BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 23 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1432 feet
Duncan Lake - 60
March 12, 2011
Number of Days:
Five of us stayed at Hungry Jack Lodge (HJL) on the Friday night before we trekked into the Boundary Waters. Phil was unable to get Monday off of work like the rest of us had, and since he only had to come over from Ely, he hiked in by himself on Friday afternoon. Cory and Bayla (Cory's dog) met us Saturday morning at Hungry Jack. For the Five of us that spent the night at HJL, the morning started with an early rise to stoke the wood stove, followed by biscuits and homemade mushroom gravy made by yours truly. Before making the short jaunt to West Bearskin with our gear, we decided we had better settle our bar tab with HJL from the night before...I was expecting it to be steep considering the slight headache I awoke with but thankfully the nice folks at HJL (Forrest and Ericka) didn't empty our pockets so we thought it best to add to our tab with a round of morning mimosas! Finally, we settled the bill, hopped in the truck and drove the 1 minute down the road to the West Bearskin access. Needless to say, we packed a little heavy... After loading the sleds in the snow we were off to cross West Bearskin heading towards Duncan. Although the parking lot at the access was full, there was little traffic on W. Bearskin. We met to guys on Duncan by the portage who were on their way out, they had also rented a tent from Mike at The Canoeist. The fishing report they gave us for Duncan sounded promising and kept our hopes up for Lake Trout on Rose. After a few minutes chatting with the other group we started the trek again, hauling the overloaded sleds across Duncan. Erin struggled a little with the load she was hauling but Cory was generous enough to allow Bayla (some type of sled dog from Greenland) to give some assistance and attached Bayla's harness to Erin's belt to help pull... sort of like Ski-jouring without the skis. It worked remarkably well and I did not catch up to Erin until we hit the portage from Duncan to Rose, the dreaded stairway portage.
Once upon a time, when was in much better shape, I spent a great deal of time rock climbing. How I wish that I would have brought my ropes with to lower (and eventually bring up) our gear down this hellish portage. Instead, it was all hands on deck in an attempt to SLOWLY guide each sled down this portage. It was a tedious task, with lots of cussing, but we made it down. Unfortunately we don't have any evidence of this because of the effort that was required to get the sleds down the hill, no spare hands for snapping pictures. Upon reaching the bottom of the portage I learned two very interesting things: 1. Phil (our friend that made it to Rose Lake the Day before us) attempted to lower his sled down the portage by himself... the sled got away from him on the lower staircase, hit a tree, and busted the front of the sled. All was not lost as he was just fine and was able to mend his plastic sled with an impressive amount of duct tape. 2. My cousin Brett had proposed to his girlfriend, Tina, at the top of the Stairway Portage overlooking Rose Lake and Canada. What girl could say no to a setting like that?! Looking back, its a really good thing she said yes, otherwise the rest of the trip could have been awkward! It's important to note that Brett and I are cousins. Erin and I, and Brett and Tina each had our first dates together (but separately) on the 4th of July in 2007. We didn't plan it and didn't even realize it until a year or so after. Kinda cool, except that when they beat us to the punch and got engaged... in our presence, and I had/have no plans of doing this same then or anytime soon... well... lets just say that got served a little crap for not keeping pace :)
The rest of the day was spent setting up the tent, gathering fire would and celebrating a new engagement in our cozy, warm, wall tent. The party continued late into the night (9:30 pm... we were exhausted) while sipping on our Growlers from Fitger's and Box wine. The other three in our tent slept on cots while I was on the floor on my sleeping pad (Reese and Cory were in Cory's tent and Phil in his portable fish house). My thought was that if the fire in the wood stove went out, I would be the first one to gt cold and could get up to stoke the fire. The good news is it worked, I was the first one up every time. The bad news is the wood we cut during the day was not nearly as dry as we had hopped and I was up A LOT during the night nursing coals back to life. It was a pretty restless night for me and we awoke chilly and tired. Here are some more pictures from Day 1:
Like I said, it was a little cool in the tent when we finally decided to get up. I, again, brought life back to the few remaining glowing coals in the woods stove while assembling my camp stove. With the hot water on for coffee, I began mixing the pancake batter while my other tent mates gathers enough decent wood to warm the tent long enough for breakfast and breakfast dishes. Reese, Cory, and Phil were all up before our tent was and were out drilling holes in the ice in hopes of catching some trout. The sun was shining and it looked to be a perfect day, and it would have been...
While gearing up his line for lake trout, Reese had pulled an airplane jig from his tackle box, set it down on his right side next to the hole in the ice, turned to his left to set the tackle box down, then turned back to the right to grab the jig and begin tying it to his line. When he turned to grab the jig, it was gone, only to be replaced by the screams of Cory's dog, Bayla, behind him. See Bayla, thought the jig was a toy, so she picked it up, and ran. Bayla vigorously tried to shake the jig from her mouth, but that only made things worse. I ran out of the tent to see what was going on just in time to catch Bayla running by me. I won't go into too much detail here because it was not a pleasant experience, but here is a summary. Bayla had gotten 3 of the 4 treble hooks on the jog caught in her upper lip on one side of her mouth. It took two guys, Reese and Cory, to hold her down while I attempted to cut treble hooks from the mouth of a flailing dog with a leatherman. Nothing against the Leatherman company, because I love their multi-tools, but THIS was not the intended purpose for the little wire cutter at the base of the needle nose pliers. I was able to first cut the unhooked treble from the jig and then went to work on what else I could. Only one of the larger hooks was all of the way through her lip. I was able to cut that one out. 3 of the other hooks were into her lip but not all of the way through... but in far enough so that the barb was caught... we all know what that means. Cory attempted one time to push the barb through, the cries of the dog were unbearable. Surely the other group on the lake thought we were killing that dog. We gave up on pushing the hooks through and cut of the parts of the treble that weren't embedded with the idea that without them, no more hooks could get caught in her lip (or paw). It was a tough half hour for all of us (mostly for Bayla). Cory immediately packed up his gear and walked Bayla back to the truck at Hungry Jack. From there he made the jaunt to Duluth to the emergency vet, a long haul on a good day, but with a dog in pain, I'm sure it was horrible.
After seeing Cory and Bayla off, the rest of up set up to fish and relax for the rest of the day. Phil left shortly after because he had to be back to work in Ely the next day. Despite how the day started out, it was a perfect March day, Warm and Sunny. We were out on the lake ice fishing in our t-shirts and jeans. Reese and the girls when for a short cross country ski trip down Rose Lake. Brett and I stayed and fished while sipping on what was left of our growlers from Fitger's. Later we hiked up to the Rose Lake overlook from the trail at the top of the portage. That was easily the highlight of my trip. As a 27 year old guy that grew up in the cities with a very non-outdoorsy family I am lucky to have done around a dozen boundary waters trips, 2 now in the winter, as well as paddled in Maine and Wisconsin, and that view is going to be tough to beat!
Upon returning to camp the clouds rolled in. I quickly made supper, vegetable soup and falafels (Tina is a vegetarian, so for this trip, we are all vegetarians). While I cooked, Brett continued to fish, Reese gathered us some nice dry firewood and split it up, and the girls munched on snickers bars. Dinner was great, our bellies were full, and the blanket of clouds that came in brought a bit of a breeze and colder temps. We retired to the tent for cribbage and conversation. This off course was accompanied by wine and later by jiffy pop over the wood stove and deep fried cheese curds! Sleep again came early but with dry wood and an extra guy sleeping on the floor (Cory brought the tent out with him when he had to leave) we were able to keep the tent warm for the night. Pics from day 2:
Sorry, these are out of order but I think you get the idea that it was a really nice day!
There was a strong South wind in our faces all the way across Duncan. Erin quickly tired out and I pulled both of our sleds, at the same time, across the last third of the lake. She rallied for the portage to West Bearskin and was hot on my heals when I hit the ice again. She keeps telling me she is not a tough "outdoorsy girl" but she keeps proving her self wrong!
We arrived back at my truck in the early afternoon, and headed for the Trail Center restaurant for a burger before heading back to Two Harbors to drop off the tent at the Canoeist where we finally got to meet Mike. He was shocked that we hadn't caught any fish (the best we did was one tip-up with the bait missing from the hook). From there it was back to Duluth were we parted ways with Brett and Tina who had to head back to Mpls. and we headed back to Bemidji getting home around 9:30 pm.
On the way home I got a voice-mail from Reese saying that he had talked to Cory and that Bayla was fine. The vet was able to remove the remaining 3 hooks from her lip, but she was still sore.
I would consider this trip a success even though I'm sure Erin and Tina had at one point or another plotted my demise for pushing them outside of their box(es). I think that they will look back at the trip and realize what they accomplished and the smiles that were had by all.
1: Buy the best side cutters on the market. I don't care how much they cost, when there is a hook stuck in someones face (man or beast) you won't regret it.
2: Pack a climbing rope the next time you want to camp on Rose in the winter
3: Camp on Duncan and day trip to Rose
4: Wall tents/hot tents are THE WAY to go
5: Stay at Hungry Jack Lodge again
6: Ice screws work in frozen ground also... this was helpful
7: Taking the extra time to stop and take a bunch of picture is well worth it.
8: You need to get a wood stove VERY hot for a reflector oven to work...leave the reflector oven for summer trips.
Things to buy or things to leave behind for next trip:
1: BUY Crampons for the hill
2: BUY Side Cutter
3: Bring sunglasses
4: Bring Less food (always a problem)
5: BUY/BUILD a sled from Black River Sleds... Sweet toboggans!
Congrats again to my cousin and his new Fiance. Glad we could be a part of the memory!