BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
December 09 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1150 feet
Little Vermilion Lake - 12
Where Are The Maps?...and No Pictures, Please--our 2017 trip on the Little Indian Sioux
July 21, 2017
Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Number of Days:
After a restful night in the CCO Camp Street house we were up and at 'em at about 5 AM to finish packing up, enjoy a brief visit with TGO while we picked up bait and grab a hearty breakfast at Britton's. After that was all completed, we got loaded up and were off on our ride in CCO's van to the LIS entry point about an hour out of Ely. When we arrived at the entry we were organizing gear for the portage when it hit me: I FORGOT THE MAPS!!!! Boy did I feel stupid and felt I was letting the other guys down as this was going to delay us for a couple of hours while our van driver, Tom, and I went back to ELY for maps. Tom called ahead to CCO about the situation and Mark at CCO said he would meet us about half way up the Echo trail with maps, thereby saving our party about an hour (what outstanding service!). We met Mark, the exchange was made, I rejoined our party and FINALLY we were off on a pleasant paddle up the Little Indian Sioux River. Hard lesson number one for the day: Check and re-check your gear, knowing where everything is!
Our goal for the day was Lynx Lake and along the way we enjoyed the scenic and roaring rapids at Elm Portage, nice calm water for paddling and the also-running-hard Devil's Cascade, where we had lunch. We also needed to endure a very muddy portage between the Pauness Lakes and the long trek from Lower Pauness to Shell Lake, which is actually now two portages since about two thirds of the way to Shell, you need to load your canoes with all of your gear and float everything across a beaver pond before you continue on your way. The ends of this portage are also annoyingly muddy!
When we reached Lynx mid- to late-afternoon we grabbed the furthest north campsite which was one of two still left open. Setting up camp was a quick affair as rain was threatening and indeed the sprinkles started just as we got up the tents and tarp. When doing so, we dumped the contents of a pack to discover at the bottom of that pack were the ORIGINAL maps. They were there all along! Hard lesson number two for the day: Before panicking, think things through and consider all of the possibilities before compounding your stupidity and wasting the other's time. DUH!!!
The rain was brief and at it's conclusion it was time to start fishing. About 20 seconds after my first cast, right from shore, boom! I was hauling in a nice walleye! This called for a picture, so where was my camera? Suddenly, we realized it was nowhere to be found. Gone! Completely! The missing camera bag contained my video camera, still camera and accessories for both. It was now somewhere behind us on the trail and the pictures I had taken that day (and many others from previous travel) were now lost and opportunities for more photos on this trip were over. Hard lesson number three for the day--and probably the most painful: Be responsible for your own personal gear and don't rely on others to carry your load.
Trying to put these glitches behind us, we were able to enjoy continued great fishing right from shore and also enjoy a delicious steak supper before the evening fire and turning in for a restful night in the tents. It was a hard first day but I reminded myself that after all I was still in the BWCA again enjoying all it had to offer even with the challenges and I was introducing new people to its beauty and wonder.
Some more light rain overnight meant a wet start to our second day but sunshine took care of that by the time we were done cleaning up from our bacon and egg breakfast. Fish was on the menu for tonight so we were eager to to work on that, encouraged by the catch-and-release success we'd had the previous day. Brian and his son offered to address that detail by exploring Lynx Lake with a couple of rods and reels while Kirby and I set out looking for my lost camera gear. We planned to backtrack all of the way to Lower Pauness, if needed, since that is the last place I remembered taking pictures. We kept our eyes peeled the whole way and while I was able to spot a Flying Moose sticker on a canoe (was pleased to meet "Brux") and saw many groups coming in, neither we nor they saw anything of my camera gear. We did go all of the way back to Lower Pauness--including a waist-deep wade through the Shell-Pauness portage beaver pond--but still nothing. It was time to head back to our campsite for lunch before joining Brian and Aidan in the fishing efforts.
They had actually got a good start on supper before I took my position on shore. But again, my casts were quickly productive and a walleye or two was added to the stringer (largest about 21") along with some decent-sized bass. One strike was from the biggest bass I think I have ever hooked and it gave quite the fight. Finally it tired enough that I was able to nose it to shore. As this fish sat in the water I noted that it was at least as long as our 21' walleye sitting right there on the stringer. Never did get an actual measurement of the bass, though. As we were trying to get it into a landing net, it gave one more flip and snapped the line. Gone! Oh, well...it was really too big to eat, we already had plenty of fish, and I was not going to get a picture of it anyway!
Weather wise, the day turned out sunny and warm but storms threatened on the horizon most of the afternoon with distant flashes and rumbles clearly announcing the cloud's intentions. Fortunately, the nasty weather kept sliding past us to the north and south and on only one occasion did we get clipped by the very edge of a storm, receiving some strong wind and rain for about 10 minutes.
Brian did a great job of cleaning our day's catch and for supper it was about all the fish the four of us could eat. Delish!!
Again our day concluded as we enjoyed a nice fire--and those dastardly mosquitoes sure enjoyed us!--before sleeping a final night on Lynx Lake.
Day three was going to be a travel day as we wanted to get closer to our exit point which would make for an easier pace on the day of take out and the 5-6 hour trip home. We finished off a pancake breakfast and struck camp, setting out about mid morning. This was going to be just a bit more work than the trip in as we would now be paddling into a stiff breeze but it was certainly manageable, even for our newbies. We continued to hope for any sign of my camera gear but still came up with nothing. At about peak sun we were pulling out onto Lower Pauness Lake, happy to have that long-ish beaver pond portage over with for this trip.
We decided to try for a lunch stop at the Lower Pauness campsite that's out on the point just past the weeds coming off the Shell portage. It was open and we found it good enough to stay past lunch and call it home for the night. This site gives a great open view out over the lake with an exposed rock shelf elevated a bit over the water. But that openness and lack of trees make for a hot sun near the front of the site and the fire pit. We soon sought to get out of the sun and tarp-hanging options were scarce. We did find that If one goes back into the trees a bit there is an awesome clearing with a pine needle floor and plenty of shady relief as long as you don't mind the bugs. We also learned that it's a better spot if the breeze doesn't come from the direction of the latrine since that sucker was pretty full and ripe!
For much of this day we just hung out and fished a while, having that whole section of Lower Pauness pretty much to ourselves. Fishing was rather slow both from shore and out on the water with a few small northerns and a couple of rock bass being all that our whole group could muster. That was OK as the lake itself was beautiful. At one point we looked at our campsite from out on the water and seeing the tent positioned out on this slightly elevated point with the fire grate in front and a backdrop of pines we noted a scene like you would see on the cover of some outdoors magazine (but, again, no pictures). With no fish, we still had plenty to eat too. We dug into the freeze-dried stuff we had brought along as back-up food and it wasn't half bad!
As darkness fell we were treated to a lot of stars and fewer mosquitoes. While Kirby and Aidan turned in a little early, Brian and I spent much of our last night in the woods by staying up by the fire till well past midnight just discussing life and solving many world problems. We also managed to finish off the little sumthin'-sumthin' in the small flasks each of us brought along! A pretty fun final night on the trail.
After the ride back to town and the always refreshing post-trip shower, we packed up and headed over to The Ely Steakhouse for some tasty Bucky Burgers concluding what was, in spite of the first-day bumps, another rewarding adventure.
After Kirby and I parted with Brian and Aidan, we still had one more chore before hitting the road home. We made several stops around town trying to put into gear the resources for finding my camera stuff. If you want other details, check out the lost and found thread on this forum and see if it's still listed. I'm not real optimistic, but who knows. Some day I may just see it again and thanks to anyone who may help me get to that point.