Little Indian Sioux #14 Sept. 2014
On our way to Lake La Croix, we crossed an awesome beaver dam about 40 feet across that was made with wood but also covered in rocks that the beaver had hauled in. It created a drop in water level of about 3 feet and was neat to see. We fished the channel but nothing was biting. Dad said he saw someone on a jet ski out on the lake but I bet it was a boat. It would have had to be on the Canadian side of the lake since boats aren’t allowed on the U.S. side. I suppose I can say I saw Canada since we were here. I really wanted to catch a “dual citizenship” fish in this lake just to say I did it but couldn’t get it done. On our way back we stopped at the moved campsite on the north of North Lake. I would probably rate it a 3 but the kitchen area was definitely a 5. There was a natural sofa made out of the rock that had a ledge to sit on and a high back to lean against. On top of that was plenty of more area to sit stuff. Someone had also hauled in some logs and flat stones to make a good table right by the fire grate. We took more wood that someone had already collected and fished around the shallows of North Lake.
When we got back to camp, dad started to cook supper while I went fishing. It was a beautiful and calm evening. I actually managed to catch 6 or 7 more small pike about 15 inches long that evening. I caught them mostly on a spinner bait and diving Rapalas. Three of the fish were when I was trolling across the lake. I wanted to check out the south campsite on South Lake so I drifted and fished my way towards it. This campsite was another average one with nothing too special and kind of small. There was extra wood at this site too so I put it in the canoe. It probably seems like all we did was steal wood but we collected and left just as much wood for the next groups as we took. Besides, this late in the season, there probably won’t be too many people using those campsites anyway so there is no need for the wood to just rot away. At this campsite by myself was where I got a taste of what it would be like to be alone in the BWCA. I enjoyed being on the lake by myself. I really hope to take a solo trip sometime because it would be a completely different type of trip. Since I had been out by myself for at least an hour, I decided that I should head back to camp since dad would probably have supper ready. We had thick stew tonight which was pretty good. Bedtime was around 8 again. It lightly rained tonight which was kind of relaxing to listen to. I didn’t mind so much since the tent could dry out during the day. Total portage distance was 123 rods and about 4 miles of travel.
September 15, 2014, Monday- Our breakfast today was two packs of oatmeal each and some rolls. We also had hot chocolate this morning as we did every morning. Our morning routine was to boil a bunch of water to drink for the day. We gave up filtering water after the first day because it isn’t very dirty anyway and boiling it will kill off anything that might be in it. This saved us a bunch of time. I can’t remember which day it was but I told dad that I would just take care of washing dishes. He would just run water over the stuff and call it good. This is fine but at least get all the food particles off of everything.
Today our destination was Fat Lake. I had read on the BWCA forums that the 120 rod portage from South Lake to Steep Lake was mountain goat climb and that was true. I would like to know how much higher Steep Lake is that South Lake because it seemed like the portage was up the whole way. Even though it was steep, I thought that it was much easier than the one from Little Loon Lake to Slim Lake. The portage to Steep didn’t have too many rocks on it so it was just a climb. My legs were on fire though when I finished it.
On Steep Lake we checked out the campsite which was another one I thought we might stay at. It was just average. I thought the lake was pretty neat though. It had some narrow areas to fish through with an island in the center of it. Today the wind was probably blowing the hardest it did all week but was still only about 10-15 mph. We drifted south while I fished and then headed to Eugene Lake. The 45 rod portage to Eugene was an easy one. Since it has some 50 foot deep places in it, I fished deep here but couldn’t get anything. We tried to find the campsite at the narrow part of the lake but didn’t see it until our way back. It isn’t that great of site and I would rate it a 2. This was originally going to be our home for 2 or 3 nights in my early planning. I’m glad we didn’t stay there. Eugene Lake isn’t a very neat lake either since it is basically just two large circle lakes. I prefer narrow winding lakes that have more character. We continued along the eastern shore of Eugene Lake looking for the portage to Little Beartrack Lake but couldn’t find it. I had hoped to cross the short portage just to look at the lake and say that we were there. I’m sure we would have found the portage if we would have taken our time but we really wanted to get to Fat Lake and fish there since the guys on the way in said it was some good fishing. The portage to Fat was an average 60 rod one with few rocks on the trail. As soon as we got to the lake, I knew that the reports of it being a very clear lake were true. BWCA lakes all seem very clear to me anyway but this one was unreal. It looked like it was one big swimming pool. For anyone in that area, it is definitely worth checking out.
For the first time, I decided that I would put my GoPro under water to see what I could capture on film. I had the camera underwater for a short while when a big gust of wind came up so I had to help dad paddle again. I thought that with the clear water it would be easy to see fish with the camera. After looking at the footage, you can’t see very much. I wonder if the lighting had something to do with it. Anyway, we had lunch at the only campsite on Fat Lake which was just another average site. The good thing about it is that there was plenty of deep water around camp that you could fish from shore. Lunch was tuna salad on crackers, chips, trail mix and a fruit pouch.
I fished from shore a few minutes while dad waited around. We then headed across the lake so that we could drift back east. In the calmer shallow water I again took my camera and held it underwater but the footage doesn’t show much. You could actually see through the water better in person than you could with the camera underwater. We let the wind drift us across the lake and I again threw out every lure that I had in my tackle box. As we drifted across the 50 foot deep part of the lake in front of the campsite, I caught a fish. At first I thought it was a small pike but when I got it to the boat I realized it was a 15 inch lake trout. I couldn’t believe it. They are hard to catch being so deep and with the luck I had been having it surprised me. It struck on a #3 orange Mepps Cyclops spoon. That seems to be my best catching lure at the Valentine Refuge. I was pretty excited at catching this trout even though it was a small one because it may be the only one I ever catch. I’m still trying to catch an elusive smallmouth bass. I thought I would catch one of those before a trout. We canoed up wind and drifted across the deep part again but that would be all the fish we would catch except for one the last day of the trip. I caught 11 fish total on this trip. It was around 4 in the afternoon so we decided we better get going since we had an hour trip back to camp.
On the way back through Eugene Lake was when we stopped to look at the campsite at the narrows. On the portage from Eugene to Steep I heard dad fall and he dropped my tackle box. At least it didn’t bust open. He fell or lost his balance a few different times which isn’t good concerning his bad shoulders. A fall could really mess him up. I should mention that this year I made a copy of my official map and highlighted all of the important things on it so dad could follow around. I hardly looked at my map because I have viewed the satellite maps enough to know exactly where I was. It was better that dad had a map but he still struggled to figure out where we were or where the portages were. That is something I just don’t understand because we would just come through a lake or portage and he would forget where we were or if we were headed in the right direction.
The portage from Steep to South Lake was much easier going downhill the whole way but it was still nice to get it over with. Tonight we had salmon and instant mashed potatoes which were very good. I fished a little more tonight but couldn’t catch anything. That night I remember lying in bed thinking how great it was to be in the outdoors. It was mostly silent with an occasional bug chirping that hadn’t been froze off yet. We were completely away from everyone and everything and I kept thinking how anyone who isn’t where I was is caught up in the chaos of the outside world. It’s just not worth it. I didn’t have a care in the world and wished it could stay that way. If only a person could go on a vacation back in time a few hundred years ago when the whole country was wilderness.
This is a random thought but for some reason this whole trip, I kept hearing the Motley Crue song Helter Skelter from their Carnival of Sins Tour in my head. Specifically the part where he swears at the crowd asking if they know they are on tv. I’m glad I saw them in Sturgis while I had the chance since this was their final tour because of Mick Mars’ back problems. That was the second best show I have ever seen behind Guns N’ Roses in Las Vegas. I guess you could say I am a rough character.
Tonight just as well have been my final day in the BWCA because tomorrow we would be heading back to camp near the original entry point and nothing would be new. It would be a travel day so there wouldn’t be time to enjoy anything. I like partial base camping trips but a circle route would at least keep the excitement up because everything would be new and it wouldn’t seem like you were ending your trip to backtrack. I was dreading tomorrow because we would have to head back on the long portages. Total distance for the day was about 6 miles and 450 rods of portaging.
September 16, 2014, Tuesday- We had oatmeal this morning and tried to eat some extra stuff so that we didn’t have to pack it over the long portages. I had a minor panic when I thought I lost my brother’s $80 water purifier. We looked everywhere but it ended up just being under a jacket. Camp was picked up by 9:30 and I said goodbye to South Lake. When we portaged our first load of gear back to Section 8, I hurried back to get the second load and just stood there looking at our lake and home for the past two days. It was a great spot and one that I will probably not see again. After a few pictures, dad came back so we got our last two packs and headed back.
We passed by our campsite on Slim Lake and I thought back to our time there just a few days ago. On the long portage from Slim to Little Loon Lake I was really dreading it but kind of wanted to take it on again just to know that I could do it better the second time. It was definitely easier going over it the second time because my knees didn’t hurt as bad and there is more downhill slope to the back of it when you are heading out. I still took a good break when I got the aluminum canoe over it. I waited for dad and then we headed back. Back at Slim Lake I took one last look at it and grabbed both packs. I carried them maybe 50 rods where I met dad and gave him one of them. On the rocky tough part of the portage I stopped to take a picture of dad. He used both paddles to help balance himself over the rocks. Dad also took a couple pictures of me at the end of the portage where there are tall old cedar trees. They are the size of the big ones we have around home and not the small 10 foot pasture kind. We ate a quick snack and headed down Little Loon Lake.
Loon Lake is the big lake so we wouldn’t have to portage for a couple hours. The wind was slightly to our backs so it helped out some. We didn’t talk much on our way across this lake. At the campsite near the mouth of the river on the north side we stopped to eat lunch. We had summer sausage, crackers and chips. That site had obviously been affected by the blowdown from a few months ago because there were large trees down in camp that had been cut up. While sitting there we saw a motor boat fly across the lake in about a minute. The wind had picked up to maybe 15 mph and there were a couple guys heading into it across Loon Lake. They had quite a paddle into the wind.
From here we headed back up the river and across the beaver dams. I had to get out and push us over one that was harder to go over this direction. We also met an older couple of a guy and an Asian woman. By the time we got to the portage going from the river to Lower Pauness, I was out of water. I only had my 32 oz. bottle to last me until we could refill. It had been about 12 miles from the campsite that morning on South Lake to Devil’s Cascade. The steep part of the long portage wore me out this time. At the campsite on the portage of Devil’s Cascade were some people camped. I thought this seemed odd but would soon find out why. Once in Lower Pauness I saw that the campsite nearest the portage was taken. I wanted this one because we were going to fish at the top of the cascade.
We continued to the next campsite and it was also taken. There were about 4 people there, two of them reading books, so we stopped to ask if they knew if the next campsites were taken. They weren’t sure but when we paddled around the corner we saw that the one was. These people seemed so relaxed and made me wish we would take our time more and just relax when we go to the BWCA. Our plan was now to fish at the top of the Cascade before taking the 40 rod portage into Upper Pauness. I didn’t want to stay at the poor looking site near the 8 rod portage. We fished for about 30 minutes in the deep water near the Cascade but didn’t get anything. I was so thirsty with no water that I just put my water bottle in the lake and drank straight from it. The water is clean enough that it doesn’t really matter. I do regret not drinking straight from Fat Lake since it was so clear.
We fished more and watched and listened to the people at the nearest campsite tell stories and swear. A couple people from that camp were fishing the shallows so we went over there to see if they were catching anything. It looked like they were doing about as good as we were. We took the 40 rod portage to Upper Pauness to find a campsite. I remember dad banging the aluminum canoe around at the start of the portage and getting after him for making so much noise with people around. This portage was very easy and looked like a highway. It was about 6 feet wide and flat. I have read trip reports of people saying not to take it but I am not sure why. You could see that it might get muddy during a rain so maybe that is why. When I was describing this lake to dad as we were heading in, I thought he would remember when I told him it was the lake that had the big marsh on it. He couldn’t remember the lake at all. Again, maybe I just have a better sense of the outdoors and my surroundings than he does.
We took the first campsite north of the portage which was an average one. The landing wasn’t very good but the site was fine. You could tell that this was a popular site and I didn’t like the idea of being back in civilization. On the way in all of these sites were open but now the area was covered in people. This site had been picked clean of wood and there were trails everywhere in the woods from people looking for wood. I had our fire going faster than I had all week and got supper ready while dad got the tent set up. I think we had tuna salad and chips again tonight. We were basically cleaning up leftover food so we wouldn’t have to pack it out.
I took a hand bath before we ate and felt much better. Today was warmer and I was sweating so it felt good to clean up. It was still warm enough that night that I walked around camp with my shirt off. I had my Gopro on around camp because I had plenty of battery and memory left in the camera. Tonight I was actually warm sleeping so the temperature didn’t drop much. I was going to miss sleeping on uneven hard ground, being dirty, not using toilet paper and most importantly, being away from civilization. A trip like this makes a farm boy realize that they weren’t made to work in an office the rest of their life. Sometimes I envy the unemployed. It started to rain lightly early in the morning so we would have to pack our gear away wet again. Total distance today was about 13 miles and 373 rods of portaging.
September 17, 2014, Wednesday- Today was take out day and I was dreading it. We ate oatmeal and whatever else we had left in our pack. The tent went down wet and when we rolled it up there was mud all on the bottom. Once everything was packed up, dad and I took a few pictures of us together like we do every year on the final day. Dad had to take care of business so I went off my way to also take care of business. Nearby me was this large rock that was perfect for sitting on that faced the lake. It was another nice morning so I sat there for a while just taking it all in before we left. I wished I could just sit there all day and stare out over the lake. After one last walk around camp to make sure we didn’t leave anything behind, we headed off. Shortly before we set sail, I remember the wind coming up and blowing the leaves off of a tree. Fall is definitely here.
We checked out the other two campsites on the north end of Upper Pauness and they looked to be just average sites from shore. I think the one we stayed at on that lake was the best one. We drifted south on the lake while I fished. I could tell that dad was in a hurry to get out. He was also paddling while we were drifting even though I told him I wanted to just drift across the lake so I could fish. I took this to be a subtle sign that he wanted to get going. I caught one small pike near our camp and around 11 we decided to officially head out. By leaving now, I hoped that we could make it to Britton’s by 2 and eat there. We wouldn’t make it though.
On the 60 rod portage on the LIS river we got into a traffic jam. There were four groups of people there. One group said they were heading in for just three days and another group was going as far as Loon Lake to go fishing. One group of guys were carrying all their gear in their canoe across the portage. This seemed like more work that just packing the gear over the normal way. We actually portaged faster than they did trying to single portage it. Nothing much happened on the final hour long paddle to the entry point. We wound around the river until I recognized where the take out point was. It was depressing. At the landing were two older guys each in solo canoes. I unloaded our gear away from them at the portage so they could get going. At the end of the portage which was now the parking lot, I talked to a four guys who had also been out fishing for a week around Shell Lake. They said they caught only two fish all week. Maybe my 11 fish weren’t so bad. I headed back for my final load of gear and when I got to the start of the river, I again just stood there and looked at it one last time. It was a good trip and now it was officially over. I really hated to turn away and leave it behind for the rat race of the world. Dad met me halfway on the portage and I let him carry the pack the rest of the way. We packed everything away but must have lost the stick that we used to hold the food pack up. Our food pack has two rings on each side that you can stick something through and then hang it with a rope so that it doesn’t crush the food in the pack. Dad was going to sand it down and keep it with the pack because it fit perfectly. I guess we will have to find another one next year. Total distance for the final day was about 4 miles and 90 rods of portaging.
On the way out dad took a picture of me standing by the entry point sign and we headed on our way. On the road was a pickup and maintainer parked basically in the middle of the road talking to each other. I could barely get between them. I was able to get some good footage on my Gopro of the road and color in the trees on our way out. We got back to town just after 2 so there wasn’t enough time to eat at Britton’s. We dropped the canoe off and then ate at The Ely Steakhouse again. It was about 3 in the afternoon and there was a decent crowd of guys sitting at the bar eating and drinking. We had the special which was a blue cheese burger. It was good but not as good as the Bucky burger. While eating I was finally able to get caught up on the news. I learned that Nebraska won their game and that was about the only news that happened.
Whenever I go into the BWCA, I wonder if when I get out if there will be some big news event that I missed out on such as another 9/11. With all that is going on right now with terrorists, I almost thought something like that might happen when we were in there. Distance on the final day was about 4 miles and 90 rods. Total overall for the trip was 1394 rods or 4.36 miles plus 2 miles hiking and at least 47 miles canoeing distance. If you figure the total distance we portaged with double portages, we portaged 3632 rods and 11.35 miles pluse 2 miles hiking.
After eating lunch we went to Dairy Queen to get a large Blizzard. It cost $9 for two of them which seemed high. I guess I never go to DQ to know. From there we stopped at NAPA because I had a burned out headlight. We tried for 20 minutes to get the bulb changed but it wouldn’t unscrew. I looked on youtube to see if there was something we were doing wrong but it still wouldn’t come out. Dad finally went back to NAPA and asked the guy that sold it to us if he could point us to a mechanic to help us. The guy came out and helped us tear apart the vehicle and change it the unconventional way. I don’t know who was running the store while he was away but we really appreciated it. Dad gave the guy $10 even though he didn’t want it and refused it. Eventually dad did get the guy to take it. We now didn’t have to worry about getting stopped at night on our long drive home.
We headed home and when we passed the Sawmill Bar and Grill at one of the Quad Cities I thought to myself that I need to stop there sometime. The Big Bear Casino also seems like it would be something to see because it is a huge casino. It reminds me of Las Vegas when I see it. I think Gary Allen was performing there that week. We stayed in Clear Lake, IA that night at the Super 8 and had another good breakfast. We got home around 2 in the afternoon and started unpacking our stuff. I think mom was happy to see us home and the cats also seemed happy because they were rolling around in our gear. It was nice to be home. Two weeks later and I still have to unpack a pack. Next year I hope to take another trip and hopefully with some people who haven’t been there.
Final thoughts- Of the 1726 miles we drove, I drove all except for about 200 miles on the trip. We got 17.9 mpg. We spent around $900 on the trip. $325 for gas, $160 for motel, $277 at the outfitters for permits, canoe and bunk and maybe $150 on food. We had an extra day’s worth of food left over but I would rather have too much food than not enough. Our meals weren’t as good as last year but we were trying to pack more efficiently. Anyone who goes to the BWCA should get a pair of $40 1967 Vietnam issued military jungle boots with spike protective soles. I loved those boots and they worked great by giving you plenty of traction and support around your ankles.