BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 24 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1673 feet
Clearwater Lake - 62
July 10, 2006
East Bearskin Lake
Number of Days:
Ok So I was all packed and ready to Roll out before the Sun rose on Monday morning. I tried to get some sleep, but none came. Finally at 2am I got up and cursed my excitement. Since I was already all packed I was in the car and rolling 2:10am. One pit stop for gas and Beef jerky in Minong, WI and I'm in Grand Marias before 11am picking up my permit at the ranger station. Not too bad for about 600 miles of travel. I have to admit that even though I don't like getting up early, it is a great way to beat the traffic around Chicago and on I-90 in Wisconsin.
I head over to the outfitter and strap a Royalex Winona canoe on top of the car. I swing into town and grab a bite to eat at the DQ. then I grab my fishing license and top off the gas tank. I'm rolling up the Gunflint Trail by 1pm.
The first task I encounter is how to pack the solo canoe. If I ever do this again I will pack in two bags with one slightly larger and heavier than the other. As it is now, the Duluth pack is full and the backpack is pretty light. But they both fit in the canoe, after securing the car in the lot I head down to the water. I slip into the canoe and begin to wobble. This feels so darn different than paddling stern. The outfitter said this was a very stable canoe, I'd hate to see a tippy one. I think to myself that its not a matter of if I will tip it, but how many times!
I slowly get the hang of paddling solo. Very cautiously and slowly I head up E. Bearskin to the portage to Moon Lake. I find my bearings are off a bit due to the solo paddling and not having the same time to plot a course. After a lil scratching of my head I find the portage and load up for the first trip of a double portage. My goodness how light the royalex solo feels compared to all of the aluminum canoes I have always carried. This is almost a treat. The Duluth pack ends those thoughts quick. Even over the short portage. Every trip I try to pack lighter and lighter, but there is still excess weight in the pack.
I paddle across moon and noting that all of the campsites are filled. This is what happens when you start paddling at 2:30pm. I find the short but sloppy portage into deer lake pretty easily, but am surprised to see something in the water a short distance from the end of the portage. I have the canoe on my shoulders and the light backpack, but the Cow Moose doesn't see me first, she actually looked like a beaver when I first noticed her. Only the top of her head and nose out of the water, she was fully submerged, she stood up and dipped back into the water before seeing me. She was enjoying a cool bath before she caught my eye. I stand very still and motionless while she eyes me, then acts like she is going to walk in my direction. She blows her nostrils and stares at me for at least a couple of minutes. I tilt my head a little trying to figure out my escape route if she charges the 25 or so yards towards me. I am 15 feet from solid ground, standing on slippery rocks, water almost to my knees and the narrow landing won't let me turn around if I must retreat. I figure I will have to dump the canoe and dive for the woods. Luckily the moose loses interest in me and begins to head for the tree line. I set down the canoe. put in the Backpack and head back for my Duluth bag. I make a bunch of noise and watch the trail and woods as I return. I don't want to surprise the moose. When I go to put the Duluth bag in the canoe I slip a bit on the rocks and make a splash. This startles the moose in the tree line and I hear her stomp off quickly...trialing two little moose. Thank goodness I wasn't between them when I was at the portage. I hastily get everything set to paddle and get on the water. I paddle to the far shore, only 75 yards away or so. I'm chased by a beaver, well maybe followed, but my adrenaline up it feels like being chased.
The one site on Deer Lake is taken so I am off over the portage to Caribou Lake. Again all the sites are full. I even check out a portage that is supposed to have a camp site next to it, but don't see it. Thankfully the very last site on the lake is open. I had hoped to press on into Little Caribou. But since there is only one site on that lake I won't press my luck. I land the canoe and start eyeing the camp. I didn't bring a watch, but the sun is getting closer and closer to the treetops, so I am glad for the site. Its not a great site, but it fits my small tent and has a nice landing for the canoe. As I scope out some of the bigger pads I notice that there are leaning trees overlooking them, thank goodness I have a small tent and can fit down by the water. After getting everything organized, I sit down to eat an apple, some almonds and drink a little lemonade. I am exhausted and ready everything for bed. I read a bit by the headlamp, which hangs almost perfectly from the ceiling gear loft, write down the days thoughts and I drift off to sleep.
Somewhere in the middle of the night, lit very well by the full moon, I figure out that my self inflating matress has a slow leak. My hip hurts from sinking through it to find some stones underneath the tent. I add some air manually and it barely lasts until dawn. This will become a reoccuring theme throughout the trip. Thank goodness this happened early so it doesn't ruin the end of my trip. HA!
I take my time getting up. No need to rush today, I intend to make some improvements to the camp site and take an easy day. I put up a tarp in case it rains, it is in the forcast. I had never really set up a tarp for camp before, but even my limited knowledge of knots gets me through. I KP the site and pick a place to hang my garbage and food. Then I decide to take a dip in the lake. Its wonderful, very nice and cool. Although the water is a bit murky at this end of the lake. I simply float on my life vest for a while. Enjoying the sun and the cool water.
Later in the day I break out my pole and set up a lure. I'm not sure why I brought the pole along, I am an impatient fisherman by myself. After about 20 casts I'm bored and pack it away. I start to feel a bit of hunger pangs, so I break out the jet boil. First time I'm using it in the field, so I cross my fingers that it will work out well. I drop in some noodles and it almost boils over. It does a fine job with the noodles and I only have three items to clean. Not too bad. After putsing for a bit I retire to the tent well before dark or the onset of any biting insects. I am looking forward to some time reading before it gets dark, and the tent is nice and cool thanks to a terrific cross breeze. Once again I blow up the matress, and again I blow it up before I turn off the light, stop reading, and call it a night. It doesn't make it till dawn. Thank goodness I am always full of hot air. I had planned on getting to bed early but the book is too good and I read well into the darkness of night
After reading so late I sleep in a bit, no watch so I have no idea of the time, but the sun has been up for some time. There is no one to rush me so I take my time. I had planned to get up at the crack of dawn and fish for some walleye, that doesn't happen. I decide to read some more and and after the last fish has stopped jumping in the lake I climb out of the tent. I try another 20 casts, but soon tire of the rod and put it down. I am a bit hesitant to try fishing from the canoe, since it still feels a bit tippy to me, heaven forbid if I needed to get something big into the boat.
The sky looks a little gray this morning, but I decide to head for the falls anyways. I can take a shower there and I don't think there is anything left to do in the camp. After a couple of easy portages and a small lake I am at the trail to the falls. I start walking and find the trail from this side is not very well established. I end up fording a small stream to get to the other side where the trail is a bit easier to follow. I see lots of animal tracks in the woods. Most certainly there is some moose tracks and who knows what else. In some places the trail isn't much better than an animal track. I'm slapped by branches and the path winds left and right. It slows me down a bit, but I know the views will be worth it.
I finally make it to the lower falls. Only one couple taking in the sights not too crowded so I sit down and take in the view and the sound. I decide to slide my way around the side of the pool and get right under the falls. Its my only shower of the trip and the cool water feels refreshing as it falls on my head and shoulders. I sit for a bit then decide to take a dip in the pool, the cool water really feels great as the sun begins to heat up the trees. I lounge for bit after getting out of the pool and then I get up and climb up to the upper falls. It has gotten a bit crowded at the lower falls something like 10 people down there. I am alone at the upper falls and I have it all to myself for 20 minutes until the couple comes walking up the trail. I was able to have a snack of jerky and some nuts and a granola bar. So that makes up for the company. It is amazing how peaceful the scene is, even with the pounding noise that all of the water makes. I decide to take a dip in this pool too, it rounds out the experience. After leaving the refreshing water I grab my day pack and head out to see what is beyond the falls. I walk up a way and can see down into the chanel that the water has cut. I can even see where it opens up and there is a small lake that feeds the water into the chanel. The water is boiling over the rocks for quite a distance before it hits the falls. A large birch tree blocks the path and the ground slopes off on the one side and climbs steeply into thick brush on the other. I decide that this is as far as I will go by myself. Maybe next time when I have a partner I can explore all the way up to the little lake.
I trek back to my canoe and make the portages and paddling to my camp site. The heat really seems to have com on in the afternoon. I am growing quite tired from the paddling and hiking. I arrive at my campsite and immediately go for a swim. The sun and the heat have really worn me down. After my swim I KP the site and then head out in the canoe to filter some water. This is the first time I do anything but paddle in the canoe. It still feels a bit tippy, but I manage. Getting out of the canoe, I feel something wierd at my ankle. As I look down I notice that one of the anchors for my tevas has broken. Looks like they will be out of commision for portaging. I am going to dread portaging in sneakers. It will be a bit squishy getting in and out. I prepare a simple dinner, some nuts and a package of tuna. I spike the tuna with some mayo, mustard and pepper that I borrowed from the DQ before I left. I also add some seasoning from the kitchen pack, a little lemon juice and some trader joes 21 seasoning blend. Not too bad for eating tuna out of the bag. I finish it off with some dried cherries for dessert.
Thunder looms in the distance so I clean up and prep for a storm. The thunder bangs loudly and I can see massive thunderhead clouds o the west. It seems to be passing to the west and I hope I get lucky and it misses me. All cleaned up I head into the tent to read. After a bit more thunder off to the South, I hear something across the lake, its rain rolling in heavy. I quickly secure the open flaps of the fly. Not a second too soon, as I finish closing the zipper the rain hits, pouring down pretty good. I can see through the window in the fly that the sun is still visable to the west, the rain obscuring it a bit. Very interesting to see the sun shining through, not something that happens every day. the temperature drops and the rain steadily slows, until it is all rained out. I open the fly back up and feel the cool air floating off the lake. I reinflate my matress and finish my first book before dark. I jot down some thoughts in my journal and decide what I will do with the next few days. Hopefully I can get myself up early to catch some fish.
Once again I don’t wake up as early as I should, I cast for a bit, but really who am I kidding. I only catch fish when I am with friends who like to fish and keep me out on the water long enough to actually catch something. I have some breakfast and hike around the trails of the camp. They extend pretty far back into the forest and travel a good long ways along the lakes edge. Nothing too exciting to see though.
I sit down with my broken Tevas and try to devise a method for fixing the break. It probably takes me an hour, but I am able to figure something out that works. I again use my basic knot tying knowledge to come up with something and it looks pretty good. Not too bad for a repair completed with basic parachute cord. I test it out first when I take the canoe out to pump water and next when I take a dip in the lake. It is much warmer already today and the wind is blowing all of the top water down the lake towards camp. I have to head out past where I can touch to dive down for any really cool refreshing water. I float and lounge for a bit and just relax.
I finally get back into camp and after drying off I pull out my book and read. I do this for most of the day, the wind is nice and the bugs aren’t bad. I get a lil sun then get hot and move to the shade. My camp seat moving with me as I search for wind and shade. I take another dip in the lake and then I read some more. Soon I feel hungry and eat. I start thinking about heading out a bit early. I am closing in on finishing my second and final book. The weather is getting hotter and I have accomplished my goal of getting out and soloing without any major troubles. I take down the tarp and make sure everything is in order in case I decide to leave tomorrow.
Then I decide to head back into the tent for some more reading. Such a basic and slow paced day. I really enjoyed it. The moon is really bright tonight although it doesn’t come up until very late, I’m reading still so I get a chance to lay back and admire the way it lights up the whole lake and the trees on the other side of the lake, very pretty. By the time I turn off the light and go to sleep I only have 40 pages left of my second book. That’s over 800 pages read in just a couple of days. Sure I could do this at home, but what a terrific place to just slow down my pace and really enjoy the surroundings.
Something causes me to wake up just as the day is starting to brighten. I look out the tent and see that the sky is a blood orange color and there are dark clouds boiling to the west. This instantly makes up my mind that I should try to get out before the bad weather hits. I pack my Duluth and backpack and get things into the Canoe. Just as I do I hear loud thunder off to the West. Damn, now that I have the tent down I decide to break for the far end of the lake. I can always pull the tarp there and hold out the storm. By the time I am a 100 yards away from camp the rain begins. I see lightening off in the distance. I decide to stop at the middle camp site if its open and if its still lightening. By the time I get there, it is just raining, with a pretty good wind in my face. I haven’t heard thunder or seen lightening for a while.
I head for the portage. Half way there I hear thunder again, loud, a bit l closer. The Camp site close to the portage has a tent there, so I’m not stopping there. I make it to the portage and start to carry my things across, its still raining, but no thunder or lightening. See a theme yet. I get on the water on Deer lake and 2 minutes later I hear thunder off to the South. I paddle hard for the portage and make a lot of noise as I cross over with the canoe and pack. This is where I saw the Moose and her little ones after all. Still no more thunder so I start to Paddle across Moon Lake, this is a quick paddle. Again I hear thunder when I am on the lake. It sounds far off to the South, but still loud as heck. I get to the portage and move my things across the trail. The mosquitoes are horrible at the E. Bearskin side.
It is still raining lightly, but no more thunder and the skies are clearing a bit to the west. I head out for the end of the lake and the car. I pass a friends cabin as I head down the lake. Their family won’t be up for a couple of weeks, but all looks as it should. After what seems like forever paddling, I make it to the take out. I breath a sigh of relief. I unload the canoe, get the car and check the time its 9:30AM. I take a couple of pics with the timer. I always have an exit point photo and one of me with the canoe on my shoulders. No one else to take that one this time so I do it by the car. Its amazing how Quick you can pick up the canoe when you only have a ten second timer on the camera. Everything in and on the car and I head out.
I decide to check out the Lodge at the end of E. Bearskin. Very nice place, I pick up a couple of little things in the gift shop for my wife and ask about their cabins. Next year some of the non adventurous wives are talking about joining any of the guys that make it. They wouldn’t last a night in the woods, but this lodge looks like a great place for the ladies to stay.
I head up the gunflint a couple of miles and stop at Trail Center for a bite to eat. I have the Walleye and Eggs, pretty darn good. I had wanted to check out this place, and I figured since it was the closest food to the area, it would be important to see. Especially if the girls decide to come up this way next year. The crowd is light, the staff is very pleasant and I pick up a shot glass in the gift shop to add to my collection. I head back down the Gunflint trail, taking my time, soaking in the sights. Happy to be back in civilization, but not yet within cel phone range. It is a blessing and a curse sometimes. I drop off the canoe at the outfitter and grab a quick shower. Now that I’m clean I get on the road. Its just before one when I head out. I don’t stop until Eau Claire for gas and a bite at the A&W, it brings back memories of being a kid and what do you know but they have a free float upgrade. Why not! I am pulling back into the driveway by 10:15pm. Not a bad trip considering I actually ate at the A&W. What a fun trip. I’m happy to be home, but already miss the solitude and serenity of the north woods. Till next trip!