Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Sawbill Loop Solo Adventure
by Portage99

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/01/2020
Entry & Exit Point: Sawbill Lake (EP 38)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
This was my first solo trip in the Boundary Waters. I decided to use a map & compass only. I decided to rent a Prism from Sawbill Outfitters, rather than bring my trusty Yellowstone from home. I wanted this trip to be challenging, yet not overwhelming. I accomplished this mission! My primary concerns were anxiety being alone for the first time and the challenging portages.
Day 1 of 5
Monday, June 01, 2020 ~Sawbill Lake, Flame Lake, Smoke Lake, Burnt Lake

I headed out of Sawbill in the rain. It felt good to get out on the water and feel prepared for the trip. As I headed North, I realized the Prism and the Yellowstone are different animals. I had to adjust my paddling style and I missed my old friend the Yellowstone. I had crafted a portage plan at home and it worked well going into Smoke and Burnt. I was worried about portaging the canoe, but the Prism was a dream to portage.


A storm was brewing as I finished the portage into Burnt. I felt confident I could make it to a campsite before the storm blew in. However, the first two campsites I had chosen were taken. As I headed to check out the third, the storm hit with rumbling of low thunder and quick flashes of lightning. I was still learning control of the Prism and felt a little like a kite on the water. I decided to take a break to regroup. I let the wind drift me to shore near a nice landing area. I had a Cliff Bar, got a drink, and took some deep breaths. By that time, the storm was already gone-just a quick puffer.

Unfortunately, all the campsites on Burnt appeared full (didn’t check the far SW site). So, I ended up on Flame, which was super! Set up camp and practiced my tarp and knots. Kind of jimmy-rigged, but functional. After camp was set, I realized I was freezing. Warm clothes and a hot meal. I was asleep before sunset!

Lakes Traveled:   Sawbill Lake, Flame Lake, Smoke Lake, Burnt Lake,