Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

baptism lake
by rick00001967

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/19/2022
Entry & Exit Point: From CANADA (EP 71)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
baptism lake - spring 2022
hi all.

below are some thoughts and details on this rookies short trip.

my wife and i were in one of the cabins at Dawson Trail (french lake) in mid june. i used that opportuntiy to take the canoe (we both went) and scout the entrance to french river and to find the turn into baptism creek. we enjoyed our day but realized afterwards we had missed the turn (as many had warned might happen lol) and had in fact gone a ways up french river.

after further research and looking at satellite images i knew exactly where i went wrong. so that little recon trip turned out to be a great idea.

i planned a 3 night trip for this weekend. the weather was going to be hot with a chance of thunder storms and very little wind.

from our stay in the cabin, and a 3 night stay on pickerel at the beginning of june (my wifes first tenting experience - it was awesome btw) i also knew the bugs were going to be a handful. that turned out to be an understatement.

the trip in: - up at 5am (only 5hrs sleep) leave home about 6am - 2 hr drive to dawson trail - check in - on the water at 850am local time - found baptism creek no problem - i could see the current swirling at the junction where french river and the creek meet - (for anyone ever heading there.....the turn is only a couple of minutes past the second bridge) - portage 1 begins right at the first set of rapids - can't miss it on your right - easy and short - well cleared - portage 2 (it is actually 2 sections) - begins right at the second set of rapids - can't miss it on your right - first section short and cleared - however.....i arrived at a beaver pond / swamp and had no idea where to go from there. i walked back over the trail thinking there must be a trail going around the bog. nope. did i miss the proper trail? nope. after stopping, thinking, and looking over the maps i had, i was sure the trail had to restart on the left side, across the bog, close to the river. i carefully walked along an old beaver dam and found the start to the next section. quite grown over but passable (for a donky haha ) - i paddled across this "pond" and dragged the canoe through the weeds on the other side and completed that trail - quite grown over - cross a small pond - portage 3 to the left of the river - short, passable - up the river to a shallow section where i walked the canoe (if water was lower it may not be doable) - portage 4 on the left side at end of river - short, passable - arrived at the north end of baptism at 345pm which was only about 45 min later than i planned - walked the canoe up the rapids into the main lake - plenty of water and fairly strong current

finding a camp site: - one web site showed 4 camp sites haha - not sure how old that site is but i only found one usable site after searching about 90 min - sloping rocky point with a rock fire pit and some logs / flat rocks around it - good tent pad - but it was east facing so no wind to keep bugs down (not that there was any wind)

fishing: - caught two pike in front of the site the first night - caught a few more the next day right from shore - fished the main body of the lake the second day and picked up a few more - scouted the short portage into trousers lake just for fun - very short around some rapids - sketchy put in - lots of fish in the weeds below those rapids - only caught small and medium sized pike - maybe a dozen in total - not sure if there are other species in there - was hoping for some smallmouth - no such luck for me

do i stay 3 nights?: - after a lot of thought i decided if the weather was good the second morning i would head home a night early - i was pretty beaten up on the way in and knew the way out would be tough for me so i wanted a rest day before returning to work - after a severe thunderstorm that night, the morning was clear, calm, and gonna be hot again

the way home: - i sorted out my gear much better for portages - i was well fed and hydrated that morning and actully had a good nights sleep - the way back i was in better spirits and had plenty of energy - the trip back was much less painful both physically and mentally (even through dealing with the skeeters, horse flies, and deer flies)

learning from my mistakes: - i was not well hydrated at the start of my trip and i did not plan my water usage well at all especially considering it turned out to be 100% humidity and about 95F - to do any more trips requiring portaging i need better footware - i have decent hiking shoes but they have zero grip on roots and rocks when wet - my $10 water shoes have better grip - i am always very careful to avoid injury around camp etc but i actually fell twice at the waters edge at camp, and again at the end of two portages on the way out - all from slipping - a simple mistake like that could have serious consequences - might bring paddlng gloves if out during bug season next year - the flies loved chewing my hands - i am looking into a zoleo or spot device for the future if i decide to do any more trips into secluded areas - paddling the river will show you very quickly how well the canoe makes tight turns. my souris river quetico 16 is a really nice canoe but unless you are kneeling in the center it is tough (if not impossible) to make turns.

downsides: - the bugs, the bugs.....and don't forget THE BUGS - omg i have done a lot of different camping over my life but this is the worst i have ever seen it - the mosquitos were non stop morning, afternoon, and night - and, what i call horse flies and deer flies, were also out in full force - trip was far more demanding than i expected - i know for many of you this short route is a cake walk, but it was rough for this rookie going in - was expecting 4, short, cleared portages based on the parks info (there were actually 5) but found 3 of them to be heavily grown over and although they had no fallen trees etc, as a newby i would not consider them "cleared" - that said i understand it is a less travelled route and may not receive the same attention as some other busier trails in the park - not a complaint, just my honest observation - i knew there may be some pullovers in the creek but i was not expecting 6 pullovers, 3 beaver dams, and two log jams (dam beavers lol)

THE HIGHLIGHTs !! - great swimming weather - saw 4 beaver, 3 bald eagles (saw one of them more than once), two river otters, two loons, ducks, two turtles (first this year), 3 moose on the highway to dawson (cow w/ two young ones) - nice campsite - beautiful scenery on the lake and along the journey in / out - very satisfying to complete this solo trip - HERE IS THE BEST PART.....while searching for a campsite i heard splashing - sounded like ducks taking off from the water - i heard it again and noted the direction it was coming from - far off in the distance i could see something moving in the water just off shore - as i got closer (paddling as silent as possible) i saw it was a moose - when he shook his head his bog 'ole ears were splashing in the water haha - his back was to me and i was downwind - i got within a few hundred feet - not a huge rack on him but he was a big fella - he caught a glimps of me and decided to exit - i have seen moose do this before where they only move away about 50 feet, then stop and wait - i assume they do this because they blend in so well they are tough to spot. if they run.....pretty easy to see them right. he stood there stairing at me a few minutes before crashing off through the bush.....WOW that turned my whole day around.

the big question....would i return? - honestly i don't think so - although it was rewarding to complete my goal, in this case, i am not sure the effort is worth the end result - perhaps if there was killer smallmouth or walley fishing i would feel differently - if i was to consider it again it would need to be perfect conditions (which will never happen) - reasonably high water, a moderate temp, and during lower bug season - early spring might work but with very cold waters that may be a bit dangerous considering i was wet most of the way - late fall would be my choice but we usually have low water levels that time of year - so will i ever go back....probably not