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Canoe Trips

Boundary Waters:

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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



Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Seagull Lake Loop 2
May 25-29, 2013


Page 1: Overview

This trip is the first of two planned for this year. It's originally scheduled to start May 20 and loop from Moose River (EP16) through Lac La Croix and come out at Little Indian Sioux River (EP14). I get to the Voyageur North bunkhouse in Ely and discover that my left knee, which had been complaining quietly for the past week, is serious about acting up. It could be patellar tendonitis so rather than risk making it worse and possibly losing the leg's function completely - not to mention going out into three days of thunderstorms - I decide to come back home. Of course, two days later the knee is fine.

Partly to minimize cost and partly to finish the trip I started last September, I decide to change plans and head east. I enter at Trail's End campground (EP54), paddle north through Saganaga and southwest through Ottertrack and Knife Lakes, turn east into South Arm Knife Lake, and then return through the chain of lakes connecting Ogishkemuncie and Seagull Lakes. I exit at the landing on the south side of the campground.

The Boat

Mad River Independence (15’8”, fiberglass with wood trim) with removable center thwart made for me by Steve, my tripping partner in September 2010. With a folding chair and two paddles lashed in, its portage weight is about 55 lbs.

The Gear

  • Paddles: Bell/Mitchell 10-degree bent (primary); Sanborn Canoe custom Minnesota straight shaft.
  • Shelter: Sierra Designs Zeta 3 tent (7 lbs.), CCS 10x12 tarp (3 lbs.), 6x8 lightweight poly tarp.
  • Packs: Kondos Outfitter Personal Canoe Pack (5,000 cu. in., 45 lbs.), a Cabela's Boundary Waters pack (kitchen and food starting out at 33 lbs.), and day pack (17 lbs.). I plan to triple portage and this arrangement is easy to carry and distributes weight well in the boat.
  • Water filter: Platypus CleanStream, Katadyn filtration water bottle.
  • Camera: Olympus TG-1 (waterproof); I leave the Canon 40D at home, saving 5 lbs.
  • Cookset: Coleman single burner stove, Esbit solid fuel stove with wind shield, small frying pan, 1.3-qt. pot with lid, bowl, and 10-oz. mug.
  • New Balance Abyss OTB boots with SealSkinz knee-high socks.

Total gear weight, not counting the boat, is about 90 lbs., including 12 days’ worth of food.

The Food

Meals are pretty straightforward:

  • Breakfast: granola with dried blueberries and raisins, and a half-and-half mix of instant nonfat dry milk and Nido Milk. Also some leftover scrambled egg and dehydrated veggie mix.
  • Lunch: beef jerky, bannock/tortillas and trail mix.
  • Dinners: Several Hawk Vittles, Outdoor Herbivore, and Mountain House dehydrated meals as well as a few homemade meals using freeze-dried ground beef and a variety of dehydrated ingredients such as gnocchi, couscous, mushrooms, peppers, and tomatoes. Dinners are accompanied by bannock or tortillas. Desserts are chocolate pudding and a mix of sherry and Chambord.

I use a BearVault 500 because of the beef jerky, trail mix and granola, which are aromatic no matter how well they're sealed. My dog ignores the Bear Vault when it's closed, but I wonder if a bear would smell anything. I stash my food carefully at night and it's never been disturbed, except one time when certain curious rodents investigated a dry bag with trail mix in it.

The Map

The map case is strung between the gunwales on bungee cords so it's always visible when paddling and doesn't have to be carried separately on portages.

A map of the area can be found here (opens in a new window). Leave the map open and you'll be able to follow along on each of the travel days.

Note: campsite numbers are the ones painted on the latrines.  The figures in parentheses indicate the site numbers from this commonly-used file: bwca-camp+port-wpt.gdb, located at this site:

Trip Statistics (you really want to know this):

  Total distance: 43 mi.
  Paddling time: 20:45
  Portages: 11 (404 rods, 1.26 miles)
  Portage-walking distance: 2,020 rods (6.3 mi.)
  Portaging time: 9:15


Trip reports by day

Day 0 – Friday, May 24, 2013 – Through the Portal

It's a long drive to Seagull Outfitters - 525 miles in well over 9 hours. But it's a welcome sight and I'm relieved to be here.

Seagull Outfitters

Seagull Outfitters


The bunkhouse is up on a hill and one of its staircases is aptly named.

Seagull Outfitters


The bath/shower building is a bit inconvenient but for $25 a night it's hard to complain.

Seagull Outfitters


I'm happy to get a good dinner at Gunflint Lodge: beer-battered walleye with mango sauce and wild rice and some kind of good dark beer. Back at the bunkhouse there's quite a bit of activity. Two old friends are organizing gear for their annual trip; they aren't that old but they've been doing this for years and it's easy to see that despite living a thousand miles apart they've just picked up where they left off last time.

The theme of this trip - not so much a retreat as previous trips - is to learn what it has to teach. Lessons are often difficult so I guess I'm in the right place, doing the right thing. I reflect on the fact that I have resources - time, money, a bit of insight, a functioning brain, a body that works reasonably well - that enable me to make choices not available to many others. What more could I ask for? Well, maybe good weather.... As I conk out for the night I wonder what the next ten days will bring.


Days 1-3: Sat.-Mon., May 25-27 - Trail's End to South Arm Knife Lake

Days 4-5: Tues.-Wed., May 28-29 - South Arm Knife to Trail's End to Grand Marais


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Comments and suggestions welcome. Feel free to e-mail me.
Last updated July 21, 2016
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