Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Solo from snowbank
by muddy

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/25/2010
Entry & Exit Point: Snowbank Lake (EP 27)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
It has been years since my last bw trip and this was my first ever solo. First time on the west side. I did not spend much time picking an entry point, one close to Ely I thought would be nice.

This was my first time going out of Snowbank. I got to the parking lot for the canoeists and as I rounded the corner I was greeted with a full parking lot.
I have to admit; this was a shock to my system! I was thinking that people would be all over me while in the woods and water.

The wind was blowing and I had to decide to leave now or wait until early morning. I opted to get going! I got the canoe down and loaded and headed North from the dock. I felt very quickly that a solo canoe is not a tandem canoe! I got a late start and was looking for the first empty campsite. I passed a boat of fishermen who said the fishing was slow and that I was lucky to be going now, the wind had laid down a bit. As I paddled past the shelter of the land I was hit with a left to right cross wind. I was glad I had the kayak paddle because I was able to keep a paddle in the water and stay on track...mostly!

I got up to the island just north from the entry point and was happy to be out of the wind. The first campsite was occupied. I was hoping the next was available otherwise I would have some open water to cover with a fairly decent wind blowing. The next site was open and I pulled in. Open site with lots of space. I picked an area for the tent and got camp set up. Heard some deer snorting and moving through the woods. Started a small fire and broke out the flask just as the moon was rising.

Woke up early, like 0430, but decided it was too early to get out of the bag. It was a chilly night and I was glad I had my poncho liner with me. Loons called all night, I don't recall experiencing that before. I was sooo happy I purchased one of those new fangled Exped sleeping pads!! I eventually got up, got the coffee water boiling and had my coffee and some poptarts. Packed up and was on the water by 0700, excited to see some new sights!

I really didn't have a plan but decided to go North towards Boot lake with Ensign being my destination. Got to the first portage and decided I would be doing double portages. No issues till I was pushing off into the little, no name lake between Snowbank and Boot. I was trying so hard to drain my feet before getting back into the canoe that I somehow tipped over!! How embarrassing! I quickly looked for witnesses and after seeing none, emptied my canoe. What a dumb mistake! I didn't concern myself with keeping water out of the canoe from then on! (I hope you all appreciate me including this in my report! I could have easily left it out and preserved my sense pride! But, perhaps, someone will benefit!) Lesson learned: don't worry about keeping water from your feet out of the canoe and always have everything lashed!

Got into Boot lake. Seemed like a nice little lake. Arrived on the South side of the Boot Lake to Ensign Lake portage. 220 rods...straight up!!! Actually it seemed like there were 3 walks up and 3 walks down with a tree lying across the path about 4 off the ground. 20 minutes to the end, dumped my pack and headed back. I was wearing my brand new Keen water shoes which very promptly gave me blisters on the back of my feet. On the second trip the blisters turned into open sores! Oh, what fun! Another dumb mistake; always break in new footwear before serious use!

Arrived into Ensign Lake. My feet hurt, my back hurt, much of my gear was wet and I knew I wasn't drinking enough water. I wonder where that lean, mean, fighting machine went to??? Got the canoe loaded and started looking for a campsite. Headed N/E and grabbed the peninsula campsite on the North shore. Wonderful site with a bunch of wood already stacked (thank you). Set up the tent, layed out all of my equipment and headed out to get water. Layed around the site and drank water. Ate some food and started exploring. Lots of trails behind camp. Someone marked the trail to the latrine, which was nice.(see photo) Fished, smoked a cigar, relaxed.

Slept in until about 0600. Layed in my bag looking out over the water. Got up and started boiling water for coffee (liked the starbucks instant coffee). Thought I would try some dehydrated eggs, this was my first trip where I tried store bought dehydrated food. The eggs were a disaster! Inedible! Yuck! Where did I put those poptarts? Lesson learned: don't bring any food along that you haven't tried at home first. Slowly did chores and cleaned myself up a bit trying to figure out what to do. Should I stay at this lovely site again or should I move?? I ended up packing up and heading towards Ashigan Lake. I thought I could find a site there or maybe spend a few nights on Disappointment.

Arrived at the Ashigan portage and this one was all uphill from Ensign! I decided to wear socks with my Keens today to help protect my feet. I didn't think the mole skin in my kit would stay put. No issues at all besides the sun shining bright and the wind blowing strong from the South (headwind!). Saw the falls at Cattyman. Got muddy in Jitterbug and had a hard time finding the exit portage (not my favorite lake). Arrived at the North side of Disappointment around 1pm.

Paddling South in Disappointment with a fairly strong wind from the South. I hug the shoreline and use the islands for wind breaks. Get to the first campsite and see a group leaving. I'm not sure if they spent the night or just stopped for lunch. Doesn't matter because I wasn't staying there knowing of all the bear issues it has had. Next island site was occupied. I crossed over to the other side of the lake after a hard paddle. I start rounding the large peninsula to the west and come to a empty campsite, #3. I pull in, unload the canoe, ground the canoe and head for the shade with water in hand. It is HOT! I drink my water, get more water and drink that. After a bit I take my camera and scout the site. I find the latrine and walk the other trails looking for a food bag tree. During this look around I find 3 separate piles of bear scat. I know I am on a bear route. I go back to the shade, grab my journal and start writing. No food is out. About 20 minutes later I look over to my left (north) and see a bear cub walk by within 15 feet of me! (circled in yellow, trust me). I grab the camera and pursue! Eventually the bear cub climbs on top of a rock and looks back trying to find me. I start to whistle and finally the cub looks at me...of course I miss the photo! But I get a great one of the cubs butt! The bear cub walks towards the latrine trial and joins another cub. Shortly the sow bear appears, walking straight down the latrine trail towards me, sniffing and shifting around. She stops but continues to try to assess me and I try to assess the situation myself! After thinking I have enough photos I start yelling and the bear family goes off towards the latrine. I return to my journal. Within 20 minutes the sow is back!! I confront the bear, take a couple of pictures but quickly put the camera away once I figure out that the bear isn't scared of me! I start yelling and making a fuss and she lumbers off but I know she will be back. She knows she will be back!

Decision time. It is 3:30pm, I am on Disappointment and I am sure all of the campsites are full by now. There is a strong wind from the South. I am 1 or 2 portages from my truck. I know there will be bear issues the entire time I am at this site. I am fairly sure that if I do stay I won't get much sleep! I had some difficulty making this decision but I opted for leaving the site to the bears. I suspect that in my younger and dumber years of life I would have stayed and there would have been a confrontation. I loaded the canoe and headed out in what I would guess was 20-30 mph wind. It was an adventurous paddle; putting it mildly!!

I got to the canoe dock, loaded up the truck and was off to Ely; a room, a shower and shave and then off to the Steakhouse for steak and beer and water. It was a shorter trip than planned but I saw much and learned much.

Lakes Traveled:   Snowbank Lake, Boot Lake, Ensign Lake, Ashigan Lake, Gibson Lake, Cattyman Lake, Adventure Lake, Jitterbug Lake, Disappointment Lake, Parent Lake,