Sawbill Temperance loop
Sawbill to Cherokee
Left my parents house just outside of Duluth by 7 am and got to Sawbill Outfitters around 9:30. Got the canoe setup and made our way down to the lake. This is our first trip to the BWCA and after a year of planning, there was a nervous feeling knowing we were actually about to get it going. I felt the first day was going to be the hardest, due to the length of travel, the first day, nerves, all that good stuff. Fortunately, we had a wind out of the south and immediately realized what a difference a good canoe makes. I borrowed my brothers tank of a canoe for a few months leading up to the trip to get some experience. It's been a long, long time since I was in a canoe. The #1 priority for me was not to capsize. The practice paid off and we actually developed some skill and technique during our practice runs. Once we got loaded up and moving we found the Souris River Quetico Kevlar 17 to be an incredible vessle. So stable, fast, and easy to maneuver. I was so happy to have that wind!! We made it to the end of the lake(4 miles) in about an hour and 20 minutes. I will add that I was nervous about navigating but those fears were quickly dashed after just simply following the map we got from the outfitter. I had bought a waterproof map that Sawbill Outfitter has made up that, for the entirety of the trip, was absolutley dead on perfect. Literally never had to look at a compass.
So we got to the end of the lake and were a few minutes behind another group. We waited a while till they cleared the landing, and got ready for our first portage. This was another source of nervousness, since I had never portaged a canoe. I have plenty of experience hiking and climbing in the Pacific NW. Summitted Rainier, Adams, St Helens and numerous other peaks, along with many hikes throughout western Washington. BUT, that never included carrying a canoe. But I found the first portage easy and, from then on, didn't have any worries about the rest.
The portage from Ada Lake to Skoop Lake did take me by surprise. A beaver had built a dam at the beginning of the portage that resulted in a 110 rod wade through sometimes knee high slop. I ended up doing this one 3 times since I was to double portage the entire trip. I wanted to do everything I could to help my wife have an enjoyable trip so I was going to double portage, taking first the canoe and small pack, and then the big pack, while she just took the food pack. I don't care to have another portage like that. I kept envisioning the scene in 'Stand By Me' where the boys fall in the swampy pond and get out covered in leeches. Luckily, there were none and it turned out to be just a wet experience. On the bright side, my quick pace allowed us to leapfrog the group in front of us during the portage that made me feel better about getting a good site on Cherokee. I figured there would be some competition for sites on this lake and as it turned out, there were. The paddle along Cherokee creek was a bit odd. Nearly no current, narrow and almost eerie. Finally we got to Cherokee and ended up having to go past 6 sites, some with some noisy people, to find a site on the west side. We got the tent setup and took a nap on the large rock that led to the waters edge. No bugs, warm sun, slight breeze, life was good.