Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Finally, a full week in the BWCA! LIS through Slim/Beartrack/Finger/Oyster/Lynx.
by caribouluvr

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/02/2014
Entry & Exit Point: Little Indian Sioux River (north) (EP 14)
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
This would be our first time out in the wilderness for a full week. My wife and I usually go on an adventure together around our anniversary every year, and have done or attempted other shorter BWCA trips in recent years.
I specifically chose this route because of the chance for solitude through the smaller lakes south of Lac La Croix, as well as to see a pristine area that hasn't had recent big burns or blow-downs. I also liked that we could avoid larger lakes and therefore any wind problems.
I was really praying for decent weather this trip, after our failed late-July trip in 2013 due to a record-setting cold snap that caused it to nearly snow! We left after one night that trip.
I was pinching myself while driving up to Ely Friday night, hardly believing that it was time for this long trip. The weather forecast for the next week was near-perfect: 75-80 degree highs with hardly any rain and light winds.
We had originally planned to stay at Lake Jeanette campground way up the Echo Trail by our entry point, but when we stopped in at Voyageur North to get our permit, Lynn had a last-minute bunk in the loft open for the night. After stopping at Rockwood for dinner, we got back to the bunk around 10pm and met some nice BWCA first-timers that had lots of questions for us.
We drove up the Echo Trail at sunrise and made it to the put-in around 7am.

At the Put In. It started out beautifully, and was a sign of lots more to come.

Marie enjoying the awesome cascades up the Little Indian Sioux during the first 60 rod portage.

Paddling the river. It gets pretty weedy by the start of August, even during a wet year.

Devil's Cascade just north of the Pauness lakes. We had a very early lunch here of fresh sandwiches.

At the end of the Little Loon to Slim portage, which was one of the toughest of the trip, especially since we had fully loaded packs on day 1. Marie was sporting her headnet that became standard wear for her. The portages were very buggy for August.

We chose the north site on Slim somewhat reluctantly due to the large rock face you had to carry the packs up. Me going back down the hill for another bag.

This campsite was clean and had a nice seating area. I think for the most part, only serious campers make it into this area.

The rewarding view at our Slim Lake campsite after an 8-hour travel day - over 14 miles!

One of our favorite things. Sitting down on the rocks by the shore at sunset to drink wine (and escape bugs!)

I was wishing I could see to the west better, but it was still amazing tonight.

Day 1 Travel

We both agreed that we would leave early on Day 2 to make it deeper into the area. Slim lake was a very pleasant surprise and we were glad we stayed. I was very excited to see some of the small lakes farther to the east that appeared to have nice structure on the shorelines based on the map contours.

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Pushing off from the Slim Lake campsite.

Some storm carnage on the Slim to Section 3 Pond portage. So far, the storm damage from the July 22 storm was not too bad, and thankfully, portage crews had come through and done a great job clearing the way.

Nice portage work approaching the South Lake landing.

South Lake campsite lunch spot. We would have considered staying here if it hadn't been so close to our starting point for the day.

At the Steep Lake portage landing. That was a brutal portage, almost all uphill going our way. I loved Steep Lake and its rocky cliffs, but the campsites were nothing special - we couldn't even find the southwest site when we paddled over.

We were surprised to see the north site on Eugene Lake occupied, so we pushed on to Little Beartrack. Pretty little lake, but the campsite was unusable and pathetic, with a downed jack pine directly fallen onto the only tent pad.

We chose the Eastern campsite on Beartrack Lake to have a sunset view tonight. We had this lake all to ourselves.

Our view for dinner on our anniversary. We had spaghetti with fresh grated parmesan. Regretfully, we didn't take a picture of ourselves together at this campsite like we usually do.

We had a great afternoon and evening relaxing and swimming in the super clear Beartrack water. I suggested we stay 2 nights here, but Marie was eager to keep moving and to camp on a lake with more islands or rocky cliffs.
Day 2 Travel

I woke up at first light to enjoy the quiet, misty lake. There is nothing better than having a wilderness lake all to yourself. The loons were calling, and eventually all the loons in the area seemed to meet up and took a swim around the lake. Marie said it was the area loon council meeting. After a while, they all took off one-by-one to different area lakes.

My only disappointment with this area was the audible float-plane noise coming from the north at Lac La Croix. It seems that the plane traffic is heaviest around 7-9am. There was little wind and otherwise absolute silence, so it was relatively easy to hear the planes when they took off.

The tent pad at Beartrack. The evening was so perfect, we slept without the rain fly for the first time up here in a long time.

The meeting of the loons - 5 adults.

Pushing off on day 3 from the Beartrack campsite.

We really weren't sure where we would stop today. We were going to take a good look at Finger Lake and see if we liked any of the sites. It was an easy trip over there on another beautiful morning.
Finger Lake was very impressive. We paddled around the larger island to see the two campsites. We didn't see the one on the north side, and saw another canoe as we came around the end, who were camping on the nice pine stand site to the south. We paddled up to the northwest island site and originally didn't know if we liked it well enough. We decided to have lunch and see from there.

The impressive view from the Finger campsite. Our love for this spot quickly grew.

We swam a bit and stared at the clouds that looked like shapes. A "flying moose!"

We did a whole lot of nothing but relaxing at a beautiful spot on a perfect day. Exactly what should be done.

A 5-star view from the tent pad back up on the hill. Based on the weather radio, it would be another cloud-less night and the rain fly would stay off again.

The rock ledge where we spent the day.

Sitting down to dinner. We remembered our picture together this time.

Pizzas over the campfire. Our favorite meal of the trip.

The campsite didn't really have any trees, but large rocks served as useful surfaces.

The beautiful cliffs are lit up by the setting sun.

Day 3 Travel

We decided to move yet again for Day 4. The Finger campsite was great, but not the most practical and we had done the nice long afternoon the day before. So, it was off to see Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake, which many people had told us was incredible. Our expectations were high for this lake, and we thought for sure we would find a site to spend 2 nights on there. I was still nervous about seeing the storm damage in that area.
We woke up early to see the sunrise since we were facing to the northeast with a clear view across the lake. We drank coffee and soaked in our last moments on this awesome lake.

The view of the Finger Lake campsite from the water as we pulled away.

Nice cascades between Finger Lake and Finger Creek.

Once we reached Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake, Marie was pretty disappointed and started to lose enthusiasm about the trip. It was indeed a nice lake, but nothing stood out about it like she had hoped. And, the campsites weren't particularly special. We stopped for lunch on the eastern-most site, and it had probably the worst storm damage on the route. Many large white pine were uprooted or snapped at the trunk.

Climbed up the hill next to the site to see basically a small pine stand that was peeled back off the rock face.

Since we didn't find any campsites that we wanted to stay at for 2 nights on Gebe, we continued south through Green and Rocky lakes. Green had one nice campsite but it was occupied. Marie really wanted to see the campsite on Rocky because the elevation at the shoreline must be dramatic according to the maps. It was indeed a gorgeous lake, but the lone campsite was tucked away out of view of the cliffs and was not a nice spot. We moved on to Oyster, hoping that one of the first two campsites would be open in the northern bay.

Fortunately, the site near the end of the long peninsula on Oyster was open, and it was fantastic.

Oyster campsite. Great seating area and mix of trees.

And yet another perfect sunset from our Oyster site.

Day 4 Travel

We spent our first layover day sleeping in a bit for once, hammocking, and swimming. The weather remained perfect, although some thunder and lightning passed just around us as we went to bed last night. The steady sprinkle we got for about a half hour was essentially the only rain on the whole week trip.

Since Marie doesn't really love fishing, I decided to skip trying on Oyster because I knew that catching lake trout was a huge longshot with the water temps so high. I also had read that Oyster did not have much of a walleye population.

Marie made some awesome backpacker brownies for dessert as we prepared for yet another perfect sunset.

The next morning, our last moments on Oyster.

The view of our Oyster campsite as we paddle off.

Our plan was Lynx Lake for 2 more nights before we exit. This would be a day earlier than the maximum we could stay. Marie wanted to get home with a night alone together before we picked up the kids from grandma's, so I agreed.

We made our way across the two long portages between Oyster-Hustler and Ruby-Lynx with no problems. My only regret was that we would be seeing quite a few more people due to being so much closer to the entry point. I was used to the solitude we had during the trip so far.

We got a great 5-star campsite on the Southeast side of Lynx. I think this was the nicest overall campsite I have ever stayed at.

Unpacking at our Lynx site.

After relaxing through lunch, we tried fishing finally. Didn't catch anything, but it was satisfying to at least try!

The view of our Lynx site from the lake.

It was almost ridiculous how perfect the sunset was again.

Day 6 Travel

Another perfect morning. I hiked up the hill behind the site to take some pictures while Marie sleeps in a little longer.

A loon during takeoff.

I do some fishing from shore. I get a couple of nibbles but nothing else. A huge snapper creeps along and pops out to check me out.

We spent another perfect day relaxing and reading.

As this day comes to a close, a beautiful near-full moon rises over the back bay.

It's finally time to head for the exit. It's another ideal morning.

The beaver pond is still here between Shell and Pauness Lakes.

We exited through Lower Pauness, and the water levels and weed growth were astounding.

For the first time ever, I'm actually "ready" to exit the BWCA. Normally, I only spend 2-3 nights and I'm always leaving kicking and screaming that it's not enough. Having a full 7 nights was glorious.