Yes. You do lose a lot of people. That 480 rd portage from Lujenida to Zenith Lakes leaves a lot of people behind. I have spent glorious days on Mesaba all alone. The week we spent on Wine Lake was in August and we had a few parties venture past, but more days alone than not was the rule.
The route from Mesaba to Little Sag is very remote and beautiful. Small, intimate lakes with a variety of lake depths, give you a great route.
Little Sag to Malberg is usually very quiet, although we have had a couple of trips that we encountered more people than we wanted to. Take the shorter pair of portages from Little Sag to Elton Lakes. The beavers make the trip pretty easy. Beware the portage from Panhandle to Pan. There are false portages in there. The portage from River Lake to Malberg has a nice canyon to follow. You will find more people when you get to Malberg. If you want to delay that for a day, choose to stay on the river instead of heading into Malberg. Lake Polly will definitely bring you into contact with more people.
The last few trips along the Lady Lakes have been strangely empty. Hazel, Knight, Phoebe, and Grace have been quiet. Once you get to Beth, you will encounter much more competition for campsites. We usually make a dash all the way from Grace or Phoebe all the way out. I wouldn't count on a campsite from Beth to the Sawbill pier.
Let me know if you need specifics on campsites, etc.
So these cooler days have me thinking about my groups next BWCA adventure. I am curious who has done a Sawbill loop up to Wine or Mesaba, Koma, Polly then back through the lady lakes? Do you really lose a lot a people in the Wine Mesaba area? I know Polly Malberg area can get busy wasnt sure about some of those more secluded lakes with only 1 site if they are always taken or since they are a little further out there not so bad.