BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog

July 23 2017

Entry Point 41 - Brule Lake

Brule Lake entry point allows overnight paddle only. This entry point is supported by Tofte Ranger Station near the city of Tofte, MN. The distance from ranger station to entry point is 35 miles. Access is a boat landing at Brule Lake. Large lake with several campsites. This area was affected by blowdown in 1999.

Number of Permits per Day: 7
Elevation: 1847 feet
Latitude: 47.9261
Longitude: -90.6448
Brule Lake - 41

Brule bay baby

by TuscaroraBorealis
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 24, 2011
Entry Point: Brule Lake
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 6

Trip Introduction:
The Black Pearl would be hauling it's most precious cargo to date on this trip. Our nearly 2 month old daughter Aurora would be making her first excursion to the boundary waters. (At least her first one not in her mothers' womb). Accompanying us on the trip would Auroras' older sister & brother; Hannah & Colton. As well as my brother Joel. Lt. Dan, Hence & Jodi canceled out on us a couple days before we headed up. While we still had 6, this would change the dynamic of the trip more than I anticipated.

Day 1 of 5


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Before leaving, I made sure to set the blue barrel out on our deck so fellow BWCA.com'er "paddlefamily" could pick it up on her way through Clearwater this weekend. As we likely wouldn't be back until late Sunday evening.[paragraph break]

My brother Joel made it to Clearwater around 8:30ish. After a little small talk and transferring his gear to our van we were on the road. I told Vickie I would follow her up to Tofte. Thus ensuring that I would be immediately aware when she needed to pull off and attend to Aurora. Beat having to maintain a constant vigil on the rear view mirror the whole way up.[paragraph break]

We decided to drive right through Duluth and the road construction. As Vickie wasn't 100% sure on the precise back road route. And, more importantly, there would be more opportunities to pull off if needed going through Duluth using the main highways. And we actually made it to Thompson's Hill rest area in Duluth before Aurora deemed a break necessary.[paragraph break]

Traffic wasn't bad at all. Soon enough we were at the Tofte ranger station watching the video and picking up our permit. The ranger informed us that there were no burning restrictions currently in effect. But, to be extra cautious as there had been a handful of small fires recently. All caused by careless campers. Including one in Brule bay, our hopeful destination.[paragraph break]

We stopped at the Holiday station to fuel up and grab some last second supplies. Aluminum foil being tantamount among these. Aurora had been very well disposed for most of the trip so far. Since Vickie wasn't familiar with the Sawbill Trail.... I decided to lead the way up to our overnight home, Crescent lake campground.[paragraph break]

As one would expect? Once clearing the blacktop the road morphs into a veritable washboard. This actually didn't seem to bother Aurora at first. But, Vickie wound up pulling over on the road to Toohey lake for a short while. Eventually we made it to our destination just ahead of the impending rain clouds on the horizon. [paragraph break]

In short order we had our tents up and pertinent gear safe inside. With this task accomplished Joel & I set out for Sawbill Outfitters to rent a canoe. Vickie and the kids stayed behind and put the finishing touches on setting up camp. Since there was only 6 of us? We had briefly contemplated just using the 2 canoes we brought. But, since we planned on bringing the kitchen sink, we felt it was prudent to have another canoe along principally for obvious storage & comfort it would provide on the paddle out. [paragraph break]

After some deliberation with Cindy, Joel decided on a Wenonah Prism. A solo canoe. He had never paddled a solo before so there was a certain degree of trepidation on his part. Ultimately the extra $6/day for a larger canoe was the deciding factor. Had LT. Dan & his kids come up Joel would be splitting the cost of renting a tandem with one of them. Now he was paying for the whole smear on top of going solo. [paragraph break]

Despite sporadic outbursts of light rain we hastily endeavored to cook up the hamburgers we had along for tonights meal. A faux pas of leaving the spatula buried in the barrel (and not wanting to dig it out) was remedied by using the cardboard from the box the hamburgers came in as that implement. They achieved the desired result by quieting the rumbling in our bellies.[paragraph break]

After supper the rain relented and the sky began to open up. Some minimal exploration of the nearby lakeshore was in order for the newest crew member of the Black Pearl. This would be her first foray at camping in the out of doors and, needless to say, there was a measure of anxiety on our part as to how she would respond. [paragraph break]

In another move prompted by LT. Dan backing out Vickie & I opted to spend this night in Joels' 4 man tent. Saving us from having to setup another tent. (At least for tonight.) It was a bit cramped, but we made it work. Stars were visible as we retired for the evening. Giving us encouragement that tomorrow will indeed be a picture perfect day. This is one forecast we sure hope is right on.[paragraph break] Crescent Lake

 



Day 2 of 5


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Aurora handled her first night in the woods like a champ. She slept very quiet & peacefully. And when she did wake up (for the second time) it served as my alarm clock. I took that opportunity to shuttle one of the canoes to the Brule lake landing while everyone else had breakfast, then packed up. It was a very misty morning and I was hoping to see some wildlife on the drive. I ran across a couple of grouse on The Grade, and seen a doe on the Brule lake road.[paragraph break]

I ran back to Crescent lake to pick up the other canoe and the rest of the gang & gear. The sun was starting to pop out and it made driving around some of the corners on The Grade something of a leap of faith. As I went totally blind on a few occasions from having to stare directly into the sun. Never the less we made the Brule lake landing in good time. Joel took the Prism out for a spin in the bay to get acquainted with the nuances of a solo canoe as best he could in the time alotted him while we loaded up the other canoes. Along with the Black Pearl, my buddies "Silver Bullet" completed our fleet of water faring vessels. I gave him some blueberries we had gotten on our last trip in trade for borrowing us his canoe. [paragraph break]

We outfitted the Black Pearl with a redneck sprayskirt. Taped a piece of tarp over the front of the canoe so Aurora would be out of the sun for our paddle. It looked goofy, but it was cheap & effective.[paragraph break]

With the experience we had on Pine lake earlier this year, our biggest concern in preplanning this adventure was how Mother Nature was going to treat us. Specifically wind & waves, but also heavy rain. We were prepared to pull the plug on this trip if any of these conditions reared their ugly heads at the outset. At first flash Brule lake would seem to qualify as one of the last BWCA lakes you'd want to try and paddle with an infant. But we chose a NE route up to Brule bay. And quick inspection of a map readily identifies an almost river like route between the islands along the eastern shoreline. Really there was only about a one mile stretch of open water to contend with. So we felt confident in this approach. All our worries became moot as the day was idyllic in every way.[paragraph break]

Apparently the water was almost too calm? As Aurora cried when water wasn't lapping at the sides of the canoe. There was ever so gentle of a breeze, but once we passed behind the islands we were cutting glass. Vickie surmised that Auroras' PFD was also possibly irrritating her a bit. She fussed on and off as we paddled along, but nothing too serious.[paragraph break]

Meanwhile, Joel was getting the hang of the whole solo canoe thing. And soon he was clipping along at a good rate. Past the large island he started pulling away, saying he'd go on ahead and scout out potential campsites. [paragraph break]

This being only their second trip, (and first where they weren't paddling with someone more experienced) Hannah & Colton were making slow but steady progress. We waited for them awhile near the NE point of the large island while trying to surmise if the campsite located there was indeed vacant as it appeared to be from the lake. Just in case we needed to paddle back and grab it.[paragraph break]

The narrows leading into Brule bay was fairly shallow and required attentive paddling as there were some sunken logs and rocks that needed to be avoided. As the bay opened up we seen Joel beached at the first site just to the north. It was an above average site that had plenty of room for our larger group and was well shaded but didn't afford much of a view. In researching for the trip on bwca.com's map section Vickies' target site was the one located on the southern shore. Joel & I hopped back in the Pearl to check it out. It was occupied by a father & son from (we found out later)St. Paul. Very friendly folks.[paragraph break]

We laid claim to that western most site in Brule bay where we initially stopped. Mommy & Aurora were happy to have found, and gotten, home setup. 10:30 and we were comfortably in camp & setup. Nice.[paragraph break]

Shortly there after Joel headed out to do some fishing. His efforts were immediately rewarded with a nice 18 walleye. He wasn't overly thrilled with the Prism as a fishing vessel. Saying he'd missed several other legitimate bites as he was more concerned with not flipping the canoe than getting a good hook set. But was encouraged by the fact that he had good action in the middle of the day.[paragraph break]

Colton & Hannah were quickly making themselves right at home. Both found a hammock and began devouring their respective books. By no means happening intentionally; but the hammocks were setup where there seemed to be just the right combination of shade versus sunlight. And mosquitoes were essentially a non-factor for the duration of our stay. (Though we would later find out the ankle biting flies meant business.)[paragraph break]

Aurora, not to be outdone by her older siblings, was also able to settle in and relax. Her little "pea pod" was an absolutely invaluable item on this trip. Essentially it was her mini-tent complete with it's own sleeping pad. It allowed some airflow & kept her away from the bugs without having to use any chemical sprays. We brought it inside of our tent at night. She behaved so well using this that Vickie, half joked, "we should put her in here when were back home?!?" [paragraph break]

Having had a chance to relax a bit and since it was still early afternoon? Joel & I decided to scout out the area for some future explorations. We paddled for the Vernon lake portage. Since the wind never really picked up all day the waterfall could be heard all along the trail. About 2/3 down the portage there was a trail branching off to the left (east). It is easily followed but, is fairly well overgrown and slippery in spots. Not quite as well worn and open as the trail to Johnson falls is. But a very beautiful spot none the less. [paragraph break]

I had heard good things about the campsite on Vernon near where this creek comes out. We went to check it out as well. There were alot of neat things along the trail too. The site was as advertised. Very open with several tent pads and a great view of Vernon lake. The creek washed out just west of the landing. The tub was right there as well. Looked like a nice place to cool off. [paragraph break]

We returned to camp to find we had one happy camper enjoying herself immensely. Loops on our CCS tarp were put to an all new use of hanging Auroras' various toys. She was really taken with being outdoors full time.[paragraph break]

For supper this evening Joel had brought some venison sausage. Vickie also prepared some potatoes & onions wrapped in foil. While we were standing around the firegrate waiting for the food to cook; Hannah matter of factly exclaimed, "Dude, there's a snake right next to your foot." Sure enough I look down and there is a garter snake not 6 inches from my foot. I must say I'm quite proud of my response to this development. Or, more correctly, lack of a demonstrative reaction as I'm not a big fan of snakes. [paragraph break]

Headed out fishing after supper. We picked up a few small walleyes to supplement the one Joel had caught earlier. Later we enjoyed a lovely bug free evening around the fire. Joel & I had a few ice cold beers as we actually brought in a full size cooler complete with a couple blocks of ice. We were able to keep our filets cold until we needed them. Everyone benefitted from this as we were also able to have ice cold drinks throughout the length of our stay. A real wilderness treat.[paragraph break] Brule Lake, Vernon Lake

 



Day 3 of 5


Friday, August 26, 2011

Breakfast was something of a mixed bag. Some of us had oatmeal, while others had pancakes, & Joel had pop tarts. One entree everyone agreed on was the fresh bacon. Of course Auroras' menu was quite limited and rather monotonous. :)[paragraph break]

Shortly after breakfast we tried fishing some with little success. Had a fair amount of bites. Just could never get one to commit. Guessing they were mostly very small fish? As our minds wandered.......a live tree branch was moving across the water. Our resident beaver was maintaining it's industrious reputation. Since fishing was slow; this gave us the impetus on how to more wisely occupy our time. [paragraph break]

Due to the scarcity of downed wood in the near proximity of our camp, we needed to gather some from elsewhere to bolster our reserves. There was plenty of downed wood along the hillsides easily scene from the lake. So we loaded up the Pearl with a handful of small logs to saw & chop up once we got them back in camp.[paragraph break]

Lackadaisically chopped and split the wood once we got back. With plenty of breaks in between. Relaxing around the firegrate in ideal conditions; no one immediately put it all together when there was some faint rumbling heard off in the distance. Before things reached critical mass, Joel put out the word that we were about to have some "weather."[paragraph break]

Got everything important under the tarp with time to spare. When the clouds let loose the rain came down in torrents. Our sanctuary under the CCS tarp made things very tolerable and kept everyone dry. Though, there were a couple of small streams of water that quickly formed and raged past us on their way to the final destination of their journey; the lake. We wound up moving Aurora, who was in her pea pod tent, to avoid one of these streams. She slept through the whole affair! It was no great mystery to discern where the loyalties of Hannahs' heart lied. As she clutched her beloved Nutella for the duration of the outburst. [paragraph break]

While the rain did come down hard, fortunately it only lasted a mere 15 - 20 minutes. After the storm had passed; Aurora finally roused, completely unaware of the maelstrom that had just taken place. Almost instantaneously the sun popped back out and thus began the process of drying things out. Hannah and Aurora really seemed to bond well on this trip. It was a pleasure to behold.[paragraph break]

Finished splitting up the rest of the firewood. Things hadn't completely dried out. At least not the hammocks. There was some residual moisture still present, but with the sun back out the humidity level had risen as well. So laying in a wet hammock actually felt a bit refreshing. It wasn't too long after I settled in that I was joined by another member of our crew. We shared a nice nap.[paragraph break]

After our nap, Hannah & Colton were chomping at the bit to get back & see the waterfall. The portage trail to Vernon, though well worn, was very steep. That coupled with the overgrown state of the trail back to the falls. Also it being somewhat slippery with several logs downed across the trail. I didn't think it was worth the risk to bring Aurora? So Mommy & her would stay back while the rest of us went to cool off. [paragraph break]

All of us decided to cool ourselves and rinse off some grime. The water was a touch on the uncomfortably cool side but none of us guys had to extract our "cashews" (reference to a JB in the wild comment) from our throats. Colton underestimated the force of the water crashing down the falls and bonked his head on a rock while trying to rinse off. He didn't seem any worse for wear though? Joel found a small pocket of deeper water just down from the falls to kick back and just soak in. The whole of this area had the trappings & undeniable feel of being in a rain forest. [paragraph break]

There was a trail running along the eastern side of the creek that leads to campsite on Vernon. It's rather precipitous in spots, as it follows the ridge just above the creek. It's in a bit better shape wear wise than the trail to the west that leads back to the portage trail. We headed to the campsite on Vernon. More specifically the tub. It was unoccupied once again. Which was quite surprising considering the seemingly ceaseless brigades of canoes that passed by our site yesterday and already today. Hannah & Colton continued soaking in the tub while Joel & I grabbed a seat on the nice stair step landing & shot the breeze.[paragraph break]

Just west of the creek along the shoreline of the lake are a duo of colossal cedar trees standing side by side. These would rival any I've ever come across in the BWCAW, including those on Basswood lake. [paragraph break]

Back at camp it was good to see Mom & Aurora didn't have any serious problems. It was still fairly warm out, but we got the fire going to cook the remaining pack of venison sausage for supper tonight. Also we dug the walleye filets out of the cooler. Finally some teriyaki rice to supplement us as well. [paragraph break]

After supper it was Vickies' turn to get out and do some exploring while Daddy & Uncle Joel stayed behind and watched Aurora. Vickie, Hannah, & Colton headed toward the narrows with the Silver Bullet. They returned with some pretty neat driftwood and, of course, rocks. Once again the weather was stellar for the better part of the day. Great paddling weather.[paragraph break]

Aurora seemed to be enjoying her time outdoors. So if it wasn't completely obvious to me already? While changing her; the enormous smile that appeared on her face as a loon call bellowed through the still evening in our camp sealed the deal. [paragraph break]

Her only troubling period of the trip happened later that night after we had gone to bed. She had been having occasional tummy aches & another one surfaced this evening. She was inconsolable until Vickie was able to give her some medicine. Eventually she calmed down and went to sleep. Apparently she wasn't all that bad? As neither Joel, Hannah, or Colton heard her at all that night. [paragraph break] Brule Lake, Vernon Lake

 



Day 4 of 5


Saturday, August 27, 2011

[paragraph break]

Awoke to another beautiful misty morning. We also found that we had a bear in camp. But going against conventional wisdom; Vickie decided to feed this one saying, it keeps "growling" if I don't feed it. We thought it was so cute we brought her home with us. :) Accompanying our little bear throughout our stay was a pretty little butterfly who fluttered about the site on a regular basis. [paragraph break]

Hannah & Colton kept themselves entertained after breakfast by catching a few crayfish and having races with them. Meanwhile Joel & I head for Vernon lake with the Black Pearl to try some fishing and do some sight seeing. [paragraph break]

We passed by the burnt campsite the the ranger at the Tofte station had mentioned. It appears it started right in camp and spread out for a few hundred feet leaving behind orange pine needles and charred black tree trunks. All the underbrush is what must have fueled the fire? An unfortunate set of circumstances to be sure. We paddled on to the portage to Vernon lake. [paragraph break]

This portage is only listed as 55 rods on my Voyageur map. But, I'd say it's something of a maneater. Especially if you're coming from the Vernon lake side. There is a very steep hill with a minimum of quality footholds. I was glad this was just a daytrip. [paragraph break]

There is an impressive stand of large white pines on the peninsula directly south of the portage landing. There were also a few other nice trees peppered around the lakeshore as we paddled around. We left the leeches behing so we just trolled various rapalas and spoons. I hooked into an incredibly small bass just out from the landing. Joel later caught one as well, but overall fishing was quite slow. We stopped at the 5 star site yet again to get out and relax before tackling the portage back into Brule bay. [paragraph break]

We had heard various loon calls during our stay. But, to this point none of us had seen one or any waterfowl for that matter. Once back on Brule bay there was a lone loon that was repeatedly flipping over and putting it'sfeet in the air. While it didn't disappear when we paddled over it abruptly quit it's silly shananigans. Still we were able to observe it from a close vantage point, which is always cool beans. [paragraph break]

It was chicken fajitas for lunch. Afterwards we ALL canoed over to the Vernon lake portage yet again. Aurora was at her first portage trail! To be sure, a seminal moment. Or so I hoped? It was determined that I would stay back with Aurora at the landing. That way Vickie could go and actually see the waterfall for her ownself too. I was amazed, throughout, how the bugs & flies really seemed to leave Aurora alone; even while the rest of us were getting the occasional bite. It must've been providence?[paragraph break]

[paragraph break]

After supper; once again we were treated to a brilliant star filled evening. While we did persist about the fire a bit later than usual. I'm sorry to report that Auroras' namesake never did reveal itself to any of us. Maybe next time??? [paragraph break] Brule Lake, Vernon Lake

 



Day 5 of 5


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Joel was up quite early this morning. He could be heard packing up his things. Wanting to get on the water before the wind had any chance of whipping up. His opinion on the handling prowess of the Prism pretty well etched in stone. While waiting for the rest of us to get our things packed up; some last second fishing was in order. [paragraph break]

Everyone had a quick breakfast of Clif bars or pop tarts. We had 2 of the canoes loaded up ready to go. With only the Pearl sitting empty waiting for Aurora to finish her breakfast so we could pack her things away. Hannah & Colton were about to shove off when Hannah looked off towards the narrows and exclaimed, "Hey! There's a moose swimming over there!"[paragraph break]

Through the morning mist the immense "paddles" of a bull moose could be perceived swimming just across the bay from us. Joel & I hopped into the Black Pearl and paddled over to get a closer look. My camera was still a bit fogged up so the pictures quality wasn't as good as I had hoped for but, you get the idea. Hannah & Colton paddled over as well to take a better look before starting their trek back to the EP landing. We later surmised; that it was a good thing we had to wait an extra 10-15 minutes for Aurora or we likely would've met that bull face to face in the narrows? As it was; it ended up being an awesome climatic send off.[paragraph break]

One problem we'd had with Aurora in the canoe was that her feet were getting wet. Our wet footing entry/exiting transferred enough water onto the floor of the canoe to get her feet wet as they hung over the edge the the foam pad we had for her. Colton suggested we put a ziplock baggy over her legs. And that's just what we did. Worked like a charm.[paragraph break]

Yet again we were blessed with idyllic paddling weather. The good fortune we enjoyed on this trip in regards to this was not lost on me. I was very thankful. We caught up with Hannah & Colton about half way back. We paddled with them the rest of the way. Apparently it was a popular time to leave the lake? There were no fewer than 4 seperate groups funneling toward the bay of the EP landing. We all managed to stay out of each others way. It probaby helped that after unloading our gear & setting everything off to the side; Joel & I took the Prism back to Sawbill Outfitters while Vickie and the kids waited.[paragraph break]

To pass time while waiting Hannah & Colton set about catching several frogs that were there in the weedy shallows. Not sure if Hannah tried to find out if one of them were her prince charming? :) [paragraph break]

We returned with cold sodas and loaded everything into the vehicles. We stopped in Tofte to fuel up, then in Schroeder for pizza and ice cream. And since it was within walking distance............we headed over to the bridge that ran over the Cross river to burn off some of the pizza while enjoying the sights. [paragraph break]

This was definitely a trip full of new learning experiences. There were some bumps in the road. But at the end of the day it was still a very good trip. Beyond just having a safe trip we achieved 3 of our primary objectives; 1.) Vickie got her walleye supper. 2.) Hannah got to see her waterfall. 3.) Colton got to see some wildlife up close & personal. And, looking forward, I think we've gained enough confidence to try more ambitious trips with Aurora in the future? Hopefully this was the beginning of many more? Brule lake

 

Lakes Traveled:   Brule Lake,

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