Monday, January 9, 2012

#14 Little Indian Sioux North Loop: Mid-June 2011

A few days after Zane and I got back from the Snowbank Loop, I finally decided to buy a black lab puppy. I had been considering getting a pup for some time and I was lucky enough to find Agnes, the last pup of a small litter of 3. Agnes was 8 weeks old when I got her. One week later, I took her on her first Boundary Waters trip.
Zane had the same days off as I did so he decided to come too. We decided that we were going to do the P-Loop out of #14 Little Indian Sioux North. We both worked until 2:00 on our “Friday”, and with the long days up here in June, we decided to leave right from work. This gave us an extra night in the woods. We were packed and ready to go so we could leave immediately after work.
We were on the way up to #14 by 2:15, and on the water by about 3:30. This gave us plenty of time to get a good start on the loop, which we needed since this was Agnes’s first trip and we weren’t sure how much, if at all, she would slow us down. I realize this route might be a little ambitious for a puppy’s first trip, but I thought starting her young would help her get used to being in the canoe and camping.
Agnes’s first portage was no problem. Fortunately, we only had two small packs and the canoe, so the guy without the canoe just took Agnes on the leash. Getting Agnes to walk well on the leash, however, is another story, but we have been working on that.
To my surprise, she did well in the canoe too. I put a kneeling pad down in front of my seat for her to lie on, and, after loading the packs into the canoe, I set Agnes inside. She was antsy at first, but once I got into the canoe and was able to make her sit still, she got the idea and relaxed. We were on the move.
With a little bit of coaxing, Agnes did fairly well while we were traveling. She excitedly took in all the new sights and smells. We made our way down the river, portaging and paddling our way to Upper Pauness. Helping Agnes in and out of the boat was slowing our pace a little bit, but at this point we were confident that she would not slow us down too much to do the entire loop.
We made our way, via the 40 rod portage to Lower Pauness. Next, we checked out Devil’s Cascade on the way back to the Little Indian Sioux River. If you haven’t had a chance to see Devil’s Cascade it is definitely worth checking out, especially when the water is high and the river is gushing over the rocks. As you are portaging past, don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate the cascade.
That would be our last portage for the next five miles or so. Once we got Agnes settled in the boat, we continued paddling. As we approached the end of the river, where we were going to veer into East Loon Bay, Agnes was bored of sitting and started to get anxious. A short shore break to let her stretch and we were moving again. We passed a couple of really nice campsites and beaches in East Loon Bay on our way into Little Loon Lake. We continued to the campsite on the north side of the lake and set up our camp.
Agnes was glad to get out of the boat and run around. I was worried about her running off, but as it turns out, she stayed within eyesight the whole time. I feed Agnes while Zane got some water boiling for dinner. Shepard’s Pie with Beef from Backpacker’s Pantry, delicious. We cleaned up camp as it was starting to get dark, and I started a small fire. We relaxed for a bit, doused the fire, and then retired to the tent.
Having a puppy in the tent can be an adventure, but overall, Agnes did pretty well. I only had to let her out once during the night. She was up early, which meant I was too. I got some hot water ready for oatmeal and fed Agnes breakfast. Soon, Zane was up. We ate, tore down camp, and were on the water before we knew it.
We started the morning with a fairly long portage into Slim Lake. The farthest campsite to the north on Slim is a fantastic spot, definitely worth checking out if you are in the neighborhood. The next stretch of our route consisted of a short paddle, to a portage over a hill, to another short paddle, to another up/down portage, and so on. We cruised; the puddle jumping was good for the dog. It let her stretch and helped to keep her from getting too antsy.
We went from Slim, to Section 3 Pond, to South Lake, a longer portage to Strup Lake, east into Eugene Lake, over to Little Beartrack Lake, to Beartrack Lake, a 200 rod portage into Thumb Lake, finally a short walk over to Finger Lake, where we took a break for lunch. This stretch is one of my favorites in the Boundary Waters. It is incredibly beautiful, with gorgeous shorelines and rock faces, and is a great place for seclusion. In fact, Zane and I didn’t see another boat in this area. It is a little bit of work to get into all of these small lakes but is certainly worth the effort.
After a quick lunch, we continued on our way to Pocket Lake. Pocket is a great place to set up camp for a few nights if you get a chance. There are a couple of amazing campsites and you are usually secluded. It is an incredible place. Now it was time for us to turn south. We took Pocket Creek into Ge-be-on-e-quet Creek. This spot might be tricky with low water.
At this point in the day, we had done a lot of uphill portaging, and I was starting to get a little tired. We decided to take a quick break once we got on to Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake. We ate some GORP, took a breather, and moved on. As we paddled, Agnes fell asleep on the bottom of the boat. She must have been tired too. She would sleep the rest of the day while we traveled, just waking up long enough to do the portages.
We moved on to Green Lake, then to Rocky Lake. It was getting late in the afternoon, so we didn’t look for the pictographs, but should you be passing through see if you can find them. We moved on from Rocky to Oyster Lake, where we decided to set up camp.
The first site on Oyster was taken by only the second group of people we had seen all day. We continued along the peninsula and took the campsite on the point. This was a great site. It had plenty of room for a couple of tents, a decent spot to swim, a great spot to sit and look out on the lake or at the stars, and a really neat trail leading around the peninsula.
Exhausted, we set up camp and ate dinner. I fed Agnes and we cleaned up camp. We had about 45 minutes of daylight left, so I decided to hike around the point with Agnes. I watched the sunset, headed back to the campsite, and hit the hay.
Again, the dog and I were up early. We had the usual quick breakfast and got right on the water. I was still sore from yesterday, and we had a pretty long ways to go to finish the loop. The day started with a 310 rod portage into Hustler Lake. This portage was broken up by a small flooded spot that we needed to paddle across, which was better than doing the whole portage without a break. We cruised through Hustler and did the quick portage into Ruby Lake. The portage from Ruby to Lynx Lake was another long one.
At this point in the trip, Agnes was tired. She begrudgingly walked the portages and napped while we were paddling, but all in all she did exponentially better than I expected. From Lynx, we continued into Little Shell Lake, then to Shell Lake, another long portage back into Lower Pauness. This time, we took the short portage to Upper Pauness and then got back onto the river, which we followed back to the truck.
Overall, this was a really fun trip. I was very pleased with how Agnes did on her first camping trip, and we saw a lot of really great territory. I was, however, exhausted; it was a good tired though. This was a grueling route and Zane and I pushed ourselves a little bit, but it was a very memorable adventure.

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