Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Mom & 2 young sons
by CharChar

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/21/2017
Entry & Exit Point: Sawbill Lake (EP 38)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 3
Trip Introduction:
I (38yo mom) wanted to take my boys (9 & 12) on an adventure, same as someone did for me when I was that age. So we left the toddler home with the husband and were off! I was actually amazed at the feedback I got from people when I initially started planning this trip. I wish I could say it was all positive, motivational advice, but let's just say I stopped mentioning the trip and planned in silence with my boys. For you first-timers out there: you know better than anyone else what you can accomplish. Portaging is not that hard if you pack in multiple, lighter bags. Canoes are so much lighter than they were 25 yrs ago, if I can carry it, you can carry it. I am not known for my strength by anybody and there are many places to set down canoes half way.
Day 1 of 5
Monday, August 21, 2017 We had spent the night at Sawbill Outfitters and were surprised at how nice those sites were! We were also surprised how far out they are and that eating out that night was not going to happen. A pack of hotdogs and buns would have to do. Not being morning people, we set out at 9am the first day. It was so calm we couldn’t tell where the islands ended and the water began. We cruised through Sawbill Lake and single portaged to Ada Lake. We had some trouble finding the Ada Creek portage partly due to the 9yo navigating and the 12yo insisting we couldn’t possibly make it around the bend thru the shallow creek. This ended up being a highlight though, since after the second 180 degree turn we saw a turtle pass right beside our canoe with a shell at least 12” in diameter. The boys are still talking about this.

We missed the eclipse. It was hazy at 12:30 and then cloudy.

The portage to Scoop Lake was a bit troublesome. We decided to double portage the rocky path and my 9yo fell behind. I went back to get him after setting down the canoe to find him on his back between two boulders “like a turtle on his back” (his words). He was panicking a bit, but became sheepish when I leaned over and reminded him there were clips on the front that he simply had to unclip. Getting the 25lb pack back on him on future portages would be an argument not often worth having, though he would take it a few more times.

As we portaged into Cherokee Creek, it began to rain, but we still stopped for our after-a-difficult-portage-candy. I mentioned to the boys that it was supposed to be a lovely creek, but none of us noticed as we paddled ferociously toward Cherokee Lake. We came into site 901 at 4:30pm and began setting up camp. We all were completely amazed at how beautiful a campsite it was. Either the BWCA has gorgeous campsites or we are used to really bad ones. We underestimated how long it would take to get the water flowing, cook dinner, wash dishes, make a fire, set up the tent, and get the bear rope up. The bear rope. We found out that we are absolutely terrible with the bear rope. Our slight frames (barely 300lbs between us all) just wasn’t working trying to pull a rope that was at all restricted by other pine branches. If we had anything but an absolutely clean pull, we just couldn’t do it. We tried 2 people pushing up the food bags, 2 people pulling, all 3 pulling, paddles, jumping, squatting, standing, you get the picture. We got it 8 ft in the air and decided that our bags were fairly scent proof and we could make it back home tomorrow with no food and warmed up by the fire before bed. Every time someone went out to the bathroom at night, we asked “food still there?” This would be a common occurrence throughout the trip. That night my 9yo was tired and cold and crying of homesickness, he said the Boundary Waters were not at all what he imagined and was a bit surprised that I had brought him so far from civilization (I think the lack of wifi was the most incredulous) I did my best to calm him and said we’d talk in the morning.