Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Winchell Lake Loop
by eagle93

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/06/2006
Entry & Exit Point: Lizz and Swamp Lakes (EP 47)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 5
Trip Introduction:
As part of our high school's summer program, another teacher and I lead groups of students in the BW. This year we have 6 groups going. Last week two groups started at Poplar Lake. The groups went opposite ways at Caribou Lake.
Day 1 Poplar Lake


Adults Brad and Don

Students Alexandra, Lindsey, and Tia, all were either 15 or 16. Tia went last year when we did the Lady Chain. She is very capable. The others, including Brad are newbies. Had a girl cancel the Friday before we left, she didn’t like the makeup of the group. Her lose, we had a great time. The other group had to males adults and three boys and 3 girls. All were experinced except one adult, though he has mountain backpacking experience.

We put in at the Norwester Lodge. The day is clear, sunny, and warm. Since there were two groups, we let the other group get a half hour headstart on us. They were going to Gaskin their first day and we were traveling towards Meeds Lake or beyond. The first two portages are flat and easy. The landings can be mucky on Lizz. We then took the two short portages into Meeds Lake. These are not easy. They have poor landings and are ankle breakers. The swampy area inbetween, however is beautiful. We saw pitcher plants and other bog plants. This part took much longer than planned. We decided to stop on the eastern most campsite on Meeds for lunch. As we approached, we noticed a bit of smoke coming from the campsite and thought it was occupied. When we got closer, however, we saw that the area below the firegrate was actually burning, including a fairly good-sized cedar. I couldn’t just leave it to burn the best campsite on the lake, so we stopped. Using our dishpans and pots, we put out the flames, pulled the tree into the water, and poured gallons of water onto the duff. We left when we were satisfied that the fire was out. The girls decided to push on to Pillbery lake and stay there that night. Seems the fire had them a little spooked. The two portages between Meeds and Pillsbery are little-used and very overgrown and grassy. The two campsites on Pillsbery are small , but the eastern one is the better one. Dinner was quickly prepared and devoured. Bedtime was 9:30 due to very friendly mosquitoes and tired girls. We meet two groups on the way to Meeds and there was a group of daytrippers fishing Meeds when we got there.

Day Two Pillbery to Winchell.

We get going about 8AM and begin our travel to Winchell. The day is again sunny and warm, but the wind is increasing. On Pillsbery we saw a large bull moose, beautiful. The portages were a little rocky, but better maintained than the previous day’s. The two new girls have established a system for portaging that works well for them and we travel faster than yesterday. We reach Winchell around noon and take the second campsite west of the portage. It is a spacious campsite with and impressive (close to 100 feet) tiered rock jutting out into the lake. Many sitting and napping spots. We quickly set up camp, then swim and are lazy the rest of the day. The wind continues to increase. We saw two people this day. The vampires get busy at about 9:30 again, even with the wind they are persistant. During the night we have a thunderstorm.

Day 3 Layover day

We sleep in as it is still raining and windy. When it lets up we crank up the stove for hot chocolate and coffee. As we sit on the rock in our raingear, we see the other group battling the waves and rain to the portage into Omega. We all agree that we are glad that’s not us. The day finally brighens and we have a blueberry pancake brunch. We swim, explore a little, read, and nap. A great day. Pizza for dinner and a great campfire afterward. We try to ignore the blood suckers. Other than the other group off in the distane we saw two people this day. It rained again that night.

Day 4 Winchell to Horseshoe

An easy day with only 2 portages, both not too bad. The girls are doing great, Tia is carrying a pack and the canoe. Though she is only 15, she was on the varsity track team as a thrower. She is deceptivly strong, a good paddler, and very funny. Also, she has done very well encouraging the other girls and helping them when necessary. The day is overcast, windy, and cool. We reach our campsite on Horseshoe around noon and have a hot lunch , set up camp, and do our first fishing. We catch several smallies and release them. The campsite is again spacious with large white pines, but difficult to see from the lake. We close the day with a campfire that lasts past 11:00 PM. Brad confides that had he had the chance, he would have left the first day. Now, however, he is talking about coming again next year. He has been bitten and will never recover. We all know what that is like. All of the girls want to go again next year. We saw 4 people this day.

Day 5 Horseshoe to Poplar

We get going around 8 AM, hard to get going when you know you are leaving. We run into people at the first portage and will meet quite a few more before we reach the Norwester. A group of young ladies from a Y camp are behind us. They began their 8 day trip on Seagull and their first portage was the Jap Lake portage. They were moving quickly and confidently. I later talked to Dave at HJO and he had a friend who had seen them on that portage, they were in tears as they tried to sigle portage it. He had talked with the leaders and convinced them to double portage from then on. One of their canoes was a wood and canvas model that had to be very heavy. I am glad they were able to finish their trip with such obvious pride and strength. We also meet Raincloud on the portage. We went HJO to shower, then to Kimball Lake to camp. Grand Marias and Sven and Olies were calling and we put away three large pizzas and DQ for dessert.


I like my prism more each time I trip with it. It is fast, stable, and easy to carry.

Girls are great in the woods. They work together better than boys and they only need to prove something to themselves, not others like boys.

I love seeing the BW through the eyes of first-timers.