BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
January 27 2020
Number of Permits per Day: 4
Elevation: 1471 feet
East Bearskin Lake - 64
A little Peace & Joy during the Journey to Self Actualization
May 09, 2019
East Bearskin Lake
Number of Days:
We arrived at the Park office at 4pm checked in and Aurora obtained a customary memento (stuffed fox). At the trail head we unpacked our car and loaded ourselves up for our first track across. This would be the first time for her to carry all her personal gear (save her chair). She made note when she put her pack on that “this is heavy”. She assured me it was not too heavy or uncomfortable for her and I reinforced with her that, as we have always done, if you need to take a break on the trail just let me know. At 450 pm we were finally set to begin this journey. We took 3 small 5 minute breaks and then we ended up deciding to leap frog after cresting yet another hill thinking the camp site has to be over this one and it was not. Ended up the camp site was located just over the next hill. We set to getting camp set up; Aurora picked up the twigs from around our campsite, found some birch bark and cleaned out the old soggy filled fire while I set up our tent, sleeping items and tarp.
With camp set up, I processed some trees for firewood and Aurora helped stack it. By 840 we pulled up our chairs and enjoyed the fruits of our labor…..being in the woods. We both decided after about 45 min that we were ready to crawl into the tent and call it a day. It did not take long after being in the tent, away from the warmth of the fire to realize that the temps were a bit chilly, low 30’s. We both snuggled in and quickly fell asleep. A combination of a Black Bird “Cawing” and a full bladder had me up and out of the tent at 530am. My utmost favorite part of my past BWCA trips has always been waking up for the day. For two reasons….I’m alive and the serenity I am afforded with the quiet. The whole process of coming to take that first sip of coffee in the wilderness is, has been and always will be my favorite part of the trip. I’m forced to be patient and take in my environment....all of nature awakening for the day. The sounds, smells and visuals of life are one of the best things ever. Coffee in hand I make my way lakeside to sit and soak in the wonder of my surroundings.
Three cups of coffee later I decide I need to start completing some camp chores. First on the agenda was to process more firewood so I could bake Aurora her Blueberry muffins. It’s now 830 am, wood is chopped, muffins are baked but Miss Aurora is s till snug as a bug in her bag. I have another cup of coffee and Aurora finally comes crawling out of the tent about 10 minutes later. While Aurora enjoyed her muffin we sat around the campfire and discussed our plans for the day.
At 945 we were on the trail back to the car to drive to Norberg Lake (lake trout lake). Our goals for the day: Fish, Test my abilities to portage the canoe and test our abilities at paddling. Norberg Lake is a tiny little thing but that is exactly what I was looking for to assess our abilities in overcoming the next perceived hurdle in meeting our ultimate goal of BWCA camping trips. This would be the first time for me to portage the canoe and for her and I to paddle together. The trail that runs by the lake is literally a short walk in the park type trail. That’s ok, I will take that for my first attempt at portaging the canoe.
When the lake comes into site it is down the hill. I set the canoe down and scout out the best way down the hill to the lake. After getting the canoe down to the lake (no trail) and finding suitable shoreline to enter , we were paddling and fishing. Multiple times, during our outing, Aurora said “don’t paddle; I want to paddle all by myself. We were spinning in circles at her first attempts. Soon enough, with a little instruction, she no longer had us going in complete circles.
Upon exiting the lake, Aurora had her first experience with exiting a canoe in the water by herself. She learned and I learned that she was none too happy about getting her feet wet. After Aurora became adjusted to her wet feet I found myself standing at the water’s edge surveying the terrain laid out before me. My next task at hand was to get the canoe up the fairly steep hill that was littered with downed trees and underbrush. Believe me it was nothing close to bush whacking but definitely not a trail either. Fishing……Fishing for fish is not high or nowhere near the top of my list of to do’s while in the BWCA. If it were up to me I would not even bring a single pole with me. Every trip I have taken they have been an irritator for me during travels. Anyway, we did not catch any fish but what we did catch was another perceived obstacle overcome. With the canoe secured we made a quick stop at the park station to purchase some firewood. I had come to the conclusion this morning that the wood around camp was descent enough and served its purpose, but I wanted some better cuts for cooking Auroras requested dinner of Ribeyes, camp potatoes and peas over. With my Duluth Pack full of firewood, Aurora, I and Charlie head back over the trail that leads to our home in the woods for 1 more night. Overall the hike back to camp went well, only exception was that Charlie our pup started yelping ¾ of the way back. I stopped took of my pack full of wood and gave him a look over. I did not see or elicit any indicators of anything. I figured he must have gotten poked by a twig or something. Pack back on and we press on only for Charlie to start limping, I stopped again, took off my pack and re-inspected him. Now it appears he has a small bump and reddened skin on top of his back paw. I palpated it and felt it was probably some type of bug bite, as I did not feel anything broken and he had no reaction. I decided he was going to have to tuff it out and walk. He stopped limping but would rest. Back at camp I prepared a cold compress for him, wrapped it with coban and put him in his “Pup” tent to rest while Aurora and I played in camp. A few hours later Charlie came out of his pup tent and was keeping Aurora company while I set about preparing our supper meal.
After supper we did some exploring around our camp site and then pulled our chairs up to a nice toasty fire. We called it a day around 845pm and crawled in the tent where we read stories and fell asleep with still a brightness left in the sky and feeling most grateful. I was up early the next morning and enjoyed my last wilderness morning coffee and soaked in my surroundings and all that has been learned. I set about getting some good coals going and started cooking the bacon. Now, for Aurora, waking to the smell of bacon when camping is her most favorite thing (memory). While the bacon is cooking, I begin to tear down what I can of camp and pre-pack some items when Aurora finally crawl out of the tent sometime after 830am and before 9am. We had breakfast of oatmeal & bacon, packed up the remaining camp items and hit the trail back to our car.
The hike out Charlie’s foot was healed..no more limping or swollen area. Aurora voiced complaints of the hike……I tempered it with myself in that I know how I feel when something good comes to an end…I just want to be home. Although that feeling for me does not set in until I see the car reloaded with my gear. Even with Aurora voicing complaints about the hike out she was still a happy camper. Of course a little silliness was had during our rest breaks ;)
Learnings from this excursion: 1. Aurora can carry her gear although I would like to lighten it for her. Plan: On this trip I took my 30L barrel instead of the 60L for the fact I did not have a lot of food items with. On trips where we will be portaging our gear I will bring the 60L to add some of her items in it to decrease the weight out of her pack. 2. My new saw and hatchet worked great. 3. It took us approximately 1.25 hours to double portage the equivalent of a 224 rod portage. 4. It took me less than 45 min to get our tent and bedding unpacked and set up. 5. I can transport and portage the “Canoe” that is now known as the Overcomer 6. Aurora has the necessary safety and paddling knowledge of canoeing 7. Need to work more with Aurora on entry and exit via wet footing 8. Need a shorter canoe 9. Charlie needs boots 10. I need to practice and build my knot tying skills 11. I am blessed beyond measure
Aurora and I headed up to Silver Bay that back way from Virginia.It has been awhile since I have gone that route. Beautiful drive, peaceful, non rushed, wild flowers, hills and a few barns with fields scattered here and there. In the past 8 years, we have traveled the North Shore, to the Gunflint Trail, many, many times; but we have only stopped at any of the quaint locally owned shops along the way on 1 trip. This time, Aurora and I decided we were stopping at Waters Edge Trading Company in Tofte. I was in want of new tripping pants and I also wanted to look at local items/trinkets. I am particular about my tripping pants…I know what I am looking for, what works for me and what does not. They had a fairly large selection of name brand outdoor clothing. However, most of the women’s clothing was geared more toward the casual end of the outdoor clothing line. The store did not have the more durable outdoor clothing for women i was looking for. But.....they did in the mens section and that was perfectly ok with that. I actually have been finding that mens outdoor pants fit me better and tend to be more durable. I found 2 pairs of mens pants and the best part…….I got 25% off for a father’s day sale they were having on all men’s clothing. Win, Win :) Aurora got a new sweat shirt and she enjoyed looking at the gems and picking out a few to buy that she had saved her money for. The store had a wonderful selection of locally made necklaces and rings. I did not have time to pursue getting one as there were too many to choose from and I still had a full trip ahead of me. Aurora had spied a toy she wanted as well. We both decided that maybe we would stop back at the store on our way back home. Onward to Grand Marais where we stopped at the grocery store for ice and bacon then on to Subway for our dinner sandwich. 704 pm and the water tower for the Gunflint Trail Scenic ByWay comes into my view…..I take a deep breath and slowly exhale…a peace settles about me…. Knowing the further I travel this road the further I get from the “Worldly” things in daily life…..Knowing it will take me to a place where eventually travel will solely be accomplished by my physical doing…..Knowing the exponential soul and character building that will occur for me in this beautiful wilderness I am closer to entering.
We finally arrive at our destination at 730pm and I quickly set up the tent and our sleeping gear (not anywhere close to my ideal site but it was to serve a purpose). While I set up camp, Aurora sets about gathering fire starting supplies from our surroundings. She comes back with much birch bark, a few small downed tree branches that she proceeds to break the twigs into approximately 8 inch pieces and piles them neatly; she then put the branch parts in a pile. She asks “Now what can I do?” Me “Well, you could go look for bigger downed trees that mama can drag out when I am done here.” “Or you could find bigger dead and down branches to drag back.” “Or you can explore.” She stood there for a few seconds and then asks “What is the best kind of wood for a fire?” At this question, her inquisition in gaining knowledge, really hit home for me that she truly loves being in the wilderness and enjoys the labor that comes with it. Its gets to be 815 and the bugs are awful, they are the worst I have ever seen in my over 21 trips I have done. I realize we are not going to have time to secure enough wood for the night so we head over to Bearskin Lodge to find they closed at 8pm but the nice guy was willing to sell me some firewood anyway. Back at camp I show Aurora how to build a one match fire with just a match and the supplies she brought back earlier. Once the fire was going and the bugs were not as bad, Aurora did her “Gem” dig sitting at the picnic table and I finished getting things organized in the car and around camp. We sat around the fire for about ½ hour and called it a day around 10pm.
I was awake at 430am. A little earlier that I would have liked but I did get plenty of solitude in before Aurora stumbled out of the tent at 8am. Fried some bacon and headed over to the Expo. Aurora made note of the beautiful paddles on display. We moved onto the booth of books….where Aurora noticed a book and said “look mommy, it’s a knot tying book”. I asked her if we should get one and she said yes. Upon purchasing the book, Cliff Jacobson imparted words of wisdom to Aurora(very heartwarming for me) and autographed the book for her. We made our way through the other vendors where Aurora picked up a “Happy” stone after which we went down to the beach and looked at the canoes and she played in the sand and water. She and I attended the Wilderness First Aid presentation where she chose to be an active member in the presentation on allergic reactions up to anaphylaxis. After this presentation we had a few hours before Dan Cooks Tarp hanging presentation. Aurora and I decided we would go back to camp, eat and then return for his presentation.
After getting back to camp Aurora said she was not hungry and only wanted a snack. Then she wanted to go for a paddle on East Bearskin. I wanted to process some more wood before we went canoeing. I begsn yo saw and split up some wood we had at camp, while Aurora went out and collected some downed trees and drug them back to camp. She was the chatter bug with our 2 way radios while she was out scrounging up some wood. I was finding it difficult to do my chore. We achieved what we needed to so I portaged the canoe to the lake and away we went.
When we left to paddle on East Bearskin, we took advantage of the pebble lined water for Aurora to work on getting in the canoe via wet foot and on her own. Amazing. To see and hear her excitement at overcoming her fear of doing so was awesome. When she was seated she exclaimed "I did it!!!" and there I sat overfilled with Joy.
We ended up paddling back to Bearskin Lodge instead of driving. We had about 45min before the next presentation I wanted to watch was to start and Aurora was now hungry. Bearskin lodge was only serving brats and Aurora does not like brats and she did not want to wait for the presentation to be over to go get something to eat. I ended up forgoing the presentation so we could paddle back to camp and drive to Trail Center for supper. Missing the presentation was absolutely the right thing to do as I need to ensure that I am flexible to meet Aurora’s realistic needs/wants/desires. Back at the trail to our campsite, Aurora exited the canoe via wet foot and all by herself. We had a fabulous meal as usual at Trail Center and headed back to camp. We walked the trail by our camp back over to the lake where I had left the canoe and Aurora and I went stone hunting.
Sitting back at camp, the gnats were awful and they chased Aurora into the car while I set about getting the fire going. Shortly after I got the fire going my fingers on my right hand had started to have shooting/throbbing pain, then I noticed my forearm hurt. I pulled up my sleeve and I had 2 huge welts. The pain started to travel from my forearm up to my armpit. By this time I was already getting Aurora so she could see how to treat this reaction and she said “isn’t it odd that we just attended the safety presentation on allergic reactions/” Very observant child. I took the opportunity to show her how to clean it and make a cool compress for it. She even said, “Don’t you need to take that one pill?” About 20 minutes later, and after Aurora had already very emphatically said multiple times said to the bugs “go away, leave me alone”, she loudly announced “these bugs are driving me crazy, I’m going to the tent!” and she stomped off to the tent. Thankfully she only received one bite our entire trip. I tidied up camp and followed very close behind her. It was not long before we were both in dreamland.
Sunday…go home day. We had not decided on our plans for the day. I had left that up to Aurora. She had the option of getting a day permit to paddle into the BWCA, just paddle East Bearskin and play by the lake, play by the lake or just load up and head home. Well, she started with let’s just play by the lake and then go home, to play by the lake and then paddle only East Bearskin. Once out paddling she decided that she wanted to get a day trip permit. So we paddled to the public put in spot and issued ourselves a day permit. In the issuing box someone had placed a damnit doll inside of it (happy I did not need to use it). From there we headed back to the trail to camp to get appropriate gear to take with on a day trip. I needed to get a dry bag, the first aid kit, our InReach Explorer, snacks and an additional bottle of water.
We left the campground and paddled the north side of East Bearskin up to the Moon lake portage. Along the way, Aurora spotted the BWCA sign and exclaimed “We are in the BWCA now”. I smiled from ear to ear and my vision became a little blurry. During this paddle Aurora too request to paddle all by herself. I was completely amazed at the power she had behind her stroke even on the somewhat wavy waters. She said “I don’t like paddling on this side”. I explained to her that we all have a preferred side but we need to be able to paddle from both sides. She took that in and began developing her stroke on her “weak” side.
We arrived at the Moon lake portage to a snake greeting us. It had apparently just captured its lunch; a frog was ½ way into its mouth. We were unable to portage the trail across to Moon as time would not allow. We took a few pictures, explored our surrounding a little and had a snack before heading back. I was ok with us not being able to head over to moon as the real reason for this trip was to test our skills paddling our new to us canoe on a lake larger than a puddle and to let Aurora and myself build our paddling skills.
On the way back we traveled the south side and experienced frequent wind gusts that showed Aurora the importance of needing to be able to paddle both sides. She started to develop a feel for what side she should be paddling on during those gusts and more importantly she ultimately ended up with fairly nice smooth cadence to her strokes and in switching paddling sides too.
We were getting close to the Crocodile portage and Aurora says, “Quiet for a sec. Is that the trees blowing or is that water I hear?” I was just about a puddle of tears at that. That brought such joy that she has developed that awareness of sounds and what they might represent. I told her I was not sure, that I would look at the map; sure enough, between the first and only camp site on the south side and the portage to Crocodile the map showed a stream of water running from Crocodile to East Bearskin. We headed to the campsite and it was not taken so Aurora wet foot got out of the canoe and ran up to camp, I pulled the Difference Maker up on shore and joined her. My first reaction to the camp was “Yuck”, there are no tent pads. To which Aurora exclaimed, “Oh yes there is, come over here.” There was a short 20 ft or so path from the proper camp area that led to a beautiful tent pad that was located close to the rapids portion of the water outlet. We proceeded to make our way to the waterfall head. To watch Aurora navigate the trail and how she just glows and thrives in this surrounding sure warmed my heart. One section of the trail was very enthralling to me; it spoke of perseverance in adverse environments. Let your roots go deep. We did not play in the water at all but absorbed the wonder of nature for awhile.
We paddled back to the campground in a little bit more trying wind. A few small white caps appeared at times but nothing worrisome for me. The Difference Maker was just that. She was stable and we were not blown about. On our paddle back I came to know that Aurora has a great paddling foundation and that she will perfect it with experience. What she displayed totally caught me by surprise and gave me enough confidence in her abilities to say “We Got this baby girl”. I also decided that she was ready for her very own paddle that was her fit. She earned and deserves it. We made it back to the landing and loaded the Difference maker on the car. It was time for this excursion to come to an end. Aurora asked if we were stopping back at the expo before we left the campground for the last time this trip (her reason found out later was she wanted to play at their beach). I said “Well that depends, would you like to get your own paddle?” She answered with a resounding “yes”. One last stop is in order at the expo where she was able to choose her first paddle from Glorud Design. I ordered it in a 48” and we are hoping it is ready in time for our Maiden Mother/Daughter Voyage of our “true” overnight BWCA trip this upcoming July.