Seeking BWCA advice

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Doctordogg86
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Seeking BWCA advice

Post by Doctordogg86 » Tue Dec 06, 2016 7:24 pm

I'm planning a solo trip to the BWCA. I want to spend 8 days or so inside the wilderness area. I was wondering if anyone had suggestions for: entry points, trip routes, outfitters to use, cool things to see/ do.

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Re: Seeking BWCA advice

Post by Deuce » Wed Dec 07, 2016 8:15 am

You'll find all you need and then some right here.
http://bwca.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=fo ... e&confid=1
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okieboater
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Re: Seeking BWCA advice

Post by okieboater » Wed Dec 07, 2016 4:18 pm

You need to go as this is one of the neatest places to canoe in the USA.

I have been up there three times. Twice in the warmer months and a week the first of october.

While I think there is not a bad time to go there, the first two trips I made were in bug season. It was basically ok on the water or in camps we found on points where the wind blows. Go back into the trees to use the latrines and it was instant cloud of biting insects. We got to the point we would start spraying bug spray on our bare butts during the time we went from baring butts to hitting the toilet seats (such as they were). So if you go during bug season take plenty of bug spray, a head net is a must and one of those all over bug suits is well worth the money.

This last trip was for me the time to go. Weather was long sleeve shirts in the days, nice cold nights where the sleeping bag felt awesome and a fire was the way to go. Zero bugs. So, if I go again it will be the latter part of Sept and the first week or so of Oct. We did get out before a nice storm hit.

I like the lake one entry point and you can go up to Lake Insula and mess around there easily for a week. Plenty of other places ask Piragis. Piragis dot com there in Ely is the place to go for gear and advice. They can help you plan and have any gear you might need. Regardless of us Okies and Arkies not having to register canoes you will have to in BWCA and MN. The office is open week days and is next door to the best place for breakfast in Ely. I think it is 18 bucks to get the sticker and if a ranger sees you on any lake you will be fined. Piragis will have all the maps and I got a GPS topo level detail SD card of BWCA that is the way to go if you have a GPS. You must have maps. And I think the GPS is worth the extra cost just to know exactly where you are. I would add in a small weather radio as well. This is not western open sky country. You are low on the water and may not notice a storm coming until it hits you. I have been pretty good with map and compass but regardless of what you think get out on a lake and every thing looks the same 360 degrees and lollygag for just a minute and you will be lost or semi lost. I kept the map open in front of me the same with a good Silva type compass. Map cases are the way to go and budget for one from Piragis etc. Same for a little thwart bag for small items you need off and on. Some of these bags will have a built in map case and man are these bags handy. Last trip I did the same deal with the map / compass but added the GPS and that is the only way to go now for me. The portage trails are mostly hidden with brush and hard to spot. same for the camps. Some camps are open with little beaches to spot. Most camps have tiny landing spots and may or may not be easily spotted from the lake. This is where a GPS comes in real handy. I would not leave the entry point without a good compass and Map and after last trip I will add a good GPS. I have a Garmin older unit GPSmap 76CSx as recommended by Cowper many years ago. Water resistant and has been super accurate for all my river trips. There will be a lot of camps. There may be a few with nice flat ground for tents etc, but most will be rocky, with roots every where. Count your blessings if you get nice flat ground for tents, fire pits out of the wind and trees for wind breaks etc. Which for me means have a solid sleeping pad. Last trip my bud went with light weight air pad. I left the air pad home and took a solid thermarest with patch kit just in case.

I am not going to go into details on gear. Just remember you will be carrying every thing on your back a lot. You must have some good shoes to wear on portage trails as they are all pretty gnarly walks. Take a nice solo tent and a small tarp at least 10 by 10 if you are solo. You must have a tarp to cook under if it rains or for us on the last trip wind protection as well as a few scattered drops. On food, the first time I went we had coolers and fresh food out the yeng yang. I only did that once. Freeze dry is the only way to go. There is a grocery store in Ely Zups I think that has more dry food than you ever thought was out there. They also have frozen steaks etc so you can buy one on the way out of ely and grill / fry it that night. Take a good filter and filter lake water. Also take toilet paper and wipes for the provided pit toilets. Add in a couple great LED head lamps and extra batteries and a camp lamp of some type. I was on a Grand Canyon float and my primary head lamp died totally. I had a spare and man was that nice. Since then I always have two head lamps. The new ones are so small a spare is not a big deal. Days are short in the fall so some sort of camp area light is nice to have. Some are real small. take spare batteries.

On packs there are two schools of thought. Last trip my bud had a monster BWCA pack and he put almost every thing in it in stored in light weight water proof bags. This worked great for him. With all the metal in my spine and legs, I could not handle it very well. I went with a Watershed pack for most of my gear and several lighter weight water proof roll down top raft type cylinder bags for my pad and tent etc. Your choice. Just be aware it is super easy to flip a canoe, take on water from waves, just drop a bag on loading/unloading etc and the list goes on. Depending on the weather wet clothing or gear could be a big problem. I would stick a waterproof match box in my shirt button down pocket and have a buck folder or nice knife on my belt just in case me and canoe got split up and I had to swim to shore. You never know. I see lots of solo BWCA pictures of a person with canoe on shoulders one portage pack on body doing one trip portages. I think this may be possible but depending on lots of things probably not gonna happen to most of us. But I would plan on no more than two trips and the lighter the better on weight.

Going solo is possible but be aware help may or may not be there. depending on where you camp you may see multiple boats coming by each day or Zero. This is the time for you to be extra careful crossing windy lakes, hiking the portage slippery trails, cutting wood, boiling water, watching whee the fish hooks go, handling any knife is dangerous and my biggest fear is tripping and breaking an ankle or worse. A nice wood cutting saw is a big plus to have as well as a military folding shovel.

On one of my trips it was me and a bud in a tandem canoe. We paddled hard to Insula and stayed there on a nice island camp to fish and explore for a few days. Decided to leave and took our time packing. After we launched and out in the middle of a lake wind came up big time. Probably the scariest time ever for me in a canoe. Monster swells and they were breaking over the bow. Some how we managed to get in the lee of an island and I said this is it we are camping here. It was a small island but did have a camp site which we gingerly got to. Set up camp and watched the wind blow rest of the day. Up and packed by day break and back in still windy open water here and there but doable. So my advice is check a weather radio, have a extra day or so of food and understand the wind up there is in my opinion the thing that will bust yer butt! Be aware Ely mostly shuts down on Sunday and eating spots are few and far between in town. Other days tho, lots of good eating spots and gear outfitters out the yeng yang. I always check with Piragis on places to eat etc. There is a nice state park just out side town. Motels are not that cheap but there are a few reasonable ones. It sure is nice to come out of the bush, shower, buy a real meal and sleep in a real bed after a week of BWCA wilderness.

I said I would keep it short, but BWCA is such a great trip I probably just scratched the surface of things I could offer up. Going solo tho is one heck of a neat trip (I do not recommend it but have done a lot of solo WW trips here and there) as you are totally responsible and MUST avoid little things that could turn into disaster if not taken care of.

dave :canoe:
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Re: Seeking BWCA advice

Post by paddledog » Thu Dec 08, 2016 1:15 am

We always try to plan the trip around Fathers day.
This is before skeeter season and after black fly season....
Dave (Okieboater) is spot on the details....
Fighting for peace........
Isn't that like screaming for quiet?

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Doctordogg86
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Re: Seeking BWCA advice

Post by Doctordogg86 » Thu Dec 08, 2016 6:49 pm

Thanks for all the advice Okieboater! I'm eyeballing 5/22 if I can get a permit for that date. The weather radio is a solid idea, I will definitely take one with.

I'm thinking of leaving from Sawbill (EP 38) and going to Wine lake for 2-3 nights. Then to Trail lake for 2-3 nights. I've read they're some of the best fishing lakes and that they're secluded. I also read that they are this way for a reason. The journey there is confusing and treacherous. I am not so much worried about the physical part of portaging, I'm more worried about locating the trails. I may have to invest in a GPS for peace of mind.

Or I'm thinking of leaving from Kawishiwi lake(EP 37) and going north to Cherokee lake. I hear there a plenty of day trips to be had there.

Please post if you have recommendations for fishing lakes! I want somewhere secluded with day trip options. I don't mind tripping hard for a night or two to get it either. Thanks everyone.

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Re: Seeking BWCA advice

Post by okieboater » Fri Dec 09, 2016 10:58 am

In response to your second post, here is some feedback. I think BWCA is just like Big Bend and other treasures we have. Go if you can, it will give you stories you can tell for the rest of your life.

While I have some experience with BWCA to share, I think you are the person to make a decision on where to go.

There are plenty of places to give you help full feedback. My advice is to do a series of web searches for topics like
"BWCA canoe routes" and others and you will find a ton of advice on BWCA lakes and trips. My experience is change your search terms as some work better than others.

I have zero connection with Piragis they have zero connection with me except that I have ordered gear from them.
My experience is they are help full to the max. They have quality gear for sale not cheap but so far every thing but a canoe cover I got has been bomber. I would call them up and ask about your routes. For sure my advice is call Piragis tell them of your routes and order the maps. I find these maps to be a must on the trip and get a lot of fun looking at them and doing plans. In the old days the paper maps would be the all you needed to go.

Some years ago (as mentioned earlier) long time paddle bud Cowper introduced me to GPS and that tool has made a real difference on any trip I now make. I use Garmin GPS units. Garmn has topo maps and years ago I got the complete US version on CD. Garmin came out with a desk top product called Mapsource which I used for years and it is just great to plot trips then down load to the GPS. Garmin recently came out with a replacement product called Basecamp. I am sure it is much improved but so far I have not figured the product out. Probably me but Garmin makes GPS not software and the product is free so I appreciate Garmin giving us these tools. I have used Mapsource and the topo product for years and it is the way to go in my opinion. Just before my BWCA trip last Sept/Oct, Piragis offered this product

https://www.boundarywaterscatalog.com/r ... -map-37316

I have no connection with red pine and after multiple emails with the people who did the code got the product to work on Mapsource and Basecamp.

Used it on my trip this fall and I would not go on the BWCA without a GPS and this product. The Piragis paper Maps are a must. A gps and red pine software is icing on the cake. Use the maps for a visual over view of where you are. The GPS with Red Pine addition tho will give you all the details and on our trip was pretty much spot on. One camp site was off maybe 100 feet with a disguised landing that was hidden from lake view.

Ask Santa for the maps, a quality GPS (I like Garmin) and the red pine BWCA software. Not cheap, but tons of fun for planning and on the actual float these tools will be really handy and make the float a lot more easier to manage. On the weather radio, my bud had one on our fall trip and I will never go to places like BWCA with out one. I just looked on Amazon and picked one out for my use. Really cheap, tiny, and checking the weather in places like BWCA is another comfort and safety tool. I know the old school ways work and I think we all need to learn the basics. Given the basics in your tool kit plus things mentioned above just make for more fun and safety. With the years going by faster and faster for me and the accident rehab being continuous, any thing I can do to make things easier, safer and more comfy make sense to me.

Good luck on your trip. Tell you what, just going to Ely and hanging out at that local state park and doing various lake day trips would be worth while in my opinion if you cannot get a multiday float permit.
Okieboater AKA Dave Reid

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Re: Seeking BWCA advice

Post by Jim Krueger » Fri Dec 09, 2016 6:09 pm

Pete,
We all wish you a great trip, I lived in Minnesota for three years when I was a kid and I was really taken by the beauty of what I saw there. Like your research and planning posts, I have also enjoyed reading the posts of the few others in the ACC who have planned and gone up to the Boundary Waters area over the years. I think you've gotten some great advice on this post thus far.
My recommendation is just for a book to read about canoe travels in another part of the state, and in an earlier time. It is a fairly small paper back book so it is good anytime , or even to pack on the trip for entertaining reading material when you have time on your hands. 'Canoeing with the Cree' by Eric Sevareid, a 2,250-mile voyage from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay. Eric and his boyhood friend, Walter C. port, took off from Minneapolis in 1930 in a second-hand canoe up the Minnesota River from Ft. Snelling for an ambitious summer-long journey from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay. Without benefit of radio, motor, or good maps, the teenagers made their way over 2,250 miles of rivers, lakes, rapids, and difficult portages. It's a great book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

Best Regards
Jim

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Re: Seeking BWCA advice

Post by okieboater » Sat Dec 10, 2016 12:20 pm

Mr Jim is right on the bulls eye with his advice!
I will add a couple of my paper back fav's as well as what Jim said. Camping Secrets by Cliff Jacobson and The Complete Wilderness Paddler by James West Davidson & John Rugge which is similar to Eric S. book in concept.

My first river trip was a over night deal with my Dad setting a trot line on the upper Chattahoochee River. Our boat was made out of rough planks chinked with some left over roof tar paddles were chopped out of old boards by Dad. We had home made quilts, biscuit sandwiches with home cured ham and home canned jelly. We had home milked milk to drink from our own cow in a couple mason jars. It was just awesome and I am a better person for it!!!!! We had a old kerosene lantern. My how things have changed but that river is still there'

I admit that I have become kind of a gear junkie, but that is ok.

On my last BWCA float and any others I go on these days, my gear as compared to Eric S and bud is the difference between night and day.

Lets face it, the real men and women going out on rivers and stream are long gone when it comes to ease of travel. The good thing is we can now do floats today on short notice that in those days would have taken many months.

I never tire of reading and marveling at what these men and women did back in those days around the world.

I really enjoy having my Amazon Fire reader going, setting under my hi power LED lamp, relaxing in a hi dollar comfy chair from Big Agnes, sipping a hot cup of chocolate made on my tiny gas powered stove in a titanium pot and cup plus spoon, wearing Patagonia Fleece top and Rail Rider dynamite lined dry in minutes pants, thick smart wool sox, hand made LL Bean boots just waiting to hit a Therma Rest thick Pad, in a super warm Wiggy's bag complete with pillow, in a big agness tent that is tough as nails but weighs a few pounds and the list goes on.

Bottom line is thanks to people like Eric S and bud who paved the way for us to enjoy so much good places. We owe them a lot. One thing for sure tho, even for people in my generation, over one generation's time there is just an astounding jump in quality of gear out there for us to enjoy.

Dave

PS: I have to admit tho that I am storing a lot of fleece these days going over to Smartwool natural based fiber!
Jeez, man I envy your trip to Ely and BWCA. No matter when or where, take some photos and write up a trip report for us stay at homes,please.
Okieboater AKA Dave Reid

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Re: Seeking BWCA advice

Post by kru1 » Sat Dec 10, 2016 2:46 pm

My wife and I paddled it 15 years or so ago. Awesome. We won the lottery and got a permit over Labor Day weekend. We spent 6 days and 5 nights out there. I don't think I got one bug bite, my wife (who is also my bug repellent) got several mosquito bites.

We rented a canoe from an outfitter in Ely, and they hooked us up with all kinds of information. The owner gave us about an hour long orientation, and told us all the cool spots to camp and where wildlife had been spotted. Seek local/current knowledge in Ely.

We put on at Entry point 22 aka Mudro Lake north of Ely. At the time Chainsaw Sisters was a little bar out in the wilderness at that entry point and we paid a few bucks to park our car there, and of course have a beer. I don't think it is there anymore, but on google maps I saw a bunch of cars parked there. I think it is just a field now for parking.

None the less we did a big loop Mudro Lake to Fourtown Lake to Boot Lake to Fairy Lake to Gun Lake to Gull Lake. If you look on Google maps you can see a rocky peninsula on Gull Lake, it is a camp site where we camped. That night I watch the Northern Lights from that spot for about 4 hours, the most unbelievable experience of my life. We pushed on back to Gun Lake to Bullet Lake to Moosecamp Lake and then took the river section full of Lilly pads to Fourtown Lake to Horse Lake to Tin Can Mike Lake to Sandpit Lake and finally back to Mudro Lake.

A lot of the campsites were taken right at first but once we did a portage or two we almost saw nobody else. I liked the portages and carried an aluminum canoe all by myself. If I could do it again I would have paid more money for the Kevlar canoe, but I was a poor college student. I just used a map and never had any problem finding the portages or campsites.

Don't think you can go wrong anywhere up there.

enjoy,
kru
I say, and I intend it emphatically, let the river be.
Thomas Hart Benton, on the Buffalo River

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Re: Seeking BWCA advice

Post by k8+ie » Wed Dec 28, 2016 10:41 pm

I think you will be satisfied with any of the entry points you have mentioned. They are a bit of a drive from Ely, some on paved 1 lane road and then on FS dirt roads. I am not much of a fisher-person so can't comment on how good the fishing is on those lakes. I spent several summers paddling the BW working for Outward Bound. You will no doubt have a great time. May is a great time to go. If you are concerned about bugs at all, black flies may be in season depending on how late winter goes. In that case bring something to keep your neck covered. A bug shirt is a good purchase at bugshirt.com. Piragis is well known and respected outfitter in Ely and has lots of fancy gear to buy in their store and a great restaurant next door called The Moose. There are several other outfitters lining the main street.

Have a great trip.

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