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Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
   Winter Camping and Activities
      Sawbill Trail parking lot     

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Dolpho
Guest Paddler
 
12/27/2019 11:33AM
I see the winter access points shows the Sawbill trail plowed. Does anyone know if the parking lot next to Sawbill outfitters is also plowed? If not does anyone know if there is sufficient parking to leave a vehicle overnight for multiple days at the end of the trail during winter months? Thanks
 
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Gadfly
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12/27/2019 12:16PM
I have been there a few times in the winter and it has always been plowed. The last time we were there (3 or 4 years ago) it was plowed out enough to fit 20+ vehicles, we stayed for 5 nights and had no issues.
Savage Voyageur
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12/27/2019 03:45PM
Just call Sawbill outfitters. They would know.
tonyyarusso
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12/27/2019 05:56PM
We held the Frozen Butt Hang there two years, and had enough space plowed out for that (although someone may have called ahead to ensure that). Certainly there should be some at least. The owners of Sawbill Outfitters live there year-round, so you can contact them for current conditions questions both of the lot and lakes and such.
brulu
member (23)member
 
12/28/2019 12:27PM
I've parked there for several winter camping trips (including last year) and the lot has always been plowed. There sometimes is a pickup truck with plow attachment parked in the lot; I think it might be the outfitters who do the plowing.
Minnesotian
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12/29/2019 01:15PM

I concur with what has been said. The lot has always been plowed out when I have been there. They do not plow any of the roads through the Forest Campground though.
Bradp
Guest Paddler
 
12/29/2019 06:08PM
What routes do people do out of sawbill? Reason I ask is that many of the routes involve creeks. Is Heading up to Cherokee via Ada and Cherokee Creek feasible? How about kelso-ludjienda-zenith? Or are most people staying on sawbill/Alton or heading west through lady chain or east towards the temperances/ brule. Just curious as sawbill is a wonderful starting point!
Gadfly
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12/30/2019 09:43AM
Bradp: "What routes do people do out of sawbill? Reason I ask is that many of the routes involve creeks. Is Heading up to Cherokee via Ada and Cherokee Creek feasible? How about kelso-ludjienda-zenith? Or are most people staying on sawbill/Alton or heading west through lady chain or east towards the temperances/ brule. Just curious as sawbill is a wonderful starting point!"

I have done three trips through this area. One to the East on Smoke lake, one north to Wine lake and one staying right on Sawbill. The creek between Frederick and Zenith was a bit of an issue as the ice was thin and we post holed though a couple of times. The other problem was when we got off from the creek the snow was hip high and it took us a good hour to travel about 1000 feet.
tonyyarusso
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12/30/2019 11:10AM
I'm certainly no expert at the area, but have asked some of the same questions. A lot of the creek routes are okay is very cold weather, but not in warmish weather, so what you do can vary based on the last week. There are a few places back there with separate "winter portages" for this reason, although they're only marked on some maps (and I can't remember which ones...). I'd definitely ask the outfitter on this one - they're very familiar with at least the initial steps out of Sawbill, as they do quite a few day trips and one-or-two-nighters around there. If you're going kind of last-minute, they may also be able to tell you which routes someone has been down since the last snow to break trail and which are untrammeled. (One of these days I'm going to make a winter trip back to Wine, but I've chickened out so far.)
Minnesotian
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12/31/2019 11:00AM
Gadfly: One to the East on Smoke lake, one north to Wine lake and one staying right on Sawbill. The creek between Frederick and Zenith was a bit of an issue as the ice was thin and we post holed though a couple of times. The other problem was when we got off from the creek the snow was hip high and it took us a good hour to travel about 1000 feet. "

Gadfly, I have been wanting to get to Wine someday having been there in the summer. Couple of questions for you regarding your Wine trip if you don't mind.

1. What month did you go? Pretty cold?
2. How many hours roughly did it take for you to get to Wine from Sawbill?
3. Cold camping or hot tenting?
4. How many days did you stay?

Mostly, I am curious about how long it took for you to get there. And did you have a lot of slush and deep snow?

Thanks much.
Gadfly
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12/31/2019 12:49PM
We went in late January. I believe it was right around the 20th. I remember when we got there the temp was -11 because I noticed it was 2 above when we left Tofte. I think most days hit the mid teens and the nights were just below zero.
In total it took us about 8 hours to get there and roughly 4.5 to get back. The snow was a foot or more on the lakes and 2'+ in on the portages. We had a trail to follow about 1/3rd of the way up Kelso but had to break trail from there. For some reason we ran into no slush until we got to Frederick where it was pretty bad and there was also a little on Wine but not terrible.

We hot tented and stayed a total of 5 nights. We packed as light as we could although we did bring fishing gear. We plan to go back someday but still have a few other locations on our bucket list.
If you have been there in the summer you already know that the portage is full of ups and downs breaking trail though that was tough but on the way back we flew through that portage.
Hopefully I've answered your questions.
brulu
member (23)member
 
12/31/2019 01:15PM
>Bradp: "What routes do people do out of sawbill?"

Last March on a one-night trip I camped on Ada Lake. The next day I day-tripped up through Skoop Lake and took the portage up to Cherokee Creek before turning around. I came out at Sawbill later that same day. Travel conditions were good with a hard crust after a thaw the week before.

Being solo, I have some trepidation about Cherokee Creek in the winter, and I wasn't willing to try it. It seems to have substantial flow in the summer. Everything else was pretty straight forward with the right route. For example on the way in I wanted to take the last portage into Ada rather than going around on the longer S-curve along the creek. But the portage was a struggle due to side slope and the sled wanting to slide downhill sideways. On the way out I just followed the creek and skipped the portage. It was longer but otherwise much easier.
 
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