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05/25/2023 11:46AM  
I originally posted this message in the Trip Planning forum before realizing that the solo forum exists.

My original plan for this year was a two-person, two-week trip starting in mid-September. For trip partner scheduling reasons, that trip has moved to start in early June. I'm considering a solo trip in late September or even early October in addition to the June trip. The trip can't start earlier than that, and can't last longer than one week, due to my own schedule.

Here are a few things that have occured to me so far:
1. I own all of the equipment I think I need.
2. I would have to use my Nova Craft Prospector 16 tandem as a solo, since at that time of year I don't want to count on an outfitter being open to rent a canoe from. Perhaps this is a fatal flaw if a dedicated solo is what I should really be using.
3. There must be a slew of things a soloist needs to take into consideration that I don't know about. I have no prior solo tripping experience. I do have prior solo paddling experience but only on local lakes and rivers.
4. I have a 10 hour one-way drive time, so I need guaranteed availability or reservable accommodations relatively nearby the night before my entry date. I don't want to sleep in my car unless there's no alternative. In the past I've stayed at an outfitter the night before entry date.

With all that said, any advice, positive or negative, is welcome.
 
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05/25/2023 12:42PM  
Glad you found the solo forum. Most of everything you will consider has been addressed here. A little scrolling or using the search feature has been helpful to me.
I am a fan of try it before you buy it. Take your Prospector out for some solo paddling. Put together the packs you will use and play around until you find a good trim. If that works for you and wind isn't more than you can handle the gear questions are answered. And if the Prospector doesn't work out, I suspect you can find an outfitter still open or would help you out.
Many soloists are moving to the kayak paddle noting its advantage in wind.
How you use time changes from group to solo tripping. More time setting up camp, meal prep and camp breakdown. Less time interacting with others and what you do with that time is a common topic. It is the freedom to use time as I want that makes solo trips my go to. I can be that curious little boy who would wander off along a creek near the house only concerned about getting home before dark.
 
05/25/2023 02:27PM  
The 16 foot prospector tandem shouldn't be a problem. I used a 17 foot grumman aluminum tandem for my first solo and paddled from the bow seat.

You just need to remember that you will do all the chores so it takes more time setting up and taking down camp. For this reason I like to have dedicated travel days where even fishing rods are packed away and then do a couple or three layovers.

What area are you looking at? BW or Quetico? Loop or in and out? With 6 nights maybe consider a short loop with 3 camps. If you don't want to layover and just travel there are several nice loops to consider.

What helped me plan trip routes are the 2 Robert Beymer books. He details many routes in those books.
 
05/25/2023 03:50PM  
I suggest calling your outfitter to see if a solo canoe would be available to rent for your trip. Permits are available until September 30th, so outfitters should be open until at least then to accommodate people that have reserved permits. USFS campgrounds should be open, although after 9-30-23, they may start shutting off the water if it has been a really cold fall with freezing temps.

You probably know that you don't have to reserve a permit after 9-30-23, I assume.

Some restaurants and retail stores may have reduced hours because a lot of their seasonal employees have gone back to college or their home country. I think Sawbill Outfitters cuts their store hours sometime in September. Normally, they are open until around 9 pm. With reduced hours, I think they may close around 6 pm or so. The Forest Ranger stations may have reduced hours too, but I'm not sure.

The last few years since the virus, a lot of hotels/motels require a 2 consecutive night stay. I think they have problems finding workers just like other retailers and outfitters. Not sure where you are headed, but bunkhouses are a way to go. If you are going off the Gunflint, contact Rockwood Outfitters to see if their bunkhouse is open then.

Tom
 
jillpine
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05/25/2023 04:58PM  
Welcome to the folder that changed my life and will change yours as well!
Ok, hyperbole aside :), seriously, soloing is a stone cold groove as Blatz put it. Speaking of, where is Blatz lately?
Hopefully Boonie will chime in soon! He heads in about this same time every year and can speak to the specifics of bunkhouses and outfitters. They will still be renting in September but October 1, things really start moving into get-ready-for ice mode.
I’m in Lutsen and will loan you my trillium if you’re smaller and wet-foot and want to use a solo. As long as you trim the Nova Craft, it will be fine.
The only thing you need to be ready for with a solo that you aren’t ready for yet is how awesome it is. It’s more work and less work. It’s slower going and faster going. What I like best about them is how quiet it is, and just how much more wildlife becomes such an intimate part of the trip. Although in late September - October, that’s changing. It’s even more quiet.
 
Minnesotian
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05/25/2023 10:13PM  

Jillpine sums the solo canoe life up pretty nicely. It is a lot of work, for what feels like less work. And if she is offering you the use of her Northstar Trillium canoe, take that offer without a second thought. But if you do use the Nova Prospector, read up on how to canoe it "backwards" and the way to trim out the canoe, or balance the weight of your gear in it, so it glides better for you. I own a Wenonah Prospector and they are fun as heck to paddle solo.

I would caution about going too late into October. That last full week of September into the first full week into October is really a good cutting off period. I have done solo trips in late October, even did a 4 day trip a week before Thanksgiving, but I wouldn't say it was really enjoyable. More of a challenge and to see what I can find enjoyable about it.

There will still be places open in late September for a crash pad. Williams and Hall Outfitters on Moose Lake, entry point 25, Sawbill Outfitters on Sawbill, entry point 38, are two of my favorites. Of the two, entry point 38 gets ya into that wilderness feeling real quick. Or, just north of Grand Marais, MN, there is the Hungry Hippy Farm & Hostel. Great place if you need a spot to crash if you are just passing through for an early morning entry.

As far as a route, since this is your first solo, look at what you think you can do then scale it back by about 25% at least. Don't be hesitant about being slow and bored on your first solo trip. Soloing is a lot of work. You are doing all the paddling, all the carrying at the portage, all the tarp setup, tent setup, gathering water, gathering wood, processing wood, starting fire, hanging food, cooking food, cleaning dishes. Paddling into the wind, riding the currents, balancing on the rocks with gear. All of it. That means you have to allow more time then you think to do it all. And September into October is a crazy time of year for weather because that is when the shift is starting from summer to fall/winter. Do you have raingear that can be lived in all day, with a warm layer underneath can you can paddle in all day through sleet/snow/rain? Because that is a possibility the later into October you get.

And one thing that is unique to soloing, I think, is that you have to bring a hobby with you. Photography. Reading. Writing. Sketching. Fishing. Knot Tying. Whittling. Ya gotta have something that when you do have down time, and after you are done staring off into the beautiful distance, something that is entertainment. Because a lot of soloist get "stir-crazy" being by themselves if they don't have something to do.

Have a good time. And make sure you report back what conclusions you came to after the trip.

 
05/26/2023 07:51AM  
I'll probably be reiterating the very good points everyone has made above, but soloing in the shoulder season is a great time of the year to get into the backcountry.

I usually run through a checklist of items before any trip since most of my trips are solo. You'll have to plan on everything such as water filtration, cooking, sleeping/tent and food for yourself and the amount of clothing/personal items to be fully self-sufficient for that period of time.

It's cold up there in early spring and fall which can be exhilarating and a sign for caution. Pack accordingly. Let others know your route. Bunkhouses are generally open but you may want to pack an extra sleeping bag that you'll use in the bunkhouse and then just toss in the back of your car before heading.

Think about how you'll insulate your water filter and electronics in case it gets down to freezing. There are good points above about durable rain gear that you can wear all day. Finger-less wool gloves with liners are handy in cold weather. I bought (and use) a pair of glacier gloves for cold weather paddling.

These are just a few suggestions. I've always enjoyed going in at that time of year because of the lack of crowds and high availability of campsites. Just prepare for the solitude and potential cold and you'll be fine. Enjoy!
 
05/27/2023 08:16AM  
I've done ~20 trips, 16 solo, 18 the last 2 weeks of Sept. through 1st week of Oct., including trips out of Ely/Echo Trail, Sawbill Trail, and Gunflint Trail. I don't know much about you, your experience beyond the one trip report, or what you're planning other than a one-week solo late season trip. Consequently it's hard to know what you know, don't know, need to know, or might find useful. If you want a longer version, send me an email and ask questions.

Caveat: I found out a long time ago that not everyone's advice is good for me. And vice versa. Take everything with a grain of salt.

One, although not a fatal flaw, I think you'll be happier with a dedicated solo vs. your canoe for several different reasons. This will be more or less true depending on where you go, how much you plan to travel, and what weather you have at the time. bhouses's advice to try it before is good, but only if it closely approximates your planned distance and the worst conditions you may experience.

Two, I'm sure there will be some outfitters open through the first week of Oct. no matter which area you plan to enter. There's a list of outfitters at the top with links to their website, information on season, hours, and emails and phone numbers. They'll be happy to answer your questions. I contacted some months ago since I'll be in during that time period. I have already checked the weather (averages/records) from 9/18 through 10/6 and sent to some family and friends. If you want a copy just email me.

Three, weather - Around mid-Sept. the averages are pretty nice and easy to deal with, but the weather is highly variable and more so, each week thereafter. The changing weather increases the chance of becoming windbound, especially solo. It can get quite cold during that time, with windchill and precipitation. Plan conservatively like Minnesotian advised. Since it's the first solo, you only have a week, and the weather may be less than ideal, I'd suggest not planning a point-to-point route and just doing an out-and-back or short loop that can be reversed if necessary. The days will be shorter.

Solo - everybody is different, but it's true that you do all the work. Often soloists will try to simplify things. If you do it just like a tandem trip, you'll carry more than your half of that weight. You should be able to figure out what yours will be and make some reductions. There's nobody to help if you get in trouble or injured, but nobody to talk you into something stupid either (except me, myself, and I). DIY brain surgery is extremely difficult; many don't take an ax/hatchet. Many simplify food prep and clean up if you want ideas on that. It's common to eat less - no social aspect. Some don't fish for a variety of reasons.

Solo is a very personal experience and also very different. You can do whatever, whenever, however, without discussion or interruption. If there are things going on in your life you need to think about, it's a good time to do it. If there's something you always wanted to do differently, now's the time. Once you get into a routine and comfort zone, you may find a deeper connection with the experience moment by moment.

Have fun.



 
gravelroad
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05/27/2023 11:23AM  
Even a Yakima snob might like this option. ;-)

Camp the first night at
Trail’s End Campground .

Launch from the landing adjacent to the campground for EP 54. Park your vehicle a short distance away in the well-traveled parking lot.

Explore Seagull and either slack off the whole time at one of its excellent sites or portage into one of the side options.

WATCH THE WIND THE WHOLE TIME.

Eat hearty at Trail Center on the way out.

Enjoy.
 
straighthairedcurly
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05/29/2023 11:59AM  
Welcome to this sub-forum, Kendis. So much great info and experience here. It is what convinced me to start taking solo trips and now it is an annual event. I echo the sentiment to keep it really simple. On my first solo, I did everything like on a group trip...more elaborate meals, more gear. While cooking myself a birthday pizza was fun and delicious, overall the complexity added a lot of stress to my trip. I had to double portage everything, camp time felt like a lot of work, and I got tired of having a lot of gear to keep track of and pack up. Now I keep cooking super simple (just add boiling water) and rarely bother with firewood (unless cold, damp weather). I can just focus on the activities I enjoy the most (photography, reading, exploring, watching nature in action, and journaling).

Have a wonderful trip. Fall is my favorite time of the year and I am sad that my job has prevented me from any fall trips save a quick weekend trip once in awhile. Weather wise, the biggest risk is getting soaked (solid rain or wet snow) so make sure your layers still keep you warm if wet. I remember a rescue a couple years back because the soloist had depended on a puffy jacket for warmth and when it got soaked in an early snowstorm, he started getting hypothermic.
 
05/29/2023 06:10PM  
straighthairedcurly: " I remember a rescue a couple years back because the soloist had depended on a puffy jacket for warmth and when it got soaked in an early snowstorm, he started getting hypothermic."


That's why I bought a new dry bag for my clothes this year. I normally double up two contractor bags inside my packs but they can't be completely trusted. I want to use a down jacket for my sept. solo this year.
 
05/30/2023 07:36PM  
TomT: "
straighthairedcurly: " I remember a rescue a couple years back because the soloist had depended on a puffy jacket for warmth and when it got soaked in an early snowstorm, he started getting hypothermic."



That's why I bought a new dry bag for my clothes this year. I normally double up two contractor bags inside my packs but they can't be completely trusted. I want to use a down jacket for my sept. solo this year."


My favorite dry bag for sleeping bag and clothes. On sale here and they are almost never on sale.
 
05/30/2023 08:15PM  
Banksiana: "
TomT: "
straighthairedcurly: " I remember a rescue a couple years back because the soloist had depended on a puffy jacket for warmth and when it got soaked in an early snowstorm, he started getting hypothermic."




That's why I bought a new dry bag for my clothes this year. I normally double up two contractor bags inside my packs but they can't be completely trusted. I want to use a down jacket for my sept. solo this year."



My favorite dry bag for sleeping bag and clothes. On sale here and they are almost never on sale."


I already put in an order at the Exped site. They have the big XXL on clearance for $14.

Exped drybags
 
05/31/2023 11:09AM  
TomT: "
I already put in an order at the Exped site. They have the big XXL on clearance for $14.


Exped drybags "


Nice.
I use a lot of the Sea to Summit Silnylon roll top dry bags for gear that cannot be compressed. Very light and durable, no waterproof coating to abrade. I need the compression to reduce my load size for both clothing and the down quilt
 
YardstickAngler
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06/03/2023 08:37PM  
1) Just go. People will think you’re crazy and be mystified by it. Ignore that.

2) Really sit down and ponder what it is you want. Many say to take it easy on a solo, and I understand why, but my best and happiest moments were on travel days. I expected this to be my style, so I built my trip around traveling. Knowing this, my next solo will be built with the same priorities…and I’ll be leaving the fishing gear at home to save weight, bulk, and hassle.

3) Single or double portage? My experience with attempts to single portage solo was that it was just too much to handle. To single virtually requires a manic paring down of gear and comfort items. No chair. No axe, probably no saw and no tarp. No fishing. Doable, but you have to plan for that if that’s what you want. I still covered quite a bit of ground even with double portaging, and my route was very portage-heavy.

4) I love to eat but knew I wouldn’t have the time or patience to cook and do dishes. I bought a dehydrator and used recipes from the “backpacking chef” e-books online, and was very happy with this. I used two food king thermoses, and would soak my breakfast overnight, stopping to eat it on a break during the morning. This helped me break camp quickly. I also had my lunch soak overnight, and the food was still warm by the time I got to it in the afternoon, usually right after arriving at camp for that day. Supper I would cook “live,” and prep my thermoses for the following day.

5) Bringing a personal interest into the wilderness is great advice. I did a lot of journaling by the fire at night, wood processing and journaling are very enjoyable for me. Others forgo the fire and I understand why, it takes a lot of time. I also spent a great deal of time researching plant and animal life of the park and took many photos of mystery plants and recordings of new bird songs.

6) I was on the water each day at first light (5 Am) with the goal of reaching camp by noon, and that never quite happened. Solo paddling in the afternoon winds is NOT fun.

Go for it!
 
06/04/2023 11:59AM  
YardstickAngler: "
3) Single or double portage? My experience with attempts to single portage solo was that it was just too much to handle. To single virtually requires a manic paring down of gear and comfort items. No chair. No axe, probably no saw and no tarp. No fishing. Doable, but you have to plan for that if that’s what you want. I still covered quite a bit of ground even with double portaging, and my route was very portage-heavy.


6) I was on the water each day at first light (5 Am) with the goal of reaching camp by noon, and that never quite happened. Solo paddling in the afternoon winds is NOT fun.
"


The only time I would ever single portage is if I was doing the fall Border route challenge or equivalent contest. Walking back through the woods after the first load can be so enjoyable and I would hate to miss out on that. It's a good time to do some photography too. Mushrooms, big trees, flowers etc. It's inconvenient to shoot this stuff while carrying a load. So, slow down and take in the walk back for the next load.

Re: #6. I think if I knew the wind forecast was going to be bad I would pack up in the dark but otherwise it's just nice to watch the sunrise with breakfast and then tear down camp. I go for a 8-9:00 start on the water usually finding camp around 3pm.
 
YardstickAngler
senior member (84)senior membersenior member
  
06/04/2023 12:37PM  
I really ended up enjoying the portage walks as well. I am presently working through many photos of plants and sound recordings of bird songs taken mostly on the portages.

Part of the reason I had to be on the water so early was my travel plans were a bit too ambitious. I have no regrets because I loved the areas I saw, but I don’t plan to stretch that far on the next one. It’s a huge challenge to have a ballpark idea of what distance you can reasonably cover when you’ve never done it before. Once I crunch some numbers there I can post them here for a data point.

It all ended up crunching my sleep time down, which was a drag. That said, I was fully enjoying every waking moment.
 
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