BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 25 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1150 feet
Little Vermilion Lake - 12
15 Day Solo Trip LIS North
July 05, 2014
Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Moose/Portage River (north) (16)
Number of Days:
The morning is beautiful. The sun is shining and there is little wind. Normally I do my solo trip two weeks prior, but do to family obligations I start my trip after the 4th of July. I will miss out seeing the Moccasin Flower and many of the beautiful wild flowers that inhabit the BWCA in the late spring. Some people have asked me how I am able to do a 15-day solo trip and still stay married. I tell them I have a great wife. [paragraph break]It is hard to shake off the real world it is almost like animal shedding its winter coat. It comes off little at a time and sometimes in clumps. I would say that it takes at least three days to acclimate oneself to the rhythms of the north woods. I put away my watch but I still wonder what time it is. I’m still tied to the rituals of my daily routine and eating times. Is it time for lunch? I ask myself. But I need to remember that my body will tell me if it’s time. Not the watch.[paragraph break]The sounds of my paddle dipping into the cool dark waters of the Little Indian Sioux River are slowly interrupted by the sounds of the Elm Portage rapids. The water levels are up and the rapids at Elm Portage are flowing. I see no other groups only their signs. Footprints, canoe lines in the sand and a candy wrapper that I pick up and put into my pack. I strap on my food pack and put my canoe on my shoulders to start my first trek across the portage. I keep one eye on the portage and one eye on the rapids. I want to stay and photograph the rapids and enjoy their beauty but I’m still fighting the notion of getting to where I’m supposed to be on my first day.[paragraph break]Some people do not enjoy portaging, but I enjoy the walk back. There is so much to see, beautiful Cedars, White Pines and wildlife as well. It is a rare moment when you are actually in the woods on a canoe trip. Some paddlers may never fully enter the woods on a canoe trip, spending most of their time on the water. [paragraph break]I load my canoe and continue down the Indian Sioux taking a moment to enjoy the Jeannette Creek Falls. I recall seeing a lone wolf along this stretch of the river and I keep my eyes open for any wildlife. I notice dark clouds from the west and sounds of thunder. I hope this storm passes north. The dark clouds slowly roll in with sounds of thunder. I see no lightening and maybe against my better judgment I continue down the river to Upper Pauness and paddle the short portage where Upper Pauness drains into Lower Pauness. The thunder booms loudly in the clouds and drops of rain begin to fall. As I paddle on Lower Pauness it begins to pour. There is already a group at the nearest site so I hug the shoreline for protection from the storm. I decide to continue during the storm, as I see no lighting. I continue to hug the shoreline and make it to the Shell Lake portage. As I walk up the portage, I notice how dark the forest is. I almost need a flashlight to find my way.[paragraph break]I am hoping that the first site next to the portage is open, as I do not want to paddle the lake in the storm. It is raining so hard that the portage has turned into a raging creek just below the beaver pond crossing. Reaching Shell Lake, to my luck, the first site is open and I paddle toward it. I have stayed here before. It is not my favorite site as it is too close to the portage and is a bit small. However, it will do for now. The rain abates temporary and I quickly set up my tarp and tent and have some lunch. Under my tarp, I watch two groups paddle across the lake with the sounds of thunder overhead. I think how stupid they are for traveling in such dangerous weather. And I know myself that I should have found a safe place to pull up and wait out the storm. There again I’m reminded how driven we are by time. “We have to get out today.” “The outfitter is meeting us at three.” “I’ve got a meeting tomorrow.” None of that will matter if you are dead.[paragraph break]After several hours the rain stops and I decide to paddle around the lake to see if any other sites are open. It appears that the other sites are full so I’m I made the right decision. I paddle back to start a fire and cook my first night steak. I enjoy a great Porter House steak from my parents beef farm along with green beans and instant mashed potatoes. The potatoes are not so good. [paragraph break]I'm tired and cold and decide to sit by the fire for the rest of the evening instead of fishing. I notice a moose in a distant bay, but I'm too tired to paddle. I go to sleep with the sound of thunder and drops of rain. Upper Pauness Lake, Lower Pauness Lake, Shell Lake
My thoughts of waking up early are stifled by my tired body and rain drops. I sleep in. I awaken to sounds of the the rain. It finally subsides and I crawl out of my tent and take in the the sounds of a White-Throated Sparrow perched above my tent. A true sound of the north woods. [paragraph break]I start a pot to boil water for my instant Starbucks coffee. I usually bring ground coffee and a coffee press but I thought I would try something a little different this trip. It certainly saves weight and space in the food pack. After turning off my stove I realize how much noise stoves make. I feel like I'm disturbing the peace using my stove. I take my coffee and sit on a boulder close to the shore taking in the morning. [paragraph break] I brought a dozen eggs that I will eat over the next four days. I love to cook, but I don't like cooking in the Boundary Waters. Too much bending over, kneeling, and cleaning. As far as I'm concerned, dinner in a bag ain't so bad. But I do enjoy my scrambled eggs nevertheless. [paragraph break]It's actually a beautiful morning, there are clouds in the sky but the sun is shining. I take my time and try not to feel like like I need to be in a hurry (But fishing awaits!) By the time I get ready to head out on the lake I notice dark clouds building in the west. Sure enough, another storm is brewing. I catch one decent northern and set it free before I decide to head back in and wait out the storm under my tarp.[paragraph break]The storm finally stops and I see blue sky once again. Fishing is poor the rest of the day and I can not seem to find many fish. I notice many of the sites that were occupied last night are now vacant.I have lunch at the Island site nearest the Heritage portage and am thoroughly disgusted by what I find. A huge bar of soap sitting on the fire grate along with two huge potatoes and dirty wet socks left on the ground. I tidy it up as much as I can but I'm not going to carry dirty socks and a huge bar of soap for the next two weeks. I hope someone will take them out.[paragraph break]I look to the west and once again storm clouds are building and I hear the sounds of thunder. I'm forced to get off the lake once again. Thankfully only a few drops fall and the storm seemed to pass just south of me. But it did not improve fishing. I hit one more spot and manage to hook a good eating size northern for my dinner. Tonight I'm treated to a beautiful sunset.
Today it looks like it's not going to rain. The morning is beautiful and I'm again greeted by they white- throated sparrow at my campsite along with a few Chickadees. I again plan on fishing Shell Lake today. The morning bite is good. I land 6 eating size walleyes and a couple pike. Since fishing is so good, I decide to not keep any and plan on catching something later for a fish dinner. I stop at a vacant site and have lunch. I usually have peanut-butter and honey on a bagel. Along with some turkey jerky I made and dehydrated apples. By mid afternoon nothing is biting. I'm beginning to worry that I won't have a fish dinner tonight. The day though, is perfect. A little breeze, warm and the sun is shining. I decide to take a break at the site nearest the Little Shell Portage. Quite a beautiful spot full of White Pine and Red Pines.[paragraph break] After resting and meadering around the site I head back on the water. Looking west I notice storm clouds building once again. Tonight there will not be a fish dinner. Just as I get all my gear out of the canoe another storm begins. Tonight it will be pizza. I decide I'll spend one more night on Shell Before moving on.
Today I'll try my luck on Shell and then move on to Heritage for the rest of the day. No one is on Hertiage and I have the lake to myself. I take time to photograph some interesting fungus, Mergansers and some Harebells and other wildflowers on Heritage Lake. The day is somewhat chilly and when the sun dips behind the clouds I have to put on a jacket to keep warm. [paragraph break]I only manage to catch a few small northerns on Heritage and by late afternoon I decide to see if I can't catch anything on Shell before I have my dinner. It rains again. I manage to catch a few decent Bass before dinner to the delight of the gulls and eagles that inhabit the lake. Tonight it continues to rain but I'm treated to a beaitful rainbow and sunset.
I wake up in the early morning realizing how cold it is. It must be in the 40s. I didn't think I would need my warmer sleeping bag in the middle of July, but I wished I had it. My instant Starbucks Christmas Blend tastes especially good this morning. For a change of pace I decided to fry my eggs instead of scrambling them.Come to think about it, I don't think I've ever fried eggs in the woods, I've always scrambled them. I think I'll fry them from now on. [paragraph break]Today my travels are short. I'm not concerned about how far or how many miles I cover in a day. I want to take time to fish and explore the lake. I love paddling along the shoreline in the late evening it seems especially peaceful at this time. [paragraph break]I move over to Lynx Lake which will hopefully offer a little more solitude and better fishing. I like camping at the site closest to Ruby Lake portage. It has a decent landing area and beautiful old Red Pines. It appears that no other campers are on the lake today and I've got the lake to myself. Lynx Lake is a deep clear lake usually, but today it looks a little turbid.[paragraph break]I set my camp and take in my surroundings. Someone has left a fire wood but I'll have to search the woods if I want to good fire tonight. The pile is full of Red Pine which I've found does not burn very well even when dry. After putting up my tarp I have some lunch. I fish the afternoon but only catch two small walleyes that are really too small to eat. Tonight will be another pizza night. After cleaning up camp I head out on the lake to hopefully catch some fish and photograph some loons and if I'm lucky maybe a moose. There is only one other group on the lake tonight. And believe it or not, no rain fell today.
Another cold night. I had to put on some extra layers last night. With all my eggs gone it will be oatmeal with my dehydrated fruit from here on out, which suits me fine as there is little to clean up. My plan today is to fish Lynx and hopefully have a Walleye dinner. I had some really great fishing days on Lynx so my hopes are high.[paragraph break]The wind has changed directions to day and is blowing out of the south making for a somewhat warmer day. Fishing is slow and I am only able to catch small bass. At least I know I wouldn't starve out here. I stop for lunch and notice all the blue berries that are still about a week away from being ripe. Someone will have a nice snack. While today has been a beautiful day with no rain, fishing has been poor. Before dinner I decide to photograph the falls at Yodeler Creek and scope out the portage to the beaver pond. I plan to go to Yodeler Lake tomorrow.[paragraph break]With a few more passes in front of my campsite I land a small walleye that I decide I will add to my pasta I'm having for dinner.
Another cold night in the 40s. The wind is still blowing form the south but its clouded over. It doesn't look like rain, though. I plan on doing a little fishing on Lynx and then head over to Yodeler Lake. [paragraph break]Fishing on Lynx is poor once again and it looks like the weather is clearing finally. I take the trail along Yodeler Creek and make my way to the huge beaver dam. The pond is quiet and peaceful. I take some pictures of the Sundew Flowers, Pichter Plant and iris'. There are several trees down in the narrow channel that I have to naviagete before I get to another beaver dam that I have to cross. The portage to Yodeler is somewhere on the right side of the pond and I remember to look for two dead Cedars. Sure enough, the portage is still there and it looks like someone made a new trail to the lake. No sooner do I get on Yodeler I hear thunder and I see dark clouds moving in. I find a spot to take cover and wait out another storm. It rains hard for about 30 minutes and finally subsides. I get back on the water and start doing some Large-Mouth Bass fishing. In about 30 minutes I've caught over 35 Bass. I don't even need to cast a lure. I just dip my Rapala in the water and a Bass hits it. The Bass are not huge but some are of decent size. Now I remember why I came to this lake. After an hour I make my way back to Lynx and start dinner. The storm has cleared and the sun is shining. Tonight I have the lake to myself. After dinner in a bag I paddle the lake in hopes of spotting a moose. I noticed moose tracks on the beach area located on the west side of the lake, no luck. It looks like a full moon tonight.
Today I move to Hustler Lake. I enjoy Hustler Lake as it has a beautiful site surrounded with Red and White Pines and wonderful views of the lake. Some years ago the Forest Service redesigned the fire grate. It once faced out toward the lake to the south. Now it faces north into the woods. I'm not sure why the change was made. No one has recently been on the portage but I find fresh wolf scat and tracks. Ruby Lake is a deep clear lake with large stands of white pines. I throw a few casts near some weeds as I make my way across the lake. There is a group at the next portage and I wait for them to clear out. They have spent the night on Hustler which probably means that the site I want to stay at is open. Sure enough, the site is open and set up camp once again. I hesitate for a moment about setting up the tarp but I decide it's the last thing I want to do in the rain. [paragraph break]With chores all taken care of I off to catch the many Small-Mouth Bass and Northern Pike to inhabit Hustler Lake. I plan on having a fish dinner. I head toward the east end of the lake as I have had good fishing in the shallow part of the lake. As I soon as I pass the narrows I hook a 5lb northern. I release it in hopes of catching something a little smaller. I know if I don't eat the whole fish something else will, but it doesn't sit well with me leaving leftovers. What animals eat don't have leftovers? That's why there are scavengers, right? Either way I want something smaller. So I release it back to the water. [paragraph break]As I troll down the middle of the bay I keep my eyes on the distant back bay where a moose might appear. I spot something in the distant and even with my camera I can't discern it is a moose. "It must me a tree stump." I tell myself, but as I get closer that tree stump is moving. That tree stump is a moose. I reel in and have to to remember not get "moose fever." I paddle slowly toward the moose. Unfortunately I'm up wind of him and I'm afraid he'll spot me and disappear into the woods. He looks up for a moment and continues to feed on the vegetation. I struggle sometimes with wanting to get a video and get pictures that I forget to just enjoy seeing the moose. After about five minutes the young bull decides he's had enough and slowly heads back into the forest.[paragraph break]I struggle to catch fish and again I wonder if I'll have a fish dinner. I finally catch a nice sized Bass as I'm heading back to camp and I've got my dinner. I have not seen any other canoe today and no one else is camped on the lake. Once again, the lake is mine.
The wind has changed direction once again. It's overcast and the wind is blowing out of the north bringing in squalls of rain every so often. I wore long under wear to bed and I don't bother to take them off. I keep a jacket on all day as well. Not what I thought would be July weather. Fishing is poor and I decide to take time to photograph the orchids that grow in several of the bays of on the lake. [paragraph break] Throughout the day I catch many small Bass and so I push back my dinner until hunger overtakes me. I finally catch a nice Northern and head back to camp. Again I am met with another squall of rain. My dinner is great and I decide to start a fire to keep warm. Once again, I see no other people and the lake is mine. Near sunset the clouds break and I think there's going to be a sunset. But as soon as the sun appeared, dark clouds begin forming. This storm is moving in quick. I make sure everything is secure as the wind picks up. The wind must be over 60 mph as I have difficulty moving around. The rain starts falling. Fortunately, as quickly as it came in, the worst of the storm heads south of me and the forest quiets once again. I plan to head to Oyster tomorrow.
I wake up to rain and cold weather. My motivation to pack up is low and I decide to go back to sleep. When I wake up again the rain has stopped and I even see blue sky. I think about moving to Oyster but with the cold weather and rain still possible I think I'll stay another day. The blue sky is short lived and dark-gray clouds appear once again. I sip my morning coffee overlooking the lake. Despite poor fishing, rain, and cold weather, I don't think I want to be any other place. [paragraph break]Fishing is poor once again and it begins to drizzle. I take shelter at a neighboring site as the rain falls harder. The rain continues for an hour. I don't keep any fish for dinner and enjoy another dinner in a bag. I get a fire going and enjoy the remaining light.
This morning the weather is better. The sun is shinning but there's still a cold breeze blowing from the north. After having three nights on Hustler all by myself, I pack up and head for the next portage. On the portage I can moose tracks and droppings. It must be from the moose I saw the other day. Thankfully the portage is once again one long portage. Some years ago beavers flooded a portion of the portage and created an area where you had to ferry across. [paragraph break]I notice the water levels are up on Oyster. I plan on staying at the site closest to the river portage. I think I'll try for Trout (even though I'm not sure what I am doing)as I cross the lake. It doesn't appear that any other groups are on the lake today. I make it to my new home and set up my tent and tarp. One of the old White Pines that grows on the site has been taken down by the Forest Service. Over the years I've slowly watched this old tree die. I guess the Forest Service took it down before it fell on someone. Judging by the rings, it looks to be well over 200 years old.[paragraph break]My original plan was to spend a whole fishing Oyster and then take a day trip up though Rocky, but with my delay on Hustler I decide that tomorrow I'll head up through Rocky and forgo the full day of fishing.[paragraph break]I spend the rest of the afternoon fishing for Bass and I manage to catch a few small ones and one decent one. Tonight I'll have re-fried dehydrated beans I made prior to the trip. Tonight the sunset is spectacular.
Another cold night. Today I pack up for a day trip up though Rocky, Green and into Pekan Lake. The sun is shining at the temperature is rising. Finally a warm day. The two groups that were here last night have already departed as I paddle my way to the portage. There is loon I stop to photograph. He seems unconcerned at my presence. I nearly collide with him as I snap a few pictures. There are some Loons that won't let you get within a certain distance before diving and other Loons that seem to welcome your presence.[paragraph break]I've traveled through Rocky before but have failed to notice the pictographs. This time I'm determined to find them. As I look upon them, I am struck with a strange feeling. Most pictographs are located on main routes. Why here, I wonder? There are certainly other rock faces on the lake more visible to travelers. I decide to leave some tobacco just to be safe. Rocky and Green have some really nice old White Pine Stands. I always take time to marvel at the beauty of those trees.[paragraph break] It takes me a while to find the portage into Pekan as the water levels have hidden the white boulder that I landed on some years ago. I've walked in to Pekan but have never been on the lake. Today I plan to see if there are any fish is the lake. It's a short portage and I'm greeted by a loon pair who seem unconcerned at my presence. I don't catch anything but I do notice some small minnows swimming around. It's peaceful as I paddle around the lake. I try to photograph the loons but they have other ideas so I decide to head back to Green and fish my way back to the portage. Surprisingly, I have encountered no one else today. [paragraph break]I fish my way back on Oyster but catch nothing. Although I'm disappointed about fishing, that wasn't my goal today.I have dinner and start a fire. Another beautiful sunset on Oyster. No one else is camped on the lake tonight and once again, the lake is all mine. As I go to sleep I hear two owls hooting in the distance. I know in some cultures seeing or hearing owls is a bad omen. I hope it's a good omen.
Another cold night. I wake up early and get my coffee started and start packing. Today I'm heading for my last destination: Ramshead Lake. Ramshead can offer some good Northern fishing and solitude. While Anges and Nina Moose campsites might be packed with campers, Ramshead sites remain vacant. [paragraph break]I enjoy my coffee by sitting on the large rock that over looks Oyster Lake. Is there a better spot to enjoy coffee? The sun is shining and it looks to be a warm day. [paragraph break]One of my favorite portages in the boundary waters is the portage from Oyster to Oyster Creek. There is the creek and there are some beautiful old White and Red Pines along with some old Cedars that surround the portage. Despite the mosquitoes I take time to enjoy the old trees. I waste no time loading my canoe as the bugs are on full assault. The river is up and I take time to be mesmerized by the Angel Hair Grass that undulates in the clear waters. I notice up-rooted lilies-a definite sign of moose. [paragraph break]I reach the portage and I investigate if I can run the short rapids. I give it a shot and with a few scrapes on the bottom of my canoe I'm able to navigate though. I stop quickly as I notice a buck hiding in the tall grass. I try and get a picture but I make too much noise and he slowly disappears into the forest. From here it's easy going. The river is flowing quite fast and I hit Nina Moose River without any more obstacles. The paddle to the Ramshead portage is not far. Along the way I notice another deer feeding along the river but he spots me first and quickly disappears.[paragraph break]The portage into Ramshead is somewhat over grown and the only prints I see are moose prints. The portage is relatively flat with a lot of mosquitoes. At the end of the portage are a stand of old White Pines. The portage doesn't end at the lake you have to paddle up the creek a way and if water levels are low, do a one rod portage around a garden of boulders. With water levels up I am able to avoid the portage and into the north bay of the lake. Ramshead is a shallow lake that always appears to have a brown hue to it. The wind is blowing out of the south as I head for the Island campsite. The site is nice and open but it's up on a hill with really no good landing area. As I paddle across the lake I see no else around. I realize that I have not spoken to anyone of almost a week. The Island site is open and I unload my packs and have lunch. With the wind blowing out of the south, I'm worried about storms and if it really starts kicking, makes it nearly impossible to fish the lake. After resting a bit, I set up camp. For a campsite that sees little use, It sure takes a beating. Annika and Mark Grant have carved their names in a log and it appears have taken cut down some live trees and hacked at a large Birch tree.[paragraph break]By mid afternoon I've got my camp set up and I'm ready to go fishing and to collect wood for my fire. I catch a few decent northerns but I put them back. Today is the warmest day of my trip and I decide to stop at one of the sites on the east side of the lake to take a quick swim. [paragraph break]Tonight is another easy dinner of dehydrated re-fried beans. After dinner I paddle around the lake fishing and enjoying the scenery and relishing the fact that no one else is here.
I wake up with the sun this morning so I can fish the entire day. It seems a bit hazy this morning and I learn later that it was smoke from distant fires. As I fish I notice the Trumpeter Swans that have come back again. It looks like they have only two goslings that have survived. Last year I counted six. I catch a few nice northerns which I release. By late morning I head back to camp for some breakfast. I head out again and notice the wind is starting to pick up a bit. While I've caught lots of northerns today, most are small, nothing like what I have caught in previous years. By late afternoon the wind is really howling and fishing has become nearly impossible. I'm forced to head back to camp.[paragraph break]I decide on an early dinner and maybe even a nap. The has not abated by early evening so I pick up my book and find a spot to read. I thought I'd get on the lake tonight, but even by sunset the wind is still blowing hard. I get a fire going and enjoy my last evening. By bed time the wind seems to have picked up once again.
Last night the wind really picked up and I noticed lightening when I woke up during the night. I thought I may have to get out and take shelter. But whatever storm was brewing, it must have headed east of me. It's raining early, so I decide to sleep for a little while longer. I'm not in a hurry to get out. Plus, I want to avoid the crowds of canoes coming and going on the Moose River. I take my time packing up and savor my final morning. [paragraph break]The first portage out in a 160 rod to Lamb Lake. It's relatively flat with a nice Poison Ivy patch at the end. The only prints I see on the portage are moose prints but I see no moose. Lamb Lake too is up higher than in previous years. I paddle across lamb noticing how the forest has recovered after a fire of nearly 40 years ago. Some dead trees still stand. My least favorite portage awaits. The 228 rod into Nina Moose. It's rocky with poor footing, up and down and usually infested with ticks and mosquitoes. This time around I only have the mosquitoes. [paragraph break]As I enter the Nina Moose River I see something I have not seen in four days: people. I can smell their clean fresh clothes well before they pass me. I wonder how I smell to them? I must pass 4 groups as I paddle up the river. I'm surprised to see a new portage on the river. A fallen Cedar has blocked the river. The Forest Service must have thought it easier to make a portage than clear the tree. With reluctance, I beach my canoe at the final portage. And with the rhythm of traveling alone, I put on my food pack and canoe and head up the last portage. [paragraph break]It's sometimes difficult to reconcile high expectations of a trip and the reality of your trip. Everyone wants perfect weather, no bugs, see moose and other wildlife, and have the fish biting all day, but that rarely happens. The chance to be out here whether in the rain and cold or sun and heat, I try to cherish each moment.