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June 23 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

Shangri-La up along the B-R-T

by TuscaroraBorealis
Trip Report

Entry Date: June 05, 2012
Entry Point: Clearwater Lake
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 3

Trip Introduction:
Since we only had four days - our goal was to find a hospitable base camp that provided an accomodating setting, good daytrip options & wouldn't take all day to get there. Yet, we were hoping to find something on the quieter side. With only one long, tough portage Gogebic lake seemed to offer just what we wanted.

Day 1 of 4

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Having arrived at East Bearskin campground late (11:30ish)last night, no one took the time to put up a tent or shelter of any kind. One small advantage of this strategy was that it was tough to want to sleep in too late. Since sleeping in vehicles isn't always the most comfortable.[paragraph break]

Needless to say we were probably Bearskin Lodges first customers of the day. We picked up our permit & I grabbed a hat. (Forgot mine) Just like that, we were on our way to the Clearwater lake landing.[paragraph break]

Being there was an odd number (3) of us, I decided to paddle the Black Pearl solo. I've employed this strategy on a few different occasions. Knowing that as long as it didn't get too windy? I'd be perfectly fine. My buddies Kelly & Ross would partner up in Ross' Northwind. The "Red Bell Pepper".[paragraph break]

Since I was going solo; I got loaded up & on the water right away, figuring Kelly & Ross would catch me down the lake. While they finished loading up, a red fox came down to the landing very near to them. Out on the lake, at the approximate wilderness boundary, I had this guy fly right over me & land in a nearby tree. Kind of a neat start to the trip?[paragraph break]

The weather forecast for our trip was very encouraging. And, a beautiful day was in progress. Never the less, I chose to follow close along the north shore. Just in case anything suddenly whipped up. I drug a rapala behind as I paddled but, wasn't really targeting any depth or structure. Just thought maybe I'd get lucky? I didn't.[paragraph break]

Aptly named, Clearwater lake offers the most sublime, scenic paddle of any BWCAW entry point lake. The palisades on the southern shore have been well documented. And, are worthy of all the praise they recieve. But, there are many various spots along the way that are also aesthetically pleasing to the sensory pallet. [paragraph break]

Arrived at the portage landing to West Pike just after a father & son duo that I had been following down the lake. Chatted with them for awhile as we each unpack our respective loads. Apparently I had missed seeing a cow & calf near one of the campsites. They inquired about my blue barrel & we talked about gear before heading off down the trail.[paragraph break]

I took my first load to the intersection where the Border Route Trail branches off to the south & set it down there to serve as a marker. There actually is a sign. But, it is probably about 10 yards further down the BRT back in the woods. And, if a person didn't know what they were looking for? They'd likely miss it. As I met Ross & Kelly I told them to set there gear there as well, or to continue on along up the BRT if they still had some wind left in their sails. [paragraph break]

Near Clearwater lake there is a tremendous white pine along the north side of the trail. Mother Nature had splashed on her most familiar northwoods perfume quite thick today. As the scent of fresh pine permeated the air & had some serious staying power. Even after coming back across the portage a second time, there was still a very noticeable invigorating, pungent aroma.

Essentially, we did the portage up to Gogebic in stages. First we brought everything to the BRT cutoff. A short distance later the trail crosses over a bridge that spans the small creek running between Clearwater & West Pike. It's a really neat spot. And, of course, the resulting high water from all the recent rains added to this magical wilderness hydraulic display. [paragraph break]

After crossing the bridge is where things start to get interesting. While not overly steep, the trail begins a long steady climb. This, in & of itself, requires more than a fair share of exertion. Couple that with the fact that, for most of the climb, the footholds are almost all exclusively round, knobby, protruding rocks. Perhaps a re-routing of the trail has contributed to this condition? As there are a number of enormous trees that have all fallen curiously parallel to the trail throughout this section. Compacted soil & pine duff are finally encountered again as the trail mercifully levels off. It even begins to gradually creep back downhill. This is something of a mixed blessing. As all the elevation just lost needs to be regained again (and then some) on the final ascent. [paragraph break]

There is a "T" in the trail before it makes the final climb. This served as my next drop off point. Kelly & Ross, eager to see if indeed there was a lake at the top, pushed on up the hill. [paragraph break]

The final hill actually has some of the steepest sections. But, the condition of the trail is in better shape making this ascent a bit easier than the previous climb. Of course slowly emerging from the dense, dark forest back into the "light" adds an element of heightened anticipation as well. [paragraph break]

Perhaps my greatest fear of attempting this route was the potential for the canoe campsite to be occupied. (Looking back; After setting the packs down, perhaps it would have been more prudent to climb up to Gogebic without the burden of packs & canoe to insure campsite availability?) Fortunately there was no need for worry today. And, while paddling across the lake, I refreshed my nearly empty bottle in the cool, clear waters of Gogebic lake. I believe there is a special kind of satisfaction in allaying ones thirst from the destination lake. That can only be fully achieved & appreciated after completing a long, arduous portage such as this.[paragraph break]

Camp went up fairly quickly. With all the immediately necessary tasks completed, Ross dug out some venison sausage, crackers & cut up some cheese. To wash it all down.... Ross & Kelly had somehow, somewhere managed to lug over a case of beer up. We used the small meat cooler (which had a couple frozen water bottles besides the frozen meat) to keep a few cool as we enjoyed the ones we'd just pulled. [paragraph break]

We hung around camp, relaxing,recouperating & being rejuvenated by the hamburgers & brats we'd had for an early supper. (The steaks were still rock solid, so we'd let them thaw for another day while contributing to the cold beer cause.) [paragraph break]

After supper Ross & I decided to paddle around the lake a bit & check out the neighborhood. There was a pair of loons out on the lake. Inevitably, in our travels around the lake, we paddled right past their nest. Usually mornings & evenings they were on the nest. But, occasionally, during the day they left it unguarded.[paragraph break]

There were also other "neighbors" who were more demonstrative with their greeting. [paragraph break]

As a gorgeous evening fell, we paddled back to camp where Kelly had a nice blaze burning. We played cribbage & enjoyed a few of the cold beers. It had been a fairly tough day. So, hoping to fully recharge my batteries for tomorrow, I turned in early. [paragraph break]

Clearwater Lake, Gogebic Lake


Day 2 of 4

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Started the day out in sort of a lazy, lackadaisical fashion. As we were finishing up breakfast we could hear some commotion across the way at the landing. (Never ceases to amaze me how sound travels across a lake) Apparently another trio of adventurers braved the fabled trail and made their way up to Gogebic. It was only 8:00, so they must've gotten a fairly early start this morning? It quickly became evident that they were merely on a day trip to do some fishing. They paddled around the lake for an hour or two before heading back down.[paragraph break]

After a leisurely breakfast, we all hopped in the "Red Bell Pepper" and headed for the landing. It was shaping up to be another absolutely beautiful day & we decided to do some hiking along the BRT. Studying my Voyageur map, there appeared to be an overlook a few miles up the trail. So, with that as our hopeful destination, we headed off.[paragraph break]

Initially the trail hugs the shoreline of Gogebic lake. Along the way there were several openings where a person could fairly easily walk right out to the lakeshore. I'm sure that there are hikers who use these to get a better perspective when viewing the lake. But, IMHO, I believe the main purpose they serve is for fishermen who didn't want to lug a canoe up the trail.[paragraph break]

Before too long we entered the other campsite on Gogebic. It is nestled in a nice grove of trees right in the middle of the trail. The ground was a little damp. But, really not too bad considering all the recent rains. You'd really have to know what you're looking for if trying to locate this site from the lake as there isn't much of a landing. The trail for the latrine ran up a steep hill behind camp. [paragraph break]

Just before the BRT starts to pull away from Gogebic lake you must cross over an old beaver dam. This was really the only spot we encountered where there wasn't an excellent footpath. A little caution was needed to keep our feet dry & avoid some brush. Otherwise, no real worries here.[paragraph break]

Once around the swamp the inevitable climb began. Somewhat to my surprise the trail itself was in excellent condition. About what you might expect at a state park. Of the several miles we hiked. There was only ONE spot that required any special maneuvering. The climb was long & steady. But, was never overly steep. [paragraph break]

It seemed we were passing through the Garden of Eden. Many variety of flowers were in bloom just off the trail. Which served to take our minds off the climb as we passed by. [paragraph break]

At last the trail began to level off. There were a couple of nice openings, but no overlook. After, the trail veered south. We hiked in this direction for awhile until finally surmising that we had already passed, what I thought may have been, the overlook. We stopped, sat down, grabbed our various snacks & took a break.[paragraph break]

Feeling refreshed we retraced our steps. Upon closer inspection, there were a few spots where West Pike lake could be seen through the trees. But, it was so overgrown with trees & shrubs that the view left alot to be desired. We tried bushwhacking a bit but, never did get a good clear view. [paragraph break]

Once we were back along the shores of Gogebic, I noticed a neat tree I must've missed on our way up. I wouldn't have guessed it but, the section of the trail that ran around the lake was actually the most difficult to traverse. It was level. But, there were an abundance of annoying roots & rocks to negotiate. Back at the landing, I snapped a picture of our campsite. [paragraph break]

Once back in camp we discovered that we were being over run with dragonflies that were molting. These are my wife's absolute favorite. And, I must admit, I kinda like having 'em around too. As they do a wonderful job keeping the annoying bugs away.[paragraph break]

We spent the better part of the late afternoon relaxing in the hammocks & playing cribbage. We even devised a seperate penalty for the loser of each game. That person would saw & split firewood until the next game was complete. Then whomever had just lost, would take his place. This scenario repeated itself for a couple hours.[paragraph break]

It was a beautiful day. And it didn't take much to work up a sweat. First Kelly, then Ross, hopped in the lake to rinse off & cool down. With the early thaw, the lakes have had plenty of time to warm up. But, the recent cool weather & seemingly steady rain had, for my tastes, kept the water a bit on the cool side. Judge for yourself. [paragraph break]

After supper, Ross & I headed out to try some fishing. It was yet another picture perfect evening. A gentle breeze, incredible scenery, & no bugs! What more could you ask for? Gratefully, we indulged ourselves, soaking up this intoxicating wilderness atmosphere as if it were a magic elixir. Knowing full well, that it doesn't always play out like this. [paragraph break]

Gogebic Lake


Day 3 of 4

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Woke this morning to find that the cooler had finally relinquished it's frozen status. Not wanting to take a chance letting the filets I had cleaned up last night swelter through the mid days heat. The decision was made that it would be brook trout for breakfast! IMHO Brook trout grilled over an open flame is absolutely one of the most savory delicacys canoe country can dish up. So how could we go wrong?[paragraph break]

By this time our campsite had really grown on us. The landing was all loose rock. But, all were mostly flat which provided "somewhat" secure footing for getting in/out of the canoe. Adding an unusal aspect to these rocks was the fact that they ran out a ways from camp forming a point to the south that almost seemed to be something of a pier. A unique phenomenon in my book. [paragraph break]

Around the firegrate these flat stones had been put to a most meritous use as perfect tables on either side. Also, a couple of small, low to the ground rock recliners had been fashioned. The trees in and around camp also provided the perfect setting. Enough to provide a measure of privacy, shade, shelter, plus good tarp & hammock hanging options. Yet still open enough as to allow a good view of the lake & permit the occasional cooling breeze adequate passage. Even the latrine was about the right distance back in the woods. The only major drawback were the tent pads. There was room for 3 tents. But, all the pads had troublesome roots & rocks. An air mattress would be an absolute necessity for all but the hardiest of campers. [paragraph break]

[paragraph break]

Today was forecast to be the cream of the crop weather wise. So Ross & I decided to make our way to West Pike. Since Kelly had no interest in fishing, we left him the keys to the Red Bell Pepper with instructions to be home before dark. [paragraph break]

Retracing our path of the other day, we descended down the first hill to where the actual BRT veers (west) left. At this point there is also a trail that heads straight north directly to West Pike lake. After passing the "T" the trail to West Pike climbs gently for the first few rods. From there on out it is literally straight down hill & there are no spots where the trail even hints at leveling off. Surprisingly, it is a well worn trail! About midway down the hill there are a couple of trees that will barely allow a canoe to squeeze through. There should be a medal presented to anyone who does this one fully loaded. [paragraph break]

There is a small landing at the lakeshore. But, with the recent high water, it was flooded over. So it took a bit of manuevering to get situated before shoving off.[paragraph break]

We headed in the general direction of the campsite on the far west end of the lake. (I had spent a few days there this past winter) From there we followed the north shore trolling along the way. [paragraph break]

Compared with Gogebic, West Pike was Grand Central Station. We seen more than a half a dozen canoes out 'n' about. By the time we left, all the sites on the lake had been claimed. Still, paddling conditions were optimal and the scenery breathtaking. So those concerns were, at best, ancillary.[paragraph break]

Fishing was slow along the north shore. Once we crossed over and came up the back side of the large island things changed. Soon Ross managed to hook into a smallie. While he played it out I let the Pearl drift near shore on the west side of the small peninsula that juts out from the south shore. As he released the fish, I noticed something unusal along shore.[paragraph break]

Since we were both in need of getting out to stretch. We paddled over to investigate. A small yellow metal sign was nailed to a cedar tree. Presumably it's some sort of forest survey marker. I seem to recall seeing one of these markers on the large cedar tree on Basswood lake. But, unlike the tree on Basswood, there was nothing special about this tree. Maybe someone else can answer what purpose these markers serve?[paragraph break]

Continued working our way west down the southern shoreline. Never got too serious. But, eventually, we both conceded and set our fishing poles aside, succumbing to the intensifying winds. [paragraph break]

Made our way back up to Gogebic. And I mean UP! :) Once there, I was ready to get back to camp & get supper started. Ross had supper on his mind as well. But, evidently, was contemplating a different angle than I? He convinced me to take the long way home while we plied the waters for Salvelinus Fontinalis.[paragraph break]

In short order the menu for supper tonight had vastly improved. [paragraph break]

Absolutely enjoyed our final evening just relaxing and taking it all in. I was surprised to learn later that we'd been up 'til nearly 3:00 a.m. playing cribbage. Another classic moment that, when looking back & wondering where the time went, leaves a person utterly astounded. [paragraph break]

Gogebic Lake, West Pike Lake


Day 4 of 4

Friday, June 08, 2012

Was up quite early considering the late night. Clouds were moving in as we began to tear camp down. Didn't quite get 'er all packed away before the light showers started. It was hard to complain, considering the fantastic weather we'd had up until now. [paragraph break]

Of course the rain made the portage back down more tedious. The West Pike ~ Clearwater trail presents challenges of it's own. But, I must admit, once we reconnected with that trail (though not exactly considering it smooth sailing) there was a definite sense that the worst was indeed behind us. And, I'm happy to say, we all made it back to the Clearwater landing without serious incident.[paragraph break]

Kelly had the foresight to squirrel away 3 beers for just this moment. So as we recuperated from the completion of the portage we were each able to enjoy a semi-cold one. [paragraph break]

About the time we were preparing to push off the rain really started coming down. Fortunately the Clearwater landing is a very accomodating spot with several large white pines & cedars that provide protective cover from just such an occurence. So we hung out here awhile waiting for the rain to let up, which it eventually did.[paragraph break]

Out on the lake, the rain stopped then started several times. Eventually it quit altogether. The wind was slowly gaining some momentum. But, we reached the EP landing without much trouble. Once there, we retrieved the 3 celebratory beers that we had stashed before departure that were now ready for consumption. [paragraph break]

Once we were loaded up, we made a bee line for Trail Center. There we enjoyed the spoils of a successful trip. An ironic coincidence....Our waitress had just been up to Gogebic a week earlier & was singing it praises. She also mentioned that her understanding is that Gogebic is an Assinoiboine word meaning "Lake in the Clouds." We couldn't argue with that definition.[paragraph break]

Of course it helped that we had phenomenal weather. But, that doesn't change the fact that Gogebic is really a special lake. How many places in the BWCAW can you go one portage from a reasonably popular EP lake and see a grand total of 3 people (one group) on a lake in 4 days? The appeal doesn't end there. As they say in real estate, Location! Location! Location! Being about the perfect size, it has an unmistakable intimate, almost mountainous, feel. And, we barely scratched the surface of what the BRT had to offer. It would be nice to go back one day and invest more time in exploring that trail in both directions. [paragraph break]

In my final analysis. Of course the portage up provides a substantial challenge. But, beyond that, Gogebic doesn't offer up much fodder for any would be critic to chew on. So if your looking to get away from it all reasonably quickly? Check out Gogebic lake.[paragraph break]


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