Some ideas nag in your head more than others; an incomplete journey is certainly one of those ideas. A few weeks after our failed attempt to hike around Snowbank Lake in the BWCAW (Part 1, Part2) we became hungry for a rematch against the trail. Winter came and went, and spring gave way to summer. Almost without provocation, the four of us knew what needed to be done. We scheduled our 2014 trip to Snowbank Lake for mid-September, when the weather is far more dependable than November.
Many things were different this time: we drove up on Thursday night instead of Friday, we hiked the trail clockwise instead of counter-clockwise, and yeah… no chance of snow in the forecast. We had no idea how much better it was going to be.
After a night in an Ely hotel, we headed north from the trailhead on Friday morning at 9am. We were greeted with wet foliage and grass. Our shoes and pants were quickly dampened as we pushed through the underbrush. But the skies cleared and the low 40s steadily climbed through the day. We took a lunch break and dried our socks, which despite waterproof boots, drew moisture from wet pant legs. A pouch of pink salmon on tortillas made for an easy trail-lunch, and my impulse purchase of an REI Flex Lite chair made for comfortable seating. The chair is a bit excessive, and at 28 ounces isn’t without a cost, but it’s pretty nice to have a comfortable place to sit no matter the site.
With the favorable weather, we comfortably covered the 8 miles to the campsite by 2:00pm. There is an amazing hiking campsite in cove on the north side of Snowbank Lake that made us glad to arrive with time to spare before sunset. A large rock outcrop provided an awesome spot to spend the end of the day, and a narrow path down from the ledge provided easy access to the water. The site was pretty picked over for firewood, and after the morning rain, the fire was off to a smokey start. But hey, it was beautiful; we agreed that this was one of the best sites any of us had ever come across. A swim in the cove, and some time spent relaxing around camp, it was pretty much a perfect day.
Sunny skies and pleasantly cool temperatures make for dull writing, but it was pretty much ideal backpacking conditions. The second day involved more great weather, some impressive views and a creek crossing over a log bridge. There are a couple of beaver dam crossings on the trail, but this is pretty much common to all BWCA trails. You will get used to reroutes caused by beavers. To date, Snowbank is probably my favorite trail in the BWCA.