Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Saganaga to Ester Basecamp-A Rookie’s Tale
by YardstickAngler

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/22/2022
Entry & Exit Point: Saganaga Lake Only (EP 55A)
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
We were two Boundary Waters rookies and below average fishermen with our hearts set on catching fish, exploring the Knife Lake area, and relaxing. This is our story.
Day 1 of 6
Sunday, May 22, 2022

After years of dreaming and planning, this was my first ever trip to the Boundary Waters. It was also to be the first trip ever for my paddling partner, Shawn. Our initial plan is to enter on Saganaga, portage south through Roy Lake, camp a night or two on Grandpa Lake, fishing for northern pike, and then perhaps venture further west through Seagull towards South Arm Knife Lake, if we felt like traveling more.

The few days off leading up to this trip are jam-packed with gear testing and food preparation, and getting out of the door at home on time is a challenge. There is just so much to do to prepare for my first trip!

I say goodbye to my wife and kids and pull out of the driveway at 11:20 pm, with a 14+ hour drive ahead of me to reach Tuscarora Lodge prior to their 5 pm closing time. My drive is filled with many phone calls to close friends who help me stay awake and wish me well.

I arrive in Grand Marais in the afternoon, and at last I am driving up the Gunflint Trail. As I make my last phone calls to my family and children driving up the Trail, a tumultuous sea of emotions churns within me. I am bursting at the seams with eagerness, but also great trepidation for the unknown that lies ahead, as well as love for my wife and kids that have supported me in taking this trip.

Andy at Tuscarora is a gold mine of knowledge for our chosen route, particularly regarding portage conditions with the high water levels. Due to uncertain portage conditions leading to Grandpa, we choose to paddle toward the Knife Lake area instead, with the goal of completing a loop exiting at Seagull. We settle into our bunkhouse at Tuscarora, sort, organize, and cull redundant gear. After supper at Trail Center, it’s lights out.