BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 20 2019
Number of Permits per Day: 4
Elevation: 1471 feet
East Bearskin Lake - 64
Canoe Lake with Hamilton Beach
June 10, 2008
East Bearskin Lake
Number of Days:
Tyler (my son) graduated high school yesterday. Yea! That is why we didn’t start our trip earlier and made it fairly short.
Jim picked me up at my house and we left at 9:15 a.m. We had a beautiful day for a drive. It was about 60 degrees and partly sunny. We traveled up the WI side to Duluth up the North Shore (Hwy 61) to Grand Marais, and then up the Gunflint Trail. The scenery of the trip was as beautiful as the day.
At 12:15 p.m. we stopped at Veterans’ Memorial Wayside by Spooner, WI. This is a regular “stretch & potty” stop for us and is kind of a milestone of our progress. The weather was still pretty nice, but by the time we reached Superior, WI, about 1:30 p.m., it had clouded over. McDonalds for lunch (they have some healthier stuff now).
Up the North Shore to Sawtooth Outfitter - we needed a map and a Nalgene bottle holster. Since we were there I asked if we could pick up permit as well. Nope. They couldn’t do that for another Cooperator (our Permit Issuing Station was Hungry Jack), but a Rangers’ Station could, so headed to the Tofte Ranger Station. Got the permit and left about 4:15. The day was beautiful again with blue skies and fluffy clouds. Even Lake Superior was calm.
We had been hearing about the flooding in the area, and, in fact, there was some washed out areas along the Gunflint Trail. I guess things were bad before we got there – we could tell – but the road was totally passable for us. Orange cones marked the bad edges of lanes in just a few spots.
The first night we stayed at the East Bearskin Lake Campground approximately 27 miles from Grand Marais up the Trail. There weren’t many sites occupied, probably because of the recent bad weather. Here I was worried we might not get a site.
Supper was in camp. Jim put together foil pack dinners of steaks, potatoes and veggies. He brought along charcoal and the packets were cooked right on the coals. The food was great and washed down with Spotted Cow (beer). Mmmm good.
After dinner we walked around the campground to check out all the sites and the entry point which is located at the campground. We came across these purple boxes. I believe they were insect traps for the Emerald Ash Borer. I couldn’t tell if any were trapped or not.
We brought extra gear such as tents and sleeping bags to use in the campground just so we wouldn’t have to repack in the morning, especially if it rained. We had foresight. The rain started at 8:00 pm. We sat under the extra tarp for awhile and then bed at 10:30 p.m.
It was a cool night. My feet got cold in my bag. I wondered if I should have brought my 20 degree bag rather than my summer bag. The rain had stopped at 2:00 a.m. The sun was up at 4:30 and I was up an hour later. Jim and I broke camp and packed up. The plan was to head to Trail Center for breakfast. Jim had ever been there.
As we drove down the gravel road leading to the Gunflint Trail, we saw a bull moose. I got a couple pictures though he was kind of far away. My mom has never seen a moose “in the wild” (as she puts it). I told her that this was a good area to cruise in a car to try to spot one. I’ll have to send her a copy of the picture.
We got to Trail Center and learned it didn’t open until 8:00 a.m. Geesh! I did it again. A couple of years ago I assumed the End Of The Trail Cafe opened early to serve BWCA trippers, but learned the morning of our put-in that it didn’t open till 8:00. You would have thought I’d learn to check instead of assuming. We did get to see a silver fox, though.
So, we drove back to Grand Marais to go the South of the Border (SOB) Café. It kind of defeated the purpose of camping at the entry point the night before …. But, oh well, we’re on vacation. It was nice to eavesdrop on the locals, though it was more like forum intended to be heard. It’s part of the experience of SOB. Great place. Ely has Britons -- GM, SOB.
We were back on the Trail driving to out Entry Point about the same time that Trail Center was opening. It started to drizzle. We turn back on to the gravel road leading to East Bearskin and I got the camera ready just in case the moose was back. We saw two bears instead.
I turned to Jim and said, “Shoot, I was hoping for another moose for my mom”. We turned the corner and there was a cow and calf moose! I was able to snap a picture of the cow but the calf was into the bush just ahead of her and eluded my camera.
We paddled away from the entry point at 9:30 into the wind and drizzle. The drizzled soon turned into light rain. The wind was out of the east – kind of unusual.
Our destination is Alder Lake which is a fairly long paddle and then one 52-rod portage away. Once there the plan was to base camp and do day trips after that. We arrived at the lake at 11:30 a.m.
The two campsites on the south shore were occupied. The four on the north shore were open; however, none were very good. The best of the four had a very pesky squirrel. We considered camping there but knew that squirrel would have driven us crazy.
We decided to make the 22 rod portage to Canoe Lake. The first site was taken but the second one was open. It looked just OK from the water. We decide to take it anyway. I’m glad we did. It turned out to be a very nice site.
We arrived at the site about 1:30 and the rain stopped at the same time. We set up camp, stringing the tarp first. Then normal camp stuff – lunch, gathered wood, filled water bottles, putzed around camp, and had vodka lemonade at 6:00 pm.
Dinner was at 7:00 pm. Jim made a great one-pot meal of chicken with noodles. We spent a lot of time under the tarp, though it didn’t rain much after we set up camp. It did get breezier and cooler, though. We had a couple more cocktails and then off to bed.
It was cold last night. I was OK but right on the verge even wearing my watch cap, long johns and wool socks. I got up at 6:30.
Jim and I had our typical oatmeal and cocoa breakfast. We left camp for our day trip at 9:00. The first thing was to check out the third campsite on Canoe Lake. It wasn’t very good. If you camp on Canoe, shoot for one of the first two sites.
Next was to visit Johnson Falls on the west end of Pine Lake. Pine was one portage from canoe … the infamous Canoe to Pine Portage. Fortunately you can walk to the falls from the end of the portage; therefore, portaging the canoes would not be required. We got to the portage at 10:00 and took only our daypacks.
We knew the water levels were high. We figured at least two feet high based on our observations of the shoreline. It was very apparent on the trial to Johnson Falls. Normally the trail runs roughly along side the creek but now the trail was submerged. The water was up near the tops of my Chotas and we additionally had to do some bushwhacking to avoid the really deep stuff.
The real indications of the very high water were the two falls themselves and the water rushing between them.
We spent some time at the falls having lunch, watching the water, relaxing, etc. Spotted a pine marten. We have also seen geese, loons, assorted ducks, an eagle, and many small birds.
Even with all this, we were back to camp by 2:00. The weather turned cold and windy.
Supper was red beans and rice with hamburger. Rain started at 7:45. Bed at 9:00 pm.
It rained all night. There was no thunder or lightning but the rain occasionally came down hard. I was ready to get up at 6:00 a.m., but it was warm and dry in the tent, so I stayed in bed listening to the rain and cat-napping. I finally got up about 9:00.
Our cocoa had a shot of brandy in it this morning.
The rain turned into a drizzle at 10:00 and then turned into a thick, wet fog.
Jim took a walk through the woods to the other campsite, the first one on Canoe Lake. It was vacant now. After he told me about it, we both hiked over. It looked good. A good site for a summer camp – kind of exposed for spring or fall, though. The site is elevated and near a grove of cedars.
After we hiked back to our campsite, Jim and I decided to paddle in the fog a bit. It was nice to know we weren’t leaving the lake and that it was a smaller lake that we could easily find our campsite again. The worse case scenario was that we paddle the shoreline and circumnavigate the lake until we found our site. Jim and I also tried out each other’s canoes.
Paddling in the fog was nice. The temperature was good and there was no wind. It was foggy ALL day! Neither Jim nor I have ever experienced a day that was foggy all day.
We had our first campfire of the trip. I made some biscuits to go with our supper of Knorr Teriyaki Noodles with Asian Vegetables with foil pack chicken. Excellent!
Bed at 10:00.
A big storm blew in during the night. It was short lived, between 3:15 and 3:30 a.m., but very intense and scary. It sure seemed longer. There was lots of heavy rain, thunder and lightening. The wind sounded like a freight train but came from above. My tent bent nearly flat, but sprung back unharmed. I wonder if a tornado or in-line wind didn’t pass over the top of us. I stayed in my tent but was ready to leave with the first sound of a tree falling. None did.
I woke to sunshine, blue skies, and a few puffy, white clouds! However, it was very windy. Also, the wind direction had changed. It was now out of the south rather than the east.
We had a special breakfast this morning – blueberry pancakes. Jim also got another nickname – “Hamilton”, as in “Hamilton Beach Mixmaster” for his pancake batter mixing. Add Hamilton to his long list of nicknames – Cookie, Cover Girl, Froggy, Bow Weight, Jiminy Gin, Norwegian Disco, and others.
Today’s day trip was to visit Crystal and Spaulding Lakes. Jim and I have never been to either. It was a very windy day which added to the adventure. Fortunately we had no mishaps.
Crystal has two campsites. The first campsite is not vet good. It is very open and grassy, but completely on a slope. Two tent pads were created. They were fairly level and big enough for a two-man tent, but very rocky and collected water. Today the pads were very wet and muddy.
Likewise the fire grate area was not good. Again it was sloped, wet, and rocky; not a good place to spend time.
The second site was much better, maybe even good, not great, but good. The two tent pads were OK. The fire grate was much better than the first. However, the latrine is easily seen by the rest of the camp. If you want some privacy you might want to hang a tarp as a barrier there. Still if you want to camp on Crystal, this is the site to choose.
We portaged over to Spaulding Lake. I wanted to check out the site of the Captain Spaulding mine. The problem was I didn’t find out where it was before our trip. It was one of those things – I meant to, but somehow didn’t find the time. Still, I hoped we could spot a trail or something. The problem was that the wind had really picked up. Therefore we were only able to check out about ¾ of the south shore and ½ of the east. The wind just got to be too much. No sign, so we had to start back.
We made it back to camp about 5:00. Jim made chili and I made corn bread for supper. We were treated to a double rainbow.
The moon came out. The wind died about 8:00 and the water was still.
We got a light rain at 5:00 a.m. for 30 minutes – just enough that we’d be packing up wet. I was up at 6:30. We had our oatmeal breakfast, took down camp, and were on the water by 8:30. The wind was out of the west now. Just like coming in, we’d be paddling into a fairly stiff wind. The water was also rough. We worked hard and had no mishaps.
We made it to the take out by 12:15, loaded up the car, changed our clothes, and were on the Gunflint Trail by 1:00. Two Harbors for lunch at 3:00 p.m. The drive home was great – partly sunny and about 70 degrees. Jim had me home before dark.
Not much to say. It was a great trip. Driving weather was great. Camping and canoeing weather could have been better, but then again, it could have been worse. Our gear kept us dry. I don’t think either of us took off our rain pants the entire trip.
What we thought was going to be an easy, laid back trip turned out to be more strenuous than we expected because of the wind – which was usually in our face.
I don’t think I had any new gear to report on. Jim had his new, homemade wind screen that worked great.