We woke up early on Tuesday morning, excited to get started on our adventure. We piled into vans and cars with all of our gear and seven lightweight Kevlar canoes (and one plastic canoe). We were dropped off at the Little Indian Sioux River, off of Echo Trail, and we had our first portage (where you carry your canoe and gear over land to get to the next body of water). I’ll include screen shots of the route we took, along with the maps that we used to navigate the waters.
The Boundary Waters Wilderness area is pristine, and the rules for entering the waterways are designed to keep it that way. Only nine people are allowed in a group, and only a certain amount of groups are given permits per day. This meant that we had to divide into two different groups. We had an odd number, so we had eight in our group.
On this first day the weather was pretty good, the waters were calm, and we made it to our first portage in good time, our first portage was from Upper Pauness Lake to Lower Pauness Lake; it was a short paddle to our second (and last for the day) portage, Devil’s Cascade. The terrain is not terrible and there’s a beautiful overlook of the gorge, but the mosquitoes (like most of the boundary waters area) were a nightmare.
If you’re considering making this journey I have several mosquito deterrent recommendations; these bad boys are huge and they can (and will) bite through clothing, but every layer is helpful. If you do nothing else, wear quick dry pants and a long sleeved shirt; it won’t stop the buggers, but it might slow them down a smidge. And if you have time beforehand, douse those things in permethrin. You definitely want a hat of some sort, those dorky dad fishing hats are probably the best option. Then you want to put a mosquito net over the hat. This will protect your face and neck from getting bit while you’re carrying your gear over portages. I wore work out gloves to protect against blisters while paddling, but they were pretty good at protecting my hands from getting bit as well.
Back to the trip. At the end of devil’s cascade I attempted to make our peanut butter/tortillas for lunch whilst fighting off the mosquitoes. There was peanut butter everywhere. It’s a great, lightweight option for food, but you need to plan ahead and have them made up before you get in the canoe. I’ll talk more about food recommendations in an upcoming blog.
We made it to our camp site and got our tents set up. Unfortunately, I allowed myself to get dehydrated and I spent the rest of the evening sipping gatorade and trying not to vomit. This left the set up of camp to everyone else; Lewis has a lot of really great attributes, but organization isn’t one of them. Things ended up being a bit chaotic and we didn’t get as much accomplished as we would have hoped (we have planned discussions each evening to help us focus on leadership and God, this was cut short due to mosquitoes and poor planning). But the main physical things got accomplished.
These are the things you need to do to set up camp. First, get your tents set up, if you’re going to have bad weather you want to have cover until it’s passed, and it will keep you from getting soaked. Second you need to secure water. It’s not really safe to drink water directly from the lakes, especially on the shore, so you take a canoe out at least 200 feet and fill containers (we had collapsible jugs) to filter water from. Lewis and Kim took this duty and in the midst of filling containers they capsized. Both were fine, they just had to swim the canoe back to shore. In the meantime we were going to start a fire, but all of the wood we could find was wet and we discovered that no matches were put in our mess kit. Fun.
We did have a fire starter… somewhere, but we couldn’t find that either. Thankfully the other group was at the campsite on the other side of our island, so Lewis took off through the woods to find them, and hopefully matches. After eating (which I did not do, see nausea above) and cleaning up our dinner dishes, to protect ourselves and our food from bears, we either had to string your bags off the ground in the trees, or float it out in a canoe; we chose the latter. So two people had to canoe out at least 200 feet, towing another canoe with all the food and trash; we anchored the food boat and then left it in the water, to be retrieved in the morning.