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BWCAW Fall 2008
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s k
(skots) - F
BWCAW Fall 2008 on 10/26/2008 20:19:56 MDT Print View

We managed to find room in our autumn schedule this year for a few days of canoeing, so we spent the week of 9/27 - 10/4 paddling the lakes of the BWCAW. Celebrating the fall season in this wilderness means a guest list sans mosquitoes, black flies, and to a large extent, people. The party goes on at the North- South border of the boreal forest of Canada, and the North Woods of the US, in a 1.3million acre parcel that is sometimes dotted with, and sometimes dominated by a varied assortment of some 1000 lakes.

After following the US-Canada border from Birch Lake northeast, we spent Sat. night at a campsite on Knife Lake, some 10.5 miles and five portages (190 rods) from our put in. Partly sunny skies and near sixty degree temps continued from Saturday through Sunday morning, and gradually gave way to a cloud cover during the afternoon. Portaging played a larger part during Sunday afternoon as we traveled south out of Knife Lake, through a series of small lakes that took us through Lunar Lake and to our second campsite on Cherry Lake. This route’s apparent light use was reflected in the narrow, overhung, overgrown, and relatively steep (for Minnesota) portage trails. With our relatively heavy food pack these portages gave us a nice warm-up for the coming days.

Our two packs weighed 36# 03 and 41# 10 when we began. The lighter pack (P-1) included food, food canisters, kitchen, fuel, filter, water containers, tp, and one person’s essentials. The Watershed Westwater dry pack, the balance. During the first couple of days my date portaged the food pack and I carried the Westwater and the canoe, separately. When the food pack reduced to 31#, we switched packs, and began the days single portaging. If I tired of the weight, or a steep trail, or a challenging trail, I’d simply park the canoe and return for it. If we fatigued as the afternoons wore on, I would double portage, especially on the short portages. The 42# weight of the Westwater was challenging for my date as well, so when the food pack, which lost about 3# per day, approached 25#, we began to shift weight away from her Westwater to the P-1.

Into the tent at the end of Sunday, our second day, (6.9 mile floating and 220 rods in 6 portages), a light intermittent rain began to fall. That intermittent weather pattern stuck with us through the next several days, finally raining itself out Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. We traveled southeast and then southwest during those days, past gushing waterfalls and through marshes of still black waters. We stepped carefully around mushrooms as they exploded silently upward, from the soft organic mass that quieted our footfalls. We paddled carefully through the lily pads that punctuated the dark water, and then harder as the pads grew thicker and threatened our capture. We saw no one in two days during our stays on Ogishkemuncie and Elton Lakes, and a couple of hours after we left our campsite on the Kawishiwi River, we felt the warm October sun.

And its wind. The twenty-five mile per hour gusts pinned us to the bottom of Alice Lake for over four hours while we hoped for relative calm. Some combination of impending schedule, frustration, and less wind, launched us into the fray across Alice and Thomas Lakes. The water was finally calm as dusk settled Thursday evening and we located a campsite in the northwest end of Thomas. The relief was palatable and carried us through Friday’s travel to Ensign Lake. We began to see people again, but were pleasantly awakened on Saturday morning by the rather mournful sounds of a pair of wolves. That morning we paddled the last of fifty-eight miles and completed our fiftieth portage for a total of nearly seven miles. I hope you enjoy the following pictures.














Edited by skots on 10/27/2008 05:48:29 MDT.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
BWCAW Fall 2008 on 10/26/2008 21:39:41 MDT Print View

Great pictures!!!! Whats up with the mushrooms/ funggus amunggus? Are they edible shrooms? Very interesting stuff.

Edited by Creachen on 10/26/2008 21:55:34 MDT.

A. B.
BW on 10/26/2008 21:57:33 MDT Print View

Great photos!

I've only been to the BW once as a child and would love to go again. I have fond memories of the quiet, foggy lakes with no one in sight for miles. I loved hearing the loons. Also, my first and only encounter with a bear. I may even still have the camp suds bottle with a bear tooth hole through it stowed somewhere.

I guess I am fortunate to live on the west coast within close proximity to the cascades and california but I really do miss the BW and the Badlands. Maybe I am alone on this but I love the Badlands.

s k
(skots) - F
Re: BWCAW Fall 2008 on 10/27/2008 05:47:14 MDT Print View

Thanks, Jay,

Edible shrooms? I couldn't say, maybe a garnish?

With mild temps, and an inch of rain the day before our entry, I guess our timing was opportune. We saw most of them in two specific areas; in previous trips we hadn't seen these varieties.


It sounds like a vaca in the upper plains/midwest might be in order. Thanks for the compliment and reminiscence.

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
BWCA on 10/27/2008 05:49:53 MDT Print View

I love Northern Minnesota - that fog is spectacular.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
BWCAW Fall 2008 on 10/27/2008 08:56:26 MDT Print View

This is a very well written trip report, sk. Thanks for the excellent words and photos. It takes my mind back to six day trip into the Quetico I participated in during October of 2006.

Edited by sharalds on 10/27/2008 15:25:14 MDT.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: BWCAW Fall 2008 on 10/27/2008 09:23:02 MDT Print View

Thanks for the great report. Reminds me that it's been too long since my last fall trip there.

25MPH winds on Alice during cold water season ... you were wise to hole up and wait it out. Given the wet fall we've had I bet the portage into Thomas was a memorable experience;-) Nice portage landing on the Thomas end though.

Mushrooms are a typical phenomenon during wet Octobers in the Superior National Forest ... no shortage of decaying wood. Your ninth picture ... 1999 blow down area or recovering from a fire?

Brian Barnes
(brianjbarnes) - M

Locale: Midwest
RE:"BWCAW Fall 2008" on 10/27/2008 09:34:28 MDT Print View

Nice report and pictures… this trip is high on my must do list… I particularly liked these photographs:

Edited by brianjbarnes on 10/27/2008 09:40:25 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
!!! on 10/27/2008 10:18:32 MDT Print View

Excellent photos, thanks for sharing.

My wife and I did an October trip in the Boundary Waters years ago, we had some of the best and some of the worst weather I've ever experienced, on consecutive days! I would like to go back, perhaps a bit earlier in the season, as you did.

victoria maki
(clt1953) - F

Locale: northern minnesota
re:bwca on 10/27/2008 10:20:19 MDT Print View

SK, you're pictures are fanastic. my husband and i go every year in september to bwca. will have to try your route. i consider the bwca a must do before you die type thing. P.S. not many mushrooms are edible up in this area. you really have to know what you are doing.....morrels are ok, if you can find them....

Edited by clt1953 on 10/27/2008 10:21:06 MDT.

Johann Burkard
(johannb) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: BWCAW Fall 2008 on 10/27/2008 12:48:05 MDT Print View

Really amazing photos.

s k
(skots) - F
Re: BWCAW Fall 2008 on 10/28/2008 20:17:34 MDT Print View

Thank you all for the comments. We're glad that you enjoyed the report. The trip was great time for us.

Jim, I'm out for the week without access to maps, but I can tell you that the photo was taken between Ogishkemuncie and Elton on one of a series of small, high lakes, at the end of a portage, and looking left. I don't know if that area was affected by the blowdown, but we didn't have a sense of recent burn. We did encounter fresh burn around Rattle? though, I think on that same day.

Thanks again.