Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Mission Angleworm: A PMA Adventure
by BigOarDeal

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/27/2020
Entry Point: Angleworm Lake (EP 20)
Exit Point: Stuart River (EP 19)  
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
This trip was planned for nearly a year, but was only confirmed about a week ahead of time, as the Forest Service made the decision to open up the Boundary Waters to overnight camping. It had been planned for so long because I was so excited to visit a PMA for the first time and experience a new type of adventure. And if you're going to visit a PMA, why not start your trip by doing the longest entry point portage?
Day 1 of 5
The Portage

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

7 am, Tim arrives at my house and we head off with the canoe on top of the car headed to pick up Craig and Kyle. We stop at Tobies in Hinckley and decide that if we get COVID, we know where it came from: this gas station. Nobody there was wearing masks or keeping distance at all. In fact, in contrast to the previous month and a half, it seemed like COVID was no more. Anyway, we got our donuts and resumed our journey.

Before noon we go through the DQ drive thru in Ely and drive to the International Wolf Center and eat at some outdoor tables. From there, the short drive up the Echo Trail to the Angleworm entry point to drop off the (royalex) canoe. We rented a second canoe from Echo Trail Outfitters, so we drove over to pick up the second (kevlar) canoe. A brief panic attack when I thought I forgot the life jackets at home, but after a couple minutes I finally remembered I hid them in a storage compartment. Phew!

The crew looking excited for the 720er:

Now to begin the adventure! I had chosen the Angleworm entry point because I really wanted to take on the challenge of a 720-rod portage. And I thought that after we complete that, a PMA will be simple! I volunteered to take the (heavier) royalex since it’s my canoe. Tim volunteered for the Kevlar. Kyle volunteered to drop off the car at Stuart Creek (our exit point) and bike back to Angleworm, then take the oars and rods. That left Craig with the food pack which is never fun on the first day, not to mention the 720-rod aspect. We decide the only way to attack this beast is to single portage, so these are all in addition to our own packs, of course. And right before we leave, a couple emerges from the portage, apparently having hiked it. Eyeing our canoes, they give a little giggle and say ‘have fun!” Despite this foreboding warning, we were ready to attack the portage!

The portage itself is not bad. I’m loving being back here again, the backdrop of the pandemic making it that much more enjoyable. We end up taking 3-4 breaks along the way. We started around 1:30 and made it to Angleworm at around 2:45. A few notes about the portage: Generally, pretty easy except for its length. The boardwalk over spring creek is a bit terrifying as it is 4 feet or so off the ground and has a 90 degree turn in the middle.

Before you reach the beaver pond, you must veer right at the fork. The left trail appears to be the old trail that got flooded by the pond. Speaking of the beaver pond, here it is:

At the fork closer to Angleworm, make sure you turn left. Luckily I was ready for this fork, so knew to go left when we got there. Lastly, it’s not obvious where the put-in is. We opted for the earliest put-in opportunity, prior to the first campsite. It seemed a little clunky, so not sure if it was the official put-in, but it was definitely the shortest!

We collapsed on the ground when we got there, and awaited Kyle who was on car drop-off duty, so started the portage probably 30-45 minutes later than the rest of us. I had made the poor choice of Chacos for this initial portage, so had numerous blisters on my feet. I was a little nervous waiting for Kyle. I never like to split up, but given the 3 of us had a lot of extra weight to carry and we were starting in the afternoon, we didn’t think we could afford to wait. Luckily, after 30 minutes or so Kyle shows up and we are ready to finally dip our paddles in the water.

Angleworm was enchanting. I don’t know why. Maybe the 720-rodder had something to do with it. But the narrow lake and steep shorelines made for enchanting views. We passed a campsite on our right that we all agreed looked ‘cozy’ and almost stopped for the night. But, knowing that we wanted to enter the PMA tomorrow, we thought it best to carry on a bit farther.

Before you know it, we were at our next portage. Of course the portage to Home is a breeze compared to what we have already accomplished today. I am itching to get even closer to Beartrap, but the other guys are ready to settle in. The other canoe scouts the single campsite (besides the hiking campsite) on Home and they are ready to call it home for the night. I’m good with this too--after all, the Angleworm portage was my idea, not anyone else’s!

Home campsite:

We set up camp, me with my hammock, and the others with their tents. Side note: this was slightly inefficient since we had two 3-person tents (they sleep 2 comfortably) plus my hammock setup. I could have just gone in the tent, but I sleep so much better in a hammock.

This is a nice site. Great sunset view of the lake, lots of tent pads, great firegrate placement. Only downside was giant gardner snakes. They don’t both me, but a couple others in the group evidently have a fear of snakes. But they seem to be able to let it go.

We go for a swim and it feels great to wash off all the sweat from the day. While we’re swimming I reveal that I’ve brought a ‘secret item’ as an appetizer for dinner. Since we’re all getting hungry, this makes the others quite excited. We play a rousing game of 20 questions where they eventually figure out the secret appetizer is ‘pizza biters’, as inspired by the Tumblehome podcast.

They couldn’t be happier with the surprise. So we go make dinner and the pizza biters are a perfect appetizer to the steak, mashed potato, and pepper meal.

After dinner we break into the boxed wine. Well, not only do we break into it, we finish the entire thing on the first night! Well, less to carry tomorrow!

Enjoying wine and sunset by the fire:

With all the talk of how busy the BWCA was going to be, we saw nobody today after leaving the parking lot. It was a great first day, we have the monster portage behind us, and tomorrow we finally get to enter the PMA!

Today's route:

~Angleworm Lake, Home Lake