Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Snowbank to Thomas Memorial Weekend 2019
by SurlyDude

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/22/2019
Entry & Exit Point: Snowbank Lake (EP 27)
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 6
Trip Introduction:
Lots of wind, some fishing and an unforgettable start.
We had planned to make the trip from Snowbank to Thomas in one day of travel. We stayed at Snowbank Lodge and Outfitter the night before to get an “early” jump. In reality, the anticipation of the trip led to us staying up a little later than expected and enjoying a few more Boathouse beers in Ely than necessary that night before.

We ended up getting to the landing at about 7:30 on Wednesday, so not quite as early as we hoped (but in hindsight maybe it was all meant to be). The weather was extremely windy and raining as we left the outfitter. When we got to the canoe landing, I looked out on the lake and there were some large rollers out there, but I was temporarily relieved as I saw another tandem canoe out there braving the waves. As I went back to grab more gear I told the rest of the crew that it looked a little rough, but if we skirted around the islands as best we could it was definitely doable and ‘hey someone else is doing it too.’ Well my buddies looked out and said they couldn’t see any other canoes… we eventually saw a couple heads bobbing out there about a half mile or so out from the landing and realized they had capsized.

Our group of 6 guys was the only people around. The next few hours were quite hectic and a little bit of a daze. One of the guys and I drove back to the outfitter. At the outfitter – Adam who is the new owner rustled up a few guys who were staying in cabins and got a couple boats loaded up to head over. When we left we told the other four of our guys to sit tight, as clearly the waves were dangerous and you can’t be sure these two will not cause you to capsize as well. They did not listen. Two of the guys paddled out and drug the capsized folks to the nearest shoreline. The other two guys made their way down the shoreline with warm and dry clothes. At this point the motor boats arrived on the scene where everyone was now on shore, grabbed the capsized fellas from shore and brought them back to the canoe landing, where we got them into warm vehicles. We estimated that the two guys had spent about 45 mins to an hour in the water that was about 45 degrees. After some time in front of a fire at the outfitter they were doing well. A wild few hours that could have been a lot worse and in hindsight glad my friends didn’t listen.

Back at the landing about 10:30 with the wind still formidable we decided that it was probably not going to work to get to Thomas that day – so we called an audible and just went to Disappointment day one. A little gun shy we took the longer route through Parent Lake and did the extra portage. The rain and wind were brutal so we took one of the first sites we could find on Disappointment. Most definitely not a 5 star site, but it got the job done.

Got up early day 2 and headed to Thomas. The wind had kicked back quite a few notches and the travel went smoothly. A lot of in’s and out’s on that trek, but as a group we seem to have a pretty good routine and single portage pretty quickly. We setup at an island site on Thomas that was a really great site. After camp was set we got out for a few hours of fishing with minimal success, had what would have turned out to be our nicest trout of the trip get off right at the boat. We did pretty well bobber fishing the first night right from our campsite.

The next 2 full days on Thomas we got treated with near constant strong winds and quite a bit of rain making fishing really challenging. We were able to hook into a few trout & walleye here and there when we could get on the water, but didn’t dial it in or catch any trophies. Also the hot shore bite from the first night was a one-time occurrence. The strong winds did allow us to lounge around our campsite more than normal and we had a few fun games of cards. We stayed 3 nights on Thomas.

We decided to travel on Sunday morning to get a little closer to Snowbank for our departure on Monday and decided on staying on Jordan. That morning of travel was our nicest weather of the trip and after getting camp all set on Jordan, I convinced my buddy to head back to Ima to chase trout one last time. Wouldn’t ya know it, within minutes of paddling out our sunny blue skies turned grey and our most loyal companion on the trip (the wind) returned. We stuck with our plan to go to Ima despite the conditions… we gave it a few hard hours and 1 trout later returned to Jordan cold and wet. Successful Ima excursion? Meh, maybe… glad we did it but it was pretty damn cold and windy for one fish.

Got going pretty early Monday morning and back to the vehicle before noon… back to the real world.

Overall, it was an incredible trip even if we didn’t get to do as much fishing (or as successful) as we hoped – definitely not a trip we are likely to forget. Sometimes that extra beer (or 3) the night before delays you just enough to be in the right place at the right time. I’ll use that insight to barter with the wife the next time I am out with the guys. Check out the video my buddy made to see some of the highlights. ~Snowbank Lake, Disappointment Lake, Thomas Lake, Jordan Lake, Ima Lake

Lakes Traveled:   Snowbank Lake, Disappointment Lake, Thomas Lake, Jordan Lake, Ima Lake,