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HomeNL-2013-07 BWCA

Boundary Waters Canoe Area
May, 2013
by Dana Enos


I went to the 
BWCA last month for a few days of fishing and relaxation in the cool beautiful spring weather that Northern Minnesota is famous for?  A friend, Mike Brown, and I planned on a 18 day canoeing/camping trip with minimum of effort - by that I mean no portaging. We decided on an area called Sea Gull Lake that is located about 25 miles further up the Gun Flint Trail from the Rockwood Lodge (which some of you are familiar with) and it also appeared to have an easy put-in and take-out. It also meant we had numerous camping sites to select from, no portages and a easy paddle to our campsite.
Plans were made for us to leave on May 8 and be ready for Lake Trout season to open on May 11. On May 5 we checked with Mike and Lin Sherfy at the Rockwood Lodge and they just had a good size snowfall and the ice had not left the lakes so we postponed our leaving until May 15.
We did leave on May 15 early in the morning and stopped in central Kansas at my favorite Corps of Engineers, no fee, campground called Sundance Park. We did have heavy rains all the way through Oklahoma but the weather was clear when we arrived at the campground so setup was easy. We found out later that a bad tornado passed near Oklahoma City that same day which thankfully we missed. About 2:30 AM a strong storm started forming to the West so we packed up and as we were leaving the campgrounds the heavy rains started. We then drove up I-35 through Duluth and on to Grand Marais where we filled up our gas tank at the tune of $4.27 per gal. This was the highest price we had to pay for gas. Lodging and food costs were acceptable but cost of fuel was expensive. Then up the Gun Flint Trail to Rockwood Lodge where Mike & Lin were outdoors enjoying the nice weather.
Good to see them again and after a short greeting we asked about the ice. Mike didn't say a word only pointed to the South across the lake and we could see a large sheet of ice still remaining that prevented boats from going to the portages on the lake. Mike thought the Sea Gull Lake was mostly open so he offered a free cabin for us to use that night, which we accepted. Next morning we watched as the wind came from the
south and forced the sheet of ice away from the further side of the lake and as it moved down the lake it slowly was melting. We then picked up our permit and license's and drove on to Sea Gull to a excellent put in. I have attached a map which indicates the put in and camp site.
Took us a while to find a good campsite that was large and a fantastic sandy beach which was a pleasure to beach our canoes on. After a quick unload Mike returned to the truck for another load. Mike believes to travel in luxury and I tend to agree with him as long as there are no portages. He arrived back and we finished setting up camp which included a 14' x 40' tarp which turned out to be a blessing because that night it started to rain and did not stop for four straight days. It was a damp cold four days and we managed quite well since our tents were dry and we just hopped from our tents to the tarp where we caught rain water and did our cooking. Those four days allowed us to solve most of the political problems that face our nation these days.

Canoes on beach    Camp    Camp     Tent 

Rain tarp    Rain tarp

   Drying out      

 Lake Views              

Fifth day was a beautiful day, sunshine with temperature in the middle sixties. Fished all day and Mike had one strike and I caught one Northern Pike. Disappointed with the fishing the next day we paddled out and drove to Rockwood Lodge where we had a shave and shower and then returned to our camp site. The next six days we had almost perfect weather with low thirties at night to upper sixties during the day with no winds in the early morning or late afternoon which required us to take afternoon naps. Fishing came alive with Mike and I catching our limit in Lake Trout (20" to 28") each day (limit 2 per person) and we had fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day until the last day.  Mike said enough is enough so he made some soup for himself. That last night we released our last three Lake Trout. Each day after catching the limit of trout we would catch and release Small Mouth Bass and Northern Pike and we never did catch a Walleye but did talk to men who had portaged to an adjoining lake and they were catching them there.
     Lake trout     

Cleaning fish     

Broke camp, paddled out and stopped at the Rockwood Lodge to say goodbye and they offered us another free night in one of their cabins. We accepted, and the next day drove from there to Kansas and the Sundance Park where again the storms came in about 3 AM, so we packed up dry and drove home arriving in Houston at 4 PM.

Overall it was a good trip with the exception of the few days of rain and fish not biting but we had a great campsite with lots of firewood and terrain allowing short hikes. Sea Gull Lake as you can see by the map has numerous camp sites so I assume in the summer it is a popular lake and you wouldn't have the wilderness experience you might long for and which we enjoyed as we only would see one or two canoes pass each day. I prefer the fall of the year in the North as the so called "Indian Summer" with the leaves changing and insects diminished makes it just plain enjoyable. Of course the fall season means fishing is not as good as the spring season is but spring brings some tough weather. Tough call.

As you know Lin had a stroke a couple of years ago which affected her speech and memory so Mike has double duty and I expect if he had a good offer he would sell and retire.

Would like to think I can make it back there again. 

                    - Dana

The author, Dana Enos