Sawbill - Ada - Skoop - Cherokee and back
We put in at the boat launch on Sawbill Lake. We used the Sawbill Lake Canoe Outfitters to rent our canoe and we put our pop-up up in the campground for our first and last nights. I can't say enough great things about this outfitter. They were so professional and knowledgeable and the camp store is awesome. They have three of the best camp dogs I've ever seen - Phoebe and Roy (Avon terriers) and Homer (golden retriever). There was also a resident nuisance bear that we had to watch out for. Several other campers in the campground had their tents and cars raided. Phoebe and Roy did their best to keep the bear out of the sites!
When we put in there was a pretty significant wind coming from the northwest, I'm not sure of the temps but I'm going to say 63, and it was raining/misting. But we were prepared with rain gear and plans for a long, slow paddle along the shoreline. We were welcomed to the lake by a cow moose and her baby across the lake. That was motivation enough to make it across so we could hug the western shoreline. Once we made it, we took our time paddling to the north part of the lake near our first portage. By that time, the kids (ages 9 and 11) were ready to find a campsite and forego the plan to make it all the way to Cherokee. The night was cold and we wore pretty much all of our clothing to stay warm.
On the second day the weather was a bit better, but not much. It didn't matter, though, because once we did our first portage, we were out of the big water and could enjoy the solitude. We did run into one other group - two moms and their daughters - but that was it. The rain wasn't hard enough to make the portages difficult and we were pleasantly surprised to find that the third portage from Ada Lake to Skoop Lake (which our map showed as 110 rods) was a really cool drag over a beaver dam, a fun paddle through a creek, and then a 10 rod portage at the end. The 180 rod portage into Cherokee Creek was more difficult, but it was beautiful and we were rewarded with the best paddle of the trip through the creek to get into Cherokee Lake.
The mosquitos were horrible . . . probably the worst I've ever seen. We kept our bug spray handy at all times and didn't get munched on too badly, but we were also wearing full rain gear.
Once on Cherokee, we paddled almost the full lake before going back to choose the fourth site on the left as you come through the portage. The site was high and benefited from the NW winds, which helped keep the mosquitos down. There is actually a developed tent pad on this site and it was a little small for our 6-person tent, but it did fit and we really enjoyed the site. There were fun trails that we explored and we found signs of some larger animal that was digging in the moss. We found the remains of what appeared to be turtle eggs that something dug up on the side of a pretty steep hill.
On day three, we day-tripped around the lake and found a fun island to have lunch and enjoy the small peeks of sun. We took pictures of tons of flowering plants that we normally don't get to see when we visit in August - wild rose, sasparilla, blue flag iris, pitcher plant, twinflower, corydalis, shinleaf, and bunchberry. By that night the clouds had cleared and we had a pretty good view of the stars.
Day four brought a spectacular day . . . blue skies, low-70's, little wind. We took our time with breakfast and getting packed up, knowing that the end of our day would bring us back to the Sawbill Lake Campground where our pop-up was already pitched. Before we left the site, we found more markings from an animal that was pawing through the moss close to our tent, looking for more eggs?!?
The paddle back was so much fun . . . we actually took close to 6 hours and let the wind push us most of the way. The portages were quick (but buggy!).
Phoebe and Roy greeted us when we returned the canoe (MN III - big enough for all four of us) and it was at that point that we decided we had to have an Avon Terrier. The next day on our way south, we called the breeder and decided on a black female that was born on May 1st. We picked the pup up on 7/11 and named her Ada after one of the lakes we visited on our trip.