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   Group Forum: Solo Tripping
      First Time Solo Plan     

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mfl1776
senior member (78)senior membersenior member
 
11/23/2018 04:05PM  
So taking my second BW trip in early June. Gonna have to go it alone bc I don't have a reliable trip partner. Not a real experienced paddler and haven't spent extended periods of time camping alone (will do some local before my trip). I'm aware of all the potential pitfalls of loneliness, boredom, depression, etc. Doing Monday to Thursday (returning early Thursday).

B/c of my inexperience, not gonna venture too far in. Putting in at Sawbill and just gonna do the fire lakes. (Was originally planning on doing the Cherokee loop clockwise but b/c of my inexperience, I'm concerned that might be too ambitious). I want to focus on fishing and know the fire lakes can be hit or miss so I'll have to take my chances. Waffling between basecamping on smoke or burnt, or day tripping to the others and maybe even doing the portage to Kelly and back.

Any thoughts on whether it's better to move to a new site each day or stay put and just daytrip? Certainly don't want to spend the whole day, every day paddling (this actually happened to us last time b/c of being windbound one day). Would love to hear some input. Thanks in advance.
 
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GraniteCliffs
distinguished member(1916)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/23/2018 04:40PM  
I never like to sit tight, even on group trips. On a solo I think it would make crazy. I like to move all day on every trip. I love to paddle and portage all day at a steady pace on solos, sticking close to shore to observe the shoreline and woods, look down at the lake floor and be able to hear and smell the woods. It is my favorite part of a solo. I think I would succumb to boredom if I just sat all day long at a site. Granted, I do not fish. I figure a mind busy with the sights and sounds is a happy mind.
Of course, everyone has their own preference and you will likely find yours. I think the default setting for most of us that solo is to move most everyday.
 
Tomcat
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11/23/2018 05:14PM  
+1 for staying on the move and enjoying new scenery. I get bored if in camp too long.
 
mfl1776
senior member (78)senior membersenior member
 
11/23/2018 05:25PM  
Good advice from both respondents. Thank you. I will probably move everyday but I've heard that paddling all day can make for a hard time finding a campsite late in the day, although we did not have any trouble when we were paddling 8 hours a day when we were up there. It was just exhausting. I'm thinking even paddling for a couple hours and re-setting up camp would keep me busy for a good portion of the day. I'll consider a loop with at least a few hours of paddling a day. I like to stay in motion in general and would probably not do well sitting around camp.
 
JATFOMike
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11/23/2018 09:06PM  
Early June, you will not have any issues finding a camp site.

Mike
 
OCDave
distinguished member(577)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/23/2018 11:45PM  
June days are very long. Even if you paddle breakfast through supper, you'll still have several hours of daylight to enjoy in camp.

My solo trip goals are typically; how long and how far can I paddle, how many lakes can I experience, and how many campsites can I experience.

Eventually, I will slow down and learn to fish.
 
Tomcat
distinguished member (463)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/24/2018 06:06AM  
I am very comfortable on both water and portage so in good conditions travel is easy and enjoyable. However, rain, wind, and mud can take the fun out of traveling. Take into consideration your ability and the conditions so that you don't overextend yourself. You said that you have been windbound so you know that if you travel too far and conditions change your 3 night trip may be extended.

Black flies can be bad in early June so prepare.

What boat are you taking?

 
mfl1776
senior member (78)senior membersenior member
 
11/24/2018 10:25AM  
I’m using Sawbill outfitters so either whatever their solo canoe is or the Minnesota 2, which I think is their two-person. I have heard pros and cons for taking either a solo or a tandem when alone. I know I will need to balance my load so there’s for weight in the front.
 
11/24/2018 10:39AM  
mfl1776: "I’m using Sawbill outfitters so either whatever their solo canoe is or the Minnesota 2, which I think is their two-person. I have heard pros and cons for taking either a solo or a tandem when alone. I know I will need to balance my load so there’s for weight in the front."

Don't rent a MN2 for a solo. IMHO, that boat is too long and would be hard to control solo. Reserve their Prism solo: it will provide you with the volume you'll need and it will be easier to control.

Unless you are really determined to do a solo trip, maybe consider an alternative: post a message in the Trip Partner Finder group (special group at the bottom of the main message board) and you may find another person to trip with you.
 
mfl1776
senior member (78)senior membersenior member
 
11/24/2018 10:56AM  
I’m definitely going to try to avoid going alone if possible. Might be able to work something out in August. We’ll see. Thanks to all for the advice.
 
11/24/2018 01:15PM  
I started out doing solo BW trips the same way you are - I did a trip with two other people and loved it. I wanted to go back, but couldn't find a trip partner. After four years, I decided I'd have to go solo or give it up, so I went solo. I had very little flat water paddling experience, especially solo, when I did it. Nonetheless, I was over confident (cocky?) and certainly over ambitious in route planning. Things did not go exactly as planned (came out a day late at short of my planned exit), survived, learned a lot, knew I was doing it again, but changing some things.

First, rent a true solo canoe, not a tandem.

The only pro to using a tandem is that's all you have. I'm sure someone will want to argue that point, but . . . :) It's longer, heavier, more expensive to rent, way bigger than you'll need, which means it'll sit on top of the water and make a bigger sail for the wind, making it harder to control, and requiring more paddling skill and experience to do so, especially in wind. And there will be wind! :)

Two, given that you only have 3 1/2 travel days if I understand correctly, no solo paddling or tripping experience, and limited experience from your first trip - from which you undoubtedly learned a few things, some of which will transfer to the solo, some not - you are probably wise to be hesitant about the Cherokee loop. To complete it in 3 days assuming double portaging, would mean 3 days of roughly the same distance as your day from Polly to Phoebe on your first trip. You will not paddle as fast solo as you did 3-man and will be more affected by strong wind. You will also have to do all the camp chores without help.

Like some others, I don't fish and prefer to travel, but I don't need to be on the move every day, all day. I usually plan to travel about 4 hours +/- 1 on travel days, with every 4th day a non-travel day. Those two things give me some wiggle room with weather and other vagaries. I usually average about 2-2.5 mph per hour traveling, which is faster than it used to be, but I have become more experienced and efficient than I was on the first several trips. I'm also packed lighter :).









 
Tomcat
distinguished member (463)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/24/2018 03:39PM  
Boonie, in my case you are correct. I use a tandem canoe for solo trips because it is the only boat I own. Wind is a major factor in my tandem when solo.

Hope I am not too far off topic, but the lack of available or compatible partners is the main reason I started to solo. I have planned several trips and everyone canceled at the last minute. It can also be difficult to agree on rout and pace . Then there are the conflicting personality traits . I enjoy group trips but for me solo is easier with less drama and fewer conflicts. If I trip with others I prefer to group solo. I travel and camp with them but take my own boat, equipment, and food.

You may want to trip with a partner until you are confident about your land and water skills. Being familiar with your boat, equipment and navigation are high on my list. It isn't rocket science, just don't get lost and have fun.

 
11/24/2018 08:03PM  
I'd move every day. That loop is perfect for 3 nights. Your longest day is Sawbill to Cherokee. Fortunately, Cherokee has a lot of campsites. You should have no problem finding site along the entire route.
I think the biggest challenge for your first solo is navigation. This route is pretty easy. You'll gain a lot of confidence.
I think the fishing is quite good. It may be " moderate" for the BWCA, but for anywhere else it is good.
Plan on going solo, but he open to a "group" solo. That is, being independent but semi traveling with someone else and sharing the same campsite. That way you look out for each other and have company night and develop your solo skills ... maybe even find a future partner.
 
11/24/2018 08:24PM  
I agree with renting a solo verses a tandem. It is my understanding that Sawbill Outfitters rent wenonah Prisims. That is the standard for the BWCA and is an excellent choice. However what they do differently is fit it with a fixed yoke rather than a removable yoke. I have no experience with that but would not hesitate to try it. I'm sure the outfitter will give you further guidance on it.
BTW - I have dealt with Sawbill Outfitters many times and find them to be top notch.
 
11/24/2018 09:38PM  
You'll get more experience by moving every day. Just all the putting up and taking down camp and portaging/paddling will have you better prepared for the next trip you do. Fish in the evenings because that is the time I normally miss company when on a solo.
 
11/24/2018 09:47PM  
I agree you'll get more experience by moving - paddling, portaging, navigating, setting/breaking camp. This will be especially valuable if that's the kind of tripping you want to do in the future. You can start keeping track in a general sense of your paddling and portaging speed under various conditions. Eventually you'll get a good average and be better able to plan future trips.

Assuming you'd double portage and average 2 mph, you'd be on Smoke (3 mi) in an hour and a half, on Burnt (2 more mi) in another hour, so mid-morning if you leave at 7 AM. Another 3 1/2 mi and less than 2 hours, you're at a campsite on Kelly before noon.

So, if you're paddling out onto Burnt, and it's 4 hours since you left . . . ? Then it's time to assess why and adjust. But you're learning.

On the other hand, it's your [solo] trip and it doesn't matter if we'd travel dawn to dark, you get to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and change it on a whim. So, if what you want to do is go to Smoke or Burnt and basecamp, fish, read a book, take a nap, do it - the beauty of a solo trip.

Enjoy your trip!
 
RetiredDave
distinguished member (308)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
11/25/2018 06:38PM  
I enjoy moving every day. It doesn't have to be a killer day, but four hours of so of paddling and portaging will bring you to places that feel new and different. Setting up camp in a new place each night is kind of fun, like continually recreating your home. The chores are part of the adventure and they don't all have to be done at the same time. Give yourself time and pace things. I love the walk into the woods to find firewood, it's not even a chore but a sensual experience.

If you decide to stay over for a day, a good paperback is a wonderful friend.

Good luck and have fun!

Dave
 
11/26/2018 09:21AM  
Bannock: "I'd move every day. That loop is perfect for 3 nights. Your longest day is Sawbill to Cherokee. Fortunately, Cherokee has a lot of campsites. You should have no problem finding site along the entire route.
I think the biggest challenge for your first solo is navigation. This route is pretty easy. You'll gain a lot of confidence.
I think the fishing is quite good. It may be " moderate" for the BWCA, but for anywhere else it is good.
Plan on going solo, but he open to a "group" solo. That is, being independent but semi traveling with someone else and sharing the same campsite. That way you look out for each other and have company night and develop your solo skills ... maybe even find a future partner.
"

+1
 
Duckman
distinguished member (458)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
12/03/2018 08:58PM  
On Ada Creek, don’t step on anything that isn’t either a rock or has grass growing out of it.
 
mfl1776
senior member (78)senior membersenior member
 
12/03/2018 09:06PM  
Duckman: "On Ada Creek, don’t step on anything that isn’t either a rock or has grass growing out of it."

That sounds like good advice. I will heed it! I have read on here about people going thigh deep that mud. I do not wish to have that happen especially when I'm by myself.
 
12/03/2018 10:56PM  
Very good advice. Having one foot on semi-solid ground and the other leg crotch deep in muck while portaging a canoe solo creates a challenging situation. Wearing ankle high boots that tie securely on the foot will eliminate one unnecessary worry.
 
mfl1776
senior member (78)senior membersenior member
 
12/04/2018 08:25AM  
boonie: "Very good advice. Having one foot on semi-solid ground and the other leg crotch deep in muck while portaging a canoe solo creates a challenging situation. Wearing ankle high boots that tie securely on the foot will eliminate one unnecessary worry. "

Yeah when I went a couple years ago, I experienced calf-high mud. I was wearing Keene watershoes/sandals and smart wool socks and did not lose my footwear. Have been thinking about boots since I’ll be going late May/early June anyway and water temps may be cooler than when I went in late June. What is the consesnsus on Keene-type shoes with wool socks vs. boots that time of year especially considering the muck? Would boots be wiser that time of year especially with the level of muck on that route?
Any affordable boot recommendations?
 
12/04/2018 10:19AM  
Duckman: "On Ada Creek, don’t step on anything that isn’t either a rock or has grass growing out of it."

So true, I was solo portaging on Ada Creek last summer. I was right in front of a couple, the girl had the canoe and her boyfriend the packs. She went in the mud past her knees. I stopped, her boyfriend and I lifted the canoe off of her so she couid get herself out if the muck.
I must add that she was easy on the eyes.
 
12/04/2018 01:09PM  
I was in that are last June and really enjoyed the fire lakes. There was enough water so that I didn't get bored, but not enough so that I felt too overwhelmed. I stayed at Sawbill but did not outfit through them. All of my interactions were great and I have read nothing but good things on here about them. If you plan on going over into Kelly, be aware that the portage is a little rougher than some others in the area.
I had a Prism on the trip and it was perfect. More than enough room and handled great. I used Keens without wool socks and wet-footed the entire trip. Next time I will definitely go for a well draining boot. Better support and I would imagine better traction on slippery rocks.

I am planning my second solo for this upcoming season and may head back to the same area as I felt like there was still a lot to explore.

Have fun on your trip!

Brandon
 
12/04/2018 02:48PM  
mfl1776: "
Any affordable boot recommendations?"

Depends on what you mean by affordable. Chota, for instance, makes several options starting at around $100. If you search on the gear forum especially, you'll find many, many suggestions.
 
12/06/2018 08:07AM  
Ausable: "mfl1776: "
Any affordable boot recommendations?"

Depends on what you mean by affordable. Chota, for instance, makes several options starting at around $100. If you search on the gear forum especially, you'll find many, many suggestions."


Portage boots are the one gear item I would try to invest solidly in. Besides rain gear it's the one item that can really derail your trip if not working correctly. Personally I would look for new gear that's discounted at stores/sites like Sierra Trading Post.

Heres a link to the boot section. Put in your size to narrow the search and see what's available. These are all brand new but discounted because of blemishes or they might be older models.

If you want to dry foot you might look
at this boot
Or This one

 
jcavenagh
distinguished member(4562)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
12/07/2018 12:48PM  
I'm a lot like Granitecliffs.
Sitting makes me crazy.
Being windbound is like torture to me.
 
12/10/2018 01:17AM  
I've only done 1 solo and learned a ton. Not only from the solo but from the great advise from people on this site.
The first question I would ask yourself is do you like being with you? If so don't worry about the solo part. You may have a few moments but just go with it. Make fun of yourself, do goofy things. Go fishing, read a book, do chores, enjoy the view and relax, relax, relax. Being alone will not kill you. I loved it and only several moments on a pretty long trip did I miss company.
Remember that you are doing all camp chores yourself. I found that 2 hours pack up in the morning and 2 hours set up in evening was about right. This included making meals and clean up. I like Boonies 4 hours of moving per day
and also built in a layover day for every 3-4 day for weather or if I liked an area. In June with long days, 4 hours travel will give you time to fish in the evening and night after camp is set up.
I would also recommend the Prism solo canoe over a tandem, and you can't go wrong with a pair of Chota boots and wool socks. I also bring Chota hippies if water or air temps are cool so I have a dry foot option with the same pair of boots.
In my opinion, being that you have little experience and confidence it sounds like by your post, I wouldn't plan on pushing yourself too hard. Concentrate on honing your skills. Only by practice will you be a better camper and canoeist. Remember that the most important things about your trip is to have a good time. Set a plan that will not seem overwhelming so you don't get stressed out about it. This will reduce your risks that you make bad decisions that could be dangerous or make your trip miserable. Figure out what you want out of your trip to make it a success for you, and be realistic with your experience and time frame. Then pick your route. Research the Solo Tripping forum, I read every word of it before my first solo and credit it for helping me learn and prepare for what was in store for me.
 
12/10/2018 09:55AM  
minnmike: " Research the Solo Tripping forum, I read every word of it before my first solo and credit it for helping me learn and prepare for what was in store for me."

Holy moly! That's impressive. I think back to 1984 when I was 24 doing my first solo. I had literally 2 days of travel experience in the BW. I was from suburban Chicago who paddled his tandem only on rock quarries, farm ponds, and forest preserve lakes.

I went solo because I had no friends willing to join me. The year before a bear ate all our food on our first night of a planned weeklong trip. The only research available at that time was books and I had one or two at the most. The Robert Beymer book about east side entries is what I studied.

Did I make mistakes? Hell yes, I made a bunch. I was very lucky the wind was mostly a non factor and the weather was great. I don't think it rained at all for me.
My point is just go and do. Take a notebook and note what you can improve. Wear your pfd at all times and trust your gut. That's it. Have a great time.

Here's me at 24 on my first solo. The 1979 CJ7 Jeep is what I drove up with my 70LB. tandem aluminum canoe on top (with the hard top on).





 
mfl1776
senior member (78)senior membersenior member
 
12/10/2018 04:01PM  
Thanks, Minnmike and TomT for your perspectives. It looks like I will probably be able to schedule my trip in August which will make it possible for at least one of my two previous trip partners to join me. While this might not be the best time of year to go for fishing and may be a little "warm" (I'm from central NC so as long as it stays below 100 degrees and 90% humidity, I'll be ok), I'd much prefer to not go alone if possible.

Love your TVZ quote btw, TomT. He's a favorite of mine.
 
12/10/2018 06:38PM  
mfl1776: "
Love your TVZ quote btw, TomT. He's a favorite of mine."


Right on! Not too many people know of him. He's the best. I put together a playlist of 33 songs and It's been playing in my kitchen. Have you seen the documentary?

 
mfl1776
senior member (78)senior membersenior member
 
12/11/2018 09:10AM  
TomT: "mfl1776: "
Love your TVZ quote btw, TomT. He's a favorite of mine."



Right on! Not too many people know of him. He's the best. I put together a playlist of 33 songs and It's been playing in my kitchen. Have you seen the documentary?


"


I have not seen the documentary. Will have to check it out. He was an amazing songwriter. He’s under-appreciated, for sure. I’m going to see Steve Earle in concert in Feb. He of course was adisciple of Townes and a good friend of his. Named his son after him. He has a cover album of Townes’ songs but it’s not my favorite tribute to him. His love for the beauty of Colorado and other places comes through in a lot of his songs and can be appreciated by anyone who has a love for any special natural place. Like the BW, for instance! Rock on.
 
12/11/2018 09:19AM  
mfl1776: "TomT: "mfl1776: "
Love your TVZ quote btw, TomT. He's a favorite of mine."


Right on! Not too many people know of him. He's the best. I put together a playlist of 33 songs and It's been playing in my kitchen. Have you seen the documentary?
"

I have not seen the documentary. Will have to check it out. He was an amazing songwriter. He’s under-appreciated, for sure. I’m going to see Steve Earle in concert in Feb. He of course was adisciple of Townes and a good friend of his. Named his son after him. He has a cover album of Townes’ songs but it’s not my favorite tribute to him. His love for the beauty of Colorado and other places comes through in a lot of his songs and can be appreciated by anyone who has a love for any special natural place. Like the BW, for instance! Rock on."


Yeah I love the songs about Colorado etc. Lots of road songs too. Here's a preview of the doc on youtube. It's worth picking up as well as the movie Heartworn highways which briefly shows a teenage Steve Earle and really great Townes footage.

TARGET="_blank">Documentary first scene

Heartworn Highways scene

Rex Bell, the subject of "Rex's Blues" is in this. Also Townes young wife who I believe is the subject of "Brand New Companion".

One of my favorite stories about Townes was when he was out of money at a poker game and first bet and lost his coat but then bet his gold tooth and lost! He was so drunk he gave the winner a pair of pliers and wanted him to pull out his tooth right there. :)







 
mfl1776
senior member (78)senior membersenior member
 
12/11/2018 09:51AM  
Ha! I heard that story. In the rendition I heard, they “went out by the tree” and yanked it out. And there was a joke about redneck dental services in their too.
 
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