Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

water and ice and no bugs
by ebroha

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 11/02/2023
Entry & Exit Point: Snowbank Lake (EP 27)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
Bob and I enjoyed (or rather survived?) a November excursion 3 years ago and as neither of us had a chance earlier this fall to get up there, now was the time. Doug needed a November trip on his life list and his son Sam was game for some adventure, so we met at my place in Duluth and headed towards Ely…
Day 1 of 3

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Our intended entry was Lake One, but the thick ice at the landing scared us off and we headed back down the Fernberg Road to Snowbank. Open water there so we discussed a route north and decided that Adventure Lake needed to be on the trip. And as long as it’s an adventure, might as well take the slow train through Parent (wide open) and Disappointment. And that’s where the fun started.

A hatchet in the front was too slow, but by loading the gear in the stern and kneeling by the yoke, Bob was able to bounce/crack his way through to the open water behind where I rejoined him via a ferry ride from Doug and Sam.
We stopped for trail lunch at a campsite near the waist band of Disappointment and fueled up for more anticipated adventures in ice before the end of the quickly fading day. My share of the food was breakfasts and lunches, so I went with the traditional TL of tortillas, summer sausage, cheese, peanut butter, raisins, and chocolate - still one of my favorite meals, maybe because of the good memories of so many childhood trips.
As we made our way towards Adventure we weren’t disappointed by the intervening excitement of more ice on Ahsub and Jitterbug. Bob narrowly avoided an over-the-boot surprise as we navigated the initial ice on Ahsub and we all were a little confused about a game plan for the too thin to walk on, but too thick to break through hard water on Jitterbug. We eventually found that rear loading and a lot of pushing from the other canoe behind could get us through the tricky ice and back on to thicker ice from open water.
Sam quickly pointed out that either all ice or no ice was better than the messy mix and he got his wish on a long smooth crossing of the second half of Jitterbug. At this point I was kicking myself for not bringing ice skates while wondering if tying small rocks to my boots would result in traction.
As we passed through the remaining smaller lakes - Adventure, Cattymsn, Gibson, Ashigan - it was an exciting guessing game as to the conditions that we would find at the end of the portage. Even the lakes that were completely open upon arrival sometimes threw us a loop going to the portage at the end. Moving water, bay-free shorelines, and deeper lakes seemed to be the winners.
By the time we reached the desired Ensign, the sun had set and we felt our way a mile across to a sheltered east facing campsite that would score low on stars, but which for the bill as a great place to crash for the night. The temperature was probably in the 20s, but without a wind and after working up some heat, it felt like perfect paddling weather.
Tent (Bob and I sharing a roomy 4-man) and hammocks (Doug and Sam came with an arsenal of under quilts and sleeping bags) were set up, some firewood was found, and we consumed two delicious brats each before retiring.