BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
May 07 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 7
Elevation: 1348 feet
A favorite route offering many trip options and memorable things to see including;
World Class fishing for all four BWCA Species
Soaring granite hills and cliffs
Tumbling rapids and waterfalls
Wildlife, including Moose
Vistas from high points across the region if you're willing to climb. Rating Easy to Moderate. Day One. Get to EP16 off of the Echo Trail early. The initial portage is long, but well worn and smooth, sloping gently downgrade to the launch area. Load your canoe and head North. You'll be paddling with the slight current on this narrow winding river. The water is clear and make sure to tell the bowperson to watch for looming rocks!
Little Indian Sioux River north
July 31, 2006
Little Indian Sioux River (north)
Number of Days:
We were up early excited about our trip. My wife made us a nice breakfast. The car was packed the night before so we needed to only grab the stuff from the freezer and refrigerator. We hit the road at 8:15 a.m.
We traveled up the Wisconsin side (HWY 53). It was a hot day, well over 90, but still the ride was enjoyable. Two hundred sixty miles later, at about 12:45 p.m., we pulled into Duluth and headed for the Lake area. We visited the Duluth Pack store and had lunch at Little Angie’s Cantina. The weather was very pleasant here from the breeze and lake effect cooling. Very pleasant indeed.
We continued on arriving in Ely at 4:30 p.m. Not bad at all – 8 hours and 15 minutes and that included a quick break the Northern Wisconsin Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery Wayside, an extended lunch stop in Duluth, and a gas stop. The Blueberry Festival had just ended in Ely a half hour before. The street was crowded with vendors dismantling their booths.
We checked in at VNO; got our permit; dropped off our stuff in the bunkhouse; and went to the Ely Steakhouse for supper. It reminded Julie and I of a Supper Club. Even though she now lives in Illinois and I live in Minnesota, we both were born and raised in Wisconsin, and therefore are experts in Supper Clubs and those things associated with them such as brandy old fashion sweets, euchre nights, and smelt frys. Julie and I never run out of things to talk about.
Julie loves the bunkhouse at VNO. She’s been in many of them, but VNO is the best. She is totally impressed that sheets and blankets are supplied as well as cable TV. We watch the weather and find that we are in for a very hot day tomorrow – 100 degrees!!!
Up at 6:00a.m. We flipped on the TV to once again find a weather prediction of 100 degrees. There is a heat advisory in effect.
We head to town for breakfast. On an impulse we stop at “Journey’s End”. We haven’t been there before. Nice little place. Good breakfast. Good price.
Then we head up the Echo Trail. The furthest up the trail I have ever been is the road to Mudro, so the drive itself was new territory and an adventure. At two different times we came upon deer on the road after rounding a curve. A nice, albeit slow, drive.
We reach the entry point parking lot at 9:00 a.m. We portage our first load downhill 40 rods to the LIS and return for our second load. Julie was about a minute ahead of me. When I caught up to her she had already made friends with a group of six guys and was having them pose for pictures (their cameras). They were a good, very polite, bunch of early 20-year-old guys from Iowa. We’d run into them often on the portages until Shell Lake, their destination.
We no sooner started to paddle than we saw distant lightning. In fact the skies were darkening and thunder could be faintly heard, but there was no rain. We pressed on passing a parade of unhappy looking canoers on their way out. Still, the paddle on the LIS was fantastic! What a beautiful little creek, just the kind of thing I love to paddle on, and our Wenonah Prospector 16 was well suited to it.
We reached the 60-rod portage that by-passed the rapids on the LIS. It was a well-maintained, easy portage. There were several short side trails for viewing the rapids and waterfalls that we took advantage of on the return portion of our double portage. Beautiful.
On our second trip across the skies really darkened. In fact, it was so dark it seemed to be 9:00 at night. It was almost flashlight dark! We readied our raincoats and even delayed launching our canoe certain that the storm was upon us. But, again, it didn’t rain, so we pushed on.
We continued the paddle down the LIS and finally came to Upper Pauness Lake. Here you have a choice: a 40-rod portage; or an 8-rod portage into Lower Pauness Lake …. Duh! The 8-rod of course! Well, to reach it we had to, as Julie put it, “Do some off-roading”. We had to paddle through a wild rice patty. It was actually kind of fun … of course I was in the stern so Julie took the brunt of it in the bow.
By this time the group of six guys caught up to us and watched us from the water. They couldn’t believe that we were right; “They wouldn’t put the portage over there!” is what we heard from one of them. They started paddling up Pauness towards the 40-rod.
Since the portage was next to a campsite I took the opportunity to check it out. The site was OK. It isn’t one that I would ever make a destination, but if it were the end of the day it would serve OK. The portage is right across the stream. It is very short but rocky with a little knoll to climb.
The group of guys caught up to us again at the 215-rod portage to Shell Lake. This, too, was an easy portage. I told Julie that I might set the canoe down after 20 minutes and go back for another load (i.e. leap-frogging), but I was at the other end of the portage when the 20 minutes was up.
Shell Lake looked crowded. We wished the guys luck in finding a site for their base/fishing camp and we pushed on. We made the short 15-rod portage into Little Shell Lake and the weather was looking scary again. Julie and I talked it over. We decided if the lone campsite on Little Shell was decent and open we’d camp there.
At 2:00 p.m. we pulled up to the site and it was open. We landed and began scouting it out. What a nice site! We talked over tent placements, where the tarp would go, etc. Julie went off to find the latrine. When she returned in 30 seconds she said, “Fish guts”, and lead me to a spot about 30 feet down a trail leading from camp where there was a mess. No guts but skin, bones, and heads of about 15 walleye. Obviously the fish were filleted there. The remains were probably a few days old because there were no guts or meat on the bones.
The weather was really getting bad now. We really couldn’t take the time to clean up this mess. We either needed to get a tarp up or move on. We decided to move on.
We were very happy we didn’t need to take the 4-rod portage into Lynx Lake. Mostly we were able to paddle through, although we had to step out of the canoe briefly at a low spot. Now the storm is very close. No rain yet, but the wind has picked up, it is dark, the lightening is flashing and the thunder booming. Now is the time to take ANY site.
The first site on Lynx Lake is occupied, but the second site (eastern shore, middle of the lake) is open. It is 3:00 p.m. The second our canoe nudges the shore the rain starts. We set up the tarp in the rain, but have it up with everything under it and everything secure when the storm hits. What timing! We break out our lunch, take off our raincoats, and relax while we watch the storm.
The storm kept coming in waves. It would let up a bit, seem like that cell was passed, and another would hit before the previous one was completely done. It went on like this until 6:00 p.m. After the storm passed we took the opportunity to set up the tents. Once they were up it rained again for a half hour. Then we swam to knock off the sweat from the day and to relieve sore muscles.
Hey! We never got the 100-degree day! It probably never even reached 80 degrees. In fact, neither did we get rain until we reached our camp. We didn’t get sunburned. There was no glare to hurt our eyes. We had a nice breeze, but the wind was never a problem on the lakes. I’d say we had a pretty good weather day!
I gathered and split firewood. I seldom bring a hatchet but decided to this time. I found a 6” diameter pine log that was off the ground, cut a couple chunks, and split it. I then used my knife to make a pile of shavings. Found some birch bark. Had some commercial fire starter. Even though the huge majority of our wood was absolutely soaked, I had no doubt we’d have a fire.
We started dinner at 7:30 p.m. with a Caesar salad. Next I’d start the fire to make steak and potatoes. Neither Julie nor I could get the fire going. I couldn’t believe it. I have never not been able to get a fire going! We’d get some flames for a minute or two, but it would go out. All my split wood and shavings got used up quickly. The wet wood was just too wet.
At 9:00 I finally said, “Uncle!” and gave up. I cooked the steak and potatoes on the stove. My one and only disappointment of the trip was cooking those steaks on the stove. I guess when something like that is your only disappointment, that’s a pretty good trip.
After our trip was over we heard about the weather that they had in Ely that day. Down pouring rain that flooded the streets so much that people could canoe down them after the storm passed. They also got hail and some trees were down. We had it easy compared to Ely.
We went to bed about 10:00 p.m.
I woke up at 7:00 a.m. What a great night! I slept warm and dry. I love my new(er) Big Agnes pad. Ahhhh … 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I never get that at home!
Breakfast was bacon, eggs, coffee, and tea. Three eggs each! We plan for breakage but have never had one break. We wrap extra cardboard around the egg container. Traditionally we make the first supper and breakfast a little more fancy (and heavier) than the rest of the meals. Then we settle into “BWCA” food.
Between the extra cardboard, bulky eggs, and last night’s steak and salad, there is now a lot more room in the food pack, which gets filled with some back-jabbing items from the other packs. We start packing at 9:00 a.m. and are paddling by 10:00.
The 280-rod portage to Ruby Lake is only a short distance away. The portage is well worn with good footing. Most of the portage isn’t too bad, however, there is one big hill that is a “heart thumper”. One-way portage time is 25 minutes.
We meet a soloist traveling the opposite direction, however, since he is double portaging too, we wind up walking the portage together twice. He is very friendly and talkative. Sometimes he’s with me, sometimes with Julie, but always in a conversation. The results, I’m sure, of soloing. When he finds out we are heading to Emerald Lake his response is, “Isn’t that a dead end?” I guess that seems strange for some, but we often seek out those kind of places.
After paddling across Ruby we easily find the 15-rod portage to Hustler. However, we make note that when we come back this way in a couple days it may be harder to find. The landing on the Hustler side is obscured by over hanging branches. In fact, the soloist we met mentioned he had a hard time finding the portage. Once on the water we make mental notes of the landmarks near the landing.
A downed tree in the water blocks the 48-rod portage from Hustler to Emerald Lake. Unloading and landing was a challenge. Good thing I had a youngster along to help me. Once gear, canoe, and people were on shore, the rest of the portage was easy.
We arrive on Emerald Lake at 1:00 p.m. The water is clear with a green tint. We check out both campsites and both are open. It’s our choice of which to take. The southern site looks good, but the northern site looks great. The northern site is closest to the portage but a small island blocks sight of the portage. The site is high up on a cliff face. It’s a beautiful overlook of the entire lake. The water appears to be deep out in front of camp. The weather is beautiful. This is home for two-nights. Others calling this lake home are 2 loons, 2 gulls, and at least one beaver.
We get the camp set up and then take time for a swim. There is a throne area at this site. It is an elevated rock shelf that overlooks the fire pit and the rest of the lake. It is the perfect size for Julie’s and my chairs to sit side by side. We look like a king and queen holding court sitting there. It is a perfect spot for lounging. Actually the entire site is about as perfect as you can get, and we’re the only ones on the lake.
Supper tonight is Lipton Side Dish – Creamy Chicken Noodle - with a foil package of chicken stirred in. This is a recipe/technique I picked up from Jim Balow on our BWCA trip earlier in the year. It was great.
I cooked. Julie did the dishes. I nodded in my chair while she washed.
We didn’t have many bugs, but this night a few mosquitoes came out. Since I was sleeping anyway, I let the bugs be my excuse to head to bed at 9:30. I read for about a half hour, and then … ZZZZZZZZ.
I was up at 7:30. No hurry today. Today is our layover day, so we had a morning fire (Julie likes a morning fire). We have coffee, tea, and breakfast, all very leisurely. Followed by wood gathering, reading and napping. The string hammock had been strung up for the later. It was an absolutely beautiful day -- partly cloudy, very warm, a nice breeze -- a perfect day for a layover.
This is a very nice campsite. The tent pads are limited but adequate for our needs. However, there are lots of “areas”. Pine trees dominate with nice shady areas under them. There are areas for the tarp, clothesline, hammock, dishwashing area, sitting places, and lots of area to spread out into. There are many trails to explore. Much of the woods behind camp is carpeted with moss. Firewood is plentiful. The air is perfumed with pine needles. This site is also covered with blueberry bushes, but there are no blueberries on them. It looks like a very bad year for blueberries. I haven’t seen one in the BWCA on any trip this year. I wonder if this will make the bears more troublesome in the fall.
The resident loons are very comfortable with us, often appearing just yards off our campsite. Beavers, too, make appearances late in the afternoon.
At some point I know we had a swim. I’m also certain I made a few casts from shore, but as usual I don’t catch anything. Later we paddle around Emerald Lake just to “explore” our lake. It is small. Our site is on the “good”, deep end where the water has the emerald tint. The other end is marshier, and though the water still has a greenish tint, it is more algae-ish.
Supper was Lipton Teriyaki Noodle Side Dish spiked with dehydrated hamburger.
Ten o’clock rolls around – my bedtime. The pattern for this trip is: to bed at 10 and up at 7. I read a bit before sleeping.
It’s 7:00 a.m., I’m awake, and it’s raining. It doesn’t last long, though. We wait for it to stop before having a quick breakfast of oatmeal and coffee and tea. Still, we are on the water by 9:30 backtracking through the portages we have done previously.
We run into 9 girl scouts on the 280-rod portage from Ruby to Lynx. They were very nice, with a great attitude, but slow. We gave them plenty of time to get ahead of us, but we caught up with them at the end of the portage. They were taking a break and congratulating each other on completing the portage. When we arrived they congratulated us, too. I guess that we did an “awesome job” on the portage. I told you they were nice.
Our plan was to spend our next night on Shell. We passed a couple of sites that were filled and decided to head to Con Island to see if anything was available. Oh, the lake was looking full already. There were people at the southern most site, so we decided to circumnavigate the island counterclockwise. The next site was occupied. We rounded the northern point, and that site, too, was taken. We decide to continue around the island and head for the southern shore of the lake to check out those sites. When we reached to the southern end of Con Island again we noticed the people there before were gone. Either they had just stopped for lunch or had just pulled out. We claimed the site.
We were lucky. Within 10 minutes we had two groups stop by to ask if we were leaving. Nope. Over the next few hours we had several groups come by looking for an open site. I think it safe to say that Shell had no vacancies that night. In fact I’m sure it was filled well before 2:00.
By 1:00 p.m. we were setting up our home. It is a huge site! It is very pretty, open, and spread out. You could probably set up six, state-park-family-size tents at this site. Julie and I each had our tents pitched well away from one another in grassy areas under huge pine trees.
The kitchen/fire pit area is on an open spot on the point. Our “living room” is on the point with a view. We have both sunny and shady areas and a great breeze. The stuff we packed up wet in the morning dries quickly. Our home also has the best swimming pool ever. On Emerald Lake we were king and queen, here on Shell Lake we are simply filthy rich. I actually feel guilty having this entire site for just the two of us.
Supper tonight is Lipton Chicken Rice Side dish and foil chicken. Dessert is another Jim Balow idea – a “lunchbox” cup of chocolate pudding. Good stuff. I also made bannock in the reflector over. Previously on this trip we’ve also made garlic cheese biscuits, and brownies. The reflector oven is getting good use.
The sky tonight is fairly clear and the moon is out. We stay up “late” to watch it a bit. I’m not in bed until 10:30.
Pancake breakfast this morning. I don’t know why. Tradition I guess. They come out well, though it is a bit time consuming. Still we are on the water by 9:15.
We are only doing one portage today (we hope), the 216-rod from Shell to Lower Pauness. We want to get the longer portage out of the way so that we have a shorter/easier day on Saturday when we leave. We also want to check out Devil’s Cascade. If we have to go to Upper Pauness to get a site we will have to backtrack to see it.
The northwest site on Lower Pauness, the one closest to Devil’s Cascade, is open. It is 11:00 a.m. We take it. The site on the point across the lake is occupied. The site on the southern arm, which we passed on the way in, is marshy looking and so we never checked to see if it was open.
I like this site. It is up on a rock point and has two good tent pads. There is also a nice place for the tarp. The latrine, however, is up a steep hill. It is a bit of a climb to get to it. There is a good canoe landing and there seems to be good swimming out front.
Before noon the tents and tarp are set up, firewood gathered, and water filtered. Good thing because 5 minutes later we have a 5-minute rain, followed by a few sprinkles, then a short shower, and then at 2:45 we have a real soaker. The morning was real hot, perhaps in the 80s. When the front bringing the rain came through the temperature dropped 20 (or more) degrees. It was downright chilly. No wind, though. That’s good.
The rain stopped long enough for us to make a visit to Devil’s Cascade. Very cool. Nice thundering rapids and falls. We walked the entire portage. The Loon Lake end is quite steep. The landing, however, reminds me of home – cattails, a tiny creek, and lots of vegetation around.
We wanted to check out the campsite mid portage but it was occupied. A bunch of 20-something guys had it. They were a mixed bunch – one seemed an experienced adventurer and the others didn’t have a clue. Seemed to me to be a mix of expectations as well, adventure vs. party. As you can imagine, most were not happy. I saw a pair doing the most unimaginable dance with an aluminum canoe trying to get it up for portaging. Julie wanted to help them. I stopped her. They were embarrassed enough. I have a feeling that was their only campsite. I think they either stayed there their entire trip or one night became their entire trip.
When we got back to camp, it started to rain again, however, it did stop by 6:00 p.m. Even though we got a fair amount of rain this trip, really it cooperated with us. It wouldn’t rain until we got at least a tarp up, stop again when we wanted to pitch the tents, and would stop when we wanted to go somewhere like Devil’s Cascade.
Despite the rain we were able to get a good fire going this time. Supper was Spanish rice with dehydrated hamburger and bannock. Good. Simple. Hits the spot. I think we had lunchbox jello, mandarin orange, fruit cups for dessert.
Beautiful evening. No more rain. A little wind. We watch the fire and the stars until 10:15 and then off to bed.
It is a beautiful morning though a bit breezy. We have a quick breakfast, pack, and are on the water by 8:45. This time we take the longer, 40-rod, portage to Upper Pauness. The portage is flat, and very easy. Soon we are paddling the LIS again. Very beautiful. There are lots of ducks and their young out today.
The trip is relaxed and uneventful. Of course, now we are paddling upstream and the portages are uphill. We are to the entry point parking lot with all our gear by 11:00 a.m. I retrieve the car.
This is the moment of truth. Julie and I left a small cooler in the car with a couple beers in it. Would they be cold? We stored the cooler with ice in the freezer at VNO to have it as cold as possible before we left the bunkhouse. I open the cooler. No ice, just beer bobbing in the water … but the water, and beer, is still cold!!
Even with our beer break, changing shoes, etc. we have the car loaded by noon. It is 33 miles to VNO in Ely and we arrive shortly after 1:00 p.m. for showers and souvenirs. We do lunch at Vertin’s at 2:00, and are heading down Hwy 169 out of Ely at 3:00.
We stop in Duluth at 4:45 for gas. Gas prices have risen 24 cents a gallon since we were through here six days ago. It is now $3.14. It could be worse. We drove my Toyota Corolla wagon and got 31 mpg with the canoe on the roof. That fill up was enough to get us home. It was 9:15 p.m. when we pulled up, still early enough that the family was awake to greet us.
Another great trip!
I decided to add this mainly because I didn’t have a detailed equipment list. Oh, I have a list with things like “sleeping bag” and “tent”, but nothing with the name/model of those items. So for archiving sake, I thought I’d make this list. Most are NOT new items that I am reviewing; just a list of what I have and perhaps what I think about them. The list is haphazard because I jotted the stuff down on a scrap of paper as I put it away.
Julie had her own tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, etc. I won’t comment on her stuff except to say she seemed to like them and they seemed to work well. I know her tent is an REI, two-man with two vestibules; her sleeping pad is a thermarest; and she got a new, lighter weight and more compact sleeping bag.
Sleeping Pad -- Big Agnes Insulated Air Core 20 x 78 x 2.5 Primaloft. This air mattress is about the size of a qt. Nalgene bottle when deflated. It is very light as well. Takes 2 minutes to blow up by mouth. I get just the best sleep on it! Great performer. Its purchase is the best recommendation I have ever gotten.
Water Filter -- PUR Hiker Another great performer. Last year I had a small piece break and the filter gave off some black stuff (carbon I think). Katadyn (new owners of PUR) gave me a new housing and new PRO filter. The PRO filter includes a protective membrane that wraps around the filter element that makes cleaning super easy, helps prevents clogs, and helps the filter to last longer. Great!
Food Packs – I took two food packs for this trip. The first was my standard “solo” rig; the Garcia Bear Barrel inside a Kelty day pack. I like this set up very much. In addition to the barrel, there is enough room for my utensil roll, saw, water filter, some other things, and two water bottles in the side, mesh pockets. I carry this pack with the canoe for portaging.
The other pack is a military, canvas rucksack with a 5-gallon, gamma-sealed bucket for food. The pack is large enough for some other things around the bucket. It has two side pockets where I put my stove, extra fuel bottle, string net hammock, and other smaller items. Of course as the food disappears other items go into the bucket starting with the cook kit and other “back-jabbing” items. BTW – I not only don’t hang my food packs, I don’t even hide them.
Stove – I have a few, but the one I took this time (and the one I usually take) is the Coleman Peak 1 Model 400. It is an old model with foldout legs and two levers – the normal RED lever and the additional BLACK lever for cleaning and simmer control. It takes Coleman fuel (naphta). What can I say … it works well.
Fuel Bottle – Normally I wouldn’t mention it, but I believe these are rare. It is a red, Nalgene Fuel bottle that has a built in funnel. They stopped making them. I have no idea why. Mine works great.
Fishing Stuff – The rod & reel is a Zebco something (not a “Barbie” or “Sponge Bob”, more normal looking). I have a canvas bag with strap and Velcro tabs (to attach to a thwart) as a tackle bag. Inside is: a small, two-sided box with lures, hooks, and jigs; white Twister Tails; brownish, worm-like Power Baits; needle nose pliers; folding filet knife; cord stringer; and a rod tip repair kit. None of it matters. I never catch anything. I figure someday I’ll run into some kid who just lost his fishing stuff over the side of his boat, his dad is po’ed, and I’ll just give my stuff to him, and, thus, get to heaven (it’s my only hope).
Reflector Oven – It a Freden Aluminum Folding Reflector Oven that I bought from Rutabaga. It is THE best campfire baking gizmo, IMHO.
Hatchet – a Browning. Looks like a Gerber. It’s OK.
Saw – a Sawvivor. I like it!
Thwart Bag – a Cooke Custom Sewing thwart bag with detachable map case. Great! I added a couple of Velcro tabs to attach/detach quickly.
Tarp – For this trip it was a Guide Gear, 10 x 10, nylon, ellipsoidal tarp. It worked well. I also have a 10 x 10 square nylon tarp I take sometimes and a Eureka VCS 16 for group trips.
Cook Kit – Open Country Cook Kit. Stainless Steel. Two Pots with lids & a measuring cup. I added a Walmart fry pan with the handle knocked off and an 8” round bake pan. It all fits in the carry bag that the cook kit came with.
Tea Pot – Nesters Tea Pot Stainless steel with a detachable handle. I think it is one quart. I made a carry bag for it. Works very well.
Water Bottles –Nalgene Bottles quart-size, wide mouth. I have other Nalgenes for other stuff.
Coffee Cup – A PDQ (convenience store) Cup. This is one item I will really be sad about when it’s gone. You just can’t get them like this one anymore. It is one of those short, squat, lidded car coffee cups circa 1980. It’s not one of those high, skinny ones that tip over easy when not in a molded-into-the-consul-of-your-car cup holder. You could safely give this one filled with steaming hot coffee to a nursing home resident. Great cup!!!
Utensil Roll – made by Cooke Custom Sewing. Good. Most of my utensils are plastic or lexan. However, I have metal forks (Walmart 8 for $1). The tines on the lexan forks tended to curl when hot.
Map Case – In addition to my map case on my thwart bag I have a Granite Gear Map Case. It’s good. I have two so there was a map for my bow partner. She needed one to keep me from getting lost.
Rain Coat -- the good, ol’ Stearns (teal color) Rain Coat, the one I was wearing in the Howard Sprague documentation of my moose hunting escapades. I went back to it after my fancy, new Red Line coat failed on my June trip. This Stearns rubbery thing kept me nice and dry and warm.
Kitchen Sink – Granite Gear Collapsible Sink . I forgot my collapsible bucket and purposely didn’t bring my inflatable kitchen sink on this trip. My partner was disappointed on both accounts since she was washing the dishes and filtering most of the water. So I pried open my wallet and bought the Granite Gear Sink in Ely. It works well as a sink; less well as a bucket. When I have to bring a sink I’ll probably bring this one over the inflatable one.
Sleeping Bag – Woods Otter 1 rated to 35 degrees. Works well. No problem. No need to replace it.
Packs – Camptrails Canoe Pack and Guideline #3. The Camptrails is good. Nothing wrong with it. The Guideline is fine as well. It is an absolutely no-frills, cordura, #3 pack I bought from Thrifty Outfitters many years ago for next to nothing.
Tent – Eureka Spitfire. I’ve grown to like this tent. It is small set up and packed up. It’s lightweight. It is not freestanding, but it only takes two stakes to keep it up, and after two BWCA trips with it I never had a problem staking it out. While small, I find it big enough to sleep in and hold my book, flashlight, clothes, and has a place for my glasses. The small vestibule is big enough for my shoes and socks. I CAN get dressed in it but it is a challenge, so I don’t. It stayed nice and dry and believe me that was tested on this trip. I didn’t use a ground cloth at all, neither an innie nor an outie.
PFD – A Stearns PFD. It’s fine. This is probably an item that I could upgrade.
Paddles – I probably have a dozen to choose from. For this trip Julie selected a Wenonah, wood, straight shaft. She seemed to do well with it. We had a Wenonah aluminum/plastic, T-handle (probably made by Carlislie) as our back up -- a good, functional, durable, spare paddle (though it didn’t get used). I used a Red Tail beaver tail paddle that I bought from Old Scout Products. I liked it a lot.
Canoe – Wenonah Prospector 16. I really like this boat.