Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Getting a taste of the BWCA on Kelly
by danhawk

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/18/2006
Entry & Exit Point: Baker Lake (EP 39)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
This trip would be the first time I had gone to the BWCA since the summer before I was in ninth grade. I had gone with a large school group and did a large loop starting in the numbered lakes. Although it rained some and seemed arduous at the time, I have always wanted to return. I had talked about the BWCA with my cousin Peter while he lived in Alaska. Now that he was back in Minnesota, it was time to go. We wanted a simple get-away trip and picked an entry point based on a recommendation. I hoped this would be the start of many canoe trips.
We met and drove from the Twin Cites and stayed in a Hotel near Tofte. The next morning it was raining steady as we picked up the permit after watching the movie and taking the quiz. 

We didn’t rush to get to EP #39 Baker Lake and let the rain die down a bit, as forecasted, before setting out. We used my sturdy 18’ aluminum canoe to haul enough gear for four. We only had one 10 rod portage on our trip we were glad there were no witnesses! 

After crossing Peterson Lake and fished the passage into Kelly. We had fun catching a lot of small mouth bass in this area (out of season) but nothing to cook.

I had been wearing leather water skiing gloves which had gotten wet from the start. My hands were freezing and making paddling very difficult. I learned that no gloves keep your hands warmer that wet ones.

We paddled against a good wind up narrow Kelly Lake to the camp site on the north end. Unfortunately it was occupied but looked like a good site. This meant we needed to continue to Jack Lake where there are two camp sites or backtrack to the other end of baker where there are four sites. We chose to go back instead of portaging all of our loose gear and set up on the only available site. The only site available was #826. It was exposed to the cold wind. We had a heck of a time starting a fire but were in great spirits. This was a good thing since we noticed it was snowing!

The next morning we went back to the north side of Baker again and campsite #927 was vacant. It is a secluded site in a nice little bay next to the creek/river that runs into it. I like camping with the sound of fast flowing water. 

The site doesn’t have a good landing for a canoe. There seemed to be plenty of firewood but we had trouble getting a good fire with all of the rain that had occurred.

Later in the afternoon two older women came into the bay to see if the site was available. We told them of the other site on Kelly which we knew was open and wished them luck.  I felt bad that had fought the wind all the way to the end of the lake, only to have to head back to the other side as we did the day before.

The biggest negative of this trip was trying to sleep in the cold weather. My new 20 degree northface sleeping bag did not come close to keeping me warm even with me wearing a stocking cap and multiple layers. I vowed to get a warmer bag! It is also very important to have a good insulated pad between you and the ground. The ground will sap the heat from you quickly.

The days were sun filled and warmer which was great. We portaged to Jack Lake to fish. It is a fairly easy 65 rod portage. The fishing was very poor. We paddled by and said hi to some kayakers on their way north to Cherokee Lake. They were obvious veterans of the BWCA.

Peter and I stopped for lunch at the southern most camp site on Jack which is on a peninsula. It felt more like an island. It had a couple of nice tent pads that were on a hill and nice views. We lounged around here for a while enjoying the warm sun and even tried to catch bit of sleep. We both agreed this would make a good base camp if we took our wives here in the future (understand that we were naïve to all of the other possibilities that the BWCA provided.)

That night we fried fish and potatoes. After a day of fishing we only had kept two small northerns, but they tasted good.

The water pouring into the bay was about the only decent fishing spot we could find during this trip. Luckily it was by our camp so we didn’t have to go far to catch a meal. We positioned the canoe to the side of the current and the swirling water kept us in one spot.   

The next morning I was up around 5:30am since I couldn’t sleep in the cold anyways. I walked down to the river to see if there was any wildlife around. It was a beautiful morning, completely calm with a little fog hanging over the water, and our little bay was picturesque. I couldn’t resist paddling around and making some casts.  

On our way out we neared the entry point and saw that a family of three was just arriving. We kept our canoe (barge) out of site so that we didn’t have to hear them snicker at us. By this time we were laughing at ourselves pretty good!

After jumping in the cold water to freshen up a bit, we headed home. This was a quick fun trip that I hope will spur many more!