Paddle - BWCA, Quetico, Sylvania, and other paddling places

Spring Pow Wow Hike

By Ben Strege Print Icon Print Report View/Leave Comments (5)
Dates:April 22-23, 2011
Entry Point:86 - Pow Wow Trail (BWCA)
Lakes:Campfire, Diana, Isabella, Marathon, Superstition

For our spring trip this year, Auralee and I decided to try and hike the 27-mile Pow Wow Trail in 4 days. Last year, we both read Lost in the Wild by Cary J. Griffith. It is a true story about Jason Rasmussen getting lost on the Pow Wow Trail. Since reading the book, we both had a burning desire to see the area where the story took place. However, we had no desire to actually "live" the story.

The Plan

The original plan was to start on Friday, April 22nd, and finish on Monday, April 25th. We would stay at Superstition Lake the first night, which we figured would be a hike of about 10 miles. The first part of the trail was supposed to be easier, so we counted on being able to cover that distance. The next two days we would pass through tougher country, so we planned on covering 5-6 miles those days. The last day would be an easy part of the trail again, and we should have no problems getting back in decent time. Things didn't go according to plan...

Getting There

On Thursday night, we stayed at my parents so that we could get an early start Friday morning. We left Wes, our 20-month-old son, with his grandparents for the weekend. We left at 4:20 AM Friday morning and drove up to Ely. It was raining here and there on the way up, but not enough to be concerned about it. In Ely, we turned onto MN Highway 1 and made our way to Tomahawk Trail. Since Tomahawk is a gravel road, we weren't sure what to expect this time of year. The road actually wasn't in too bad of shape. It was a little muddy, but our Prius handled it fine. (As a note, I've noticed that our Prius does not do very well in snow over a couple of inches deep - this will play into the story later.)

We had to drive 19 miles on Tomahawk to reach the trailhead. Everything was going well until just a couple of miles before reaching the trailhead. That is when we saw the roadblocks. There was a diagram on the Road Closed sign. I got out of the car and read it. It had this map on it:
Tomahawk Detour Map
Tomahawk Detour Map

Well, we though it would be no problem getting around - it would just take some more time. Then we started down the detour...

The detour was not plowed as well as Tomahawk Trail was. At one point, we almost got stranded trying to go up a snow-covered hill (and these roads are not well-traveled and have spotty cell phone coverage). The car got stuck, and I actually had to back up (luckily I still could) and gun it to get up the hill. There were a lot of rocks and downed trees that I had to avoid. Also, the roads are not well marked. I had written down the road numbers (incorrectly, as it turned out), but we still went down a wrong road. We did not have a road map of the area, and I was thinking, "I wish I had my mom's GPS..." At this point, I slapped my head and said, "DOH!" - I had a GPS in my pack. We pulled it out, found the right road, and made it to the entry point. The detour took over an hour of white-knuckle driving, but we finally pulled into the parking lot at 8:00 AM.

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