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June 20 2024

Entry Point 62 - Clearwater Lake

Clearwater Lake entry point allows overnight paddle or motor (10 HP 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 33 miles. Motors allowed on Clearwater Lake only. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1673 feet
Latitude: 48.0702
Longitude: -90.3752
Clearwater Lake - 62

Winter Camping, Clearwater Lake

by UncleMoose
Trip Report

Entry Date: February 10, 2011
Entry Point: Clearwater Lake
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 4

Trip Introduction:
Over the second weekend in February, I joined Dan Cooke, Dave Morlock and Brian Nelson on a short winter camping trip off the Gunflint Trail. A unique aspect to this trip was the inclusion of sled dogs, managed by Mike Nelson and the other great folks over at Adventurous Christians. Mike was gracious enough to offer the dog's services, and in return we'd try to help him get some photos of the team.

Day 1 of 4

Day 1 - Thursday, February 10

Dan, Dave and Brian left the Twin Cities after work, and I left Babbitt, MN about two hours later with the goal that we all meet at the Adventurous Christians lodge on the Gunflint Trail between 10:00 and 11:00 pm. I was the first to arrive, followed soon by Dan and the others just minutes later. Dan introduced me to the main lodge, and the four of us stayed up for a while talking. With an array of couches and a big double barrel stove giving off ample heat, tonight's sleeping arrangements would be very comfortable.

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The Adventurous Christians lodge where we stayed the first night.

Interior of the Adventurous Christians lodge with its warm double barrel stove.

Dan in the dining room of the Adventurous Christians lodge with host, Mike Nelson, in the background.


Day 2 of 4

Day 2 - Friday, February 11

We probably stayed up a little too late gabbing last night, because Mike and the rest of the AC staff was already in the lodge preparing breakfast by the time we got ourselves awake. A huge 'thank you' to Mike, Mike's wife Nicole, Amy and Rachel for the amazing breakfast!

After breakfast we loaded up and headed across the Gunflint Trail to the Clearwater Lake entry point. Mike, Nicole and Rachel arrived shortly after with the sled and dogs. For the trip in, Mike took six dogs with the sled, and both Dan and Brian took one dog each for skijoring. I was on photo duty along with Dave, so the two of us traded off skiing and riding in the sled. The wind was up a little, making this first day a bit nippy, and later in the day we got a small amount of snow. Except for a few patches, slush was generally not a big problem on this trip, unlike last month's trip over on Shell Lake along the Echo Trail.

By afternoon we all reached our destination at the far east end of Clearwater Lake. But when slush began to invade the first ice based spot where we chose to set up camp, we were compelled to tear down the tent and move across the bay to a land based spot near the portage into Caribou Lake. This location turned out to be preferable in other ways, as it was also better sheltered from the wind. Shortly after reaching our second camp location, Mike turned the dogs and sled around and returned to the entry point. He and the dogs would return on Sunday to help us move gear back out.

The rest of the afternoon we finished setting up camp and gathered wood. In the evening Dave cooked up his amazing homemade stew and we ate like kings. It was a cold night, but temperatures were supposed to gradually increase throughout the rest of the weekend, making for pleasant conditions.

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Nicole and Mike Nelson unload the dogsled at the Clearwater Lake landing.

Nicole prepares the dogsled as Titus comes to help.

Rachel sorts the harnesses while giving Titus some much needed attention.

Titus tells Nicole he's ready to go.

Rachel gets the team going while Dave prepares to photograph the sled perspective.

Mike Nelson gets up to speed with the dog team.

The dogs fly around a point.

Dogs in stride.

The lead team is impatient to keep things moving.

Dan gets a tow from Tillman.

Dog gives Brian a boost.

Brian and dog skijor down Clearwater Lake.

Mike and team cruise down Clearwater Lake.

Mike catches some air in the sled as he crosses a snowbank. Brian and Dan look on.

Dan and Brian pause before continuing down Clearwater Lake with their dogs.

View from sled while heading down Clearwater Lake.

View from sled while heading down Clearwater Lake.

View from sled as we near the east end of Clearwater Lake.

Dan and Brian arrive at east end of Clearwater Lake.

Dan and Tillman.

Mike and team at east end of Clearwater Lake.


Day 3 of 4

Day 3 - Saturday, February 12

We woke to beautiful clear skies. The first order of business was to get fishing lines into the water. While the first tip-ups were being put in place, Brian got a hit on one of them. He worked the huge trout to the hole, but it was barely hooked and got off the line just as he was bringing it out. In an act of pure fisherman instinct, Brian stuffed his whole arm into the icy water hole, but still the fish got away - this time.

In the afternoon we decided to ski over to West Pike Lake and have a look around. On the way, Dave and Brian stopped around a point to set up fishing lines in a new spot. Dan and I continued on to the portage to West Pike, and Brian caught up with us there. The lengthy portage required a little extra work to break trail, but it was well worth the effort to experience this untouched winter wilderness. After soaking up the view of West Pike Lake and refueling with Karen Cooke's homemade "flaps" (delicious oatmeal bars), it was time to go back and check on Dave and the fishing lines.

While Brian watched over the more remote fishing lines, the rest of us kept an eye on the ones closer to camp as we took care of a few chores. Late in the afternoon a flag popped up, and Dan brought up a beautiful trout. At least the shutout was now over.

Supper tonight was Dave's homemade elk and beef chili (the decision was made to pack out the trout). The trout would have been great, but to pass up Dave's chili would have been a real crime.

Temperatures were steadily rising, and we expected a comfortable overnight. In fact, it was warmer than quite a few fall trip nights I could remember. At one point late in the night a lone wolf howled for quite a while off to the north.

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Camp at east end of Clearwater Lake.

Dan and Brian set up some tip-ups.

Dan works the auger.

Brian checks the lake depth. It's already 50 feet deep here, not far from shore.

Brian drops in a line.

Tip-up ready for action.

Brian has a bite. Dan straightens the line.

Brian maneuvers a trout to the hole.

The one that got away.

Dan heads off Clearwater Lake onto the portage leading to West Pike Lake.

Dan looks east down West Pike Lake from the portage landing in from Clearwater Lake.

The view east down West Pike Lake from the portage landing in from Clearwater Lake.

The portage between West Pike and Clearwater Lakes.

Dan skis back toward camp on Clearwater Lake.

Dave with the first lake trout.

The first lake trout.

Dave and Dan reload the tip-up.


Day 4 of 4

Day 4 - Sunday, February 13

Morning meant it was time to pack up and prepare to head back out. The tip-ups would remain, however, until the bitter end. This strategy payed off with a hit on one of the lines midway through tearing down camp. This time Brian would not be denied. He worked the huge lake trout to the surface and up onto the ice - a beautiful 33 1/2" laker.

About 9:00 am Mike returned with the dogs. We packed up the sleds and headed back across Clearwater Lake. The temperature must have been somewhere around or just above freezing. The snow was softening up, and slush was becoming more conspicuous. A few hours later, though, we were loading up the cars, another successful winter adventure having come to an end.

Thanks to Dan, Dave and Brian for the great company and fun times. And thanks again to Mike Nelson and the folks at Adventurous Christians for their hospitality and the opportunity to experience dogsledding in this amazing northland country.

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Brian gets a second chance. This one feels like another big one.


Brian with his 33 1/2" lake trout.

Mike returns with the dog team.

Mike loads up the sled for the trip back.

Sled dogs.

Sled dog.

Sled dogs.

Sled dogs.

Sled dogs.

Tillman the sled dog.


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