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
Day 2 of 6
Monday, May 23, 2022

We rise early, pack up, and are shuttling toward Saganaga with Claire from Tuscarora at 7:15 AM. The winds are forecast to be light and variable today, a great day for paddling across mighty Sag. After unloading and tying painters on the canoe, we strike off, paddling away just before 8:30. I soon realize that I forgot the leeches for fishing back at Tuscarora.I decide this won’t be a problem at all, if we can catch fish on lures!

We have a brief snack break at an island site just before turning west to cross Sag enroute to American Point. After leaving the island, we spy our first bald eagle of the trip. Eventually, we realize that the islands and campsites aren’t in the right place on our map. Or, more accurately, WE aren’t in the right place on our map. We flag down a passing canoe, the first we had seen all morning, and ask “Which way to American Point?” The stern paddler points in exactly the opposite direction we expect, and we are dumbfounded. The day before, Shawn purchased a compass from Tuscarora…and we seriously wondered whether we actually needed it. From this point forward in the trip, I am very diligent about using that almighty little compass, especially on Sag!

At last certain of our bearings, we approach American Point. I am blown away by the expanse of open water that we are paddling across in our tiny canoe and reach for my phone to take a photo. But my phone is not on its lanyard. I haven’t heard it “PLOP” in the water, so we conclude it must be back on our island site from our snack break around 2 hours prior. Given how long we’ve been paddling and the lack of assurance that the phone is actually there, I favor continuing on, but Shawn encourages a return to get the phone. We turn around and re-navigate our way across Sag to the island in just over an hour. And the phone is found! After a late lunch on the island, we make record time back to American Point, our spirits buoyed by the surprise of finding the phone and all we have learned so far regarding navigation and paddling technique.

We pass the gaping maw of Cache Bay to the north and begin looking for an available campsite to call home for the night. The first 3-4 are occupied. It is now 4:30 pm, and we are both eager to find an open site. Fortunately, we find a nice secluded site in the far northwest arm of Saganaga at about 5 pm. This site sits in a quiet bay off the “main drag,” filled with mature red pines, and has a commanding sunset view overlooking a nearby island to the west.

We set our tent and hammock on top of a cliff top tent pad, and fish a bit from shore. Shawn has a northern follow his lure in to shore, but doesn’t catch anything.

After two giant ribeye steaks over the fire and a bagged wedge salad, we turn in for the night to the incredible north woods symphony of loons and an occasional barred owl call. So far, this has been everything I’ve hoped for…and more.~Saganaga Lake