BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
October 04 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1364 feet
Shell Basecame for Wife's Second Trip
July 28, 2018
Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Number of Days:
We awoke around 5:30am to begin heading up to Ely. We ended up staying the night at the Virginia Holiday Inn as everything is booked well in advance in Ely for the Blueberry Festival. We stopped and had a great breakfast at Brittons as we waited for the Kawishwi Ranger Station to open. [paragraph break] The weather was perfect this morning. No clouds to be seen, and a cool 55 degrees at 8am. We grabbed our permit around 8:30, and began driving up the Echo towards the Little Indian Sioux River North entry point. This is the furthest west I've ever entered the BWCA, and it seemed to be about an hour's drive from town to the entry. I'm usually overwhelmed with anticipation and excitement on my drive to the entry, but I was trying to make a point of slowing myself down and taking in the views on this trip. We ended up listening to music and taking a slow drive up the Echo. It truly was a beautiful morning. [paragraph break] We arrived at the entry point, and there were quite a few cars in the lot, but nobody was loading/unloading. At this point, I realized that the steak I had brought for night one was already nearly thawed. I made the executive decision to leave the steak behind as it would be pretty warm by dinner time. Maybe a stupid decision, but I loaded the steak into double ziplock bags, placed in a Tupperware container and left it in the car. Crossed my fingers that the smell wouldn't get through... We took our time organizing our gear and began heading down the short downhill portage to the river. We stopped for a quick photo session before saying goodbye to the car!
The put in was a bit tricky on the entry, and I typically wet-foot, but Maddy proved stable! We were quickly on the river. [paragraph break] Little Indian Sioux River had a nice, gentle meander to its' nature. Maddy LOVED all the flowering Lilly-pads. I've taken a few buddies and family members to the BWCA, and most are apprehensive about finding portages/getting lost/accidentally running rapids etc., but Maddy seemed to be carefree. We approached our second portage and took some time to enjoy the waterfall.
I elected to double-portage on the River as well as between Upper and Lower Pauness. This was my first experience double-portaging, and honestly, I don't know if I'll worry as much in the future about packing for single-portaging. I was able to enjoy the woods and the company much more on this trip than ever before. We stopped and chatted with a group from Kansas City that camped on Lower Pauness. They were on their way out, but wanted to recommend a few sites to me. They seemed disappointed that they didn't make it to Shell; it seemed they had a late start on put-in day. We sat and enjoyed the falls on the Lower Pauness side of the portage and had a few snacks as the portage was clear. We watched a few canoes fishing on the lower falls. [paragraph break] Finding the portage from Lower Pauness to Shell took a bit more time as the wild rice was doing a good job of camouflaging the path from the lake, but after a few minutes we spotted the trail. We unloaded and took another water/snack break. This was going to be the longest portage of the trip, and I didn't want to push Maddy. She seemed quite up to the task and we started up the trail. I had completely forgotten about the beaver pond in the center of this portage, and we had a bit of an early false alarm when we arrived. I decided the beaver pond was a good spot to set our gear and head back for the other packs. Once we got back to the beaver pond with the rest of our gear, we decided to float the canoe across as water was about 3' deep in the middle. At this point, I could tell that Maddy was getting tired, and I decided camping on Shell was probably a good idea. We double-portaged from the beaver pond to Shell, and the time was approximately 3:00pm as we loaded the canoe to find a campsite on Shell. [paragraph break] We could see a few occupied campsites on the large island to the north, and a few canoes in the southern bay, so we figured the lake was going to be close to filled tonight. We stopped at the first campsite on the west side of the lake to take a quick potty break (site 47). Maddy seemed pretty tired, and we kinda fell in love with the site so we ended up unloading and making camp on site 47. [paragraph break] The site had a great gentle sloping rock ledge that surrounded the peninsula. I remember a few members had recommended finding a good swimming site, and Maddy mentioned she would like to go for a swim. There were also good trees for multiple hammocks, and a spot tucked away for a tent or two. This was a great site for us, as we have just one small tent, but I wouldn't recommend this site for a larger group. [paragraph break] We settled into our hammocks for an hour or so to relax and enjoy our site, then we started on dinner. Tonight I treated Maddy to shells and cheese per her request, and we had a few glasses of wine (another great idea from a fellow BWCA.com member). As the sun began setting, we made a fire and put our feet up for the remainder of the night. ~Upper Pauness Lake, Lower Pauness Lake, Shell Lake
I woke up to clear skies, gentle wind and temperatures in the mid 50s (my guess). I don't have any plans for today; Maddy is sleeping in so I got the coffee rolling as the sun rose. The woods were very quiet the previous night; it was almost eerie, but no major bumps in the night. [paragraph break] We sipped coffee and watched a few deer across the lake. Our breakfast was fried spam, Ova-Easy eggs on toasted bagels. Maddy also had a bowl of oatmeal. [paragraph break]
Today was a complete relaxation day. Maddy brought a new book that she was excited to read, so she spent much of the morning reading in the hammock. I spent much of the morning sitting on the rock ledge with my feet in the water watching my bobber. We decided to go for a paddle and bring the fishing poles to explore the north and east side of the lake. We fished for an hour or so with little luck (my wife isn't a huge fisher-woman. I wanted to keep fishing to a minimum). We explored the island sites to the north, then headed back to our site as the sun grew warmer. Once we started getting hot (maybe 78-80 degrees), we decided to go for a swim. Swimming from the site ended up being one of the highlights from this trip. Before we knew it, it was dinner time. Tonight we made pan pizzas and pizza panini's. [paragraph break] As the evening came, we played cards, sat by the fire and took in the rising moon. The mosquitoes really were not an issue on this trip. I did bring head nets for us both (another idea from a BWCA.com member), and we wore them at dusk, but the bugs were mostly gone after a half hour or so. We settled into the tent, and once again, the woods were quiet with no wind. A few wolf howls could be heard in the far distance, and tonight the wind must have been just right to hear devil's cascade off in the distance as well.
I woke up in the middle of the night last night, and I swore the sun was out. As I crawled out to answer the call of nature, I noticed a SUPER bright moon. I guess there was a "super moon" or "blood moon" this weekend. The moon was bright enough that I did not need a flashlight to get to the latrine, and I couldn't help but feel that it wouldn't be difficult to paddle and navigate on such a night. Maybe that's why the wolves were out? [paragraph break]
Today was our exploring day. We made another breakfast of spam, ova-easy eggs and bagels, then polished off a second pot of coffee. Later in the morning we shoved off and paddled the entire shoreline of Shell Lake. Today was once again beautiful. Light winds, clear skies, temperatures in the mid to high 70s. We were feeling adventurous, so we decided to go check out Little Shell Lake as it was a short portage from Shell. Little Shell Lake was a pretty little lake. We paddled around for a bit and decided to portage into Lynx. As we approached the portage, we found that the water levels were high enough to float straight through! We spend some time paddling around Lynx and fishing for a bit. Again, not much luck fishing, but I never tried very hard either. We headed back to our site on Shell and the day had pretty much passed us by. We spent the better part of the day in the canoe, so we crashed in our hammocks for a while before starting on our final dinner. [paragraph break]
We watched a few canoe groups come through this afternoon. One group of two canoes seemed to be worn out and bickering back and forth. A second couple came by and asked us if we'd seen any bears. I'm never one to worry about bears in the BWCA, but they were insistent that they needed to secure an island site so as to protect themselves from bears. I thought about explaining how well bears swim, but I like to opt for less words spoken while in the BWCA. We wished them good luck and watched the groups paddle away. [paragraph break] It's kind of amazing how time seems to slow down in the BWCA, but also, seems to pass quickly; this was our last night in the BWCA and it was hard to believe. After dinner, I spent a while gathering firewood. We ended up staying up tending to the fire until well past midnight and polishing off the rest of the wine. The wood was nice and dry, the temperature was that perfect middle-ground where it's a bit chilly, but the fire is warming you to the perfect temperature. We ended up watching the bright moon rise again and doing our best to point out star figuration. I bet this was my favorite night I've ever had in the BWCA.
To be honest, this is the worst day of a trip, so I won't spend much time dwelling... We got up early. Again, clear skies and light winds. We made quick work of the portages and we were back to our vehicle by 11:30am. Luckily for us, the steaks we had left in the car hadn't released any fumes!
I want to highlight a few ideas/items that were recommended to me by BWCA.com members, and how they worked in the field:[paragraph break] -Good swimming campsite-----------My wife loved swimming from our site. She liked that she was able to bathe and not feel gross, and we both really enjoy swimming. [paragraph break] -P-Style-------------My wife like the idea, but she never practiced before the trip. She ended up not using the item, but will give it a shot before the next trip.[paragraph break] -Wine-------------PHENOMENAL idea. We both really liked sipping wine each evening.[paragraph break] -Treats-----------I snuck some hersheys kisses into the food pack. I think this was a good energy boost and dessert idea.[paragraph break] -Bug Head Net-------------We used these each night, and it helped us to stay out by the fire. I wont go on another trip without these.[paragraph break]