BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
December 10 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 3
Elevation: 1471 feet
East Bearskin Lake - 64
June 17, 2020
East Bearskin Lake
Number of Days:
Woke up sorta lazily, and finished packing before heading north to the Gunflint Trail. Lots of Lupine on the sides of the roads from Duluth onwards. Pulled into Gooseberry Falls State Park for a bathroom break and it was a zoo! I couldn't believe it, on a Wednesday mid-day no less!
Continued on. Thought about stopping by the Alpine Slide at Lutsen, but we were on the lollygag train back home, so we didn't arrive in time. Decided we'd hit up Java Moose, however we were too late for that as well!
We were staying at the East Bearskin Campground - camper cabin, so we pulled into Bearskin Lodge Outfitters. The place was not very busy at all. I walked up the stairs to the lodge [which on an aside, completely reminded me of a Summer Camp], the bear statues outside were all outfitted in masks, so I was very glad my slew of cotton masks from Old Navy came in. It wasn't required, but heavily appreciated, and I was happy to oblige.
Right when you walked in to the entryway they had signs up and lots of hand sanitizer asking you to sanitize before you entered. They had the main lodge blocked off, and had a table up so you just waited. They grabbed our key to the cabin, and told us to leave it on the table in the morning.
As far as our permit, your confirmation email from recreation.gov served as your permit for the weekend. So we were off to the cabin.
We pulled in to a parking spot, ordered up, and then ate on the picnic tables across from Trail Center. The two ladies working on Wednesday night were a hoot. I was sad we couldn't go in, but they were making due, and appeared to be very busy.
After dinner, went back to the camper cabin, and played card games, and read. Another group pulled into the camper cabin near ours, and continually slammed the screen door all night long, and the "mom" was screaming at someone for quite a while. We were all really excited to get into the backcountry away from all the noise.
The camper cabin was SUPER creaky, so everytime you moved, it woke everyone up, so we all had a fitful night of sleep, but it was also so nice to be so close to the EP for the morning.
Woke up around 5 a.m. and decided to make myself a cup of coffee before we headed into the Boundary Waters. I had my MSR Pocket Rocket with, so it was a breeze.
We quickly packed up at the camper cabin, and were on the lake before no time. We officially hit the water at 6:45 a.m.
It was a decent paddle through East Bearskin, and through to Alder. The portage between East Bearskin and Alder was a cake walk! Nice pine needles to walk on, it was easy as a State Park trail. Mini_MN (henceforth known as simply "MNy") upgraded to a CCS Rucksack and was super happy to have room to carry essentials such as a sleep mask, a few books, and a stuffed animal! She also carried her own sleeping bag/mat, TP and the first aid kit!
While paddling on Alder we noticed EVERY campsite was full. We were aiming for site 708, but there was someone on it. It looked as though they might be packing up, but just before we asked they disappeared into the woods. We waited for a while in the bay but they didn't reappear, so we paddled across to campsite 706, but that was taken as well.
On to Canoe! Both western campsites were full, as we paddled down towards Pine/Crystal a family was leaving the easternmost campsite and they said it was free. We were relieved until we pulled up to the site. It was nothing to write home about and left us all a little depressed. We didn't feel like carrying all our gear over the pine/caribou portage, and I didn't read good things about the sites over on Crystal.
We pulled up on the shore of the eastern site of Canoe just to be sure before we gave up a free campsite. It was definitely not good for hammock camping, so we were about to get back into the canoe when we noticed the fire grate was still warm, and the coals still burning. We got out our cups and doused the fire, and stirred up the pit to ensure that it was all out. It might have been fine, but we refused to learn later that a fire had broken out and we could have prevented it.
We headed back to Alder to check out the 708 4/5 star site with a plan to head east towards Pirez if it was full. I prayed the whole time, and WALA, it was FREE! It was PERFECT for hammock camping. It had a great gravel shoreline and was shallow, great for swimming.
After lazily setting up camp, we headed to one of the bays to do a little fishing. We enjoyed fishing with a loon and beaver friend and pretended we had a podcast called Mny Mic giving play-by-plays of our fishing.
We caught a few smallies, a few keepers, but we threw them all back.
Tonight for dinner we had spaghetti and sausage.
Washing dishes was a BEAST with the mosquitos! MNy was helping me, and I told her at one point to just run back to the fire grate with dad, but she wanted to make sure I was okay... we had a small fire before retiring to our hammocks for the night.
After a leisurely wakeup, we decided to leave on Saturday instead of Sunday. MNy was staying with a friend way over in Walker for a few days and we felt it was going to be too much traveling, in one day. We had friends with a cabin in Longville, so that was the plan.
We decided today was going to be the daytrip over to Johnson Falls.
We paddled over to Canoe, and did the very easy portage, and then dropped the canoe off at the portage. There was loads of room to leave a canoe well out of the way for other paddlers passing through. We did notice someone left all their gear right in the middle of the portage which was kind of odd concidering there was so much room on the sides, but whatever...
The path over to Pine was very remenicent of my time on the Superior Hiking Trail. MNy kept saying she was pro-portage, and wanted to do a hiking trip with me, but after the Canoe/Pine portage she recinded her offer.
Once we finally made it to Pine we saw several more canoes stashed out of the way. I thought the path to Johnson Falls was going to be more on the portage between Canoe/Pine, but it was right at the waters edge to take a hard western turn, but it was also super obvious where the trail was.
We traversed the sometimes mucky trail, but again, easy to follow along. We came across two guys, and as they got closer, I yelled out, "Hey... I know you!" It was Frenchy19! We exchanged pleasantries, and acknowledged that the BWCA was SOOO busy! It was nice to see a familiar face, but also strange as well out in the "wilderness".
We passed another family coming away from Johnson Falls, and at last, had the falls to ourselves. Mr. MN and MNy switched into swimsuits (I forgot mine at home) and enjoyed the falls, while I took off my boots, and enjoyed a foot bath!
We had probably a good 30+ minutes of the falls to ourselves and enjoyed a little trail snack of various kinds of trail mix from Target (Archer Farms, cos its the best) and Lorissa's Jerky.
MNy wanted to do a little swimming from shore at our campsite, so we headed back and relaxed for a while. Tonight on the menu was one of Cowdoc, Kiporby and Kanoes favorite of Tuna, Knorrs Parmesean, and frenches fried onions. After dinner we paddled over to the bay near campsite 706 again for fishing, and then headed over to Pirez after recommendation by Andy from Tuscarora Lodge.
Pirez was a very cool little lake. It was very quiet, and looked just about perfect for fishing. We had ZERO luck and were throwing out topwater lures, Johnson spoons, and flicker shads with no luck. I was glad I got to see the little lake though, and we were treated to a serene paddle back to our campsite.
Once back at camp, we enjoyed some wine (us adults) and smores (kiddo), and retired pretty late to the hammocks after reading some BWJ, and drifting to sleep. I woke up to a barred owl, and though I heard wolves very far out to the distance, maybe towards Clearwater Lake, but wasn't sure. Went back to bed until 9 a.m.
Awoke at 9 a.m. Mr. MN had gone out fishing, and was back lazily tearing down camp. I made myself some coffee and began helping out as well. Later on MNy awoke, and enjoyed some grape nuts for breakfast [1/2 c grape nuts, 1T + 1t of dried milk, and sugar, add 1/2 C water).
We left camp around 11:30 and very lazily paddled out of the BWCA.
We went through two cans of bug spray in the few days we were out in the woods! I've never seen so many mosquitos in my life! The biting flies weren't as bad as they were over on the Superior Hiking Trail, but the squitos were HORRENDOUS!
On exit we of course swung into Java Moose, and stopped by Worlds Best Donuts! Definitely be prepared to wear a mask in Grand Marais. They're not required, but you'll probably be the only one w/o a mask if you don't bring one, and they're very much appreciated. No matter how you feel personally, know you're making others comfortable at the very least, and to me, that's worth it.
I think all in all, we're an Ely bunch, but I was super glad to finally see Johnson Falls.
Until next time.