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BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

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

Lac La Croix - The Big Lake

by 30Smoke
Trip Report

Entry Date: June 14, 2023
Entry Point: Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Exit Point: Moose/Portage River (north) (16)
Number of Days: 10
Group Size: 2

Trip Introduction:
Peter's first year as a retiree, and I an escapee from work for two weeks! Also, we love the boundary waters and Peter likes to catch big fish! We had planned this area in 2019, but our plans did not work out that year and instead I did a solo, and only got to Devil's Cascade. I can go alone, but I can go farther with help!

Day 1 of 10


Wednesday, June 14, 2023 I spent the previous weekend setting up all my gear to ensure it was in working order, then after work on Wednesday I drove to Ely to pick up our permit for Little Indian Sioux North, EP #14. Peter made it to the city park in Ely shortly after 6pm. With lots of room at the park, we did our presort of gear for the trip in order to get an early start in the morning. We left the park and drove to Jeanette Lake campground by 7:15pm. On the Echo Trail, Peter had a puncture in his tire, but fortunately a repair kit – but he did not have an air pump. I pulled one out of my backseat to his surprise! After finding the leak and putting a quick plug in his tire, we finished the last few miles to the campground, campsite #7, and set up for a good night’s sleep.

 



Day 2 of 10


Thursday, June 15, 2023 I woke up at 4:45 am, thought about getting up, then went back to sleep. I finally got out of the hammock shortly after 7 am. I repacked and reorganized all my gear in my dry bags and organized everything in my portage pack, hopeful that a second look minimized forgetting anything. Peter had made pancakes and eggs, after we finished eating, I helped with cleanup and we loaded everything in Peter’s truck and drove to exit point, EP #16 Moose North, to drop my truck off. On the drive to EP #16, I found out that the logging trucks do not slow down for anything as one came around the corner. I moved over to the shoulder avoiding a collision. The road was really dry and the truck lifted the dust up to reduce visibility to nothing for about 20 seconds. Grateful to be alive, I caught up to Peter and we left my truck at the EP for our exit. The drive back to EP#14, LIS North was happily uneventful, and Peter’s tire was holding air. [paragraph break] We hauled our gear and canoes down to river and were paddling North by shortly after one. I think we need to improve on our entry times, but Peter often says we are “smoothing it”, so no worries! Peter beat me across the first portage and was able to catch some decent fish in the pool under the first falls, but we still had two portages to Loon Lake, so we carried on without keeping any fish. This was my second time paddling north on the Little Indian Sioux river. The river beautiful, but I can say the same thing Stuart River, and the paddle was enjoyable to Upper Pauness lake and the 40-rod portage to Lower Pauness lake. This portage is where things got interesting. There is a rumor, started by Peter, that this portage is thick with Poison Ivy! I can never remember what it looks like, as I do not have any reactions from coming in contact. As I am making my way across the portage, suddenly there is movement to my right, which I hear before I see. Momentarily startled, I realize it is just a grouse which I find weird, until realizing it is attacking me! At this point it was hissing at me and being completely annoyed and not thinking about dinner, I yelled as loud as I could “GET OUTTA HERE, GO AWAY!” Of course, this caught Peter’s attention and he appeared moments after the annoying Grouse had worked its way back into the thick vegetation. After Peter stopped laughing, he tried to convince me that the grouse were out to get me, and the only protection available was to wear a feather in my hat. Of course, he found a feather and put it in his hat. Fortunately, this was the closest I came to death on the trip, which isn’t saying much! Soon we were on the water, safe from the grouse, and I wanted to check out campsite 43. I had stayed on that site in 2019 and spent two nights there and was hoping to check it out one more time. As we got close to the campsite, we could see it was occupied and we changed direction toward the Devil’s Cascade portage. Last portage of the day, I had forgotten how rough this portage was from the south, going up 10 metersand down 10 meters then about 10 meters up to the top. I was sucking air by that point, but the last part was 30 meters down to the river. Of course, that 30 meters down required a return trip for the double portage, with the only blessing being the 30 meters up is free of gear! By the time I got back to the top, I was winded again. Soon we had all our gear and canoes back in the water and working toward Loon Lake. We came to campsite #26 and I had gone about as far as I could for the day. We weren’t sure how nice this site was at first, but set up and slept well on it, as the Devils Cascade portage broke me, but only bruised Peter!

 



Day 3 of 10


Friday, June 16, 2023 Once the sun came up, consensus was we liked this campsite, but we were going to move on, as we had decided to move each morning so we could explore the lake. We broke camp and I talked Peter into checking out the next campsite up the shore, #25, as it wasn’t too far out of our way. It is a very nice site, with a nice canopy created by the large pines and very little underbrush. This site had a beautiful view of the lake and real good canoe landing, we would have enjoyed spending the day here, but it was only noon and less than a quarter mile from the previous site. So onward we went toward Beatty Portage and Lac La Croix. We paddled North and worked our way along the East shore taking our time and fishing. As we followed the shore, we came to a boomerang shaped peninsula with a large rock and International Boundary Marker on its top. I was positioning myself to get a good picture when Peter said, “Hurry up, there is a bear.” I did not get a picture of the marker from close up, or the bear. It ran from the end of the peninsula back to the mainland woods and disappeared before I got to see it. Peter followed it, and got to see it running along shore three times. I thought I might have seen it at the end, but it was just a dark opening in the brush on shore. I did get to hear it huff at us though, if that counts for anything? Next stop was a short paddle from there to Campsite #21. Nice sand beach and would be a nice site, except for all the motorboat traffic that goes by in the channel. After stretching and a quick snack, we headed for Beatty’s Portage. This portage is quite flat, but it took the wind out of my sails again, just like Devil’s Cascade. I got my stuff across and Peter was out fishing. Just as I got in the canoe, I overheard a call that a boat was incoming. I got video of the Zup’s boat using the tram, then as it was clearing the landing, a different boat from Anderson’s Outfitters was going back to Crane Lake, in the other direction. I can only assume a bad day for the passengers, as most hate leaving! I caught up to Peter by where the pictographs are marked on the map, only we couldn’t find them. [paragraph break] We proceeded to LLC Campsite #1. Peter wasn’t impressed, but this short day wore me out, probably carryover from the previous day. I thought was the perfect site, and despite the mosquito’s that turned killer after dusk, I really enjoyed that campsite. A character builder it was, with a 15-meter climb and then a down to find the thunder box! On the way back to my hammock, I took a detour along the top ridge to the north end, which had a nice, elevated view of the lake, before backtracking. [paragraph break] We set up camp and ate before fishing. I caught a Pike and Walleye from camp and then decided to paddle around the island. It wasn’t as good as shore fishing from camp, but I paddled and fished around counterclockwise to the other side of the Island and Peter was fishing deeper water. Just as I paddled up, he was reeling in his lure when a fish struck just below the surface and fight on. I got most of it on video, but that was the largest Walleye I have seen in my life. Nothing compared to his 40" Pike on Jordan Lake, but good size for a walleye. After a few pictures, he released the Walleye without any measurement, but estimates it was between 25” to 29”. As we landed our canoes at camp, the Mosquitos said, “You best take cover or die!” We took cover! Unfortunately, my hammock experience was only on day three in the wilderness and the strap would not lock. I estimate I lost several liters of blood in a vain effort to fix the problem. Choosing life over comfort, I tied a knot in the strap and slept in an awkward position with one end almost on the ground. It may have been uncomfortable, but I survived the grouse on day two, and I survived the mosquitoes on day/night three. What would day four bring.

 



Day 4 of 10


Saturday, June 17, 2023 By morning the mosquitos had taken refuge in the deep forest (or wherever they go during the day) and my first priority was figuring out what went wrong with my hammock strap. Without being bitten and having some daylight, the fix was quick. The strap goes through the suspension buckle (two metal pieces), and one of them had managed to get upside down. This prevented the friction from holding the straps. If this ever happens again, I will be able to easily fix it! I will not forget this lesson, and you can “Take that to the bank”! We had Oat Pancakes with Eggs, cleaned up and packed up, then hit the water. Of course, we had to throw some jigs in the water, and I caught a 26” Pike and Peter caught two Pike and then we decided to start moving as it would be an eleven-mile plus day of paddling. [paragraph break] We worked our way north toward Sandbar Island in no hurry. I checked out campsite #3, but due to high water, this site did not look appealing, and I saw a comment that it was overgrown in poison ivy and didn’t look like it had been used in a long time. We moved on and I checked out campsite #8, same comments, but I did find the big box and it looked unused prior to my arrival. This would also be a challenging site to stay on without some site cleaning. But we did get some good action with the smallies in front of camp. Next, we worked our way up to campsite #9, which was gorgeous, but way larger than the two of us needed. We checked it out and had a snack break. Peter went out for some fishing while I did some stretching to loosen my hips, with the plan being we would meet at the island to our north. [paragraph break] I caught up at our planned rendezvous and we started searching for campsites that were not where we thought they might be. I was looking for site #18 farther north, thinking it was a small island site. After paddling around the islands near the border, I moved further in to where it was actually located just in time to watch Peter land another monster Pike. I told him that I might not always be along when he catches big fish, but I always get good pictures for him! Campsite #18 and #124 both had issues with poison ivy and we ended up on the island campsite #20 to the south in the bay. I ended up catching some smallmouths by shore and then a loon appeared, and it was not happy that I was using a Whopper Plopper that was colored like a loon. I apologized and put a different Plopper on and the loon posed for some wonderful pictures. I had paddled around the island, missing where Peter landed and ended up bushwacking to the top of the island from the Northeast. Peter told me the best landing was on the southwest and I bushwacked back to my canoe to bring it around to the easy access.

 



Day 5 of 10


Sunday, June 18, 2023 In honor of “smoothing it”, we broke camp an hour before noon, and headed northeast to the border-planning on catching some deep lakers. That plan did not work so we followed the border to Fortyone Island and stopped on campsite LLC #128 for a break and snacks. More poison ivy on this site; otherwise, very beautiful camp. We continued on toward the Takucmich Lake portage, fishing around the top of the land mass without luck. We crossed the portage and to my delight, the first campsite was open. We would make campsite #102 home for the night. Best part: it was still early. After setting up camp, watching a snake eat a frog, and then eating some of the food we brought with, it was time to catch a Takucmich trout! I had set up a 3 oz lure to fish deep and was paddling around the south bay toward the Trillium Lake portage pulling spoons and crankbaits but was not catching trout. I moved into shallow water, and I did catch a couple small smallmouths, but figured I was here for the trout. Peter was working the other arm of Takucmich and he only caught a few smallmouths, no size. I worked my way across to the middle Campsite #100 to check it out. I did like the campsite, but someone recently before we got here had dumped an Iso propane cannister in the box and several empty packages of food wrapping. If only they could catch these people and punish them. I worked my way back to camp, and caught up with Peter, who said he caught some Rock Bass. It was still another good day, and I was excited to finally be on Takucmich.

 



Day 6 of 10


Monday, June 19, 2023 Peter was up early (6-8) trying to catch the elusive lake trout. We had breakfast and were ready to head out when I saw a canoe coming from Tesaker Lake. It was Egknuti, who seemed really focused on fishing. I would hear later that he caught a Laker within minutes of getting on the lake. Ever since I met Shug on Eagle Mountain, I keep wondering who the next celebrity I meet will be, unfortunately, we took off and I did not get to meet the legendary “Trout Whisperer” Egknuti. Egknuti is my hero, he is always posting pictures of trout and grouse on Facebook – nothing like a catch and shoot trip. Hopefully I can get Peter to take me on a catch and shoot! We got back on LLC, and started east hoping to get to Lady Boot Bay. It looked like about a mile straight shot across the big bay to the islands and our route south. I asked Peter if I should stick to the shoreline and he said yes. Then he asked if I felt comfortable cutting straight across! “I sure am,” and we crossed without any trouble. The wind had picked up slightly and was blowing toward shore, and with all that structure, we couldn’t help but catch fish. We worked around the islands catching walleyes, smallmouth, and pike. I tried to get a head start and hooked something huge, but after about a minute, it broke off. I will always wonder what it was and will never know! As I write this, I am wondering if that was the best day of the trip; but upon further thought, every day up there is the best! We continued our journey, heading for LLC campsite #137. When we got there, the beach was sandy, under all the brush and logs, and we caught bass in the area in front of the campsite, but this site needs extensive cleanup before further use. Really sad to see this site in this condition, but many of the lower elevation sites on LLC probably have had the same experience. Next stop is Lady Boot Bay. Our travel was into the wind, which would be a problem by the time we got to the last stretch before Lady Boot. I was tired and the wind was strong. I decided to pull a cyclops down the west shore, and it probably just sat on the bottom, as I was barely making progress. As I paddled, I was watching a small island ahead and to my right. I kept getting farther away. I finally made it to the shallow island that marks the entry of Lady Boot, and I could see people moving on the campsite, which totally demoralized me and since I was now sheltered from the wind, I just stopped paddling and relaxed in the canoe. Peter came towards me to ask if I was OK and I replied, “I quit, I’m not going any farther today,” which really confused him as I was on the water in my canoe. I think he was getting concerned and I said, “I just need a couple minutes and I’ll be fine.” I started paddling again while he fished the drop off ahead. We eventually made it to campsite #156, the site on the hillside. I was happy just to be someplace, but setting up the hammock was extremely difficult. I eventually got everything good, we ate, and I went to sleep. Peter went fishing till dark; I don’t remember him coming back that night.

 



Day 7 of 10


Tuesday, June 20, 2023 I was up at 10 am, Pete was just getting back from fishing with a couple eater walleyes, but said he had to really work for them. My recovery began with 12 hours of sleep and a walleye breakfast. After swimming and some chores, Peter went back out to fish at about 4 pm and brought another small walleye back for dinner. Meanwhile, I got my swim in and washed my clothes. I was finally starting to feel a bit better while Peter just kept going along, almost as if he was powered by energizer batteries, at least for a backup power source. Campsite #156 is the hillside campsite, and I did a lot of up and downs this day. I don’t know if this helped or hurt my recovery, but I did recover for the next day. I didn’t leave camp, unless getting in the water counts, and I was feeling better. I spent the day throwing whopper ploppers from shore, taking pictures of birds & dragon flies, and just sitting while enjoying the beautiful weather. I was back in the hammock by 9 pm, wasn’t even dark yet.

 



Day 8 of 10


Wednesday, June 21, 2023 I was up just after 5 am and decided to go fishing. On the water before Peter, fished hard around the bay in front of camp and caught a few Smallmouths. Back in camp before 10 am and took a short nap. Got up and visited with Peter over breakfast and based on our research, there is supposed to be good smallmouth bass in Toe Lake. After cleaning up, we hit the water and started toward Toe, fishing the island on the south end of the bay. We didn’t even get a nibble, so we started paddling toward Toe. Peter was working a sunken island without any luck, while I tried to get ahead of him and check out the third campsite in Lady Boot. Suddenly he yelled there was a bear or moose swimming across the bay. Just then, the wind picked up from the direction I wanted to head for a picture. I paddled as hard as I could until I had closed the distance and needed to take my camera out of the dry bag and set up for the shot before the moose reached shore. I was thinking about what I need for settings while paddling, so I quickly did an exposure compensation of 1.3, with a shutter speed of 1/5000th. I had to overcompensate because the sun was behind the moose and needed a fast shutter speed because I was shaking, sitting in a bobbing canoe, and the moose was quite a bit away from me. This was my fourth moose sighting in the BWCA, first image. I would have been happy if the day had ended now, but we still had Toe to fish. Good news; no portage, the water was high enough to paddle over. I took a picture of Peter before we split up. He went along the west shoreline, and I worked along the east shoreline. My first fish on Toe, I have no idea how it got the hook in its mouth. After a quick release I caught a nicer one and worked up to my personal best 18” Smallmouth. Peter also had some luck on his side of the lake, but he didn’t get any measurements. He did think one might have been pushing 20”. Good trip to Toe! We got back to camp about seven, had hamburger and potatoes for dinner, cleaned up, got ready for travel day tomorrow. Can’t believe we spent three nights on this sight. Lots of trips up and down the hill, should make me stronger, not weaker. Zipped up the hammock before 10pm, as the mosquitos were taking over the bay after dark, and you could hear them all night long, it was a constant buzz.

 



Day 9 of 10


Thursday, June 22, 2023 We were up early and feeling good as we broke camp by 8:20 am, hoping to work our way into either Tiger or Boulder Bay for the night. We paddled back the way we came and took the right turn to Fish Stake Narrows. We both fished for Lake Trout along the large bay just outside of Lady Boot without any trout taking our offerings. Stopped to stretch at campsite #165 along the narrows. It was a nice campsite, and there was a 14” bass swimming along the shoreline that grabbed our attention, but not our lures! I did my stretching to keep my hips loose, and then we were off to the border and soon paddling south. We turned south, and once again were facing a headwind that was both annoying and tiring, and we soon reached Campsite #170. I had seen this site rated highly and confirm the ratings. I explored the campsite for a while, then set my hammock up in the front with a good breeze, and I believe I napped from around 2 pm to just after 4 pm. Peter got back from fishing and said it was really tough, just a few small walleyes and bass, nothing to write home about. We got camp set up, had more hamburger potatoes and tried getting pictures of the grouse that Peter mentioned was coming for me. I liked my chances, and we got a fleeting picture, but nothing to write home about.

 



Day 10 of 10


Friday, June 23, 2023 The last weather forecast was that the weather system was changing and we may get rain Friday into Saturday. We planned on playing it by ear and trying to get to Nina Moose Lake today and then decide whether to spend one last evening there. We were up by 6 am and moving toward boulder bay. Met a group that was on their last day and visited for a while on the water. They were killing the walleyes on a sunken island and told us where it was. They had gotten a ride through Zup’s and dropped off just north of Boulder Bay on the Canadian side, easy-peasy paddle into Boulder Bay. Peter fished the sunken island for a while and then put his fishing rod away. He caught up with me before the portage out of Boulder Bay. Soon we were on Agnes and moving fast. We were soon crossing the two portages to get into Nina Moose and were on the Sand beach at the inlet of Nina Moose in no time. Peter asked if I wanted to stay tonight, but once you smell the barn door, it is hard to slow down the horse, especially with heavy rains predicted. After a long paddle across the Nina Moose, we were on the homestretch, but it was a long time ago that we last paddled this stretch of the river. Peter got ahead of me on the river, and I came around a bend and thought I saw an alien paddling a canoe – it had humanoid features, but was wearing a white suit, with what appear to be a fencing mask and dark sunglasses. I swear I saw an image like this on ‘Ancient Aliens,’ but didn’t want to let on that I recognized the alien, so I remained quiet. I caught up to Peter eventually and asked if he saw the alien. He thought it was a person wearing lots of insect armor and that I should not let my imagination run wild. We finally got to the home stretch, and I could not carry a portage pack and my canoe, so I just took the canoe. Peter found me on his way back for trip two and told me to just get the canoes on the truck and everything packed up so we could get going when got the rest of the packs. I could barely move when I got to the truck, but I changed into lighter shoes and shorts and slowly upheld my end of the bargain, getting both canoes on the truck and making sure there was room for Peter’s stuff when he got back so we could make a quick exchange and hit the road. He brought two packs back on his first trip and I was barely ready when he returned with the final pack and we were on our way to EP#14 to pick up his truck. [paragraph break] It was late afternoon on Friday and no logging trucks on the trip, so we made it safely and made the exchange. His tire was still holding air, but I made him keep the air compressor, as it would do me no good without a patch kit, and he would be limping home on an injured tire. As I sat at Dairy Queen eating a Mushroom & Swiss with Fries, I could only wonder how many AAA batteries it takes to keep him running, as I am the younger cousin, albeit by only 3 months, but still! Some mysteries are too great to solve, so I will let sleeping dogs lie, and avoid any consequences that waking them up would bring. [paragraph break] Hopefully I have written something enjoyable that you can use to save your life someday, or at a bare minimum, enjoy this tale of two cousins whom have different interests and skills that make these trips enjoyable for both, teaching one to slow down and enjoy the journey, and the other to get going because at this rate we’ll never reach our destination. In summary, it is not about the destination, but rather the journey, but either way you still need to get somewhere. Thanks for reading. [paragraph break] PS – It was probably 8 pm when I got back to Ely, and it seemed like the heavens opened up and let all the rain out. My guess is it didn’t make the Moose River any worse as far as current, but it probably would not have been so comfortable coming out in the rain.

 


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