Ok, we have started the worst and best portages, and best route, I guess it’s time for worst route or trip. The problem I have is there have been no routes I would not do again and have been lucky to not have disaster of any kind(weather, bugs, injury, one’s companions,etc)strike. Please note I said disaster- my son might have said the ticks a year ago were a disaster,especially considering the part of his anatomy that I had to remove a tick from, but his mom and I say it was a great memory maker, we still laugh about it. The thing is a bad day in the boundary waters is better than a week of good days at work. Add a little luck at fishing, and it makes up for a whole month at work, great luck at fishing and it covers the whole year. Routes too short because you did not have enough time don’t count.
Crane to Loon
I’ve gone in Crane lake a couple times. The only option you have is to go up to Sand Point, then south and east through Little Vermilion, and the Loon River. This is less than fun as far as B-dub routes go.
Crane and Sand Point are terribly busy lakes with boats zooming by constantly. There are no options for alternative routes here. Little Vermilion and Loon River are also motorized which can be dangerous since in places the river twists and turns and there are people in motor boats that go flying up and down that river. Once you get into the river too, there are no camp sights for maybe 6 miles or so, so you’re committed to going all the way through. I can think of no other entry point I would like to go into the B-dub than the Crane entry. No fun at all.
I read in the BWJ the first leg of two guys who traversed BWCA via inland lakes in three trips. The author sent me the whole story. That first leg from Crane Lake did not pull my chain much, and it sounds like their trip through that area went better than what you encountered.
Another area that did not look like much fun was going north into big Saganaga from Gull. We were shuttled from our outfitter to Hook Island for a Quetico trip on the Man chain. I was glad I was not one of those canoeists getting rocked by all the boats. Without a shuttle, that first leg to Cache Bay would have been a long one. With the shuttle, it was a great route. The shuttle was definitely worth it to get beyond the motors.
Crane to Sand Point
Part of what I love about the B-waters is the seclusion. I would venture to guess that every foot of lakeshore on Crane is private property. There are cabins everywhere. Shuttles zoom all over. Power boats were nuts.
I actually considered one point dangerous, though. There is a small channel between Crane and Sand Point. It is maybe 30 feet across and 50 feet long or so with steep rocks or cliffs on each side. A few times I went through there, we had to time our passage with boats coming or going so we could hope to have the channel mostly to ourselves. Wake in there was pretty bad, and there was little room to move (especially when I had some novice canoers in my groups) when boats came by. Far too many people seemed to be motoring around without any concern for those around them. It was not pleasant.
Usually Silver Linings, But Not Always
Seems like there’s good and bad in ALL trips, but usually the good will outweigh the bad. I recall a trip from Gunflint along the border and out Bearskin. High winds, rain everyday. But hooked the biggest lake trout (or ANY kind of fish) of my life. Or last year, strained back, bear in camp, but lots of fresh raspberries and two nights of Aurora displays. One trip, however; does stand out as exceptionally bad though. My first trip in '84 started on the Granite River. The BWCAW bug bit me there, so it is, no, WAS, a special place. I especially liked the rapids and waterfalls on this route. The next time I took the Granite River, found out there was a road on the Canadian side of Maraboux Lake, about 2/3 of the way to Sag, and we saw a couple of motorboats on Maraboux. It “Altered” our experience, but didn’t ruin the trip. The last time I took this trip, about 5 years ago, my former favorite stretch of the BWCAW was tainted forever. We camped at a favorite spot, Devil’s Elbow area of Gneiss (a narrows), and the motorboats were almost continuous. VERY disappointed that the Canadian government allowed a road to penetrate this area. “Wilderness” on one side of the border, Canadian “Crown Lands” on the other. We quit counting the boats, but paddling through Maraboux the next day we saw 8 boats at one island campsite. I miss this area, but I’ll never be back unless Ontario closes that road that ruined a beautiful part of the BWCAW. WW