Day 1 of 8
Sunday, June 27, 2021 – Arrived Ely, MN about Noon. Met James at Outfitter (Canoe Country). James had arranged for permit to be issued by outfitter. Discussed trip plan and route with Canoe Country personnel. Will pick up canoes and other gear tomorrow morning (they open 6 AM). We are renting two, 2-person canoes and one, single canoe. James will be paddling the single canoe. We also picked up fishing licenses for the trip.[paragraph break]James, Cyd, and I walked downtown for lunch. Stopped by grocery store and picked up steaks & potatoes for tomorrow night along with some last-minute grub. Dropped the steaks off at the outfitter to freeze overnight.[paragraph break]Checked in at motel and began sorting gear. Kathy & Monique arrived about 8 PM. We all met at the motel to discuss plans for tomorrow and then went to bed.
Day 2 of 8
Monday, June 28, 2021 – Checked out of motel and drove to Canoe Country to pick up gear. We transferred money, computers, etc. to their safe in unlikely event of break-in to vehicles at the put-in & take-out points. Picked up some breakfast at a convenience store and headed out of town to the take-out and put-in. Arrived at EP 16 (our take-out point) and dropped Monique’s vehicle. Continued on to EP 14.[paragraph break]Unloaded and started carrying gear down to the river (Little Indian Sioux River). The river entry is rocky and its awkward loading gear and getting in the boats, but nobody falls in so we’re off to a good start. We’re paddling by 9:30 AM.[paragraph break]The Little Indian Sioux River is flat and marshy. In places we have to paddle/push our way through marsh grass. Reach the 1st portage at 10:30 AM. The portage trail is 60 rods (0.18 mi.) that follows along the creek. The creek flows over several waterfalls. The water is brown with tannic acid.[paragraph break]Back in the boats, we continue on, eventually coming into Upper Pauness Lake. We find the portage trail that leads over to Lower Pauness Lake. The portage trails are dry, an indication that the area has seen limited rainfall in the last month. We take a break for lunch at the far end of the portage. Several other groups come through while we eat.[paragraph break]It’s a quick paddle across Lower Pauness Lake to the Devils Cascade Portage. The trail is 110 rods (1/3 of a mile) and it goes up and then down. The creek pours over a waterfall. A side trail leads to a nice campsite with a view of the cascade and the river below. It’s 2:30 PM by the time we’re ready to paddle again and we’re starting to feel sore muscles and the effect of the warm weather. A small beaver dam blocks the route requiring everyone to get out and unload to get the canoes across.[paragraph break]Our plan is to camp at Loon Lake. We start looking for campsites, heading into the East arm of the lake where we had marked some higher rated campsites. Unfortunately, they are already occupied. We end up paddling a big circle and finding our way back to a sight we had passed earlier. We’re tired, and there’s room for three tents, so it’s the one (Campsite 28). We unload and set up camp.[paragraph break]Kathy dons her white mosquito suit, but actually the bugs aren’t bad on the rocks overlooking the water. We get some sporadic rain, but nothing serious. By the time you get a raincoat on and start to sweat, the rain stops. A beaver swims by the campsite several times as to imply we have invaded his territory.[paragraph break]The warm weather has nicely thawed our steaks, and I gather firewood and get a fire going to cook steak and potatoes. It takes a while to get some coals, and it’s still hot – I’d rather be swimming in the lake than sitting next to a hot fire, but the steaks won’t keep another day. Finally, the food is ready and we are satisfied with the results.[paragraph break]There aren’t many good options for hanging food, but we eventually get the bags hung. Monique calls everyone down to the water for some nice cloud backlighting as the sun sets. As the light fades, the bugs come out and force us into our tents and the protection of mosquito screening. Rain starts a little after dark, but doesn’t last long.
Day 3 of 8
Tuesday, June 29, 2021 - Up at 5 AM. It finally cooled down during the night. The sun rises at 5:20. Cyd, James, & I have steak and eggs for breakfast, using the leftover steak from last night.[paragraph break]We’re on the water paddling at 8:30 AM, heading north to the Beatty Portage that will take us from Loon Lake to Lac La Croix.[paragraph break]An outfitter’s motor boat passes with a canoe on top – probably heading up to La Croix to drop off some customers. We arrive at the portage just behind the motorboat. There’s a tram system here that allows motorboats passage into Lac La Croix. Kathy likes the idea of tramming our canoes and not carrying boats and gear. It’s $25 for two canoes to get trammed over. Kathy springs for the fee and we maneuver two canoes onto the tram. James carries his boat and gear. The tram operator says they are having a bad year due to the pandemic and the continuing travel restrictions between the US and Canada.[paragraph break]We get the boats back in the water and start paddling into a freshening headwind coming in off Lac La Croix. We head up along the shore toward Sand Bar Island. There’s a nice beach across from the island that makes a good lunch stop. It feels good to get wet and have the wind cool you down.[paragraph break]It’s another mile or so until we round a point to an area with several campsites. There is an open site on the point with plenty of room and a good landing area. This is our spot for tonight (Campsite 24).[paragraph break]There’s a nice spot for swimming and we all head into the water to cool down. The wind that we fought against all day is now our friend, cooling us down and keeping any bugs away.[paragraph break]Kathy has become our de-facto water filtering person for the trip. She bought a gallon jug to collect unfiltered water and then processes water using a Sawyer filter and fills everyone’s water bottles. James & I also have Sawyer filters, but we never have to use them.[paragraph break]James & I take a canoe and try some fishing. We troll down toward the unmarked portage that we hope to find tomorrow. The portage trail is easy to locate. I hike to the other end – it’s maybe 0.1 to 0.2 mile. James lands a bass – it’s almost as long as his lure. We head back to the camp watching a pair of loons trying to take off and fly. A quick squall blows through, but the rain is short lived.[paragraph break]For food, Cyd, James, and I are cooking and eating together and Kathy & Monique are cooking and eating together. Monique definitely deserves the prize for best food preparation. She has prepared and dehydrated most of their meals and has everything packaged by day with the large Ziploc bag available at the end of the day for all the trash generated.[paragraph break]After dinner, we walk up to a rock outcrop to watch the sunset. A single canoe appears below on the lake, the occupants paddling hard to get to a campsite before it gets dark.[paragraph break]The sun sets about 9 PM and the bugs get more numerous as the light fades. The weather has cleared and we’ll sleep without the rainflies on the tents tonight.
Day 4 of 8
Wednesday, June 30, 2021 – I’m up at 5 AM again this morning. The bugs are not bad and the wind picks up creating a chill in the shade.[paragraph break]We are on the water and paddling at 8:40 AM, heading east to the unmarked portage that we located yesterday afternoon. This portage avoids paddling out and around on an open water area of Lac La Croix. We traverse the portage without any issues except for some mosquito and horsefly bites.[paragraph break]Back on the water, I toss a lure in to troll and BAM – the rod bends and I pull in a nice bass. That Was Easy! I pose for a picture and release the fish. We paddle on and easily find the 2nd unmarked portage. This trail is a little rougher but shorter than the first portage.[paragraph break]Back in the boats, we pass a couple from Florida?? paddling by in search of a fishing spot. They came in yesterday (possibly dropped in by an outfitter) and are camped nearby. We continue paddling through a series of small islands. We find a rocky outcrop with some shade for a lunch stop. The wind had died down, but the bugs are not bad as long as you stay near the shore and don’t venture into the trees.[paragraph break]We get into a debate as to our exact position based on the map vs. GPS. We continue on following the GPS route to the last campsite before the long open water crossing of Lac La Croix. The campsite doesn’t have a good landing area. The winds have died to almost nothing and it’s a good time to cross this expanse. It’s roughly 2.5 miles across to the next campsite. It turns out to be a really easy paddle without any wind. The campsite has a nice beach to land canoes, but not much room for tents. We continue on, checking out a couple of other campsites that don’t prove satisfactory. At the next site, Cyd announces, “No Further”. It is OK. Enough room for three tents and a nice rock outcrop with a view (Campsite 145).[paragraph break]It’s been a long day and everyone takes a swim as soon as we have the tents set up. We then sit back and enjoy the evening. We get a little rain, but nothing serious. The site is remarkably bug free considering there is little if any wind. As with the previous nights, the mosquitoes pick up just after sunset and force us into the tents. The wind picks up soon after sunset and James and I get up to check the canoes.
Day 5 of 8
Thursday, July 01, 2021 - We wake up to a cool breeze and clear skies. It seems a little cooler than the past couple of days. We are on the water and paddling at 8:50 AM. Our plan is to paddle down toward Tiger Bay looking for a nice campsite. With the long day yesterday, we can afford to take a day off from paddling, so we need to find a good campsite for the down day. We are still paddling in Lac La Croix, but working our way past some islands that separate us from the wider, more open part of the lake.[paragraph break]We pass a large group (5 canoes) headed in the opposite direction. James is following the map and we turn east still paddling past a series of islands. We pass a nice campsite on an island and then turn south. A bald eagle in a tree watches us paddle by.[paragraph break]The eastern shore is Canada where there are reportedly pictographs on rock cliffs. We paddle over and eventually locate the pictographs and take pictures. It’s getting close to lunch time and we paddle back across to the U.S. side to check out a campsite. It is a premium site with a sheltered sand beach for landing canoes. There is plenty of room for tents and it has a nice fire pit with an adjacent table constructed from logs and rocks. On the other side of the point is a rocky beach for swimming. This will be our home for the next day and a half (Campsite 171).[paragraph break]After lunch, I take one of the canoes out to fish. Our camp is on an island and I’m able to slowly work my way around the island and back to camp. I haven’t caught any fish. The others are in various modes of napping, swimming, or generally relaxing. I head over to the swim beach and get cooled off.[paragraph break]James & I take the canoe back out about 5 PM to try the fish again. I finally start catching bass on a brown Mepps spinner. I land two and let two get away. James converts to a white Mepps spinner, but apparently brown is the color of choice today. Back to camp and it’s time to clean fish and cook dinner. Monique watches while I filet the fish. Kathy says she can’t bear to watch. We get the oil heating up and the fish breaded and fry fish nuggets for dinner along with some cheesy mashed potatoes.[paragraph break]After dinner, we stumble through our nightly food hanging routine. As with the previous campsites, trees with optimal branches for hanging are not available. We settle on some dead branches hoping they will hold. Some do, but then CRACK – one comes down and we have to start over. It’s getting darker so it’s a race to hang the food before the mosquitoes make food out of us. We “Get Er Done” just in time.
Day 6 of 8
Friday, July 02, 2021 – Today is our “Down Day” or “Zero Day”. We take the opportunity to sleep late (till 7 AM). After breakfast, we head out in the canoes to explore the area and try some fishing. Monique is new to fishing and James is showing her the basics – tying the lure on, casting and reeling it back in. Cyd & I take one of the canoes and circumnavigate the island. Cyd catches a few bass. We head across toward Canada to a beach area. Cyd & I get out and take a swim to cool off. I hear James yell, “You’re in Canada”. Woops, I forgot about the Covid travel restrictions. Luckily, there are no Mounties lurking in the woods and we’re able to cross back to the U.S. without incident.[paragraph break]At 5 PM, James, Monique, and I head back out to get some fish for dinner. I lose my lucky Mepps spinner when a bass breaks the line. We still manage to catch a bass and a Northern Pike which combined with a bass Cyd caught earlier will be our dinner along with Monique’s Thai noodles.[paragraph break]Cyd and Kathy worked on tonight’s dessert while we were fishing. It’s Cyd’s recipe from Backpacker Magazine for “Brownie in an Orange” made by scraping the juice and pulp from an orange, then filling it with brownie mix, wrapping in foil and cooking in the coals. The dinner and dessert are quite good and filling and soon we are frantically trying to get the food bags up in the trees before the mosquitoes come out. Kathy says, “I’m pretty tired considering this was a rest day”.[paragraph break]In the tent, I read for a while waiting for it to cool down. The loons are calling out on the lake.
Day 7 of 8
Day 8 of 8
Sunday, July 04, 2021 – We’re up at 5 AM and packing up. We didn’t see or hear any bears during the night and nothing got into the food. After a quick breakfast we are on the water and paddling at 7:40 AM. There’s a light breeze and some cloud cover. We make good time and reach the river inlet into Lake Agnes. This is the Nina Moose River that flows from Nina Moose Lake to Lake Agnes. The river is marshy. At one turn is a family of trumpeter swans. Our progress is slowed by paddling and pushing through areas of thick marsh grass. We get a short rain storm which doesn’t last more than 10 minutes.[paragraph break]We reach the first portage between Agnes and Nina Moose. There are a lot of horseflies and mosquitoes and I actually put on my head and upper body net. Kathy slipped on some rocks on the far end of the portage trail and injured a toe. We continue paddling to the next portage and repeat. From the 2nd portage, it’s a few bends in the river and we reach Nina Moose Lake. The wind has picked up and it’s blowing directly in our face. We head across the lake fighting the wind and looking for the entrance to the Moose River on the south side. I’m using the GPS. but not wanting to follow it, because it looks like it’s taking us into the lake shore. I should have had more faith – the river entrance is very narrow and marshy, but the GPS was right on the money.[paragraph break]The Moose River will take us to our exit point at EP 16. The clouds have cleared off and the sun is bearing down, but the wind is still blowing. We should have stopped at the Lake for a lunch stop, but I guess we were in a hurry to get done.[paragraph break]The paddling is slow. There are a number of beaver dams but only one that we actually have to get out and pull over. Eventually we reach the two short portages and finally, at 1:30 PM, the final portage out to the parking lot. The trail is 150 rods (0.5 mi.) and pretty steady uphill.[paragraph break]Kathy, Cyd, and Monique take Monique’s car to EP 14 to pick up the other vehicles. James and I make two more trips down and up to haul out the remaining gear.[paragraph break]I notice some info about bear activity posted at the kiosk. One of the notes says the bears are on the east side of the lake (versus the west side that we had heard yesterday). There was also a sign from the Forest Service advising to collect rocks and keep them in an accessible location to have available to throw at any bears that invade the campsite or food cache.[paragraph break]Cyd and Kathy return with our vehicles and we load up. Monique has gone ahead to Ely to procure beer which she will have waiting for us at the outfitter.[paragraph break]We arrive back in Ely around 3:30 PM. That cold beer tastes good (first one in a week). We unload and pay for equipment rental. Kathy & Monique head out for Minneapolis. James, Cyd, and I arrange to stay at one of the air-conditioned rooms at the outfitter (the heat wave made their bunkhouse rooms too hot for sleeping).[paragraph break]We head for the showers and drive over to the Grand Lodge for dinner. James and I crash at 8 PM. Cyd gets up at 10 PM to see the fireworks show. It is July 4th.