BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
December 10 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 2
Elevation: 1825 feet
Homer Lake - 40
brule and the art of compromise
August 12, 2008
Number of Days:
Everything is packed, the rack is set up, but how to get this beastly canoe up there? I used to be able to muscle it up there alone, but creeping up on 50 has me not quite as sure of my abilities. Finally I say Screw it! , and turn her sideways on the rack out in the yard, grab her by the gunnels, and power- lift that sucker onto my shoulders. YES!!! In no time, the canoe is secured to the car, and my ego is stoked to the max!
We all crawl into bed by midnight, set the alarm for some ungodly hour, and try to fall asleep.
Day 2: The birds are singing, and my alarm is too. We all stagger to the car, coffee mugs in hand, and head out of Duluth. Soon we’re pulling up to Judy’s Cafe in Two Harbors for a quick breakfast. This is a family tradition from when the kids were little and would whine pitifully if they had to subsist on trail mix and crackers until dinnertime. The food is good and cheap, and the waitress is friendly- I swear it’s the same lady every time.
We cruise up the shore to the Tofte ranger station and watch the video, and then we’re headed up the trail to Brule. I love the transition of the bumpy dirt road- making us begin our transition to a slower pace of life. The car is unpacked and left in the lot, and we’re off across Brule. Hubby and I had intended to head for Winchell if the wind on Brule was kind to us, but Jesse is not so keen. His rational is that this is his only vacation, and the kitchen pack is a monster to portage. Kids these days! You’d think a 25 yr. old would kick our 50 yr. old butts, but it’s not true.
We head towards the Cones, passing an amazing number of canoes. All campsites appear to be full until we hit the last one before the portage into South Cone. It’s open and sunny, and is set back from the lake on a trail, so it looks like a portage until you get out of the canoe. Jesse votes to take it, and we reluctantly unload. Hubby and I sit on a log- he’s looking a bit grim. We talk about it, and decide that the 2 of us will portage into the Cones and see of either campsite is open, so we take the tent and head out. Entering South Cone is like a whole other world. It’s calm and quiet, and when we paddle over to the island campsite, it’s open. There is a bald eagle sitting in one of the big pines- a sure sign, right? This is a first for me- I have never actually been able to get one of the campsites I circled on my map while doing research! It’s a beautiful site, facing away from paddlers heading through to Winchell and Davis, very nice.
I leave Hubby there with the tent, and paddle back to get Jesse. He informs me that 3 groups had already tried to portage through the campsite, so he’s not as reluctant to press on as I’d feared- besides, it’s easy to float past the South Cone portage. Soon we’re setting up camp and exploring our new home. It’s 3 p.m., and I take off my watch and stick it in my pack for the rest of the trip. This site has good and bad qualities. On the plus side, it is secluded and has nice trails along the shore, with a nice view of the rising moon later. Also, if you were so inclined, you could pick raspberries while sitting on the throne! Negatives are that the kitchen area has almost no space that is even relatively flat, and there isn’t much space for larger tents. Our 4 man fits, barely, and there are 2 places where you could fit solo tents, but unless you love sleeping on big ass roots and rocks, don’t plan on camping here with a large group.
Once we have some firewood cut, we make coffee and dinner- steaks over the fire and biscuits. Life is good. The sun goes down, the moon rises, and we eventually drift off to our tent.
Day 3: Breakfast is dehydrated hashbrowns, bacon, and eggs, and a couple mugs of strong coffee from my trusty lexan french press. We discuss pressing on to Winchell, and Jesse flat out refuses to haul any gear one step further, opting to lounge around the island while his dad and I day trip into Winchell. Well, we can do that I guess. We pack up the camera and some lunch and our rain gear, and head for parts unknown. The portages through the Cones are short and easy, and we’re soon on the 147 rod into Cliff. It’s fairly level, a little brushy, but not too brutal. We begin to pass other groups, one of a mom with 2 daughters, the younger of whom is finding all the portaging pretty rough. Cliff is gorgeous! It lives up to it’s name, with several nice cliffs tucked into the hillside, and one big cliff that a bunch of teens are climbing as we paddle by.
2 more short portages and we’re on Winchell- what a nice lake. We paddle across to the campsite directly across from the portage, which is one of the nicest sites I’ve seen. Big granite along the shore for lounging after swimming, very shady and level tent pads, nice kitchen area- this is a site that a large group could use easily. We eat our lunch of triscuits, jerky, chocolate and trail mix up on the rocks, and watch the other canoeists fanning out across the lake, looking for campsites. The first group to get near us is the previously mentioned mom, and we wave her over. We’re just having lunch, and I have a soft spot for parents and young kids. We tell them we’ll be leaving after lunch, and the site is theirs if they want it, which they do.
It’s getting on, and we’ve got a long paddle back to camp, so we get going and arrive back on S Cone with enough time to make dinner. Jesse has been busy gathering wood, a good day has been had by all. Dinner is Alessi chicken soup and brownies, and more coffee, always more coffee.
Day 4: This morning we compare our sunburns around the fire while we eat a yummy breakfast of potato pancakes with sausage gravy. Hubby’s sunburn isn’t too bad, but somehow I neglected to put sunscreen on my wrist where my watch usually is, and I have a lovely pink puffy wrist. Jesse’s legs and neck are pretty crispy, too. We slather on the sunscreen and look over the map. We decide to head out onto Brule, and paddle into the wind towards South Temperance Lake. Jesse decides to come with us, so at least he’s going to see a little more territory. The wind is light and pleasant, and we make good time up the lake. The cliff up by the NW corner of Brule is impressive! There are some really nice pitcher plants in the boggy area leading into S Temperance Lake. S Temperance has been hit pretty hard by the blowdown, and it looks like the southern shore of the lake burned at some point. A very different landscape than the area where we are camped. All the campsites are taken, so we eat some lunch on a small island, swim a little, and paddle back. Hubby and son are getting on each others nerves by the time we hit the portage back into the Cones, and the bickering is irritating the living cr*p out of me. I make a solemn vow to NOT have them go on the same trip next year- that just means I’ll have to make more trips...darn!
Once hubby does some swimming and Jesse wanders off to sit on a rock, tempers are back to normal. We have some dinner of chicken alfredo tortellini and garlic cheese biscuits, and down a couple pots of coffee….and then the bugs come out. It’s warmer than the past few nights, and we eventually give up and put out the fire...time for bed.
Day 5: We wake up pretty early and have some apple pancakes, and hubby and I decide to see what Davis looks like while Jesse opts to stay on the island again. We get to the portage into Davis and there is a canoe stashed in the weeds, we assume from someone portaging. We start up the trail. which is boulder strewn and steep. We get about a third of the way and hubby has had enough, after almost falling twice. We leave the canoe by the side of the trail and hike across the Davis, eating blueberries as we go. There is no sign of the owner of the canoe….weird. We sit at the end of the portage eating pepperoni and rykrisp and enjoying the view. We pick blueberries on the way back to our canoe, and get enough to add to our coffeecake in the morning. The way back to North Cone with the canoe is pretty Brutal- it’s always harder going downhill, and going downhill while balancing on boulders is tricky at best. Much swearing is involved! There is no sign of anyone having used this portage recently, so we figure what the heck, and skinny-dip. Once we’re cooled off, we paddle slowly back towards our camp. As we approach the end of the portage between Middle and South Cone, I hear that magic sound…..yup, a 5 gallon bucket being poured into the lake, repeatedly. I tell hubby that there is probably a moose out there, and we ease the canoe and ourselves into the water, and paddle quietly away from the portage. It’s a HUGE bull moose, maybe 50 feet from the portage. We watch in awe for 15 minutes, and leave him to his dinner, while we paddle back to have ours. Dinner is bean and cheese burritos and cornbread, a great end to a great day.
Day 6: We have vowed to get a very early start to avoid the worst of the wind on Brule, so at first light I’m up making coffee and the blueberry coffeecake I’ve been dreaming of. We pack up our gear and say goodbye to our campsite, and paddle away. Brule is windy but not dangerous looking, at least not from Cone Bay. We start trying to tack across the wind to the island, and then head downwind towards the entrance point...BAD IDEA! The following wind is sloshing into our canoe, and the rollers are pretty scary. We head for a small island and regroup. We head upwind again at a slight angle, towards the south shore by Jock Mock Point. It’s much less scary heading into the wind, just hard work. We get to the far shore and head back towards our take out, feeling pretty light hearted now that the shore is shielding us from the worst of the wind. Finally we’re there...bittersweet. It’s good to be off Brule, but sad to be leaving the BWCA. We pack up the car and drive over to Sawbill Outfitters to shower- man, does that feel good! The Sawbill Trail is in really bad shape, with some of the worst washboarding I’ve seen. Driving is really slow until we hit Hwy 61, then we speed back up again to the pace of modern life. We have a good lunch at the Rustic Inn, and head back to Duluth for another year.