BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 16 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1673 feet
Clearwater Lake - 62
Clearwater --> Hungry Jack 2020
July 10, 2020
Number of Days:
We stayed the night before at Hungry Jack Outfitters. The place was nice, David (the propietor) was funny and a good spirit and there was a nice fire ring we could hang out at and a dock to have a cigar.
In the morning they took our canoes to our entry point (62 - Clearwater) and we came in another car due to Covid. We parked and headed in. Myself and my friend Ian went in first and as we were a few dozen feet out our companions decided it was a good time to test the water temp and flipped their canoe right at the EP. At least the weather was good.
Our plan was to head up Clearwater and grab campsite 682, since that was right next to the portage for the next day, but that site was already taken and so were the previous ones. Ian and I paddled our hearts out down to the next site while our companions portaged over to Mountain Lake to check if site 678 was open. If it wasn't we were in for some fun times since that meant making the choice of heading east on Mountain or heading west towards Rose and the 2 mile portage. 683, the one we were checking had just been grabbed, so we headed back to the portage and popped on over
I don't remember much of that portage besides it was a good elevation change from Clearwater to Mountain and certainly made me think "is it over yet?"
When we reached Mountain our friends were sitting there. They said that someone had just told them the site was open, but apparently hadn't bothered to pack up to go check themselves *eye roll*. We packed up and headed out.
The site was indeed open and was a pretty nice site for a first night. Easy canoe landing, good open area. Nice view. We made camp.
~Clearwater Lake, Mountain Lake
This was a big day
Woke, drank coffee, ate some breakfast and headed out. I like getting a good early start in case any bad times decide to show their face or campsites are hard to come by and this day that most certainly happened.
The next roughly 3.5 miles of paddling were pretty. Got to see an eagle fishing and a lot of beautiful geology. My friends didn't trust my directions since the curvature of the lake played tricks on the eyes and made it seem like you were rowing right into a wall of trees and water vegetation, but stopped questioning once they saw I had the "no, through there" and "up around that point" down good.
We arrived at the two mile portage (#843) breathed a deep sigh of "we ready for this?" and got moving. I had been going over in my mind if this portage would be a single or double trip and up to the moment I still wasn't sure, but I was leaning towards single since I really didn't want to turn a two mile walk into a 6 mile walk. So, we grabbed our packs and my friend tossed the canoe on his shoulders and we got moving for a single trip.
Now up to this point I have yet to have a bad BWCA mosquito trip, but I had fears that this portage might change that. Lots of trees overhead, rather flat elevation and we heard from a previous traveler that there's a section that's actually underwater that might hit your hips if there had been a lot of rain. Luckily, my streak of relatively bug free trips continues and though there were a few "get off me!" moments it was nothing to really complain about.
We switched off the canoe halfway through the first leg (Rove --> border route trail), again at the border route trail and then a final time nearer to Rose, myself taking the first half of the second leg. As you can see from the picture the underwater bit was certainly that and the vegetation was thick. Now, I'm a faster hiker than my companion, so I went first and though there was a moment of weakness where I needed to put the canoe down and curse at the yoke pads that kept slipping out of the way I took it what I thought was halfway before setting it down and waiting for my buddy. Eventually he came along and grabbed the canoe and we set out again, him leading the way. Hilariously, about two minutes later we saw water and both had a good laugh. I guess I ended up carrying that canoe most of the way to Rose. Oh well. I would say this portage was both mental and physical, but more of a mental challenge since the elevation change wasn't enough to make you question your life choices :)
My plan was for us to camp on Rose this night, but we all know the first rule of BWCA camping: the first site you come across you take, so we packed up our canoe and got on the water to go check the closest campsite, which was sadly taken, and then headed back to the portage to make sure our friends made it, which they did, but they looked like they needed a good break, so we headed out again. Though we took it slow and looked hard we were unable to find the following two campsites on the southern side of the lake and the final two near the next portage were taken as well, so it looked like we were portaging again :(.
As we approached the portage it was evident that this was a popular spot. I knew there were waterfalls and apparently this was close enough to an EP for a lot of folks to do day trips with their families or with a outfitter guide. The portage was PACKED with people lounging around and swimming.
Packed or not, in a desire to make sure we found a site before my general 3PM target we hit the portage. As we approached I did my normal "check both sides" and noticed that there was a severe drop off in the depth of water about 8' from the shoreline; my buddy did not do the same check. In his tiredness he looked over on the shore side of his canoe and assumed it was the same on the lake side and put his foot out and committed to disembarking before being sure. This of course caused a lot of laughter on my part when he fell out and over and went completely under. Luckily he let go of the canoe before taking me with him.
Once dry land was found we pulled our packs on and my buddy grabbed the canoe. This portage was laughable, in a bad way, so it's a good thing it was short-ish. It began with a bunch of steps made from tree roots, which my friend thought was the brunt of it, so he put the canoe down only to then see the staircase section of this so called Staircase Portage up ahead, which got a great laugh out of him.
The staircases (multiples) was what you would expect out of 78 rods with a 50' elevation change. It was tough, but more mentally tough than physically since it was short enough to not make you regret life in the moment.
The landing on the next side was nice. Flat, multiple approach spots and a nice view. So once again we packed up and headed out. Site one (#663) was taken and the next (#664) was as well, though we heard from a guide at the previous portage that he things some outfitter was using it as a base camp and just permanently leaving their stuff there. To be clear: that's not fucking cool and I hope whoever you are you have a tough time finding a bathroom the next time you really need one.
The next one (#661) was open and though lowly rated seemed fine for us four hammock campers. We set up our hammocks and tarps to claim the site and went back to the portage fo our buddies.
When we got back to the portage I asked my friend "you want me to go back or do y..." I didn't get through the question before be gave me a look and collapsed on the ground. I laughed and started running back to Rose and encountered my friends as they were rounding the same corner my companion did when he set the canoe down. The first friend, the one carrying the canoe said "oh good, you're here. I have a canoe for you". I laughed but then I saw the look of despair and "doneness" in their eyes and said "oh, OK. Give me that canoe" and took it up the stairs to the next landing, giving my friend over there a big laugh when, still laying on the ground, said "I expected to see X or Y, but seeing you carrying that canoe is hilarious".
Now apparently they had relaxed a bit before the staircase and were saying to one group going over the stairs "hey, if you see some manatee looking guy and another guy who looks like he should be doing class 5 rapids can you take that class 5 looking mother**** and toss him down the stairs". HAHA. Apparently all the canoeing and the two mile portage plus a portage with the title Staircase Portage did not sit well with their life choices :)
So, with another mile and a half or two miles to go we got in the canoes and headed out to our site, looking forward to some food and a swim.
The site we got was not the one I wanted on this lake, but it was the one we got. However, after waking this morning I looked across the pond and noticed that the folks across the way were heading out and that was the site I wanted on this lake. So, unhappy as it made my companions I said "let's go check out that site". My canoe buddy jumped on the opportunity but my other two buddies were looking for him to dissuade me and let us go. So, across the way we went. The site had a glorious approach, was awesomely flat and best of all meant that the next morning would be an easy 5 min paddle to the next portage.
So, we paddled back and through glorious smile inducing eye rolls we packed up and went across for a relaxing day of swimming, swimming and relaxing.
Again, another site that wasn't too bad with mosquitoes was flat and had a good amount of pine needles to help start a fire.
Now most of my friends are not early risers, but a super long drive home always seems to be the factor that makes people get up early. I got up and ate a few bowls of granola, milk and berries while downing some coffee and watching folks pack up.
The water was calm as we headed out and the portage landing area was really small, and easy to overlook in the fog. It went up, flat and then descended to the water on the other side, a fairly unremarkable portage and nobody got wet :)
The maps we used were McKenzie maps and afterwards I learned from our proprietor that the creator of the maps never visited this region of the BWCA, so his notation of campsites and portages can be off at times. Well, for the next EP/portage it's off, by a good margin.
According to our maps the EP/portage on Bearskin to Hungry Jack is directly south of the point, which is directly south of the portage we just came across. Well, adding to the confusion is a dock and a few spot that look like the portage slightly to the east. However, the true location of the portage is to the west of that point, and it took us a bit to finally go that direction, because I was treating the map as truth. Before doing that we first hit the dock, at which point my friend from the other canoe went to go check and only found a dirt road, so I got out to check myself. Well, I could have chose to run east or west down the road and I chose poorly by running east, because apparently running west 150' would have brought me to the EP parking lot and the obvious portage :(. Well, I ran for a while, saw a fox and finally turned around when I hit a sign for a YMCA camp, Camp Menogyn. This finally led me to the parking lot and then back to my friends to direct them to the real portage.
Once there it was one of those annoyingly short portages and then towards finding the boat landing for our outfitter on Hungry Jack, which was a little harder than it should have been, but with it being a popular lake we had to get pretty close to the landing before finally seeing a sign.
Safe and sound back at our outfitter we packed up, retrieved our car, showered and said our goodbyes. It was a fun trip with perfect weather, low bugs, some challenging work, but nothing I wouldn't do again.
~Duncan Lake, Bearskin Lake, Hungry Jack Lake