Truth be told, I kind of hate these, “Keep Calm & _____” fill in the blank posters that were going around Facebook last year, but when looking back on our trip the sentiment was just about perfect and I couldn’t think of a better title for our trip report!
Pre-Day Friday May 20:
Technically, this is pre-entry date, so I will call it pre-day. My husband took the day off, we shuttled the kid off to school for half a morning, and I did some final work for my employer before “shuffling off to buffalo“. We blazed out of the Twin Cities around noon on Friday the 20th and began our 3.5 hour journey up to Ely, MN. Saw lots of “Flying Moose” stickers on cars, and swung into Spirit of the Wilderness to talk with Steve! His enthusiasm is always infectious!
Realized we forgot the kennel so my dreams for eating at Insula that night were completely dashed since we didn’t trust our dogs in the Bunkhouse by themselves. To say I was not disappointed would be a lie, but decided to eat on the patio deck at the Chocolate Moose and the dogs could be just off the deck next to us. The food was alright. I had Thai Lettuce Wraps trying to be GF still. Husband had a burger, and MiniMN had a hot dog. The wine was lovely on the deck along with the pleasantly warm weather, which really elevated the place and experience.
The waitress even gave us some water bowls for the dogs! A nice touch indeed.
After dinner I convinced Mr.MN to head out to Kawishiwi Falls for a night hike. We brought the fishing stuff with us, but had no luck. The waterfall was bursting with water, and my heart was set in the right spot.
It was very hot out. Unfortunately we packed a lot of long sleeves, and pants, but I did have a tank top on – so I wore that most of the night, and now I think I actually have a sunburn! ha.
Later on I talked with Lynn at VNO. She has to be one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever encountered. She gave us lots of great tips, and recommended the longer 40 rod portage from Upper to Lower Pauness. She also practically assured us we’d hear wolves howling in the area. This terrified me, but I knew they don’t eat humans… 😉
The dogs slept like rocks,and I was kept awake by bunkhouse neighbors who were all excited for what laid ahead of them on their trip. Around 11pm there was a stampeede of people upstairs of us. It was highly annoying, but I knew that VNO was housing several Hot Shots for the Foss/Crab Lake fire – so I tried not to be too mad.
Saturday May 21 – Day 1:
I’m no dummy, I know the Spirit of the Lord is everywhere, but oh how I feel it so much stronger in these pine stands, balsam, granite outcroppings, and tannic waters. A combination of no cell service – so the phone goes instantly into airplane mode to conserve batteries, and Gods amazing creation so immersed in your every being its hard to not recognize the Spirit of the Lord directly in front of you.
We had a quick and easy breakfast in the car this time of cereal bars, coffee from the gas station, and donuts, and blazed up the Echo Trail. We passed by the Mudro access and I remembered fondly our trip last year. This time we had a much longer treck up the Echo Trail to the Little Indian Sioux River – North.
I thought of my bwca.com friend Kanoes. He died suddenly in his sleep at the age of 57. I thought how weird life is. How we’re here one minute, and just like water flowing over the rocks with rapids – gone the next. I couldn’t help but think about my dad dying suddenly at 64.
Tomorrow is not guaranteed, but today I get to witness creation in the flesh.
Told Mr.MN about this trip report I head read on bwca.com and how they had forgotten their paddles and life jackets had to drive all the way back to Ely! We both agreed that would be maddening!
Got unloaded quite a bit quicker than last year despite having more things. The morning was a little chilly, and realize I had forgotten a regular coat for MiniMN but had an extra coat myself – so I gave her that, and it wasn’t too too big.
Saw another van pull in of 3 soloists. Suddenly heard a loud F bomb. Followed quickly by several more F bombs…. Apparently they too had mis-matched solo paddles and had to drive all the way back to Ely!! I would be irate.
Grabbed the Frost River pack and headed down to the river. This FR pack is decidedly not fun to carry. Its heavy, and my pots and stove are gouging my back. The dog is pulling me on the leash, despite having the gentle leader, and he keeps stoping to try to shake it off. I’m already annoyed and we’re not even on the river yet.
Paddle up the LIS is a nice, quiet, meandering river .Saw lots of Red Wing Blackbirdsd and a pair of Trumpeter Swans. Settled in and my mood brightened!
Saw the Elm Portage clear across the river. The entry for it was very obvious. Walked the first treck over and Crosby is constantly pulling on the leash ripping my arm off or stops abruptly as we’re going downhill.
We are double portaging this time, which I wasn’t too excited about, but everyone assured me, the walk back is usually pretty nice.
Saw a man on the portage, Crosby stared at him incredulously. I noticed this, but thought the man seemed really nice so I wasn’t sure why in the world he was so freaked out. Suddenly, Crosby bolted backwards nearly tearing my arm or dislocating my shoulder in the process. Now my mood is soured again.
Grab my CCS pack, which is decidedly more comfortable, but all that it has in it is clothes, and sleeping bags etc, so its a treat to portage. Crosby continues to be a pain on this portage, and I ended up having a bloody nose on the portage. Of course I don’t have a kleenex on me, and the last thing I’m going to do is wipe my nose on my sleeve.
So I try to tip my face upward and keep it in. The waterfall on Elm portage is gorgeous and stunning. Trying to look on the bright side of things.
At end of Elm portage we were met by couple of guys daytripping that told us about the shorter portage to LP and some beaver dams ahead that we have to strong arm across.
We decide, even if we have to tripple portage, the shorter portage was the way to go. I hadn’t really researched this one, so I didn’t know if the portage was on the right or the left. They both looked plausable, but we chose the left. We hiked up a steep hill and at the top saw a campsite that was unoccupied. The treck back down to the lake was like a billy goat portage! Short, but really steep. I kept Crosby on a short leash, and we all did okay. We didn’t have MiniMN portage anything on this one, since it was technically difficult.
The paddle through Lower Pauness was pleasant. Saw a husband/wife that were camped at the lower site just north of the short portage. It looked nice, and they gave us a wave.
Began looking for Shell portage on our right. The guys we met on the Elm Portage said it was a sandy landing, but kind of tucked behind some trees. We didn’t see it. Kept consulting the map, but didn’t see anything that resembled the portage.
Someone had a red canoe and we found it! Praise Jesus! Thank you Red Canoe man for helping us spot the portage!
This portage was beastly. The entrance was a total muck field. Lost of people on it, so we all shared glances of misery and “oh yay – downhill now” commentaries. We passed the Sioux Hustler Trail (SHT) and MiniMN announced how badly she had to go to the bathroom. Her and I hiked down the SHT a bit and took an off trail potty break.
Finally came to the Beaver pond very annoying. Second part was nice but longer than I thought.
Guys from the parking lot (that had to drive all the way back to Ely) caught us. WTF. Made me feel like we are the slowest people in the world, but they don’t have two dogs and a kid with them right? 😉 One of the guys were impressed with MiniMN as she did the 220 rod portage and stoked her up a little bit. He then asked how much longer and I said just over the hill….
Mr.MN went back for last pack & I rewarded K with Thin Mints.
Shell is a beautiful lake. Lots of people were paddling around, and we decided to try and make it to Lynx.
Passed between Con Island and the smaller island and made our way East. Consulted the map but didn’t know exactly which way to go. Suddenly this floating rock appeared and I knew after watching all of the SHUG videos that this was the way to go. It was now referred to as the Shug Rock.
Just to the left of this rock you come to a little bay with a campsite, and the portage is directly at the end of the bay. We saw a group camped there of 6 in Hawaiian shirts, swimming having fun. They paddled out to the glacier rock and were jumping into the lake. They said it was slightly warmer than Lake Superior.
Found the Little shell portage easily. The portage itself is not hard, and probably our favorite. This would be the last portage we’d have to do before arriving at our camp on Lynx.
Passed the Sioux Hustler Trail again on this portage.
Little Shell is beautiful! Very clear water. Would consider camping on this lake in the future. The pathway was open to paddle to Lynx so we didn’t have to do the 4 rod portage. Took the lower east campsite after knowing it had good reviews. Lots of folks said it was a beach site, but I’m not sure what “beach” they were talking about. Slight sandy bottom so maybe that’s what people were talking about? Sprawling multi-level site with a grand view of the lake. Fished a bit off shore, drank 2 gallons of water.
We made the mistake of not having full water bottles and were practically dying of thirst. Definitely were dehydrated. Saw a crayfish swimming right by our boat landing.
Got things set up lazily, and found the toilet. This one had no lid, but there was a nice tree next to it to bungee our toilet paper to.
For the size of this site, there was really not many level root free tent pads available, but it would more than do for our family of three.
Entertainment for kiddos in the northwoods:
Eventually decided to get dinner out. Tonight was supposed to be Steak, baby red potatoes, and asparagus. Opened the stuff sack and dinner was an absolute mess. Potatoes and asparagus were dripping in blood, our lemon for fish was burst open, and ruined. The steak bled over everything. I’ll never do this again. I was very parinoid, but we got things cleaned up, or burned some of our food. It was sad. Had just steak for dinner.
I definitely want heliniox chairs, or some kind of chair option.
Compared to last year’s trip, the bugs are horrible! These little black flies are mean. They land on you and bite you!
We are the only ones on Lynx from what we can tell which is odd for the size of the lake.
After we got our steak mess cleaned up, we went to hang the rest of our food. Couldn’t find any good places to hang our bag. MiniMN had an idea so we let her try to help us find a tree. Had to walk 1/4 mile away from camp, but alas, this would do. Now I want URSACK bags too with odor proof stuff sacks so we don’t have to worry about hanging our food.
Enjoyed our fire and the sunset. Even at dusk it was still hot out.
Mr.MN leaned into me…. “What does it do for you…tripping in the BWCA?” One look over the lake said it all. Part of it is the planning which I absolutely love, and part of it is the challenge and learning to overcome. Not having any cell phone service, and relying on what is right in front of you. Plus it is so darn quiet.
After we had enough of the night sky, we retreated to our tent. MiniMN begged us to play yatzhee, so we did. Mr.MN won.
Head lamps went off, and the wheels started turning. Suddenly looked around the perimiter of our tent and began worrying about bears and wild life. Dreamed a pack of Lynx (who are solitary animals) would tear into the tent as well.
Tossed/turned in my 5 degree bag. Definitely too hot for this trip. I was in a full body sweat around midnight/1am as the full moon rose across tent.
A nearby Loon couple was going absolutely berserk in the moonlight for over 20 minutes. Prayed I wouldn’t hear any howling wolves, and drifted off to sleep.
Sunday May 22 – Day 2:
Woke up to a quiet world. Sadie snuggling MiniMN in a deep sleep.
Arose to no Mr.MN. I climbed out of the tent and looked around. He must be out fishing. Wrote in my journal on the rocks. MiniMN really sleeping in. About 45 minutes later spotted Mr.MN by the Little Shell portage/path fishing in peace.
It was a quiet beautiful morning on Lynx.
I was in much better spirits today.
Didn’t want to leave camp to get the food bag and have MiniMN to awake to nobody in camp, so I waited. She finally woke up, we got bag down from tree to get breakfast. Hot Cocoa/Coffee/Oatmeal. It was good. Instead of the regular Instant Quaker Oats we did last year, I made up these packs from this website. I even added raw almonds to mine which gave it a nice crunch.
Here is a quick video from the perspective of a child in the BWCA:
Cleaned camp. Went fishing in E. Bay just north of the southern campsite. Forgot our anchor bags, so we paddled back to camp get them as there was a nice breeze on the lake. Thanks Ducks for the tip! Works wonderfully!
Fished nearly the whole bay with all that we had, topwater, spoons, Gulp on bobbers, nothing. Had a snack in canoe, and just sat for a while and enjoyed each others company.
We were going to fish the west side of lynx but the wind was getting so bad, and the dogs were growing restless, so we decided to head back to camp and make up Mac & Cheese. Relaxed under my CCS tarp & listened to pair of loons romance each other and MiniMN entertain herself. She was talking to her imaginary friends and pretending she was a singer song writer at a book store. She announced to everyone said she had to sing about “The Strawberry Patch” because her manager already promoted the song…then said, “alright everyone, will you help me sing this next song?” and proceeded to make up some words to the Strawberry Patch song. MR.MN took our rainfly off the tent and took a nap in there, and the dogs were splattered about camp in a mid-afternoon slumber.
I studied the map for a bit to see about possible ideas for moving or day trips. Definitely want to eat a little more before we move to lighten the load. Maybe Tuesday…. We will discuss once Mr.MN wakes up. The girl and I try fishing off shore and not a bite.
Mr.MN wakes up, we discuss going out to Lake Agawato for some SMB fishing. The water is still way too whipped up to go anywhere so we decide to prepare dinner which is Tacos tonight. We get to lighten the load of jalapeños and onions at least. We make the tacos, which was freeze dried chicken & Trader Joes seasoning. One bite & MiniMN’s mouth is on fire! We had never used TJs taco seasoning before and it was hot hot hot.
Luckily I packed extra freeze dried chicken and its super easy to reconstitute. I could just kick myself for trying something new in the boundary waters.
The wind settles down so I go to get some water & check out the portage to Lake Agawato. I sat backwards in the bow seat and paddled to the middle of the bay – but man I got hit by the wind at the front of my canoe and started swinging and came dangerously close to tipping.
I paddled & dug deep with all my might. Finally scooped up some water & abandoned checking out the portage. Kept trying to get to camp, but I could not get back to the landing so I shouted for MiniMN to get Dad… he comes to shore with a puzzled look and says, what do you want me to do and I say I don’t know but I’m getting blown all over the place.
Eventually a small path away from camp before some huge boulders I spot a landing & dig. Mr. & Mini run over and got me safe. Mr. paddled back to the real landing just fine.
We will defnitely want to wait until aflter dinner to go anywhere.
Later after didnner the lake was like glass. A strong contrast to the whipping waters of earlier.
We paddled south from our campsite all along to the western shore of Lynx .We tried wounded minnow, spinners, fishin’ off the bottom & fishing with a bobber and not a single bite! A gorgeous sunset was painted on the night sky!
The dogs were getting restless which interrupted the peace however. Once we got back we had a roaring fire as the moon rose. Went down to the boat landing and went hunting for crayfish. Saw frogs, toads and a wolf spider. That sucker was HUGE! Eventually fell asleep. Sadie (Our Jack Russell Terrier) was snuggled in with MiniMN in her sleeping bag, laying on her back and snoring logs!
Monday May 23 – Day 3:
Arose to the sound of the wind and the sweet elixer of sleep tempted me to rest longer, but once I’m awake I find it tricky to fall back to sleep. Across the lake the sky fell grey and threatened our chance of moving. Mr.MN wanted to stay put, but we were giving this lake all that we had without even a nibble. The clouds blew north and Mr.MN made the announcement, “Pack this shit up – lets move.”.
We got camp busted down & ready to go in 1.5 hours and we were off. The wind had really picked up and we were paddling directly into the wind. Like my friend Canoearoo said of her biggest pet-peves, no being a fake paddler today! We were digging hard but made it over to Little Shell unscathed. We found the portage and made it over. Shell looked pretty darn wavy but no whitecaps we were hoping and praying one of the Con Island sites were available but nobody else was paddling today so we weren’t too hopeful.
As we rounded the corner near the glacier erratic to the right towards Con Island our hearts sank as we saw the south site was taken. Almost assuredly the north site would be taken as well since that’s often noted the best site on the lake.
The waves really kicked in and soon we were paddling white caps! I prayed so hard to make land safe and thought how dumb it was to move at that moment. Father keep us safe. Do not let us tip and oh Lord let one of the other two island sites be open or we have a strong paddle into the wind and waves.
Phew, the middle site was free – in a pinch we could stay there, but it didn’t look very nice. As we paddled north, I prayed fervently the north site wouldn’t be taken. I kept expecting to see a tarp or tent, but never did. We docked the canoe to get a look & I jumped ashore to ensure it really was free and sure enough, it was ours for the taking! PTL Thank you Jesus! Its free! its ours!
The site was gorgeous and tucked back into a little cove making the lake feel small.
We got set up.
After some searching found the toilet, which the FS really needs to address as it is almost full. At least to ground level!
Lunch, was summer sausage, nuts & cheese, but we were still hungry so I made up some Cous Cous & Vegetables with soy sauce. That hit the spot!
Fished from shore and saw a whole nest of frog eggs in the water!
The water on Shell is dirty and more tannic, but not as much as I expected.
A lovely bench seat by the fire
Saw a few wrapapers of tootsie rolls/tea bags by the fire, so that lost a little of its magic. Packed them up in our own garbage bag.
Under the bench we found matches & cigars which Mr.MN helped himself to.
Got our tarp hung beautifully over old an log.
It was much cooler today but still in tank top. I’m noticing that I’m getting sunburned I look like I spent a week in Mexico instead of the Northwoods of Minnesota.
Saw storm clouds rolling in to the west so we decided we better get dinner going. Pad Thai. It was very good!
Got in a panic trying to find a tree as the storm pushed in Con Island N has zero trees for bags. The rain came in huge drops, just as we finished and darted for the tarp as we watched the rain pour down.
Decidedly at this point in our lives 6-7 day trips aren’t for us. We think a 4 day or 4 night trip is about perfect and will plan for that in the future. After the storm passes we get out in canoe & fish the ^ shoreline near Heritage. Crosby lost his balance sitting up in the canoe, and almost tipped us over. Hearts are pumping.
MiniMN is working on casting lures and has a spoon she likes casting.
The lake was like glass. Jason gets a huge fat northern,but I can’t figure out the net so it gets away! I did get a video on the GoPro though.
We came back to camp & got a fire roaring. We tell stories about Elanore the man who sells coconuts…. as we grow tired.
We cozied up in the tent and fell fast asleep.
Tuesday May 24 – Day 4:
Felt like we really slept in today. Mr. MN woke up with a horrible headache, and burning eyes. Took some advil and slowly felt better.
Crosby ran off into the woods, and had to hike around looking for him. Trip has been stressful and not too relaxing with him. He is officially uninvited from future trips. His food is heavy, pulls on the leash too much, running off, restless in canoe.
Try to hike the trails on the island with Sadie, but they all peter out. We have a lazy morning to try and recapture our spirits.
We decide to cut our trip short and leave tomorrow to meet up with our friends and family for dispersed camping in the Chippewa National Forest. (CNF)
I definitely want to hit up Heritage Lake before we leave though and on our way out tomorrow I want to see Devils Cascade.
Portaged into Heritage. Portage was pretty flat, rocky in some spots. Landing kind of tricky. Muddy, but not too bad. 3/10. Heritage lake is beautiful. One of the most beautiful lakes I’ve seen. Fished like heck with NOTHING. Storm clouds rolled in and we headed back to camp.
Noted some guys fishing on Peninsula next to our campsite. Said they’ve been skunked on the fishing too.
Read BWJ under the tarp and watched the rain fall. Garbanzo Bean size hail. The CCS tarp held up like champ though.
Had Mac & Cheese for lunch. Sorted out our dinners/food bags for CNF.
More relaxing around the tent & look at maps & plan future trips. Definitely want to plan shorter trips, and less portaging. Snowbank to Parent & Disappointment, or Little Gabro to Gabro to base all look like good options, but also really looking forward to going to the Gunflint, or Sawbill.
Got everything packed for the hike/paddle out. Everything loaded into Frost River Pack much smarter and it is so much more comfortable now without my pots & stove gouging my lower back. Dare I even say I really like this pack now!
Had Tuna Alfredo Parmesan with Frenches Fried Onions. Thought of Kanoes from bwca.com as it was his tip to make this and was one of his favorites.
Head to the tent and play 2 games of yahtzee. I got 222 on the first round, and MiniMN got 307 with a bonus Yahtzee on round 2.
Alarm is set for 5:30 a.m. for an early morning break down since we want to make a quick pitstop to Devils Cascade on the way out.
I’m excited to get to the 220 rod beast portage out of the way right away! After that we’ll do the 40 rod to Upper Pauness, and back down the LIS to the car where I have an entire roll of Thin Mints waiting for us as a reward!
Wednesday May 25 – Day 5:
Alarm goes off and everyone wants to stay asleep. I read the Falls Chain article in the Spring 2016 issue of BWJ while I wait for my family to arise.
After I finish reading I woke them up and we got on the water by 7:30 a.m.
The paddle to Shell was uneventful. We didn’t have the strong waters, but there was a light breeze.
The portage sucked as bad as ever. Its very very muddy on both ends, and the beaver dam is damn annoying. MiniMN had a positive attitude on it, and carried her pack, and the Thwart Bag/Map Case across.
We swung to the right to check out Devils Cascade. We could hear the rushing water, but the landing was very obvious. The landing was a beautiful sandy beach landing, which was nice. We pulled everything up on shore, and left lots of room for others if they were going to be arriving or taking out.
The hike/portage was very well maintained and had a few ups and downs. Maybe because we weren’t carying anything I thought it was pretty easy. We hiked to the campsite that over looks the cascade and the rest of the LIS to the North. It was a gorgeous campsite, but had a severe drop off which would make me nervous with exploratory dogs and kids.
Back to the canoe we went. The peninsula campsite was occupied but looked very nice on Lower Pauness. It had a great view, and just across was another campsite. It didn’t look too special, but would do if you needed to.
We found the portage over to Upper Pauness and it looked steeper than my notes had made it sound. It really wans’t bad though, and we were across in no time. Rocky on both sides. We were exited to get paddling for a little while instead of portaging.
As we came towards the Little Indian Sioux River though the wind picked up from the south, and the current seemed much stronger than before. We paddled like the dickens, and within 15 minutes I thought my arms were going to fall right off.
We paddled with all of our might over the beaver dams, and only rubbed the bottom on one once.
The wind picked up and we were digging! The way the sun was shining on the river though we missed a big submerged boulder and before we knew it we were stuck right over the top of it like a teeter totter! I prayed so hard that the dogs, and kiddo would be calm….. keep calm I kept thinking, keep calm. Slow, and calculated movements were key. The river was about 10 feet deep in this location, and we could not push off the rock which as best we could surmise – was right below the bow seat.
We had MiniMN move to the packs behind her seat, and tried to carefully wiggle backwards… nothing. Finally, I too moved on the packs behind me and we gently wiggled backwards, and we were FREE!!!!!!
I was never so thankful in all of my life.
I was actually happy to see the Elm Portage so I could give my sad arms a rest. The portage was met with happy spirits, and we commented that Elm Falls looked like Root Beer bursting over the brink!
Back into the canoe we went, but I knew there weren’t rocks south of Elm Portage that we had to be concerned about. The wind settled some, but it was still a paddle. Finally as we came close to the LIS entry portage the wind died, and the river was glass. Figures.
We hauled everything up to the car, and left the Little Indian Siox River behind us.
Got a shower at VNO which felt like royal spa treatment,and loaded up on some groceries for the CNF.
Spent the next 5 days over in the CNF with our family and friends. Caught lots of crappie, sunnies, and LMB on topewater lures. It almost wasn’t fair how much fish we were catching.
We enjoyed our time with them, but we were also excited to get home. Sunday we finally crawled into our own beds. I was never so thankful to get off my Exped, and see running water!
Sunday night, I booked our BWCAW trip #2 of this season! We’ll head up to the Lizz | Swamp entry point, and basecamp on Caribou Lake, taking day trips into Horseshoe, and Vista. All of the portages are short, and easy, and it should only take us 2 hours or so to get to our campsite.
Looking on the horizon to the next trip!