BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
October 04 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1673 feet
Clearwater Lake - 62
2010 Kid's Trip - Caribou
August 26, 2010
Number of Days:
Blake and Zoe picked up Jack and I at 12:30 the next day (Thursday) and we were on the road by 1. Jim and Brett took to the road a couple hours prior. iCarly was the pick for videos, so Blake and I suffered through pre-teen humor and Disney pop songs. We hit DQ in Moose Lake and got all the way to Duluth before the "how much longer" questions started to roll. The Werger van hit Gooseberry for an hour or so to let us gain some ground. Both vehicles pulled into Grand Marais around 6. Very quick ride!
After some much needed rock skipping into the harbor, the kids jumping on rocks and our first skidded knee, we hit Sven and Ole's for some za, soda and Twins game. The Twins spotted Frankie Liriano a 5 run lead and we would have to wait until we came out to see if the Twinkie could hold on against the Ranger (they did). Grabbed some bait and beer and headed up the Gunflint Trail. The kids were so interested they waited 5 minutes to ask for a video. A couple deer and a fox were spotted off the Gunflint on the way up, which was cool.
Pulled into the Clearwater Lodge after dark around 9 pm. Very nice lodge with a huge stone fireplace. We would have zoned out and stared at a fire in the lodge, but we had kids full of sugar. Garlock has added that to his "things to do before he dies" list. "Sit by fire at Clearwater with a pale ale of some sort". I added the "pale ale", but I'm sure to join him for the fireside stare and would need a good beer.
Made our way back in the pitch dark to the bunkhouse, which was surprisingly nice (had no expectations, but stayed in some rustic ones in the past). It was decked out with a couple rooms, enough beds for 14 and running water with a toilet. We crushed a couple 13, 14 beers between the 4 of us talking about trips of old and the coming adventure. Lights out around 11.
Jack woke up around 4 in the morning and crawled down into my bunk. I was actually fine with that since I was worried he was going to roll out of bed. Even though Werger had reinforced the top bunks by putting up a mattress as a barrier. Everyone was up around 7.
Breakfast was at 8. Flapjacks (shouldn't pancakes be called flapjacks up here? Done.), bacon, sausage, coffee, oj, the whole deal. Great breakfast. We popped in the "Leave No Trace" DVD and made the kids watch and told them if they couldn't pass the test we would have to go home. One of the owners administered the permit test and all the kids were very serious about answering the questions. Proud to say, my son Jack was quick to add the right answers. We also went over the rules if we were to encounter a bear or got lost in the woods. Jack and I had made each of the kids a whistle necklace and he handed them out with pride. We did a group test of the whistles to get it out of their system and told them that was the last time they could blow them until they were around their moms. After making some adjustments to our packs, it was down to the docks.
We met the two young lodge hands and they had our 2 three man canoes ready to go. Both guys had some tips for us and pointed us in the right direction. Clearwater is a beautiful lake with the palisades outlining the shoreline. We set out paddling. The Garlocks and Wergers in one canoe, Blake, Zoe, Jack and I in the other. 70's and not a cloud in the sky. A slight breeze (in the face of course) which was nice, natural air conditioning. Clearwater has private cabins and homes all along the lake. It was quiet on our paddle across Clearwater. Besides some gentleman we met at the first portage, not another boat was on the lake.
First and only portage of the day. A big dog of 260 rods. The Clearwater Lodge guys told us to not cross the birch branches laid across off shoot trails. Great advice, because we would have definitely gone off trail. We were double portaging this one and had the kids each grab some light gear. The portage was in good shape and after a 15 minute hike we were at Caribou. The kids hung out at the end of the portage and waited for us to return. Of course they heard both bear and moose and I'm sure Darth Vader, Sponge Bob, Phineas and Ferb also made appearances. The mind of a six year old is fun.
We had a bit of a paddle. Not sure of the distance, but we were hoping to grab one of the campsites at the eastern end of Caribou. Jim and I had been to Caribou a few years back and had to stay at a camp site that still ranks as one of the worst I have been at. We had scouted these back in the day and confirmed with the Clearwater folks that the two best lie on the eastern bay.
Once we paddled into the bay, we could see one of the sites was taken. We were hoping the other was not. Once we found it hidden behind an island, it was open for our use. What a great site! Great tent sites, a place to set up a camp kitchen in the shade, and easy access for the kids to fish from shore. Beauty, eh!? Also the island added to the intrigue for the kids.
[paragraph break] We set up camp, had some lunch and changed into our swim suits. The water had a chill to it, but the weather was easily in the 80's and it felt good to swim around. We made our way to the island, debated names and played around a little bit. I snuck back to the camp as I was eager to try out my new father's day gift, the Eno hammock. A nice 20 minute nap in the shade with the breeze enough to rock me ever so gently. Does it get better than this! Little did I know, my hammock would be the hit of the trip and provide multiple hours of entertainment for the kids.
[paragraph break] In the afternoon, we headed for the rock point at the entrance to the bay. The kids all caught smallies. Not a lot, but enough to keep some of their interest. Brett and I decided to take a run down to a spot Garlock and I had great luck with the walleye. With Beau and Jack with us, we made the paddle down the lake trolling some rapalas in case Walter wanted to play on the way down. Once we there, the wind picked up and I tried to keep us at certain depths. Jigging was a difficult concept for Jack and Beau, so Brett and I got some lines down. We were pushing our luck with Beau when Brett hollered out he had one. And a nice one too (19.5"). Before he could get it on the stringer the familiar tug hit my line. I set the hook and reeled it up a few feet before asking Jack if he wanted to get in the canoe. He declined and I gave my rod to Beau. It was another nice walleye! 20.5 inches. This would be dinner for Saturday night.
[paragraph break] We paddled back against the wind. We were all tired and hungry, but all four of us were pumped about the walleyes on our stringer. Beau negotiated how we would tell our fishing tales. With him starting out by hooking, setting and landing the fish and then deciding he would share some of his glory with me. I didn't care, smiles on kids faces over fishing is worth giving up any and all the credit.
Dinner of chilli and hotdogs for the kids. Good stuff. A nice fire and early to bed. The plan was for the dads to make it back to the fire. Exhaustion had other plans for us. A good nights sleep was fine too.
[paragraph break] Up early (7 ish) for some blueberry flapjacks. We also introduced the kids to lending a hand on camp chores by showing them how to wash dishes. We made it a team effort and threw in a little fun. They want to help out, so there was minimal complaints. After breakfast, it was back to the hammock for some play time. The guys straightened up camp, I made some sandwiches and packed our lunch and we got ready for the days adventure to Johnson Falls.
The kids were excited and so was i to get back to this beautiful area. We paddled down to the short portage between Caribou and Little Caribou. Reloaded the canoes and paddled across a very weird lime green like lake. The cool campsite that I remember was occupied and we were glad we didn't push for that site. One, because the one we had was perfect and two, I didn't like the cliff like structure of the site. It was just begging for a kid accident.
We left the canoes at the portage into Pike and began our hike over the portage. We fought our way through a weak trail over to the Johnson Falls trail. We ran into a group coming down from the falls, which was nice because there is always a bit of doubt that you are on the right trail in the BWCA and they were a good test that the trail was right. A 20 minute or so hike finally brought us to the first set of falls. What a treat. I have had the good fortune of seeing Basswood Falls, the Stairway falls between Rose and Duncan, Louisa Falls and Johnson falls again. All are different and I have different reasons for liking each.
We spent the next couple hours swimming and exploring. We also had lunch at the falls and ran into multiple groups, which is to be expected at such a cool area. Only one scary moment when Blake slipped on the rocks, landed straight on his back and slid into the water. I happened to be standing close and was able to grab Zoe before she went in as well. Everyone was fine, but Zoe was obviously shaken up and concerned for her dad. We explored the second set of falls and made our way to the top of the first set looking down on the others that stayed back.
Back to camp in the afternoon. Jim decided to push the Lord of the Flies storyline and made a bow and arrow. Beau and Cole made bows of there own. Of course, the dads made wagers on how far Jim could shoot an arrow. I think the Stardust set the over/under at 20 yards. Jim easily passed that up.
Dinner of walleye and potatoes was a huge hit, even with the kids. We should have kept 1 more fish! Dinner turned into a contest as well and will go down as the Primus v. Jet Boil race. One of Brett's new purchases was the new Primus stove and cook set that he got from the ever addicting Steep and Cheep. Garlock was going with the amazing Jet Boil that revolutionized our cooking experience just a couple 3, 4 years earlier. The kids each took sides rooting for a stove. When it became very obvious that the Primus was going to get the water boiling faster, the kid's all changed allegiances and started chanting "Primus, Primus, Primus!" in unison.
Kids spent the evening playing (mainly in the hammock) and roasting marshmallows. Smores are always a huge hit. Kids were definitely tired and so were dads, but we were determined to get some euchre and fire time in this night. Another beautiful night with a slight breeze, temps in the low 60's and star lit sky. An almost full moon made night vision pretty easy. Kids went down easy and were out within 10 minutes. The dads snuck out to sit around the fire, but Jim and Brett had already put it out. Oh well, we didn't need the warmth and just relaxing under the stars was good enough. we all were able to hang about an hour.
I promised Jack I would take him fishing early in the morning. He had put in a lot of fishing time without much action. I thought I would take him out to a couple drop offs and see if we could find some early morning walleye. My alarm went off around 6 am. Jack and I rose, but the rest of the camp stirred as well. Jack and I went out into a pretty stiff wind. We paddled around and jigged off the bottom for over an hour and didn't get a single bite. I tried 5 feet to 35 feet back to 5 feet and not even a smallie. Jack didn't care, it was the effort that counted. We made it back in camp in time for flapjacks and started to take down the camp.
The paddle back was of course into the wind. It took us an hour or so to get across Caribou to the portage. We first landed at the wrong portage, but figured that out before we unloaded. The real portage itself was a bit of bear. Brett told me later that when Beau woke up that morning he was already thinking about the portage and asked Brett or anyone that was listening, "why did God make portages so long?" The first half of the 260 was a steady incline. I decided to portage a pack and a canoe. The rest of the guys double packed it or pack and canoe like me. It was a bit warm (80 plus degrees) and we all needed an extra break once we hit Clearwater and had to double back for the rest of the gear. The kids waited for us at portage end. The last paddle across Clearwater was sad because our trip was coming to an end, but I think I can speak for all of us and say we were beat. We loaded up the trucks, took some showers (Garlock and his now black kids swam in the lake to clean one layer of dirt off) and headed to Grand Marais. The trip officially ended when we hit Duluth in the afternoon. Great trip and I know the kids can't wait until the 2011 trip.