First Solo Trip


By MnJohn Print Icon Print Report View/Leave Comments (2)
Dates:September 15-18, 2016
Entry Point:38 - Sawbill Lake (BWCA)
Type:Canoeing
Lakes:Burnt, Flame, Sawbill, Smoke

Thursday, 9/15 - Day 1. Got into Sawbill Outfitters at 9:00 am, got my permit, chatted with Bill Hansen for a few minutes and hit the landing. Loaded the Canak with my Sea Line 90 L bag, 30 L food barrel, and daypack. Day was sunny and about 45 degrees. Soon was pealing off the fleece and paddling up Sawbill toward the Smoke Lake portage in my t-shirt. There were a lot of folks heading up. One group of 8 guys had their 4 aluminum canoes packed full and high – just heading up Sawbill to make base camp and making day trips into surrounding lakes. There was a light breeze out of the NE.

Double portaged the 90 rod portage into Smoke pretty easily. The boardwalk and landing into Smoke was above water which made it an easy landing. Got across to the Burnt Lake portage and it was about the same. Both Sawbill into Smoke and Smoke into Burnt portage starts are rocky. Got into Burnt and found a campsite (#924) by noon. Since this was my first solo trip, my plan was to base camp in Burnt and paddle, fish and do some exploring from there.

Campsite was ok – open but elevated a bit from the lake and surrounded by low trees and brush. 3 tent pads essentially but 1 was low and I’m glad I picked the high one because it poured each nite. Really glad I listened to the voice telling me to gather firewood now. Both Smoke and Burnt were pea-green from an algae bloom. So glad I brought my Katadyn water filter! The water color made fishing tough, as well.

Friday, 9/16 - Day 2. After a rainy nite, woke to a cloudy day with decent temps. Got a fire going in my Firebox stove. I got the G2 – 5” stove this summer and have boiled water, cooked chicken, steak, polish and dehydrated foods. Boiled about a qt of water in less than 5 minutes using very little wood. It weights about 2 lbs but folds up really small and slides into a canvas case.

Spent the day paddling around Burnt, gathering more firewood for an evening fire, setting up camp with a new tarp I hadn’t used before but was really glad to have it on this trip! Had to make some adjustments here and there before I understood the best way to set this one up.

Saturday, 9/17 - Day 3. Got pounded in a thunderstorm last nite – big thunder, big lightning and lots of rain. Tofte measured 3” that nite. I had earned enough points to get a free tent in a work wellness challenge this summer and after a ton of research, reading BWCA.com posts and talking with folks, settled on the Marmot Limelight 2p. This tent did not disappoint! Couldn’t believe how well it stood up to the pounding it took on this trip. Each nite I had heavy rain, but the second nite was incredible. It rained from 8 pm to 10 am the next day. I was dry, warm and comfy in this tent. It didn’t get much of a chance to dry out between rainstorms. I got the foot print for free, another blessing in this deal and I also took Cliff Jacobson’s advice and had an interior ground tarp inside the tent. Everything in the tent and under the tarp stayed dry. It rained on and off for most of the day and I was chased into the tent once during a short heavy rainfall. The sky finally cleared out, with huge clouds all around broken here and there, and it looked like I was going to have a chance for a nite fire. The wind dropped to zero and the lake was glass. Made an early supper and then went out and paddled the entire perimeter of the lake. The water’s reflection of the sunset was bouncing off the east shoreline beautifully. As the sun was setting, I paddled back to camp and got the fire going. As darkness arrived, so did the rain – again. No fire tonite. Headed into the tent for my final nite.

Sunday, 9/18 - Day 4. Woke up to pea soup fog! Couldn’t see 50 yards out into the lake. As this was my travel home day, I got a fire going, cooked breakfast, got everything washed and dried and started to break camp. The sun started to peak out about 8:30 and the sky totally cleared, and with a nice breeze, things started drying out enough to start packing up. Got everything back in the packs, loaded the Canak, and took off for Sawbill. Seems like everyone had the same idea. Met people on both portages, which were somewhat more mucked up from the rains. Everybody was in good spirits. One couple I talked with had come down from Little Temperance and hadn’t experienced the same amount of rains that I had on Burnt. Got to Sawbill and there was a mass exodus coming down the lake! Got to the landing just before noon, got everything loaded up and went to find a picnic table to have a light lunch of hard salamy, cheese and crackers. Then, I went into Sawbill Outfitters, got my favorite ice cream sandwich, chatted with Bill and some of the folks there. Headed down the Sawbill Trail with great memories and a big smile on my face from my first solo trip!

Some takeaways:

Good equipment is just good! Glad I was able to purchase good stuff that served me really well on this trip. My Wenonah Canak was a pleasure to paddle with the packs and food barrel. I traveled using a kayak paddle and fished with a tradiational Bending Branches straight shaft. It travelled/tracked and portaged (42#) easily. As I said, the Marmot Limelight 2p was a blessing – glad I had the footprint and the internal floor tarp. My Nemo bag and pad were warm and comfortable – slept well each nite, with the exception of the pounding rain/thunder/lightning on the second nite; The tarp kept everything dry, even during the night time deluges. The Seal Line 90 L bag worked really well, also. Only drawback that I see is that the bag would be of better service if it were wider and shorter. The 30 liter barrel, less than ½ price on the net along with a Granite Gear Barrel Harness, also bought for ½ price (used) on the net worked great. Obviously, I didn’t pack 30 liters of food for myself for 4 days, but I used it as a second pack that contained all food, cooking items, stove, water filter, extra Nalgene bottle (glad I brought 2), extra rope (can’t ever have too much rope), lighter, matches, and miscellaneous items I wanted to have along, some of which I won’t take along on future trips; I used knee high – un-insulated – rubber boots (1/2 price closeouts at Gander), which were great at all the landings and mucking thru the portages; the gear pack which had flashlight/led tent light/book/camera/drybox/ tackle box (too much tackle!)/fishing reels/extra clothes. My very old (20+years) Patagonia Snap T, North Face Gore-Tex rain parka, rain pants, OR Boonie hat and Keen camp shoes all were great to have and served me well. I also brought my Hero +3 camera and 1 extra battery and 2 extra cards. I could portage with it attached to the canoe.

Well there it is, my first solo trip – can’t wait for the next one in 2017!