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Boundary Waters Quetico Forum :: Group Forum: Solo Tripping :: Thinking about my first Solo - could use some advice.
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07/25/2020 09:01AM
The Mudro Crooked loop is always a good trip and well within your expectations
07/25/2020 10:38AM
Soloing is the ultimate freedom. You do what you want when you want. There is no compromise on anything. I’m doing 7 days out out of EP 16 and don’t even have a route. I’m just going up north of Oyster into Rocky, pocket, Finger, Gun area and just meander about as I like for a week. Lots of good small lakes with just one camp site on them.

Do you have a spot or inreach unit? That might be a good investment.
07/25/2020 12:30PM
I recommend the Inreach over the Spot.. You'll be able to send pre set text for free and sink it with your phone to send regular text if you want. Plus it will send your location back to your wife.It's got a wether feature too. You can do month to month subscriptions
07/25/2020 11:23AM
Thanks all for the input! Starting to look at the maps of the suggested areas. Looks like a great area! I have never really done much in the way of river paddling so excited about that.

I'm fairly used to doing just about all the camp duties myself anyway so that is not a huge concern. I'm leaning towards simplifying my meals to consist mostly of "add hot water to bag, eat out of bag" type dinners to minimize the amount of cookware/dishes I need to haul. Figure I'd skip my normal shore lunch fish dinner and instead do the wrapped in foil approach over the fire, or just go catch and release only.

Also debating back and forth between tent and hammock sleeping. Need to set up my hammock system in the back yard a few nights and try it out...once the heat index drops to some semblance or reasonable.

My wife probably won't let me know without an InReach or Spot. Need to do some more research there.
07/25/2020 12:19PM
Be prepared that you may not go back to either the ground (sky sleeper) or group paddling.

01/28/2021 04:36PM
Great route, have a permit for June 22
01/28/2021 01:29PM
Now we're excited! You will enjoy that loop - it was my first solo and I still count it as one of the best.

Work on the conditioning between now and then. You'll know after the 2nd day how you're doing and what it will take to finish.

I googled it once long time ago, but I'm pretty sure it was about 9 miles parking lot to parking lot 16 to 14. Options: You can run/jog/walk it, stash a bike at 16, or pay to have someone follow you to 16, drop your car, and take you to 14. That way you only pay once (it's a long drive) and your on your time to finish.

Lodging options are bunkhouse or motel; I've done both. I've used Voyageur North (bunkhouse) and Piragis (no bunkhouse) and both have a done a good job for me. I've stayed at probably 3 motels there and all satisfactory.

Other thoughts: The water will likely be cold and a dump solo could be troublesome. Watch the weather and don't get too far from shore if it's windy. Have a good ditch kit, keep it handy, and consider putting a couple of large chemical heat packs in it (quicker and easier than building a fire, especially in adverse conditions).
01/28/2021 02:13PM
Nice route. Last time I went in ep14 stayed at Jeanette Lake campground night before - only a few minutes from EP14 and a nice place. Take a car camping tent for that night.
07/30/2020 01:04PM
I second the line on the front of the canoe. I grab it when I take the pack from canoe to landing. On short portages with no one approaching (and nice landing), I'll put canoe in water, tie to tree, and go back for second load.

After all these years of tandem, I've been intrigued and reinvigorated by solo paddling. Fun learning curve, but not hard to be efficient, even in wind and waves. Having said that, with double tripping portaging and the work inherent in soloing (paddling and otherwise), I find at my age I can't go hard all day long. I get played out by afternoon.

For short solo trips, I've been enjoying dehydrated meals, cooking on the Bushbuddy twig stove or my alcohol stove, and reveling in the sounds of birds and the play of light on water, which you get so much more of soloing. Anyway, of all trips I yearn to have more soloing, though I don't like the loneliness/aloneness of the tent at night. Other than that, I find soloing to be so freeing.
07/30/2020 10:21AM
I found that getting up early and hitting the water gave me a better paddle than waiting until after having a hot breakfast.
Less wind and a very quiet experience on the water.
With a partner in the boat a little wind is no issue.
But alone it can be more difficult in a sidewind or headwind.
(And isn't it always a headwind??)
07/25/2020 06:53PM
Put a rope on the front of your boat and don’t get out without holding it or tying to a tree. If your boat gets bumped or catches a breeze when with a group, one of your other canoes goes after it. When solo, you are stranded.
07/25/2020 08:36PM
It's daunting to advise a guy with 20 years of camping behind him.
Not everyone experiences it but safe to say most do. About day two...maybe day three...moments of longing for familiar friends/fellow campers. Longing for sharing & fireside chats. Loons with their haunting cries might bring it on. A nip of medicinal whiskey. Deep breath. It's gone. Carry on. :)
A book, then.

07/25/2020 08:44PM
I guess this would be a list of things I have found especially important for solo paddling:
Spare paddle
Ditch kit that sits in my life vest pocket
monocular, also in my life vest as well
Rope on both bow and stern. Getting used to the 24# canoe in terms of not letting it bang on rocks in the waves, stowing it really good, with strong ropes and good knots. Knowing knots.
Wet footing 100%. Safer, more efficient, faster.
Those are some things I have found especially useful that I learned on the fly. I don't use fire as I do when I'm with another partner paddling. Don't eat as much. And don't particularly enjoy fishing when I'm on a solo trip. Enjoy it alone as a day event but it still makes me feel lonesome when paddling solo. If that makes sense.
My ditch kit has a foil blanket, life straw, cotton balls in Vaseline in a pill vial, matches, and a small bright light source for signaling. My life jacket shoulder strap is where the inReach sits. The zipper has a whistle and also a small compass. The other pocket has sunscreen, bug dope, spare cheap eyeglasses, and a small sharp knife clipped to it. This all makes sense for group travel as well, but I guess the difference is that I would not like to be paddling solo without any of the above.

01/29/2021 05:17PM
cowdoc: "The latter"
01/28/2021 04:22PM
This is one of my favorite routes too. I went up through Loon, Slim, Fat, Finger, Oyster, Hustler, Lynx, and back out. For me it was a 9 day trip; six days paddling and 3 layover. I also had to drive up from Minneapolis on my first day so did not get started paddling until about 1PM on day one, and got pounded by thunderstorms which forced two complete layovers and delayed one other. I chose to spend a full day on Oyster just to fish for lakers (yes please), then the next day was packing up to move when storms pounded me so I stayed overnight again. That night I thought about exiting through Nina Moose and walking or hitching, but chose to push on. I managed to exit from Oyster to LISN, then drive home to MPLS - that was along but gratifying day. That long portage from Oyster to Huster was no where near as bad as I thought - long but pretty open and easy. One of the last ones from Shell to Pauness was pretty tough, but I was almost done and had that fire in my gut. This is a great route. 5 1/2 days with a solo canoe should be fine, but do getting shape as much as you can. I think if you look up trip reports you'll find a few people doing it in about 4 days. BillConner mentioned camping at Lake Jeanette. I've driven by and that looks like a beautiful lake and is close by. One word of caution about camping the night before an early trip is to watch the weather. The one time I camped near an entry I woke up at dawn to an absolutely downpour that lasted for several hours. That night is just wish I had stayed in a motel somewhere.
07/30/2020 06:36PM
Already some great advice to follow here. You're going on a 4-5 day solo trip which is probably a good start. One thing to consider other than the physical aspect of your trip, is the mental part. When I first started soloing I did not consider that. Being alone can be overwhelming. Especially if you are use to traveling with others. Sometimes being alone can drive people to exit early-it's a strange phenomenon, and can hit any time. I've been doing 15 day solos for the past 10 years and some trips I never get lonely, but other trips have been a struggle, at least for a few days. I've found ways to overcome it. You could easily head to Loon day one. Then through Slim, North/South, Steep, Eugene day two. Day three you could get to Gebe or Oyster. Day four through Hustler, and could Stay on Lynx or Shell for the last night. Stay busy and travel everyday and you should have a great time.
01/29/2021 12:37PM
Thanks for all the input! Looking over the maps a bit more last night, I am reconsidering the exit point. Basically, it comes down to a trade-off between Agnes/Nina Moose/Moose river VS Oyster, Hustler, Ruby, Lynx, and Shell.

01/29/2021 04:46PM
The latter
01/29/2021 06:47PM
You guys rock! Makes life easier to boot.

OK, I think I have my route. For whatever reason clockwise seemed to make sense buy now I am thinking CCW. Then I will be hitting Shell/Lynx/Ruby/Oyster during the week and will be further north going through GeBe, Pocket, Finger, Thumb, Beartrack, etc when the Memorial weekend hits. Does this make sense? Is there any other reason to go one way or the other?
01/28/2021 11:48AM
Well I have a permit reserved for this trip! EP14 LIS North on May 26th.

I plan to leave work a little early on Tuesday the 25th and drive up to Ely that evening and get as early as start as possible on Wednesday morning. I have played around with different routes but I'm leaning towards one that will take me up Pauness into Loon, through Slim and Fat continuing onto Beartrack. From there I would move onto Pocket and then either drop down through GoBe and through Oyster to Nina Moose, exiting at EP 16 or a route to take me through LLC and Agnes on the way to EP16. Target is to reach EP16 around or just after noon on Monday, May 31st.

Total would be about 53 miles in 5 1/2 days. Total portage distance between 1550-2000 rods. I figure I would be traveling 4.5 to 6.5 hours each day.

Three Questions for all you fine people -

1. Thoughts on this route? Is it a little too ambitious? I am an experienced 50 something in pretty average condition.
2. I will need a place to stay Tuesday night, rent a solo canoe, and possibly arrange drop-off and pickup. any suggestions?
3. Is anyone else going to be in this area at that time? Wouldn't mind a little company somewhere along the route or even sharing a campsite one night.
07/26/2020 09:05AM
Cricket67: "...

... I'm thinking 3-5 hours of travel per day (probably around 6-12 miles at my current fitness level) with enough cushion in case I get wind-bound a day. ...


I am reasonably fit for a middle aged male but, I am a significantly stronger paddler after a couple weeks of paddling than when the I put the canoe in the lake for the first paddle of the spring. I have the same experience every year when the snow melts and I return to running again or biking again. Thirty years ago, I'd go hiking daily to break in a new pair of boots before a backpacking trip. Today, the shoes are ready to go out of the box but, it's my body that needs loosened up before the trip.

Cricket67, while I don't know you nor your fitness level, the advice woud be the same: Don't be content with your current fitness level. Paddle your canoe as often as you can before your trip.

Good Luck.
07/31/2020 08:34PM
I just completed my first solo this summer. This forum was such a wonderful resource so you have been wise to be doing your research here. I really focused on decreasing my gear weight and I was very glad I did. I really thought hard about each piece of gear. There was nothing I decided to leave behind that was missed.

I really liked having a canoe paddle and a break apart kayak paddle. The kayak paddle was especially wonderful for windy days as it increased my level of control and decreased the effort needed.

I found camp chores were actually less time consuming for me on the solo vs. a family trip. I rarely collected firewood. My food involved more "no cook" or "just add boiling water" meals compared to when I travel with family. With family I am resposible for repacking most of the packs each morning so it was much easier just having to pack my own small gear packs.

Think about what entertains you. Sounds like you enjoy fishing. Since I don't fish, I focused on taking more pictures as well as journaling and reading.

The alone time was not an issue for me in the evenings. But on long, hard portages (especially after I got injured) I definitely missed having companions to look after me. But I will definitely plan another solo for next summer. Enjoy!
08/01/2020 09:26AM
You guys Rock!

Straighthairedcurly - I read your wonderful trip report. So much great information there! Like you I spend a good amount of time helping others when I go, so I'm not too concerned about the idea of not having help around camp. I also think I am going to simplify my meals considerably.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on paddles. I can usually handle a tandem Canoe alone with a regular paddle but can definitely see how helpful a kayak paddle would be in windy conditions. I like that they can also double as tarp poles.

I do enjoy fishing but have been going back and forth on it because of the gear involved and to a lesser degree the added safety risk on a solo trip. In the end I think the value of having it as an activity outweighs the cost. While traveling the pole will be tied to the thwarts and the reel will be removed and packed away. I also plan on doing some journaling, will have a good book, and take plenty of pictures!

egknuti - That is very similar to one of the routes I am considering (I'm calling it my internal route). What are your thoughts re Gun, Takucmich, Finger vs. Beartrack, Thumb, Finger? Also looking at an external start going through Loon and Lac La Croix before cutting down through Takucmich , Finger, Pocket, Gobe, etc.

Tomo,jcavenagh - I have never used a line while traveling with the group but totally get the utility of using one as a solo. I also will be much more cautious with regards to wind. My general travel plan will be to getting going early, although I may take the time to heat some water for warm oatmeal and/or a warm drink (especially if it is cold/wet). I figure most days I will be traveling from just after sunrise until early afternoon with a break in there to have lunch. My goal would be to be pulling into a campsite by 2pm at the very latest. Time to get camp set up and maybe a quick nap in the hammock before late afternoon fishing.
07/29/2020 08:57PM
Thanks everyone for all the advice! Definitely some things I had not thought of. I've been staring at some maps and it is an intriguing area! Certainly gives me some incentive to lose some extra weight and get more paddling in so I can cover more ground and see more lakes!
07/24/2020 03:00PM
My recent trip with my son's boy scout troop has me thinking about doing a solo this September or maybe next May. I'm a fairly seasoned BWCA traveler with around 20 trips of various lengths under my belt, but the majority of them were taken between the mid eighties and early 2000's. I've primarily trekked off the gunflint and have covered most of that area pretty extensively. I have also done Sawbill and several treks off of Moose Lake. I have never been up the Echo Trail, the Southwest area, or the area south of Ely

For this trip I am leaning towards hitting an unfamiliar area for a 4 or 5 night trip. I'm thinking 3-5 hours of travel per day (probably around 6-12 miles at my current fitness level) with enough cushion in case I get wind-bound a day. I'd like to find some Walleyes and Smallies along the way and have at least some solitude. Leaning towards double portaging,

I have gotten some great ideas from trip reports as well as a general feel for what to expect on a solo. Really appreciate everyone out there sharing their experiences and knowledge!

07/24/2020 04:48PM

Well, since you haven't been on the Echo Trail ever, that would be my suggestion. Maybe look at Entry Point 16 Little Indian Sioux (LIS). I did a solo trip for a week out of there, going up to Loon Lake and making my way over Lac la Croix and back down to the entry point. Plenty of options for taking big water or smaller lakes and you can hit all the fish you want.

Since you're experienced with the BWCA, the only thing that really stand out for me in group trips vs. solo is that everything takes longer. You have to portage everything. You have to set up the tent, tarp, get water, cook food and clean dishes. You have to catch the fish and clean them.

Also, for me the big thing that I am aware of of all times is the wind and that's why I bring a small NOAA weather radio. Sure it tells me about storms, but more importantly it tells me how strong the wind will be and from which direction. The wind up there will really tell you how many miles you can canoe that day.
07/24/2020 05:33PM
You're experienced enough to go where you want and your travel times and distances seem reasonable. I assume you'll be using a dedicated solo canoe. Moose River North, EP #16, or Little Indian Sioux River North, EP #14, are probably your best options.

There's no one to help with camp chores, so I try to simplify and reduce time required, as well as weight. You'll be carrying everything, so keep an eye on the weight of the two loads.

There are lots of threads here discussing how to do things, what to take or not, and what to expect. There's a lot of variation in individual styles.
08/18/2020 02:43PM
I agree that eating is a very different experience on a solo.
I eat less and I finish eating much quicker.
Yes, fires are smaller.
I usually have a cooking fire and then a small little fire to drowse me at the end of the day.
08/02/2020 03:38PM
Are you planning on doing any fishing? I fished Gun and had good luck catching trout. There is a nice site on that lake-you’d probably have the lake to yourself. I stayed on Eugene for 3 nights and only saw people the first day. I had the lake to myself each night. I think Beartrack has a good site, but not good fishing. Finger has a great island site and good walleye fishing-also had the lake to myself. Any way you go, you’ll enjoy it.
08/02/2020 07:19PM

I go with the very simple meal plan - I've discovered that meals are not a social occasion when I'm solo, just fueling up. Definitely take the double blade paddle as well as the single - you need a spare paddle anyway. It's a good idea to lash it in. I gave up on fishing solo a few years after I started soloing in 2006. It was more work than it was worth to me and I lost 5-6 pounds of gear, which means I can carry 5-6 days more food for longer solos. I rarely ever build a fire anymore when I'm solo and when I do it's small. I also usually am on a campsite by early afternoon. That's the nice thing about a solo - you can do what you want, how and when you want to. Take whatever's worth carrying to you. Nobody will complain.

My first solo was the loop from LISN through Slim, Steep, Finger, Gebe, Oyster, and out MRN. I really enjoyed those small lakes through there. Hope you have a good trip!

:) Enjoy yourself.