BWCAW 2007 – Introduction

Synopsis: Overview map and travel to Snowbank Lake.

Snowbank Lake, our put-in, is located about 45 minutes east of Ely, Minnesota, which is itself about 5 hours north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro.

Cast of characters, listed in full in order to have the most effectively embarrassing Google visibility:

  • Reid Priedhorsky, fearless leader.
  • Andy Exley, Reid’s friend from grad school and hired muscle.
  • Bill Priedhorsky, Reid’s dad and Los Alamos big-shot.
  • Jan Studebaker, recovering juvenile delinquent.
  • Marilyn Yeamans, token female and long-time family friend of Reid and Bill.
  • Rick Kelley, fisherman and techno-nerd.
  • Dick Opsahl, elder sage.

Overview map. Snowbank Lake is at the lower-left of the loop.

We visited 27 lakes in 50 miles: 39 miles paddling, 1,700 rods portaging (that’s 5.3 miles for you landlubbers) in 28 carries, and 5.9 miles dayhiking.

Base map courtesy USGS; overlay by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Andy and I are local, but the rest traveled from Los Alamos, New Mexico for this trip. My dad, Marilyn, and Jan flew into MSP, rented a car, and arrived at my house around midnight on Friday evening. After a little visiting we installed them throughout the house.

In the morning, we set off for Ely, with a stop at REI and Rainbow Foods. Andy and I rode in my trusty Toyota wagon while Dad, Marilyn, and Jan took the fancy rental car.

Lunch was in Cloquet. At random, we chose Gordy’s Hi-Hat, which turns out to be completely awesome, tasty, and a regional landmark. I had no idea. Highly recommended.

Arrival thereafter in Ely and meeting the remainder (Rick and Dick) at Piragis; after a little fooling around, we meet up with the outfitting guys and go around back to select Duluth packs, paddles, and life jackets. Piragis will meet us at the put-in in the morning with the canoes.

Then, on to Smitty’s, where steak dinner is waiting. It is tasty even though Jan, Marilyn, and Bill get lost on the way. It starts to drizzle.


Smitty’s, where folks go when they’re too wimpy to camp out in the rain.

Photo by Rick Kelley.
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After dinner, we spend some time in folks’ rooms repacking gear into the Duluth packs. It continues to drizzle outside.

Andy and I are grad students, and cheap. So, we headed out into the dark and rain in search of a campsite. It was rainy and very dark. We contemplate the Piragis guys’ tales of eight-plus inches of rain in 24 hours the previous week.

Eventually, we find a promising-looking dirt road leading off into the woods. The pickings seem slim; we decide to turn around. I drive the car into a hole which contains a rock. It makes a terrible noise, but flashlight examination reveals no apparent problems, and we return (more slowly) to the last clearing, which is actually a power-line cut. It is brushy and not very level, but we find a barely adequate spot in between the rivulets and rocks, set up the tent, and crawl into our bags listening to the pitter-patter of continual light rain.

Please continue reading on Day 1. More pictures, I promise.

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