BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 23 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1214 feet
Pine Lake - 68
Pine Lake 2014
June 15, 2014
Number of Days:
We decide that we will drive up to Tofte and stay at a friend’s so that we will be closer and can hopefully get to pine before the wind picks up. We arrive at the house and we all head out to Our Place in Isabella for dinner. Food was great as always and now it is back to the house for some sleep and hopefully to wake up early. Before bed my dad and I have a best of 3 cribbage match and he wins 2-0, so he is up 1-0 right now. The plan for tomorrow is to leave at 6 am.
We wake up and eat pancakes and smoked white fish for breakfast. We are on the road at 7 am which is close enough to the time we planned on. The drive up is shorter than I thought it was going to be and we are to the lake around 0830 am. The parking lot is empty so it looks like we will be able to take any campsite that we want. We unpack the car and we are on Mcfarland Lake at 0900 and the winds are against us, but it is a gentle breeze and is easy paddling. At the end of Mcfarland we realize we forgot our Porterhouse steaks back at the house so that was a downer however we have enough food to make up for it plus we will catch fish so it isn’t too terrible. My wife and I make it to the small channel connecting Mcfarland to Pine first and paddle across it without any difficulty as the water is really high. Once we are on Pine however the wind is a lot stronger and is going to be quite difficult. My dad and sister catch up and we are off to find a campsite. The paddling quickly wears us out as we are going against white caps the entire time and occasionally the wind gusts get up to around 25 mph we are guessing. We pass the second campsite (if you are counting the one that is on Mcfarland/Pine) and decide to keep going. Not too long after passing that campsite I decide I need a break so I we veer toward the north shore which was a terrible idea. As soon as we hit shore the waves really start to rock us and we almost flip before I push us backwards and start paddling again. Looks like we are not going to get rest, so slow and steady paddling is all we can do. As we paddle I am looking for the point on the north side that has an island hoping we can get some cover around there. We finally make it to the point and we are able to get some cover. My dad and I get out and walk around just to stretch before continuing on. My initial plan was to get the fourth campsite however I am now leaning on taking the third one which is the one on the north side in the bay just past the island. The reason being I do not want to paddle a whole lot more and this one seems to be just around the point. Back in the canoes and around the point and the winds are still really strong. We are able to get behind the island and spot the campsite, almost there. Before we make the final paddle I tell my wife that we are going to be sideways in the winds so don’t over react when the waves hit us as this is when canoes will flip she says she knows and we are off. Halfway across and she spots loons and forgets about the wind, near flip but we hold off and safely make it to the campsite. My dad and sister are not too far behind. We all agree that it is a good campsite and start to make camp. There are two decent spots for tents with maybe a third. We set up 2 four-man tents, we packed heavy because we didn’t have to portage otherwise we would normally have far less. We also set up 3 hammocks; this site is fairly large given what we normally encounter. We are eager to fish so we cast off from shore and my dad catches a nice small mouth bass right away so fishing looks promising. We put that on a stringer just in case we don’t catch anything else to make up for the steak. After a while the wind dies down and we all go out to try fishing. My dad and sister head for the bay while my wife and I head for the island. I catch a decent small mouth bass right away that we keep, however the wind is back at full force so we head back in.
We encounter a snake that is quite friendly while we are getting the fish ready. Cook up some fish with red potatoes and onions over the fire. Then my dad and I have another best of 3 Cribbage match, this time I win 2-1. We are now 1-1 and now it is time for bed.
We wake up early and there is hardly any wind but it is coming out of the west again. We have some eggs, salami, and leftover potatoes for breakfast. The plan is to make it to Johnson’s Falls and then the wind should carry us back to camp. So we eat breakfast and head out. Paddling is easy but it is a long ways. We make it to the west end of the lake and find the trail for the falls. The trail is muddy at first and then as we get higher it dries out. The falls are amazing and worth the trip over. It also seems to be really popular as we encounter 3 different groups on our way out. The trip back, the wind is going with us for once and I catch a 5lb northern which I put on the stringer for dinner. My dad catches another bass but we let this one go. We decide that since the wind is with us that we are going to check out Vale Lake. On the way to Vale we stop at the camp site on the south side of the lake and it seems really nice. There are lots of tent pads and fishing areas on it. Anyways on we go. We find the portage pretty easily and decide to leave the canoes and just bring the poles. The portage is grueling and not sure I would even attempt to bring the canoe. It’s not long but it is steep, really steep. We do some shore fishing here but nothing so we head back to the canoes. Back at the canoes and the wind has switched direction and is now out of the east, great! So on we go and some guy meets us out in the middle of lake in a canoe that is equipped with foot pedals and floats on the sides. I didn’t think you could have anything mechanical in the BWCA but whatever. He offers some advice on where to fish and then is on his way to check out some other campsites. We make it back to camp and start a fire. Tonight is Northern and pasta with some hot chocolate (with peppermint schnapps). After dinner I want to try some walleye fishing with worms off of the island but no luck. Another best of 3 Cribbage series and I win 2-1 again. I am now up 2-1 for the trip. We lay out on the rock until the stars come out and it is amazing as usual.
We wake up early and the wind is already starting to pick up. We have pancakes for breakfast. We want to take it easy today so we plan on heading to Gadwall Lake to try for Brook Trout again. We find the portage without any trouble and leave the canoes yet again. The portage is terrible, all swamp at first to the point we are not even sure we are on the trail. A couple of us soak our shoes as we fall off of the logs we are balancing on. We contemplate going back because we don’t know where the trail is but I see something and want to check it out. It turns out to be the trail and so on we go. The rest of the portage is like Vale, straight up hill. Lots of spots to fish from, seems like someone uses this lake a lot. I remember reading someone’s trip report that they came across a canoe and some camping stuff hidden in the woods. I search for it but I could not find it. I did however find two makeshift campsites so I would not be surprised if someone left a canoe up here given how terrible the portage is. Anyways back to fishing we don’t have any luck which surprises me because my dad and I usually do well with Brook Trout. So after a couple hours we decide to head back out. We lost the trail again on the way out but just like last time we were able to find it. We have another paddle against the wind back to the site it isn’t too strong. I put a Little Cleo on my wife’s pole and a Rooster Tail on mine to try for some Lakers but no luck there. We are all worn out so we take naps and do some shore fishing with no luck. Lunch is grilled cheese with soup but no bowls for the soup (you always forget something right). We are pretty lazy the rest of the day and just enjoying our last night. Dinner is instant mashed potatoes and fried salami. We play a game of hearts before we head to bed early as we want to wake up and break camp before the wind picks up. On a side note: There was a storm coming through and a goose got separated from the rest of the V. You could tell that it was scared as it kept honking trying to find them. He eventually settled on the water and it was quite sad as we could hear him for quite a while. However, after the winds had subsided the flock came back for him so it turned out to be a good memory.
We wake up early but it doesn’t matter the wind is already going and it is going to be against us the entire way out. We have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before we leave. The wind isn’t terrible until we round the point and there are white caps as far as you can see. We head into it anyway and slowly make progress. The wind then picks up and we are in 2 ½ to 3 foot waves and although we are making progress we are moving very slowly and it is going to be a long day. The 3 footers stop all momentum and they splash us pretty good. My dad and sister take the lead (still has me beat in his older years). We make it to the channel between Pine and Mcfarland and stop at the campsite to get some rest. We walk around the campsite and we find two 5 horse motors padlocked to a tree and yes it crossed my mind to take it out since Mcfarland isn’t a small lake either but we don’t. We put back in and continue onto Mcfarland and the wind won’t let up. It is no longer 3 footers but we are sapped for energy now and any wind is too much. Another thought crosses my mind, that we should put in at someone’s house and walk back to the car but we don’t. My wife starts pouting saying that she can’t paddle anymore but I give her false hope that once we get to the point in the distance we will be there (which is not true). She is not the happiest once she figures this out, but now we really can see the boat launch now so she lets it slide. We make it to the launch and load up. Some other people show up and I am a little irritated that they have the wind with them but that is how it goes sometimes. On the way out we stop at My Sister’s Place and have some burgers which are excellent.
Conclusion: We all agree that the fishing was terrible but the trip itself was still good. Both my sister and wife say they never want to do another lake of that size and I guess I won’t disagree with them. At least if we do another lake that size it would be nice to have bigger islands or points to shelter ourselves from the wind. I’m sure the fishing can be good if you know where to go and the wind cooperates with you. I floated a worm of the bottom most of the time at camp as that usually works for me but not this time. With or without fish though, it was still a great time.