Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

2009 Portage Clearing Trip Crab Lake Area
by PortageKeeper

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/04/2009
Entry & Exit Point: Crab Lake and Cummings from Burntside Lake (EP 4)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 6
Trip Introduction:
This a volunteer, five day portage clearing trip that happens each spring.
The May 4-8, 2009 Portage Clearing trip was a great success!

Volunteers in attendance beside myself were Steve (SEA), Mike (SWL), Jeff (JD) and Daisy (dog), Rich (TG) and Mike (Mr Sensitive). It was held as a base camp trip in the Crab Lake area and included work in clearing the Burntside/Crab, Crab/Clark, Clark/Meat, Meat/Sprite, Sprite/Phantom, Phantom/Battle, Battle/Hassel, Hassel/Lunetta, Hassel/Saca and Saca/Crab portages. Roughly 1340 rods cleared with 28 miles paddled to and from portages and camp. It was late in the day when we were at the Sprite/Phantom and Phantom/Battle portages. We got hit hard by rain and had to head back to camp, not getting as much clearing done as I’d liked. We camped at the northeast site on the northwest bay of Crab Lake. The worst portage with trees across was the Hassel/Battle portage. We cut a total of about thirty larger trees off this portage including clearing one snag where six trees had fallen across a live birch with all being suspended about eight feet above the trail. Once it all fell, all seven trees would have been blocking the portage. We managed to remove all six dead trees while leaving the live birch standing. This portage , along with a number of the others were some of the worst seen in years and required lots and lots of brush nipping and tree clearing. Many hours of hard (safe) work is what helped make this trip a success!

Highlights of the trip included: Great company! All in attendance had great, LMAO, campfire stories and were in good humor the whole trip! Better than average (think of past portage clearing trips) weather! The scenery was better than I’d anticipated. I really thought that more of this area would be swampland. Didn’t see another canoe party the whole trip! No mishaps or accidents! Daisy kept the squirrels at bay without a single bark. (The only time that she barked was when she was in the tent and didn’t know who was walking outside. She didn’t even bark when she was forgotten at a campsite along the way).

Notes to those interested: The Hassel/Lunetta portage is nowhere near the 370r, as listed on Fisher maps. Mike (Mr Sensitive) had a different map that listed it at something like 280r which would be way more like it. The Lunetta campsite is nice with great camp furniture but unlevel tent pads. The creek from Lunetta to L. Crab is much more like a river, unlike the vague blue line shown on Fisher maps. The Burntside/Crab portage is looong, but otherwise not that bad. There is cell phone coverage on most of these lakes (AT&T).

Pic’s? I really didn’t take as many as other trips and am hoping that a couple of the others post some on the CCBB and BWCA boards.

Tools: The big crosscut saw (Simonds crescent ground, perforated lance tooth felling saw, tweaked for bwcaw portage clearing) was used a lot and worth its weight. The axe (Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe) was used a lot and is, imo, the best canoe axe ever. The Fiskars Pruning Stiks were used lots and lots. The (new this year) Irwin Marathon Pro-cut ‘fast cut’ saws worked very well and will definitely be used for a few years to come.

All in all it was a great trip! Thanks to all volunteers for their hard work and great company! Thanks to VNO for some of the lodging! Thanks to the USFS, Lac La Croix and Kawishiwi districts for setting us up and a tow across Burntside!

Next years trip will be May 10-14 (they finally moved fishing season ahead a week!). I’ll try to come up with another base camp route and will announce it when I decide where. 

Joe (PortageKeeper)