BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 17 2019
Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1217 feet
Larch Creek - 80
Larch Creek to Gneiss Lake 7/29-8/1
July 28, 2019
Number of Days:
We quickly setup camp under a light rain and made sandwiches for our "possible lunch" we would have during our trip the next day.
By 9pm it started raining and it rained pretty consistently throughout the night. By 9:30 most of us were in our tents...though two people in our group decided to just sleep in their van because they didn't want to bother setting up stuff.
Side note: We all planned to hammock camp and only I and another person brought a tent for Sunday night so that we wouldn't have to pull everything out of our pack and then tear it back down in the AM. My tent was one of those cheap "quick setup" tents from Walmart. It literally took 60 seconds to setup. ~Gunflint Lake
After cleaning up we left around 7:10am and headed to gunflint outfitters. New this year is a shorter video that they show. Yeah! Though I do miss the "fake bear" in the old video that used to come out and chase people.
After the video Mandy quizzed us on what we saw and then we signed our life away and headed outside to get our paddles and PFD's. After throwing those and our gear into the the canoe trailer we headed out to the Larch Creek Entry point.
Once we jumped in we went through the creek, where at points it was literally the width of the canoe. And after passing over 7 beaver dams - 2 which we could plow through and 5 which we had to jump out of the canoe into about waist to chest high water (I'm 5'9") we found ourselves at the mouth of Larch Creek into Larch Lake (This is where my trip two years ago landed us for the week after starting from Gunflint Lake 2 years ago).
The portage from Larch to Clove was easy. It was an overcast day with moderate wind but fortunately for us most of the wind was a tail wind.
The second portage - known as "Muddy Portage" lived up to it's name. I will said the guy who dropped us off told us the mud was up to the knees in some places. It wasn't. Even after a full night of rain it wasn't "too bad". It was at some places definitely up and over your calf. I didn't get pictures from that day, but here are pictures from Thursday on our way out. It was worse than this on Monday.
After this we proceeded to our 3rd portage, a 72 rod portage where 1/3 is muddy, 1/3 has 6-8' wide wood planks over mud, and then 1/3 (on the north side) normal terrain.
At portage #4 we decided to be daring at 2 of the 3 of us decided to take our chance and run the rapids. DUMB CHOICE. My canoe made it through the first half but then the rapids made us made a sharp left and turned our canoe in a way that it got pinned on a rock and for about 4-5 minutes it took three of us to try to get the canoe out from in between the rushing rapids and the rock that it was stuck on -- all the while the canoe was rapidly filling with water. Shortly behind us, the next group didn't even make it into the rapids before they literally flipped their canoe. Luckily for them (and us) we made shure we had fastened all our gear to the canoe so the only thing that was "lost" was one paddle. We ended up finding that paddle down river.
After that portage there are 2 sections of "fast moving water" that has no portage and so we were a little nervous having just come out of the previous fiasco. To our surprise it was fairly easy to navigate. There are rocks on both side so you need to shoot right down the middle and when you get out of the first section, don't try to turn into the next right away because the current could flip you...just allow the current to take you to where the water stops moving so fast then readjust for the next set of fast moving water.
Once through that section we had a good amount of paddling before our last portage into Gneiss Lake. As many other people here have pointed out, the landing on the north side of that portage is muddy - particularly on the right side and it's that smelly muddy stuff!
We were hoping to land a spot on the island to camp, but it was already taken, so we pushed on to try to get the campsite right in the entrance of Devil's Elbow which I had read was decent. Because of experience, I told one of our group members to stay at the campsite just north of the island campsite just in case the one in Devil's elbow was taken. Based on "group moral" I could tell that they didn't want to be traveling any more. Also the weather was starting to turn and most of us were anxious to setup camp.
My canoe went alone up to Devil's Elbow to go stake out the campsite but the wind was wipping through that section so hard that we literally could not make any forward movement. As we would find out the next day, Devil's Elbow empties into Gneiss lake, so with that current plus the wind we were never going to make it through.
We turned back around and made camp at the one we left some of our party at. We all wanted to hammock camp and unfortunately this was a TERRIBLE site for 6 hammocks. There were about 2-3 really good spots but the other 4-5 spots were ones we had to get create to make work. Needless to say, finding a right place for our hammocks was the least of our worries.
Our first night was brutally cold. But I'll save that info for the next days since most of the suffering was literally that morning...
~Larch Lake, Clove Lake, Gneiss Lake
On a side note, two years ago I went and it was so hot that I couldn't take off enough layers so I didn't realize how cold it could get - but I did purchase a portable sleeping pad, which I ended up not being able to use because I was trying to help the two guys who literally only had light blankets. Actually...they were literally the blankets you get when flying delta!
So after a brutal morning we made breakfast and then I went fishing. I caught a good size norther pike and a smallmouth bass while the other guys I was with caught a pike. Those three were enough to feed the six of us for our late lunch/early dinner. All of those fish were caught at the small section that empties into Devil's Elbow. We caught NO FISH the whole trip on Gneiss Lake, but it should be said that we only tried shore fishing on Gniess Lake. ~Gneiss Lake
Most of us were tired from being up all night so most everyone chilled on the campsite or literally slept. I went fishing, but that's because that's one of the main reasons I go up to the BWCA :) ~Gneiss Lake
It only took us 4 hours! Lesson: take multiple trips because you move faster with lighter weight than lugging with lots of weight slowly.
Once we got back to our entry point, we were told that the ranger station would be open and we could use the phone there. There was no one there. This is the only reason I would not go in on Larch Creek in the future. Fortunately I was able to hitch a ride about an hour later from someone who stopped to use the bathroom at that station.