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02/29/2024 02:53PM  
So me and my wife are making our first boundary waters trip this May. I picked EP 38 and decided to do a Cherokee Lake Loop type trip. I'm planning on a 5 day trip. Sort of feel like other than the first day I'm sort of short changing the days. But also feel like this loop is either short days or you end up in a dead zone and short of double the day to get to the next location. Here's my trip that I've planned so far.

Day 1 - Enter EP 38 from Sawbill Outfitters and make our way up to Cherokee Lake Camp site 892, Total distance is 12.3 miles and they say approximately 5 hours and 30 mins.

Day 2 - Leave campsite 892 and make our way south towards South Temperance Lake to camp site 908. Total distance of 5.2 miles which they say it will take around 2 hours and 43 miles.

Day 3 - Leave campsite 908 and head south between Jack Lake and Kelly Lake at campsite 927. Total distance of 6.5 miles and approximately 3 hours and 24 minutes.

Day 4 - Leave and head towards Flame Lake which is north side of Burnt Lake to campsite 918. Total distance is 5.7 miles and around 2 hours and 38 minutes of travel.

Day 5 - Last day leave camp and head back to EP 38 which is 5.4 miles and around 2 hours and 42 minutes of travel.

My question is, am I going too short on each day? Most places I see about a Cherokee Loop trip very similar to mine is saying it takes around 4 days. I find that if I try and squeeze it all into 4 days there will be some crazy days of really trying to make good time and end up at camp wore out.

Me and my wife have little canoe experience, we like to hike, are comfortable outdoors, don't have really have any requirements for this trip except to have fun and enjoy nature. We're bringing fishing stuff, but neither of us are huge fish people, just for fun, catch and release.

Any recommendations or advice on this trip? Open for any ideas or thoughts on this potential trip.

Day Distance Time
1 12.3 5:29
2 5.2 2:43
3 6.5 3:24
4 5.7 2:38
5 5.4 2:42
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02/29/2024 03:38PM  
Hello Redniblees, just sharing a few thoughts about this route and your first trip as I'm sure others will chime in. It looks like you've got a pretty well mapped out plan but remember the weather and conditions sometimes make decisions for you in a canoe. Generally speaking, there are some tougher portages along this route so expect to be a little worn out pulling into camp, especially after a 12-mile first day of your first trip into the BWCA. To be safe plan on your travel time taking longer than you posted. Depending on what type of experience you're looking for, your proposed travel distance on days 2-5 will give you more opportunities to explore, fish, relax, have campsite availability or make up for adverse weather conditions. I see you have some target campsites as well, make sure you have appropriate maps to find backup campsites when your intended site is occupied. I'd recommend chatting with the Sawbill outfitters before heading out for any current route issues/conditions depending on what time of year you're planning on going and making sure you have all your appropriate gear needs.

Most importantly, have fun out there!
02/29/2024 04:57PM  
Doing a 4-day route in 5 days as a first trip sounds like a smart plan. Don't expect to see all of your target campsites open. A 12 mile first day, first trip, is aggressive.
distinguished member(2057)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/29/2024 06:57PM  
You didn't say how fit you are, or the date that you are entering. I took 3 newbies from #EP #38 to Cherokee and back a few years ago and it was a nice cool day in the upper 50's and they were beat at the end of the first day. We never even got in the canoes on day two. Paddling the entire length of Sawbill then 3 portages, 2 more lakes, and Cherokee Creek may be a challenge if you have "a little" canoe experience especially if you're heading into the wind. Unfortunately once you leave Sawbill Lake the first campsite is on Cherokee. Cherokee isn't a huge lake but after a long paddle to get there you still have to locate an open campsite. Cherokee is a popular destination lake and EP #38 allows a lot of permits each day compared to most other EP's. There is only one long portage between Sawbill and Cherokee, the others aren't bad. One of the landings however is a mud pit. The portage you will be taking out of Cherokee on day two isn't the easiest. I certainly wouldn't plan longer paddle days because the unknown factor is campsite availability.

Another great route from #38 is the Lady Lake Chain. You start at EP #38 and end at #37 and arrange for a shuttle ahead of time. Most people go from #37 to #38 but doing it the opposite direction certainly is an option. If you gat an early start the lakes are usually calmer (Alton would be the only concern).

On your first BWCA trip it's not a bad idea to start out with an easier trip to get acclimated and get your paddling and portage rhythm going. You'll probably also be carrying more weight than on a hiking trip and your feet are likely to be wet all day long while portaging and paddling.
distinguished member(848)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/29/2024 08:06PM  
Do you have any kayak experience?
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03/01/2024 07:14AM  
I have done this route several times over the years. I have a couple of suggestions for you.

1. Try planning the trip going counter-clockwise. Head east off Sawbill to Burnt or Kelly Lake for your first night.

2. Try creating a day for either a layover or a day trip. Frost Lake is a great lake with golden sand beaches that I like to visit for a picnic on the beach.

Have a great first trip!
03/01/2024 08:22AM  
I'll reiterate some of what's been posted and add some. Since you have little canoe experience, likely no experience with portaging, and like to hike but I'm assuming day hikes vs. backpacking, you may want to figure on paddling and portaging at less than 3 mph and 2 mph, respectively.

I have generally figured on traveling at about 2 mph average based on many trips. I generally figured on traveling about 5 hours +/- 1 hour and 10 miles +/- 2 miles. I also generally leave 1 or more weather/layover days depending on length of trip. If you leave camp at 8:00 or 9:00, you are looking for a campsite early afternoon when people have left and before a lot are occupied.

I did that loop in 2019 but started at Baker Lake, EP #39. Roughly the same distance of about 35 miles, 4 1/2 days of travel, 4 camps - South Temperance, Cherokee, Sawbill, Burnt. I had a layover day on Cherokee. Travel days were about 10 mi., 6 mi., 8 mi. 6 mi., 5 mi.

Will add more later. Feel free to email me.
03/01/2024 08:41AM  
Michwall2: "I have done this route several times over the years. I have a couple of suggestions for you.

1. Try planning the trip going counter-clockwise. Head east off Sawbill to Burnt or Kelly Lake for your first night.

2. Try creating a day for either a layover or a day trip. Frost Lake is a great lake with golden sand beaches that I like to visit for a picnic on the beach.

Have a great first trip!"

I was going to say the exact same thing. Paddling is always easier at the end of the trip than it is on the first day. Your arms are going to get tired. It's a lot like riding a bike, your body will not be used to it at first but adapts pretty quickly after a night or two.

A layover day is huge as well. It allows you to explore the lake, get a little rest and relaxation, and hit it hard the next day without getting worn down. This is a vacation, treat it like one. Personally, I love the contrast between pushing hard, covering ground, seeing the sights, then sleeping in the next day and fishing or just relaxing in camp and playing cards.

3 days between South Temperance and Sawbill is a lot of time and not a lot of distance. Cherokee and South Temperance are destination lakes, so you want to camp on those, everything else is a stopping point for the day. I would recommend getting to the Temperance River on day one and making it to South Temperance on day two. That would give you a layover day on Cherokee before the long haul out.

Lastly, don't plan on a specific campsite. Odds are one of them will be taken, not as good as it was in years past, or something will cause you to change your plans. If you get hung up on getting specific campsites, that's a good way to set yourself up for disappointment and leave a shadow hanging over the trip. Be prepared to push on to the next lake because all the sites are full, especially on South Temperance. You just can't have a rigid itinerary in the wilderness. This is also why a layover day is important, so you can change your plans if needed.
member (46)member
03/01/2024 01:03PM  
+1 on adding a layover day (or 2!) to relax and just be there as well as giving you some leeway if the weather is too windy/stormy or, especially in May, an all day rain. Even if the weather is perfect, still take those days to simply soak in the quiet and beauty of the place. Also agree that you need a plan B on any particular campsite. I once paddled 20 miles in Quetico, seeing no one along the way, only to find the plan A base camp site occupado! But we did have an okay B, and a workable C.
distinguished member(2730)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
03/02/2024 08:56AM  
I agree with the others who have said the first day will be a bee-yatch.
Remember it's your vacation. Take it easy. I like the counter-clockwise idea.
And, as others have said, don't count on specific campsites. Have a plan A, plan B, and plan C, and also be ready to throw them all out the window if something bad happens, or if something great happens like a beautiful open campsite or hot fishing.
member (31)member
03/03/2024 04:21AM  
Most of my paddling is either solo or just my wife and I. The advantage of a small party is that you can ignore those large and popular sites like the one on Temperance and take sites that are smaller but often less used and just as beautiful. Just a note, the lake I have seen more moose than any other is Weird lake. There is only one campsite but its a nice site, some traffic but never a bother, but the large reedy area of the lake can be loaded with moose. Look carefully and that thing that looks like some sort of tree among the reeds might be the head of a moose. While this is not a lake known for fishing I have caught walleye on the lake. Enjoy your trip.
03/07/2024 10:38AM  
I would agree with Weird Lake. It was a long time ago, but Weird was one of the highlights of our "Long Trip". Saw so many moose there I can't even remember HOW many without going back to my journal to check!

03/07/2024 10:38AM  
Sorry for double post.

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