Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Going Gunflint
by cowdoc

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/30/2008
Entry Point: Seagull Lake (EP 54)
Exit Point: Missing Link Lake (EP 51)  
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 7
Trip Introduction:
This was our first Gunflint area trip. My daughter, lilcowdoc, landed a job at Tuscarora Outfitters, so I cancelled my Moose Lake permit and grabbed a Seagull permit for June 30th. Our plan was to head up to Ogish and South Arm area and then down towards Little Sag and back up to Missing Link via Tuscarora.
The suburban wasn't quite sure what to think as we diverted off the usual Hy. 53 route in Duluth and headed up 61. The drive along the North Shore is quite interesting. I could spend a week doing it. A recent dragonfly hatch made the air alive with millions of the little critters. We stopped in Grand Marais for bait and headed up the Gunflint for Tuscarora Outfitters, about 47 miles. Upon arrival, we found lilcowdoc, got our permit and fishing licenses, settled in our bunks and got the back stage tour of the place. Tuscarora is a quiet, clean, neat place tucked back in off the Gunflint on the shores of Round Lake. We offered our hosts an assortment of Green County Wisconsin cheese and a sixer of New Glarus Spotted Cow. We then headed back down to the Trail Center for supper, came back, and made final preparations for the morning's departure.

Breakfast was in the dining hall at 7:00. Thick slabs of french toast, orange juice and coffee would fuel us well into the day.
Staff member Stefan rode with us up to Seagull and saw us off before taking our vehicle back to Tusc. Seagull was calm and we got a good start and made the west end before the breeze kicked up. A quick portage through Rog Lake put us into Alpine. I would have liked to have seen this gem of a lake before the fire. We took lunch on the east end of Jasper by the rapids.
At the west end of Jasper we had some trouble locating the portage to Kingfisher until we saw a young couple coming down the trail. We chatted briefly and they said that there were very few people on Ogish. Aside from a few distant views of people on Seagull, they would be the only people we would see this first day. We arrived at Ogish and paddled through the narrows before we started looking for campsites. The site at the narrows looked nice but we didn't like the idea of everyone passing by us so close for the next two days. We eventually settled on the far west island site, #783. It sat up high on a rock outcropping,had decent tent pads and was catching a nice breeze. With camp set, we made our tortilla pizzas and relaxed. A short but intense storm blew through right at bedtime.

We awoke to a nice day that we spent fishing around the west end of Ogish. A small stringer of walleyes and smallmouth were invited to supper and cousin Eric caught the biggest fish of his life, a 36 inch northern.
We had originally planned to head to Ester, but instead we decided to head for the South Arm to spend the next couple of days.

Camp was broke the next morning and we traveled through Annie, Jenny and Eddy on our way to South Arm. On the way through the Annie to Jenny portage, we ran into a Boy Scout group, the first people we met since the first's day couple. The portage into the South Arm drops down a steep path as it parallels Eddy Falls. We would check out the falls on our way back through. The South Arm was crowded and all of the sites that I had researched were full. We settled on site #1436 in a back bay to the north side. It stuck out on a small point just enough to catch a breeze, had nice tent pads and a resident Eagle. It also looked much quieter than the rest of the South Arm.

Most of the crew swam and fished the next days while lilcowdoc and I took a day trip up through Amoeber and Topaz to Cherry. We had lunch at a favorite site of mine at the narrows that I wanted to show her. We returned for a quiet evening of fishing and relaxing.

The next day we left the South Arm and headed back towards Ogish. On the way we checked out Eddy Falls.
Once back at Ogish, we headed out the south side enroute to Mueller and Agamok. We stopped where the Kekekabic Trail crosses the portage and went east on the trail to check out Mueller Falls. We enjoyed lunch on a small rock island at the base of the Falls.
Agamok was a strange lake in a wide valley. Mr. Beymer was right about the shallow rocky area at the mid-lake narrows.

From Agamok, the portage to Gabi was easy and the slight breeze did not have the big lake whipped up too bad. Lots of Gabi was burned, but the south end where we were was spared. I took a picture of "the line" where the fire stopped. I thought it strange to see black stumps so close to untouched, green you drew a line.

A quick trip through Rattle with some Boy Scouts had us looking at a neat little set of rapids by the portage to Little Sag. Lots of fire damage was all around.

A small tailwind pushed us east down Little Sag to a small island campsite, #534. We all swam after the long day and relaxed after a spaghetti supper. Much of the lake's north shore was burned, but the islands and the south shore are fine. This site has some beautiful tent pads that sit on small cliffs and overlook the water and it has a rock bench back by the trees that the boys sat on and talked. The cooking area is on a big, bare rock pad way down by the water and appears somewhat out of place. We studied the stars that night after a nice sunset.

Once again we awoke to a nice day, our last one. We left the east end of Little Sag on a beautiful portage trail that travels alongside a set of rapids and small falls.
My camera gave out at this time and I have not retrieved the pictures I took with my cousins camera. I will have to update. We passed through Mora and into Crooked where we had a quick lunch at an island site that lilcowdoc had been to in May. The portage into Crooked was steep and rocky at the start as was the portage out. A stiff tailwind blew us quickly down beautiful Tuscarora Lake to the east end where the dreaded, much anticipated portage to Missing Link waited for us. We snacked and hydrated as a few groups came down the hill and then we took a deep breath and off we went. We used the "portage and a half" technique and did the 400 some rodder in just under an hour. A quick dip in Missing Link refreshed us for that quick paddle and another tough, but scenic portage into Round Lake. The stiff south wind blew us quickly to the landing on the north shore at Tuscarora Lodge.

After the cleanup phase, we grabbed some beer and pops and sat on the dock and enjoyed the south wind that kept the skeeters and black flies at bay. We had made plans to meet fellow member Kiporby and his daughter Lauren for supper at the Trail Center. I am glad he showed up early because the boys were getting very hungry. We all enjoyed a great evening at the TC and traded trip stories.

A fairly strong storm blew through the Tuscarora Lodge that night. It made me think that all in all, we had great weather for the trip. We got up early to leave and say goodbye to lilcowdoc. Somewhere near the TC, the boys fell back asleep and my cousin and I were the only two to see the black bear scoot across the road. We stopped for breakfast at Two Harbors and headed down 61 for Duluth. We will be back.