Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

A Border Lakes Birthday
by Makwa90

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/14/2020
Entry Point: Seagull Lake (EP 54)
Exit Point: Saganaga Lake (EP 55)  
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 5
Trip Introduction:
This will be the first time I’ve ever been up the Gunflint Trail. A bucket list trip for sure! ! It was all rather spontaneous as my brother and his wife called me randomly to see if my parents and I wanted to go on a trip out of Sea Gull Lake and along the border route in August. You don’t have to ask me twice! He planned the route: a minimal-portage loop with one whole day of no portaging on some of the biggest lakes I’ve ever paddled on. After a beautiful drive up the North Shore, we turning onto the Gunflint Trail marveling at the spruce muskegs and the rugged terrain. The road ends at our destination for the night: Trails End campground.
Day 1 of 6
Friday, August 14, 2020 Hardly slept all night due to strobing lightning and buffeting wind although it didn’t rain until early morning. Got to watch a bit of the Perseid meteor shower on a midnight trek to the facilities. After a filling breakfast (which included leftovers of my sister-in-law’s birthday cake) we headed down to the landing. The goal: reach Ogishkemuncie Lake. The stiff morning breeze had tapered off and the waters were calm and quiet. Erik, Elizabeth, and their dog Sage took the tandem canoe while my parents and I loaded up our big three-man vessel. We passed by tiny islets studded with gnarled jack pine, crunchy reindeer lichen, and fire weed. The first part of this huge lake is a maze of islands so navigation was a bit tricky. We stuck to the north shore and took things slowly and only made one false turn into a bay we thought the portage was in. The water remained little more than a riffle for our entire 1 1/2 hour paddle down the lake.

We arrived at our first and longest portage of the day into Alpine Lake (we took the 101 rod portage per suggestions). We paddled through many fire scarred lakes (Alpine, Jasper, and Kingfisher). Some with nothing more than scrubby birch and balsam re-growth. We made excellent time but with the amount of people we’d seen at portages and sites we were worried about finding a spot on the popular Ogishkemuncie Lake. We pushed off from our last portage and a stiff breeze suddenly let loose and we were paddling into some good chop on the open lake. We found one site open in a narrow pinch point big enough for our three tents. This meant minimal privacy but we didn’t see many other parties passing through in the afternoon. Tents and hammocks were strung, naps were taken, and the fishing party went out with some smallies caught.

After dinner we enjoyed a lovely fire and camp cocktails. As we were hanging the food bags, lightning became visible in the western sky, so we called it a night and settled in our respected tents. We didn’t have to wait long before the storm rolled through with claps of thunder, gusty winds, and buckets of rain. It was a long night but I stayed dry even though rivulets were forming around my tent.

~Sea Gull Lake, Alpine Lake, Kingfisher Lake, Jasper Lake, Ogishkemuncie Lake