BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 05 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1364 feet
The First of Many
August 03, 2009
Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Number of Days:
We had been at Butch’s near Backus, MN, attending a family reunion, since Friday evening. By Sunday afternoon, everyone had pulled up stakes and headed for home except for my wife’s Aunt Patti and Uncle Bruce from Colorado who stayed an extra day to help pick up the pieces and actually enjoy a little peace while on their vacation. I think that a good time was had by all but there were a lot of people and a lot of commotion. Now, the woods were quiet, the way that they are supposed to be. Butch, Bruce and I broke down the tent city in the back yard and the kids went off on one of many wild adventures. At home in the city they hear things like “look both ways before you cross the street” and “don’t let the dog out of the gate” and “stranger danger”. At Grandpa’s they are free range with woods and pasture and prairie to explore, only limited by their own imaginations… it must be a great place to be a kid. [paragraph break]On Monday we packed. Butch, a first team, all American gear hound is outfitting the trip (he has enough equipment to outfit a Boy Scout adventure camp) so the kids and I only brought our sleeping bags and personal effects. Around 5 pm, we set off for Pequot Lakes and dinner with my good friend Jason. After dinner, it’s back to the house where I got the kids washed, jammied and in bed. Jason came out to the house for a night cap and brought along a well stocked travel humidor for Butch and I to take on our trip… what a guy.
Day 1; Tuesday, August 4th ‘09; Backus to Ely by way of Duluth
We decided to take the scenic route to Ely. The weather was post card perfect with cool temps and blue bird skys. The kids were very excited to be under way and had already started burning through the film in their disposable cameras. [paragraph break]We stopped in Duluth for lunch at the Lake Ave Café, a personal favorite, then a visit to the Duluth Pack store. Ollie found a hat that he could not live without and Butch, Emma and I all got new journals. The North Shore has always been a special place for me and my wife, we honeymooned on the Superior Hiking Trail and have spent a lot of time exploring the area. Recalling our time spent there, I was surprised by the realization that our kids had never been to the north shore; we all agree that many more trips are in our future. [paragraph break]The drive from the shore (Two Harbors) to Ely was beautiful and I added it to my mental list of future motorcycle routes. We got to Ely in the late afternoon and checked in to our room at the Adventure Inn. We did the Ely thing; at Canoe Country Outfitters we picked up our permit, a three seat SRQ 18.5 and BWCA patches for the kids packs. At Pirigas, Butch found a pair of Keen, wet footing shoes and the kids and I got a new hoodie for Mom. Supper was at DQ, then back to the room for the night. Butch and I retired to the chairs outside of the room to have a few beers and watch the parking lot fill up. We talked to an older gentleman who is headed up to Knife with his family the next day (his sons appear to be in their 40’s or 50’s). Three canoes were strapped to the top of his van, two of which were self built strippers. He tells us that he built one of the strippers in ten days out of a couple of red wood 2x4’s because he needed a boat for a trip. One of his sons tells us that he also has a 1906 Old Town in his fleet at home… if those canoes could talk. [paragraph break]I spoke with my wife, Amy, on the phone. We agreed that it felt strange for me and the kids to be on a trip without her. We also agreed that she was due for a well deserved break from familial responsibilities. We said our good buys and it was off to the sack for a restless nights sleep.
Day 2, Wednesday, August 5th ‘09; EP 14 to Lower Pauness
We all woke early; I was now on woods time so I don't know what the actual time was and could really care less. I headed to the office to check out; the Adventure Inn is a great little place and I will definitely stay here again. When I got back to the room, Butch was out front talking to the gentleman with the strippers (at least that’s how I like to tell the story). I knew that he could stand there and tell stories all day but alas, our trails must part. [paragraph break]Breakfast at Britton’s was great as usual. Ollie finished his French toast and bacon and one of my eggs and half of my hash browns and his sister’s sausage links… I fear what this kid’s appetite will be like when he is a teenager. [paragraph break]The drive to the LIS was uneventful. We made a pit stop at EP 16 for the kids to use the out house, little did we know that going potty would become the theme of the trip. At EP 14 we unloaded and portaged our gear the 36 rods to the river. The kids were troopers and were eager to pull their own weight. Our load consists of two #4 Duluth packs (one Deluxe, one Monarch) a Duluth Pack Camp Kitchen, personal (day) packs for Butch and the kids and a fishing rod tube. I talked to the kids before we left home about only packing “essential” gear or things that you think would be very important to have in the woods but in the end I let both kids pack anything that they wanted as long as it fit into their personal pack and they could carry it themselves. So, added to this years “essential” gear list were a hand knit purse and silk scarf (for dress up of course), a light saber, Luke Skywalker bobblehead, a floating orca bath toy and a ford tractor with a front end loader. [paragraph break]We met a family from Joliet, IL on the portage and exchanged cameras at the put in for group photos. [paragraph break]
[paragraph break]Immediately following push off, we saw a doe in the tall grass to our right but we were eager to paddle and missed the photo op. [paragraph break]Butch and I quickly found a rhythm and we are at the 60 rodder in no time. Though doubling, we made quick work of the portage. On our second trip across we stopped to explore the rapids and take some pictures of the little falls; Ollie sighed and told me that he could “look at that water fall all day”.
[paragraph break]The second stretch of river provided more spectacular scenery; the LIS is really a beautiful paddle. It was time for a potty break so we stopped at the first camp site on Upper Pauness. Emma’s first experience with the dreaded “thunder box” went off without a hitch; I could tell that she was proud of herself. We checked all but the northern most site on Upper and decided to move on to Lower Pauness.
[paragraph break]At the take out for the 40 rodder to Lower Pauness, Emma’s foot slipped off of a rock and she fell and banged her knee up. Based on her reaction I was expecting a shattered knee cap, broken femur or a severed foot but upon close inspection we decided that it was just a scrape, treatable with love from her dad and brother. I carried Emma over on my first trip and headed back for a load of gear; half way across I realized that she was right on my heals ready to help… I say again, what a trooper. [paragraph break]We saw another deer as soon as we pushed off from the portage. [paragraph break]Both of the northern sites on Upper Pauness were occupied so we headed south through the rice filled channel. Camp site 42 was open and we found it to our liking so we set up our base for the next couple of days. [paragraph break]Lunch was summer sausage, smoked salmon, cheese and crackers. We spent the bulk of the afternoon getting set up and settled in. Dinner was brats and mashed potatoes over wood fire and not a morsel was left uneaten. After dinner, Butch and I cleaned up and the kids busied themselves exploring camp. Before long Butch and I heard Ollie’s voice from behind us; “look guys, I made my own thunder box”. We turned around to find my boy at the edge of camp, shorts to his ankles and a grin from ear to ear. We buried his mess in the woods and had a talk about the importance of using the latrine provided… this is a fear that he would have to face. [paragraph break]A little later, a storm blew in. It did not last long but the front was pretty powerful with high winds and sideways rain. We huddled under the tarp the best we could; the kids were pretty scared for a minute but it moved through quickly and the sky’s cleared. The kids and I ended the evening with a paddle
Day 3; Thursday, August 6th ’09; Day trip to Devil’s Cascade
We woke when we were done sleeping; I have no idea what time it was and kind of prefer it that way.
[paragraph break]Gramps had the fire going and we were cooking up pancakes and bacon in no time. Somehow Butch and I convinced Ollie that we should both get at least one or two pieces of bacon… it may have been divine intervention.
[paragraph break]A cup of strong black coffee for me, a cup of tea for Butch. It was another post card weather morning so after the breakfast dishes were cleaned, the kids put on their swim suits and we pushed off for a trip to the Devil’s Cascade.
[paragraph break]I trolled a 3”, white, gulp minnow on a white jig head while we traveled with nary a nibble. [paragraph break]We landed at the portage around the cascade and stashed our canoe, paddles and PFD’s well out of the way, then started down the trail. There was a large group coming towards us from the north and the kids displayed excellent portage etiquette by stepping off of the trail and yielding to those carrying loads. We took several of the side trails leading to the cascade. Butch had his camera at full draw and was moving up and down river snapping pictures with Ollie never more than a half step behind; they are truly two peas in a pod.
[paragraph break]I showed Emma what wild blueberry bushes look like and she proceeded to eat her weight in the perfectly ripened fruit.
[paragraph break]At the bottom of the portage, the kids played in a little riffle and pool created by an offshoot of the river.
[paragraph break]On our way back to the canoe we took the spur that leads to the Sioux Hustler Trail (I believe) and hiked it a little ways. Along the trail we found a sun splashed hill side where we stopped for a lunch of Cliff Bars and blueberries.
[paragraph break]Back at the Pauness side of the portage, we spent a little time swimming (there was no traffic) and looking at rocks; Emma is quite the rock hound. Gramps found a couple pieces of green stone and gave Emma a little BWCA geology lesson; she caught on fast and soon found a piece on her own. [paragraph break]After leaving the Devil’s Cascade, we paddled/trolled the western shoreline with the same results as earlier. We decided to explore the south bay and get a closer look at the cliff on the south, east shore of Upper Pauness.
[paragraph break]I continued to troll and finally picked up a walleye for the effort. [paragraph break]Back at camp, there was more swimming, Oliver picked up a few leaches (on his leg) from the grassy area to the north of our camp and decided to make one his pet. The kids and gramps lay out on the rocks, in the sun, discussing the sizes and shapes of the passing clouds. At one point in the afternoon, it was time for Ollie to exercise his “thunder pot” demons; all went well, he was very proud of himself.
[paragraph break]Butch had uncles who were residents of the area pre BWCA; they were hunters and trappers and guides and were ultimately forced out by the wilderness act. Emma was very interested in learning about their way of life and the lives of the Indians of the region. We crafted bows and arrows out of green boughs and string and the kids sang and danced and “hunted beaver” for the remainder of the afternoon.
[paragraph break]Dinner was ribeye’s and fresh, sautéed green beans and onions. After dinner we had a fire, Ollie was sad because I made him put his pet leach back in to the lake and because he missed his mom. Emma agreed that it was a long time to be away from mom. We all decided that we would discuss leaving in the morning and if they were still feeling home sick, we would head out a day early. They seemed to perk up following our talk, the kids worked the fire with sticks, Butch and I had cigars and a couple pulls off of the flask. [paragraph break]The beavers are very active on this part of the lake and our camp was passed by several times. A lone wolf sang a mournful song from some place to the south east. We all retired to our tents, tired to the bone and completely satisfied with the day.
The lake was blanketed in mist and the sky was overcast so we stayed in our sleeping bags just a little bit longer than we otherwise would have. I asked the kids if the still felt homesick and they both replied “home-what… can we go fishing today?”
[paragraph break]Breakfast was oatmeal with strong black coffee and tea and after clean up we set off to fish our bay. I set Ollie up with a 3” Gulp minnow and Emma with a 4” Gulp smelt. Gramps brought his fly rod and was throwing a Dahlberg Diver at submerged timber. In short order, Emma added a feisty 15ish sized walleye to the stringer.
[paragraph break]We stopped to check out the 8 rod portage and adjacent camp site and did some more fishing from shore without luck.
[paragraph break]Back at camp, goofing off was on order. Fishing from shore, lying in the sun, lounging in the hammock and “hunting beavers” with bow and arrow. [paragraph break]Ollie has completely overcome his fear of the thunder box and visits even if just to pee. The Luke Skywalker bobblehead and ford tractor with front end loader both found their useful places in our routine and a care could not be found with a magnifying glass.
[paragraph break]Much later in the afternoon, Ollie and I went on a fishing excursion and added a 20ish” walleye to the stringer.
[paragraph break]Dinner tonight was mac and cheese and fried fish. Butch, Ollie and I all had three helpings. Emma, always the responsible diner, was full after one. Another camp fire and cigar and a few more sips of whiskey. We all retired to the tents under overcast skys and light sprinkles. I read the greatest book ever written (an illustrated review of construction trucks) to Ollie for the third night in a row… Emma tolerated it, have I mentioned that she’s a trooper.
Day 5; Saturday, August 8th ’09; Lower Pauness [paragraph break] The dawn came in shades of gray; heavy air and no wind necessitated the use of bug dope for the first time this trip. Breakfast was Nutri-grain cereal bars. We broke camp and pushed off in short order. The trip out was much like the trip in… Butch and I found our groove and the rest was history. [paragraph break]The sun broke the weather’s monotony about the same time that we rolled into Ely. We squared up with Mark and Bob at CCO; both Butch and I have had nothing but good experiences renting from them. Lunch was at the Ely Steak House and could not have been better. I honestly believe that it was the first time that I have ever seen four plates wiped completely clean at a restaurant... I cant even tell you if there where garnishes on the plates; if there where, we ate them. [paragraph break]We stopped in Tower for coffee and ice cream cones, then onward to Backus for a hot shower and a warm bed. Amy was there to greet us, what a sight for sore eyes. [paragraph break]I asked the kids what they liked best about the trip; Emma said catching a walleye, Ollie said fishing for walleye (the nut never falls very far from the tree now does in), both agreed that we need to come back next year.