Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

A little of everything looping thru South Arm Knife!
by FindHim

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/26/2022
Entry & Exit Point: Saganaga Lake (EP 55)
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 3
Trip Introduction:
In October of 2021, I suggested to my two sons we take an outdoor guys trip this summer since they would both graduate in May - one from Texas A&M and the other from high school. Within 10 minutes of my text, they both replied we go the Boundary Waters and complete a fishing loop. My older son had been there 8 years prior with scouts but didn't have the best trip (all business, little fishing, just make it through attitude), and he always wanted a redo. So, we spent the next 3 months picking a route, an outfitter for rentals, etc. We settled on Voyaguer Canoe Outfitters (who were awesome), and a route that began with a tow to American Point, then to Ester, SAK, Ogish, Sea Gull, and back to EP 55 (we left some flexibility for the exact route open as well as planned a couple nights in two places just in case the weather forced our hand - thank God we did). In the meantime, my wife and two younger daughters decided to tag along but not in the BW...instead they would explore the North Shore and Gunflint from the comforts of Grand Marais.
Day 1 of 6
Sunday, June 26, 2022

I don't think I will forget this date for a long time as it was a 3 on the fun scale!

But first...we picked up my eldest from the Duluth AP the morning before, ate lunch at the Black Woods Grill in Two Harbors (awesome by the way), stopped in Grand Marais to check my wife and daughters into their place, then headed up the Gunflint to Voyaguer Canoe Outfitters. We visited with the staff who made sure we had all we needed, grabbed a large tarp at the last minute (thankfully), transfered everything into their GGPs and bear barrel, then bade our girls farewell. My oldest and I enjoyed a Brule River Blonde Ale on tap as we watched the sunset from the lodge, then hit the rack in our bunkhouse for the night.

We awoke early in our bunkhouse that first morning to the sound of a NW wind howling but excited for our 7am tow and hopeful paddle to Ester where we would stay our first 2 nights. Just before heading out, the outiftters suggested we put on our raingear as Sag may be a little rough. Well, that was an understatement...our tow to American Point was directly into the wind which now included spurts of rain, and constant water spray over the bow. By the time we reached American Point, we were all completely soaked and cold. We said adios to the outfitter and had to plan our next move. Initially, we thought we would paddle, right??? Wrong. The waves were huge and blowing right onto this point from the NW with more rain. My younger son began chattering and we all began loosing some dexterity in our fingers. What was the first piece of equipment we used...the tarp strung between trees as a windbreak so we could change into new clothes, put on a base layer, and fleece top. We contemplated our next move and fortunately decided it was too dangerous to paddle as there was no protected bank to reach as my son was still very cold. So we pitched a tent, made some coffee, and played cards trying to get a signal on the weather radio (another item we did not plan on bringing). Two more parties attempted to drop at AP - one had 7 with a teenage girl in shorts and a tank top who was shivering misserably - both parties decided to return to the outfitter or a protected campsite on Sag. The last one from VCO stayed with us and game planned a strategy as they said the weather would not break that day...either take us to another site on Sag, or look at reaching a further campsite just around the corner. We decided on the later as we did not want to backtrack. Campsite 2071 looked reachable, but we had to put our canoes into the waves across AP (Rocky Point) and navigate into the windblown cove...then hopefully find a trail into the backside of this site. We doned our wet cloths again (just in case), and left our gear on AP, then set off. With a quick trip and some prayers, we made it across the 100 yards, found a trail, and the site open! Now, to get the gear and younger son and I made it back fine (waves crashing into the rocks were we had to land on AP), and then watched my eldest in a solo canoe with a kayak paddle head our way. As he was making the turn to head in with the wind, his paddle acted as a sail and flipped him instantly (glad we put our wet clothes back on). He managed to get himself and canoe to shore...albiet soaked and cold again. We packed up quickly, and tried to walk our canoe and gear as far down the windy shore as possible but we could not go any further than belly deep water. Finally we stuck our bows into the wind, and pushed off. With more prayers we made it across fine. We quickly unloaded our gear, set up camp before the next rain, and changed into camp clothes. Who knew socks and Crocs were so amazing! The sun peaked out, and my boys found/cut some semi-dry wood and amazingly made a fire. They are some pretty awesome Eagle Scouts by the way - I am thoroughly impressed with the men they are!! We grilled ribeyes, asparagus, and potatoes for supper followed with a smore! My eldest even caught the first fish of the trip from the bank. By 6:30 we were exhausted, it started raining again, and the wind still howling...we said a DMC, and turned in for the night to the erie sound of wind, blowing rain, and loons in hopes that day 2 we could reach Ester. What a first day in the BWCA!! ~Saganaga Lake