Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Snowbank to Ima and back - EP # 27
by Seliga17

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/26/2012
Entry & Exit Point: Snowbank Lake (EP 27)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 6
Trip Introduction:
Three couples: Two experienced trippers, two experienced campers/kayak-ers, two newbies.
The six of us spend Saturday at the old family cabin on Burntside Lake, a few doors down from Burntside Lodge. Made a final run into town to Piragis, Wilderness Outfitters, The Great Outdoors and Zups for pre-cooked bacon (the 8th wonder of the world). Found a used army sleeping pad at the Ely Surplus Store to cut to fit the bottom of the canoe for our Boxer/English Bull dog "Annie". Besides Annie, we are three couples; two are newbies, two have years of BW experience, two have lots of kayaking and other camping experience - a good mix.

Back to the cabin to grill steaks and potatoes, fire up the sauna and have a beer. Final gear and clothes check and final food prep. Everything labeled, frozen food in the freezer, canoes on the vehicles and get to bed about 10.

Sunday morning, we are up at 5 for a quick scrambled sausage and egg breakfast with coffee and toast. Frozen food in the middle bin of the food pack, toothbrushes and any last items in the packs. We make the first portage - about three rods uphill to the vehicles.

Six miles into town, pull over at Lucky Seven to check the canoe tie-downs and get some sunflower seeds and sunblock. Back in the vehicles and east out of town past Winton on the Fernberg, to Snowbank Lake Road and to the landing. Packs and canoes to the water, take a few group photos, load and go at 7.15. A good start on a clear and sunny morning with temps in the 60s.

We planned to take the 140 rd portage into Disappointment, but I made a command decision to go through Parent for two shorter portages to start with. South-west breeze following us all the way through Parent, Disappointment, Ashub, Jitterbug, Adventure, Cattyman, Jordan and into Ima. Stopped for trail lunch on a nice little spot on Adventure. A light breeze and no bugs. Pitas with Zup's deli turkey and ham, lettuce, cheddar, mustard and mayo (from packets for stomach-safety). Into the Jordan channel by 1.30 and on the portage to Ima by 2.00. This mixed group travels quite well at a nice pace. We aren't light enough to single portage, but only three need to go back for packs on each portage, so we rotate that without any problem.

We break around the islands protecting entrance to Ima and through the binocs, it looks like the north campsite on the south island is open! The wind has come up fairly well from the W-S-W and is a strong quartering wind as we cross Ima. The whitecaps want to push us sideways, but we are able to maintain our heading and roll up and down with the waves. Surfing the waves and troughs, the crossing is quick and we duck into the lee on the east side to the shallow granite ledge of the island. Easing the canoes to shore, we land and unload. I've camped here before and know there will be good tent sites, so we skip the pre-unload inspection. All gear is carried up to the "kitchen", and we select the three best sites for our tents. After the tents are up, we find the gin and crystal lite for a celebratory drink. We don our PFDs, and after checking the diving area for safety, there's an hour of jumping/diving, swimming, bobbing in the whitecaps, and climbing out onto the sunny Canadian Shield ledge. Two canoes with two young guys in each, sit and rest in the lee while for a while before tackling the cross-wind run to the Jordan entrance. They paddle furiously into the wind towards the west shore, before turning north in calmer waters towards the entrance.

Supper is pasta and home-made meatballs, garlic toast and tiramisu. Four of our group head to mainland on a firewood run while two of us stay and do dishes, clean up the kitchen, and other camp chores. After supper, we all relax on the ledge, leaning on a log and watch the waves with the nearly full moon rising behind us through the trees. No other sites on the lake seem to be in use, we might have Ima all to ourselves. Even with no plans for tomorrow, we are to bed early, tired from the day's labor.

Monday breakfast is coffee, scrambled eggs, sausage, salsa, cheese, and peppers in tortillas with more coffee. My acquisition of a $2 yard-sale coffee pot is paying off - three pots are barely enough for this group. The wind is still up, and didn't drop much last night, so we build a wind-break downwind from the kitchen with a tarp, two dead-wood poles and some guy-lines. Makes cooking much easier, but definitely cuts into the view of the lake. After breakfast, one couple canoes off to try for bass or northerns in a little bay, the other couple goes for a walk around the island, we stay in camp and relax a bit. There is a big split boulder next to the fire grate, but not much of anything is flat. Someone has lashed together a small "table" of dead balsams - thank you for that! The day is spent napping in the hammock, swimming, sunning, wetting a line off the ledge, sandwiches for lunch, basically relaxing around camp. Dinner of salmon and veggies in puff pastry done in the reflector oven (it worked fairly well), fruit cobbler and tea. Another beautiful evening, the wind dying down some and a wonderful sunset. No northern lights to see, just loons calling across the lake and a big moon rising behind us.

Tuesday breakfast is biscuits and gravy, sausage and lots of coffee. We pack up a trail lunch for a day-trip through Hatchet, Thomas and into Fraser to fish and explore a bit. In the 1930s, my dad had hired on to help build a family place on the big island on Fraser. No sign of anything left to see now, but good to walk some of the old ground where he spent many summer (and winter) days. Another beautiful day - must be mid-80s and sunny. Awesome for late August, but not so good for mid-day fishing. Lunch on a rocky point on Thomas, one couple stays behind to swim and nap while two other couples head to Fraser. Paddle a light headwind back through Thomas, down Hatchet and the short paddle to the island camp on Ima. Gorgeous sunset as we make dinner, then sit down with some Jim Beam and good conversation. The moon is nearly full, and up earlier than before, so it is practically daylight when we head for the tents and a good sleep.

Wednesday is a travel day; breakfast is quick oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar, walnuts, a few M&Ms and cups of coffee. Everything is dry, even the tent's ground cloth, and so packing up is easy and fast. We match fingers to see who gets the food pack; it's so light everyone wants it! We hit the water leaving camp about 9.30 in a light westerly breeze. We'll decide on the route as the day progresses, depending on wind and our energy levels. No real hurry to get home, so we stop at Cattyman falls, climb into the pool and get a free neck and shoulder massage provided by the thundering water.

We decide to take the 140 rod portage from Disappointment into Snowbank instead of the Parent Lake route. Once we hit Snowbank, we are paddling into a fairly stiff headwind, so we duck behind islands when possible to save our old shoulders. The paddle takes about an hour with a rest stop or two. Coming to the landing dock, we unload the packs and gear from the canoes. The vehicles are loaded and we take one last group photo with Snowbank Lake behind us at about 5.00 in the evening. 45 minute drive from the landing to the cabin, we make the last portage of the trip, carrying the few steps to the cabin.

Like the entire trip, we still have awesome weather, dry and sunny with a breeze to air things out while we go into town for a burger and a few cold beers at Stony Ridge Resort on Shagawa Lake. A great way to end a trip, sitting on the deck eating and talking, and planning for the next trip.

btw - if anyone on the board finds the bear-ropes and pulleys we left behind hanging in the woods in back of the campsite - let me know!