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June 20 2024

Entry Point 54 - Seagull Lake

Seagull Lake entry point allows overnight paddle or motor (10 HP (except where paddle only) max). 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 50 miles. No motors (use or possession) west of Three Mile Island. Large lake with several campsites. landing at Seagull Lake. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1205 feet
Latitude: 48.1469
Longitude: -90.8693
Seagull Lake - 54

The Super Loop

by RT
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 08, 2008
Entry Point: Seagull Lake Only
Number of Days: 10
Group Size: 4

Trip Introduction:
Another year and another BWCA trip! This time however we decided to bring along a fourth person; Donnie. It would also be our (okay, my) most adventurous planning and grandest trip; Big Saganaga Lake to Ely and back. Almost 70 miles of paddling and 4 miles of portaging, this was to be the most awesome trip for seeing the most amount of land, and one of the most annoying and bitch filled (95% of which I will not relay in this report because it is just pointless anyway) trip we have ever taken. In reality, it is my fault for taking a newbie on such a grueling trip. Because of the hardships that Donnie had to deal with (lack of booze, lack of sufficient fishing time and too many portages) I believe that I have turned him off to the idea of traveling in the BWCA. I do believe, though, that he would be willing to do a base camp style trip. Who knows, I doubt he will ever want to go with me again, that is not my style of trip.

Day 1 of 10

Friday, August 08, 2008

Because of money concerns (all of us being broke) we could not afford to rent a pair of canoes from Seagull Outfitters. I explained this to Debbie, Seagull’s owner, who seemed to understand, and told her that we would be hooking her up though; we wanted a tow to American Point. She seemed happy with that arrangement (which was planned specifically so we could take advantage of the showers at Seagull) and told us that we could park in her lot for free while we were in the woods.

Matt and Donnie (Matt was living in Donnie’s basement at the time) would not be able to leave until a little later in the day, so I took off in my car and headed for Hinckley; where a pair of borrowed canoes from Michele and Denny (which I had moved from Mora to my cousin house in Hinckley a few weeks prior) were waiting for me. If it was not for Michele and Denny letting us borrow their canoes I am sure that we would not have been able to take our yearly trip.

I got off of work at 8am and my drive up was uneventful; I reached Hinckley in no time. The canoes, a Roylex (thick molded plastic) and a Ram-X (thin plastic with an aluminum framework), were ready and waiting on their trailer so it did not take me any time at all to get them hitched up to my car. Once done I hit the road for Gopher’s apartment in Duluth.

I reached Duluth just before noon, found a parking site large enough to fit my car with the trailer in front of Gopher’s place, and knocked on his door. No answer. I called; no answer. Shit. So I waited for a little bit, expecting Matt and Donnie to be not far behind me. So I gave them a call; they were in Forrest Lake… Fuck! We were not planning on staying the night in Duluth (we had to hit the water that day) so I was concerned that we were already running behind schedule.

After about an hour I was able to get Gopher on the phone. He was just leaving work and would be back to his place shortly (and with a surprise for me). I called Matt and Donnie again, they were passing Sandstone and said they would be to Gopher’s in less than an hour (Donnie is quite the speeder apparently). I was still none too pleased because it meant that we would not be on the water before 5pm, much too late in the day, I figured.

After we all met up we quickly got on the road to Grand Marais. Donnie and Matt in one car, me and Gopher in mine, pulling a trailer with two canoes, trying to keep up. I did my best however and we made it to Grand Marais in short time. The standard stop at the Holiday station for gas and last minute supplies complete, we hit the Gunflint Trail in route to Seagull Outfitters.

At Seagull we picked up our permits and loaded our gear and canoes into one of their old Chevy Suburban trucks and were quickly dropped off at the Entry Point; our tow-boat ride waiting for us. Everything was going to plan, if a little behind it, but I was not worried now that we were on the water.

We made quick time traveling down the shore from American Point (the infamous “Rocky Point” stories were told to Donnie) to Swamp Lake. A quick bit of rain pass over us and we had to don our rain gear, but it blew over in less than an hour. The sun was getting very low on the horizon by this point however, and I was getting worried. I told the guys to keep a look out for any site they could see and that we would take the first one that was open.

Too bad every site on Swamp Lake was taken. With no other option we decided to get Monument Portage behind us (taking the standard group photograph in front of the boarder markers) and take the first place we could find on Ottertrack Lake. We got lucky that first night. There is a site on the Canadian side of the lake, just a short paddle beyond Monument Portage, which we were able to take.

It was way too late to be setting up camp. The sun had set and we were scrambling to get the tents up, dinner cooked, and gear stored away. The site itself was a pain in the ass! Not a level spot to be found, full of rocks that prevented a nice surface to sleep on and, since it was on the Canadian side, no toilet. But the absolute worst part was the mosquitoes. Swarms of them, all of the size of small dogs (or so it seemed) that did not quit, even after sundown, in assaulting us constantly. We set up quickly, ate dinner quickly, and went to bed quickly. Not my favorite day in the BWCA.


Day 2 of 10

Saturday, August 09, 2008

I woke early in the morning and started breakfast before waking everyone else up. It was a perfect day, the sky was cloudless and the temperature was warm. We had a lot of distance to cover and no time to dawdle. Grub consisted only of oatmeal (our standard), breakfast bars, GORP and hot cups of coffee; all eaten in much haste. After we ate we struck camp, loaded the canoe and started what would end up being our longest day of the trip.

Our plan (okay… MY plan) was to make a huge looping trip from Monument Portage, down into Kekekebic (via the Hanson Lake / Ester Lake route) and then into Fraser Lake, Thomas Lake, Ima Lake and Ensign Lake before making our return journey following the boarder lakes (Birch Lake, Knife Lake and Ottertrack Lake) back up to Monument Portage, thus completing our trip. For me it was the perfect trip (though it could have been slightly longer). For Gopher and Matt it contained too many portages in too few days and for Donnie… one portage for him was enough, and we already did it in his opinion.

We made the quick portage (an 80 rod) from Ottertrack Lake into Ester Lake not long after sun up and made our way down the lake. After the day before, worrying about being on the water too late, my fears drifted away. Matt and Gopher also seemed content on our travel speed. Donnie however was stoked; so many places to fish!

The small area that connects Ester Lake to Hanson Lake was soon in sight and we made quick work of crossing both lakes. Once at the portage into South Arm Knife Lake we stopped for a few minutes to retie some gear and grab a quick snack. 120 downhill rods later we were on Knife Lake and quickly paddling our way to the Eddy Falls portage.

On Eddy Lake we decided to take our lunch break. We broke out our summer sausage, cheese and crackers when a group of Girl Scouts out of Chicago pulled up to the portage. We shot the breeze with the Scout Master for a few minutes before the girls (and two boys) noticed what we were eating. “CHUB and Cheese; that’s what you guys call it”, they proclaimed. We laughed and tried to explain that we had never heard of summer sausage being called CHUB before. I don’t think they believed us.

We continued on our trip and crossed the ever annoying, Kekekabic Ponds portage; a series of tiny lakes split by tiny portages. The constant in-the-canoe, out-of-the-canoe, in-out, in-out, in-out, will make you crazy (in reality there is only five lakes and five portages… but still!). Donnie and Matt, in the Ram-X canoe decided to push it a bit harder and wanted to catch some fish so Gopher and I just continued at our normal pace and let them disappear across a portage before we got there.

Once on Kekekabic Lake Donnie and Matt were no where to be found. Gopher and I thought nothing of it at first because we showed Donnie (who brought his GPS) where we planned on taking camp. When Gopher and I came to the campsite we intended to stop at we found that it was already taken. Donnie and Matt were still nowhere to be seen so Gopher and I turned around and paddled back up the lake, looking for them.

We found them about an hour later, two-miles back the way we came. They had caught some good sized fish (which they tossed back) and had decided to take a swim in the lake. Once we were back as one group Donnie saw that he made a mistake on his GPS and thought he was on the opposite shore then he really was. A simple mistake, one I can obviously relate to.

The rest of the afternoon passed quickly as we once again tried to find a site for the night. Everywhere we could see had a group of people on it but we found a campsite on the south shore of the lake next to a small island. We were able to set up camp a few hours before sundown and made a large dinner of rice, noodles and Mac & Cheese to celebrate it. The site itself was unremarkable. Flat and with lots of grass for soft sleeping, there was nothing to it.

We goofed around a bit (Matt and Donnie tipping the canoe after a fishing trip and falling into the lake on the shore) and sat up until after dark so we could watch the stars. The weather so far could not have been better. Hardly any wind, perfect temperatures in the low 80’s, and, other than that first night, bug-free.


Day 3 of 10

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Another perfect morning dawned and I was up with the sun again. I cooked up some water for oatmeal and coffee and we hit the water pretty quickly after packing up the camp. While we were covering less distance by water it was going to be a pretty heavy portage day. We made doubly sure that every thing was packed as small as we could make it before hitting the water.

We crossed into Strup Lake, a gorgeous lake full of little twists and turns of the shore, a perfect place for Bass. Donnie figured that out right away and he and Matt took off for one of the bays as Gopher and I decided to check out a campsite on the far side of the lake. The site was nice but it was the surprise that Gopher brought that got my attention. He had brought a Care Bear, now dubbed Geo-Cache Bear, and wanted to give him a permanent home in the wilderness. I tied him to a Birch tree above the toilet, snapped a few pictures, and we continued on our way. (Yes; it is a no-no… but, too late now.)

We crossed into Wisini Lake and took an early lunch (provided by Donnie, who caught a nice sized Brown Trout) on a campsite near the center of the lake with some other people who were passing through. The campsite itself is amazing! The site is about 20-feet above the water on a small cliff/bluff; the water is incredibly deep and signs of cliff jumping tempted me too much to ignore. Gopher and I enjoyed a few jumps from a smaller area before moving up to the “Big Daddy” jump; a 40 plus foot drop.

Gopher, in his ever-deep genius, decided that he needed to see the water in order to judge his entrance angle as he landed, which ended up in resulting in his body entering the water fine, but his face smacking into the surface and his teeth cutting his lower lip. I think his pride (and our quips) hurt more than his lip did, but he took it all in stride, like always.

We continued after we had finished our swim and crossed the 90-rod portage into Ahmakose Lake, a 30-rod into Gerund Lake and a 15-rod before finally getting on Fraser Lake, which is so far off any major route that we ceased seeing any other canoes. Fraser Lake is very pretty and I would like to visit there again in the future.

It took some time, but we eventually found the little narrow area that leads into Thomas Lake. Once there we realized that it was mid to late afternoon and that we should find a campsite. I realized how far we had traveled in just two days and let everyone know that we no longer had to keep up the pace we were at and that the next day we would be off the water by noon. Donnie, more than Matt and Gopher, was the happiest to hear this news.


Day 4 of 10

Monday, August 11, 2008

We decided that we needed some much needed sleep and did not get up with the sun that morning. I once again cooked up some water for oatmeal and coffee (I personally enjoy cooking breakfast more than any other meal) and we sat next to the fire pit watching the sun over the lake. It was proving to be another great day.

With the camp struck and the canoes loaded up we peered over the maps deciding where to go when we heard small sounds coming from the trail that lead to the toilet. After a few moments a large black Mink came down the trail. He paused at the end of it, looked at us in a “you’re still here?” manner before padding off the way he came. The sight gave us a chuckle and we pushed off from the shore not long after.

Donnie had been dying to do some fishing for more days then he could stand so, seeing that we were only headed into Ima Lake this day, we took our time and circled around many of the islands on Thomas Lake, hoping for a bite. We cruised by many rocky outcroppings covered with seagulls, the only time we ever (including other yearly trips) that we saw so many gulls in once place.

Before noon, or there about, we entered the first of the portages that lead into Hatchet Lake. We met up with at least two other groups (going in the other direction) on the rapids to that lead into a small stream system. Unlike the other groups though, we had the fortune of traveling with the current so we took our chances running the rapids (with success I might add) instead of portaging along the shore.

The area around Hatchet Lake is very interesting. A true Muskeg area, most of the land that stretched out into the lake floated on top of the water. I was easily able to slide my paddle under the shore line into the black water beneath. If I had been walking around in this area I would not have known, until it was too late, the danger of the land I was walking on. Beautiful and dangerous, it is another area that I would like to explore more.

We finished up the rest of the small stream quickly and completed one last 50-rod portage before finally ending up on Ima Lake. It could not have been much past noon at this point so we paddled around to multiple campsites to find the best one; which ended up being on a large island in the middle of the lake. Gopher and I set up the camp and Matt and Donne (who was eager to cast a line) set back on the lake to get in some fishing.

The site was, and remains, one of my favorite in the BWCA. The tent pads are well away from the water and tucked away in some trees (thus sheltering them from any wind) and the fire pit sits well away from the slanted, rock beach, which streches at least 40 feet from the water to the fire pit.

After the camp was set up Gopher and I also decided to get in some fishing so we pushed off in our canoe and headed over near the portage that leads into Alworth Lake to try our luck there. I soon tired of fishing (not my favorite activity) and lay down in the bottom of the canoe and took a nap. After an hour or so, in which Gopher didn’t catch anything, I woke up and we made our way back to the campsite.

Back at the site I remembered seeing an episode of “Survivorman” on TV where Les, the host, made a tea using pine needles, juniper berries, and bark. It was not bad but it left a residue of pine sap on the pot that, no matter how much I tried, would not come off. Matt and Donnie arrived back in camp shortly after that; a few fish for dinner in tow.

At the end of the day we did some swimming off of the rock beach which, on the south side, offered a small four or five-foot drop into the water; good for diving off of. We ate dinner, played with a very large Dragonfly that just happened to be sitting on a log near the fire pit, and sat on the beach, watching the sun set. There were low clouds on the far western horizon but they seemed to be traveling north, so we did not worry about them.


Day 5 of 10

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The next morning we got off to an early start. The clouds from the night before had rolled in on us and provided a gray, slightly drizzly day. We ate our oatmeal, drank our coffee, packed up the camp and hit the water. We were not going all that far (only to Ensign Lake) but we wanted to get to out next site sooner rather than later.

We traveled north up Ima Lake and made the portage into Jordan Lake, a small, nondescript lake with a very interesting, very long and narrow, bay on the east side. The portage from Jordan Lake into Cuttyman Lake started off difficult (straight up hill it seemed) but quickly flattened out. Water levels were slightly higher where we were so Gopher and I were able (after seeing others attempt it) to toss the canoe in the water about half-way down the portage and run the rapids that spill out into Gibson Lake.

We made it into Ashigan Lade after a long, but very easy and pleasant 105-rod portage that seemed more like walking on a State Park trail than a wilderness portage. One last short portage after that and we hit Ensign Lake by noon, where we ate lunch on the portage and looked over the map, deciding on a campsite.

Ensign Lake did nothing to impress me. Every site we passed had people sitting in camp; stoking their fire, casting a line and generally just staying in camp, getting out of the drizzly rain that covered all of us. It was a very annoying day to travel and find a site. No matter where we looked (and we paddled to almost every site) we could not find one that was available.

We passed through the narrows that separates the east side of the lake from the west, still looking for a site. There was a long and narrow island a head of us that, on the map, offered us a possible four site, with five more sites to north and thee to south. With so many sites possible we split the island with Donnie and Matt taking the south side and Gopher and I on the north.

Site after site on the north side was taken, save one, that we were about to pull up to when I noticed something in the underbrush. At first I thought it was a dog but after a moment of realization it dawned on me that it was a Black Bear cub. I yelled to Gopher but he only caught a flash of fur before it dove back into the trees. We passed on that site.

Gopher and I rounded the island and saw that Donnie and Matt and come across a site that was free and had started unloading their canoe. Gopher and I pulled up and we immediately set up camp. Because of the rain we decided to hang a tarp as a shelter between our tents; just in case the rain came down harder than a drizzle.

I sat in camp doing nothing important as Donnie and Matt hit the water for more fishing and Gopher headed into places unknown in the forest behind our site. After an hour or so I heard a call from the woods. “Ryan!” it rang out. It was somewhat distant as I answered back, “Yeah?” “Where am I?” Gopher’s voice carried back. He had found a patch of blue berries and forgotten to scope his surroundings, thus ensuring his ability to find his way back. Some Eagle Scout, huh?

Matt and Donnie on the other hand had an interesting time themselves. While fishing they heard, completely clearly, two girls swimming in the lake, but out of view. Apparently the girls were having a good time farting and watching the bubbles rise to the surface. Proof that, even in the wilderness, blondes will find you!

We finish off the day by taking pictures of a Bald Eagle that perched in a dead tree just off of our campsite; cooking up a big diner and playing poker in Gophers tent. A dumb idea in hindsight seeing how gassy Matt, Gopher and I get in the BW, and when you add Donnie (the gas master himself) to that mix… watch out!


Day 6 of 10

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We packed up camp and hit the water early. We had to make up some time and try to get as close to Knife Lake as possible. The rain and flown out of the area during the night and the morning broke cloudless and warm. It was a much needed morale booster after a cold day paddling in drizzle.

We crossed Splash Lake and made it to the far western end of our trip; Newfound Lake. It was just as pretty looking as any other lake we had been on but, much to my dislike was full of motorboats. Fisherman, canoe outfitters and other were puttering around like ants. I didn’t think this many boats were going to be this far out and I was disappointed to be proven wrong.

Thankfully we were only on Newfound and Sucker Lakes for a short time. We rounded the corner and high tailed it to the portage that would take us into Birch Lake; which we reached in less than an hour. Birch Lake, though very pretty, would end up being as packed with people as Ensign Lake was. This area out of Ely is apparently very popular.

As we neared the end of Birch Lake we suddenly heard a loud “crack” followed by a lot of mumbled sounds that I discerned to be talking. The sounds were off in the distance however and we did not pay much attention to it. When we reached the portage into Carp Lake however, we found the source of the sounds. A group of Boy Scouts had been shooting the rapids, tipped their canoe and snapped the gunwales and crinkled their rented Kevlar canoe. By the time we reached the far side of the portage (where they were) the boat was put back together and was water worthy, if a little ugly.

It was still pretty early in the day and none of use wanted to do any more river portages (we had walked the canoe between Birch and Carp Lakes) so we decided to take a site on Carp Lake and do some fishing. The Boy Scout group wanted the site on the northeast side of the lake so we took the site on the southwest side. We set camp quickly and hit the lake.

Never have I caught such large Bass. The middle of the lake was an expansive weed bed and, using buzz bait, we slayed the fish! I caught a 7lb smallie while Donnie landed an 8lb Large Mouth. We spent the next few hours catching fish after fish before Gopher and I decided to explore the lake a little bit; Matt and Donnie continued to fish.

Near the site the Boy Scouts took a small river pours out of Knife Lake into a small pool of water. Gopher and I cast a few lines into the water but the heat of the day won out and we went for a swim instead. The water, crystal clear, was refreshing and we spent a little bit of time diving to the bottom, which was about 10 feet deep, in search of lost fishing lures and other things that might have made their way down from Knife Lake.

Fish and swimming done for the day we all headed back to camp where Donnie fried up all the Bass in “Shore Lunch”. We ate like kings that night and watched the stars before tucking in for the night. The sky was promising so I took a gamble and left the rain fly off my tent, wanting to see the stars through the mesh as I fell asleep.


Day 7 of 10

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gopher and I (who were sharing a tent this trip; Matt and Donnie were in Gopher’s tent) awoke shivering. It did not rain during the night, (it was a crystal clear night and morning) but the temperature had dipped a bit. Not a lot, but the difference of camping with the rain fly of my tent off, versus on, made a larger difference in the amount of heat the tent held that I imagined.

We were in for a very long day of paddling, intending to make the length of Knife Lake, in order to stay on one of the sites that split Knife from Ottertrack Lake. We packed away breakfast, drank our coffee and once again hit the water strong, crossing Carp Lake quickly.

The portage into Knife Lake followed a stream and, instead of packing our gear, we decided to leave the canoes loaded and guide them up by walking along side. Some of the spots ended up being deeper than they looked and Matt and I (who were on the bow sides) ended up taking more than one impromptu swim break. It was actually a very fun portage and it did not bother us at all.

Once we hit Knife Lake we noticed that we finally were about to head into some wind. And, of course, it would not be complete if that wind was not blowing straight at us. We took our time at the end of the portage, filling water bottles and eating some snacks (and taking a swim because, even early in the morning it was getting hot) before we got the canoes ready to take on the lake and the wind.

The first part of the trip was very simple, if tiring. I had waited all year for this moment; I was finally going to get on Robbins Island, a place we did not make it to due to the wind, last year. It was a nice campsite, but very disappointing as for seeing anything that might have been left behind by Dorothy Miller (The “Root Beer Lady”). I was hoping for something; a chunk of foundation from her cabin, a bottle or two lost in the woods, vague traces of any human presence. But I was out of luck. Too many years had gone by for anything to be left at her old homestead so we hit the lake again.

The rest of the day was backbreaking work. Into the wind for the entire length of Knife Lake we struggled to keep a straight line. The canoes tracked very well however. Their weight, something that was a pain in the ass during portages, cut through the water like a cleaver. No wave could upset them and the wind had a hard time upsetting our course as well. We tracked straight, for the most part, for the entire day.

As we neared a narrow section of Knife Lake Matt and Donnie were a full mile ahead of us (something we had gotten used to due to our differences of traveling goals; sightseeing and exploration for me, fishing for Donnie, and who knows what for Matt and Gopher) and missed the turn to continue on Knife Lake. They ended up well into a bay on the Canadian side before they noticed that Gopher and I were nowhere to be seen. It only took them a little under 30 minutes for them to realize what happed and to make up the distance to the narrows, where Gopher and I were waiting, and for all of us to continue up the length of Knife Lake.

We made out campsite location near the end of the day. As we paddled up to a group of sites that sit on the Knife Lake / Ottertrack Lake boarder we were slightly disheartened at first. A man and a woman were leaving a site. At first we figured it was full and that we would have a few more hours of paddling in store for us, but as the man and woman got in their canoe they told us that the site was all ours. We chalked it up to good fortune and took the site.

After we got the camp set up we found out why we were given the site; snakes. There were shed skins all over the rocks and we even caught a glimpse (though could not catch one directly) of a few Garden Snakes basking on the rocks. Nothing to worry about but I guess the woman would have none of it.

As evening fell we cooked up dinner and had a large fire (Donnie the pyro and his dead pine bows) after Matt and Donnie once again got some fishing. As we were all sitting in camp, Gopher, in his infinite abilities at balance, was showing off by tightrope walking on a log. A log that did not wish to be tightrope walked upon; a log that rolled over and tossed Gopher to the ground in such a graceful manner that I could almost imagine Gopher as a ballerina.

Our evening complete we were on our way to bed when Donnie decided to take a crap in the middle of the trail (Donnie, skittish about pooping in the toilets during the trip absolutely refused to do so; instead, he would usually go into the woods) leading to the toilet. After his HUGE fire this annoyed me to no end, but, surprisingly, I kept my mouth shut for the most part. By this point I was getting very annoyed at some of the things he was doing (all because he was out of booze) but I knew that I did not want an arguement out in the wilderness so I just had to let it slide; no matter how pissed I was.


Day 8 of 10

Friday, August 15, 2008

The next morning I woke up before everyone else. I wanted the time to myself so I did not wake the others. As I sat on the logs around the fire grate I suddenly heard a sound rushing toward me. I turned and saw a large Golden Retriever padding around the camp. At first I was confused but soon noticed a person on the portage between the lakes and figured the dog was his.

The pup seemed friendly and snooped around the site, getting a few pets from me, before wandering a bit more and finding Donnie’s poop on the trail. I figured the dog would sniff it, get disgusted (it is Donnie’s poop after all) and head back to his master. He eventually did head back but not before EATING the huge turd. My jaw just dropped in surprise as the dog sprinted back to his master, climbing in the canoe, and took off.

Everyone woke up shortly after that and we ate breakfast. I relayed the story of the Turd Eating Dog and we all had a good laugh before packing up camp and heading over to the Ottertrack side, launching the canoes, and putting in another long day of paddling. I showed everyone the distance we were shooting for (Swamp Lake) and we took off.

It was another annoying day of paddling into the wind. Matt and Donnie were either far ahead or far behind of Gopher and I as we went along. Donnie was trying to get in as much fishing as he could and I was hindering that by trying to get us to our next campsite as quick as I could. We were butting heads the entire trip about this but both kept our opinions to ourselves (to each other) in order to keep the peace. We were content to bitch about each others actions to our paddling partners.

We passed by the Ben Ambrose plaque without even realizing it and made it to the end of the lake, and Monument Portage, well before 11am. The trip was very easy since the wind was a non issue due to the narrowness of Ottertrack Lake. We crossed Monument Portage, which was congested with other paddlers, and pushed off on Swamp Lake as quick as we could, not wanting to hang in the large group of people.

Once on Swamp Lake we started scoping out for a campsite but were once again skunked by the lack of space; all of the sites were full up. So we pushed on into Big Saganaga Lake. The wind had died down and there was hardly a breeze so the going was really easy. What was not easy was finding a campsite.

Site after site we passed; all of them filled. Not much after 1pm we reached American Point (“Rocky Point” is my BWCA bane) and as we rounded the corner we saw a boat parked on Hook Island, the stopping point for the Seagull Outfitters tow-in drop-off. Donnie at this point (due to a lack of alcohol) became excited; and I became ever more annoyed.

We still had planned on staying two more days (our out date was Sunday) but Donnie would have none of that. He was excited to get off the lake and back to Grand Marais where he could get some booze, some smokes and, with luck, some women. I really did not want to leave and this put me in a very sour mood; one that I shared with Matt and Gopher. Looking back I realize I was being an ass but I was disappointed. I was not willing to leave yet. I wanted to stay for two more nights. I acquiesced however and we convinced the tow-boat driver to send out another boat, pick us up and bring us back to Seagull Outfitters.

We packed up the car, loaded the canoes on the trailer and took our free shower in the Seagull shower shack. With fresh clothes on we started our trip back. It was a gorgeous day and by this point I was pretty pissed off and let Gopher, who was riding with me, know it. He agreed that he too did not want to be done but there was nothing for it and that we should just take Donnie up on his offer of a hotel room (which he promised while standing on Hook Island) and enjoy the night in Grand Marais.

It was then that Gopher sprung on me a “job”. He had just gotten a new job in Duluth a week before we went on our trip and as part of that job we had to stop off at some lake along the Gunflint Trail, paddle out into the lake, and scoop up some mud for his lab to test. Needless to say I was not happy. Raging is more like it. But I helped Gopher, very grudgingly, and we paddled out to the lake to get his mud. It should be noted that the device for collecting mud broke on the first try, which pissed me off even more. By now I was so angry that I took it out on Gopher as well. We spent the rest of the drive into Grand Marais in silence.

We got into Grand Marais almost two hours after Matt and Donnie (who already had a room and were out getting drunk) arrived. Gopher and I packed away our gear in the room and we met them at Sven & Ole’s for pizza and beer. I wanted nothing more than to get drunk by this time. I did not want to talk to any of them and I think they knew it. My shitty mood was ruining the party for them.

We hopped around to a few different bars before I decided I wanted nothing more than to go to bed. I left them to their own thing (Donnie and Matt would end up closing the bars that night). Gopher came back to the room with me, looking for a bed as well, and we watched some TV before turning in for the night.


Day 9 of 10

Saturday, August 16, 2008

We drove back to Gophers house after waking up, unloaded everything and went out to the bars once again. By this time my mood had lifted a bit and I was in better spirits. We hit up the standards; Sir Benny’s, Fitgers and Red Star. I, deciding to play a better “wingman” got smashed at Red Star and do not remember anything after sitting with a bachelorette party and drinking Bootleggers. I am told that I went outside, threw up a lot, and was drove home to Gophers apartment, but I have no recollection of it.

Donnie and Matt ended up closing all the bars in Duluth and jumping over to Wisconsin, where they closed the bars there as well. Gopher, after dropping me off, went back to Red Star but came home shortly after, his drinking for the night complete.


Day 10 of 10

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Home again home again. I woke up early, hung over as you can imagine, and took off for the cities before anyone else woke up since I had no intention of sticking around. My sour mood had returned a bit so I got all of my gear, packed up my car and took off for Mora. I needed to drop the canoes off at Denny and Michele’s.

I ended up arriving back home at a little past 5pm. This was the only time that I was actually considering never going back to the BWCA, convinced that the experience would be ruined. Thankfully that was not the case and in a months time I was eager to get back out on the water. I have since told Donnie that I am sorry that he did not get as much fishing in as he hoped. I do have a feeling that I ruined the BWCA for him though. Too many miles traveled, too many portages done, too few hours spent fishing. Matt and Gopher however only left feeling jazzed, like me, to go back as soon as possible.


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