BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
October 04 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1217 feet
2010 Trip with 2 daughters
August 04, 2010
Number of Days:
This is to be a trip for me, my two daughters, my dad, and his friend Donny. The girls started calling him Dondoe, and I’m sure it made his trip that much better. My dad has been going to the BWCA for about 15 years, every year, and Donny has been going for over 30 years. We will be staying in the campground at McFarland Lake at the end of the Arrowhead Trail.
We started off making the drive from Wisconsin Rapids to Grand Marais at 10:30PM on Tuesday the 3rd. I wanted to start the drive at this time for a couple reasons. First, that would put us in Grand Marais about 6AM just in time for breakfast and last minute items like leeches to purchase. And Secondly, so that the girls would sleep most of the trip since it is quite a drive. The drive is to be about 410 miles one way from door to campground. As it worked out, the times were very well thought out. WE arrived in GM about 5:45 and when we finished breakfast at “South of the Border”, it was 6:30 and Bucks hardware store was open for business.
My youngest daughter, Alex, slept most of the way. She did get up when we stopped in Spooner for gas, potty break, and a snack (lunchable). My oldest girl, Faith, is one of those sociable people that love to know everything that goes on. If we were talking about something or telling stories, it seemed like she was awake and listening, lol. I love that about her, I see my wife in her so much and always brings a smile to my face.
After breakfast and our last minute purchases, we headed up the Arrowhead trail to the campground. We checked out where we wanted to camp and choose an open spot near the bathrooms that had room for our overpacking, lol. We set up two large tents, two screen tents, an awning in case it rains and to keep the sun off the never ending supply of coolers. There is a nice firepit there which we used every night for a campfire. Once camp was set up, we got the canoes ready to go out fishing. Here is where the preparations change with having the kids. I needed to have and carry ALL the poles, tackle, snacks, drinks, warm clothes, cool clothes, rain coats, and a couple other things. Did I mind? Not a bit, I loved having the kids there and I had already figured this was their trip and not mine.
WE headed out through Little John and into John lake into the wind the whole time. Faith was up front and paddled great, Alex (all 33 #’s of her) was in the center and into the snacks 10 minutes after shoving off. I realized in John Lake that I did not have enough weight up front. We ended up backwards on quite a few occasions. WE stopped by the first campsite in John so the girls could do some exploring. Meanwhile, I unpacked the rods and got ready to fish a little from shore. The wind was right at us and I could almost cast out 20 feet, which did not get past the rocks at shore. I got the girls to get back in the canoe (SR Q17) and we started into the wind again attempting to drag a crawler harness. We got spun around again a couple times and I resorted to hugging the shore for a while. Then we shot out into the lake until the depth read 8-10’ and I threw down a bag or rocks anchor. WE fished for a couple hours, dragging and drifting, until we decided to head back to camp. Somehow the wind shifted and we ere once again heading into the wind through Little John. At the bridge I saw a nice smallie swim past, so I fished a little. I caught one nice one and lost it while getting out the stringer. Then Faith,who was wading in the rocks with me, pointed out another nice fish. I tried to cast over to it and missed by 8’ with the wind, but as soon as the lure hit the water I had a fish on! I got that one in the boat and on the stringer about the time my dad and Donny were coming back off John with a nice stringer of Walleyes. WE got back to camp, cooked up a nice fish dinner and relaxed the rest of the day since it looked like storms. Storms never came and it cleared up nice so we had a fire and made some memories! Little John Lake, John Lake
WE got up early with plans to portage over to East Pike Lake. We were up by 6:30 (early for the girls), ate some breakfast, loaded the canoe with PLENTY of stuff to keep the girls occupied. Donny and my dad had left earlier to fish John a while until we got there. Repeat of yesterday, lots of wind even as early as it was. It took us over an hour and a half to paddle to the portage into East Pike. I strapped everything into the canoe and hoisted it onto my shoulders. “this could be fun!”,lol. Everything was balance pretty good, the girls went off with grandpa to look for berries along the way. I stopped 2 times to rest and made it to East Pike. They had talked how long the portage was, but I found it to be a pretty easy portage. Even though East Pike ran in a different direction than John, the wind was really ripping straight at us AGAIN! I loaded the canoe a lot better and added some rocks to the front, by the girls, along with their large, heavy, drink and snack filled soft sided cooler, lol. We were able to actually steer the thing today even though the wind was bad. WE made it to the other side and started to fish. Alex decided since she had a couple snacks already that she was ready for a nap. Faith was ready to fish and it did not take long to start catching some smallies. We fished for most of 5 hours and caught over 50 fish. WE kept 5 and I cut them up on shore to add to our cooler of ice. The girls went off with the guts and found an out of the way place to bury them away from any camps and not near the portage trail. I loaded the canoe back up and walked back to John. We then realized the wind had stayed where it was and we could drift back to Little John. We would drift while trolling, catch a fish, drop anchor and fish, etc. We caught another 25-30 perch, though most were small, but we had enough for another fish fry. The girls spent ALL DAY in the canoe, about 11 hours counting the portages. I could not have asked for more, they did great. They even wanted to go fish and explore under the bridge after we ate and we caught another smallie there. East Pike Lake, Little John Lake, John Lake
This day I had decided to take the girls into town to give them a break from the canoe, so I got them up at 7AM, it was only 43 degrees and I had started the truck up to warm up. WE had breakfast at the Blue ___Cafe (can’t remember the name), what a great meal! WE then walked around town for a while, the kids did the kiddie rides, too small for Faith, but she rode with her sister, lol. They wanted to swim, so we drove to the municipal pool. It was adult only lap swim until noon, so we were not going to wait that long and went back to town. WE did some shopping for their mom and little brother, went on the inflatable rides, had an ice-cream cone, grabbed some more ice, soda, snacks ;), and headed back to camp. WE got back to camp about 12:00, dad and Donny had fished for a while and had some fish left over for us to eat for lunch. Then I paddled the girls over to the “beach” to swim for a while. They swam for an hour or so, we got back into the canoe and then napped while we paddled to the portage to Pine Lake. This paddle was quite a workout with no help, into the wind of course. We got to the portage at 5PM. Dad and Donny were going to meet us there about 5:30, so we went exploring by the campsite closest to the portage, nice camp site. They arrived and we paddled across pine, again into the white caps. We got across with Faith’s help keeping us straight, she did a great job and I let her know that. Once on the other side we anchored and fished. We caught a few smallies, but no walleyes. Donny and dad caught a couple smallie’s and one nice walleye, so once again we had fish to fry. By the time we got back to camp it was 10:30, so no time to cook. We had a sandwich and went to bed. Another great day with the girls, and a cold night. McFarland Lake, Pine Lake
The original plan was to take the Royal River down to the Fowl lakes and hike to the top of the cliff, fish a little on South Fowl, and canoe back up river to John. Plans had changed and it turned into a more relaxed day of fishing on John and Little John. We awoke to a very cold morning and packed the canoe after breakfast. We then fished for a few hours on John where we were catching quite a few perch again. Then Faith had a large fish on, it ran a few times taking a lot of line out, she reeled it in, it took it out, etc. She fought the fish for 6-7 minutes and I had the net ready. She brought it close and we saw the fish, a nice sized pike. The fish went under the boat, just out or reach with the net. It came back from under the boat as a………perch, all tore up. She was disappointed, but it sure was fun to watch her work that fish, and Alex had fun watching her also. WE then traveled to the campsite near the Royal River portage and let the girls explore some more. I tried a little fishing in the “hole”, with no luck. WE decided at this campsite that the fishing portion of the trip was complete. After the girls started getting hungry, we headed back to camp. Dad and Donny had caught quite a few nice perch for yet another fish lunch. WE then took the boat over to the “beach” and we all had a swim and relaxed. WE went back to camp, tore down all but the tents and the awning just in time for the rain to start. WE played cards for a while with a fire near, and went to bed early. Little John Lake, John Lake
Sunday was travel day. We woke about 7AM and started the job of packing up. We were ready to go and all packed up by 8:30 since most of the packing was completed Sat. night. The girls woke up wanting to stay another night, so I know they had fun. We are planning to bring their mother (wife), next year. We will see if we can find someone to watch the 2 yo. Trip home was uneventful and we got back in town by 5:30. Overall, it was a great trip, and a lot of great memories with my two girls. They did so well, I am very proud of both of them!