Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Exhaustion 101: My Frost River solo.
by kanoes

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/12/2008
Entry & Exit Point: Sawbill Lake (EP 38)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
This will be my first true solo trip. I had solo base camped once before but never considered it a real solo. I was a little apprehensive about being alone for this length of time and a bit nervous about my navigation skills. Also concerned I may have bitten off more than I can chew by taking this remote loop with all of it's portages (I will be double portaging). However, I've talked about this trip on here ( for so long now I can't possibly wimp out. I go.
Day 1 of 4
Monday, May 12, 2008

My luck could not have been better...Sawbill is calm! I push away from the landing at 6:45, beginning the long paddle north on Sawbill. Dipping a paddle in liquid glass is a wonderful thing. All I hear are the sounds of the forest and water rushing past my canoe.

I reach the portage to Ada Creek. Easy portage (of course, it’s only number one, and I'm fresh). A brain fart occurs immediately.

Before I know it, I blow by the portage to Ada Lake and paddle north into the marshy abyss (see navigation skills comment above....hahaha). What a great start! That goof costs me about 15 minutes. Boy, glance away from the map for just a minute... The portage into Ada Lake is unmemorable.

Paddled across Ada and arrive at where the portage to Skoop Lake should be. What portage? Due to high water I’m able to paddle almost the entire 110 rods. As I cruise along, I look to my left and see walkway planks partially submerged. Only about 8 rocky rods make up the portage now.

I had read that the 180 rod portage to Cherokee Creek crosses the Laurentian Divide. It wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

Reaching the creek put-in I meet what seems to be a father/son tandem. We exchange hellos and get back to work. As I begin to load my canoe I hear an “OH SHIT” coming from my right. Turning to look, I see a Bell Whitegold flying toward my head. It misses me but crashes down onto my Wilderness. No damage done, other than his pride. He was trying to shoulder his canoe in the shallows. One of his feet sinks in the mud, he loses his balance and throws it off. Apologies follow. He then empties the water and pulls it to dry land to try again. Still loading my canoe I hear “F*CK!!!!!”. On his second try the portage yoke screws pull thru the wood gunwale. He tells me he knew they were a little rotted but thought they would be fine. I had nothing in my repair kit that would have helped, and told him that. I continue on my way. I pity them...having to hand carry that canoe over the portages back to Sawbill.

The paddle across Cherokee is beautiful and pleasant. One short portage later I’m on Gordon Lake. Paddle to the Unload Lake portage. I must be tired by now because this 140 rod really kicks my butt! I’m walking thru quite a bit of snow on portions of the trail and notice a very colorful type of fungi on the side of a tree. I cross Unload and I’m at the Frost Lake portage. With these water levels, luck is on my side again. I'm able to paddle the entire 40 rods, pull over one beaver dam and splash down on Frost Lake! It's 2:15. I land at the second site on the north east shore. It’s great to be “home”.

The fire area at this site is the best I have ever seen anywhere in the BW. Camp is made.

It’s now 3:30 and it begins to snow. I think “wow, another typical May trip for me”. None of my May trips would be complete without at least a few snow flurries! By the time this snow stops it's about a one half inch accumulation.

Now, focus firewood. Grabbing the compass, the Sven saw and safety glasses I head back into the woods. I really wouldn’t have needed the compass...I can just follow my tracks in the snow back to camp.

Prepared some chili mac and chowed down. Mixed a cocktail and sparked the fire. Fittingly, it begins to snow again...

13 miles. 6 portages. 4.5 miles on foot...3 miles with gear, 1.5 miles empty.