BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 09 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1214 feet
Pine Lake - 68
4 Days on Pine October 2014
October 02, 2014
Number of Days:
We left Duluth at 5:00am and headed up the North Shore. I had never done a trip on the Eastern side of the Boundary Waters, and was very excited for the sights and sounds of the day. My partner on this trip, was my best friend from high school, who has went on several trips with me before. It is also the first time I have done a trip with just 2 of us. We were anticipating a little more work around camp and had planned accordingly. The weather report leading up to the trip looked awful. We packed very heavy, knowing we were not going to have any portages to our campsite. We stopped in Grand Marais and had some breakfast before getting to Hovland and heading up the Arrowhead Trail. The wildlife on the way up the Arrowhead was incredible! I saw my first ever lynx in the wild halfway up the trail. I was surprised at how big they are. Shortly thereafter, we saw a nice sized red fox on the trail. We made it to the entry point and were surprised to not see another vehicle in the parking lot. We hit the water on Mcfarland Lake and were off! I was really appreciating the calm water we encountered through Mcfarland and then on Pine as well. Our game plan was to head to the southern campsite near the Vale Lake portage. We didn't see a soul on our way across the lake and pulled into our desired campsite. The campsite was great! Wide open with some very large pines. The fire grate overlooked Pine Lake in all its glory. Great places to put our tent and hang our food. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] We quickly made camp and enjoyed some brats over the fire for lunch. We decided to gather a large pile of firewood since there was plenty of rain in the forecast. We made a huge ground tarp to keep our firewood dry for the duration of our stay. Soon after being satisfied with our heaping pile of firewood, we decided to hit Pine Lake and do some fishing. We knew our time fishing Pine was going to be limited this week, with day trips planned to pursue brook trout on both Vale and Gadwall Lakes. We hit the water and I was amazed at how clear the lake was. I could see my jig on the bottom in 15 feet of water. I broke out the Tail Dancer and was quickly rewarded with some smallmouth bass. [paragraph break] After catching 5 smallies and getting bit of by a pike, we headed in for dinner. We had chicken with Bangkok seasoning in tinfoil, with teriyaki noodles. [paragraph break] After dinner we cleaned up camp and stayed up late drinking hot chocolate and listening to the sounds of the night. We heard a lone wolf way off in the distance and an owl deep in the woods. We did a fair bit of paddling this day and we both were sleeping in no time.
Just after midnight the wind picked up. The switch for the wind stayed on the rest of our trip. With the wind came a very heavy rain overnight. We woke up in the morning to a little water in the tent and a little chill in the air. We had big plans today, so we got to work on a large breakfast. We cooked up bacon and eggs and wolfed them down to get ready for our journey to Vale Lake.[paragraph break] Our plan was to spend most of the day on the lake, eat a little lunch up there, and hopefully bring some trout back to camp for dinner. We got to the portage which was conveniently close to our campsite and thought that we would walk our gear up the portage before grabbing the canoe. We were both surprised about how steep this little portage was. When I finally saw the lake, I turned around to see how far Pine Lake was below me. [paragraph break] [paragraph break] The trip up the portage with the canoe was pretty rough. I made it most of the way, before I came to one of the giant rock walls that cannot be walked up. My buddy helped me get the canoe up the last couple of rises. The wind was roaring on Pine Lake already, so we were pleasantly surprised to see the wind just lightly battering this lake. We got to fishing right away, as we were both so excited to catch that first brook trout. After the first half hour, I had hooked into one! Only to have it jump up and spit my lure back at me... It wasn't too long after that when my buddy put one in the canoe. [paragraph break] We decided to work the area where we caught our first trout a little bit more with some crawlers, etc. It wasn't too long before my buddy had anpther fish on. Soon he brought to the surface one of Vale Lake's famous suckers. We had quite a laugh over our second fish of the day. [paragraph break] We took a break soon after that to have a bite to eat along the Northern shore of the lake. There were a couple of spots that you could tell were well used along that shoreline. I was starting to get a little frustrated that I still had not boated one of these beautys. We hit the water again, and then it happened! I boated my first trout of the trip and it was a beauty! [paragraph break] Soon after that we experienced a small flurry! We got into a bunch of them and just had a blast catching quite a few more! One of them stood out as the most vibrant colored fish of the trip. [paragraph break] We decided to head back with a few of them kept for dinner, while the rest got photographed and let go to swim another day. We slogged back down the hill and prepared our feast of a dinner. The day of fishing and the prospect of a good dinner had really lifted our spirits and helped us forget how miserable the weather around us had been all day. The trout on the campfire was one of the best meals of fish I had ever eaten in my life! [paragraph break] We cleaned up dinner and then sat and looked at the waves still rolling across the lake. The wind had now been blowing for nearly 24 hours. We knew it was going to maintain its might tomorrow. [paragraph break] It was off to bed, wearing nearly all of the clothing we had brought. We knew it was going to be a cold night, but we both settled in to a decent night of sleep.
Around 1:00am I made a little trip outside the tent to take care of some business and lo and behold it was snowing! Small little flakes, but they were just a sign of what was to come this day... We arose in the morning to find the wind still a blowin' and the drizzle/snow still a fallin'. We struggled through the chores of morning making a breakfast of sausage and pancakes. The wind was so bad that as I neared the completion of the first pancake, the wind decided to deposit it on my lap. We quickly moved to the tarp that sheltered our secondary kitchen area. [paragraph break] After we cleaned up breakfast, we called a meeting to see what in the world we were going to do this day. We entertained the idea of just leaving today. The weather was already bad. We thought about just hunkering down in camp all day. And, we also thought about journeying down to Gadwall Lake to chase some more of those delicious/beautiful brook trout. We chose fish! We just couldn't see ourselves bailing on this trip early... We hyped ourselves up got more dressed than we already were and headed out. We hugged the shoreline for the mile or so we had to travel to get to the portage. We knew the Gadwall Lake portage was much longer, so again we walked it with our gear first. The first portion of the portage was through the muckiest, wettest swamp you could imagine. THEN, the traverse straight up the mountain happened. When we finally got to the top, I told my buddy there was no way we where bringing the canoe up today. [paragraph break] We did not want to chance getting very muddy and wet on our last day there, when we knew that last night was going to be a cold one. We had all of our gear up, so we just decided to do some shore fishing. [paragraph break] We were about 20 minutes into our fishing, when it started snowing like crazy! [paragraph break] We toughed it out and soon it stopped again. I then made my way up the northern shoreline. Soon after that, I heard movement in the brush up ahead of me. I initially thought that it was my buddy just sneaking in front of me to fish. Then a gigantic bear head popped out of the brush and was scanning the lake. As its head turned my way, I jumped back into the underbrush. As I moved back, I saw the body of the bear... All six feet of it! I quickly made my way down the trail, whisper-yelling at my buddy that we had to go! He finally heard me as I got to the place we had set down our gear. Of course it was spread all over the ground. I kept glancing back over my shoulder, as this bear had only been about 25 yards from me. It seemed like forever until my buddy finally joined me and we quickly made tracks down the portage. About halfway down the hill we heard movement above us on the hill and I knew the bear was trying to figure out what we were. We got to the boggy swamp and started to delicateley make our way across it. My buddy missed a step and sunk down to his knee in the mud and muck! As he pulled his leg out, the unthinkable happened! His boot stayed behind in the muck hole! I slammed the paddle down to try and get under it and he reached his hand down the hole now filling with water and mud. He got his boot back and kinda just looked at it. I told him to put the darn thing on and at that moment we heard more branches breaking and brush moving. We had to keep moving! We FINALLY got back to the lake only to find the waves were now gigantic and we were going to be paddling right into them! It took us what seemed like an eternity to get back to camp. We headed for refuge in the tent. We were now defeated. That was the last fishing we did on the trip... We game planned to leave the next morning at sunrise. We had plenty of time the rest of the day to prepare camp for the early departure. Dinner was soup and rice. Bedtime was very early. [paragraph break]
With all the preparations we made Saturday night, we hit the ground running on Sunday. We had coffee drank and oatmeal ate before the sun came up. The wind was still going to be an issue this morning, but at least it would be our backs. We packed up and headed off into the sun. The trip across Pine was FAST, a little scary at times but FAST! We rocketed across the lake and were surprised to see campers on the first site of the lake. Who knows how long they had been there? I felt pretty bad for them, since heading west had been almost impossible the last 3 days. We made quick work of McFarlane as well, and were glad to see the landing. We were more surprised to see eight vehicles parked there. Where were all these people? We stopped into Betty's Pies for lunch and then parted ways in Duluth. The weather was crumby, but I was so happy that we went in with a goal of catching brook trout, and we were able to do that. I got to see a whole new area of the Boundary Waters and have some great stories to tell.[paragraph break] [paragraph break]