Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Cold Vista 2015
by x2jmorris

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/17/2015
Entry & Exit Point: Lizz and Swamp Lakes (EP 47)
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
My brother has been wanting to go into the BWCA for quite some time now so we sat down to figure out when our schedules align. After that was figured out I told him to pick any lake he wanted to go to and after doing some research he chose Vista. I looked at it and decided it wouldn't be too hard to get there. When the permits became available to reserve I got it on the first day as I don’t like taking chances with waiting. The goal is to get away from everything and hopefully catch some walleyes. This is trip number 1 of 3 for me this year. This is also the earliest I have ever gone in. But I have been in the BWCA when it has been snowing so we will have the necessary clothing.

Heading up to Grand Marais the night before so we can get an early start. My canoes are stored in Schroeder so we took a quick detour up there to grab them. As we were loading the canoe, my brother could hear air coming from the tire. It was coming out pretty fast so I looked under for the spare and was quite surprised that there was nothing there. Our options were running out really fast. First plan was to stop at my uncles to see if he had a repair kit (which he didn’t). We then figured we could make it to the Tofte gas station to fill it back up and then we could figure something out from there. Well, we made it to the gas station and it just so happens that they have tire repair kits there. So we were back on track. We made it to my uncle’s house in Grand Marais around 8:30 PM and drank a few beers and then went to bed.


We left the house around 7:30 AM and drove into town to pick up our leeches and BWCA permit. We arrived at Poplar Lake around 9 AM. There were only two vehicles in the parking lot which is a good sign that we will have some solitude. It was very foggy with a little rain coming down but there was no wind which I was happy with. Made it through Lizz Lake and Caribou Lake with no problems. A little muddy on the portages but that was expected. As we neared the end of Horseshoe Lake I could see what was supposed to be our portage into Vista and I just said you have to be kidding me. There was a river coming down the portage. We landed the canoe and each grabbed a bag to see what this portage was going to be like. It was the wettest portage I have ever been on. At the top it appeared that a beaver had dammed the river and the water was being diverted down the portage. My brother went to grab the canoe and of course he slipped a few times and his feet got wet. So this was becoming miserable as the temp was only around 34 degrees or so and he had wet feet. The put in on the Vista side also proved to be quite a challenge. We managed to get him in the front of the canoe and the plan was he was going to back it up to a tiny island that I figured I would be able to get to. Well, I got there but at the cost of slipping and sinking my right leg into about mid shin high water which happens to be over my boot. A little frustrated but it happens.

We continue on down Vista hoping that the south campsite is open because all the reviews said that it was one of the best in the BWCA. As we get closer it appears that it is open. The wind is really starting to pick up and it is coming from the North. We land the canoes and bring everything up by the fire grate. I figure our best bet is to set up the tarp to so that we can hopefully get a fire started and get the rain off of us. Everything that was left there was very much alive and of course useless for starting a fire. I was able to get a small one going but between the rain, wind, nothing to sustain it, and everything being wet it didn’t last long. It must have been around 1 PM and the rain was switching over to snow. The next plan was to set up the tent and crawl into our sleeping bags and wait this out. So there we sat playing cribbage and drinking whiskey. After about an hour it sounded like maybe it was letting up so I peeked my head out through the door and it was snowing really hard and with the wind it looked like it was just going sideways across the lake. I wish I would have gone out there and taken a picture however I was just too cold to even want to do that.

Anyways, after another hour or two it stopped snowing and the wind was slowing down. Determined to enjoy some of this day I put my sandals on with wool socks and ventured out. I rounded up what I could for wood and started a fire this time using the tarp as a wind block. My brother made some instant rice and beans for dinner and then we boiled water so we could enjoy hot chocolate mixed with Rumplemintz. We warmed up a little and decided that it was still too cold to really enjoy doing anything so we retired kind of early. I would say around 9 or so. It was a really cold night. We both wore our long underwear, wool socks, and fleece jackets to bed but it was still a bit chilly.

*About the pictures, I did take some after the snow storm to show the ice build up on my tent as well as my brothers jacket which was frozen stiff. I am unsure on how his jacket got wet but it turned to ice regardless.


Woke up and it was already better than the previous day. Still cold but the wind was not nearly as bad. We still had a little bit of firewood to make pancakes for breakfast. The plan was to go out fishing and search for some wood. Nothing was biting but I found the perfect downed pine tree. It was at an angle that allowed it to remain relatively dry. I was rather excited to find this as it would ensure easy fires for the rest of the trip if we used it sparingly. The fish weren’t biting so we went back to camp and cooked up some hot dogs for lunch and threw some floating jigs w/leeches anchored with a walking sinker out from shore. Well the time dragged on and more cribbage was played. Eventually we made red potatoes and onions for dinner.

My brother got bored with that so he went out in the canoe by himself and was casting a little ways from shore. Around this time I noticed my line going out so I ran down to set the hook and at almost at the same time my brother was setting his hook and… was the same walleye. We played tug of war for a brief moment before I conceded that it was a lot closer to him. I thought that this was a good sign that a walleye would be so aggressive/hungry (however it was not, as this was the only walleye caught on the trip). Anyways we had just ate dinner and did not want to save it overnight so he released it.

We stayed up late this night. It was still a little chilly but it was comfortable so we made our way down onto the rock to watch the sky. We were treated to a great show of the Northern Lights so staying up was well worth it. I tried to capture it on camera but was unable to do so. We watched this for a bit and then retired for the night.


This was by far a nicer day as it must have been around 45 to 50 degrees and hardly any wind. We made a scrambled egg dry packet for breakfast and decided to head out. We trolled the entire lake with different lures. We stopped here and there to try our hand at jigging but no luck. As we made our way around the lake we stopped at the other campsites to see what we thought of them. I concluded that I would rather go back to Horseshoe than stay at either of these. Eventually we made it back to our site and had salami and cheese sandwiches. I’m pretty sure we took a nap around this time. When we woke up we went out again but just around the island next to our site. I was trying for Northerns at this point as I figured I could catch one of them for dinner, but I was wrong. So what was supposed to be Walleye or Northern with Cajun Shore Lunch turned into more hot dogs for dinner. We wanted to get a good start for the next morning so we went to bed early.


We woke up at 6:15 AM which was even earlier than we thought. For breakfast today was fried salami and pancakes. I hooked up one of my favorite Rapalas so that I could troll on the way out. As I still was fishless which has not happened since I was like 14 and I didn’t want that to happen. We broke camp and headed out with my Rapala following. This time I was way more prepared for the Vista to Horseshoe portage and both of us had our sandals unpacked. We arrived at the portage and we both switched out of our boots and just walked through the water which I believe was probably around 34 degrees. I have no way of knowing the actual temp but I do know I lost feeling in my feet. We also triple portaged which is something I have never done. But instead of one person carrying the canoe we both grabbed an end and carried it that way which in this case was much easier. After that we headed north on Horseshoe and my Rapala saved me from going fishless as I caught a small Northern. Then as we took the left turn we ran into a small moose walking the shoreline. He stopped and let us take a few pictures and then we left him alone. The rest of the portages and lakes went by smoothly and of course the wind was against us as it normally is on the way out of the BWCA. Loaded up the truck and the tire thankfully held air although I borrowed a small air compressor in case it hadn’t.

Overall I would say that the trip was well worth it. Even though the fishing was almost nonexistent we still saw a moose and the Northern Lights. The weather was really good with the exception of the first day and of course we were enjoying solitude.

*One last thing is I won the cribbage marathon 7-3.

Lakes Traveled:   Poplar Lake, Lizz Lake, Caribou Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Vista Lake,