BWCA PMA Advice: Gear and Portages Boundary Waters Group Forum: PMA Paradise
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desertcanoe
senior member (92)senior membersenior member
 
04/17/2021 02:14PM  
Hey folks. In 3 weeks until we're headed into the Sundial PMA for our first extended PMA travel. Looking for advice about...

...gear. We travel light. Any gear that you add for a PMA trip, or that you were especially glad you had in a PMA,? So far we're thinking goggles and leather gloves, and then a small folding saw and flagging tape in case we make a complete mess of it. Rope for lining maybe? What else?

...portages. Seems like there's two ways to handle them. 1) If there was a portage previously, find it and use it. 2) Get out the compass, look at the topography, and make a route.
The Sundial route we'll be taking (Stuart-Nibin-Bibin-Sterling-Beartrap) formerly had portages and I have the 1952 Fisher maps that show them. Plus there are great trip reports from Portagekeeper, Eglath, and Bogwalker. So probably try to use the portages there?

Thanks! Happy Ice Out to everyone!

 
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04/17/2021 04:30PM  
I've researched that route, and there's a decent amount of recent info on this site about it. I think the portages are all there, just quetico-esque. Thin trails, not highways.

You'll likely be there just before me - we have a Sundial permit for about a month from now.

The thin trails will be more visible before things start to green up. That's good.
You may be the first one through those portages this season. That could be bad...I would plan on bringing a couple of good, robust saws to clear deadfall. There will surely be deadfall.

I think Sterling has 2 or 3 different semi-established campsites. Sunday, if you stay there, really only has one.
 
MidwestFirecraft
distinguished member(832)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/18/2021 07:14AM  
The portages are fairly well established. Take your time and you will be fine. Biggest mistake I see people make is going from Stuart to Nibin. When you come out to the opening where you see the lake, don't walk through the swamp to the lake. Follow the trail to the left on the high ground and cairns will guide you on dry ground to a decent entry.

As far as gear, in PMA's I would highly recommend the Purcell Travelers Grill.



You can use 3 rocks to build a small cook area on bedrock. When done you can put the rocks back and cover/remove the ash. No need for a large fire and great for cooking and LNT.

I would also highly recommend a Light weight chair
as there is no logs or furniture in PMA's.
 
straighthairedcurly
distinguished member(1450)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/18/2021 10:03AM  
We carried biodegradable flagging tape. While the last person through always removed the tape, having biodegradable was just a precaution in case we missed one.

We never cut or remove anything in PMAs...just find a path around, under or over.

I thought about bringing a small grate, but then we decided that just using a stove was the best option. If you really need a fire, then by all means follow MidwestFirecraft's suggestions. It was really annoying to find old fire areas that people left in the PMA.

If you don't wear glasses or sunglasses when portaging, some lightweight safety glasses are smart. Eye injury is no fun in the wilderness.

We also brought the blown up topographic map of the PMA area to make it easier to plot a route that makes sense topographically and write notes.
 
EddyTurn
distinguished member (211)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/18/2021 08:57PM  
I was planning taking this route later this summer. An outfitter suggested to change the trip direction, i.e. starting from the Beartrap, so to paddle it downstream. It's my understanding that portages in Sundial are well established, therefore they require maintenance from those passing through. Ditto on robust saw (my preference is at least 300mm) and biodegradable bright flagging tape. Trowel, obviously. GPS. Spare head net - this item is easily damaged or lost on unmaintained portages. Retainers for glasses - for the same reason. Also long-sleeve shirts and pants treated with permethrin. Water pre-filter for removing dirt from water taken from small streams and shallow/overgrown lakes. Daypack for roaming around in the woods.
 
desertcanoe
senior member (92)senior membersenior member
 
04/18/2021 09:26PM  
Thanks Firecraft - good trail name.

"Biggest mistake I see people make is going from Stuart to Nibin. When you come out to the opening where you see the lake, don't walk through the swamp to the lake. Follow the trail to the left on the high ground and cairns will guide you on dry ground to a decent entry."

This is really helpful, thanks. I looked closely at the topo map and I think I see where you're talking about. Excellent.
 
04/18/2021 09:32PM  
desertcanoe, when are you heading into Sundial? Staying on Sterling?
 
desertcanoe
senior member (92)senior membersenior member
 
04/18/2021 10:59PM  
sns: "desertcanoe, when are you heading into Sundial? Staying on Sterling?"

We have a Stuart permit for Friday 5/7. I'd reserved zone 4 for that Friday night, planning to stay at Sterling. And then zone 5 for Saturday night, planning to stay at Sunday. But now I'm thinking that getting to Sterling on day 1 is way too much. Slow down and enjoy. So I'm looking at calling the good folks in Cook and moving both back a day. So on Sterling on Saturday the 8th and Sunday Lake on Sunday the 9th.

Read good things about Sterling. Want to take an afternoon and poke up Sterling Creek, maybe some more time to see how close we can get to Sundial Lake.

When are you headed in?
 
desertcanoe
senior member (92)senior membersenior member
 
04/18/2021 11:13PM  
Thanks, I think that's a great idea with the topo. The old Fisher maps show the general direction but don't really show how the portage lays on the land the way the topos do. When I looked at the topo I could see just what MidwestFirecraft said about not walking through the swamp to the lake but staying to the high ground to the left instead.

Goggles, check. We've got some around from when we rice that should do the job.

Hadn't heard of biodegradable flagging tape. Sounds perfect in case we miss one.
 
desertcanoe
senior member (92)senior membersenior member
 
04/18/2021 11:25PM  
EddyTurn: "I was planning taking this route later this summer. An outfitter suggested to change the trip direction, i.e. starting from the Beartrap, so to paddle it downstream. "

After we come off Sterling Creek we'll head north from Sunday Lake so we should get the benefit of the downstream current on the lover half of the Beartrap.
I'd stayed away from going east to west because of some trip reports where folks said the portages are harder to find that direction.

I'd put up this post to inquire about a trip my wife and I are doing starting May 8. But I'm doing another trip with my son, going in on April 28, and we're doing the whole Beartrap. (Two canoe trips in 3 weeks! One of the few advantages of having my business crash in CovidWorld is that I have time on my hands.) My son and i are going in on Wednesday April 28 at EP16 Moose RN. then doing the run east on the big lakes - LLC, Iron, Crooked. Then south from Friday Bay to Beartrap Lake, Then down the Beartrap River to Peterson Bay. I'm not as concerned about that trip because it sounds like there's enough traffic on the Beartrap that the portages shouldn't be TOO overgrown. Plus...if there's rapids, get out and portage. And my really fit 35 year old son can bail out his old man.

"Retainers for glasses - for the same reason. "
Excellent, thanks

"Also long-sleeve shirts and pants treated with permethrin. "
we're going early enough that hopefully it'll only be ticks. Curious...do you treat your clothes yourself? We've never used permethrin and figure it's about time. I understand some people send their clothes away to be treated?

 
EddyTurn
distinguished member (211)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
04/19/2021 06:36AM  
Never tried commercial permethrin - for us it will be financially prohibitive. We spend 3-4 days a week biking in local woods and need lots of treated clothing, especially for the kid (and Insect Shield charges separately for each pair of socks!). The woods are full of ticks, but as long as we wear our self-treated clothing they don't bother us. Not sure about how effective the spray-on chemical is against other pests: in my experience mosquitos still bite through treated nylon if it's not tightly woven.

(Don't expect the tape to disintegrate in a season or two, even if it's biodegradable. I tried it in the backyard and after 18 months it looked as good as new. Still I expect it to disintegrate eventually, which is good if it's left by omission. But if I want to leave a permanent mark - say, at a landing above the falls :) - I can do it. When it fades someone will replace it).
 
04/19/2021 08:33AM  
We enter a week later than you, I think we are in sundial a few days after that.

I've not been to Sterling but I have been to Sunday. The one campsite is obvious, in the NW corner of the lake.

Sunday to Beartrap is probably under 3 hours if you are single-portaging and moving with purpose.
 
04/19/2021 08:47PM  
I did that route last june
 
04/19/2021 08:51PM  
The best campsite on sterling is on the island in the northern part of the lake, lots of walleyes even a few nice perch. Shoot me an email ill link to our videos of the trek
 
gotwins
distinguished member (241)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/03/2021 03:08PM  
EddyTurn: "Never tried commercial permethrin - for us it will be financially prohibitive. We spend 3-4 days a week biking in local woods and need lots of treated clothing, especially for the kid (and Insect Shield charges separately for each pair of socks!). The woods are full of ticks, but as long as we wear our self-treated clothing they don't bother us. Not sure about how effective the spray-on chemical is against other pests: in my experience mosquitos still bite through treated nylon if it's not tightly woven."

I but permethrin 10% concentrate on amazon then dilute it down and spray it myself. Works very well. Way cheaper than the Sawyer stuff. Just make sure you don't get the "SFR" formulation, that one is for horses/cattle, and I think is suspended in oil.
 
EddyTurn
distinguished member (211)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/03/2021 03:28PM  
According to what I've read when investigating this product, concetnrated Permethrin is different from Sawyers product and is not recommended for clothing. It forms weaker bond with the fabric. I'm not an expert, just trying to stay on a safer side.
 
gotwins
distinguished member (241)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/03/2021 07:49PM  
EddyTurn: "According to what I've read when investigating this product, concetnrated Permethrin is different from Sawyers product and is not recommended for clothing. It forms weaker bond with the fabric. I'm not an expert, just trying to stay on a safer side."

Here’s the article I found. I use the 10% stuff shown here and dilute it to 0.5% (1 part permethrin:19 parts water). I don’t soak, rather use a spray bottle and give the clothes a thorough dampening. Works for us. My wife who is a big attractant swears by it.

https://sectionhiker.com/permethrin-soak-method-guide/
 
EddyTurn
distinguished member (211)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/03/2021 08:32PM  
Well, it's my quote against yours :)

https://blogs.cornell.edu/nysipm/2020/03/24/permethrin-treated-clothing-do-it-the-right-way/

I'd rather follow scientist's advice on chemicals and hikers' on hiking than the other way around.
 
gotwins
distinguished member (241)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/03/2021 08:56PM  
Touché! Well, as a PhD in chemistry, i appreciate your link to another scientist! I guess I’ll use up what I have then decide what to do moving forward. Luckily for me, the bugs don’t bother me as much as they do my wife and kids, so maybe I’ll go with Sawyer’s for them and skip it for me! I do assume that my homebrew formulation will not last as many washes as Sawyer’s.
 
EddyTurn
distinguished member (211)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/04/2021 01:13PM  
I found experts' blogs, like SectionHiker (I follow a different one: CleverHiker) very useful for getting new ideas and keeping with maddening tempo of equipment technological changes. I feel comfortable when they confirm choices I've already maid and interested when they suggest something very different. Said that, I take their advice with a few grains of salt. Usually their whole expert community consists of very few people and accordingly their suggestions are mostly based on quite limited (timewise) testing, unless they are talking about something they really use in everyday life. The permethrin advice you quoted, by the way, comfortably falls into the latter category and the only part I'm not convinced of is the long term effect of the suggested technique (i.e. if the chemical might slowly "leak" from the fabric and, may be, soak into the skin). This would be difficult to evaluate for an individual hiker in the field.
 
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