Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Four first timers figuring it out
by QuietTime

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/01/2011
Entry & Exit Point: Missing Link Lake (EP 51)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
This is a trip that we have been hoping to complete since I joined the Army and realized how hard it is to plan a trip in advance while in the service. We finally got it this year and decided on a base camp off the Gunflint trail would be great for first-timers. I read great things about Snipe Lake, so we made the plans. My Dad, Sister, Best Friend and I all loved our first experience and we will be back with new ideas and expectations. My Dad had actually been to Quetico back in high school, and it was always hid dream to go back. It was great to make it happen. Our goal was to start Friday morning at 9 am and get picked up Monday morning, July 4th at 8am. We were going to head through Missing Link, base camp on Snipe lake, and finish the loop through the Cross River and Ham Lake.
Day 1 of 3
Friday, July 01, 2011 We headed out of Chicago on Thursday at around 3pm. The Holiday weekend traffic slowed us down the first few hours, but we hit our stride and made it through Duluth before sunset. The hard driving came after dark on the 107 winding miles into Grand Marais and the 55 miles North on the Gunflint trail. We were dodging deer and wildlife and pretty much crawled in through the fog at 2am on Friday morning. We found our names on the Seagull Outfitters white board and headed up to the bunkhouse for the night.

We got up Friday morning at 6:30am to breakfast in our bunk room. We headed down to the car to pick up the gear and then met the folks at Seagull in the Planning Bay. Nick answered all of our questions and gave us a personalized map of the area we were visiting. We chose the complete outfitting package, and we couldn’t be more impressed with Debbie and her staff. I can’t imagine how you could do it better.

We got a ride over to Round Lake and dumped in at 10am. I have been planning and trying to schedule this trip for years, and it was such a great feeling seeing my Dad, Sister, and best friend all finally out paddling the boundary waters. However, the unexpected sunny 87 degree weather and high humidity would take its toll soon enough. We landed at a nice portage into Missing Link and quickly unloaded. First off, I should say that I made two great mistakes on this trip.

Mistake #1 - I suggested that everyone wear water shoes for the paddling and portaging. I didn’t think it was worth the time to change into boots for our two 140 & 180 rod portages. I am an idiot. #2 – We over packed. Even after reading the forums and other reports, I still couldn’t help myself. We had 3 full Duluth packs, a bear barrel, a small cooler bag, and a backpack for a 3 day trip! Craziness. Next time I will have 3 packs total.

We realized and paid for my mistake that first day. We single portaged the round-missing link portage. I carried a Duluth pack on my back, cooler across my front, and a canoe while wearing cheap water shoes. Never again. I have an Army background and I missed my boots the whole time. The portage wasn’t difficult, but it was rocky, and it got us off on a bad note. We double portaged the 180 rods from Missing-Link to Snipe Lake and it worked much better.

By 1pm we were cruising in to the Northwest Campsite on Snipe Lake. We divvied up the duties of setting up camp, pumping water, and making lunch, and we we’re there! It felt great. Our campsite was great, out on a point with a great view on all sides and constant breeze. However all 3 days we had relentless sun (I know it could be worse, believe me) and that site has little in the form of shade. Later we explored all of Snipe Lake and in hindsight I would select the far East Campsite. It was forested but still had a beautiful fire grate out on a rock peninsula.

We spent our first day fishing and swimming. The water felt great as long as you floated in the top two feet heated by the sun. We caught two small Northern, and they would be the only ones we caught the whole trip. That night we cooked fresh potatoes, onions, and Steaks over the fire. It was amazing. We chopped and boiled the potatoes and then fried them with butter and onions. Eating that meal on a point on Snipe Lake was the highlight of the trip. The bugs forced us to bed before the sun went down and we all slept like champs.