BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 26 2022
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1150 feet
Little Vermilion Lake - 12
June 25, 2013
Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Little Indian Sioux River (north) (14)
Number of Days:
Uneventful drive to Ely from my house in Apple Valley; about 265 miles and I made it in about 4.5 hours.
Checked into the Adventure Inn, turned on the air and started packing for tomorrow. Had a late lunch-steak sandwich and fries-and a couple of brews at the Boathouse. Nothing special, but, then again, nothing to complain about, either.
Stopped into The Great Outdoors and finally met Jim; great guy who was easy to talk and listen to! I bought a Leech King storage container and a half-pound of leeches, very much looking forward to fishing.
Next stop was Piragis to get my permit. Looked at a Wenonah Wilderness while there, and that boat has me interested. I need to see how the Magic feels after this trip; it was literally a pain in the ass, well hips, I guess, on my trip last week with Dave and Paul, so I am hoping the new seat I installed will be more comfortable.
I realized I forgot toothpaste, so that was the next purchase, and then I found a new coffee filter that I bought to replace the Snow Peak Titanium French Press that was an absolute bust on my trip last week. The new filter is a GSI Ultralight Drip Coffee Maker...we'll see how it performs.
*Portages: 5 (473 rods) *Lakes/rivers: 6 (LIS, Upper Pauness, Lower Pauness, LIS, Loon, Little Loon & Slim) *Distance: Approx. 13 miles (there is a way to figure this out on my GPS; I just do not know how)
I was up today at 6:30-which is ungodly early for me on my trips to the BW-or whenever I am not working, for that matter. I hit the water @ EP 14 at 9 am, and there was one group who entered in front of me and one heading out. I noticed a white pickup with Arkansas plates and wondered if it belonged to Arkansas Man...I thought he mentioned he'd be going into LIS sometime around when I did.
As I paddled into the LIS, I knew I needed to reorganize my gear to make it easier to carry on the portages. Nothing significant on the river; my hopes of spotting a moose were dashed, but that's okay as the only time I ever see moose is when Deb, my wife, is with me. The first portage was an easy 60 rods and I was soon back onto the LIS.
When I hit Upper Pauness, I was surprised by how windy it was so early in the day, and this would be the case for the reminder of the trip until the last day. The 40 rod portage to Lower Pauness went quick, and by then I had a system down with my gear on the portages that would last for the remainder of the trip: CCS Pioneer Pack (with map, PDF, water bottle and GPS clipped on the pack), paddles (in a paddle bag; looked like I was carrying rifles) and the leeches on the first trip and CCS Rucksack and canoe on second trip.
When I hit the 160 rod portage that would bring me back to LIS I ran into a group of 4 doing portage maintenance. They were polite and encouraging, which was nice as the first 1/2-3/4 of this portage is a bit of a climb. Not sure why people complain about these folks; I appreciate their time and efforts! I made a stop at the hiking campsite on the west side of the portage about 3/4 of the way north to look at Devil's Cascade, which was really moving and quite spectacular. I should have had my camera available, but I did not-and this is something else that would continue throughout the trip. Photo ops, but no camera...
I got back on the LIS and quickly made my way onto big Loon Lake. I stopped briefly at the 5th campsite going north on the east side of the lake for a quick bite and to get more water. From here on I always kept my water filter (MSR AutoFlow Gravity Filter) in the top of my Guide pack for easy access, and I started thinking about a future purchase: possibly a Steripen? I love the MSR, but it's not an efficient piece of equipment when traveling alone. I just sold my PUR Hiker pump, so that would no longer be an option, although I could always buy another pump for solo trips, I suppose. The thing that has kept me from getting a Steripen is that is does not filter out any of the larger particles that are in the water, but, ultimately, I do not think possibly drinking chunky water would bother me all that much. In any case, I have a gear purchase to consider when I get home, and that is always a good thing as I LOVE buying gear!
I got back onto Loon as quick as possible as it was really buggy and the wind was not offering any protection in the bay where I was located. I was hoping to snag the campsite at the far northern end of Little Loon as per Arkansas Man's suggestion, so I paddled through the narrows between Loon and Little Loon with my fingers crossed. I'd heard there was some decent fishing on Little Loon, and last year when I went through this area with Allie and Greta (my 14 and 13 year-old daughters), it was freezing, pouring and really windy, so fishing was not much of an option.
Both sites on Little Loon were taken, so I had the option of either heading back to Loon or moving onto Slim Lake. Well, I hate backtracking when on trips to the BW, so I pushed onto Slim. The 173 rod portage from Little Loon to Slim was challenging; I was tired and it was hilly. Ran into another group doing portage maintenance, and they told me they had not seen anyone traveling to Slim, so I knew my chances of finding a site on Slim were pretty good.
Passed the first site on Slim as it was barren, and settled in at the second site. This site was horrible in terms of finding a place to land. Located on a rocky outcrop, there was literally nowhere decent to land a canoe, especially given the wind, which was coming hard from the south. I finally found a place to land on the northern side of the outcrop, but it's one of those spots where the exposed rock quickly and steeply moves beneath the surface, so when disembarking, one needs to be sure footed and quick to avoid getting really wet!
I got my tent and hammock set up-didn't bother with the tarp-and proceeded to rehydrate some chili. I was not even remotely hungry, and I recall a number of folks on the bwca.com board commenting on how they did not eat as much on solo trips, and boy were they right! Mental note to self: on next week-long solo, if I have more food than what fits into the Bear Vault, I have too much and must cull!
The nice thing about the site was that the wind really kept the bugs away, even when I was on the northern side where I'd set up my hammock. As I lay in the hammock, it felt rather weird being all alone; I felt like I should be doing something other than just laying there, almost a guilty feeling! I wanted to fish, but being all alone in what to me was a big wind (whitecaps all around), I did not want to risk it. I tossed a Rapala from shore for a spell with no luck. In hindsight, I probably should have rigged up a slip bobber/jig/leech combo, but I didn't.
The hammock really felt good, although I am still not sure how anyone can sleep in the things. It was nice to lie down as my hips were really sore, especially my right one. I put a new seat in the Magic since my trip last week in hopes of alleviating this problem, but to no real avail so far. After 15-20 minutes of paddling, my hips hurt like mad, and I find myself constantly moving around trying to get comfortable. I am not sure why this is happening, and I hope it's something as simple as just getting used to the boat.
This was the first trip I've taken with a GPS, and it's nice to use as a cross reference with the maps. Although this route is familiar to me and is pretty much made up of smaller lakes, I can see how one would benefit from the presence of a GPS on larger lakes with numerous islands and bays. There are a lost of features that I need to learn how to use on the thing, but I enjoyed checking it out as I traveled.
Had a dinner of chili, with half of it going into the garbage, man, I had too much food! Went out to get some water, did the dishes and went searching for the latrine, which was easy to find as it was only about 30 feet away from my tent; YUCK! Another reason to never visit this site again. There was a cool "old" toilet in the latrine area-at least that's what I think it was. Got a couple of pics of it, and then went back to the hammock to read.
I crawled into my tent, my ungodly small, Big Agnes Seedhouse 1 solo tent that I'd dubbed the sarcophagus on my trip last week with Paul and Dave, rather early that first night as the wind died down at around 8:30 and I did not want to deal with a fire. The tent area was another negative at this site. While it was large enough to easily handle 3-4 tents, it was in a recessed area that would get drenched in a good rain, and it was also surrounded completely by trees, which eliminated any wind from blowing through. All in all, I'd give this site a rating of 2.
*Portages: 4 (269 rods) *Lakes: 5 (Slim, Section 3 Pond, North/South Lakes, Steep & Eugene) *Distance: Approx. 5 miles
Crawled out of the sarcophagus at around 8 after a poor night's sleep. I had a hard time getting comfortable, just as I did last week. This I attribute to my left shoulder, still recovering from the rotator/biceps surgery in January. The doc said it would take up to a year and a half to fully recover, and right now it's pretty sore.
Had a very small breakfast-trail bar and coffee-then packed up and headed out. My new GSR coffee filter is a joke, by the way (purchased in Ely to replace the totally worthless Snow Peak Titanium French Press that I used on my trip last week), at least when used as intended. It is really lightweight and attaches to the rim of a cup, and you're supposed to fill it with grounds and then pour water through it. Well, when used this way, you get to enjoy a hot cup of brown water with no flavor what-so-ever as the grounds have no chance to steep. Tomorrow I plan on making cowboy coffee and running it thought the strainer; I bet that will do the trick!
The wind was strong again as I left at around 9, but it felt good as it was going to be another hot day. I started the day without using the Crazy Creek chair, and it was more comfortable-and easier/more efficient to paddle-than using the chair with the backrest up, but I still found that my hips were really uncomfortable after a short spell.
The 52 rod portage from Slim to Section 3 Pond is a mucky one! I recall this from last year with Allie and Greta, and this year I carried the gear all the way to the beaver dam where I put into Section 3. I saw my first baby loons of the year on this lake/pond, and man, are they cute! I wanted to paddle closer, but I did not want to distress them, so I admired from afar.
The 52 rod portage from Section 3 to North/South was easy, but the 120 from North South to Steep was tough, uphill almost the entire way, and with no wind on the trail, it was very, very buggy. I stopped briefly at the first site on Steep as Allie, Greta and I stayed there last year, and it brought back smiles as I played through the pictures stored on my laptop from that site of the girls enjoying the only rain-free evening of the trip. A decent little site made more so by warm memories fueled by my girls.
After the 45 rod portage from Steep to Eugene, I replaced the Crazy Creek chair in the Magic, but this time I left the backrest unattached. This was as comfortable as I was going to get and was the setup I'd use for the remainder of the trip. That said, my hips never did find a comfort zone and bothered me the entire trip.
I was the only person on Eugene, and I decided to spend the night at the far northern campsite. The site was huge, and it had numerous places to set up tents, tarps and hammocks with red pines abounding. The only downside to the site was a complete lack of any level ground for tents, and this had me thinking about the possibility of making a serious hammock purchase in the near future, especially given how much I resented the sarcophagus...still, I've never been able to take a nap in a hammock, so I am not sure how I would ever sleep in one. The lack of level ground made this site a 4 in my mind.
The only other bummer about this site was that whomever had stayed here previously were absolute slobs. There was litter abounding, most disturbing, at least to me, were numerous shell casings of different sized caliber littering the water. I picked up as many as I could, but with a really strong wind coming out of the south, more and more of them were appearing near the shoreline during my stay.
There was also what I assume to be the shoulder of a moose that was partially burned on top of the fire grate. Now, this may not be that big of a deal, but I had to wonder, what was the point of trying to burn it?
As the day progressed, it got warmer, so I spent a lot of time in the water. Not only did that feel incredible, it also helped to stave off the deer flies, which were pretty think when the wind wasn't blowing. By around 5 the wind had pretty much stopped, so I decided I throw out a Rapala and go exploring the lake. As I was paddling south to check out the other campsite on the lake, something hit the Rap pretty hard, and I knew it had to be a northern. The wind had picked up again, and I was laughing to myself as the fish and the wind were making it really difficult for me to control the boat. I heeded the advice of many who stated it was best to get to shore when trying to land a fish in a solo, but I really did not have much of a choice; the wind actually pushed me to shore pretty quickly, and after playing the fish for a spell, I got the northern to the side of the boat, popped the Rap and released him/her. S/he wasn't that big, but it was much more of a challenge to land than the walleyes the week prior which I found were easy to get into the boat without going ashore. Turns out that that northern would be the only fish I'd catch all week.
After releasing the fish and checking out the other campsite, the wind subsided again and I was getting hammered by deer flies and what I assume were black flies; nasty little monsters! I paddled back to my site and set up the tarp, as there was thunder in the distance and black clouds in the sky. It was so hot that I was hoping for rain, but none would ever really materialize.
I had not eaten since breakfast, and I was still not hungry by 6ish, but I figured I had to eat something. So, I managed to choke down some Gorp, nuts, crackers and cheese and wash it down with Gatorade. The good news with not being hungry was no dishes; the bad news was that weight of the food that I'd brought never really decreased!
By now I had some ideas of things I would pare down on my next solo. First, I would not bring anywhere nearly as much food. Second, I am not sure if I'd bring any fishing gear, and if I did, it would only be one rod and a few lures. Caring for the leeches-of which I'd used none so far-was getting to be a pain in the butt, and while I love to fish, I am not sure it's worth the hassle have the live bait when alone. When I was out last week with Paul and Dave, there were three of us to deal with the bait, and that's manageable. Alone, I'm not so sure. I also do not know if I'd bring the axe and saw next time solo; by this point I had no intention of making a fire unless it was absolutely needed for some emergency purpose, and I know I could certainly find wood to burn without having to cut it. That said, I am not sure I'll ever bring an axe again on any trips up here in warm weather.
As the evening rolled on and I switched back and forth from swimming to reading to putzing around camp, I was getting into a routine of sorts and was enjoying my time alone. I liked being able to do what I wanted when I wanted without anyone else to consider. That said, I also wished my wife was with me.
I crawled into the sarcophagus at around dusk, looking up at the stars, wondering how my family was going and praying for their well being while giving thanks for the safety I'd enjoyed so far. I was thinking about a layover day tomorrow, but was leaning towards moving on as I was hoping for a spot with more level ground to make home for a couple of days.
*Portages: 3 (340 rods) *Lakes: 5 (Eugene, Little Beartrack, Beartrack, Thumb & Finger) *Distance: Approx. 4.5 miles
Had another restless night in the sarcophagus last night. Not sure what time it was, but it started drizzling a bit after I fallen asleep, so I crawled out of the tomb, threw on the rain fly and went back in. The bugs were insane, and with no wind, it was really freakin' hot in that tent! I recall waking a few times during the night absolutely roasting, and by the time I awoke in the morning; I was tired, hot and uncomfortable. I do not like weather when it gets above 80...
Had a real quick breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, and running cowboy coffee through the new filter was awesome; some seriously strong, seriously good coffee! I was soon at the 30 rod portage from Eugene to Little Beartrack, and, while short, was challenging as it was up, up, up the entire time. From Little Beartrack to Beartrack was another 30 rod trek, but that was an easy one as it was primarily level. There was another strong wind coming out of the S/SW today, but the good news is that is was mostly at my back.
I ran into two groups of people on the 280 rod portage from Beartrack to Thumb. The first was a dad with his two adult daughters ( I got their names but could remember none when it was time to journal), one of whom was with a significant other, or so I assumed. The dad was from Kentucky, and one of the daughters-the "single" one was and English teacher from Louisiana. As we trudged the portage together, we talked some shop, me also being a teacher. The dad was kind enough to take my small pack for which I was most grateful. It did not weigh much-maybe 20 pounds-but it was really nice to carry only the canoe on my second portage. It was nice to chat with people after a few days of isolation!
The second group, traveling in the same direction as I was, consisted of 4 teen aged girls, ages 13-14 if I had to guess and woman who was probably in her early 20's. They were reluctant to even say hello to me, and I guess I do not blame them; creepy looking older dude traveling alone smelling like a Florida ditch pig...In any case, they were on Thumb before I was, but I would soon catch them.
By now the wind was really howling-literally. It was still coming hard out of the S/SW, and there were whitecaps and good-sized swells all over Thumb. As I rounded the corner from the portage at Thumb heading east, I spotted the group of girls in their two canoes. The wind was tossing both of the boats around, and I was worried that they might spill. As I passed them, I heard one of the girls say to the leader (who was duffing in the other canoe), "We're going to just wait until the wind stops. This is too hard." Their leader told them to keep paddling, and at that point, that was pretty much their only option. Leaving them behind, I was somewhat comforted knowing they were close to shore and that Thumb is a pretty small lake.
The 9 rod portage from Thumb to Finger was not necessary as the water levels were high enough to walk the canoe through that area. Once on Finger, the wind was pushing really hard from behind. I was hoping to get the campsite on the south side of the big island on the lake as I've read so many great things about it, and this time I was in luck! While I'd only been traveling for about 3 hours, the site was too good to pass up; a legitimate 5 star all the way.
The site had it all...a perfect landing, awesome kitchen, loads of flat ground on which to put a tent and trails leading all over the island. In fact, there were so many trails that it took me a few trials to find the biff. As was the case on the site two nights earlier on Eugene, there were moose bones in the kitchen area, but these had not been torched. Amidst all of the wonderful red pine were these huge boulders that littered the island. I tried to imagine what it must have been like when those glorious stones originally landed there oh so long ago...
As I was reveling in my newfound temporary home, I noticed the group of girls paddling towards the site. I had not set up anything, as I was too busy exploring, so they might have assumed that the site was open. I heard one of them openly groan when they rounded the point and saw my canoe, and I sure know that feeling. A part of me wanted to say, "Hey, you're welcome to stay here. There's more than enough room." But I did not want to spook them, so I said nothing as they passed. I hope they were safe in their passage that day as it really was a windy one.
I finally set up camp, this time pitching the tarp just on the off chance that it would rain. I set the sarcophagus up under the tarp, and one of the poles cracked. Some duct tape fixed that, but I was starting to really, really dislike that tent!
After forcing myself to eat some salami, crackers and cheese I proceed to enjoy the rest of the day either in the hammock reading, exploring the island or swimming. It was again too windy for me to feel comfortable fishing alone in the Magic, so I did try some casts off shore. I also made the decision to jettison the leeches, as I was pretty sure I would not use them and I was sick of carrying them. I felt really bad dumping them in the woods...I know they're only leeches, but they're still critters. Not sure what's worse; suffocating in the woods or in the stomach of a fish. In any case, I know I will never bring live bait on a solo trip ever again.
For dinner I actually ate a sizeable dinner of pasta and meat sauce that I had dehydrated before the trip. It was good, and even made better by Parmesan cheese, a first for me on a trip. I always bring in pasta and red sauce for at least one night, and from now on I will also bring the cheese!
As I started to drift off to sleep, with a really full tummy, I was again contemplating a layover day for tomorrow. While the site where I was staying was a beauty, I had not made much progress over the two previous days, so I most likely was going to move on. Then again, maybe not, and that, in my opinion, is the most awesome thing about going solo!
*Portages: 6 (415 rods) *Lakes/creeks: 9 (Finger Lake, Finger Creek, Pocket Lake, Pocket Creek, Ge-be Creek, Ge-be Lake, Green Lake, Rocky Lake & Oyster Lake) *Distance: Approx. 9 miles
I had yet another horrid night's sleep in the sarcophagus. I think it's a combo of being really hot, my left shoulder still being tender and having literally NO ROOM to move around in the tent; I am really starting to dislike that tent! I also brought my Big Agnes Air Core mattress as it packs down smaller than the Exped 9, and I can now say that the Exped is much, much more comfortable having spent 4 nights on it last week. That will be my go-to pad from here forward.
Ate a quick breakfast of a Snickers and coffee I hit the water. The wind was a force to be reckoned with today! Continuing to blow from the S/SW, I flew to the 90 rod portage from Finger Lake to Finger Creek. The portage went quick as it was very flat, and I carried both packs on the first trip making the trip with the canoe an easy, light one. Finger Creek empties into Pocket Lake and from there I took the 20 rod portage to Pocket Creek. If I'd been paying attention, I would not have needed to make the portage, as the water level was so high. The wind on Pocket Lake, however, had shifted from S/SW to due West, and I was really moving when I approached the portage, so I was a little freaked out. Actually, I did not mind the portage, as my hips and butt were again really sore, so the short walk felt quite good.
As I paddled down Pocket Creek, I ran into a couple heading the other direction. They were wandering all over the creek, and the guy in the stern kept apologizing to me. I had to smile as they were obviously having a lot of fun and they were also so darn polite. Also, I give them credit for being out and about on such a windy day! I asked where they were going, and the guy replied that they were going to check out Pocket and do some fishing. After wishing them some luck, I was on my way and soon located the Ge-be Creek turn off.
Entering Ge-be Creek made me smile as I thought back to the trip last year with Allie and Greta. When we were on Pocket Creek the weather was really cold, really wet and really windy. I misread the map and took us into a tiny stream leading from Pocket Creek to an unnamed tiny lake. This thing was about as wide as the canoe we were in, and I recall thinking, "What the heck?" After about a hundred yards of struggling through this toilet sized stream and hitting 3 or 4 beaver dams, I realized there was no way we were on Ge-be Creek, and I turned us around on beaver dam number 3 or 4, didn't bother to unload the boat and shuddered when I heard a load crack from somewhere in the hull of our SR Quetico 17. I found the damage when we were finally back on Pocket Creek, but it was nothing too serious. In fact, the SR managed two more trips last year before I finally repaired the crack, but I digress.
Wandering through Ge-be Creek was really a nice stretch! I love water lilies, and, of course, they were everywhere. There were also a few pitcher plants, some deeper than I've ever seen before. In fact, there were a couple of them out in the water with the lilies. I tried to get some pics, but it was so darn windy that I was unable to do so.
When I hit the 35 rod portage from Ge-be Creek to Ge-Lake, I was really pumped, as I wanted to explore Ge-be and hopefully plant myself there for an evening. The portage is a short one, but from the direction I was traveling it was like climbing a ladder! The rapids running from Ge-be Lake into Ge-be Creek were really cruising, and I took some time exploring the flow. There were a lot of trees down, and some looked pretty recent, but sometimes it's hard to tell.
Looking out at Ge-be I knew I was not going to be able to explore the lake; there were white caps everywhere, and the wind was moving the tops of the red pines like match sticks. This would be my second time on Ge-be, and just like last year, I was only able to cross the lake rather than spend some quality time with it. Oh, well, that just means that I need to visit it again sometime down the road.
At this point the wind was coming out of the SW again, and it was nasty! I probably should have putzed around at the portage longer or stopped at one of the two sites on the east side of the lake, but once I was on the water, I had to move. There were waves spilling over the gunnels occasionally, and I had to ATTEND to avoid swamping. I finally made it to the lee side of one of the islands in the southeastern part of the lake, and I was more than happy to land for a spell to filter some water.
The 120 rod portage from Ge-be to Green Lake was pretty easy, but I was tired from fighting the wind all day. When on Green, I considered taking the one site located there. It's actually a pretty nice site for a a small group-and I was a small group-aside from the landing, but I thought I may as well push on to Oyster, and I also really wanted to see the pictographs on Rocky as I missed them last year.
While leaving the site on Green, I noticed something moving, oblong and white, under the water on the portside of the canoe. And then it was REALLY moving, cruising under the canoe, exploding by on the starboard side. As I witnessed this flash, I thought first that it was a fish, but the shape and color were wrong. Next I considered a snapping turtle, but I did not know if they could boogie that fast. Then, almost embarrassingly, in retrospect, I wondered if it were some kind of ghost/spook. These thoughts all went through my head in a flash, as before I could think much more the white blob exploded out of the water about 20 yards to my right snatching a small fish as it did so, and I smiled as I recognized my ghost for what it really was: a loon doing some fishing! I've never seen that before in such close quarters, and it was spectacular.
When I got to the 85 rod portage from Green to Rocky I was really pooped and a bit zoned out, as I had not eaten much all day. It had been a really hot day, even with the wind, and I had consumed 2 liters of water by this point. Having gathered water again in Green, I stopped at the portage to Rocky to filter it and to eat. I dug into the Gorp again, and I also added some Gatorade to the water, which was quite yummy. As I readied myself to take off into Rocky, I realized that my bug net was missing. My options were to forge ahead or go back, and with the number of bugs I encountered so far on the trip, the former was not an option. So, my double portage turned into a triple, and I found the bug net right where it had fallen out of the Crazy Cane seat elastic compartment: at the start of the portage @ Green Lake. As I trudged the portage for the 4th and 5th times, I was in awe of the scattered white pine that dotted the trail; what stories they could tell!
Finally on Rocky, I searched the cliffs on the west side of the lake where I was told the pictos were located. I did not find them, so I paddled to the east shore and searched the high rock walls there again. Again, no luck. Not wanting to paddle back and check again, I resigned myself to the notion that it just wasn't meant to be. Last year I missed them as Allie, Greta and I paddled through Rocky in a downpour at dusk, and this year I missed them probably due to fatigue. My hopes now were that one of the 3 peninsula sites on Oyster would be open, but I doubted that as it was pushing 4:00.
The 65 rod portage from Rocky to Oyster was easy, and it proved to be my last for the day. As I emerged from the portage, I saw the first of the 3 sites and it looked open. That was deceiving, I knew, as that site has access from both the north and south sides of the peninsula, and there just had to be people there given the time of day and year. Well, luck was with me again as the site was open! This was my 3rd time on Oyster, and both of the other times this site was spoken for.
Like the site on Finger, this one was huge. The landing was a bit dicey, but I got there just in time. About 5 minutes after getting me gear out of the Magic I heard a couple of boats approach from the south bellowing, "Is anybody there?" I answered, "yes," and was grateful to be able to do so.
About a half hour after getting to camp the wind finally calmed down, and I should have gone out trolling for lakers, but I was just too tired. I set up the sarcophagus, go for a real long swim and contemplate supper. Once again, I am not hungry at all, and that still confuses me, as I am usually pretty much always hungry while up here. Maybe it's all the DEET I've ingested. This has been one of the buggiest trips that I can recall. Then again, I usually come in early June or late August, and now, perhaps, I remember why!
This compares to Allie's first trip with me 8 years ago over the 4th of July when she was 6 and we were devoured by skeeters and black flies; I am amazed to this day that she ever wanted to return after that experience. The only places we were able to get away from the flying, biting scourge were in the water or tent, and it was hotter than blazes. Need to remember this for future plans...
Looking at the map before hitting the sack, I noticed that I could make it back to EP 14 tomorrow, but that would be a killer with 3 portages over 210 rods. So, my goal for the next day was either Lynx or Shell, depending on the crowds, and I assumed it would be really crowded on Shell. I did not set up the tarp nor fly this evening as the sky was blue on blue, and I was hoping for a good sleep as I burrowed into the sarcophagus.
*Portages: None! (Well, 1 actually, but I'll explain that later) *Lakes: 1 (Well, 2 actually, but I'll explain that later) *Distance: Approx. 0 miles
I woke up today at around 8:00-another crappy sleep, and there was even, finally a breeze to keep it cool. In fact, I woke up in my bag, and that's saying something as I rarely ever actually crawl into my sleeping bag during the summer months. I figure that one of these nights I may just crash through the night through sheer exhaustion, but that's probably wishful thinking.
After breaking down camp-nothing more than the sarcophagus and hammock-I decided that I was going to treat myself to a layover day! Now, you need to know that I HATE spending more than one night in any place, so for me to decide to stay a second day at one site was, well, pretty amazing. Last week I spent two nights at one site on Crocodile with Paul and Dave, and even though we were catching walleyes-a LOT of walleyes, I was incredibly bored by the middle of the 2nd day and insisted we move on. We did not catch any more fish on that trip, but at least we were not bogged down in the same tedious spot...
The wind howling by 8:30 made the decision easier for me, as did the fact that I was at a really nice spot. Other than some Voldemort caliber coffee, I do not know what I had for breakfast (maybe a couple PB/Gorp, tortillas?) but I decided to pitch the tarp, even though I doubted it would rain. I love CCS tarps as you can play around with them until satisfied, and they appear to be bomb proof, but I do need to say that I was concerned that the wind whipping around this day might just rip the s--t out my new 10 x 12 1.1oz baby. I should have known better: it held strong and provided me shade all day long as I lounged in my hammock reading and napping. I do know one thing: I REALLY need to learn how to tie various knots! The only knots I know how to tie require a pliers to undo, and that takes way too much time.
At around 10 or so I was enjoying a good Baldacci book ("Saving Grace" loved it, except like all of his novels, the ending was way, way over the top), when I heard someone approaching from the southern side of my site. Through the raging wind I heard someone talking to me, and I thought they said, "Do you mind if I take a look at your trees?" Well, this made no sense to me as the trees were certainly not mine, and there were trees all over the darn Wilderness, so why bother me?
Given my confusion, I clambered out of the hammock to see what the guy wanted. Well, it turns out the guy was a USFS worker, and he actually said, "Do you mind if I take a look at your latrine?" What was I to say?
He and three others-again, they gave me their names, but I cannot recall them; pathetic for a teacher-walked into the site and wanted to know if I was okay with them digging a new latrine. How could I say no? We chatted for a spell, and they went about their business.
After about an hour, I started to wonder how long it might take them to bury the old pit and dig the new, and I was thinking that had to be at least a 4 or 5 hour endeavor. I was surprised when they emerged from the woods after about an hour and a half to inform me that they were done. The leader told me that they usually like to get down to 4 feet, but they ran into a huge rock and only managed to dig a new hole about 2 feet deep. He then told me that at a busy site such as this, that hole would be filled before the summer ended...too much info, dude!
Before the USFS crew left, I asked about the pictos on Rocky and explained where I had looked. It turns out I was looking in the wrong spot, so I was really pumped to have stayed the extra day so I could go back to see the pictographs!
After reading a bit more, swimming a few times and contemplating fishing but deciding against it due to the wind, I paddled back to Rocky to find the pictos. On the portage from Oyster to Rocky were two guys whom I'd seen paddling around a few hours earlier out in front of my site. They'd put in @ LIS the day previously and had spent their first night at Shell, and were now claiming they wanted to get beyond Ge-be Lake before setting up camp, which meant either Pocket to the northwest or Lac La Croix to the northeast. As it was about 6 pm and I'd come from the Ge-be area about an hour and a half earlier, I thought their plans to get beyond Ge-be were beyond aggressive. Hope they reached a safe destination that night.
After the above mentioned encounter, I found the panel on Rocky with the pictos, and I was brought back to the awe I experienced the first time I encountered pictographs in Arizona some 10 years earlier on a trip I'd organized with some students. I cannot explain the reverence that overcomes me anytime I encounter art from those who traveled before us, especially rock art, either pictographs or petroglyphs. The images never cease to amaze me, and I always wonder what a textbook written from the perspective of the artist would read like all these seasons down the road. Makes me want to go back and reread all the Tony Hillerman novels I so enjoyed over the years and revisit Chaco Canyon and Canyon de Chelly. While I thoroughly enjoy teaching middle school history for the most part, if I could go back a couple of decades and re-do my professional path, I'd be an archaeologist in the southwest.
Upon returning from Rocky, I read some more and contemplated the evening. The wind had died down, and that was not good as it was hotter the heck and the bugs were holding a convention in my campsite. I thought about starting a fire, but it was too warm, and while it would help manage the bugs while engaged, it was too much work and too late, and I had not had a fire until this point, so why start now?
I thought about paddling back to EP 14 tomorrow as it was so darn warm, but the 3 portages over 200 rods told me that Lynx or Shell would be better destinations. Besides, I had a routine down by now, and I was enjoying the solo gig all the way! I had enough food to last about 17 years, so my only concern was that Deb might worry about me if I were not home by Wednesday, 4 days down the road.
With the wind completely dead, the sun completely settled in the western sky, I took down the tarp and crawled into the sarcophagus for what I was hoping would be a sound night sleep. Whatever tomorrow would bring I'd deal with in the morning.
*Portages: 9 (964 rods) *Lakes/rivers: 9 (Oyster, Hustler, Ruby, Lynx, Little Shell, Shell, Lower Pauness, Upper Pauness, LIS) *Distance: Approx. 15 miles
Well, last night was about as far from a decent night sleep as anyone could imagine. Around 11 or so, I needed to go to the bathroom, which is not unusual for me at home or on trail. The bugs were incredible, so I got back into the sarcophagus and zipped up as quickly as I could to avoid becoming a rawhide bone for the masses. As I started to zip the door shut, the unthinkable happened: the entire zipper to the door of the tent failed, and I sat there for a moment on my knees thinking, "THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING!!"
Stunned, as the bugs began to ravage me, I grabbed the Nalgene bottle that had the duct tape wrapped around it and unwound the tape as fast as I could. To no avail; the tent was pitched, by design, so taught that I could not get the tape to close the door. As more and more skeeters joined in the feeding frenzy-keep in mind I was in my undies only as it was really hot outside-I sat on my knees (well, probably actually kneeled on them) wondering, what the heck am I going to do!
At this point I let loose a volley of f-bombs that would have insulted Andrew Dice Clay, so I apologize to anyone within a 273 mile radius who might have heard said transgression. Funny thing is, the f-bombs did nothing to stem the skeeters from participating in my weight loss program, nor did they help me come up with a solution to my dilemma.
I soon located the DEET, sprayed the crap out of the entrance of the tent and the bug net, which I had also located, and this gave me time to put my pants and shirt on again. Now fully protected from the children of the night, I had time to consider just what I was going to do to keep from begin devoured by creatures no larger than my nostril hairs.
My first thought was to pull the poles from the tent and use the screen portion to cover my body up to my neck and use the bug net to cover my head. I did this and found it nominally comfortable, although the bug spray on the head net was enough to gag Andre the Giant. Nonetheless, I managed to drift off into a light sleep like this...until it started drizzling.
With water falling in the BW, one never knows if it will dissipate or downpour-at least I don't. So, I crawled out of my webbing, grabbed the CCS tarp, crawled back into my web and wrapped myself up like a 220 pound burrito. Within 5 minutes I was so hot that I could not breathe, so I unwrapped the whole configuration, dropped another 23 minutes of f-bombs for which I will always be sorry for, put the poles back into the tent and covered the opening by tucking the CCS tarp under the front end.
By this point it was no longer drizzling, and it would not have mattered if it were. I was hot, tired and really pissed off, and I needed to sleep! I finally managed to doze off, but then I awoke again awhile latter because my air mattress-another Big Agnes product-had sprung a leak. A few thousand f-bombs later, I swore to myself that I would send the tent and mattress back to Big Agnes for repairs or replacement, and that if I was not satisfied with their service, I'd drive to Colorado and kick some Big Agnes if need be. Both the tent and mattress are in Colorado, and I am waiting their verdict...but I digress.
The morning finally arrived, and I must have gotten a few hours of restless sleep. When I awoke I was faced with the prospect of paddling back to EP 14 or making a stop somewhere along the way for the evening. Given the previous night's experience, I knew I'd be in Ely by nightfall, although I would have preferred a day or two more out and about.
My first portage of the day would be the longest of the trip: 310 rods from Oyster to Hustler. I recalled this trail from a few years back as being rather wet in one section, and this year was no exception. About 1/4 of the way on the trail it was submerged in water, and at points it was waist deep. I must say this actually felt good due to the heat, and for the first day on the entire trip, there was no wind at all. After slogging through the water for maybe 75 yards, the portage leveled out and was pretty manageable for the remainder of the way. If not for the length, this would be a pretty easy passage between lakes.
Once on Hustler I needed to filter water again. Hustler is a really pretty lake, and there was no one on it except me. As I paddled across this lake, I kept thinking how nice it would be to spend a night here if not for the tent debacle and stifling heat, and in my mind I'd committed to spending the night in Ely, so I did not bother to really spend any time checking out the lake.
The portage from Hustler to Ruby was a quick 10 rod divergence around some rough water, but the 280 rod portage from Ruby to Lynx was not so easy. While I was traveling in the right direction in terms of ease for this portage, it was still really long and hard, especially toward the end leading into Lynx. When done with this trek, I was wondering if I could make it all the way back to the LIS entry point. I decided to wait until Shell Lake to make the call...
The 4 and 15 rod portages from Lynx to Little Shell to Shell were cakewalks. By the time I got onto Shell I was out of water, so I bagged some while on that lake in case I decided to keep moving on. The water on Shell was shallow, really warm, and when I saw the first of what would turn out to be 10 canoes or so, I knew there was no way in hell that I was spending a night on that lake. Chances were slim to none that I'd find an open site anyway, so paddled on to the 218 rod portage from Shell to Lower Pauness.
When I got to the portage I was gassed. I filtered the water I had gathered in Shell, and it was really warm! This normally does not bother me at all, but it was nasty, so I added the last of the Gatorade to hopefully make it better, but it did not matter; it was like I was drinking water that had been super heated in a microwave.
I loaded up for what I knew was my final long trek of the trip and started on my way. Very soon into the portage I encountered running water, and it was so strong that I wondered if I hadn't somehow straggled onto a path that was not the portage trail. I knew that was not possible, however, so I slogged up the hill while water poured down almost like a stream; there was actually a current in the flowing water!
Finally, I located the source of the spew, a beaver pond that was grossly overflowing. Thinking this was the end of the water on the trail, I trudged on only to find a short distance in front of me an entire section of the portage that had been washed out. There was a wooden bridge that had been built here previously, and all of its sections were floating about. At one point the water was up to my armpits! Again, given the heat and lack of wind, the walk through the water felt quite refreshing.
The Lower Pauness end of the portage was nasty! It was mucky and smelled literally like cow poop. After a couple of sticky moments trying to get out, I finally managed to get the Magic into the warm waters of Lower Pauness. From here forward I would no longer be in "new" water to me on this trip, and I could literally feel the shower raining cool water on me in Ely along with the huge burger at the Steakhouse that would quickly find its way into my digestive tract!
On the portage from Lower Pauness to Upper I encountered a man and a woman heading in my direction. As I was walking back to get my canoe and small pack, the woman pretty much ran me off the trail and the exclaimed, "I am sorry, I guess I am in my own world." I muttered some innocuous blibber blabber in return, and then the guy, carrying the canoe, bellows out, "Hey! How're doing?" I should have said nothing or replied that I was doing great, but my response was, "I am really tired and hot." His retort to this was, "Well, if you're hot, you should dip yourself in the water!"
To this I said nothing, assuming this couple was camped on Upper Pauness and that I'd never encounter them again. Well, I was wrong. As I paddled across Upper Pauness to where the lake narrows into the LIS, the couple was pretty close behind me. I started thinking they must be day-trippers, and I was right.
This couple was chatting away on the LIS, and that was their right, although it was too loud for my liking. I was hoping to see some wildlife, so I paddled as hard as I could to get out in front of them, and pretty soon I could no longer hear voices. While I saw no critters, I did enjoy the river up to the 60 rod portage at the rapids with no sounds other than the near silence of my paddle slicing into the water.
On the portage, I encountered the couple again as I was returning for my second load. For the second time the guy said, "Hey! How're doing?" And I was thinking, how different do you think I'm doing since you asked me the same thing on the last portage? To my credit, I said nothing, and when I was ready to embark on the final leg of my trip, the couple were nowhere in sight.
Before I hit the EP, I finally saw a beaver! There were not too may critter sightings on this trip, but seeing the beaver wiggling through the water was a great way to end the trip. As I paddled around the final corner that led to the take out at EP 14, I was a bit bummed to see the canoe that belonged to the couple I'd first encountered at Lower Pauness still sitting in the water.
If you've ever been to EP 14, you know there is not a whole lot of room for folks to put in or out. That said, I sat waiting at the entry point while the guy was swimming around, his significant other filming him, their canoe still in the water; there was no way for me to get out. The guy finally notices me and says for the third time, "Hey! How're doing?"
My response this time was much more curt. I told him, "I am exhausted. I've been moving for the past 8 hours or so and I am hotter than Hades. I have not slept in about 48 hours due to a zipper malfunction on my tent, and I want to get off of this river."
His response? "Well, did you get lucky?"
By now my nerves were frayed, my patience boiled away and my manners tucked behind my fangs. I am not proud of my response to his inane question, but it did finally shut him up, get him to quickly remove his canoe from the river and brought to an end my first solo.
Spent last night at the Adventure Inn. Had a great dinner at the Ely Steakhouse, and I've come to believe there is no place else in town that even remotely comes close to the yummy factor of that establishment. There is also a really goofy dude who works the bar that makes it worth your while to eat there. I'd give you his name, but I do not recall it.
Had a killer breakfast at the Chocolate Moose, and while I do not usually eat there due to the long lines, the food is stellar and so is the service. Pretty sure I saw Jenny @ the Moose this morning, but to approach her would have brought my past crashing down on my shoulders-and sore hips!
Got home in less than 4 hours, and that means I was flying...Shhh! Please do not tell my wife. In the meantime, if you've read this far, God bless you, and what the heck is wrong with you?!?