Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

UL overnight solo
by tg

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/28/2009
Entry Point: Little Isabella River (EP 75)
Exit Point: Snake River (EP 84)  
Number of Days: 2
Group Size: 1
Part 2 of 3
Monday, June 29, 2009

Woke up to more rain. Slept like the dead in my hammock. I highly recommend the Blackbird, double-layer-bottom (mine is 1.1 material), paired with a wide closed cell foam pad (got one that's 60"x40" and 1/4" thick from Gossamer Gear). Only downside to closed cell foam is that it doesn't pack down very small-so I just lashed it to the outside of my pack. It still fit under the pack cover and stayed nice and dry. I was plenty warm with the CCF beneath me and unzipped my sleeping bag and used it like a quilt.

Had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and Chai tea while I packed up. Tarp was the last thing down so even the hammock went away dry (except for the straps). Was on the water by 9am. Not surprisingly I can break camp a lot faster by myself and without crap everywhere!

I paddled down the Isabella toward the Snake River-what a beautiful stretch of water (and land)! Reminded me of Endor-land of the Ewoks. Fished beneath the "falls"/rapids after the 178 rod portage with no luck. I tucked away the fishing rod at this point since the Snake River was within site and I didn't anticipate any more fishable water. The Snake River Valley is wide in its lower stretches with emergent vegetation and bog hundreds of yards wide. The aptly named Snake River channel is only 20-30 ft wide in most places. There is little discernable current. This changes as you approach the first portage.

Mind you I have never been on the Snake River but I had a heck of a time finding the active portages. I was at least the second party of the day to take out at a muddy landing river right. My Voyageur Map showed the portage at this very location. After more than an hour bushwacking, following extinct portages and well worn game trails, trying to retrace my footsteps and starting to get a little nervous I made my way back to the muddy landing. Clearly this was not the right portage. I had decided if I couldn't find the proper portage I would wade my way through the rapids and follow the stream south. Just when I thought I would be getting wet the portage appeared at river left-practically in the rapids.

The river in these stretches is much narrower with overhanging brush that nearly touches midstream. The channel becomes so narrow that I was beginning to doubt its navigability. The gradient here is greater but still very manageable even paddling upstream. I was reassured when I came across another well worn short portage river left-again opposite the Voyageur Map's suggestion. The third and final portage starts river right (again mismarked on Voyageur #7). The trail climbs uphill before turning sharply to the left/South. (If you look right/North at the turn in the trail you can make out an old trail which appears to be an old road or railroad bed. In retrospect I am 99% sure that this connects up the Snake River a couple miles downstream at "that" muddy landing. I think I walked most of that trail when I was lost.) After crossing a nice new looking bridge over the river, the last 200+ rods of the portage back to the Snake River Trailhead climb gradually along the same old road bed.

Back at the trailhead I met a family from Indiana who had tried the same false portage. They were also navigating off of a Voyageur Map. They were "rescued" by a father son team who had come in through the Snake and knew where the portage was hidden. After swapping stories and peeling off my now adherent rain gear I ran the two miles by road back to my car at the Little Isabella River Trailhead.

Overall it was a nice little trip! The rain and portage woes just enhance the story!