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   Group Forum: Solo Tripping
      1st BWCA trip - late August     

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BuckSgt2034
member (17)member
 
03/13/2019 02:42PM  
Just wanted to into myself to the forum...a friend of mine recently told me about the BW area. I live in Tennessee and haven't enjoyed the outdoors in any of the northern states so I am amazed at what the BW has to offer!

So much so, that, yesterday, I booked a solo trip (7 nights) through Clearwater Historic Lodge that will take place in late August. My entry point is # 55 on August 19.

I AM BEYOND STOKED!!

I enjoy reading all of the great stories, experiences, and information and I'm sure I'll wear you guys out with questions as they arise. Thanks in advance for your advice and tips!

Chad

 
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03/13/2019 03:19PM  
Welcome, Chad -

Ask as many questions as you think of and you'll get lots of (sometimes conflicting) opinions. Everybody has one and will be happy to share it.

Have you decided on a route yet?
 
BuckSgt2034
member (17)member
 
03/13/2019 07:02PM  
I've tentatively chosen the Knife Lake Route but Erik at Clearwater explained to me that I will have lots and lots of options once I'm out there. Just hoping to experience as much as I can.

My plan is to get to the Knife Lake area as quickly as possible, then maybe establish a base camp to set out from and return to. Would that be feasible? Just don't want to have to set up and tear down camp on a daily basis.

Thanks
 
03/13/2019 09:19PM  
I have done EP 55 quite a few times and you will love it. Like you were told many route options to and from Knife. As far as base camping goes, of course that would be feasible. You can do whatever you want when you are soloing. You have no one to answer to but you. There are many lakes off of Knife and South Arm Knife to day trip to. Or just explore Knife and all if it's nooks and crannies.
I would just keep an open mind and remember it your trip, your time, all your planning so do whatever you feel like doing when you get up each day.

If you hadn't already went thru Clearwater I would have suggested Voyageur Outfitters for going out EP55 as they are right there literally so you can get an early start and beat the wind if you plan to paddle Sag. They can outfit you, have plenty of over night options, and can provide a tow to American Point of Sag if it is windy on your entry date. You don't want to be paddling across Sag if it is.

I don't mean to dissuade you from Clearwater and I do not work for VO or anything, I am just saying this because of the convenience of being at your EP. I am actually staying at Clearwater for my June trip as that is my EP.


 
BuckSgt2034
member (17)member
 
03/14/2019 06:04AM  
Very good info...being that its my first trip, I contacted a few outfitters and tried checking as many reviews beforehand as I could find...of course, "bad" reviews weren't very frequent as everybody seems to walk away from the experience on a very positive note. I "interviewed" Erik at Clearwater and I felt comfortable with him and his local knowledge. It truly was a liberating moment when I pulled the trigger and booked my trip!

When discussing my route plan, he did offer the tow up to American Point so that I could avoid the big lake wind and save some time. From what I'm hearing, I think I'll be glad I did.

I am also renting the entire package through them, but will be bringing my own fishing pole (telescopic for travel) and very little else. Is there anything that would be a "must have" item for a good trip? I don't want to carry a lot of crap around that I won't use, but would like to afford myself at least one luxury item...just don't know what that item may be.

I am concerned about boredom while being out there, but hope to keep myself as busy as possible to combat it. I'm somewhat experienced with the outdoors through my time in the Marine Corps, but still have some anxiousness as to what all to expect.

Thanks again for your input!
 
03/14/2019 10:36AM  
Yes, you can base camp - a lot of people do - although it's not my style. I like to travel and see the country, but don't travel really long hard days, and usually factor a layover day into my plans every few days.

Even though you are getting the full outfitting package, there are still a lot of things you'll need to bring so I'd suggest you work on creating a checklist. There are also things they may provide that you may decide to leave behind rather than carry. There are quite a few threads on the forum about checklists and a search for that will yield quite a lot of information. If you make one and share it, people will be happy to offer their suggestions, and many will send theirs if you want.

I'm completely self-outfitted now other than the canoe so am not familiar with what they provide and don't. They will check everything they are sending out with you and rarely is there a problem, but I'd double check everything myself. And make sure you know how everything works.

One thing 'd suggest you consider even if you don't want to set and tear down camp every day, is to consider doing it 2-3 times while returning by a different route to give yourself a more complete experience. You can make the final decision out there.


I don't worry too much about boredom, although many people do. I'm more easily amused than most and find boredom to be a novel and interesting experience. ;) I'd suggest you bring a journal to write down thoughts, experiences, things that worked, didn't work, things you might do differently next time. Yeah, you'll want to do it again. Journaling also keeps you busy as well as being useful. Get a small point and shoot camera that fits in a shirt pocket It's convenient for snapping pictures that will give you a record and it's also something to occupy your mind/time.


 
03/14/2019 01:58PM  
My input on the comfort item is a chair. Lots of ideas on what is best, but a good chair is much better than a log any night. My helinox sunset is important enough to pack in when I backpack, of course it goes with me in the canoe.
 
03/14/2019 09:20PM  
bhouse46: "My input on the comfort item is a chair. Lots of ideas on what is best, but a good chair is much better than a log any night. My helinox sunset is important enough to pack in when I backpack, of course it goes with me in the canoe. "

I was thinking this same thing. I bought a helinox sunset chair this winter. A small am/fm radio with a weather band is useful too. Search in the Gear forum here. Lots of threads about what radio to bring. Welcome to the club!
 
pswith5
distinguished member(3419)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/15/2019 03:51AM  
One thing you might want to bring is your own pfd. I am guessing an outfitters would be be basic. I like something with good pockets. To carry certain items you want handy while moving.
 
gravelroad
distinguished member (388)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/15/2019 08:49AM  
If you haven't done so already, get thee a copy right now of "The Singing Wilderness," the book that has launched a gazillion BWCA trips:

The Singing Wilderness

Not a guide to paddling so much as a guide to the soul for paddlers. Once you've read it, you will most likely want to continue reading Sigurd Olson's stuff:

Books by Sigurd Olson

AFTER that, read:
A Wilderness Within: The Life of Sigurd F. Olson
 
03/15/2019 11:37AM  
gravelroad: "If you haven't done so already, get thee a copy right now of "The Singing Wilderness," the book that has launched a gazillion BWCA trips:


The Singing Wilderness


Not a guide to paddling so much as a guide to the soul for paddlers. Once you've read it, you will most likely want to continue reading Sigurd Olson's stuff:


Books by Sigurd Olson


AFTER that, read:
A Wilderness Within: The Life of Sigurd F. Olson "

Yes, a chair, a great book and a weather radio. That will cover any windy or rainy days. Btw, make sure to bring a tarp.

The Singing Wilderness is a book I brought on a trip long ago. I’ve read that one twice so far.
 
BuckSgt2034
member (17)member
 
03/15/2019 11:46AM  
Excellent suggestions from everyone! I appreciate everyone's valuable input.

I'm so freaking excited about this trip even though I'm 5 months out! I keep wishing it was sooner. It's been a rough year for me personally, so this trip planning is definitely helping to re-focus my energy on something positive.



 
03/16/2019 08:57PM  
pswith5: "One thing you might want to bring is your own pfd. I am guessing an outfitters would be be basic. I like something with good pockets. To carry certain items you want handy while moving. "

I got my own PFD after a few trips and I got one with lots of pockets to hold my "ditch kit" items. I also use them and shirt/pants pockets to hold things I want handy - lunch, snacks, bug juice, headnet, buff/bandana, camera, compass, sunscreen, lip balm, etc.
 
03/16/2019 09:06PM  
You're not the only one who is excited; I've done maybe 15 trips and I still get excited about it - I'm pretty sure I'm not the only other one here :). I like the planning and thinking about, dreaming and anticipating.
 
03/17/2019 08:02AM  
boonie: "You're not the only one who is excited; I've done maybe 15 trips and I still get excited about it - I'm pretty sure I'm not the only other one here :). I like the planning and thinking about, dreaming and anticipating. "

I got out my maps last night for......my 2020 trip!! :) Yes, anticipation is THE BEST emotion for sure.
 
primitiveguy
senior member (54)senior membersenior member
 
03/17/2019 09:18PM  
I’ve got a permit for May 11 and I’m finding the wait excruciating! A lot of the area south of knife has burned recently and I recommend looking at burn maps and thinking about your expectations. The rebirth of the forest has many interesting features but traveling in recently burned areas can be disappointing if your expecting old growth virgin timberlands.
 
hobbydog
distinguished member(1975)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/18/2019 06:22AM  
I would bring a regular fishing rod, it ties into the canoe nicely and no extra effort to bring along. Knife is an excellent fishing lake. I never worry about bears but Knife in late August seems to have more than its fair share. If you are out and about during the day bring all your food with you. You might look at returning via Kek and Seagull. It will give you a better feel for the BWCA and what it has to offer. Your load should be lighter and navigating and portaging is part of the deal. Ask the outfitter about this route. Picking up and moving camp is not that bad, especially when solo, it keeps you and your mind busy.
 
lindylair
distinguished member(2486)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/18/2019 07:29PM  
Buck, cool to see your excitement. Enjoy these next few months because the planning is half the fun. You are going at a good time, relatively stable weather still warm during the day and bugs will be much less prevalent than earlier in the year. But it could get kinda chilly at night, especially in light of what you might be used to in TN.

Some random thoughts:

Single or double portage? I would recommend double portaging. Single is faster. Double is smarter and safer. Enjoy the walk back after the first trip and really look at the woods. No hurry.

If possible, have your outfitter include a gravity water filter system as opposed to a hand pump system. Soooo much better.

Always wear your PFD on the water. Bring a spare paddle.

Attach a painter rope to the front of your canoe and always tie it off when you stop. You don't want the feeling of watching your canoe drift away in the middle of nowhere.

A lightweight chair will add comfort (since you are double portaging anyways)

I often basecamp these days but many soloists say they get bored if they have too much time. Consider a mix of layover days and travelling days.

Rigging a tarp to sit under in less than ideal weather and keep your gear dry will add great comfort if you happen to get a trip with a lot of rain.

Navigation is not difficult up there but can occasionally be confusing. The key to not getting lost is to stay found. Watch your map constantly and note landmarks, always know roughly where you are. It is surprising how many experienced trippers are off in their calculations if not watching closely, usually overestimating how far they have travelled.

Be ready for bugs. Late August means they should be much less of an issue than earlier but nature sets its own rules. You never know.

Assuming you will be renting a Kevlar canoe, you should be prepared to wetfoot meaning stopping in 6-10 inches of water and stepping(carefully) out of the canoe. The shoreline rocks up there can tear up a canoe.

I am sure your outfitter will include a small stove for cooking. Wouldn't plan on doing much cooking over the fire, maybe that first night's steak! Most campsites will have firewood available if you go back a ways...dead and down only. Wisemen stick to the rule of wrist size or smaller, negates the need for a hatchet or an axe. A small folding saw can be handy.

Remember that you are in a near wilderness setting. Safety is paramount, on the portages and on the water. While there will be people around somewhere most of the time, they may not be within sight or shouting distance. Be more deliberate than usual about the things you do and the decisions you make. There may be nobody around to help. Having said that, driving the highways in our country is probably more dangerous. Wear your (wilderness decision making) seatbelt.

You will have many questions, we enjoy answering them. Ask away.

Consider writing a trip report for us to enjoy upon your return.

August will be here before you know it.
 
MidwestFirecraft
distinguished member(633)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/19/2019 01:42PM  
I concur with the Sunset chair. There is nothing like siting with back support at the end of the day. My number 1 essential item would be a tarp. You can't control the weather, but at least you can still enjoy the wilderness under a properly pitched tarp.
 
03/19/2019 06:41PM  
There's a lot of good information in lindylair's post. One thing to give thought to is your clothing since you'll have to provide that. You don't need a lot of changes of clothing, but you do need layers of clothing since it may get cooler than you expect, combined with rain and wind. Your clothing should dry quickly (not cotton) and should include good rain gear.

You'll want to take 3 pair of wool socks - one for traveling, one for camp, one for sleep. Also a pair of dry camp shoes to change into with the dry camp socks.

Many of us pack a set of sleep clothes - base layer, socks, cap - with our sleeping bag in a waterproof compression stuff sack.

Don't forget things like sunglasses, hats, bandanas/buffs, gloves (paddling, camp), etc..
 
BuckSgt2034
member (17)member
 
03/21/2019 07:55AM  
Lot's of great info and advice...being that I've never been there, will someone explain to me the ideal method of single trip portaging? Since I'm being totally outfitted, will the gear be separated into 2 packs (1 for food, 1 for camping gear). If so, how can one manage two packs and a canoe (including paddle) when portaging? Or, do you simply cram everything into one pack during portaging then unpack to balance the canoe when on the water?

I don't mind making double portages, but if it were at all possible, I'd like to minimize it.

Just trying to get an idea of which process would be smoothest...I also plan on having a "day pack" that I can carry with me from base camp days as I get out and wander.

Thanks again for all of your input!
 
03/21/2019 08:43AM  
I double portage with two primary packs and a smaller duffle. First trip is usually the larger pack and duffle strapped to its top and with paddle in hand. I do not like to carry things in both hands. The second trip is canoe and smaller pack and hands are free. I paddle carbon fiber so definitely stay off shore a little when loading and unloading. The painter comes in really handy, even when there is no wind or current. I have had gusts come up and was grateful I was close by. Routine is pull in, exit and tie off the boat. Unload packs to secure area then bring canoe to land. Load big pack, etc. and cross, returning with camera in hand. The canoe and small pack go over and right into the water, tie off and load packs. Paddle to next portage and repeat. After a few repetitions you make adjustments and find your sweet spot. A good balance of the canoe can require adjustments as well. A half full nalgene bottle secured at the bow balances my Magic so I can often walk hands free. I tried moving the yoke, but my head would bump into the seat so the yoke had to stay a bit forward.
 
03/21/2019 09:13AM  
I think most of the folks who single carry will pack most everything in a single pack. Carrying a pack on front and back is hard enough, but adding a canoe is a lot, especially for someone getting use to the area (most portages are not smooth and flat) and being outfitted. Most single-carriers (I'm a doubler myself) have finely tuned their packing list and gear to cut bulk and size. This may be a bit more of a challenge being outfitted, but your outfitter can certainly talk it over with you.

Two things I will say about double carrying; it lets you bring just a few more items of gear which may add to both comfort and safety, and, more importantly, it allows you to actually see the land you are portaging through which is beautiful. When I'm under my canoe, I'm mostly just picking each footstep trying to avoid roots and rocks, but on the walk back I can really take a look around me. I may not cover quite the distance of a single portageur, but for me the BWCA is about the journey every bit as much as the destination.
 
03/21/2019 09:44AM  
I second what Jaywalker said, and I would recommend just double portaging your first time. One thing about portages especially in the Sag to knife area you are heading is they are all pretty short, your first one is about 20ft. Nothing over roughly a quarter mile and most much shorter than that. It can feel real good to get out of the canoe and stretch your legs for a bit after long paddles. Most of your time will be in the canoe on that route and if you want to base camp most of the trip your gear will be in camp for much of your traveling. Also, most "basecampers" bring more camp comfort and fishing gear than "travelers" typically do. I haven't taken a poll on this, but I'm betting that far more basecampers triple or even quadruple portage than single portage.
 
gravelroad
distinguished member (388)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/21/2019 10:11AM  
minnmike: Also, most "basecampers" bring more camp comfort and fishing gear than "travelers" typically do. I haven't taken a poll on this, but I'm betting that far more basecampers triple or even quadruple portage than single portage. "

Why else would humans have evolved the ability to manufacture cast iron cookware? It ain't a shore lunch less'n it's been cooked on cast iron. Just sayin'. ;-)

(The real question is whether to bring a frying pan AND the griddle. The Dutch oven is de rigueur, of course ...)
 
HappyHuskies
distinguished member (382)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/21/2019 10:31AM  
I'm not sure I have much to add, but as someone who usually single portages I thought I'd chime in. Before describing my portage routine I want to emphasize that I think portaging should be enjoyable. If it's a struggle then I'm going to revert to double portages.

Anyway, I only use one pack that I place behind my seat and trim the canoe with the sliding seat. My extra paddle is tied into the boat in front of me. When I get to a portage I step into the water, tie my paddle to the front of the canoe opposite my spare paddle, take off my pfd and place it under the top flap of my pack, slide the seat all the way to the back, fasten my yoke to the boat just in front of the bulkhead, put on my pack and pick up the boat and head off down the portage.

I try and pack light and have a relatively light canoe which helps.

You've got a great trip planned. Should be a lot of fun. Don't hesitate to change plans on the fly as circumstances dictate.

 
03/21/2019 02:18PM  
I think most people double portage, that's what I do. I've always outfitted myself, except canoe, so I don't know how they'll pack you, what they'll pack you, or how much it'll weigh. From what I've heard they don't rent ultralight backpacking equipment, more like a heavier "outfitter" version. I've heard they pack way more food than most people will eat.

I'd guess you'll have at least 100 lbs. total to carry. My stuff for a 12-day solo in Sept. 2016 was about 85 lbs., but I pack lighter food and equipment, and less of it. I don't take fishing gear. I just can't safely manage that at awkward portage landings and long rough trails.

I believe most people who single portage have everything in one pack, which has to be low enough not to interfere with the canoe that's on your shoulders. You'd also have to have everything not in the pack strapped to the canoe. Trying to unpack/repack would be more trouble than it's worth. I have two packs - one larger, one smaller. I carry the smaller one with the canoe.

My routine at the portage is to make sure the canoe is secure, carry the large pack, the PFD, and the paddle well off to the side out of the way of others. Then I attach the yoke to the canoe (with spare paddle strapped in), put on the small pack, lift the canoe and carry to the other side where I put it out of the way. Then I return for the second load. That trip is a good time for snacking, drinking water, and taking pictures.

I agree that you'd be better off to plan double portaging on your first trip, especially not really knowing the equipment packing nor being familiar with the area and the process.

Sample less than smooth ankle-breaker portage - Long Island to Muskeg Creek. It is short though. Don't worry - they aren't sending you across this one.

 
BuckSgt2034
member (17)member
 
03/21/2019 02:25PM  
Since I'm not driving my personal car up there (not enough time), I guess I'm concerned that by getting the full package outfitting, I'll be overloaded with gear and won't have the capacity to carry a few small things that I want to bring.

Already started the packing process...got several lures already tied to leaders and getting waterproof boxes for electronics, etc. Can you tell I'm looking forward to it?
 
03/21/2019 02:49PM  
I know the feeling Buck, I know it well. My itch starts the day after I get home from my last trip.

I would talk to the outfitter and ask them if the gear they provide will suit single or double portaging. Also ask them if there will be enough room in a pack for the gear you are planning to bring. This is not there first rodeo, they have great advice and will be more than happy to help you out with questions. I highly doubt they will load you down with unnecessary gear.
 
HappyHuskies
distinguished member (382)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/21/2019 02:53PM  
BuckSgt2034: " Since I'm not driving my personal car up there (not enough time), I guess I'm concerned that by getting the full package outfitting, I'll be overloaded with gear and won't have the capacity to carry a few small things that I want to bring.


Already started the packing process...got several lures already tied to leaders and getting waterproof boxes for electronics, etc. Can you tell I'm looking forward to it? "


I understand the concern, but I think everything will be fine and you'll have plenty of room for you personal gear. The outfitters up here use good quality gear and canoes. You'll have a comfortable camp that will probably include a few things you might not bring, but it'll be reasonable.

Glad you're looking forward to your trip. I don't blame you. I've been able to get out to the BWCA several times this winter, but now I'm really looking forward to soft water season. Hoping to get in a backpacking trip before ice out and then a short paddle trip soon after.

August will be here in the blink of an eye and it's a great time of the year. Warm water and the bugs have usually tapered off. The area around Clearwater Lodge is spectacular. You should have a great trip!
 
03/21/2019 03:35PM  
You'll be OK - just plan on double portaging. Triple if you need to. There's probably not a lot of portaging and no long ones or tough ones on your trip and the total mileage is short. You have plenty of time. Lots of people go and take all kinds of things; just don't go overboard :).
 
03/21/2019 09:45PM  
If not part of the outfitters package, get yourself 6-8 BDB's, short for Bungee Dealee-Bobs. You can Google them or see Youtubes on them. Great for quickly securing paddles or fishing rods to the boat.
 
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