BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 18 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 4
Elevation: 1406 feet
Crab Lake & Cummings Lake - 4
Solo trek of BRT Crab lake to Clearwater lodge
June 21, 2021
Crab Lake and Cummings from Burntside Lake
Clearwater Lake (62)
Number of Days:
Started off at Crab Lake entry point for access to the BRT. Fought my way through thick grass and bush searching for some semblance of a trail. Took the Crab lake spur trail to the BRT and more of the same. Brush everywhere obscuring my every step while soaking my pants and boots. Camped out at Topper lake for an easy day, and managed to dry out my boots by chasing the sun and hiding them every 40 min when a cloud would block the sun, dump some light rain for 10min before the sun came out again. Rinse and repeat all day. At night the Loon(s) decided to see how loudly they could call. I will say it did echo quite nicely in that lake area, but caused some weird dreams about altering their ability to call.
Morning day 2 feeling fed up. Tired of crappy weather, but even more frustrated at literal years of overgrowth on the trail. Decided I had enough and decided I'd be ditching my original plans. Hiked out and Camped at the small Rose Lake site with a couple heading opposite my direction to the western terminus. They had 20 miles and 2 days in to my 14 at that point. They planned on continuing at that pace for the next few days. Quite admirable. They provided a nice respite and a friendly pleasant bit of company to enjoy for a few hours. An otherwise uneventful night. No Loons practicing their max volume tournaments.
Day 3 headed out and found a large group occupying the entire lower site complete with a giant multi colored tarp set up completely blocking the entire path. I had to force through some small trees and step over guy (sp?) Lines on bad terrain before I could even think of getting back on trail. One camper asked if I was looking for the trail. I snarkily replied I knew exactly where the trail was...under all their camp setup. I was met with an "Oh" before she crawled under the tarp I was hopping over lines on. I had planned to hike past Clearwater lake before doubling back to the lodge in addition to all the various lake visits. However, considering the trail conditions and how many times I stumbled and nearly twisted my ankles due to the overgrowth hiding unstable footing on the trail I took the Daniel lake spur south. Before that though was a flooded section with shin deep water for a good 100 or 200yds. So much for dry feet. Thankfully due to the abundance of cedar and other pine needle droppings preventing undergrowth the rest was clear trail, level ground and barely any overgrowth...just a half dozen fallen trees that required ducking, climbing, or crawling to get past.
First camp site (north Daniel lake) was just as pristine as I remembered with a very courteous camper having left neatly stacked piles of split wood and kindling all ready for a nice fire in the pit. Second site (south Daniel lake) had another group either settling in or getting ready for a trip out. I said my hellos and stated I would be borrowing a unoccupied seat on a log around the grates for a few minutes just for a quick rest. The head Karen stated this was their camp and would I mind not being here and go use the clearing further down. Recognizing the futility of pointing out courtesy and common sense I could see the distrust and annoyance in her eyes as if I were some evil man trying to steal their site or go through their stuff when gone. I moved on without arguing to the mentioned clearing and managed to find a spot with a boulder I could actually sit on and gave my socks and insoles another wringing to get a bit more water out and stop the constant squishing of every step. Had I had many more miles ahead I'd opt for dry socks but the wading had my boots thoroughly soaked and the lodge was only a couple miles away so no biggie. Trudged through boot sucking, ankle slurping mud and got back to the lodge where I ended my hike.
So I've hiked this same section years ago and don't remember it ever being this bad. When I say that I have walked more accessible deer trails no human has touched, I'm not exaggerating. This trail is so badly overgrown and mismanaged it should be stripped of its name and taken off the NPS registry of trails. When I say these sections have literally gone years without any grooming I am once again not exaggerating. There are spruce trees growing into the trail in many locations some nearly as tall as I am. I did some checking and spruce is a medium to slow grower averaging 12-24inches a year. Even under ideal farmed conditions you'd still need 3+ years to get to a height of nearly 6 feet. After this experience with conditions the way they are, I will not be hiking the BRT again. Might try some canoeing, but I wonder how bad the portagee's are. The BRT is a joke and frankly dangerous. I realize that section I hiked is in designated wilderness area so I don't know if trail crews are allowed chainsaws and other motorized tools. I'm not suggesting they say make the trails 10' wide for 2 people with trekking poles to walk side by side in. At least do enough yearly maintenance to keep the undergrowth down and cut back the yearling trees that are growing into the trails. And would it kill these people to mark trails with more than a ribbon tied to a twig a foot off the ground? There were several instances where I lost the trail and had to consult my map app and backtrack to get back. The trail was that overgrown and poorly marked.