There are many advantages to living in Ely. One of them is that in October you can wait for the weather forecast to look promising and then just head out for your canoe trip. No permit quotas, no bugs, few people and gorgeous autumn colors!
That is what my friend Donna Hway & I did. We headed out mid-October for a short trip up the Little Indian Sioux River. Even though our water levels were down we had no problem navigating down the river. We had decided to take a Kevlar Souris River Quetico 16 canoe. We just got the kevlar version in our rental stock this spring and I had heard all kinds of great comments on it. After taking it out I agree with the rest, it is a really nice, light and stable 16 foot canoe. Since Donna did all the canoe portaging, she appreciated the fact that it only weighed 40 pounds!
Upper Pauness was gorgeous and there was no one else on the lake. As we rounded the corner into Lower Pauness we noticed that its only campsite was taken but no one was around. When we were looking for the portage into Shell Lake we had to search a bit. With the water levels down the entry was a little harder to find. Luckily some logs had been cut and put in place by the Forest Service so the landing wasn't as mucky as it could have been.
The trail into Shell is rather easy even if it does run about 230 rods. The terrain goes up a little and then just sort of rambles until the last 60 rods where it drops again.
At the end of the portage we could look across Shell and see Con Island which is where we were headed. Donna agreed with me that the campsite on the south end of the island was the best to see both sunrises and sunsets, so that is where we camped. We found a real nice even spot to put the tent up. There weren't any real good trees to hang the food pack on, however we managed.
Later as we were finishing dinner we were visited by two very persistent Canadian gray jays. Since we still had some food left and we were stuffed 'to the gills', we set down our plates with quite a bit of our Mexican dinner left on them. Those jays ate everything! They must have come back and stuffed their beaks at least 35 times, no exaggerating! Sort of makes you rethink the phrase, "eating like a bird".
Later we sat and watched the sunset begin. Just about the time a few stars were spotted we were visited by a couple canoeists who must have been thinking our site would have been a nice one to take. After they saw us there they just paddled on and camped on the north side of the island.
It was turning dark and we were reading a book by flashlight when all of a sudden we heard some major splashing and heavy breathing at the shoreline of the island opposite us. We kept watching the skyline/waters edge silhouette and expected to see the outline of a big bull moose, but no luck. Every time we heard a noise we turned off the flashlight and waited and watched in anticipation. I guess it could have been just some otter or beaver, but it sure didn't sound like it. As we continued our reading we continued to keep an eye out for anything heading our way.
That night the temperature got down around 37 degrees but we were nice and warm in our tent. The next morning started out sunny and clear skies. But by 8:30 a.m. the sky had clouded up, and it looked like it might start raining soon.
We decided to head to Heritage Lake and look around. The portage trail was fairly short, only 80 rods. With low water the beginning of Heritage looks sort of like a part of a boggy area and then it opened up to the main body. Heritage has a nice campsite on the northern part of the lake and is well known for walleye fishing. We didn't catch any walleye there so there are plenty left for all of you for next year.
When we started back for home it was cloudy and looked like rain. It only took about 3 hours to get back to the Indian Sioux parking lot. As we began our drive back down the Echo Trail the sky began to clear and by the time we got back to Ely the sun was out again.
Another short trip but a good one. It's always is anytime you can get out in the BWCA especially when you can enjoy it with a good friend.