Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Solo Trip to Raven Lake (Mugwump PMA 8) 2018
by Ausable

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/20/2018
Entry & Exit Point: Snowbank Lake (EP 27)
Number of Days: 10
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
The idea for this trip had been in the back of my mind for several years, although I had said on numerous occasions that I would never consider a solo trip because of the lack of companionship and the amount of self-reliance that would be required. Nevertheless, as I gained confidence and also realized that I could use modern satellite communication technology in an emergency, a solo trip became more attractive. I also want to thank the many members who posted information on the Solo Tripping and PMA Paradise forums for helping me think through the details and options.
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Reading Daniel Pauly’s "Exploring The Boundary Waters" about potential places to go in the BWCA gave me some good ideas, and Dave and Amy Freeman’s "A Year in The Wilderness" provided additional inspiration. Thinking about what I liked to do – travel in new places, achieve solitude, photograph beautiful landscapes – helped me to prioritize possible routes.

After talking with Blayne Hall and Dave Sebesta of Williams & Hall Outfitters (and one particular customer) at their Customer Night program in February, I started to develop a plan to travel in a loop starting at Snowbank Lake. I wanted to be out for 10 days rather than the usual 7 when I’ve traveled with friends. One possibility was to try to travel east to Fraser, north to Kekekabic, and then west and south back to Snowbank through Vera and Boot. An alternative, aggressive, plan was to travel in a loop route to Little Saganaga Lake in the east. Either route offered the attractive possibility of visiting more remote lakes in two Primitive Management Areas.

Tuesday, June 19:

Having camped at Lake Wissota State Park the previous day, I arrived at the east side of Ely going through Two Harbors, MN, around 2:30 PM. I immediately stopped at the Dorothy Molter Museum for a quick tour since I had never been there. It is a nice place. I arrived at Williams & Hall Outfitters around 4 PM and consulted with Blayne and Dave about the trip. Blayne recommended a Wenonah Encounter rather than a Prism because it would allow more gear and is better for larger waters. Since I had never been in a solo canoe, he let me test paddle an Encounter and I quickly got comfortable with the boat. Both Blayne and Dave recommended going in from Snowbank through the 140 rod portage to Disappointment Lake rather than starting the trip through Boot Lake and the 220 rod portage to Ensign or through the two 80+ rod portages into and out of Parent Lake.

Dave told me that Sagus Lake, east of Fraser Lake, was a good walleye lake and that Raven Lake, in the Mugwump Primitive Management Area, had a good population of lake trout despite its maximum depth being only 50 feet. He said that I could find lakers by trolling mid-lake along its long axis. The information about Sagus and Raven intrigued me because I had never caught a lake trout and I love catching walleyes. He also said that the portages east of Fraser were “thinner” than those to the west and were more like lesser-traveled Quetico portages.