BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

May 18 2021

Entry Point 12 - Little Vermilion Lake

Little Vermilion Lake (Crane Lake) entry point allows overnight paddle or motor (Unlimited max). This entry point is supported by La Croix Ranger Station near the city of Cook, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 45 miles. Enter from Crane Lake. Note: Not the entry point to use for Trout Lake (#1)

Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1150 feet
Latitude: 48.2995
Longitude: -92.4268
Little Vermilion Lake - 12

Little Indian Sioux Loop Through The Beartracks

by HighPlainsDrifter
Trip Report

Entry Date: May 31, 2008
Entry Point: Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Number of Days: 8
Group Size: 4

Trip Introduction:
This trip would be our first “west side trip” and we planned a loop from Little Indian Sioux North (Entry 14) through the Beartrack Lakes. The topography of this area promised big returns in scenery for our effort. Our 47 mile loop was taken clockwise and would have us following: Little Indian Sioux River, Upper and lower Pauness Lakes, LIS River, Loon Lake, Little Loon Lake, Slim lake, Section 3 Pond, South Lake, Steep Lake, Eugene lake, Little Beartrack and Beartrack Lakes, Thumb Lake, Finger Lake, Finger Creek, Pocket Lake, Pocket Creek, Ge-be-on-e-quet Creek and Lake, Green Lake, Rocky Lake, Oyster Lake, Hustler Lake (with overnight on Emerald lake), Ruby Lake, Lynx Lake, Little Shell and Shell Lakes, Lower and Upper Pauness lakes, and Little Indian Sioux River.

Part 1 of 11

Over the past few years, we had been paddling as a crew of four, but after September 2007, we knew that Dave would probably not paddle again with us. It was not a matter of getting along with each other; we clicked as a crew. New factors of time, distance, and health were entering Dave’s life. Dave passed away on November 26, 2008. He was a colorful character, and we will miss him. [paragraph break] In the wings, a new face was about to enter into the world of our wilderness tripping. She had never been on a canoe trip. She had never paddled a canoe. My son, Matthew, said that his girlfriend, Danielle, wanted to go in spring. Our reaction was, good, let’s do it. And so, during the winter of 2007-2008, plans were made. That winter seemed to last too long. Don’t they all? [paragraph break] Up until this year, our trips were always in the fall. In the fall, we worried about fire bans and water levels. For this trip we were wondering if the ice would go out by May 31. Ice finally crept out on some of the larger lakes by May 12, and this was about 2 weeks behind the average date. When the lakes around home cleared, Matthew was intent on “schooling” our new team member to the ways of the canoe and the portage trail. [paragraph break]


Part 2 of 11

Travel to Ely [paragraph break] In years past, the day before day zero had Matthew and Nate doing some strange “11th hour“ heroics. I had bad memories of the year of the last-minute oil change (11 PM) in my driveway, during a thunderstorm, and the accidental fill up without the oil plug in place. This resulted in a mad dash for the cat litter, chaos, and no sleep for the “old man” before the 450 mile trek to the promise land. So, once again, I asked “the boys” (as Dave used to call them), lets get it done early in the week, 4 AM comes early. Who is going to help with the fried egg sandwiches? A silence fell over the land, and the “old man” made breakfast for “put-in” day. [paragraph break] And, so it came to pass, after the usual night-before last-minute “brain gas” events, that morning came and Ely was finally on the radar. We stopped, as usual, in Marshall, MN, for our McDonald’s breakfast. After that, gas at Saint Cloud and lunch at Cloquet. Along the way, I constantly quizzed Danielle on the artists of moldy old tunes. Well, I had fun and a captive audience. The miles clicked off quickly. Soon, we were looking for the big blue water tank that marks Ely, and the end of a long day. Just before Ely, hey, that is a moose standing there! Yup, that is a moose and a big one too. [paragraph break] We arrive at the door of VNO around 3 PM and Lynn remembered my name! Now that is very good PR. She is the same person that responded to my email question about spring bugs as: ”You probably should be just fine, I think that the ticks will eat all of the black flies!”. This was our first time at VNO and I got to say, they are good people, fun, and highly recommended for a place to hang your hat. Lynn gave us our “canoe paddle” key and we left to check out our digs. This wasn’t the Ritz, but the atmosphere and being together was priceless. Then we headed to town to do the usual things to help with the Ely economy, pick up the permit, buy a new fishing pole, buy T-shirts, souvenirs, wolf down some beers, and “carb-up” with pasta at the Italian joint. It is then out for an after-dinner drive to entry 14. [paragraph break] In our quest for an early departure, we like to do a test drive in unfamiliar country. It is worth doing, because in the morning we would leave in the dark. The Echo Trail was about the slowest and roughest hunk of "maintained" gravel road I have been on. Usually, we buzz along a good FS road at 40+. The Echo Trail could take off your front end if you try that. Before we left, we asked Lynn, how long to get out to LIS North? She said an hour, with a smile. Go on! It ain't that far. It took an hour + change, but we saw 2 moose. [paragraph break] We parked the car at the entry and hustled down the trail to the river. There she was, quiet, and flowing away to parts unknown. I was pumped. Damn that water looks good. Look at that country. We should see moose. Ok, we are getting up here early! Lets get back to VNO and catch a few winks. You asleep yet? [paragraph break]


Part 3 of 11

Day 1, May 31, 2008 [paragraph break] Travel this day was: Entry 14, Little Indian Sioux River, Upper Pauness Lake, Lower Pauness Lake, LIS River, Loon Lake, Little Loon Lake; with 10.25 miles; 4 portages (300r); 6 hours travel. First camp was SW Little Loon Lake. [paragraph break] I don’t sleep before a trip. I am too pumped up to relax. Night seemed forever. But day came early at 5:13. We were up and going at 3:30 AM. Matthew had set the timer on his coffee pot, and the smell of coffee filled the air as we suited up for the bush. Fried egg sandwiches hit my stomach with a lump. No one is hungry, but that coffee sure was good. We packed our breakfast sandwiches for later. We left VNO at 4:30 AM, arrived at Entry 14 parking lot at 5:30, and hey, there is a parking spot right next to the portage! Way to go. [paragraph break] The day and the trip were now before us. Planning was done. If we don’t have it, we don’t need it. This would be my first outing with my new Bell Northwind Black Gold. I had paddled her ½ dozen times before the trip. There were only a few scratches on her hull. Now, fully loaded, I tried to maneuver around the rocks at the put-in. By the time we floated free, she was christened, and I was beaming like a proud new Dad. This canoe is going to be good. Nate, my bowman, dug in and we rapidly closed ranks with Matthew and Danielle. Our team was off at 6 AM. [paragraph break] The Little Indian Sioux meanders in a lazy fashion through “moose country”. It seems that the only thing that could make the going rough would be wind out of the NW. We had only a small taste of that. On our way back we would have the wind at our backs. The 60r portage about midway on the river is a nice walk along the LIS rapids. [paragraph break] Before the trip, I read some reports that recommended taking the 40r between the Pauness Lakes rather than the 8r. We did the 40 on the way in and 8 on the way out. The 8r is best. The mud on the 40r was slick as snot and twice as sticky. My advice would be to avoid the 40r if the weather has been wet. Devils Cascade was a pretty spot and our first portage of any significance. Once we descended into Loon from Lower Pauness, it seemed that the rest of our trip was spent climbing back up. As we hit Loon Lake after Devils Cascade, the NW wind that we had been feeling started to crank up. There was a good rolling swell by the time we turned into East Loon Bay. The combination of paddling into the wind and “motor boat land” made us a bit testy. We had no intention of stopping on this stretch but even if we did, all campsites were occupied by power boats. [paragraph break] At about 12 noon we crossed into non-motorized country at the Little Loon narrows. The first site on the west side was open, and we said lets call it a day. This was a nice site with good tent spots. Only problem with this location is that it sat next to the invisible line that marked non-motorized/motorized. Several times a motorized boat “tested” the narrows at the entry to Little Loon. They would see us, and slowly slink back down the narrows. It had been a good day, now it was time to kick back and try for a fish. [paragraph break] Pictures: 1) Little Indian Sioux River, 2) LIS rapids at Section 26; 3) Devils Cascade; 4) Camp on Little Loon; reflections on Little Loon [paragraph break]


Part 4 of 11

Day 2, June 1, 2008 [paragraph break] Travel this day was 4.75 miles over Little Loon Lake, Slim Lake, Section 3 Pond, and South Lake, 2 portages (225 r) and 1 pull-over. On the water at 8:30 AM and stopped for the day at 1PM. Camp was on South Lake just north of the 52r from Section 3 Pond. [paragraph break] What a beautiful day with only a slight north wind! We were on the water and heading north at 8:30 AM. The 173r portage from Little Loon to Slim Lake was a nice forest walk after a brief paddle from the south on Little Loon. The portage had not been used much this spring, and leaves that had been pressed under winter snows remained “wall papered” to the trail undisturbed by the human foot. Wolf scat littered the ground, and little rivulets that crossed here in there provided plenty of muddy spots for sighting fresh track. Generally, I had the feel that we were among the first to enter this year. [paragraph break] Slim Lake was a beautiful gem and the day made her glitter. The lake is long and narrow and flanked by steep ground on the East side, where we paddled. The forest looked good and I kept one eye on the land and one on the water. At the narrows we pulled ashore to just savor the moment. Blueberry bushes were bent over in bloom. I thought, wow, when these things are in berry, you could just sit in the canoe and pick your fill. [paragraph break] We arrived on the north end of Slim and faced a small mound of land resembling a beaver dam. Where the heck was that portage? Hell, if I know. But, there lies water. Let’s pull over, and forget it. And, that is what we did. Soon the meander opened to Section 3 Pond. I guess we missed the portage, huh? Section 3 Pond looked a bit like Slim, but lacked the steep terrain that made Slim such a remarkable lake. [paragraph break] The 52 r into South Lake seemed mostly downhill and ended in a flooded area. It was obvious water levels are up. We called it a day at the first campsite on the mainland north of the portage. This was a good camp site with easy access to water and excellent tent spots after we raked away several mounds of moose dung. Old wolf scat littered the ground. It looks like the “off season” sees another kind of traveler that calls this rocky outcrop home. The lake water had a very distinct fishy smell that was unpleasant both to smell and taste. [paragraph break] With camp chores complete we set off to catch dinner and to take a look at the camp site on the SE end of the lake. We had just barely got our lines set for a troll when the wind picked up. The squall had Nate and I highballing toward the lee on the north shore. Matt and Danielle were not so lucky and they got pounded. Fishing was not to be and we slowly inched our way back to camp. Unfortunately our nice little outcrop was also unprotected from the NW wind. [paragraph break] Today we only saw one canoe traveling south on Slim Lake, and no other campers. [paragraph break] Pictures: 1) Little Loon looking north; 2) Pull over between Slim Lake and Section 3 Pond; 3) Camp on South Lake [paragraph break]


Part 5 of 11

Day 3, June 2, 2008 [paragraph break] Travel this day was 4.5 miles over South Lake, Steep Lake, Eugene Lake, Little Beartrack Lake, Beartrack Lake, and ending at Thumb Lake with 5 portages (425 r). On the water 8:40 and stopped for the day at 1:45 PM. Camp was made at the first site on the north shore of Thumb after the 200 r portage. [paragraph break] Danielle started our day with big breakfast wraps consisting of egg, cheese and SPAM. It was a wonder we could waddle away, and that probably accounts for our late departure of nearly 9 AM. It seems we had way too much to clean up under a sky that looked like it was closing in before we even launched. The greasy sky soon gave way to a cloudless but very hazy day that also heated up. [paragraph break] We underestimated our first portage. Heck, 120 r. How bad can that be? Besides that fact that the trail went unmercifully uphill for almost the entire 120, the trail also was the path for a small creek that made footing real tricky. An ancient log across the trail marked the top of our climb. At this point I was sucking wind and the smokers of our group were gasping for breath. “Break time! This trail can’t be marked right. This is about the longest $#&*!@ 120 r !!”. [paragraph break] The series of lakes that we paddled today were perhaps, the most scenic section of the trip. In retrospect, I wonder why we didn’t spend more time exploring this beautiful part of the trip. I think the thing that made us move on was the sound of the seaplanes on the Canadian side of Lac La Croix. They seemed rather busy and the noise detracted from the solitude and remoteness of the area. [paragraph break] Of the string of lakes, I was not real impressed by Beartrack Lake, and as such I do not remember much of the lake except for the approach to the portage on the SE end. There was a little peninsula that extended across the bay, and it partially concealed the entry to the 200 r portage into Thumb. The 200 r into Thumb was mostly flat and it cut through an area that we called the enchanted forest. Actually the forest was more like the enchanted moss and boulder field than a forest. (On the map this area is shown as bog) However, the terrain was easy, open, and very different than most portages. [paragraph break] Upon entering Thumb Lake we decided to call it a day and selected the first camp site after the 200 r on the north shore. From the lake, the site (if you can actually detect a camp site) does not look very desirable, but like all camps, it became home for the night. As per tradition we drew straws for first choice of tent spots. The black canoe wins again (not like any of the spots were something to write home about). After supper Nate and I fished the perimeter of the lake. I tied into a small mouth that was a true acrobat, and it nearly took my shoulder off on one of its many crossings of the stern. As luck had it, I was using one of my “barbless” lures, and that fish found freedom at the moment we thought it was headed for the boat. It was a thrill, and it did make my day regardless of losing it. Nate picked up 2 little brothers to my acrobat, and we headed back for a late night snack. [paragraph break] Today we saw only one canoe on Thumb Lake and no other campers. The canoeists likely came in from either Finger or Pocket Lakes to try their luck fishing Thumb. While we watched, they came up empty. Right up to the end, they never saw us peering at them from our rustic little site. Then, we heard one of the guys say, “there is a canoe in the bush”. They eased over to give the canoe a better look, and saw the 4 of us sitting on a log watching them. I don’t think they realized that there was a camp site on the lake. [paragraph break] Pictures: 1) Start of the portage to Steep Lake; 2) Steep Lake; 3) Narrows on Eugene Lake [paragraph break]


Part 6 of 11

Day 4, June 3, 2008 [paragraph break] Travel this day was 6 miles over Thumb, Finger, Finger Creek, Pocket, Pocket creek, Ge-be-on-e-quet Creek, and ending at Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake with 3 portages (134 r) and one pull-over. On the water 8:20 and stopped for the day at 1 PM. Camp was made on the east side, second site south of the 35 r portage. [paragraph break] Today is our half-way-over-the-hump day, and it begins at 6 AM. It is real easy to be up and about in spring (as compared to fall). The woods are alive with birds, and they sing out “the early bird gets the worm”. I think I was listening to white throated sparrows; my favorite call. After awhile, I am singing the same song, and in a wonderful mood. Right now the day is bright, but it will turn cloudy. The wind will be in our face all day, but not enough to cause undue pain and suffering. Breakfast is biscuits and gravy one of our favorites. We make the biscuit the night before, so in the AM all we need is boiling water for gravy and copious amounts of coffee. On with the day. [paragraph break] We made quick work of the short portage into Finger Lake. Then, Nate and I got caught up in our French-Canadian Voyageur mode with several abrupt declarations while paddling; “Time for Cognac”. We paused, drifted, sipped from our flasks, and waited for Matt and Danielle to catch up. “What the heck are you guys doing”? We respond, “Time for Cognac”. And with a smile, we pushed off from their canoe, sending them in reverse, while we darted ahead. “Ha Ha, old Voyageur trick on you, heh? We make big joke, heh?” They did not seem amused by us. Down the lake, we waited their cautious approach. This time Matt and Danielle stayed their distance, and broke out their flasks “salut”. And that is how the day went. I think we laughed more coming up Finger Lake than I can ever remember. The mood was set for the day, and it stayed with us. Those are magical moments on a trip, and ya got to have lived them to understand how the team can get caught up in the moment. Sometimes the moment can be bad too, and it is then when laughter and a light heart makes the day better. [paragraph break] At Pocket lake we began to run into people. The three camp sites on the south end were taken, and this is the most use we have seen since East Loon Bay. On the approach to the 20 r portage into Pocket Creek we encounter two guys fishing off shore. They call out “You don’t need to portage this, we just came upstream and if you watch the rocks, you’ll do fine”. And, fine it was too. From Pocket creek we swing into Ge-be-on-e-quet Creek and there was instantly less water under our hull. This was the only water way in our loop that looked in need of water, and if not for the beaver, needier still. [paragraph break] All of the portages on this day were short, but there is one that again stands out from a “gotcha” factor. The 35 r into Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake from the creek is one of those “what the hey” is this. The trail is straight up from the get go and the landing on the lake side provides a very meager staging area for gear. We were now gun shy on encountering “crowds” of people, so a decision was made to once again stop early and at the first open site. We found the first camp (section 14) on the east side shy on space and moved down lake to the second site (in section 14). This was a gem of a spot with towering white pines and spots for our tents. Once again the black canoe wins the draw. [paragraph break] We are comfortably camped, and as the day wore on so came a threat of rain. And, as the day wore on several canoes enter the north end of the lake only to find no room at the inn. It is interesting that the camp just to the north of us was taken very quickly after we moved on to greener pastures. The two men at that site we will meet again in the morning. They, as well as we, have sights set on the lone camp at Rocky Lake. Although, that is tomorrow’s story, for now, it is time for beef stew, a little fishing, a little cognac, and a feeling that this was a good day. [paragraph break] Today we saw “crowds” compared to where we have been. Camp sites that we passed on Pocket were full, as were the north end sites on Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake( by days end). However, we did not encounter anyone paddling or on the portages. [paragraph break] Pictures: 1) Finger Creek at the 90 r; 2) Pull over on Ge-be-on-e-quet Creek; 3) Ge-be-on-e-quet camp [paragraph break]


Part 7 of 11

Day 5, June 4, 2008 [paragraph break] Travel this day was 3.25 miles over Ge-be-on-e-quet,Green and ending at Rocky Lake with 2 portages (205 r). On the water 8:15 AM and stopped for the day at 10:15 AM. Camp was made on the NE end of Rocky Lake. [paragraph break] Weather had been kind to us up to now. Looks like rain, feels like rain, must be rain…. Breakfast was Cache Lake Fryin Pan Bread and the usual slugs of cowboy coffee. This is our first time trying Cache Lake products, and the consensus so far has been good. I like the small no-frill packages. We head off down lake at 8:15 and at about this time I turn to look north. Yup, our neighbors are up and coming down lake. [paragraph break] We meet our neighbors at the portage into Green Lake. “So where you guys headed today”? We respond, “heading to Rocky”. Silence. Hmmm, I think, now what? We were both heading to the one and only site on Rocky. The neighbors turn out to be brothers from different states down south, and great guys to talk to. I think one of the brothers came from Texas. They are on their annual trek, and “been coming up here for years”. There was no way we wanted to race them to Rocky. We travel slowly over the portages. They used a single portage. I shared a little information about Green Lake and the fact that I had read reports of making a simple bushwhack into Pekan Lake from Green for good fishing. These guys must have had a ½ dozen fishing poles in their canoe. Serious about fishing! The information about Pekan Lake got their attention. We waved so long and we bent to the task of portage. [paragraph break] Coming down Green, who do we see at the camp site but our old neighbors from Ge-be. As we pass, I call up “so how does the site look”? They respond, “Hey this is a gem and we decided to stop here….. good luck with Rocky”. We respond with a hearty thanks and life looked good. Once on Rocky, we will be able to position ourselves for a desired stop at Emerald Lake. [paragraph break] On the portage into Rocky we were once again rapidly overtaken by a group of four heading south. They were definitely on a mission, coming over the trail at a trot, and heading to be in position for a take out the following day at Entry 16. This group consisted of “dad” and his three sons. They also single portaged. Dad had the light stuff and walked along at a sprightly gate. The boys were pack mules. We yielded the trail even with our canoes shouldered up. Two of the boys were not only carrying Grumman aluminum canoes, but also bulging portage packs. As they passed they gave us a cheery hello. I guess we might be considered soft in our double portage ways, but we still get to where we are going, albeit slower pace. [paragraph break] The wind was dead calm and clouds were hanging low as we entered Rocky. Rain patted the lake with a sound similar to that of a handful of peas falling to the floor. When suited up, this is my kind of paddling, and Rocky was the perfect small lake for this kind of day. To our relief, the camp was vacant. It was 10:15 as we came ashore. Here was a camp site that was nothing special, but it had character especially the mountain-goat latrine trail. You best not be in a real hurry going to the latrine. [paragraph break] Between lulls in the rain, we set up the tents and figured the day would clear off. Wrong! About noon time, it was obvious that the rain was here to stay. It was time for the CCS tarp. We designed a simple pitch using a ridge pole and existing trees. And under the tarp is where we stayed, till about 5 PM, napping, eating, making coffee, and generally getting a case of “tarp fever”. Finally, the rain let up and we crawled out to scrounge firewood and make a supper of lasagna and chocolate cake. These are the kind of days for calories. The campfire was not real pretty to look at, but it worked. And then, the rain came back. That was it for us; now it was time to hit the tents, and call it a day even though it was still light. [paragraph break] Today we only saw the two groups on the portage trails and one of those groups camped at Green Lake. Thus, we only passed one campsite on Ge-be and we think it was empty. [paragraph break] Pictures: First three at Rocky Lake Camp and fourth Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake [paragraph break]


Part 8 of 11

Day 6, June 5, 2008 [paragraph break] Travel this day was 6.5 miles over Rocky, Oyster, Hustler, and ending at Emerald Lake with 3 portages (423 r). On the water 8:15 AM and stopped for the day at around 1 PM. Camp was made on the N end of Emerald Lake. [paragraph break] We are up at 5:30 and greeted by a heavy overcast day. During the night it poured, but inside our REI Taj’s we were dry. This was the first real test of the tents under a very heavy rain, and as of now, I am very pleased with the tent performance. They will get tested again over the next two days. breakfast was egg-SPAM-cheese wraps and the usual cowboy brew. The meal felt good on this damp day. [paragraph break] We hit the water at 8:15 AM. Rain was holding off and we spent a bit of time looking for the pictographs on Rocky Lake. We found them, but they were not impressive. The most obvious character was a cross. Rocky was a pretty little lake and somewhat an equal to lakes like Eugene and Little Beartrack. [paragraph break] The 65 r portage into Oyster was an easy trail and a good way to get the muscles warmed up before the 310 r portage into Hustler. It took us 1.5 hours to complete the portage into Hustler, and the load hauling portion was broken by a leap-frog carry where gear was continually moved up the trail. This is a good system and it sets my mind at ease because we reduce the amount of time that the food pack is left unattended. We broke the trail into load carries of about 15 and 10 minutes. I think we average about 100 r / 10 minutes (give or take a few minutes depending on terrain). [paragraph break] The entrance into Hustler Lake was a pretty one and we were very surprised that the camp sites on the east end were vacant. We, however, had our sights on staying at Emerald and to that end we made short work of the short paddle to the 48 r portage into Emerald Lake. That portage is a bit hidden and not marked by heavy use. Our game plan was to only carry one canoe over and check out the camp site on the north. If it was open and nice we planned to stay. It was open and it was nice. We stayed, but first we entertained a “little bit of discontent” among the troops over a miscommunication on who was to carry what over the portage following the visual signal that we were going to stay. [paragraph break] After sorting things out, we loaded the canoes for the short hop to the camp site. Rain was still holding off, but the sky had the feeling it was going to spring a leak soon. We drew sticks for who got the first choice of tent location, and the black canoe team won again. This is the 6th time that we drew the lucky stick. Premier spots for the tents were not evident, and layout required a bit of creative thinking. With that chore done we continued to search for the latrine trail. The trail to this latrine was a hard one to find, and we took this as a sign that this site had low use. On finding the latrine, our suspicions were confirmed. There was not much sign of white paper down there. [paragraph break] The rest of the day was spent basking in the clouds and admiring our little place. We fished off the rocks. We fished from the canoe. As matter of fact, Nate and I trolled the entire perimeter of the lake. No bite. No Fish. What the heck? [paragraph break] Before supper we brought in a good supply of fire wood and got our fire going. This spot had an excellent natural seating area in the rock ledge. A supper of Chili Mac and Cache Lake Hot Apple Desert made for a full belly and a good day. We cleaned up, sat for a bit in front of the fire, had a sip of cognac, and watched an odd formation of clouds build over our heads. Those things don’t look like the promise of fair weather, do they? Then the first small drops of rain fell with little ripples on the lake. It looks like we will be turning in early again, huh? We really did not feel like engineering a spot for the tarp. And with that, we called it a day. [paragraph break] We saw no other canoes or met anyone on the portages. We think that the camp sites on Oyster Lake peninsula were occupied, but there were no signs of anyone being up and about. [paragraph break] Pictures: 1) Pictographs on Rocky Lake; 2) Emerald Lake at 48 r; 3) Camp at Emerald Lake [paragraph break]


Part 9 of 11

Day 7, June 6, 2008 [paragraph break] Travel this day was only 3 miles over Emerald, Hustler, Ruby and ending at Lynx Lake with 3 portages (338 r). On the water 8:10 AM and stopped for the day at 11:15 AM. Camp was made on the northern most site on Lynx Lake. [paragraph break] Overnight it poured and the wind howled. It was not a night for man nor beast, and good thing that us beasts were nestled in our REI caves. Now we know that the tent is good under wind and rain. I do not sleep well in the wind but managed a few good hours. Fortunately there were no real large trees over our tent area, or any sleep would have been fitful. For breakfast we had Cache Lake Biscuit and Gravy (2 packs that serve 2). The mix was good but not as efficient (or good) as our traditional biscuit and gravy. Never-the-less, the stuff stuck to our ribs and helped us do the things that must be done. [paragraph break] We hit the water at 8:10 for the short jog across Emerald and the portage to Hustler. With the wind out of the east, we flew down Hustler to the short portage into Ruby. I think this was the spot where we missed an opportunity to omit the portage and float across into Ruby. I blame this on the wind, because it had us up against the shore before we could scout the low land between the two lakes. The portage was knocked off quickly. We could almost throw the packs to the other side. On the water, we once again flew along the lake toward the west and the 280 r portage into Lynx Lake. [paragraph break] The portage into Lynx took us 1hr 20 min. On this one we pushed across with no break or leap frog of gear. This portage also cuts across several wet spots. (On our crossing they were small creeks). Between the two portages of Oyster-Hustler and Ruby-Lynx, I think the shorter Ruby-Lynx was more demanding of us. When all was gathered together on the Lynx side, we knew from the wind that finding a camp early in the day would be the prudent thing to do. Besides, we were where we needed to be to get out the following day. It looked like the wind had already shifted from the east to a more southerly direction. We were going south and really not keen on paddling into the wind to find what? [paragraph break] We took a chance and headed NW from the portage to the northern most site on the lake. The camp should have been visible to our eye from the portage, but we saw nothing, and took that as a sign of vacancy. The site was empty and we put ashore at 11:15 AM, and this was good because the rest of the afternoon saw nothing but an increase in wind from a S-SW direction straight up the lake. The rest of the afternoon also saw a continued trickle of canoeists who rounded the point south of us, saw no vacant camp sites to the north, paused, consulted maps, and eventually made their way either back into the wind or the 280 r portage out of Lynx. [paragraph break] Our camp provided plenty of places to pitch our tents but all the flat ground was also under several large pines that were swaying to and fro pretty good. I think that more time was spent observing the behavior of the trees in the wind than actually putting up the tents. I felt uneasy, but committed to staying put. The rain was pretty much over with only occasional short-lived showers. The real problem for us was not having protection from the southerly wind, and that got old real quick. The tents got up and we anchored them down with rocks and tree limbs. [paragraph break] As the day wore on, we could see that Danielle was more concerned about this situation than we were. At issue was the question whether we would be able to get out of there in the AM. Her folks were expecting a phone call the following day, and Danielle was tied in knots about fulfilling her need to call the folks at the appointed time. Her Grandmother would be worried sick if the phone call failed to come in. Danielle never told them that a delay in getting out was always a possibility, and not to worry if a day or two goes by before contact. [paragraph break] Food was not a problem and we had enough food for a couple more days. So, with confidence that tomorrow would be a great day, we spent the afternoon making soup, eating our tuna wraps, and brewing coffee. Of course we all kept one eye on the swells and mentally calculated what it would take to get from where we were to the west and lee side of land. Supper was Beef Stroganoff and blueberry cheese cake. Quite yummy. I think we skipped building a fire because of the wind, and it was another night to retire early into the tents. [paragraph break] Pictures: 1) Ruby-Lynx portage; 2) Weather watching at Lynx Lake Camp; 3) Lynx Lake [paragraph break]


Part 10 of 11

Day 8, June 7, 2008 [paragraph break] Travel this day was 8.5 miles over Lynx, Little Shell, Shell, Lower Pauness, Upper Pauness, Little Indian Sioux River, and ending at Entry 14 (where it all began) with 6 portages (346 r). On the water 6 AM and our trip was completed at 12 noon. Tonight camp will be made at VNO outfitters in Ely, and supper will be at the Steak House. [paragraph break] It was a restless night for all of us. The wind tore at the tents, but they held fast. Mercifully day break came and I was out of the tent at 4:30 to pay Mother Nature a visit. I woke the crew at 4:45, although they were not really sleeping. I think they were waiting to hear a word from the Old Man, and when they heard, it was all about getting up and out. The wind was still from the SW but not nearly as strong as the previous day. I did not see whitecaps. This was good. [paragraph break] We opted for a quick breakfast of fried SPAM topped with cheese and, of course, our morning coffee. Camp was knocked down, bags were packed, and then we searched for a spot to launch the canoes without beating them to death against the rocks. We loaded the Dagger (royalex hull) first (the green canoe team) and helped Matt and Danielle shove off. Nate and I looked at each other. Well, they didn’t swamp! They were bobbing about and the canoe seemed to be taking the swells nicely. Our turn. [paragraph break] The lines of the Dagger resemble an egg. The lines of the Bell are sharp. The Dagger rolls and bobs with the waves, and the Bell wants to cut them. We loaded with the bow into the swell. I held the canoe off the rocks while Nate hauled the packs and loaded them. After we were in we gently pushed off and let the canoe get its sea legs. Not bad. Lets try and close the distance between canoes. And with that, we set a course keeping the swells a bit off the port bow and generally headed to the west side of Lynx Lake. Once there, we found protection in the lee. Out of the wind, the day just turned into a normal day with no heroics necessary. We hugged the south shores of Little Shell and Shell and had no problems. [paragraph break] The 216 r portage into Lower Pauness was a nice diversion. There is a gigantic beaver dam in the marsh area that held us fascinated with the engineering capabilities of the beaver. I guess because of the beaver dam, there is also a “floating board walk” across some of the bog. I am sure it was not designed that way, but that is the way it is. It is a good thing that the walk was made from heavy square timbers to provide extra floatation. [paragraph break] By the time we made lower Pauness the wind had also shifted to a westerly direction. We had decided on the way in to do the 8 r into upper Pauness rather than the 40 r. The 40 r was a muddy mess on the way in and after this rain it would have been worse. The 8 r gets you there easily and it is much more scenic along the rapids. Be alert if you are entering the 8 from upstream. Hug the bushes on river right or you might find yourself running the rapids. [paragraph break] We now had the best for last with the wind at our backs on the entire length of Little Indian Sioux. It was a beautiful leisure drift upstream, but it was disheartening to pick up the sounds of road equipment. We are heading back to reality, huh? We milked the route and paddled now and then to correct course. The rest of the time used the paddles as sail. [paragraph break] On the LIS we encountered several parties coming in. These folks were working hard for their miles, and I think they were a little envious of our relaxed paddling style. The valley acts as a wind tunnel, and the gusts that swirl around the bends do cause problems keeping the canoe on course. We expected to see a moose, but saw none. We saw a deer and several turtles. [paragraph break] We carried our final load to the entry parking lot at 12 noon. I was a bit amazed that there was a rather large party (2 families with younger children) mulling about the parking lot eating lunch and yet to get their gear down the hill to the river. I thought to myself, you folks are in for a surprise and a long day against the wind. [paragraph break] For us, there were a few traditions remaining. We packed the bags and tied down the canoes, and then drove to a quiet spot away from the entry. There we toasted our good fortune and each other. This was it, now we return to the luxuries of the outside world. But, I am ready for a shower, a steak at the Steak House, a bed, and a roof over my head. I know as we eat tonight, one of us will say, “Where do we go on the next one”. [paragraph break] Pictures: 1) The floating board walk on the 216 r to Lower Pauness Lake; 2) Home stretch on the Little Indian Sioux; 3) Us at Entry 14 [paragraph break]


Part 11 of 11

Trip summary [paragraph break] This was a memorable trip in beautiful country. The loop was “portage heavy”, but worth every rod. Portions of the trip presented a remote feel. The country from Little Loon to Pocket was basically ours. The lakes were small and the shorelines presented unique scenery. The only distraction from the solitude and remoteness of the area was the noise from the Seaplane anchorage on the Canadian side of Lac La Croix. I am glad we elected to do the loop clockwise rather than counter clockwise. On a clockwise loop, the motorized section was behind us on Day 1. [paragraph break] Water levels were high and this made some portages unnecessary. Slim lake was the winner in terms of her beauty. Bugs were non existent, and we only had 3 encounters with ticks. We did not do well with fishing, and we blame that on unsettled weather and not on our “superb” fishing abilities. There were several nice rapids on the Little Indian Sioux and they provide great photo opportunities. [paragraph break] Our most picturesque camps were on Ge-be-on-e-quet and Emerald Lakes. Portage trails were well maintained, and it is difficult to say which trail caused the most pain. Portages are relative to the day, the state of mind, the weather, and a host of other vagaries. But, if I had to name one portage that caused a burn, then it would be the portage into Steep Lake. As the name implies, it is on the steep side.


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