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01/05/2020 09:58AM
I have read and watched a bunch on this route. I only have Sunday to Friday to do it and I would love to head north to Little Loon and cut over across Slim to Fat.
I have read a little on this non marked portage and would like to try it as it would cut off the miles to the north to go up and around through Steep Lake.

Is it worth it? Anyone try it in 2019?

After crossing those lakes, Eugene, Thumb, Beartracks and Finger I'd like to head south towards Gebe and Oyster and back west thru Hustler, Ruby, Lynx and Shell completing the loop back to the LIS.

It seems like a lot for 6 days of paddling. Would like a least one layover day but I don't want to race through all of the lakes either.

Any ideas? Previous experiences? There will be 4 of us, 2 experienced and 2 newbs. 2 canoes and I am really trying to single portage this year. At the very most there will be a 1.5 portage involved.

Also is it worth it to just go all the way up to LLC and cut down through North Lake?

Thanks in advance for your advice.
 
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TuscaroraBorealis
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01/05/2020 11:28AM
Have you considered entering at Little Vermilion EP #12 and getting a tow up to Snow Bay on LLC? And, then you could exit out LIS. We covered many of the lakes you mentioned on this trip but, exited out Moose River EP 16.

I feel it's an excellent way to maximize your paddling time on the interior (non motorized) lakes.
campnfish
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01/05/2020 02:33PM
17' canoe i would say dont do the slim to fat unmarked portage. And newbies, skip it for sure, i would go around if i did it again, my 15' 6" solo canoe was tight fit, and its not short. You can still do the loop in 5 days, i did it in 4, keep in mind there are some long portages in this route, so those that haven't portaged before might get turned off by this.

Looking at the map, you would have 3 almost 300 rd portages without the slim to fat "portage", which is close to 280 i bet and not flat or straight.
LindenTree
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01/05/2020 06:45PM
I did that loop (solo) excluding Fat Lake in 2014, it was a 6 day 5 nite run with a lay over day on Finger Lake. It was a fairly relaxed trip, you should be fine. Just be aware that if you hit strong winds on Loon Lake you may get wind bound.

I had a slow 12.5 foot canoe and a 85 pound dog with me, I still only paddled and portaged on average, 6 hours a day.
01/05/2020 07:11PM
TuscaroraBorealis: "Have you considered entering at Little Vermilion EP #12 and getting a tow up to Snow Bay on LLC? And, then you could exit out LIS. We covered many of the lakes you mentioned on this trip but, exited out Moose River EP 16.


I feel it's an excellent way to maximize your paddling time on the interior (non motorized) lakes. "


Thought about it yes. Might skew the budget for a few guys.
One of my other plans was a tow to Bottle portage and go across Iron and Crooked and exit Mudro.

Is Vermillion where Anderson's is?
01/05/2020 07:14PM
campnfish: "17' canoe i would say dont do the slim to fat unmarked portage. And newbies, skip it for sure, i would go around if i did it again, my 15' 6" solo canoe was tight fit, and its not short. You can still do the loop in 5 days, i did it in 4, keep in mind there are some long portages in this route, so those that haven't portaged before might get turned off by this.

Looking at the map, you would have 3 almost 300 rd portages without the slim to fat "portage", which is close to 280 i bet and not flat or straight."


Yeah my son asked me how many long ones there would be this year. I said, "Well....". LOL

How was Fat Lake? I read it's pretty nice.
01/05/2020 07:15PM
LindenTree: "I did that loop (solo) excluding Fat Lake in 2014, it was a 6 day 5 nite run with a lay over day on Finger Lake. It was a fairly relaxed trip, you should be fine. Just be aware that if you hit strong winds on Loon Lake you may get wind bound.

I had a slow 12.5 foot canoe and a 85 pound dog with me, I still only paddled and portaged on average, 6 hours a day."


That is reassuring. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Just like with LLC in 2019 we had to watch the wind for sure. Couple times we had to call it quits while fishing. Not really because of the waves but we couldn't keep the canoe going in the right direction.
marsonite
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01/05/2020 07:30PM
I think that loop is highly doable in your time frame. In about 2014, my wife and I did that exact route. LIS to Slim the first night. Went up to North/South, through Steep, Beartrack, Finger and camped on Pocket the second night. (we wanted to camp on Finger but the site we wanted was taken). Last day we should have camped on Hustler but it was pouring rain and we decided to just paddle out. We were doing the portages 1 1/2 times, though by the end we were single portageing. First to admit that this was a too fast of a pace, but we did it in 2 nights and you are proposing 5. So you're going to be OK.

I wouldn't go Slim to Fat in that direction. The hill out of Slim is long and steep and there are a few places where I think you would need to set the canoe down and scramble a bit. Lots of stepovers on the Fat end. That's a lot to handle in a portage that is 280 rods. Yeah, it'd save you time (don't count on a campsite on Fat) but I don't think you need to save that much time. I did carry a 17' canoe over it just last summer (going the other way), so it can be done, but I wouldn't take a newbie over it unless they were really enthusiastic backcountry trippers.
01/05/2020 08:07PM
Did it in 2018. ep14 to Slim for first night, next day to Finger (long route, no Fat shortcut), layover next day on Finger, next day to Hustler, another layover day on Hustler, last day paddled out to ep. The Finger to Hustler day felt a little long, but not bad. Beautiful route and 6 days as you see is plenty of time.
01/05/2020 08:52PM
marsonite: "I think that loop is highly doable in your time frame. In about 2014, my wife and I did that exact route. LIS to Slim the first night. Went up to North/South, through Steep, Beartrack, Finger and camped on Pocket the second night. (we wanted to camp on Finger but the site we wanted was taken). Last day we should have camped on Hustler but it was pouring rain and we decided to just paddle out. We were doing the portages 1 1/2 times, though by the end we were single portageing. First to admit that this was a too fast of a pace, but we did it in 2 nights and you are proposing 5. So you're going to be OK.


I wouldn't go Slim to Fat in that direction. The hill out of Slim is long and steep and there are a few places where I think you would need to set the canoe down and scramble a bit. Lots of stepovers on the Fat end. That's a lot to handle in a portage that is 280 rods. Yeah, it'd save you time (don't count on a campsite on Fat) but I don't think you need to save that much time. I did carry a 17' canoe over it just last summer (going the other way), so it can be done, but I wouldn't take a newbie over it unless they were really enthusiastic backcountry trippers. "


Great! Thanks so much
01/05/2020 08:52PM
cowdoc: "Did it in 2018. ep14 to Slim for first night, next day to Finger (long route, no Fat shortcut), layover next day on Finger, next day to Hustler, another layover day on Hustler, last day paddled out to ep. The Finger to Hustler day felt a little long, but not bad. Beautiful route and 6 days as you see is plenty of time."

Sounds great Cowdoc, thank you!
campnfish
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01/05/2020 10:08PM
Bushman: "campnfish: "17' canoe i would say dont do the slim to fat unmarked portage. And newbies, skip it for sure, i would go around if i did it again, my 15' 6" solo canoe was tight fit, and its not short. You can still do the loop in 5 days, i did it in 4, keep in mind there are some long portages in this route, so those that haven't portaged before might get turned off by this.


Looking at the map, you would have 3 almost 300 rd portages without the slim to fat "portage", which is close to 280 i bet and not flat or straight."



Yeah my son asked me how many long ones there would be this year. I said, "Well....". LOL


How was Fat Lake? I read it's pretty nice."


Fat lake is crazy clear, like a swimming pool, small lake, i didnt spend much time there, ive read it is a good laker lake?
cyclones30
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01/06/2020 08:37AM
If you want a smaller lake trip, go with your intended route. If you want a little bigger water in general, do the Bottle Portage to Mudro. Both would be great but I'd almost favor #2. Multiple great water falls, good fishing, etc.

On your question about going up to LLC and down Snow Bay into North, no I would not unless it's a very calm day. We went from the entry lot to Snow Bay in a day a few ears ago and that was a long first day even though we got there mid afternoon we pushed hard. Lots of powerboat traffic on Loon and LLC. Beatty portage is cool but no reason to detour a route. If you're set on the first route go thru Slim.
Jaywalker
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01/06/2020 10:03AM
Bushman, I did the exact loop you are asking about in 2018. For me it was 6 days of padding (with a short first day due to long drive time and storms), and 3 layover days - 1 planned to fish and two more storm days. I did love that route, but it is a fair amount of portaging - 2,357 rods or 7.4 miles - and I was double portaging it all so 22.2 miles of walking. I'd say its your call as to whether this is a good route for 2 newbs; depends on your judgement of them and whether you want to break them into paddling gently or test their grit. Length isn't always a good measure of difficulty on this route. The long Oster-Hustler 302 was pretty easy I thought; mostly flat, wide, good footing. The Shell-Pauness 222 was awful in my opinion.

I was really glad I did the secret portage to Fat, but would not want to do it every day. I was solo and had a 16'4" SRQ. There is some maneuvering to be done, so every extra foot of boat will require just a little more patience but I's say its still plenty doable with a 17. It is a good climb up from Slim with some longer than normal steps up. Because of the storms there was some new blow down, but most of it I was able to clear off pretty easily. I've seen it described as 260 or 280, and I think it was all of that. It's an adventure.

Fat was a nice like, but it only has one campsite (which I liked). As a decent lake trout lake on the west side, I get the feeling its popular for people to stay there. Just after I set camp, another group showed up and were hoping to stay for 5 days. I felt lucy to stay there.

My suggestion to shorten it - if needed - would be to leave a car at Moose River North and head that way out of Oyster.

VaderStrom
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01/06/2020 10:45AM
I am also among those who did a very similar loop to this back in 2017. We started mid-morning and got to the end of Little Loon. There is a great site with a huge beach right there. It was my second trip to that site. If you're able to get to Slim to start day 2, I'd recommend it.

The Slim-Fat portage was long, but if you follow the most distinguishable path you should be fine. Just make sure you actually find the path. It starts quite near the little stream and veers a bit south of it once you're up the hill. We brought a bigger saw in case we needed to clear downfall and didn't end up needing it. We also went in the fall so there were leaves down everywhere making the portage more difficult to follow than the first time I took in back in 2012.

The guys I was with were first timers and got pretty tuckered out by pushing too hard, thus we were ahead of schedule and ended up leaving a night early. I would say it's a bit ambitious for first time paddlers, but if you monitor your energy level better than we did you should be in good shape.

I did fall out of my boat for the first time ever on this trip as I underestimated a beaver dam on the Oyster River (creek) right before it met the Nina Moose. It's a great trip if you take your time and don't make life harder than it needs to be. We were only in the BWCA for 3 nights, but made it a goal to go as fast as possible...which I hate now looking back.

Good luck planning.
01/06/2020 10:45AM
Jaywalker: "Bushman, I did the exact loop you are asking about in 2018. For me it was 6 days of padding (with a short first day due to long drive time and storms), and 3 layover days - 1 planned to fish and two more storm days. I did love that route, but it is a fair amount of portaging - 2,357 rods or 7.4 miles - and I was double portaging it all so 22.2 miles of walking. I'd say its your call as to whether this is a good route for 2 newbs; depends on your judgement of them and whether you want to break them into paddling gently or test their grit. Length isn't always a good measure of difficulty on this route. The long Oster-Hustler 302 was pretty easy I thought; mostly flat, wide, good footing. The Shell-Pauness 222 was awful in my opinion.


I was really glad I did the secret portage to Fat, but would not want to do it every day. I was solo and had a 16'4" SRQ. There is some maneuvering to be done, so every extra foot of boat will require just a little more patience but I's say its still plenty doable with a 17. It is a good climb up from Slim with some longer than normal steps up. Because of the storms there was some new blow down, but most of it I was able to clear off pretty easily. I've seen it described as 260 or 280, and I think it was all of that. It's an adventure.


Fat was a nice like, but it only has one campsite (which I liked). As a decent lake trout lake on the west side, I get the feeling its popular for people to stay there. Just after I set camp, another group showed up and were hoping to stay for 5 days. I felt lucy to stay there.

My suggestion to shorten it - if needed - would be to leave a car at Moose River North and head that way out of Oyster.

Thanks Jaywalker.
I went up through Moose River in 2019 and dont care to ever take that route again. I did not like the Moose River. Too tight and twisty.
We really don't mind the portages as it's all part of the adventure.

I'll leave it up to the group but with 2 newbies they won't really know one way or the other.



"
GopherAdventure
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01/06/2020 11:17AM
I did this exact loop a few years back. I loved it. You should have plenty of time to do this loop, I did it in four days without pushing too hard. I didn’t think the portage from Slim to Fat was all that bad, only a few spots where the trail turns tightly and you have to do a little canoe dancing to maneuver through. It saves a ton of time and distance and the reward on the Fat end is awesome. The hardest part for me was finding the portage. I almost paddled right past it. There were downed trees that made the landing tough to handle, and after the landing it’s straight up a steep, short hill. It’s pretty easy to stay on the trail as you go. I made it from the EP at LIS to the campsite on Fat lake by noon, but I was on the water by 6:30. There’s a YouTube video out there of my trip and a Trip Report on this site as well if you’d like to learn more. That area is one of my favorites in all of the BWCA and I’m excited to get back there again.

Tony
bombinbrian
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01/06/2020 11:25AM
I did this loop with 3 kids under the age of 12. We were SLOW and it took us 6 days... Dad had to double portage everything... I was in great shape when we were done. I did not take the short cut
01/06/2020 11:54AM
GopherAdventure: "I did this exact loop a few years back. I loved it. You should have plenty of time to do this loop, I did it in four days without pushing too hard. I didn’t think the portage from Slim to Fat was all that bad, only a few spots where the trail turns tightly and you have to do a little canoe dancing to maneuver through. It saves a ton of time and distance and the reward on the Fat end is awesome. The hardest part for me was finding the portage. I almost paddled right past it. There were downed trees that made the landing tough to handle, and after the landing it’s straight up a steep, short hill. It’s pretty easy to stay on the trail as you go. I made it from the EP at LIS to the campsite on Fat lake by noon, but I was on the water by 6:30. There’s a YouTube video out there of my trip and a Trip Report on this site as well if you’d like to learn more. That area is one of my favorites in all of the BWCA and I’m excited to get back there again.


Tony"



Thanks Tony,
I've watched your video with you and your dad and son. That was pretty cool.
I remember watching the video where you fixed your yoke but I'll hav to watch it again and pay closer attention to your route etc.
TuscaroraBorealis
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01/06/2020 01:00PM
Bushman: "Is Vermillion where Anderson's is? "

They are not on Little Vermilion. They are just a little south of Crane Lake just off the highway. Cant miss 'em.
Stimpy
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01/06/2020 07:40PM
I did the Slim to Fat portage last June with my 13yo son. We had a 17’ canoe. I actually didn’t think it was too bad, just long. I would definitely choose it over the goat climb from North to Steep. One note, at the beginning of the portage, stay to the right when the path splits. To the left is a false trail that peters out.
01/06/2020 11:01PM
Bushman, Go for it and make some memories.

I have done the Slim to Fat portage several times. Most portages fade from memory but I remember this one pretty good. It definitely has some short steep climbs and a few tight turns plus a few big stepover trees but that's why I remember it.
The landing is just across the lake from the Slim Lake south campsite and Fat Lake is nice and it is full of small lake trout.

If you are thinking maybe you will cut the trip shorter by pulling out at Nina Moose #16 stash a bike in the woods at Moose River north or try to snag a ride from someone to the LIS entry. It's about 5 miles up the road.

01/08/2020 07:06AM
I have a tentative route set up but need a few more suggestions.

Entry day is on a Sunday. We will be staying at VNO Saturday night after a 14 hour drive from Michigan.

Day 1. LIS to Fat taking unmarked portage. If Fat is occupied we will move on to Eugene.

Day 2. Layover Day on Fat or at least fishing Fat for a laker dinner. Local exploring and resting.

Day 3. Fat to Pocket. My original plan had us on Finger instead of Pocket but research shows some better fishing on Pocket.

Day 4. Pocket to Oyster

Day 5. Oyster to Shell

Day 6. Layover Day on Shell. Hoping this is a good fishing lake or at least something nearby is.

Day 7. Shell to LIS

Day 8. Head home for Michigan

Any other suggestions on this route? I don't want to rush, I want to fish some and I want our layover days to have some decent fishing and/or exploring.

Really hoping to single portage most of the time. Probably 1.5 the longer ones.

Planning on 2 fish dinners preferrable on our layover days.

My last 2 trips were Crooked Loop from Mudro and down thru Friday Bay. (Loved Crooked and all the granite cliffs) and Moose River up to LLC between Boulder Bay and Tiger bay with fishing up into Never Fail Bay. Lots of good fishing and scenery but a bit windy.

Not really looking to exit Moose River.
I think this route should have a bit of everything in it without the huge expanses of open water. Hoping it's not too crowded. (end of July)

Last thoughts?
Good lures for Lakers on Fat or Oyster?
01/08/2020 10:09AM
Bushman, your plan is sound. I may suggest you stop on Slim first night and tackle the Fat portage when you are fresh then spend the day fishing Fat and maybe spend the night there if the site is open. Your odds of getting the site on Fat are better if you get there in the morning vs dragging yourself in the late afternoon.

Another suggestion is to camp on Lynx the last night instead of Shell Lake. Lynx has always been better fishing for me and less crowded.

Good luck

UPBoy
TuscaroraBorealis
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01/08/2020 10:18AM
Bushman: "Last thoughts?
Good lures for Lakers on Fat or Oyster?
"


A deep diving rapala of some sort in a purplish color pattern and, some silver trolling spoons have worked for me.
cyclones30
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01/08/2020 11:11AM
TuscaroraBorealis: "Bushman: "Last thoughts?
Good lures for Lakers on Fat or Oyster?
"



A deep diving rapala of some sort in a purplish color pattern and, some silver trolling spoons have worked for me."


Troll little cleos in whatever color suits your fancy
LetsGoFishing
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01/08/2020 12:27PM
I've only been through that area once. We traveled from LIS to Oyster and back, camping on Hustler and Little Shell. Hustler and Lynx were my favorite lakes in the area. I'd agree with UPBoy and recommend staying on Lynx over Shell. Good fishing and less crowded. It's still an easy exit from Lynx. We were able to paddle through the gap between Lynx and Little Shell.

We only fished Oyster for a short time for lakers. My partner caught a couple jigging a silver and blue Kastmaster.
bombinbrian
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01/08/2020 12:50PM
UPBoy: "Bushman, your plan is sound. I may suggest you stop on Slim first night and tackle the Fat portage when you are fresh then spend the day fishing Fat and maybe spend the night there if the site is open. Your odds of getting the site on Fat are better if you get there in the morning vs dragging yourself in the late afternoon.


Another suggestion is to camp on Lynx the last night instead of Shell Lake. Lynx has always been better fishing for me and less crowded.


Good luck


UPBoy"


After the portage to Slim, you will want to stay on Slim. ITS A B word for sure. Plus with all of the other portages and paddling, you'll be whooped. If you were going north maybe, but not through the secret portage to Fat.
01/09/2020 03:10PM
Pocket has poor campsites IMO .....113 is best but not great. I think Finger sites are better and I thought fishing was better on Finger also. Just saying. Gebe has great sites also, as does Hustler.....good fishing on both. Just in case your schedule changes, I wouldnt hesitate to layup on either.
GopherAdventure
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01/09/2020 04:44PM
Bushman,

Your itinerary looks good to me, just be flexible. The portage from little Loon to Slim is no joke if I remember it correctly. The fact that you’re entering on a Sunday might work in your favor for finding the Fat Lake site empty. On my trip I didn’t see anyone from Little Loon until I got to Oyster which was about 2 1/2 days later, and that was in the middle of July. It’s tough to gauge though, sometimes areas are busy and sometimes they’re totally vacant. Oh, in regards to the trip video, I don’t think I shot any footage of the Slim-Fat portage because the weather was rainy and my camera lense was foggy.

Tony
dex8425
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01/10/2020 12:17PM
You'll have plenty of time to do that loop. My wife and I did a LIS loop north through LLC in 3 days, 2 nights last September. It was 44 miles. We went clockwise and our third day was paddle out from hustler and drive back to the Twin Cities. The two campsites we saw on Hustler were really, really good.

We stayed the first night on LLC on an island. We burned like 90 minutes trying to find a nonmarked portage on the NE side of Takucmich to bypass a longer paddling section on LLC. We couldn't find the portage and ended up going back northwest through the marked portage.

Night two was on Hustler lake.

I would recommend using the longer upper pauness portage both ways. The shorter one was a mudfest. We did see quite a few people around the EP both ways, even at the end of september. But only one power boat on LLC.

Had gps battery issues during this trip but here's the route:
https://www.strava.com/activities/2759675906
 
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