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June 21 2024

Entry Point 14 - Little Indian Sioux River North

Little Indian Sioux River (north) entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by La Croix Ranger Station near the city of Ely, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 32 miles. Access is a 40-rod portage heading North from the Echo Trail.

Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1364 feet
Latitude: 48.1466
Longitude: -92.2103

Ep 14-14 loop with Weeny PMA exploration

by Deeznuts
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 11, 2023
Entry Point: Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 3

Trip Introduction:
This trip mainly focused on fishing and traversing the Weeny Lake PMA between Contentment Lake and Pageant Lake. Drew, Donnie, and I (Deanna) 1 single canoe, 1 double canoe, 4 packs weighing 40-60lbs Childhood friends in their early 30s taking an adventurous trip before we're too old to get to the hard places.

Day 1 of 7

Friday, August 11, 2023 Day one started out an hour later than we anticipated. Originally the plan was to be on the water by 7, but the previous night's festivities had us running more sluggishly than normal. We finally started our paddle up Little Indian Sioux river around 830. We easily singled it through the first portage, admiring the waterfall and scenery along the path. The ability to single portage was due to many things we tweaked after our previous trip. One change we made was bringing ties for the paddles/rods. We also designated what gear each person would carry every time we portaged. The last change we made was to carry an "extras" bag. This bag carried our bug net, liquor, and any extra gear we would share throughout the trip. It added an extra bag among 3 people but seriously cut down on weight on our other packs and allowed for the extra gear to be easily portaged. Drew and Donnie would carry their packs and the canoes, while I followed behind with the extras bag on my front and my gear bag on my back. The high I got from the efficiency of it alone made it worth lugging 80-90lbs every portage.      We made amazing time crossing Upper Pauness, but took pity on the two paddlers fighting against the wind. This would be the last day for many days where the wind was at our backs. We opted for the longer 45rd portage into Lower Pauness as the lower, 17rd portage was extremely weed choked. We successfully singled our second portage of the day. We reached what we have affectionately nicknamed "The Snakes Site" (first site to the left going into Loon Lake) and stopped for a short lunch. In 2021, this is the site we called home for the last two days of our trip. It was crawling with many garter snakes which is how it got its nickname. Little had changed other than an obscene amount of litter, something that would become all too familiar as the days went on.   We continued our paddle up the river and across Loon Lake, where the wind died down but the rain picked up. By the time we reached the portage into Slim lake we were all thoroughly soaked. With spirits still high, we managed yet again to single portage from Little Loon Lake to Slim Lake. At this point in the day we were confident that the timing allowed for us to attempt the unmarked portage into Fat lake, as it was only 1:30pm. I was thrilled with the speed and efficiency we managed to paddle and portage to this point, but I was running out of gas quickly.    After exploring the eastern shore of Slim Lake, we finally picked out two large birches fallen where we presumed the portage entry was. After unloading onto the crowded landing area and navigating the narrow site, we observed the wicked hill climb we would face first and decided to double portage. First we would walk with packs, then we would all go back for the canoes and extra pack. The boys argued with me when we reached the fork in the path about 25 yards in, but after literal years of research I remembered reading that the path to the left eventually petered out. After following the right path for 50 yards the boys meandered through the woods to catch up with me, admitting their error.     The first of many hiccups in our trip would happen on this portage. About 3/4 of the way to Fat we encountered the bees. The order we walked was Drew, then Donnie, and I followed third. The bees must have decided that only two shall pass and I got stung in the forehead. It was extremely painful and caused some minor dizziness and swelling, but nothing I couldn’t push through. Luckily Drew had the foresight to drop a life jacket where we encountered the bees and we agreed to scope out the path to avoid any more stings. After a short break to allow the bees to cool off, we decided to head back for the canoes and last pack. This time the order was Drew, me, then Donnie up the rear. This pass we did determine that there was in fact a whole ass hive not only above us on the trail, but also partially destroyed on the path itself. This discovery occurred only after Donnie got stung in the lip. Drew once again managed to drop the life jacket to mark where the hive was so on the final pass we could potentially find a route around. As we walked back with the canoes we determined that the third person was the person that always got stung and since Drew was the only one that hadn't been stung yet we decided it was only fair if he went last this time. Donnie and I managed to make it through, while Drew hung behind in an attempt to give the bees some time to calm down. We determined the portage was the only path to take as the woods were particularly thick in this area. Donnie and I patiently waited at the landing on Fat Lake. After about 10 minutes Drew came trotting down the trail stating " Well that didn’t work. They still got me right on the ass".   After catching our breath from double portaging the 320rds (and laughing at our bad luck with the bees), we attempted to make it to the lone campsite on Fat Lake. To our disappointment, we discovered it was taken. Our back up plan was to stay at the narrows site on Eugene for the night and hope that we could secure the site on Fat the next day. We got camp set up, collected any trash we could find, and I enjoyed some evening bass fishing from the campsite. The boys decided not to join me fishing and I managing a few decent sized smallies. We had our Mountain House dinners and had a few drinks around the fire we could barely keep going. Everything was so wet and it continued to intermittently rain until dark. Donnie tucked in for the night around 9, while Drew and I spent the next few hours reminiscing on our childhood and discussing the failures of Reganomics and Capitalism over many drinks. At 11pm the rain and wind started again so we decided to tuck in for the night.


Day 2 of 7

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Our second day they woke up around 730 to overcast skies and a light drizzle, while I was up as soon as day was breaking and attempting to catch a few early morning fish. We immediately started formulating a plan for the day. The consensus was to wait it out till 10am to see if the occupants of the site on Fat Lake would come through Eugene. We decided around 930 to head over to Fat and check the site, thinking maybe they were taking the unmarked portage as well. We sprinted the portage to put Donnie's single in so he could check the status of the site. Drew and I followed quickly behind, noticing that there was a group standing at the unmarked portage. By the way Donnie was hooting and hollering we could tell that he had successfully located the site and found it to be empty. Drew and I quickly joined him. By lunchtime we had camp completely set up and decided to go fishing. After paddling around for a little over an hour, I managed to snag a barely legal lake trout. It was my first and I was so excited! The reading I did before the trip stated it wasn’t good for them to be released back into the water this time of year and I decided to keep it. Up until this point din the trip it had been constantly raining or extremely overcast, so we were all happy to notice the sun peeking out as we paddled the lake. We even pulled over to explore the shoreline around the area the fish was caught and soak up some rays. I had to use the bathroom though, so we made our way back to camp to prepare for dinner.   Upon returning to shore, it was decided by the group that the area around camp was safe enough for us to try a different kind of trip. By late evening the effects of our "pizza toppings" were starting to wear off and we were all hungry. We quietly ate dinner and enjoyed some drinks under the bug net. Before we could tuck in for the night we noticed a light flashing by the unmarked portage. Someone was coming through at 9PM! We couldn’t believe anyone would be that brave to traverse the unmarked portage in the dark. I flashed my headlamp back signaling that we occupied the site, but told the boys that if it came to it we would be sharing a site. I would never think of leaving another group stranded on a dead end lake with no fire grate or latrine that time of night. The other group never did show up, and after waiting until almost 10PM we decided to retire for the night.


Day 3 of 7

Sunday, August 13, 2023

The day started for me at 5am, as I am a very early riser. After an hour of fishing from the campsite with no luck, I started boiling water for our breakfasts. The boys crawled out of their hammocks around 730am, and we took time breaking camp. As we sat around the map looking at the day I had planned, the boys stated that they would love to see the stone chairs again. I explained to them that instead of our short 3 mile day up to Gun Lake I had planned, it would be a grueling 10 mile trek to reach the chairs, and we would have to retrace some of our path to go back to Finger Lake the following night. The boys were still just as enthusiastic so we broke camp by 1030 and made our way toward the portage into Eugene. Be noticed that the group from the previous night opted to camp at the portage. At least they didn’t have a fire going. We quickly made our way singling through Eugene, Little Beartrack, and Beartrack. The Beartracks were some of the prettiest lakes, in my opinion. Crystal clear water, and seemed to be abundant in fish, though info collected from DCNR stated there was only pan fish in there. We didn’t see anything sizeable but with the amount of rock bass and sunnies we saw, I can't imagine there aren't some monster pike or bass lurking around. The trek into Thumb was rough. I was so fatigued already from our 14 mile journey on day 1 that I opted to double portage. Donnie and Drew both managed to single portage it. While pulling into the landing at the campsite on Thumb, I accidentally swamped Drew in the back of the canoe. I was trying to be helpful and pull him closer to a rock. I didn’t realize just how steep it was nor how heavy the back of the canoe would be without me to balance the load. After a little bit of swearing and a lot of apologizing, Drew and I made peace over a snack of some vodka-soaked Swedish fish. It was the morale booster we all needed and we were back on the water by 130.     We navigated the short, flat, rocky portage between Thumb and Finger with ease. Making our way up Finger Lake, we witnessed quite the show of four nude sunbathers, two males and two females. A few moments of awkward paddling followed by a lot of laughter after we were out of ear shot. We made our way into the wrong bay, to the old creek bed leading down to Pocket Lake. I volunteered to explore the dry bed to see if maybe debris was blocking the path. I made my way back to the boys after not having any luck and told them that it had to be further down, at the end of the lake. Finally we found a very shallow spot to pass through to Pocket creek and had no need to portage after all. It was hairy, and I would suggest taking it very easy if you do attempt to pass through. Navigating Pocket creek was challenging, as the beavers had a lot of debris piled up and the lilies were pretty thick in places.   We proceeded through the portage into Pocket Lake, where I had officially ran out of juice. Drew offered to double portage, and I carried just my pack over. I was exhausted already and we still had a few portages and many miles to go. We agreed to take another break behind the second island on Pocket and fish for dinner. While heading that direction we encountered our SECOND group of naked sunbathers of the day. They appeared to be a woman and a man enjoying a cool dip. We tried to give them their privacy and quickly paddled to our fishing spot.   I threw everything but the kitchen sink at the shores trying to snag a smallie or walleye and only managed a few small bass. Drew and Donnie had some better luck with the bass but it didn’t really seem to be "on", so by 430 we were making our way toward one of the steepest portages I've ever encountered. It’s a short 13r portage but from the direction we were traveling it was brutal. Just straight up and down.    We entered Ge-Be creek, trying to maintain a sunny disposition. This part of the river was so weed choked. Our arms were dead by the time we reached the portage into Lake Ge-Be-con-quet, where the infamous stone chairs were. We finally made camp around 530. It was a long and stressful day. The fatigue and hunger hit us all and we got into our first spat of the trip. The boys were complaining how far we travelled and I reminded them of the original plan. They're the ones that wanted to see the chairs! After food and beverages, we got over our tiff and decided to retire early.


Day 4 of 7

Monday, August 14, 2023

I rose with the sun again and had some tremendous luck fishing. Several decent sized bass. Tensions were still there from the arguments of the previous night and we decided to take an easier day and spend more time fishing. Our destination for the day had us back tracking to Finger Lake. At least from this direction it was much easier. We spent over an hour fishing Ge-Be, with several decent sized bass between the three of us. Even so late in the morning (10am) the fishing was on. We made our way down the portage into pocket and up Ge-Be creek. This is where we would encounter the last group we would see for almost 3 days. Once we made it to Pocket, we fished the banks on our way through. There was no sign of any naked sunbathers this time. Before we hit the narrowest section of Pocket Lake, we decided to start keeping some bass for dinner. We had hoped to get into the walleyes on Pocket but a bass dinner would have to do. Donnie and Drew both snagged some bigger bass and I reeled in an absolute hog. Probably the biggest bass of my life.    Once again we were able to navigate the shallow creek and avoid the portage, but without the breeze we had the previous day it made difficult to traverse around the boulders. We took it very easy through that section. We bee-lined to the 5 star site on the island on Finger. When we started walking around the site we were thrilled with the views but disappointed with the amount of trace left. We pulled batteries from the fire grate, picked rib bones out, picked up several pieces of trash littered around the site, and found a thick birch tree cut down. It wasn’t recent but it was still "green" so maybe from last fall/summer? We did use it to replace a very rotten log by the fire grate so that it wasn’t a waste. I'm not sure if it was the right thing to do but I thought that improving the kitchen area would make better use of it, rather than let it rot behind the campsite.     After a quick lunch it was decided that we needed more fish for dinner, so we loaded ourselves into the canoes and went fishing. I wanted to fish the cliffside in front of the site as it was fairly protected from the wind and we would have a slower drift. Literally Drew's first cast and his rod breaks. We paddled back to shore and got him the duct tape I brought along so he could try and mend it. This rod was broken way beyond repair and unfortunately he wouldn’t have much of an opportunity to fish the rest of the trip.     While Drew was attempting to fix his rod, Donnie was far north of me in the next bay and I was trying to paddle the double canoe around by myself. I sat on the yoke in the middle which definitely helped, but it was so odd trying to paddle in that large of a canoe by myself. Looking back, I should have just called Donnie over to fish in the double with me, but then I wouldn’t have caught my pike along the cliff face. It was about 20" and I didn’t have a tape with me so after wrestling my orange and Black rooster tail out of the pike I released it. I was sad not to be able to get a picture but it was difficult to get a picture myself and release the fish in a timely manner. He was already not looking great by the time I got him untangled from the net so getting him back in the water was of the utmost importance. It took the fish a few minutes to come back around, and while I was struggling to get him going, Donnie pulled back to camp with a bass.     We had 4 or 5 bass to eat for dinner. Drew was our knife man and filleted them up perfectly. The one fillet that came off my bass was bigger than both my hands! I had brought breadcrumbs, foil, and used mayo packets and a ranch packet as a binder. I made a bushcraft frier with the foil and some branches. Super lucky that I added just the right amount of oil. There was barely any left by the end and made for easy cleanup. Some of the best fish I've ever had. We made some mac n cheese to go with it and it was just phenomenal.    The plan was to star gaze and hang out under the bug tent. I made it until 9pm and had just a little too much to drink so I put myself to bed. The stars would have been beautiful if I could have gotten them to stop spinning lol.


Day 5 of 7

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

I woke early again while it was still a little dark, so I spent some time boiling water for some peppermint tea, as well as filled all our sawyers. The combination of the fresh fish and alcohol (but mostly the alcohol) had my stomach turning. We decided to break camp later in the morning again, as we were all losing steam and our hardest day was ahead of us.    We broke camp at 1030 and made our way to the easiest, and the only marked portage of the day into Thumb. Once we got to Thumb lake we made our way to the old Contentment Lake portage. If you hug the muggy beaver area to the right you can make it to a little overgrown landing pad on the left hand side. I got out of the canoe and walked the portage to Contentment. It was easier than I could have ever imagined and resembled the unmarked portage into Fat. Overgrown branches, few downed trees, and a collapsed rock cliff blocked the path. We single portaged to Contentment lake and only had to remove one dead tree to make it through.   Contentment wasn’t anything miraculous but it was amazing to be in a spot that not many people traveled to. I got out my satellite maps and began looking for the cove we would take to reach Brigand. The area we chose was very murky and thick with mud, but we managed to find a good spot to pull the canoes up. We stayed to the left of the old creek bed and began our trek through the woods. The plan was to walk to Brigand first and find the path of least resistance. Our initial idea was to go high to the left and follow the ridge down to Brigand, but after making our way over there with a lot of difficulty, we decided to find a better path on the way back. Luckily there was a decent moose trail to follow along the edge of the swamp, less than 20 feet from where we had pulled into shore. We saw a lot of fresh moose tracks and droppings which had me very hopeful we would see one in that area.    This is where our worst mistake of the trip, and most costly, would occur. Optimistic as we were for making great time, we were also a little arrogant and decided to single portage instead of double portage like we had intended to do all through the PMA. The plan was for Drew and Donnie to go through first and I would keep close to help them squeeze through any tight spots, just like how we did things at Contentment. We made it through almost the entire portage and were getting to the last swampy bit when Donnie got his foot stuck in some deep mud. I had my 50ish pound gear pack on my back and the extras bag on my front which weighed about 40-45 pounds at this point. In my rush to help free Donnie from the mud, I jumped off a boulder into the soft swamp grass and twisted the ever-loving shit out of my left ankle. Rolled it so bad I could see the bottom of my foot as it rolled. After I face planted and laid in searing agony for a few minutes, I got up and pushed through the pain for the last 50 yards of the portage. The boys went back for the gear I had dropped and we managed to get ourselves into the canoes and onto Brigand Lake.    Brigand Lake was just breath taking. The thought that I was at a place that few have been to in the past 50 years was awe-inspiring. The wind had picked up significantly, starting to reach a point where it would be dangerous to cross, and with my ankle throbbing, we just pushed hard to get across. Looking back I really wish we would have just slowed the heck down and thought to get a rod into either of those lakes. The water was clear and looked like it would have been great for bass and pike. As we made our way to the point I picked for us to enter, I saw something huge moving on the shore 30 yards ahead of us. We barely got a glimpse but Drew and I saw a moose! I saw the rear end, signaled to Drew that there was an animal ahead, and he caught a look at the front quarter. The speed and silence that moose moved off was a little frightening. I expected to hear it crashing through the woods but it slinked off very quietly. We hung by the shore for a good half hour making plenty of noise so that we could avoid a run-in with the moose.    We searched for a good path to Pageant for an hour the first time over. I carried my fishing bag and the extras bag, the boys carried their packs. After barely getting through the nightmare forest the first time, the boys told me to hang tight and wait for them to come back with the single canoe. I nursed my twisted ankle as best as I could while I waited, elevating it and then throwing 3 neoprene socks on it for extra support. Once the boys got back with my pack and the single canoe, the decision was to load me in the single and send me down to the campsite to start dinner while they went back for the last canoe. It was closing in on 5pm and we were all starving and scraped up from our adventure through the true backwoods.   I made my way to the campsite, collected firewood, got all the water bags filled, and started our chicken dinner. I made chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes, and stuffing (only requires water and some light fluffing!). The boys made record time their third go and joined me around 6, right as dinner was finishing up. I was alternating soaking my ankle in the freezing water and keeping it elevated. It was starting to get very purple and the swelling was getting scary. I wasn’t able to put a whole lot of weight on it, which would be problematic as we had a 2-3 mile trek down the Sioux-Hustler Trail the following day. We had to decide what we would do. We discussed trying to find someone to call the Beaver in. That was something I wanted to avoid at all costs as I wasn’t sure what insurance would cover. I knew we had to make our way down the trail and try to get out. That night I lay in agony. There was no wind, it was way too warm, and the site was super buggy and the constant hum of mosquitos was driving me crazy. We decided to sleep in a triangle and hang out food packs from our hammocks, as there really were no options for a good tree around the site. This attracted a very persistent ground squirrel that also impeded sleep. It was a sleepless, painful night that my tincture nor any alcohol consumption could numb.


Day 6 of 7

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

The next morning I crawled out of my hammock and tried to make it up to the latrine. I had to stop half way to cry because the pain in my ankle was unbearable. When the boys got up we sat down for a serious discussion on how we would execute an extraction. One possibility we thought of was for Drew to jog the nine miles down the Sioux-Hustler trail to the entry point and have someone call the Beaver. Again the idea was shot down. I couldn’t bear the thought of these guys carrying me out and I also was worried about the medical coverage aspect. It would hurt my pride too much to have to be one of those people medically evacuated that everyone picks apart on "what they did wrong". Our plan was for the boys to double portage and I would hang tight at the landing at Heritage lake. Drew fashioned me some bushcraft crutches and I hobbled ahead of the boys moving any debris that might hit the canoes. We made better time than I expected and we were back in the water by noon.   The paddle through Heritage only took us a half hour, even with the wind being uncooperative. We decided we would press on to Shell for lunch and reevaluate from there. Our original itinerary had us staying on either Lynx or Shell before proceeding to Upper Pauness for our final night. When we reached Shell we got together again and it was determined we would push to Upper Pauness to get out early the next morning and try to find some medical attention for my ankle. At this point I was hobbling quite well with the crutches and I felt confident that we could keep moving. The minute we got onto Shell a torrential downpour started. It was the first time we faced rain like this all trip.   We reached the extremely long portage to from Shell to Lower Pauness and the rain did not let up. At one point Drew had to carrying me through a few feet of water on the portage where the beaver dam is broken through. When we reached the other side Donnie stated that someone else was about to come into the portage and hurried back for the rest of our equipment. I waited for the boys to come back with our gear and never saw the other group Donnie was talking about. I'm assuming they went to the campsite behind the peninsula on Lower Pauness to avoid the wind. We decided we would stay at the campsite directly across from the portage and hope that wasn’t the site they decided to take. The wind was really starting to whip and trying to cross either of the Pauness' wouldn’t be possible. We were lucky to get to the site and find it empty.   This campsite was one of the nicer sites we stayed at the entire trip despite the trash we found and the fish carcasses right by the water. That evening was extremely rainy and windy. It was a team effort just to get all the rainflies situated in the wind. Drew set up his ENO Super Fly, which was great to block any wind. This was the only site we didn’t have a fire. Instead we got all our remaining food out and pigged out all night, using the jet boil heavily. Hot buffalo pretzel bits, live savers gummies soaked in vodka, trading granola bars and mountain house meals. We spent the evening documenting all our inside jokes from the trip and talking about what meal we would get once we got out. I was most looking forward to a Boat House burger and beer. My mouth was salivating at the thought of the BBQ macaroni salad (an item I would later learn was taken off the menu). The wind and rain was still just as crazy all through the night, but at least I slept heavily with all the background noise to drown out the ground squirrels.


Day 7 of 7

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Part 1: We woke early the next morning to find that the wind had not let up. We spent time trading our extra breakfasts and packing up camp one last time. I was sad to be exiting a day early but my throbbing ankle was a constant reminder as to why. I was finally able to put minimal weight on it, but I knew getting it properly wrapped and iced was important.   We waited out the wind as long as we dared and waited for a little break in the gusts. We found that break at 10 and quickly made our way to the portage into Upper Pauness Lake. The boys were still refusing to let me carry anything but my fishing bag, even though I was limping along quite well on those crutches. Still, we made great time down to the last despite having to double portage. The wind was finally cooperating for the first time in days and was at our backs.   At the last 65r portage is where we encountered the most comical sight. A group of young men in their late teens/ early 20s were portaging tote after tote, black trash bag after black trash bag. We patiently waited almost an hour while we watched them clown car their gear back into their canoes in amusement. I mentioned to the boys a few times that maybe we should say something so we can just get back, but we opted to just be patient and enjoy our last hours in the boundary waters. We finally made it across the last portage into the river, chanting "cheese-burg-ers" to maintain the perfect cadence. At the car, we found a lone red bull left from our 20 hour trip to reach this magical place and shared swigs while we loaded up the gear.   The boys shared some mixies while I blared some Boston and drove us the hour back to civilization.

Day 7 Part 2: We finally reached Piragis around noon, returned the canoes and made our way up the road to Canoe On Inn. We rented a room for the night with the intentions of grabbing a shower, some good sleep, and finding a doctor or hospital close by. I instead opted to walk to the Dollar General and just got an ace bandage and some sports wrap. I would visit the doctor when I returned to PA and knew I had insurance. We went to the boat house for an excellent lunch and had a few beers. We walked to Dee's Bar and had a lemon drop and another beer. The feel there was very much a "locals only" kind of vibe and we decided to go to the Cwazy Wabbit. I tried an Indeed Pistachio Ale that was to die for. I've been looking for it locally since we returned to PA. I loved the Cwazy Wabbit. It reminded me so much of a local bar at home. Classic rock on the juke box, shower curtain door stall, and more than a few rough and rugged characters. The barkeep didn’t seem to care for me so I had Drew and Donnie going for most of the beers, but I enjoyed listening to the music and shooting some pool.    That night was quite eventful with too many drinks and too much drama. In hindsight we shouldn't have had those "pizza toppings" once we got back to the hotel. My trip quickly went south and we ended up fighting all night. The next morning we woke up, said our apologies, and spent the next 22 hours in the car laughing about our stupidity. We certainly aren't in our 20s anymore and this trip was a wake-up call for all of us on letting go of childish things. Next trip we will be in our mid-30s and will definitely slow down, but we are all so happy to have had this experience while our bodies were (mostly) still able.