Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

A Walk In The Woods - Second Time To The Boundary Waters
by rdgbwca

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/21/2020
Entry & Exit Point: Little Indian Sioux River (north) (EP 14)
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
For my second paddling trip to the boundary waters, I wanted to go further and stay longer than the first time. I also wanted to enter on the Ely side and hopefully catch some walleyes for dinner. For this trip, I would leave my sons at home.
With the pandemic in mind, the group was kept small. It was just me and my longest standing paddling friend, Sergey. It was his first trip to the boundary waters. He wanted to do a loop trip. I proposed the Sioux Hustler Loop (14-2 from the Beymer book), which is listed as a six day loop.
This trip is named “A Walk In The Woods” because of all the walking in the woods we did. When taking into account the double portaging and all the paddling, we traveled a total of 67 miles in six days (tracked via GPS watch). (21 of those miles were on portage trails calculated from Fisher F16).
This is a summary and lessons learned report.

The full day by day report is on my website.


It was the trip of a life time (aren’t all boundary waters trips?).

The weather exceeded our expectations. We had a passing shower while under way on day one. We had two nights where it rained at night. It was warm enough to swim in the lake but not too hot to make portaging miserable.

The bug activity exceeded our expectations as well. The biting flies were out. The mosquitoes were in the woods. However, we camped at exposed sites near the shore of the lakes and the breeze kept the bugs at bay. Bug spray worked well when needed and was judiciously applied prior to long portages.

We camped on lakes with no other people on the lake four out of five nights. One of the goals of the trip was peace and quiet. We found it. Often the only things we heard were the wind in the trees and the birds singing.

I caught the biggest bass of my life. I caught my first lake trout. We had fish dinner two nights out of five. These were easily the best meals of the trip and made it hard to go back to dehydrated food. It would have been nice to travel less each day and have more time and energy to fish.

We had camp fires most nights. We had one night of clear skies that we stayed up late to see the stars in the epic night sky far from sources of light pollution.

Lessons Learned

A Lucie light is not needed near the solstice.

I brought a solar powered Lucie light for my tent at night. This turned out to be dead weight. I never needed it because the days were so long. We had started our trip on the summer solstice. (Speaking of dead weight I brought an entire roll of duct tape just in case. I need a way to carry a small amount of duct tape. I have seen some people wrap their lighters in duct tape. I may try this.)

Picaridin bug spray worked well.

I decided to try a 20% Picaridin based bug repellent for the trip. I brought a 30% DEET lotion as back up but I never needed it. The Picardin worked fine when needed in the evenings and while portaging in the thick woods.

EP 14 to 16 would have been better to avoid the long portages.

It is often mentioned as an alternative to enter at LIS North and exit at the Nina Moose River. The only catch is you have to do some kind of car shuttle. Unless you are set on doing a loop, I would recommend this. It would have eliminated the two longest portages of the trip.

Six square method of Fisher Map.

We found that our most comfortable day was when we traveled about six squares on the Fisher Map. The further beyond six squares we went, the more fatigued we were in camp. This will come into consideration when planning future trips.

Too many leeches.

I bought way too many leeches that I then had to carry the entirety of the trip. I could have easily brought half the amount of leeches. I did put them in a Ziploc freezer bag and put them in a cooler on ice for the drive home. They survived the long drive home. I changed out the water and now have a bucket of leeches in my garage fridge (that’s completely normal right? right).

I was happy with the performance of my footwear this trip.

I bought Astral TR1 Merge boots for wet footing and portaging. They served me well. I also bought some Adidas water shoes as a camp shoe. These also performed well and could be worn with or without socks.

Prusik Knot and Etowah Outfitters Tarp

I learned the prusik knot since my last trip. I put it to good use setting up a center ridge line for my new Etowah Outfitters 10×10 Tarp. The light weight silnylon tarp saved about a pound compared to my bigger tarp that is made of a heavier grade silnylon. The tarp served us well on the trip.