BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 20 2020
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
Bingshick, Crooked, and Snipe Looking for Trout
June 12, 2006
Cross Bay Lake (50)
Number of Days:
Departed Danbury, WI about 3:00 PM with the canoe on top of the pop-up truck camper. The Warden forgot a rain jacket so we stopped at Wal-Mart in Superior, bought a jacket, 12 pack of MGD plastic bottles, chips and dip. We were on our way not knowing where we were going to spend the night.
I had been on a BWCA trip two years before with our PE teacher and six high school boys. I had never been on a trip liked that before. After the first night I didn’t think I would ever go back. It had something to do with the portage between Missing Link Lake and Tuscarora and the cold fronts passing through. But after 6 days of paddling, fishing, portaging and relaxing I made it a goal of mine to get the equipment and set up my own trips. It took two years of researching and buying equipment and asking a lot of questions before I was ready to plan my own trip. Beymer, Furtman, and Jacobson’s books were a super source of information. Being parents, teacher, school counselor, and coaches, my wife and I do not get the 3 month summer vacation like most people believe. Summer vacations need to be flexible. This type of vacation works well for us.
After stopping at Fallapart, we drove the North Shore. We thought about staying at Cascade State Park since they had plenty of sites but we wanted to hit Grand Marais and get some supper. On the edge of town we discovered the Municipal Campground. It was about 7 PM and for $25 we had a site on the lake. It seemed like a good deal. We set up the camper and then walked downtown for supper. I would not normally camp in town but this worked out well. We decided on supper at the Gunflint Café/Raven Bar. I had a pork Sandwich, Blue Chips, and Lake Superior Ale; the Warden had a Lake Trout Wrap, Blue Chips and Lemonade. The Warden didn’t like her sandwich so I traded and took one on the chin. The Pork sandwich was awesome. I picked up a Honey Cigar for the walk home even though I have not smoked a cigar in years. After walking off supper we were in bed by 10:30 PM. This turned out to be a quiet town with a relaxing atmosphere. Gas $2.81 in Two Harbors.
Gunflint Trail/Bingshick Lake
Woke up early, made coffee and used the campgrounds shower facility. We stopped at the Ranger Station by 6:30 AM, watched the video, answered the questions, and picked up the permit. Stopped at World’s Best Donuts and had donuts still warm for breakfast as we were racing down the Gunflint with camper door still open swinging back and forth while it was raining. About 20 miles down the Gunflint a moose was in the road and about 40 miles from town is Round Lake where we paddle to the Brant Lake EP. We unloaded, moved the truck to the Cross River EP where we would be taking out and I jogged back to Round Lake while the Warden waited patiently. The rain stopped as we had turned off the Gunflint. We were on the water at 9:15 AM paddling to the 85 r. portage into West Round. We are paddling a Mad River Eclipse I bought in May from the Sawbill Outfitters for $490 with portage pads, and registration. It is green and weighs about 60#s. I had used a canoe like this a couple of years ago and liked it and it would work well on the rivers of Northern Wisconsin if the BWCA does not live up to my idea of fun. Above all the price was right. After the West Round paddle we portaged to Edith and saw our first person since leaving the landing. He must have been solo. Looked like he had been in the bush for a while. I noticed the mosquitoes were not chasing him like they were us. We made Brant Lake and the Warden didn’t realize that we were officially entering the BWCA. The sign gave it away. Brant Lake had 2 canoes and 4 people. We made it into Gotter Lake and a noisy group ahead of us struggled at the Flying Lake portage. We waited patiently and canoed to the end of the lake near the beaver dam about the same time a thunderstorm let loose. The Warden and I waited for the storm clear while swatting mosquitoes. The bug dope I brought was not working. First lesson learned, Skin So Soft is not bug dope. The Warden put her head net on and she was not real chirpy. I found an old portage trail but didn’t want to travel too far off. The Warden was not into exploring at this time. The storm blew by and we went on to conquer the 50 r. portage into Flying Lake. It was a little tricky but we made it.
Our packs consist of two Mason packs we bought at Gander for $70, and a German waterproof army pack I bought cheap at an Army Surplus shop. The Warden would carry her pack, the paddles, and fishing poles. I would take my Mason pack on one trip then race back and get the canoe and the Army pack on the next. The Warden would try to rest and swat mosquitoes. This technique of me doing the double portage and my wife resting seemed to work well.
On Flying Lake the loud group was trying to portage into Green Lake and we continued north towards Bingshick. The Warden doubted my navigation skills as the lake narrows into a small channel not much wider than the canoe. We were surrounded by Pitcher Plants flowering on the bogs. We found the goat path of a portage into Bingshick and the Warden doubted every move and after showing her skid marks on the rocks from previous canoes she let us continue. We made Bingshick about 2:30-3:00 PM. We had the lake to ourselves and took the west campsite after looking over the east site. The mosquitoes and gnats were incredible but of course I played it down. We put camp together and it starts raining and it pours and pours. The Warden makes it to the tent and takes a nap while I fiddled around in my underwear getting eaten alive. Every now and then I would escape the the biting and stinging by standing neck deep in the lake. Skin So Soft washes off quickly. I tried putting a tarp up. It was high enough to keep the equipment dry but useless for me. Of course I put a tarp under the tent instead of inside of tent like I had read about, Lesson #2 put tarp down on the inside of tent like Mr. Jacobson talks about. I searched out some down cedar and had brought some birch bark from home. Split the cedar and some how made a fire last long enough to cook some brats that we brought. I fished for an hour after supper trying to catch a brook trout with no success. Hopefully tomorrow is more enjoyable.
We packed and left by 10 AM to a sunny morning but the stinging and biting continued. The Warden took pictures of the blooming Pitcher Plants on our way to the first portage into the Chub River. The portages are narrow and rocky and didn’t seem well used. We had to pull over a beaver dam on the Chub. In another month I would think the water might get too low for canoes. Warclub Lake is more of a muck hole/beaver haven than what I could ever imagine. The 13 r. portage to Seahorse was neat with big boulders at the end. Seahorse is pretty and the portage to French is down hill with a little falls running next to it, but the packs and canoe seemed heavier today. Our first people we saw were 2 ladies that had just portaged in from Gillis. The Gillis portage was good but we had to paddle into the wind on Gillis. The second campsite on the west side looked nice. It was occupied but it sits high on a rock bluff. We pumped water with Katadyn Hiker and I wet a line without any luck. The 90 r. portage into Crooked was easy. We took the campsite on the big island over looking the 60’ hole. It sits on a rock bluff. In the dirt something found some turtle eggs and dug them up and had an easy meal. 6 Al canoes came into the lake from the Tarry portage. They are noisy when they are dropped on the rocks. Sounds like gunshots. I was able to catch 2 nice Lakers, 17” and 19” down from the falls of the Tarry portage. We fried them up over a fire in a cast iron pan with low sides. I know cast iron is heavy but I sure like cooking with it. The Warden made wild rice with cheese. A meal I wish could have every week. We really liked this lake other than the busy portage. We bathed tonight. We brought the solar showers but never used them. I doubt I would ever bring them again.
Could of stayed here for a while but we had to move on. We were actually on the water by 9AM. The Owl Lake portage was no problem except up hill, and the portage into Tuscarora also uphill. First canoe we see has an older gentleman paddling two older boys while they were fishing. Tuscarora had a southeast wind in our face but we managed. Very busy lake.
Howl Swamp Portage! This is where the memories begin. It starts on a sandy beach. The Warden led the way as I took the canoe and Army pack behind. Once we hit the top of the first hill and started going down, the Warden who I cannot see ahead me starts screaming. At first thought, a bear? Moose? I had stepped around a few snakes, toads and turtles and didn’t show the Warden any, especially the snakes. She hates snakes. She must have found a snake. She is trying to run back towards me with a paddle pointed in the opposite direction fending off whatever was attacking. I couldn’t see anything so I did not put the canoe down until she calmed down. As she was panting she said a bird was attacking her. I walk down the trail to find a momma grouse puffed up protecting its young. I can hear the chicks in the brush. She gets to boot kicking distance and she gives me the broken wing trick and runs away. I am laughing as I am explaining what is going on to the Warden.
We get to what is suppose to be the boardwalk but some beavers have used the boards as a dam. Good time to set the canoe down and get the second pack and fishing poles. We paddle to the opposite side and finish the portage into Hubbub Lake. Then find the portage into Copper Lake. Copper is a pretty lake with a couple of streams running into it. I wish we had time to explore. The trail to Snipe is another goat path. Pretty trail but mean, with log steps straight up. I am probably just getting tired. It seemed like a tough day of portaging.
We made it to Snipe Lake just in time. One canoe was headed in from Cross Bay. It was a race to campsites. They headed south and we went to the North Point over looking the 70’ hole and Missing Link portage. We were set up by 3:00 PM. I had bought an Eureka Tetragon 5 tent from Cabelas for $50. It is 6 pounds and 5’x7’. It is not fancy but serves the purpose until I think I need something better. As we were kicking back and relaxing three canoes came up and one started asking how big was our site, when were we leaving, if there are any other sites open, like I knew any more than they did. I fished the 70’ hole for a while and caught nothing. Another canoe with two guys came through going into Missing Link. We ate Alfredo noodles and cheese quesadillas using the Primus Techno Trail 3270 stove. I sure like the stove. It does not seem to use much fuel, adjustable flame, and boils water quicker than I can keep up. Folded up it fits inside my roll of duck tape. I took a little swim around the rock island and in the tent by 8:00 PM. A little buggy outside and it started to sprinkle. Snipe Lake Camp
Had a great night sleep. We were packed and on the water by 8:00 AM. Temperature was 70 degrees and humid. The weather had been very comfortable other than the first day with the passing storms. The camp behind us was very noisy last night and as we paddled by I really wanted to make some kind of loud noise but I didn’t. We paddled through a channel between two rock cliffs that were once joined together. The portage to Cross Bay Creek had fresh moose tracks, momma and calf. Told the Warden that if we were quiet we could run into them. No such luck. Cross Bay Creek had a beaver dam we had to lift over. A couple of canoes full of guys were leaving the Cross Bay Waterfalls as we were pulling in to take some pictures. My wife became very excited because she thought the one guy was the goofy actor Russell Crow. I told her she better hope not. I don’t believe he would want to meet her after 4 days in the bush.
We took pictures then turned and tried to chase Russell down. We finally caught up after many sightings at portages ahead, when we finally made it back to the parking lot. After some debate she decided it wasn’t him. Russell and his buddies had been fishing on Long Lake and had not done real well.
I went for a quick swim to wash off and had a beer as we packed the truck. We made Grand Marais by 1:00 PM and were eating at the Two Harbors Pizza Hut by 3:00 PM. Traffic going north was incredible. We were back to our house by 5:30 PM.
Looking back it was a successful trip. I learned a lot and will do many things differently. First thing is I would slow down instead of pushing on so quick. My wife would have liked a little more relaxation and less work. She would also like to paddle more, actually float while I paddle, and she would like the water to be warmer. I know I will be taking better bug dope no matter when I go. I need more practice at setting up tarps. I used bungee cords to help pull tarps. This gives them a little give if the trees start moving or I need to stretch it somewhere. The solar showers stay home. We didn’t just take one we took two. As for food it worked out great. We had oatmeal in the AM and many times salami and cheese, or peanut butter wrapped with tortilla shells. Rye Crisps, trail mix, granola bars, string cheese, beef sticks, hot cocoa, hot apple cider mix, Tang, and green tea were some of the other foods and drink we brought. The rice and noodles are the generic Fallapart brand but spice them up and they taste good. We did not go hungry. I used the 2’x2’ Zip Lock bags for food, and clothes. We lined the Mason packs with contractor bags from Menards. The Zip Lock bag with food went in an Army rucksack liner I bought at the Surplus Store. We hung the food, and that is a pain. I did use Fisher Maps I guess for the only reason is that is what our PE teacher uses. I will relax more the next time I bring my wife. I’ll save the challenging stuff for solos or for my son when he gets old enough.