Toe Lake. We like the smaller lakes because we love the isolation.
We paddled through the only route possible, Ogish-Annie-Jenny-Eddy and on to South arm of Knife lake. The weather was still miserable but on the smaller lakes we took our time and I paddled along and let my wife catch some fish. We had been battling the weather from the start and it was good just to float along and relax. The wind really picked up once we hit Eddy Lake and it was the first time I have ever seen white caps on a lake that is so small. The wife, not so happy again.
On the portage from Eddy to Knife, I knew once we got there the waves would be twice of what they were on Eddy. And they were. My wife is a strong young woman but I think I saw fear in her eyes. We headed back east towards Toe Lake, rocking and rolling the whole way. What a crazy ride that was. There is only one site on Toe and of course it was occupied so we pressed on and that meant heading back onto Knife Lake, but on a narrower, much less windy arm of the lake. The first site we came to was on a peninsula and it was a very nice site so we took it. Set up camp just in time for the rain to really start coming down. We spent time playing cards and relaxing under the tarp. The rain subsided, Dad and I went fishing catching some Bass and brought them back as an appetizer for the evening.
My Dad and I get up early and head out fishing. It is not raining but the threat is still there. We catch quite a fair share of smallies and a few pike around two islands. We keep two of them to make fish bagels with to supplement our breakfast. There is no hurry this morning because we only plan one portage onto Hanson Lake where we plan to stay three nights. Still not raining, we pack up while things are relatively dry and head towards the portage with my line in the water. About halfway to the portage, my rod doubles back and I grab it to keep it from heading into the water. The wind is blowing pretty strongly, I have no luck moving my lure, so figuring it is snagged, I hand my rod to my wife and start paddling back into the wind. I ask her to tell me when we are over top of it so I can make an attempt to retrieve the lure. She says she can't tell and then realizes the lure is not stationary. Now I realize it's a big fish because I couldn't budge it when I had the rod. She is reeling like crazy and the fish must be swimming towards the canoe not knowing it's hooked. I try to get the rod back from her but she has the monster near the surface when it realizes it and makes a beeline for the depths, snapping the line. UGH! The life of a canoe fisherman.
We end up camping on the middle site on Hanson, not a great site but out of the wind and slightly protected from the rain. The intermittent showers keep rolling in so its another afternoon of relaxing under the tarp and eating pasta with bannock bread. We all go to bed just after dark, IN THE RAIN!
Today our goal was a day trip to the primitive management area near Hanson Lake. We woke up to see a few break in the clouds but nothing to get too excited about. Pancakes were on the breakfast menu then we packed our daypacks for the adventure. As we headed for the portage, a bald eagle sat patiently while we took our photos then he swooped down in front of the canoes, did a 180, and returned to his perch. I caught it all on video, very neat. We headed into Link, Gift, and Fish Lakes hoping for a moose sighting and just to paddle around and fish. I had heard these lakes were full of very hungry Pike which is the kind of fishing our women like. Action packed. I propelled the canoe while my wife fished, catching many decent sized pike. Our two canoes got separated on Fish Lake and when we finally got back together my mother had quite the fish story. 40 inches worth to be exact. She reeled it in all by herself and was most proud. We caught many Northerns but unfortunately did not see any moose.
We paddled back to our camp on Hanson, had a great dinner and Dad and I went out for some topwater fishing action being that the winds had actually calmed down. We caught many smallies close to camp and stayed out until sunset. The skies had cleared and we actually did get to see the sun go down. It was a good ending to a good day.
The wives agreed to get up and go fishing at dawn as long as the sun was shining (which it was). It was our first sunrise of the whole trip, what a relief! We caught our fair share of fish including a bunch of smallies on topwater baits in about 50 feet of water. They were too busy chasing baitfish and were fooled by our masterful fishing skills.
Our goals today included a loop daytrip north through Ester, Ashdick, and Ottertrack lakes. We paddled through Ester, stopping to check out the empty sites for future reference. All five sites are open as we pass by. After a 55 rod portage to Ashdick Lake, we paddle to the northern campsite of the lake and break for lunch. The site is well elevated on rocks above the lake. I saw a monster smallmouth and after repeated attempts, hooked her. It was great to actually watch a large fish inhale a bait. Caught it all on video tape and you can actually see it all happen! Having to scale down the very steep cliff to grab it was difficult and when I bent over to lip her, puff, she was off. I did catch my first largemouth in the BW at the same location however. The 155 rod portage to Swamp Lake was overgrown and mosquito infested. Monument portage was next. Interesting to walk the border of Canada/US. Back on Ester, we decided to climb to the top of the cliffs on the northern shore of the lake. It was a scramble to the top but the view and the blueberries were well worth it.
Moving day after 3 nights on Hanson Lake. We plan on staying on Amoeber Lake for two nights if a site is open. I slept in until 8 AM which is unheard of for me because that means no early morning fishing. Must have been extremely tired from the long day before.
The 110 rod portage to Cherry Lake is a rather steep up-and-down. Cherry is a beautiful lake with high cliffs on the northern shore. The site at the narrows is occupied by a man who looks like he has set up camp with the intention of staying for awhile. We paddle through Topaz Lake, I picked up just one smallie while trolling. Amoeber Lake is next and we split up to see if either site is available. The island site is occupied but the site on the western shore is open so we grab it. Not a bad site, we can make it work for two nights.
After an unsuccessful attempt to catch dinner, the rest of the evening was spent just relaxing, eating homemade pasta with dehydrated ground turkey and raspberry crumble for dessert, highly recommended! With thunder rumbling in the distance, we prepare camp for a rainy night and hit the tents early to avoid the skeeters.
It rained hard and steady throughout the night but as usual, our REI tent held up amazingly well. For anyone looking for a two person backpacking tent, I will swear by the REI Quarter Dome. It has never let us down.
Seeing nothing but gray skies and being that we had planned a layover day here anyway, after breakfast my Father and I headed out for a day of fishing while the ladies planned to relax and read around camp. It was just a drizzly rain with no real wind to speak of. We caught plenty of smallies but only a couple of any real size. Amoeber Lake seems to be inhabited by way too many undersized fish. By the end of the day we had enough keepers for a good old fashioned fish fry. Add some bannock bread and dehydrated peas and we had quite a hardy meal.
After dinner, the rain had dissipated so the ladies joined us for some paddling and evening fishing. We thought for a brief moment we would have a sunset but the clouds filtered back in, we stayed out until dark and headed back to camp to avoid the incoming rain.
Last nights light rain has since departed and we woke in the morning to a sunrise. Fishing this morning proved to be the same as every other experience on Amoeber, small but plentiful. Blueberry pancakes were prepared, camp was taken down and we shoved off for our destination, Eddy Lake, a little before 10 AM.
The 75 rod portage to Knife Lake is easy and we enter the water in a "Moosey" looking area. Again, no luck with that. We paddle along, pick up a few fish which include another Largemouth bass and head for the 30 rod portage onto South Arm. A huge storm is brewing to our west so we beeline to get off the water before it hits. We find an empty campsite and prepare lunch.
The storm stays to our south, we hit the water again and are amazed that the water is so calm compare to a few days earlier on the same lake. The sun returns and we arrive at the portage to Eddy Lake. A few photos are snapped of the water falls flowing into Knife Lake with some guys frolicking in the water.
For the first time on the whole trip the portage at Eddy Lake is packed with other canoes. We take our time patiently waiting for the other groups because we plan on camping on Eddy anyway. Unfortunately, the site on Eddy is taken so we opt for plan B and press on towards Jenny Lake. Another thunderstorm is brewing by the time we reach Jenny Lake and we opt to take the western campsite although both are open. It is a nice site with grassy tent pads but the landing zone is a bit tricky.
We set up camp quickly and set out to see if fish would be on the menu for dinner. It wasn't because we did not feel like filleting pike. Instead it was backpacker meals for the main course and dessert. I paddled around near camp hoping to find fish but instead just sat in the canoe and enjoyed the sunset. They were few and far between on this trip.
What a beautiful morning to wake up to. Easily the best weather of the trip. Dad and I head out at first light hoping to catch breakfast. We catch plenty of fish and snap plenty of photos of the beautiful morning as well.
We paddle the length of Ogish and through Kingfisher and Jasper Lakes. Upon arriving on Alpine we are hoping for a site with some shade on the burned up lake. We are lucky to find one and decide to take a dip on such a hot and sunny day. My parents go fishing around the island and pick up a few nice ones while the wife and I set up the tarp for the rain that looks imminent again.
It begins to rain as we have dinner huddled up under the tarp. The rain became a running joke throughout the trip. But we have all determined that mother nature will do her thing and the best you can do is prepare for the worst and laugh the whole time. We head out to try our luck fishing but the strong winds make it nearly impossible and by dark we are all snuggled up in our tents.
For our last night of the trip we were treated to violent thunderstorms on and off all night long. They dont bother me but packing up wet gear in the morning crossed my mind repeatedly as I was laying awake in the middle of the night.
The morning ritual of going fishing proceeded as usual. Dad and I paddled across the lake catching fish here and there. We were fishing around a point when I heard something loud and asked my dad if he heard it. We sat quietly and then realized a loud splashing was going on just on the other side of the point. We quietly paddled and saw a momma moose and her calf splashing along the shore. Hurriedly, we went back to camp to pick up the women knowing they would want to see. However, by the time we returned the moose were gone. Fishing isn't the only reason to wake up early in the BW!
Thankfully the sun came out around breakfast time and we spread all of our gear around the campsite to dry it out. By the time we packed, it was pretty dry. We leave around 11:00 am because we are in no real hurry. With the wind at our backs it should be an easy paddle to the pick-up spot. We actually temporarily debate staying for one more night because none of us want to leave. Most people are ready for a hot shower, hot food, and a nice bed after an extended trip but personally I could take or leave all that stuff to spend more time in the BW.
The last portage back to Seagull is quite a burned up trail but it's pretty in it's own way. Mother Nature treats us to one more brief storm as we cross Seagull Lake and we pull into an empty site and break to ride out the storm and eat lunch. It passes quickly and we continue on our way and reach our take out point early in the afternoon. A quick call to the outfitter and we are picked up soon afterwards, headed back for a shower and a nice dinner.
We ate dinner at the Gunflint Lodge and the walleye and wild rice quesadillas were very tasty. On the was back to our bunkhouse, we saw a black bear by the roadside. It was the first one we have ever seen in Minnesota.
All in all, it was an outstanding trip even if it did rain way too much. A few things we learned this year include:
Don't try repackaging refried beans!!!!
Gulp leeches work well when drop-shotting or jigging!
Preparing our own meals saved us a lot of money in the long run.
And finally, Mother Nature is great even if she throws you curve balls every now and then. Love nature, enjoy the scenery, and spend it with the ones you love!
I can't wait until the next trip, hope you enjoyed this report.