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Boundary Waters:

Boundary Waters Campsites

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Wisconsin's Flowages

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Boats & Gear

Boundary Waters Gear List

Bell Wildfire (Royalex)

Blackhawk Ariel

Mad River Independence (sold)

Wenonah Prism (sold)
-cane seat installation
-thwart replacement

Custom portage pads

Seat-mounted portage yoke

Outside canoe shelter

Inside canoe storage



BWCA - September 2010

Page 2: Days 1-5
Snowbank Lake to Ima Lake


Day 1: Tuesday, August 31 – Entry

We drive to Kawishiwi Lodge to arrange the shuttle and are accompanied to the Snowbank parking lot (EP27). The shuttle driver waits while we unload and takes the car back to the Lodge, which is our exit point ten days hence. The day is comfortably warm, partly cloudy, and there's an innocuous little breeze in the air. (It's so nice that I forget to give the driver a well-deserved tip; I kick myself later when I remember.) Steve was nice enough to wait for me.

Putting in at Snowbank Lake


We load up the boat with me in the stern and Steve in the bow. Despite putting as much weight as possible toward the stern, we're still bow-heavy (Steve is 6'4" tall and weighs 70 lbs. more than I). We head off just before 9:30 with a mild tailwind from the northwest, blowing over our stern quarter. I have a little trouble tracking on the two-mile trip to the 140-rod portage to Disappointment Lake. I'm glad it isn't blowing any harder than about 10 mph.

The portage goes well, all things considered. Steve has never carried a pack larger than a book bag, and on his first trip he doesn't fasten the pack's hip belt. This doesn't happen a second time. I have trouble hoisting the boat due to its 18-foot length catching the wind. I get it right on the third try and set off to give my custom portage pads their first real workout. They pass with flying colors. At one point I think I must have gone about 100 rods, judging by how my shoulders feel. It's more like 130 rods, because a moment later I look up and see water. The pads are just right; their curvature is, I believe, the perfect portage pad design. The only change I'd make is to use a stiffer padding, which would have helped on the 175-rod portage later on.

We paddle toward the south island site on Disappointment that I enjoyed so much a year ago. I hope it's open but it's occupied, so we continue on to site 7 (C1384), around the point to the northwest. I planned our first day to be short so we'd have time for the inevitable inefficiency of the early part of a trip. Besides, if we continue on and find the sites on Ahsub Lake occupied, we'll have to do another five portages to get to Jordan Lake. That seems like a bit much to ask a complete newbie.

A Visitor

We're getting ready for a delicious first-night dinner of pita bread pizzas. While the toppings are rehydrating, I head down the shore to find a spot to stash the food pack, leaving Steve in camp. A few minutes later I hear Steve vocalizing with some intensity, though not very loud. I listen a moment and turn around to see what's up. As I approach the campsite I see Steve standing where he is in the picture below, and a small black bear standing where the daypack is.


The bear is about two feet tall and four feet long, with a black snout. It looks like a burly Newfoundland and I want to just sit and watch it. OK, to tell the truth I want to pet it. But my training kicks in and I raise my arms and yell at it to make it go away. It backs up a few steps and stops, looking our way with its head cocked the way a dog does when spoken to. I have a sense that it's thinking, "Hey, you talkin' to me?"

This picture isn't "our" bear, but it might as well have been from its expression. (Thanks to Jim Stroner and the North American Bear Center in Ely for permission to use it.)

Mocking bear


I move toward it, again waving and yelling, and it turns and lopes away toward the woods, but stops at the edge of the campsite. It looks back at me over its right shoulder as if to say, "Are you serious? Do we really have to do this?" I call to Steve to get the camera and a second or two later raise the ante by going into crazy-man mode. I charge the bear, waving wildly and yelling at it in a higher-pitched voice. The poor thing turns and bolts into the woods and we never see sign of it again. Note the location of the camera in the picture above. It stayed there safe and sound.

My first attempt at pita pizza works out well.

Pita pizza


We have chocolate pudding for dessert several times. Steve thinks it will set up better if it's chilled so we put the bowl in the water. I don't know how well it worked, but it tasted good.

Cooling pudding


Lynn at VNO had told us about bear activity from Parent Lake all the way up to Ensign. We briefly consider moving but realize we won't be out of the (known) active area until Jordan Lake. So we decide to stay wtih a known entity rather than start all over somewhere else. Later in the evening we hear from the two young men who are camped on the island site we looked at earlier. The previous day a sow and two cubs had gotten into their food pack (which was on the ground) and their next day's lunch (which was in their tent). I bite my tongue to keep from complimenting them on how to set the table for bears.

Some people go the Boundary Waters for decades and never see a bear, and we have one in camp on the first night of Steve's first trip. I consider that I've probably seen my lifetime quote of large wildlife. Later on I see an osprey fishing out in the lake. Loons are plentiful. I quit worrying about wildlife sightings.

We stash the food bag about 100 yards downshore in a nook below a big rock.

Disappointment food stash


Day 1 summary:
Total distance 5 miles in 2:10
1 portage of 140 rods in 1:00


Day 2: Wednesday, September 1

Steve gets up early and captures an encouraging sunrise.

Disappointment sunrise


We leave Disappointment Lake a little after 9:00. It's a beautiful day, but with a moderate northwest wind. I take the stern, and once again the boat is bow-heavy. I must be a slow learner. It's hard to handle in the oblique headwind, but on the small lakes where we're paddling east it's very fast running dead downwind.

We proceed through Ahsub, Jitterbug, Adventure and Cattyman Lakes before stopping for lunch at a campsite on Jordan Lake. The dock at the west end of Jitterbug Lake is higher and drier than a year ago.

Jitterbug dock 2010


Last year at this time:

Jitterbug dock 2009


White lotuses are strewn across Jitterbug Lake like confetti. We manage to catch a few.

Lotus on Jitterbug Lake


Jitterbug lotus (Steve)


I've heard that the island in the south part of Ima Lake has a nice campsite on the south end (site 6 - C1196), but when we approach we see it's occupied, as it turns out by a group of middle-aged, retired Scouts. As we paddle back up to the campsite at the north end of the island (site 5 - C1195) I see a lakeful of whitecaps and finally realize how strong the wind is. My trained sailor's eye tells me it's blowing from the northwest at 15-20 mph, judging by the extent of the whitecaps and foam on the water. We land at about 1:30. It takes a while to set up our tents because we have trouble choosing among the several available pads. Steve sets up in a sheltered area while I take the pad on the little bluff, facing into the wind.

Our dining room is a windbreak tarp with the boat as a table. Dinner is Moroccan Stew (from Hawk Vittles), pita bread and chocolate pudding.

Ima Lake dining room


The wind settles down by about 7:00 and we get a nice, calm evening. A light rain after sunset lulls me into a good night's sleep.


Day 2 summary:
Total distance 6 miles in 4:20
6 portages of 150 rods in 1:45


Day 3: Thursday, September 2

Past experience tells me we'll be tired after the portages from Disappointment to Ima, so today is a planned layover day. Steve is up early exploring and gets a couple of stunning shots.

Ima Lake red sunrise


Ima Lake red rainbow


Ima Lake red rainbow


I wander out of my tent around 8:00 (yawn).

The morning is cloudy with occasional light rain, and a northwest wind at about 10-15 mph in the afternoon. Lunch is blueberry bannock with blueberry jam and beef jerky. Dinner is a homemade mosh of couscous with mushrooms, chicken, raisins, currants, fajita seasoning, and parmesan cheese, with a piece of Scho-Ka-Kola for dessert. The wind and rain pick up in the evening. The forecast is for northwest winds at 15-25 through tomorrow night. We'll probably be windbound, unless by some miracle it's fairly calm in the morning, and that seems unlikely.


Day 3 summary:
Total distance 0 miles


Day 4: Friday, September 3

It blows "stink" all day - 20-30 mph with gusts to 40 or more. The tarp is doing its best, but one tab is starting to pull out and I'm concerned that it might not hold. Steve shoots a one-minute video (opens in a new window) that captures the conditions pretty well.

Ima wind tarp


We move the tarp to a sheltered clearing in the woods behind the tent. I notice an area about 4x6 feet, a bit sunken and with rocks in it. Considering we aren't far from the latrine, I suspect it's an old latrine site. But it's quiet behind our lean-to and there's no smell.

Ima latrine kitchen


Did I mention it was windy?

Ima Lake in wind


It's a good thing I guyed the tent down. It's like this - plus a lot of flapping and shaking - most of the time we're at this site.

My tent in wind


We hunker down in the afternoon. Steve makes a great cheese bannock for lunch. The wind starts to settle a bit around dinner time, and we enjoy Shrimp Jambalaya (Hawk Vittles) with Cache Lake fry bread. Steve earns the title Bannock King for his skill with a frying pan.

We get a nice sunset, which lifts our spirits.

Ima Lake sunset


It feels like it warms up a bit, even though it's only 50 degrees. Tomorrow's plan is to go early or stay windbound.


Day 4 summary:
Total distance 0 miles


Day 5: Saturday, September 4

Windbound again!

It blew all night and continues from the northwest at the usual 10-20+ mph. It settles down around 7:00 p.m. and is calm by 9:00.

In the late morning we take the well-worn trail to site 6 on the south end of the island where it's open to the sun and sheltered from the wind. Luckily no one comes by so we're able to lounge around there most of the day.

Site 6 kitchen area


I spot a few Pale Corydalis growing against a rock.

Pale Corydalis


Dinner is Mountain House Pasta Primavera with chicken, Parmesan/Romano cheese and Cache Lake Italian flavor fry bread. Steve maintains his well-earned reputation on the Coleman stove.

There's a frost warning for tonight. The pre-trip forecast was for nighttime temperatures around 48-50 degrees so I planned for 40 - not 30! We'll be chilly and I'm glad Steve has the warmer tent, tucked away out of the direct path of the wind.

While at this site we stash the food in a deep crevice between two big rocks along the shore. I think we both got stronger from the many times we lifted it out.

Ima Lake food stash


We're ready to travel!


Day 5 summary:
Total distance 0 miles


Tomorrow: On to Lake Four


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Last updated January 29, 2012
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