BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 23 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 15
Elevation: 1184 feet
Saganaga Lake - 55
Sag-Seagull Loop Intro trip
August 05, 2020
Seagull Lake (54)
Number of Days:
Yesterday, our group gathered to get everything packed. We fit it all in our large Granite Gear pack (66 lbs), Sealline 115L (36 lbs), CCS rucksack (10 lbs), and a pack basket made for my husband by a tribal chief in Woodstock, Maine (not weighed, but <20lbs). He won't take a trip without the pack basket even though it has started to fall into some disrepair.
Since the car was loaded last night, we were up and on the road by 3:30am. Quiet roads on the drive up and we stopped at the same Duluth Perkins for a take out breakfast that we had used on our July trip. The drive up the shore was uneventful until Morgan spotted a a black bear dashing into the woods. She was thrilled.
Then I got distracted talking about the RV that ran off the highway at the Poplar River a different summer and I missed seeing the lower speed limit sign in Lutsen. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Got pulled over...deservedly. Thank goodness for my clean driving record...I was just issued a warning. That woke me up for the rest of the drive.
We parked at the Trail's End parking lot and were on the water by 11:00am. The winds were quiet as we paddled Gull Lake and crossed into the BWCA. Morgan hasn't paddled much (other than a couple practice sessions on a lake near our house) so her arms got tired quickly. However, she said she liked pushing through it. Wonderful attitude!
Joey planned this trip so we let him determine when and where we would camp. He thought it wise to keep the day pretty short and take the first open campsite. Clark's Island was full as were the next 3 sites to the west. Fortunately, Saganaga was close to glass for our entire paddle. We ended up at site #2075 on the north end of Loon Island. We arrived at 1:00, ate lunch, then swam and played cards while Stew napped in his hammock. This is a nice, shady campsite and doesn't look overused. Much of the site is very rocky so there was only room for our 4P tent and maybe a 2P. A couple good hammock spots, but limited by widow makers and leaning trees.
We saw bald eagles and loons. Morgan really started to enjoy the peace and quiet out here. Dinner was an Asian/Costa Rican fusion of 2 of our favorite trail meals: fried rice with veggies and homemade tortillas with queso fresco. Just a bit hard to roust the teenagers out of the water to collect firewood. Sag was amazingly quiet. A few motorboats went by far out in the channel over the course of the afternoon, but not many.
We were on the water by 9:30 this morning. We had a headwind today, but it was light enough that Morgan did fine. Her arms were tired, but she never complained...just dug in and sang to herself.
Lots of islands to navigate through, but Stew, Joey, and I all had maps so it went smoothly. We stopped on a teeny island in Red Rock Bay to eat a small lunch. But then tons of canoes started coming. One large group looked inexperienced and like they might be a little lost. We didn't want to get stuck behind them on the portage to Red Rock Lake, so once we were on the water, we worked to pass them. Stew and I reached the portage first and decided to get our gear across right away. There was a single canoe at the other end just starting to load. We walked around them into the water, and loaded our canoe. Then I went back to help Morgan and Joey. I carried the Old Town Tripper, while Joey and Morgan each took a pack. We had them loaded quickly and we launched without ever seeing someone from the group we passed. Glad we got ahead of them. They didn't come out of that bay for another 45 minutes.
The single canoe that loaded just ahead of us was looking for a campsite. We didn't want to be pushy, so we slowed to stay behind them until they started stopping frequently to figure out where they were and then paddled past the first campsite. So we hurried over and claimed it, campsite #408. This site has a great combo of shallow swimming (both Morgan and Joey hate swimming in deep, dark water) and reasonably deep water for me and Stew. Lots of frogs hanging out on shore unconcerned with our movements. There was one nice level and shady tent pad for the 4P tent and a nice shady hammock spot for Stew.
Stew and I spent some time paddling around exploring one of the bays while he did a little fishing. A few nibbles, but no catches.
Morgan is the queen of finding lost/abandoned fishing lures on both land and in the water! In just these 2 days, she has already found 5 of them! She earned her wilderness nickname, Eagle Eye. She also has such a great attitude and is a pleasure to have along.
After a dinner of chicken noodle soup with dumplings plus cupcakes for dessert, we went exploring. There is a beautiful overlook off to the left of the path to the latrine. We all sat up there watching the sunset. Joey and Morgan stayed up watching the stars. They watched a beaver swimming by in the moonlight and heard wolves howling. I heard the beaver slap its tail, but was sound asleep by the time the wolves were howling.
Quote of the day: "Spiders at the biff... a feature, not a bug. Biffy spiders don't eat your butt, but they do eat the things that eat your butt."
Travel time: 9:30am-12:10pm 2 hours 40 minutes Distance: 6 miles~Saganaga Lake, Red Rock Lake
Even though I started my day at the same time as yesterday, we made pancakes so we didn't leave the campsite until 10 a.m. We watched a bald eagle riding the thermals very close to us with the sun glinting off its white head and tail. Then it came in for an extremely graceful landing in the tippy top of a tall spruce tree.
We saw plenty of canoes traveling from Saganaga to Alpine starting at 8 a.m. The wind was coming from the south today and it was a stiff wind. We really should have gotten an earlier start, but not sure it would have made much difference. Morgan took our advice about using her torso and lower body in her paddle stroke, not just her arms and she said it really helped. She loves to sing to help her zone out and ignore her tiredness and it is lovely to hear since no one in our family can carry a tune. She says all the portaging and paddling is making her back feel better than it ever has.
We single portaged again on the 48 rod. Oof! that Old Town Tripper sure is heavy! But I went the whole way with it. Alpine was very windy, but we used the lee of the islands whenever possible and wind ferried when necessary. We thought we would double portage the 97 rod because I wasn't sure I could carry the daypack and Tripper the whole way. However, someone had left their canoe pulled up on the landing w/ a food barrel still in it and had taken just their packs across. It was so annoying to have it blocking the landing that we made the decision to single portage just to show them up a bit. Petty? Sure, but satisfying. I planned to shift the Tripper to Joey if I couldn't make it the whole way, but darn if I am not stubborn. After the uphill, I was able to fast walk and trot because that portage is so flat. A nice father and son combo kindly stepped aside for me as they were bringing their canoe and pack across. Morgan was farther back and returned the favor by stepping aside for them to pass her. Then we met the "rude" couple returning for their gear that was clogging the landing. They did step aside for me and for Joey with his pack, but they refused to step aside when Morgan tried to go past with her pack. They just charged right at her until she felt she had no choice but to step off the path. She sensed they were NOT happy with each other and that the woman was pretty PO'd with the man. Maybe it was their first AND last trip together.
I powered through the entire portage with the Tripper and even had a perfect 1-person down in the wind. Woohoo, still got it! We all accomplished a beautiful, efficient single portage and walked the packs straight into the waiting canoes.
Our strategy for Seagull Lake was to skip all the campsites near the portage and then start checking every site as we paddled along the northern shore with the islands as a wind buffer. The rollers between some of the islands were HUGE! We kept seeing full sites until we ducked into a bay that Joey had wanted to skip over. I insisted we at least take a look and turns out the site was empty. It was tricky to find, but was a gem of a site. While it lacks the big rock slopes of most sites on Seagull, it had 2 sandy landings (1st one better for swimming, the 2nd better for unloading boats).It is a burn area all around except for the main part of the site which sits atop a flat hill w/ tall red and white pines all around. Beautiful breeze today!
While we were hanging out after lunch, four grouse came strutting down the path from the latrine, nibbling things along the way. After dinner, we were exploring the site. It seems like it used to be an old homestead site and sure enough we observed some old bits of pottery by the shore around the corner from the 1st landing. Then a large hare came hopping into the campsite and clambered into the fire grate area (our coals were already extinguished) and just hung out licking the ashes at times. Travel time: 10:00am-12:30pm 2.5 hours Distance: 5.3 miles ~Red Rock Lake, Alpine Lake, Sea Gull Lake
Farther to go today than we had planned, but we were just happy to have found a campsite yesterday given how many people we saw on the lake. Plus the wind would have been too dangerous if we had needed to cross any open water areas. So we had a simple granola breakfast and Stew made his coffee on the Esbit stove (sigh...coffee drinkers :)
Winds were calm for our paddle out. Uneventful drive home. Of course, we stopped at Trail Center for burgers and shakes! And then at the Lazy Bear in Barnum.
This was a great trip to introduce a beginner. Our days were short and the portages short and infrequent. Yes, wind can be a worry, but with 3 of us being very experienced paddlers we knew we could handle most situations and judge when it was unsafe to continue. Morgan says she definitely wants to come back again. She loved seeing all the wildlife and experiencing camping outside. She has the kind of attitude that makes me want to take her again...positive and open minded to whatever experiences come her way.~Sea Gull Lake