Weekend at Vernon
I had met up with my buddy, Adam, in Duluth and spent the night on his couch after sorting our gear. This process ended up taking way longer than it should have and kept us up too late. Next time, I am prepping the dehydrated milk and such beforehand and not the night before. This kept us up too late and rushed us a bit too much.
We left Duluth at about 7 and got on the water at Brule around 10. While loading the canoe, my heavy Old Town which weighs 85lbs, we discovered that we forgot the fishing net. We each had one at Adam's place but I guess we both thought the other was bringing theirs and didn't want to double up. I also forgot my TP but Adam had enough for us both, turns out it was hiding under a pillow on his other couch.
Paddling across Brule was nice. This was my 3rd time entering on Brule and every time it is beautiful, but this was my first time headed east. Because there was a moderate wind, we opted to not fish and take the channel behind the large island to get to Vernon sooner. This paddle was uneventful, we just soaked in the beauty of the boundary waters and were happy to be back again.
The portage from Brule to Vernon was rocky, both the landing and the trail. It was steep uphill right off the lake, but otherwise all downhill from there. We decided to 2 man carry the canoe up the first part then set it off to the side while we carried everything else but the food bag and rods. We found the side trail to the falls 2/3rd of the way to Vernon and checked that out. Nice little falls with a good area around it to explore. We didn't stay long and said we would come back later. Taking the canoe downhill sucked, we were climbing around or down boulders bigger than us. The canoe could not be carried properly without banging on the rocks. My canoe is heavy but well balanced, carrying it like this made things much harder than it should have been.
We got out on to a quiet Vernon and immediately headed towards the 5 star site by the stream. It was open so we counted ourselves lucky and set up camp. We gathered some firewood, did a little fishing, no bites, and then gilled the steak we brought and made instant mashed potatoes to go with it. Best steak I've ever had.
That night was one of the clearest I had ever seen and we got lucky to see a couple dozen shooting stars. It was so nice that we climbed out to the middle of the stream and sat on the rocks staring at the sky, sipping on our brandy and water.
This was a bit of a lazy day. I had seen people cooking fish on a plank so I wanted to try that here. I spent a good bit of time splitting wood trying to make planks to cook the fish on. It was idle work for a lazier day.
In the afternoon we went fishing and wore our swimsuits so we could hop in if we got warm. We fished the whole lake and got rained on once or twice, but being august we had a hard time finding the fish and got no bites. Cooled by the rain we didn't swim but had a nice tour of the lake.
Back at camp we decided to relax on shore and put our lines in the water and smoke a couple cigarillos. Finally, Adam caught a northern ad decided it would be dinner. We left our lines in the water where they were in full view of the fire grate while we started getting dinner ready and in 20 min or so had 2 more Smallmouth. Rather hungry, and not the biggest fish, we decided that 3 fish would be good for dinner.
We planked the 3 fish and I made an alfredo noodle dish with sundried tomatoes and basil. Too much tomato and seasoning and it wasn't the greatest. Ended up having too much fish so we were stuffed by the time it was gone. The planked fish was good. You could taste the smoke and it was really moist, but took forever and was pretty much 2 meals between the fish and pasta.
That night I learned a little lesson about sitting around the fire smoking cigars and not drinking enough water. Only a little light headed, but I felt bad because I spilt Adam's wine when I stood up and felt woozy. After drinking about a full liter bottle of water and sitting much further back, I felt better and we called it a night.
Last day, we knew we wanted to see the falls again so we hiked the trail to the falls from camp. Once there we got some pictures then tried exploring the area above the falls. The area above was more interesting than the main falls. It didn't have the magnitude but it was pretty enclosed with large boulders all around, cedars growing between rocks. The water was actually coming from under the rocks and no stream was visible when we tried to trace it back. Climbing out of the little canyon there, it was granite boulders the size of houses. Really cool boulder pile where it looks like an ancient glacier had shattered and pushed them all up together.
After a couple hours exploring, taking pictures and soaking our feet in the cool water, we headed back to break down camp.
Adam carried the canoe up the incline this time. It looked much easier when the natural balance kept the canoe from bouncing on the ground. Still a rough portage but much easier with a lighter food bag. I know we packed too much or it would have been easier.
We waited out a brief front that blew through at the Brule side of the portage. Once that passed, we launched and soon the lake calmed to be like glass. We refilled our water bottles away from shore and continued back. Almost back to the Entry Point we ran into a group of 5 who asked for directions and opinions on a close site. They wanted a close site because the 5 were all in one canoe and the youngest was maybe 8 years old. With their gear, and kids sitting on top of the gear, they were top heavy and an inch or two from having the water spill over the canoe. We told them that they should not put themselves into a situation where they need to cross open water because they could swamp if the lake wasn't as still as glass like it was at the moment.
After directing them to where we knew the campsites were, we started heading back to the EP and we think they were headed to the north end of the lake against our warnings. I hope nothing happened to them. The would probably be fine after lightening their food bag though.
It was an uneventful exit and ride back. I had my car with my new roof rack. It worked well and I was happy with it though I was concerned about the canoe up there. I got back home near Mankato around 1AM and went to work the next day. Unloading the canoe at that time was the worst part.
All in all, it was a great short trip. Wish I could go for longer, but with a 6 month old at home, I was lucky to get what I did.