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June 24 2024

Entry Point 12 - Little Vermilion Lake

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

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

I found my thrill on blueberry hill

by dogwoodgirl
Trip Report

Entry Date: July 13, 2022
Entry Point: Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Number of Days: 14
Group Size: 1

Trip Introduction:

Day 1 of 14

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 Headed over to Frost River mid morning and watched my final video, collected my permit, and loaded up the RAV. Amelia and I were on our way to Ely by 1, and settled in at the Adventure Inn in mid afternoon. We walked around town a bit, and then I got pad thai from the food truck across the street. It was pretty good! Been trying to avoid indoor locations with strangers for the last 10 days- don't want Covid in the woods alone!

I was tired, but didn't really sleep well....motels are always a hard place to fall asleep for me.


Day 2 of 14

Thursday, July 14, 2022

I was awake before 530, made coffee in the room and headed down the Echo Trail. At the entry point I was greeted by a group of teen girls just ending their trip. They were sunburned, laughing and filthy- what fun! No idea how early they must have left their campsite to be there at 7am. On the river by 730 or so....I sure love river travel. Clear blue sky, almost no wind. Saw a family of otters almost right away, also mergansers, herons, and a hubcap sized snapper. I had forgotten how lovely the 60r portage on LIS is! Pine needles, giant cedars, kinda place. Finally hit Upper Pauness after passing a group of teen boys heading back. They seemed very young to be out alone.....under 15 for sure....but looked happy and healthy.

The wind picked up and I decided to take a site if one was open. Avoided the Poison Ivy Grove, the next one up was taken, but the one after that was open (#37). There is a gorgeous open pine glade up the hill for sitting or exploring, and an acceptable firepit, though the grate is cracked. There is a big anthill behind the nicest tentpad, but they didn't invade my tent so all was good there. Not much sign of heavy trash and tons of wood along the shore. Some heehaws had cut a bunch of live branches though...sheesh.

There are swans across the bay, and I found loads of blueberries- enough to make me think about spending 2 nights and having pancakes in the morning. Saw a grouse and heard the little grouselets peeping in the underbrush. Skeeters came out and after dinner of Packit Gourmet Beef Stew with Polenta we headed to the tent.

~Upper Pauness Lake


Day 3 of 14

Friday, July 15, 2022 Last night I notice that my big toe on my right foot was looking pretty angry. So that sealed the deal, pretty sure that being stuck in wet neoprene all day wouldn't be good for it. Slept in a little and had blueberry pancakes, then played with Amelia up in the pines. Had a hummingbird in camp this morning.

Too hot to be in the tent, and windless with plenty of flies...Amelia is not pleased. I'm sitting looking at maps, and thinking about what to do next. Shell? Slim? Lac La Croix? I had such solid plans over the winter, to hit the border and loop back through the smaller interior lakes. Then I started reading campsite and portage reviews...and seeing "poison ivy" over and over along the border. I'm super allergic to it, and if I didn't have a dog along I feel more confident about staying clear of it....but it's hard with a dog to do that.

Filled the solar shower and set it on the hot's already a scorcher.

One of the things about solos have a lot of time to yourself to fill. No internet, very limited # of books (I have 2 small paperbacks), no garden to tend. Just me and my brain and my dog. Non travel days can be hard.

What a lovely shower! So warm, so clean, such a tiny weight to carry for this luxury! And to think I used to mock those that took them.

Onward in the morning. ~Upper Pauness Lake


Day 4 of 14

Saturday, July 16, 2022 Nothing like doing a hilly 160r portage with 2 packs and a canoe, and knowing that my eldest child is 39 today, to make me feel every one of my 63 years. I am not as strong as I used to be.

Left Upper Pauness early, overcast and calm, already getting pretty warm. The 40r portage near my campsite was infested with poison ivy, so I paddled over to the 8r. Crossed Lower Pauness and hit the Devil's Cascade Portage, and it whupped me good. Partly the heat, but I think I'm just getting old. Didn't even have the energy to check out the cascade- I just wanted to be done with it. There is also a small amount of poison ivy close to the start, but avoidable with caution.

The rest of LIS River was lovely, just keeps getting wider until it finally spills out into Loon. I took the first campsite on Loon- it was too dang hot for me. Shady but so many flies.

This site has been sadly abused...lots of cut live trees, foil in the firepit, pistachio shells everywhere, a bungee cord, artificial leeches, fishing line, a pair of boxers, and a hat that said "Jackalope Hockey". Gave the hat to a father and son paddling by that stopped to chat. A pair of young women who passed said they saw a small bear swim across the river about 200 yards upstream. Not a place to spend lots of time! And.....wait for it....there's poison ivy on the latrine trail!

Saw 2 garter snakes, lots of frogs, heard veerys, barred owl, song sparrows, loons

Sat down by the water and thought. Feeling a whole bunch of internal pressure to travel more miles than I have, and wondering why that is. Lots of people know what my plans were, but I'm not doing the trip for them, it's for me. And I'm not sure I have the physical strength to do all the portaging I had planned by myself. That's sorta hard to admit. Getting old is weird.

So hot tonight that I can't face any kind of fire, even the solo stove. Made my coffee with cold water....and it totally worked. Even my homemade powdered 1/2 & 1/2.....shook it up good and sorta had an iced coffee in the woods. Glad I have 5 meals that can be made with cold water. Tonight: Packit Gourmet Curry chicken mango salad. Should have brought tortillas, but it was good.

~Upper Pauness Lake, Lower Pauness Lake, Loon Lake


Day 5 of 14

Sunday, July 17, 2022 Up early again, on the water before 7. Headed up the shore of Loon, heading towards Little Loon and maybe Slim when I passed a site that practically hollered "Hey, check me out!"

Turned around and went back and holy wow, how gorgeous. Site 24 on Loon, right before the entrance to Little Loon.Open shady site surrounded my mature mixed forest of white red and jack pine. Breeze off the water flies! No garbage, so many was like that secret blueberry patch your auntie had that no one knew how to find, and if you found it she would have to kill you. 1 nice tent pad, 2 decentish ones, but a very big widowmaker pointed right at one of those so...beware. Really nice spot for the tarp, lovely kitchen area/firepit.

Only paddled 2 hours, kinda feel like a slacker but I'm okay with that today. Made coffee and cream of wheat and sat observing my kingdom, then set up camp.

So far on this trip I have seen 3 solo canoeists and 6 tandem canoes. At least half the campsites have been empty (shhhh, don't tell the hordes). It's pretty quiet out here.

If the forecast hasn't changed, there should be rain and cooler temps moving in, so I set up the solar shower again and washed clothes. Don't know when I'll get another chance (it never ended up being warm enough again). Felt lovely to be cleanish.....and to have let go of the pressure to do the "right" trip. Journaling, staring out at the water, paddling around some, feeling comfortable in my own's enough. And I really like this site, might not move again for a few days. Amelia likes it too, she hasn't gazed longingly at the tent all day. Enough little sunbeams in the breezy shade to make a pup happy.

Had a cool red squirrel encounter- One climbed a tree about 15 ft from me and gave me hell for about 10 minutes, then used the upper branches to climb over to my tree and started coming down towards me yelling all sorts of cuss words. Got up and looked- yup, a hole maybe 15 ft above me. Mama coming back to the nest....sorry girlfriend. I moved and all is quiet in squirrel land now.

Fell asleep to drumming grouse, veerys, loons.

~Loon Lake


Day 6 of 14

Monday, July 18, 2022 Pretty big thunderstorm last night but we stayed dry. Glad I set some twigs under cover for the morning's fire. Got up to sunshine but clouds off in the northwest, got my coffee made before it started raining again. I sat under the tarp drinking coffee and watching the play of rain on the lake. This is the best shelter I've been able to rig so far, and I'm glad. Also, I got a new rain coat this year, an Outdoor Research Gortex.....and I always assumed gortex was really not that much better than what I had. I think I was wrong! Much less clammy, none of that "I'm dry but I feel damp".

After all these hot sunny days it's good to get some rain. I keep thinking back to my trips during the drought last year, when I just wanted to cry watching the younger trees turning yellow and brown in July and August, and the brush so crunchy and dry, no berries. It felt like watching the slow death of the boreal forest...awful.

Rain quit and I made my pancake fire. There is nothing in the world like wild blueberry pancakes cooked over an open fire. I don't know if I could ever get tired of them.

It's interesting to face away from the direction the weather is coming from. First the wind totally dies and it's hot. Then it starts again, but cooler. When I turn around I see the grey/purple cloud and hear thunder. Wondering if I will get out on the water today at this rate. Oddly, I'm no longer restless or impatient. My mind feels calm, quieter than it has been in a long time. And bingo, this is the thing that I so love about solos! There is no one else and their moods and happiness to worry about. So it rains all day, no one is getting bored. So the portage is really tough, or you can't find a nice campsite, or you're feeling doesn't affect anyone but you. And that is really wonderful.

Took a short walk along the shore and found a double armload of driftwood in about 1/2 a block. The high water mark from this spring is at least 2 feet above current water level, based on the debris line. Then we went for a paddle into Little Loon. Saw a cormorant drying it's wings and a doe drinking at the water's edge. She gave a hoarse bark and ran off. The campsite along the west shore looks pretty rough. Several big trees down near the firepit- one at least looks to have been cut.

Just saw the eagle fly by and dive to catch a good sized fish. And it was cedar waxwing party time in the juneberries behind my tent. It's hot and still tonight. I found a working pen, which is the only trash here so far. No skeeters at dusk tonight, so sat down by the water after the sun went down and took some photos. ~Little Loon Lake, Loon Lake


Day 7 of 14

Tuesday, July 19, 2022 Rained overnight again and woke up to a warm windy morning- threatening clouds in the SW and whitecaps on the lake. Having Polenta with pork sausage from Packit Gourmet- wow is it good! It's nice to just have the little twig stove to boil water for coffee and a hot breakfast sometimes. And speaking of twig stoves...the thing is there are so many twigs in the world. At first I thought it would free me from the chore of wood processing, and in a way it has. But if you look at it a different way, it's just given me a whole 'nother type of wood to process. You'll be drinking coffee on the shore and look down and see a nice twig. 5 minutes later both fists are full of twigs and your coffee is sitting alone by a boulder. Eventually you are captured at Menards in the garden center, ripping open a bag of mulch and shoving wood chips in your pockets. And now I'm going to go saw up some driftwood. "Wait, I thought you had a twig stove!" And to that I say, a woman's got to have hobbies.

Went exploring up the shore and found a trail that leads to a cove looking out at the entrance to Little Loon. Deep moss, lichen, blueberries and a N Pike jawbone on a many teeth. Got back to camp and had a torrential downpour followed by high winds and moderate rain. Held out for awhile but finally fed Amelia and headed for the tent during a break in the precip.


Day 8 of 14

Wednesday, July 20, 2022 Rain did not let up until 530 this morning, and the sky is still very grey. We stayed warm but at some point the rainfly dripped. Uh oh! Could it have been condensation? Glad I didn't bring my down bag. Finally got coffee and oatmeal made, and we're sitting under the tarp watching rain and wind do it's work on the lake. Wind is dying down at's good birding weather. And I'm glad that I'm not close enough to my entry point to pack up and paddle out, or I might. Not fond of multiple days of rain/wind. By early afternoon I was feeling chilled and got out the HeyPork stove to make tea, and voila, the sun came out to play. Had Many Beans Salad from Packit Gourmet for lunch- making up for yesterday and no dinner. Checked out the tent and fly is drying fast, sleeping bags don't feel damp at all somehow. Life is good!

Now it's warm and really glorious. Did a little more exploring of all the trails, picked blueberries and made dessert- lemon cheesecake with blueberries. I may never need to eat again! Drinking an "iced" coffee in the shade. Today is Amelia's birthday- I gave her a couple spoonfuls of cheesecake and sang her a silly song and we danced around. She let me take a gorgeous picture of her lying in the grass, and she even looked at the camera. Then had an evening fire...a nice end to the day.


Day 9 of 14

Thursday, July 21, 2022 Thunderstorm again last night, woke to clear blue sky. Made potato pancakes for breakfast, Amelia was very helpful in finishing them off.

Then decided that even though there were a few whitecaps, that I'd go test the Magic Chickadee's tracking and my strength against the wind. I would have had issues in the Prism, but 40 pounds of dog as ballast in the bow of the Magic was enough to let me paddle pretty easily wherever I wanted to go. Paddled up to the portage into Slim, but when we got into shore the horseflies were fierce, so we stayed on the water. It's Amelia's trip too, and if she doesn't have to suffer flies I don't make her. There's plenty of times when we don't have the choice. Took a look at the campsite on the N shore of Little Loon. From the water it looks pretty nice- big pines, decent looking kitchen area, sand beach just down the shore. Rode the wind back to camp....and it is crazy windy now. Made up a song about flies to the tune of "Heartaches by the Number". I noticed while paddling that my right elbow was sore when I paddled on the right. I have an old repetitive motion injury from lab and restaurant work, and it was flaring up...also some rotator cuff soreness. The years are showing, I guess. And really, as long as this old body can haul me out here, it's okay that I'm wrinkled and a little chunky and parts are starting to fail. Someday when I can't do it alone, I hope that I have enough young folks who love me and will help me get back in the boonies like this.

Finally saw a motorboat. I have heard them going up the corridor towards Lac La Croix, but this one just came down the bay, fished for an hour or so, and left.

I'm so very happy here! Gathered more wood and cut it up, then sat in the windy shade watching the sky and the trees and the water. Amelia peeled a twig. It's lovely, 70s, blue sky with big puffy clouds sailing by. Dinner was Chicken Pho from good2go- yum! Oh, I have taken to leaving my spoon in Darrell the Barrel at night, after SOMEONE left some toothmarks in the end (ahem, I'm looking at you mama squirrel).


Day 10 of 14

Friday, July 22, 2022 Rain again last night, and blue skies this morning. Made another batch of blueberry pancales- nope, not being tired of them! Once dishes were done, went out for a paddle. After yesterday, I felt confident riding the wind away from camp towards the main body of Loon, then worked my way along the west shore in the wind shadow back to camp. Nice little workout, no elbow pain today. Took photos of something I've been noticing this trip- where white pine branches hang close to the water, there is a horizontal line of dead needles. Flood damage?

Back at camp, I found a 1967 dime, and there is an ancient canada dry ginger ale can that predates pulltabs (so before 1962 if my research is correct). So how old does trash have to be before it becomes a cultural artifact? The dime looks like it's been out in the elements for quite awhile, and the soda can is rusting away.

Today for the first time since getting to this site I feel restless. I think that means it's time to move along. Gonna pick a cup of blueberries for the road in case the next location is not so bounteous.

Almost went fishing when I was out on the calm side of bay- I brought my rod, lures, net, and I like to fish usually. But then I got this feeling, like the fish were down there just swimming around being fish- and I wasn't hungry, had loads of food at camp. So why was I going to hunt this creature and probably kill it- for fun? And suddenly I didn't want to fish, which is weird for me. I love eating fish, and I enjoy fishing generally. Not sure how I feel about that.

Lots of traffic up and down the east bay of loon, 4 groups coming from Slim and 2 heading that way.

Hoping next summer that my son can get a longer vacation. I'd like to loop up thru pocket, gebe, etc from moose/portage river. Still have never seen those lakes, and I just don't think I'm up to all those portages solo. We make a good team.

Dinner- cuban rice bowl from good2go. Always liked that one- added some chicken.


Day 11 of 14

Saturday, July 23, 2022 Got up early and packed camp. Skies grey but wind calm. Had rice cereal and fed Amelia and was off by 730. Sky kept getting uglier, and by the time I headed back down LIS it was raining pretty hard. Sad pup! She does not like it when rain builds up inside the canoe. Wind picked up right before devils cascade portage, and suddenly it took all the strength and skill I had not to get blown sideways up the river! Once on the portage, the rain quit and the skeeters swarmed and it was time to climb that hill. 3 times. With packs. Sigh. Humped all my load to the top of the hill and stood there in the bugs, breathing. The rest of the portage was easy as pie, just real muddy.

Once on Lower Pauness, started looking for my next home, cause I don't want the Poison Ivy Grove and I don't want to end my trip today. Everything on Lower Pauness was open, took site #43 on the point.

What a nice site- big white pines, multiple rooms for relaxing.....The front porch on the rocks where you first enter, the kitchen, a reading room under the oaks, a huge living room under the pines, and a back porch overlooking the marsh just perfect for setting up my tarp. Not a very good canoe garage- there was room for the Chickadee, but multiple canoes would be harder. It has an oddly large # of oak trees, that are not quite right for red oak and may be black oak. Gonna check with UMD when I get home- this is FAR north of black oaks' usual range. Could easily see spending a couple nights here. I have enough food for 4-5 more days, but coffee is getting low.

Got camp set up, found a little driftwood and collected twigs for dinner. Then it started raining again and Amelia sat next to the tent looking at me. So she is napping in the tent. I think she deserves it after enduring the rainy canoe all morning. I'm sitting under the tarp gazing out at the marsh. Really surprised at how easily I have found campsites this trip. In 2020, anytime we were near an entry point it was tough. Today I am about 4 hours of paddling and 2 easy portages from my car.....and it's deserted for the most part.

And Gortex for the win! At no time during my rainy morning and buggy portage did I feel clammy, hot, or uncomfortable in any way. I love this coat! Might be time for a new tent though. I was feeling slightly chilled just sitting around so went into the tent for some quality snuggle time with the pup. It started to rain hard, for about an hour. The mystery of the dampness on my bag some days back is solved- the seams are dripping when it pours. The taping is peeling off too. Maybe it could be salvaged, but maybe there is a tent out there that is lighter and nicer than the 20+ yr old North Face Rock22. I also have a CopperSpur2 Ultralight, but I worry about it being sturdy enough for canoe trips- I use it backpacking.

One the rain quit and the sun came out it was hot! fish jumping all over the lake, and a gorgeous 8 point buck grazed slowly along the shore to the marsh. A good end to the day. ~Loon Lake, Lower Pauness Lake


Day 12 of 14

Sunday, July 24, 2022 Only a little rain overnight, but grey and windy when I got up. Made coffee and oatmeal and fed Amelia, then she went back to the tent. Drinking coffee under the tarp. There are otters here! Down my the rock in the marsh where I saw mergansers last night, there are otters rolling around in the water and coming up crunching something. Crayfish? Small pike? It's a mystery, but super fun to watch.

Best cure for feeling chilled other than snuggling with Amelia? Cut wood! Found more driftwood, then cut, split, and stacked under the log seating to stay dry.

Have seen 3 groups come through today. One tried to force their way down a tiny game trail in the marsh. I finally couldn't take it anymore and said "Whatcha doing fellas?" They were looking for the portage into Shell. Told them I was real positive that wasn't it, but they seemed skeptical....because what would an old woman know. Another group paddled by and they asked them...confirmed, that was not the portage and off they went.

Played chase the stick with Amelia in the living room and found a tiny perfectly clean rodent skull. Thinking red squirrel. Sun came out towards evening and I spent an enjoyable 1/2 hour watching the otters again. A couple beaver headed out past the otters, but they gave them a wide berth and swam very fast until they were out on the lake.Barred owl hooting tonight.

Dinner was fish chowder from good2go. Needed salt or other spices and the corn stayed pretty chewy.


Day 13 of 14

Monday, July 25, 2022 Have reached the point in the trip where without my journal I would have no idea what day it was.

Pretty cold last night. Woke up during the night and put on my hat, got Amelia better snugged up into her sleeping bag. Heard her sigh with contentment. I could see my breath when I got up this morning, but there's a clear blue sky, it's not rally windy, and it's warming up fast. Made my last batch of blueberry pancakes this morning with the ones I picked back on Loon. I may have shed a tiny tear. there are plants here but no berries, all picked out. I opted for a second cup of coffee today, knowing that tomorrow will be my final cup.

Spent some time thinking about the food I did and didn't bring. 4 tbs of butter and a tiny squeeze tube of syrup was enough for 4 days of pancakes. I didn't eat lunch very often, so that was mostly wasted weight. I really missed crackers and trail mix, and I didn't really like the jerky bars I brought. Got bored with granola bars. Had a pouch each of olives and pickles, those make the cut for sure! I also really missed cooked dinners, like alfredo pasta or wild rice soup, but didn't miss the pan it's a toss up.

Paddled all along the shore of Lower Pauness. The campsite across from me looks overgrown and sad. Several groups have checked it out, and all moved on. The rest of the shoreline was lovely, rocky outcrops interspersed with jack and white pine, birch, balsam, spruce, and a few more clumps of that oak. When I got back to camp there was a huge shed snakeskin in the canoe garage- pretty sure it wasn't there when we left.

Sat in the shade for awhile, then got up because 2 eagles were having some sort of altercation in the air right off camp. I noticed that Amelia was staring very intently into the grass. I went to see what it was....and there was the snake, staring right back at her, calm as could be. Made her go lie down away from the snake, and it slowly slithered out onto the hot rocks and sunned itself for a while. easily as long as my arm, a nice garter.

Well, I knew it had to happen.....all of a sudden one of the knuckles on my left hand started to itch like crazy- got really red and looked like it was going to blister. Poison Ivy, Yay! Got the Dawn out and went back in the woods and scrubbed the living daylights out of both hands. Is it on Amelia's life jacket? The canoe? A random piece of driftwood? All I know is it's a real small scale exposure, or I'd have way more than one small itchy spot. "You're gonna need an ocean, of calamine lotion"

It's a lovely, calm, warm evening. Amelia is snoozing in a late afternoon sunbeam, there's little puffy clouds sailing by and wispy layered clouds above those. Has a feeling of rain coming tomorrow. Sitting by the fire listening to frogs and watching the beaver move around the lake.

I'm as ready to go back as I ever will be.


Day 14 of 14

Tuesday, July 26, 2022 Woke up to grey skies but calm. Had coffee and oatmeal and packed up camp. Kinda dawdled a long as I'm back to my car sometime before dark, there's no real rush. On the water by 930. It sprinkled on and off while I paddled and portaged my way back to what passes for civilization these days. Back to the car around 130...and once I had everything loaded up, it rained pretty hard. Drove into Ely and showered, then went over to Insula for dinner. The waitress asked me if I got caught in the rain and I told her "Nope, just had my first hot shower in 13 days, and now I'm gonna get ALL the food!" She laughed and a good time was had by all.

Rained so hard on my way back to Duluth that almost had to pull over. Could hardly see the road. With my new found tent issues, I think I chose the right day to come out!

I feel pretty good about this trip. It was not what I planned, but I made 13 days and thoroughly enjoyed myself.


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