BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 09 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 8
Elevation: 1205 feet
Seagull Lake - 54
A Border Lakes Birthday
August 14, 2020
Saganaga Lake (55)
Number of Days:
We arrived at our first and longest portage of the day into Alpine Lake (we took the 101 rod portage per suggestions). We paddled through many fire scarred lakes (Alpine, Jasper, and Kingfisher). Some with nothing more than scrubby birch and balsam re-growth. We made excellent time but with the amount of people we’d seen at portages and sites we were worried about finding a spot on the popular Ogishkemuncie Lake. We pushed off from our last portage and a stiff breeze suddenly let loose and we were paddling into some good chop on the open lake. We found one site open in a narrow pinch point big enough for our three tents. This meant minimal privacy but we didn’t see many other parties passing through in the afternoon. Tents and hammocks were strung, naps were taken, and the fishing party went out with some smallies caught.
After dinner we enjoyed a lovely fire and camp cocktails. As we were hanging the food bags, lightning became visible in the western sky, so we called it a night and settled in our respected tents. We didn’t have to wait long before the storm rolled through with claps of thunder, gusty winds, and buckets of rain. It was a long night but I stayed dry even though rivulets were forming around my tent. ~Sea Gull Lake, Alpine Lake, Kingfisher Lake, Jasper Lake, Ogishkemuncie Lake
We hop, skipped, and jumped through small beaver lakes and portaged along the swiftly flowing creek into Eddy Lake. A bit of limbo skills were required to get the canoe under a leaning tree. But despite the bench pressing, the portage was beautiful and rich with mountain maple, cedar, dogwood, and polypody fern. As we rounded a point in Eddy Lake, the wind picked up to a new strength. People coasted past us and cast piteous glances in our direction as we were the only ones paddling against the wind. We were just about to the South Arm of Knife Lake: one of the largest on our trip. The roaring stream along the portage lead us into the turbulent lake. The landing was less than ideal: slick sharp boulders in deep rough water. Loading the boats was a tricky and wet business. Finally we were off full steam ahead towards the nearest island to catch the calm waters on the lee side. I tried to distract myself with the magnificent rugged scenery until we all rafted together and took a breather. Sage was a little unsettled but he did well.
We scoped out a nearby campsite to break for lunch and we may have stayed here if not for the terrible tent pad options. A sand/gravel beach and a raised rocky opening with unmatched views down the length of the lake. We munched and lounged watching loons and chicks fishing nearby. Energized, we headed out again looking for home. The lake was calming down nicely and we zigged and zagged passing by occupied sites and those not to our liking. As we paddled further west the lake narrowed up and we began to tire. One more site was nearing and we were happy to call it home as we were fairly exhausted. It’s a small island site on the south shore surrounded by more fire scarred forest. A shrubby trail lead up to a park like opening complete with short lawn-like grass. Trees were sparse but we made due. We had to hobble into shallow rock waters to go for a quick dip, but it was worth it! Beavers, otters and loons oh my.
As evening came on, we were treated with the best stargazing I’ve ever experienced in the BWCA. We saw many shooting stars as we sat by the fire and ate my birthday cheesecake and sipped bourbon. Although more lighting strobed in the far distance…again. ~Ogishkemuncie Lake, Annie Lake, Jenny Lake, Eddy Lake, Knife Lake
The wind was at our backs as we shifted east and coasting felt wonderful especially since we would have ZERO portages today. It’s a BWCA first! Navigation was easy if not monotonous. We watched fire scarred ridges appear once more as we passed by noisy eagles nests and equally noisy loons. The lake took a button hook through a canoe-width channel and widened out once more. This is where we started noticing the shiny steel border markers sunk into the rocky shoreline. It became a game to spot them. We took a brief lunch at a campsite then continued to let the wind steadily push us east to our destination: a group of 5 sites at the lakes eastern terminus.
We ended up taking the one on Knife Lake right next to the portage. We haven’t seen hardly anyone all day so we figured it would be quiet. Th site sits atop a cliff high above the lake with a fantastic view and a good swimming spot. A roaring stream is next door lined with blooming asters and jewel weed. White caps started to show up just as we settled in. Sage even joined us for a swim as we jumped off the rocks. It was a good escape from the flies. No luck fishing in the evening. After a delicious dinner of lentil stew with biscuits we gathered wood and listened to a cacophony of loons as we sat around the fire. ~Knife Lake
We followed a few more border markers before turning a corner into a mucky bay at Monument Portage. As we floated off shore waiting for a group of 3 canoes to come through, we tried to prevent Sage from leaping overboard at a flock of black ducks. When it was finally our turn, we started up the brush cut power line-esque trail winding up a steep slope past about 15 other people. Other parties had dropped gear at the giant monolith marking the international border and at every uphill. We’re a single portage family: two packs and food bags for those not carrying the canoes. Day packs for those that do. Anyways…we were the only people going “upstream” so it felt like we were constantly in the way. So many people! The other side of the portage featured a long plank boardwalk that was causing a bit of a backlog of canoes. After some tense moments, miscommunication, and one rude lady, we got it all sorted. Luckily I was able to step off into the bog and find some solid ground to stand on while others could get by. I think we all needed a belt of whiskey after that suddenly onslaught of civilization.
As soon as we left the portage, we didn’t see a single soul the rest of the day. Where did everyone come from?! We left our gear in the boats and opted to carry the canoes across a 2 rod portage into Saganaga Lake. This was the last portage of our whole trip!!
We pulled over for lunch at the first open campsite. Food bags are definitely getting lighter now. We planned on making it to American Point to snag one of the 4 sites there. As Sage vacuumed up any food crumbs, we loaded up and pushed onwards. The wind had picked up and was blowing crosswise but not whitecaps…yet. Beaver float planes flew low overhead maybe re-supplying the ranger in Cache Bay? In the distance, a long sand beach appeared marking the first of the campsites. The binoculars came out (a handy tool to bring to scope out sites from a distance) and alas, three canoes were pulled up there. But as we approached, the canoes left fully loaded with gear. The gods were smiling down on us! We found home for the night: sprawling 2 leveled site that could have fit three huge tents. Both a nice rocky porch and a 100’ pure sand beach frontage. Sage immediately took advantage of the swimming hole and spent some of his pent up energy playing fetch. Too cold for us though. It was a shame to pass up on swimming at such a nice beach. Wood was gathered for the evening and there was plenty of room for a rollicking game of hacky sack. The temperatures were a bit chilly so that warmed us up nicely. Very quiet as far as traffic goes: only 1 canoe passed us the whole evening.
We started the fire and watched the smoldering pink sun set over the Canadian shore. The stars peeked out and we watched the embers fade in our fire before calling it a night. ~Ottertrack Lake, Swamp Lake, Saganaga Lake
We picked our way through Munker and Long Island (easier said than done) and reached our destination area by late morning. Many sites were taken due to proximity to the boundary line. We paddled to every single site in the vicinity including a few on an island that shouldn’t have existed on our map. We passed up a good site because of the noisy 20-something year old neighbors who didn’t know how to converse at a reasonable level. We figured it would only get worse with the onset of evening (and alcohol). So we retreated to the very first site we looked at. Located on a small island with grassy front porch and “retaining wall” upper level on top of a rock slab.
Immediately after camp was set up, the fishing party set out with me staying behind to explore the island. I walked the rocky shore and probably scared the bejeebies out of a few fisherman as I crashed out of the thick shrubs. Whoops! Light passing rain showers came through and I watched a large group of loons splash and chase each other. I think the fishing party lost more lures than the number of fish they caught. After dinner we went out on a sunset cruise on the now calm and glassy waters. Windswept islands silhouetted the bright orange sky. It was the best sunset of the trip. Another evening campfire, star gazing, loons, and sipping the last of our cocktails. ~Saganaga Lake