Day 1 of 7
Saturday, June 13, 2020 Woke up a little before the sun. Made some coffee and got moving. Driving up the Echo Trail road on such a typical Minnesota morning, 29 degrees, sunny, green and quiet. Excitement grew as we got closer to EP 14, the Little Indian Sioux River North. Found a spot right across from the start of the portage among apx. 30-40 cars and trucks. A little worried about the number of paddlers we would find out there as this was new territory for us but hey, it is in canoe country and not the city! Unloaded the gear and the boys took off with the canoes as I grabbed the food barrel and started down the trail. Once we had everything down by the river we met a group of guys coming off already. They were from Chicago area and made a point to exclaim about our amount of gear. We do not travel light compared to most, but we like our comfort. We do double portage but also base camp so once we are settled, we are settled in for the week. After letting them get out and up the portage we loaded up our 2 canoes and headed out. Light wind, sun, cool (apx. 38 degrees) but what a time to be alive!!! The first portage is a little downhill, rocky but not too bad, waiting a few times for different groups to unload and pass us, or to get loaded and pass us, ha. We were up here for the time together in the country and not to speed through. A few families were out, both with 2 children and dogs. Very nice groups, so nice to see this. Dogs were also on leashes. Finally got back to paddling up river and into Upper Pauness, had to go through many reeds as we were cutting the corner to take the shorter of the 2 portages available but got there just fine. Portage to Lower Pauness is a short, downhill walk that takes longer to unload and load canoes then to portage, esp. as I had to keep talking Andrew out of “shooting the rapids” here! Short paddle and a short chat with a few guys on shore asking where we were heading and helped us find the portage to Shell, which was quite the doozy for me, not so much for the boys. Not bad really, just hitting that beaver pond half way through and have to load and unload again was not fun, esp. with the portage being fairly busy. Meet another group with 2 dads and their sons, (again great to see!) and waited for them to maneuver the pond as I caught my breathe and the boys went back for a second trip of gear. Got to Shell pretty quickly after that. Little Shell portage was a breeze, did not even unload the solo canoe, the boys each just grabbed an end and whoosh walked up the short hill! Ever since then we have had a code for how difficult something might be, like “it will be Shell hard” or “do not worry, it will be Little Shell easy”, LOL. Paddled through Little Shell in about 10 minutes and into Lynx and found the first site taken, saw the next two also filled and hoped the one closest to Heritage portage would be available, it was #65 and was open. Got to this site around 3pm. Set up camp and had our traditional ribeye steak and potatoes first night dinner. Nice site, a few spots for tents, nice open fire area and on a little point to have the breezes keep away the bugs. The cove or bay behind the site was filled with smallmouth and had a nice rock shelf that probably held walleye down deep, but too much wind kept us from being able to do such type of fishing.
Day 2 of 7
Sunday, June 14, 2020 Flag Day!!
Woke up to sunny day, a pretty good breeze already blowing early. In fact, the wind would stay pretty constant at 10 – 15 mph for the next several days. Kept the bugs away for the most part but made for tougher fishing. We spent the day exploring, fishing, setting up a little more at camp getting our gear under the tarp as rain was being predicted in the next few days. Just enjoyed the quiet time, just the three of us talking about life, one son already a dad to a 3 year old and the second son looking forward to becoming a dad in the fall. It was great to look at them cutting firewood, making the meals, doing needed chores without being asked, joking around and chatting about anything and everything! THIS is what BWCA and the Q is all about, in my humble opinion. My mind raced back to my first trip with my Dad and my older brother in 1972.
Day 3 of 7
Monday, June 15, 2020
Woke up and got moving to find a “friend” had moved into our camp overnight. Fun to see nature doing their job, but we sure watched it to make sure it left us alone, as we returned the favor for her. We also made sure we did not step on these eggs the rest of the week. Spent the day exploring Lynx as the other paddlers had left mid-morning. Searched two of the sites, nice ones but not as nice as ours, in our thoughts. Lynx is a medium sized lake, round-ish and very clean, clear water, mostly catching smallmouth but they were pretty good sized at 3 pounds, very quiet lake even with others camping. The only complaint I have is the thunderbox was almost full! I mean we thought any trip to it would overflow it, but we were happy with each day this did NOT happen. We fished all day but mostly just to keep our hands busy as we enjoyed the warm weather and each others company. Wind was strong again, but not quite whitecaps. Had a nice fish for dinner. A little Hennessey and lemonade was a nice nightcap before watching the stars, satellites and shooting stars until midnight or so.
Day 4 of 7
Tuesday, June 16, 2020 Slept in a little bit this morning. So much so we missed the 8am time to turn on the sat phone for family to call just in case we were needed. Day was going to be warm, weather channel on the radio called it later at 92 degrees. Called the wife later in the day to check in, all was good back home. Played cards and hiked the portage to Heritage just to look it over. A well worn portage and would have been fairly easy to take, but with only one site at the far end of the lake, we decided not to break camp and move. A few HUGE trees were fun to look at, maybe 100 year old trees, but certainly the largest we had ever seen. Great to be in nature and see this kind of stuff. The quiet of the woods, hearing the wind in the tree tops, stopping to look into the forest and yet actually seeing the trees is real powerful medicine. Dinner back at camp, cards played for a while, enjoyed the campfire and the talk before I turned in as the boys stayed up another hour or more. So blessed my boys are also friends!
Day 5 of 7
Wednesday, June 17, 2020 Today was a mirror of yesterday, hot and windy. Made pancakes sweetened with dehydrated blueberries with bacon heated over the campfire. We mostly cooked our meals this way but heated water, made coffee and such using the little Canway camping stove using the fuel tablets for a quick and clean heat. Cooled off in the afternoon by wading into the water and just enjoying. NO, we did not bathe, just got ourselves nice and cool. Experimented with bannock hot pockets today. Dehydrated hamburger and cheese inside bannock and fried over the fire. I must say it was a pretty good imitation of a cheeseburger! Played cards again during the afternoon when Stephen spotted something in the water across the bay from us. Turned out to be a cow moose walking in apx. 4 feet of the water. Fun to watch for about 30 minutes as SHE cooled off as we had. More fishing brought a few more smallmouth and a very small walleye. Did not really matter what we caught, just fun to do it instead of mowing the yard back home, ha. During our after dinner chat we took notice of the animals we had seen. Moose, snapping turtle, ducks, loons, swans, squirrels, a single (thank goodness) mouse, eagles, a hummingbird that buzzed us one day at lunch and a beaver which we heard in the evening a few times slap the water with their tail to warn off something. On the way out on Friday we also saw a mink and a few snakes on a portage or two. Popped some popcorn this night as the wind died down a little and brought the mosquitoes out, but they were just a bother, not really biting. Fun to hear the boys exclaim that they had never seen popcorn cooked over a fire in oil before! I had to chuckle under my breath at this NEW discovery.
Day 6 of 7
Thursday, June 18, 2020 Thursday breakfast was biscuits and gravy with dehydrated hamburger. WOW was that a great start to a day! Daytime was more of the same for the morning then clouds moved in with some light rain so we hung around camp, played cards, fished from the shore and in the evening we decided to pack up what we could so we could get a quicker breakdown for our next day trip out. One last night of fishing brought a few more nice sized smallmouth, but as we already had a meal planned we just released them. Evening meal was again followed by star gazing and satellite watching and more talk of us just being us.
Day 7 of 7
Friday, June 19, 2020 Woke up and made a quick breakfast of granola bars as we broke camp. Again the boys did the majority of the work as I broke down the fishing gear, packed the packs and duffle bags as they brought me stuff. A little cooler today but wind was still present, again not very stiff breezes but enough to notice. (sidenote: I have had “the pleasure”(???) of paddling south on Moose lake from Prairie Portage to the landing area against whitecaps and strong wind for many hours. This was when the phrase, “Paddle damn you, just paddle” came out of my mouth as my wife of just 1 year (and her first time up here) wanted to turn around in the bow seat and complain about the wind. She had a right to do so, of course, but it was not going to get us home. And yes, she is still married to me 40 years later and she has come on another trip up north to Quetico since this one bad day.) Not much on the trip out from Lynx. Many sites, if not all of them in Shell and Little Pauness were filled. Shell was almost as busy as the highways of Duluth. Portages were busy so slowed us down, which turned out to be nice on the LIS river as we were “forced” to enjoy the falls on the portage along the way. We took our time but we were also looking forward to a shower and a soft bed at Ely Motel. Got to the car around 3pm, back to town around 5-ish to turn in our canoes and phone. Chatted a bit with the Olson’s, thanked them a few more times for their help and guidance. Told them a little about our trip and what we experienced. The boys had to find some craft beer and was rewarded in town as we went to pick up our dinner curbside from Boathouse Brewpub, another great place in town to eat!!! Turned in and watched a little re-run hockey on the TV. Covid was still affecting our second favorite pastime! Great trip in all regards, fishing could have been hit harder, a few less portages would have been nice but once we got to Monday afternoon on Lynx we only saw one other group stay a night or two starting on Wednesday night, a little cooler days maybe, less wind on a few, but after I have been through a few really bad storms, blowdown type winds, bears in our camp and my fishing pole being pulled out of my canoe by a fish while I was busy taking a fish off for my friend, I would have to say that this trip was right up there near the top!