Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

LIS Loop of Solitude
by loonatic

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/13/2022
Entry & Exit Point: Little Indian Sioux River (north) (EP 14)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
The 2022 season has us planning three trips to the BWCA -- an early summer adventure to the Ely area, and mid-summer trip to the Gunflint Trail, and a fall paddling adventure coinciding with some upland bird hunting in the Northwoods. This trip in particular had us planning to go as light as possible to put in as much mileage as we can over 4 days and 3 nights. We discovered an abundance of solitude on this trip and many challenging elements including severe weather, an abundance of 'bugs', a midnight visiting bear in one of our campsites, and memories that will stick with us for years to come!
Day 1 of 4
Monday, June 13, 2022 *Intro: This is our first of three scheduled trips to the BWCA this year. I'm closing in on my 30th trip to the BWCA and am fortunate enough to have a life partner who is as passionate and fond of the wilderness as I. Growing up in the Northwoods of Minnesota, every trip feels like a homecoming. We now reside in Sioux Falls, SD, so trips north require a few more miles on the tires and more transit time than we'd desire. Public lands, wildlife, and conservation are important to us. I work as the regional representative for Pheasants Forever and dedicate each and every day to the conservation of wildlife and habitat here on the prairie landscapes of South Dakota. But my heart remains in the wilderness of the North Country. Emily and I look forward to our Boundary Waters adventures each and every year.

Day 1 Recap: After spending a great weekend in Ely, we grabbed coffees at Northern Grounds, bought another bottle of bug dope and some itch-relief cream at Piragis, and took off down the Echo Trail, destination EP:14 Little Indian Sioux North. For this trip, we planned a significant amount of travel and packed as light as possible. After reading forums and posts from other visitors, made the decision for the first time to rent a SPOT device from Piragis-- just in case. While we never turned the device on during this trip, that extra sense of security provided a level of comfort considering some unknowns -- rumors of high water, anticipation of fewer visiting groups with permit reductions, and a new route and territory for Emily.

The first thing we noticed – fewer vehicles in the LIS parking lot than we’d ever witnessed before. Unloading our canoe and gear, we did one last check of our provisions and down the first portage we went at about 9:45am! We had the wind at our backs as we paddled down the LIS river. We elected to take the 40-rod portage between Pauness lakes and noticed the water levels had appeared to have receded from earlier season reports. The portage near Devil's Cascade was easily accessed and was not flooded on June 13th.

Paddling up through East Loon Bay on Loon Lake, we stopped for a late lunch at an empty campsite after entering Little Loon Lake. The day was filled with on and off rain, head nets and long sleeves were helpful on mosquito-filled portages. After Loon Lake, we did not pass or notice another visiting group for the remainder of the day; no campsites were occupied after the sand beach site on East Loon Bay. Many of the portages appeared to be very infrequently used -- most had fall leaf matter still "un-trampled". Wolf scat in abundance. We met a number of ruffed grouse on portages, as if they were greeters on Sunday morning at worship as we went from lake to lake. Orchids were in full bloom on portage trails along the way.

South Lake is quite flooded. It should be noted that the portage into South Lake from the west required paddling through some trees to get onto the lake… and the portage out was a little tricky to find.

At about 4:30pm, we decided to set up camp at the northernmost campsite on Eugene Lake. Fairly fresh moose tracks went right through the campsite, and we figure they must have been fairly recent considering the rain that had been coming down. We pitched the tent, set up our tarp, unloaded some gear, and enjoyed steaks and mashed potatoes. It was a long day and we retired to our tent around 9:00pm, reading until falling asleep to the loons calling out to each other.

~Upper Pauness Lake, Lower Pauness Lake, Loon Lake, Little Loon Lake, Slim Lake, South Lake, Steep Lake, Eugene Lake