Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Fall Backpacking on the Angleworm Trail
by TominMpls

Trip Type: Hiking
Entry Date: 10/19/2017
Entry & Exit Point: Angleworm Lake (EP 20)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
Last year in October, M and I had decided to hike the Angleworm Trail over the MEA weekend. Not having done it before, but having heard of the beautiful site on Whisky Jack Lake, we'd taken off counter-clockwise on a cold, rainy day, but decided to loop back to the sites on the southwest of Angleworm Lake for weather and trailfinding reasons. This summer I'd hiked the whole loop with my brother and was interested in doing the Sioux-Hustler trail instead, but M was dissatisfied about having left Angleworm incomplete and determined to do the loop this year. With a wet fall making S-H sound like it might be soggy, I agreed and we chose to do Angleworm again.
Day 1 of 3
Thursday, October 19, 2017

We spent the night before at the Adventure Inn in Ely, and got breakfast at Britton's before heading up the Echo Trail. There was just one car in the EP parking lot when we arrived. We took off down the leaf-strewn trail under a mostly sunny sky on a dry, cool day.

M was using trekking poles for the first time, at my recommendation given the beaver dam, but lots of XC ski experience meant she took to them immediately, and we cruised down the shared portage portion of the trail, arriving at the bottom of Angleworm in less than an hour. The trail gets more hairy once it turns off the portage, and I was confirmed in my suspicion that the west side is the most strenuous part of the loop as we slowed our pace considerably on the undulating terrain. We stopped at the crappy northern campsite on the west side of Angleworm for lunch, where we saw our first other person, a man hiking solo, going the same direction as us, who passed us while we had lunch. I got a bit nervous that he may also intend to take the Whisky Jack Lake site, but realized that trying to catch him would just ruin the hike for M, so started considering which alternate site we'd take if he got there first.

As we got back on the trail a pair of guys met us coming the other way, on their way out, having spent the night up at the Home Lake site the night before. They warned us of strong winds on Whisky Jack, and told us that the other dude who'd passed us was planning to stop at Home Lake for the night. I thanked them, but secretly hoped they were right about strong winds on Whisky Jack - I had a new Hilleberg tent along that I wanted to try out under difficult conditions.

The stretch from that site up to Home Lake had been difficult for my brother, and while M had no real trouble with it, it was definitely mentally tough for her too. I'm not sure what it is about this stretch - I don't find it difficult, but then I'm a long-distance runner so maybe that factors in. The spectacular views down onto the lake, the secluded forest parts, and the dramatic (and technically difficult) drops back down to lake level, with climbs back up again, make this part really interesting to me.

At Home we said hello to the hiker who'd passed us, and indeed he was stopping for the day. Knowing there should be nobody else on the trail now, we took our time and enjoyed the scenery along the substantially-easier northern stretch. The trail gets a bit harder to follow along this portion, especially with all the leaves off and covering the trail, but the BWAC does a good job of placing cairns along this trail, so we had no real concerns with wayfinding.

Descending on to the Whisky Jack site, M hurried to find the site unoccupied, and we sat down to rest, satisfied after a challenging 8-mile hike to the site. 

We spent the remaining afternoon setting up camp and relaxing. I made up some fry bread and jambalaya, and we decided not to start a fire despite it being a bit chilly. We made it an early night, played some cards in the tent, and got a pretty good night's sleep.