Waterfalls, Wind, and Waves
Duration: 3 days, 2 nights
Destination: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, MN
Miles Paddled: 24
Unseasonably great weather allowed us to explore the length of the lake, discovering the magnificent Johnson Falls. Sitting out an electrical storm and surfing home on the backs of large wind driven waves, all led to a magical experience.
Pine Lake is the most Eastern and Northern edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, only spitting distance from the Canada border. Compared with many lakes in the BWCAW, Pine Lake is a very long lake stretching from east to west over 11 miles, this makes it one of the few lakes worth visiting in kayaks, providing many miles of paddling without needing portages, which can be a challenge in kayaks.
A 40 mile drive North from Grand Marais, MN up the Arrowhead Trail, brought us to McFarland Lake where we loaded the kayak with our supplies and launched. We paddled 3 miles west along McFarland, past family cabins and homesteads, before entering the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness through the swiftly flowing stream connecting McFarland and Pine Lakes. We waded up the creek pulling the kayak the short distance allowing us to avoid unloading and reloading for a portage. We then continued west across Pint lake inspecting the campsites on the north shore looking for our base for the trip. After another 3 miles we chose Camp Site 7, nestled on a beautiful rocky peninsular with views of sunrise and sunset.
After and evening of playing cards by the fire, and watching the sunset, we spent a quiet night under the stars. Rising early to sunshine, and after a hearty breakfast we headed west exploring the north shore, making our way, eventually, to the portages at the westward tip of Pine lake. We pulled the kayak ashore and then hiked along the creek to find Johnson Falls, a beautiful cascade falling about 10 feet into a deep pool where we swam to cool off. We had lunch afloat as we paddled eastward along the south shore. The wind rose steadily as we paddled back to camp, creating choppy conditions. The late afternoon was interrupted by an electrical storm, with strong winds and rain pummeling the tent which laughed it off as we sheltered inside.
We awoke to the gentle sounds of rain. And the occasional whoosh of wind gusts coming out of the west. The lakes surface was kicking up white caps making a launch more challenging. We broke camp and waited for a lull between gusts to load the kayak and get afloat. We roared along eastward, pushed by the gusts, and sliding down the faces of waves as we surfed along the edge of the clapotis kicked up by the waves reflecting off the north shore. When we reached the creek to McFarland lake we shot it cleanly and entered into the relative tranquility of the sheltered west end. The final 3 miles were uneventful, aided by the wind we reached our take out in record time. Ending a magical few days in the BWCAW.
“There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way“
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Having spent many hours in and many dollars on tents, we have a good idea now of what makes a good camping shelter for us.
Island Hopping, Dodging the Weather, and Campfires. We returned to the comfort of Namakan Island in the Fall of 2020. Seeking respite from the ravages of the COVID-19 virus we base camped at site N28 on the southern shore.
Beautiful Weather, CAlm Water, and Magnificent Scenery. Five days of glorious weather, gave us beautiful sunsets, and the ideal conditions to explore the sights of Namakan and Kabetogama lakes.
Staying on two islands gave us day paddling access to all our destinations, and allowed us to experience the best of both lakes.