BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 25 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1150 feet
Little Vermilion Lake - 12
A Much Needed Trip
June 21, 2008
Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Little Indian Sioux River (north) (14)
Number of Days:
I drive for about seven hours, or until we reach Iowa, 500 miles total. Then Heath takes over for a hundred miles and then Charlie finishes the trip to Owatonna and Cabelas we get there an hour early so we have to wait for it to open. An hour in Cableas and we leave not too much money out of pocket. Charlie continues to drive through St. Paul where we stopped and met Adam, the main man for www.bwca.com, and his son Ben… Fantastic man and boy! He gives the guys shirts and me a hat, (which I needed badly) and gives us directions to get through the detour across the Mississippi River. We get past St Paul and stop to quickly grab a bite to eat and I try to sleep as Charlie continues to drive North to Ely. Once we reach Cloquet I see that diesel fuel at Wal-Mart is $4.39 a gallon so we stop to top off the tanks, and then I take over and finish the drive to Ely. Passing through Cloquet I am called by my friend Satchmoa who was wishing he was with us! I had already been called earlier in the day by Yellowbird who was entering at #14 that day! So I had already spoken to two good friends and met another in one day, yet more was to come, as I was supposed to meet the Spartans 1 & 2 at the Chocolate Moose at 4:30.
We reach Ely at 3:00pm and run out to Red Rock where I purchase a portable depth finder from Joe and talk to him a minute about trading in my Sr Quetico 18.5 in duralite for a used Kevlar SR Q 17. He tells me to email him and we will talk about it later as we are in a hurry to get out to Jeanette Lake, where the two doctors are supposed to cook us a special dinner that night! When we get back to town it is 4:15 so we go ahead and go to the Chocolate Moose where I visit with Lynda and Neil for a few minutes while the guys shop in Piragis. After we visit for a few minutes I leave Neil and Lynda to their pie and coffee and we head to Voyager North to pick up a canoe, get license and bait. We then begin the long drive out the Echo Trail to Jeanette Lake State Park to set up camp for the night while the doctors prepare a spicy pork dish for dinner. Then it is early to bed for an early start the next morning. Everyone was full of anticipation as well as a great dinner.
At the first portage on the river we stop and take pictures of the small waterfall along the trail. About a half mile after we start again I see something dark along the river edges about ¼ of a mile ahead of us. As we get closer we see a young bull moose feeding among the water grasses on the edge of the river. Suddenly he lifts his head and looks down river away from us. We are down wind so we know he has not smelled us however, he turns sees us, looks back down the river and runs into the woods. As we come around the bend we see our first people of trip. They are heading out! A group of 4 canoes with one being a square stern Grumman with what looks like a 2x4 portage yoke system that must have added several pounds to the total weight and I am thankful I am not having to carry that across any portages. We soon enter Upper Pauness and paddle to the 40 rod portage which we had decided to do on the way in and the 8 rod on the way out. The portage is in good shape and we pass another canoe headed out. We start paddling and immediately see the head of the Devil’s Cascade portage and paddle toward it.
Once there after taking my first load across, I see a familiar face on the trip back and it is not one of our group! It is Yellowbird… my friend Bill who I had met before at Bottle Portage during the foot trip in 06’, and talk to often on the boards here and at QJ. He and his family entered # 14 the day before we did, and were camped at the campsite above Devil’s Cascade. The bugs had been giving his two daughters a fit! They are a wonderful family and I visited with them a few minutes and then say goodbye as I head back to my group to make sure all is across the portage. We paddle into Little Indian Souix again after doing our last portage of the day… Now to find a campsite on Little Loon! As we paddle we head into a brisk head wind blowing up LIS. Once we hit the main part of Loon we find a steady headwind of about 15 mph, not too bad just a little tiring in open water. The Souris River Canoes have no problems, although I can tell everyone is becoming a little tired. We pass through East Loon Bay and check out the campsite on the right before you enter Little Loon, but I want either the first site on the left, or the site at the end of Little Loon. The site on the left is open so I decide we have traveled far enough for the first day. (10.6 miles, time is 11:00 am, about 5 hours of traveling)
We set up the tents, and hang the tarp as it looks like rain at any time. Then it is get a hook in the water! First fish is a chunky walleye about 15 inches long, great eating size, but I turn it loose. Tonight we are having flatbread pizza! (if I had known we would not catch any more walleye on the trip we would have had walleye that night) All in all there are several fish walleyes, northern, and smallmouth caught from camp! Smallies from 2.5 – 4 lbs, walleyes from 14-16 inches, and northern all small. As we fish from camp waiting for the wind to lay and sitting under the tarp during rain storms my friend Bill and his family paddling by headed to Slim to camp that night. Later after dinner when the wind dies, and there is no more rain coming we take the canoe and catch a bunch of nice smallies on topwater, and one 36 inch northern on a black jitterbug! A funny note, Dave set up his Hennessy Hammock and went to sleep when we landed. He woke up after about 2 hours and fished with a spoon from camp about 5 minutes and caught a smallmouth that weighed better than 4 lbs. He then went back to sleep again! This is a nice campsite with two good tent pads, and a huge rock landing area, and excellent fishing right from camp! We head to bed at 9:00 since we are moving again in the morning.
A quick paddle across South and we are at the 120 into Steep… Or should I say the steep portage into Steep! However, it is not as bad as I thought it might be and we are into Steep and filtering water as we paddle slowly looking around. It is a pretty little lake with only one campsite! Out destination for the day is Eugene, the next lake so we do the 35 rod portage into Eugene and split up to find an open site which was not a problem because they were all open! We choose the site by the narrows, a nice site with two maybe three tent pads, and a good view from on top of the hill. It was also breezy which helped with the bugs. It is 1:00 and decide to rest a while before we head to Fat to try for Lakers for dinner! So everyone heads to a hammock or a spot to rest until about 3:00 when we decide to go fish Fat. The portage trail was not very used, but not bad. It had a lot of wolf scat on it as did every trail we were on around Eugene! We put the canoe into Fat which has to be the clearest lake I have ever seen in the BWCA!! We paddle trying to find deeper water across the lake, the depth finder finally shows 30 ft and starts dropping. I drop a Krocodile Spoons down about 25 feet and see my first laker marked on the screen. We paddle a few more feet when I get a bite!! My first laker, about 2.5 pounds! Of course I have forgotten a stringer so I use a piece of rope I have in the canoe to tie it out with. We fish another 20 minutes and Heath catches one about 2 pounds. We have enough for dinner so we stop fishing and head back to camp where we fillet the Lakers and put them in foil with onions, butter, and Garlic to cook over the campfire. On the stove I prepare stovetop stuffing to go with them! It was great! After dinner we clean up the dishes and ourselves and then just sit around and talk for a while. No one wanted to go fishing, it seemed our emphasis on fishing was diminishing somewhat, and our need for relaxing taking over… Bedtime was 9:00 pm again…
An interesting note, during our afternoon rest, a turtle came into our camp and started digging a hole for laying her eggs in the dirt on top of the hill. In the morning there was no sign she had ever been there… nature at its best!
We finally get to the short and steep 39 rods portage and enter into Gebe-on-e-quet into a head wind of course! The first site is taken as well as the 2nd and 3rd… we reach site #116 heading toward the portage into Green is open but not suitable for us, so Heath and I head to the recliner site across the lake and leave Charlie and Dave to hold the other site just in case. Luckily for us the recliner site is open. All I can say is that someone spent a lot of time placing the rocks that are all over that site. From the fire pit, to the table nearby, to the recliners themselves and the table in front of it… a lot of time, work, and rocks moved! It is decided that we will have a layover day here. We have traveled 26 miles in 3 days and double portaged almost 11 miles… also I want the opportunity to do a little fishing on Gebe which is supposed to have good fishing in it. The recliner site has two good tent pads near the fire pit and others on the hill above it near the recliners. Time is about 3:00 when we get camp set, so we lounge around for a while doing a little fishing from shore with leeches on slip bobbers and manage to catch a few small smallmouth. About 6:00 I prepare a dinner of Fettucini Alfredo with chicken and fresh mushrooms, dessert was chocolate pudding. Being stuffed from dinner we all retire to the recliners to relax and watch the sun go down. Heath and Charlie go to bed early, Dave and I decide to see if we can see the northern lights so we stay up with strong coffee until 10:30 and then I decide I am going to sleep.
An interesting note, on this trip I wore my wedding ring which I usually do not do for fear of losing it. I guess I had lost enough weight on this trip that when I was rinsing my hands off near shore the ring slipped off and fell into the water. Luckily I was able to see it resting between two rocks about a foot deep and was able to get it back!
Once on Oyster we find the first site with water access on both sides is taken by the Boy Scouts we have been following, so we head to the next site on the peninsula. It is taken but they are leaving, so we wait until they leave and take the spot! It is a very nice spot with plenty of tent pads and trees to hang hammocks. However, it is easy to see that the two young boys in the group before us had plenty of free time and a hatchet to do damage with. Every tree in camp almost had marks on them, and green limbs were cut down and piled back in the woods! We set up camp and have lunch, peanut butter and honey sandwiches on flatbread. And for some reason everyone gets sleepy and heads to a hammock or tent for the next two hours… except for Heath who rested a little, he was fishing from shore. The fishing however was not very good from camp. We decide to have an early dinner so we could fish if we wanted to. So I prepared Barilla 3 cheese tortelloni with bertolli pasta sauce in a pouch with grilled garlic parmesan pitas. It too was a hit with everyone! Heath and I took the canoe out after dinner and managed to catch few smallies on top water although there was tons of baitfish or fish fry in the water. I managed to catch a nice northern who did not bite me off for a change. When we get back to camp at 8:30 the other guys are in bed and asleep so we clean up and get ready for bed as well.
We paddle through Hustler which is beautiful lake, and head to the short portage to Ruby. On the Ruby side of the portage we noticed several large timber docks resting on the bottom of the lake and wonder what they are from. We reached the portage to Lynx and it is raining still. We head across and reach the sandy beach on Lynx, the guys give me a break and tell me not to go back this time for a 2nd load so I sit under a huge pine out of the rain and look at the beautiful Lynx. They return and we load up and head out. The best sites on Lynx and the site on Little Shell is taken so I am a bit apprehensive about a campsite on popular Shell Lake. Once there we split up with the radios and start looking for a site. Everyone we come to is empty! When we reach the site at the northern end of Con Island there is a Bald Eagle sitting in a pine tree above camp, a sign to me that is where we need to be! Once in camp we set up the tarp to try and get things out of the rain. The time is 12:00 and after paddling all morning in a cool rain I decide a hot lunch is in order, so I prepare Cream of wild rice soup with chicken and crackers. It was a hit for lunch!
This camp is high on a rocky outcrop with a great view. The rain finally subsides a little and we are able to put up the tents and let them dry a little. The rest of the afternoon is spent resting and fishing from shore with little success and exploring the campsite. We were entertained by muskrats in the shallow cove next to camp as they worked on their nest. The wind finally lays and Heath is able to take a canoe out to fish for 20 minutes before it starts blowing again and there is thunder in the distance. Dinner that night was tuna, salmon, crackers, pitas with mayo and relish. Dave wanted hash browns so I made hash browns as well. Then it started raining again only this time it was harder! Our fire that we had built was getting drowned out despite Charlie’s best efforts to keep it and himself lit! At 8:30 after sitting under the tarp for 2 hours in the rain everyone goes to bed know that we will be getting up early for the exit tomorrow. It continues to rain hard all night…
We start paddling on Lower Pauness to the 8 rod portage at 6:15. We do the short 8 rod up and over portage into Upper Pauness and then enter the Little Indian Souix River which we notice is running stronger that when we entered a week before. We paddle to the 60 rod portage where we notice the bugs were bad due to the rain. The waterfall we had seen the week before was running stronger than when we first saw it. It was after we left the 60 rod portage that we saw our first people of the day on the water. As we paddled from that portage we thought about the week we had had. We talked about how it had started hard, ended easy as everyone got used to the travel. We discussed how we might do something different or how some things could have been better. Overall there was a tone of sadness to the discussion that the trip was over and now it was going back to the world of work, cell phones and people. Although a hot shower and a good hot meal that I had not cooked had its appeal! By 8:30 we are at the entrance portage, I carry my normal load to the top, and start getting the truck ready by emptying out the front and putting the Yakima racks back on. Total distance traveled on this trip was 44.10 miles with approximately 36 of it being paddling and almost 8 miles of portages multiplied by 3 for double portaging makes out to be almost 24 miles of portaging. A good trip!!
By 9:00 we are headed to Voyager North, by10:45 we are showered and have shopped and headed to DQ for a meal. We do a little more shopping for trinkets for our wives and kids, mainly t-shirts before we head south to Arkansas.
We stop at Owatonna at the steak house for a good meal and then finish the drive. We drop off Heath to his wife and kids at 5:30 Sunday morning and I get home at 6:15 to a cup of good Coffee and my lovely wife. Dave and Charlie pack up their gear and drive off for the last hour of their drive home.
It is good to be home! I am rested and now ready to face that which is coming! I am filled with the peace that comes from being in the wilderness… the BWCA!
1. This is a great loop to do! 2. All of the gear worked well! 3. Only brought back 2 pounds of food so planning was good. 4. It was good to have an extra stove to help out a friend in need. 5. Saw lots of animal signs. 6. Scenery was fantastic. 7. Thermacell worked well when needed. 8. Great Food on the trip.
Bad Things: 1. Lots of dead pine trees. 2. Lots of dead beetles in the water. 3. Signs of chopping at campsites. 4. It having to end so soon!
Final Thoughts… This trip as mentioned before was needed by everyone that went, and at the end of it each of us had gotten what we needed out of it… some peace, some space, and some just away from it all!
I have since had my treatment for Prostate Cancer. It was Brachytherapy which involves the implantation of radioactive seeds into my prostate. There were 160 seeds placed in a procedure done on July 1, two days after my return from the BWCA. That is one reason this trip report has taken so long. I have not been able to sit at the computer for any long period of time and type or import pictures. I am recovering well! The main downside to my procedure is that I cannot sleep within a foot of my wife for the next 10 months until the radiation is gone. I cannot hold babies, or be near pregnant women. My dog cannot sit in my lap! But all it all I am grateful that my wife had me go tot the doctor and get checked, and that we found it early and I was able to do this type of treatment! I am blessed with a great wife, great kids, great friends, and most importantly… A Great God that answers prayers and watches over me!
PS: there are more pictures of our trip and more to be added later in my photo albums on this site!