BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
March 06 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1150 feet
Little Vermilion Lake - 12
A week of R & R on Little Loon
June 25, 2010
Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Number of Days:
The initial plan is to drive for 10 -12 hours which would put us in Owatonna, MN so we could be at the Cabela’s restaurant to have breakfast and hopefully meet a board member or two. Everything goes well until we cross the Iowa line and start seeing lightening in the north. Kim checks her IPhone, nothing around Des Moines, we keep driving. As we get closer to Des Moines there is more lightening across the entire northern horizon. Kim checks the weather map on her phone this time spreading the map out and says “oh my gosh” there is huge line of severe thunderstorms heading south toward us, at that time it is just north of Ames. We find a radio station that confirms the severity of the storms, 65-70 mph winds, heavy rain, and large hail. I can just imagine what large hail would do to a canoe on top of a truck!! After we get through Des Moines we start looking for a place to pull off and look for some type of cover. The exit we get off of has a Casey’s Gas Station and it is closed and we park under the pump awnings until the worst of the wind and storm has passed. After an hour the front is passed and it is just raining heavily so we start north again and drive another 90 miles in rain so heavy it literally almost beats the plastic cover with the number on it off my canoe registration sticker (I have to borrow packing tape from Cabela’s the next morning to repair it).
The time is now 2:30 am and we are in Clear Lake, IA. The storm has knocked out power from several of the hotels, but we finally find one with a non-smoking room and power. The alarm goes off way too soon at 6:40 am, but if we are going to get to Cabela’s close to 8:00 am for breakfast and to meet Mooseplums who said he would be there, and we had to travel another hour or more to get there.
Next stop is Gordy’s Hi Hat in Cloquet, MN for lunch! If you have not tried Gordy’s you need to! My fish sandwich was huge Kim loved her California Burger, and the single order of onion rings was too much for us to finish, so we took them with us to Ely.
We get to the Ranger Station at 4:30 and get our permit, there was no LNT Video or anything of that nature, just some suggestions on what we might do while there. Mainly he talked about the knife makers we have in Russellville AR, as he was a man who loved handmade knives. Now all that is left is to go to V-North and get our bunkhouse rooms, get a snack at The Moose, a quick look into Piragis and a trip to the Bear Center since Kim loves bears so much! She had a blast watching those bears! Then the before we head back to our bunkhouse and an early bedtime, stop at Zup’s for the first night’s Rib eyes! The finale to our day is a quick check of all the packs, put the rib eyes in the freezer to freeze and then a good hot shower before finally going to sleep. Driving and 4 hours of sleep have taken their toll on me!
We are the first ones at the Entry point, we quickly unload and are paddling at 6:35, and our trip has officially begun! It is not until after Elm portage that we see the first groups heading out. Dour looking young people (looked like some Scouts) that appeared to have had all they wanted. The next group is a father and two sons. Then we are on Upper Pauness heading for the 40 rod portage which is somewhat muddy due to the rains of the week. On the Lower Pauness side, Kim finds a rock that has a cross embedded in it of a different material! It is cool looking and we take it as a good sign for our trip!
A short paddle and we are at Devil’s Cascade, we pass two other groups on this portage and on the way back for my double I help one group carry a pack up to where the hiking trail crosses the portage trial, as they are leap-frogging. Our portages done for the day, nothing left to do except for paddling. The wind is minimal and we reach the chute into Little Loon by 11:00 and as we pass through it we see that the “good fishing” site on the left is taken so we head the final mile to the northern most site. We reach our destination at 11:15 am. Miles travel 11.85, paddling avg. 3.4 mph, and overall average 2.2 mph. I had planned it were Kim would only single portage and I would double. I gave her the camera on the way in so she could take pictures from her perspective of the trip in, and allow her time to look around a bit as I finished my double.
Camp is quickly inspected, tent pad selected, tarp placement decided, and to pick where would be the best places to hang the two hammocks we had brought for our relaxation times. The tent is up, tarp placed, and hammocks are hung. Food pack placed by the fire pit, coffee pot and cookware removed and situated for easy access. It is lunchtime and we both are hungry so, I dig into the food pack for an 8 oz roll of Petit Jean smoked summer sausage, a package of string cheese and a roll of Ritz crackers… all of which did not last very long!! It tasted so darn good! Now Kim unrolls the sleeping pads and sleeping bags and organizes the tent while I place the TP bag on the latrine trail and start to clean up camp.
The campsite is a mess, cigarette butts everywhere, limbs and pieces of woods scattered all about the campsite. It looks like an adult who sat around and smoked cigarettes had allowed the unrestrained kids with him (with hatchets, no doubt) to run wild. You could not walk without tripping over a piece of wood, or a branch cut from a tree. I even found where a green tree about 3 inches in diameter had been cut down! It is sad to see this type of behavior!!
Things are finally organized and put away, and the site is clearer you can at least walk without tripping over a limb or piece of wood. The wind has come up a bit so we decide to hit the hammocks… I truly have to believe that the time spent in a hammock looking out across a BWCA wilderness lake, adds hours if not days to your life!! Temperature is in the low 70’s and Kim actually gets cold with the breeze blowing the way it is, so she gets her sleeping bag and covers up. We both really needed this time away for some rest and relaxation! Thank you Lord for letting us be here safely!
The next thing I know is that it is 5:00 and I am hungry again; time to get a fire going to cook up those rib eyes! Kim boils water for the Idahoan Golden Mashed potatoes, while I grill the steaks! All I can say is WOW! I see now why so many of you do this first night tradition! It has now become one of mine. Two ¾ lb rib eyes and a pot of mashed potatoes disappear in no time. Not even cutting the steak with the lexan knife slowed us down!
Dinner over the wind lays a bit and we decide to try the fishing out. I put a white ¼ oz. buzz bait on my rod and a Mepps Black Fury # 3 on Kim’s ultra light. I figure she will catch a smallie or a northern for sure, and she does before she stops fishing and starts watching the top water action I am having on the buzz bait. Northerns are hammering the buzz bait, one so close to the boat that it splashed water all over Kim when it hit! We finish fishing, no fish are kept we head back to camp for an early bedtime. We are in the tent and going to sleep well before 9:00!
As the normal sounds of the evening start I think back to the highlights of the day. The great sense of relief of being here again. Completing the trip in with no problem, best physical shape we both have ever been in! The great meal for dinner! Hearing Kim’s laugh as she got splashed by the northern! Kim talking to the little squirrel which was sitting on a log by the fire pit when we got there. Thank you Lord, for these many blessings I have been blessed with today!
I have my first cup of coffee and start fishing from shore, with a clip cork and leech. I catch a smallie, imagine that! And another, and another. Finally they learn and slow and I quit fishing and go fix me a grilled cinnamon raisin bagel for breakfast… actually it was two! Catching fish makes me hungry! Kim awakens to the cool morning now, I have her a cup of coffee ready for her as she too grabs a bagel. She tells me she did not sleep well, she kept hearing sounds outside! I should have brought her some earplugs! Me being hard of hearing has some benefits!
We lounge around camp awhile before we go fishing again. Tonight’s menu has walleye on it so we need a couple of participants to join us. First cast with a slip cork and leech by Kim produces a 15 inch walleye. I throw him back, because I know we will catch more! And we don’t for a long while, just smallies and northerns. The wind is blowing so we pull against shore and I hold us there while Kim throws out and we let the leech drift with the wind down the shore until we move. Kim does manage to catch a smallie in the 5 lb range and another 15 inch walleye. Then the fish stop biting! It is lunch time so we head in to eat, taking our walleye with us. Once back in camp I add a few rocks to an enclosure that was already there to protect our dinner guest from Mr. Loggerhead. We then finish another roll of summer sausage, Ritz crackers, and string cheese, and hit the hammocks for our afternoon rest!
As we recline in the hammocks I have a realization come to me, and I ask Kim a question! Do you know the one thing we forgot to buy before coming in? She replies, No? Sorry this has been edited to protect the innocent or rather the guilty. You will just have to use your imagination! ;-)
About 3:30 I am able to get Kim out of the hammock by telling her that if we want to have fish tonight we need one more little walleye. So we head out again doing basically the same thing except this time I rig up a lindy rig with a small float above the hook to keep the leech off of bottom and start dragging it behind the canoe as we let the wind drift us. Wham, I get a bite! A nice walleye about 16 inches, we have dinner. We paddle back to camp and start dinner.
After our dinner of pan seared walleye and roasted garlic couscous the wind comes up again so we just relax and do nothing which is easy to do when your stomach is full of rich food! We sit in our Crazy Creek canoe seats on some rocks in front of camp looking out across the lake watching the sun go down, and listening to the loons call to each other. Life is good! The everyday worries we have and face in the real world are starting to loosen their hold on us and we are truly beginning to relax. An early bedtime again tonight since tomorrow’s weather will determine whether we move to Snow Bay or just stay here. Again, once in the tent, I reflect on the great things that happened this day. Kim catching a smallmouth bigger than any I have ever caught and the joy on her face. Just the sense of peace that is becoming more evident each passing moment. And the taste of fresh caught and cooked walleye in the wilderness. Thank you Lord again for these and all the blessings you give me.
When Kim gets up I have her coffee ready for her and prepare her some blueberry pancakes and bacon! After the dishes are done and morning chores are completed we decide to go paddling and do some drift fishing too. We both agree to stay at this site and tomorrow do a day trip to Snow Bay to look around and fish. But today it is look at the other sites nearby on East Loon Bay to rate them for the BWCA.com site. We catch a few fish, smallies mainly, and I catch a few walleyes and a couple of northern. We stop and have lunch which consist of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, GORP and Beef Jerky on a sandy beach in the Southwest corner of East Loon Bay across from the chute going into Little Loon. Then we paddle into the wind and head to the first campsite 1986 (#2). Other than having some ripe blueberries we decide this campsite is not a great one. Limited tent space, and trees to hang tarps, hammocks, or food pack if so inclined and a rocky bluff landing area for the canoe. Fire pit area is open with little shade. I added these comments to the map section as well.
The next site 24 (#1) was a much better site easier access, better tent pads, good trail to latrine although back in the woods aways. And this spot is covered with blueberries! I hereby name this campsite. Blue Berry Hill! It also had a Minnetonka Leather hat left there! We left it as well thinking the owner might return for it.
Now it is time to head back to camp for a little hammock time. We stay in the hammocks, rocked by the wind until 5:00 again. I then prepare a dinner of 3 cheese tortellini with garlic butter sauce and toasted buttered parmesan bread. Afterwards when all is cleaned up we decide to do some more drift fishing. I can tell Kim wants to catch a walleye! We paddle out and drift the length of the western shore until Kim finally catches the biggest walleye of the trip! About 3.5 pounds! And of course, do we have the camera? No! But I can bear witness to the fact she did catch it! We paddle back and get ready for bed, tomorrow we trip to Snow Bay!
Highlights of the day! Fresh blueberries! Kim catching the biggest walleye and the thrill she had doing it! An overall sense of peace and relaxation is becoming natural now, and it feels great! Weather has been good other than windy, cool in the mornings and highs in the 70’s during the day! Thank you Lord for the continued blessings!
At the portage is a smallish figure which I at first thought to be a man, but I was wrong. It was “Sue”! Sue was attaching her portage yoke to her Bell Black Gold Magic. Sue stands close to 5 ft tall, and barely weighs 100 pounds if she does at all. She is well over retirement age, having retired 9 years earlier she said from teaching. She and Kim talk as I unload our things. She says she will have to double portage, maybe triple to get all of her stuff across. Her stuff consisted of a #2.5 or #3 pack that weighed about 35 pound and a Sealine dry pack which weighed about 10 pounds. Of course we are without packs so we carry them across the portage for her. Kim carries the larger pack while I carried the smaller with our canoe. She paddles the length of Slim with us, where we again aide her at the Slim to Section 3 Pond portage. This scenario continues until we reach South Lake where we turned left to go to Snow Bay and she turned right to go to the campsite close to the portage to have lunch and decide whether she would continue farther that day or not. While traveling together Sue tells us of her travels, Canoe and Cycling. How she has traveled to New Zealand for the last 9 years in a row to cycle around the island and camp while she does it. She told us of the Paris to Istanbul Ride she did, which took a month with a group of people from Canada. She told us she has been coming to the BWCA area for 50 years, and thinks nothing of doing a solo at her age. She was by all rights a unique, eccentric woman we are blessed by meeting and getting to know her. She gave us one of her cards when we parted so we could remain in contact with her!
Now on with the daytrip! The water level in South and North is about 6 feet lower than what it was two years ago! The beaver dam went out over the winter according to the Forest Service. I get to the South side of the portage first and realize how muddy it is, so I head to the right where there is tall grass to walk in and not sink. Kim does not see me and head across the mud where she sinks to her knees and looses a shoe. She drops a paddle to mark the spot, gets out and comes to where I am, not very happy! I go and get her shoe for her, like a good husband is supposed to do when their wife is very muddy and not happy at that particular moment. We catch Sue before she enters the mud flat and direct her toward safe walking and a gravel bank for entering the canoes. We visit for a few more moments as she gets my thoughts on what she should do on her trip then our party’s part!
The paddle or should I say “pole the canoe” through north to Snow Bay was fun, a narrow path about 3-4 feet wide, with 8-12 inches of water in it showed you the way to go. Throw in a few shallow rocks and the person in front needs to have good polarized sunglasses on to see it all. Luckily my bow partner did! Once we reach Snow Bay the wind is out of the North/North East at about 10-15 mph, not too bad. We head to the first of three campsites to visit and evaluate. See the map section again! We lunch at the first site which has a neat picnic table. Lunch consisted of Tuna Salad with Ritz crackers and Beef Jerky. The time now is about 2:30 and we are trying to decide if we want to backtrack the way we had come or paddle down through Beatty Portage. We decided to go through Beatty Portage even though my map (McKenzie) did not show the path. The wind was at our backs when we started but somehow shifted and started blowing as a slight headwind. After an hour of paddling we see boat with a canoe on top of it, the Forest Service and I ask them how far it was to Beatty Portage. They tell us less than a mile, and be sure to see the picto’s on the left on the bluff. They then ask where we are camped and we tell them. Beatty Portage is by far my wife’s favorite portage! The manicured cut grass, no roots, no rocks, fairly level, she loved it! I must agree it was nice except for the deer flies!
We reach camp at 6:00 and I prepare dinner. A one pot meal consisting of Stove Top Stuffing, foil pack Chicken, and instant chicken gravy. Very good! I got the recipe off the BWCA.com cooking thread from someone, thanks!! While eating the wind does shift from the northeast to directly south, and it does start blowing hard 20 mph at least. I tell Kim we had better get everything together because some weather was coming during the night. Everything battened down and secure we retreat to the chairs for a while to watch the sun go down.
Today’s highlights would have to be Sue, the beautiful Snow Bay area, and the quality time Kim and I are sharing, and the adventure of paddling off somewhere I do not know where I am exactly going. Even though it would have been hard to get lost and miss Beatty Portage. Again, Lord I am blessed beyond what I deserve!
We spent the first part of the day drying out the hammocks, and drying out the tent where water had ran between the footprint and the tent. Wind caught the tent while we were doing this and bent my central fly pole so I will have to get another one. Finally all is dry and camp is back like it was, we alternate sitting on the rocks and lying in the hammocks to let the hours go by. Later in the afternoon we see a canoe! It is the first to enter our lake since we had seen Sue enter the day before. It heads to the first campsite, passes it and heads toward our site. I take all our evidence of fishing and stash them in the woods for some stupid reason, I guess for a good laugh later! It is the Forest Service man and woman we had seen the day before on Lac La Croix and ask directions from. They were checking campsites and portages after the storms last night. They reported that a Canadian Outfitter north of us report they got 3.5 inches of rain during the night… I believe it! They also said that there were 1.5 to 2.0 foot rollers on the Bay as they came in. After checking our permit they depart and we are alone once again. They also tell us the forecast for tomorrow our exit day is strong winds out of the south at 15-20 mph gusting to 30 and advise us to be careful! Then I brought the illegal fishing gear out and started putting it up for travel.
We originally planned to have walleye again for dinner tonight however the wind put a damper on that idea as we could find no place to get out of the wind to fish. So we had an early dinner of the Stove Top Stuffing concoction again and again enjoyed it! Then we just sat on our rocks, in our Crazy Creek chairs and looking at the lake and listening to the sound of the water as it crashed into shore. We also watch a mother Merganser as she herded her 8 babies from side to side of the bay looking for minnows to eat. It was entertaining to watch them swimming along with their heads in the water, and then all of them disappear as they dove for minnows. Soon we retired to the tent to be serenaded to sleep by the waves and the wind.
Highlights today were simple; the time shared working around camp, and the time shared just sitting together listening the waves and watching the Merganser and her babies. Thank you Lord for simple Blessings
A Forest Service crew and a group of Boy Scouts are working on the portage trail as we cross. We start paddling again and meet two more groups of people coming in. The wind definitely picked up in intensity and at times even on the smaller parts of the Little Indian Sioux River it felt like we were paddling and not moving forward. Particularly the last 200 yards from the final portage. I tell the last group we see entering, be glad the wind is at your back!
We are at V-North by 12:00 with hot showers and cold beverages behind us by 12:30. We finish shopping in town buying t-shirts for the kids and coffee mugs for the parents. Kim finds a real nice dress at the Piragis outlet store. I stop for a little fuel and we are off the drive the north shore home after a quick stop at the harbor at Two Harbors for pictures. Big mistake!! Well not that big, we made it through to Duluth, but it took almost an hour to get through the construction and out of Duluth! We were hungry and wanted to hit Gordy’s Hi Hat at Cloquet again! After two double hamburgers for me, and a large blueberry malt, and another California burger and a chocolate shake for Kim and us sharing a large order of fries we could barely finish we get in the truck and are headed home!
One final note! Kim and I got just what we needed from this trip, peace of mind and total relaxation and some fantastic fishing! It is great when you can spend time like this with your best friend who in this case is also my wife!
It was 2:15 pm Friday afternoon when we left Ely. It was 10:15 am Saturday Morning when we got home after driving the north shore home. Twenty hours straight through other than for fuel or bathroom breaks.
Ex-officio Bug off shirt - $5.95 off of Steep and Cheap. Best deal I have ever made!! Great shirt, great wear and no bugs!
Bio UD – bug repellant by Bite Blocker: worked great on flies, not so well on mosquitoes.
Ultra Thon – Worked great on mosquitoes.
Teva Avator 2 Water Shoes: Gripped slick rocks great, not so good on slick mud (only slipped once) thought they held up well over all until I took them off and found one of the soles had come apart. They are going back to Teva to be replaced!
Eureka 4XT tent: Held up great to the wind and the rain, vestibule was a great feature!