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June 06 2023

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

Bower Trout in early August

by dogwoodgirl
Trip Report

Entry Date: August 03, 2009
Entry Point: Bower Trout Lake
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 5

Trip Introduction:
This was my annual trip with kids I've introduced to the bwca-my son Jesse, my god-daughter Alex, my friend ML's son Jules, and a new "kid" from work, my friend Robin. Skill levels were somewhat uncertain, so we stayed pretty flexible as far as routes and distance covered. It's more abut having fun than pushing to the breaking point!

Day 1 of 6

Monday, August 03, 2009 Alex drove up from Kansas 2 days ago, and Jules has been picked up and is set to crash on my couch. Robin and I have been obsessing about gear and maps and expectations at work whenever it's slow. The rest of the group have all been on at least 2 trips, but this is Robin's first time. I think it's a toss-up as to who is most excited...I love introducing the bwca to new people! Everyone's gear has been checked and packed, the canoe is on the car, the permit confirmation is in my daypack, and the note to remember the burgers in the freezer is posted prominently above the stove. We're all too excited to sleep, but we head off to bed early anyway.


Day 2 of 6

Tuesday, August 04, 2009 The alarm goes off early, and I know I'm grumbling and saying bad words....6 AM is a brutal time to wake up for those of us who work nights. But, I know what is waiting for me, so I drag my sorry ass out of bed and into my shorts and tevas. I got a new pair with closed toes and mesh panels in hopes of A: not stubbing my toes, and B: keeping all the little sticks and gravel out of my feet. Then it's into the kitchen for a superstrength cuppa Joe, pack the burgers, and prod my fellow campers out of bed. Robin arrives nice and early, and we're off.

We stop for a quick breakfast at Judy's in Two Harbors, and I perform the next ritual in the process- the symbolic removal of the watch. We are on woods time from now on. The drive up the shore passes quickly, and soon we're picking up our permit and watching the video. We pull into Grand Marais, and pick up the 2nd canoe at Beartrack Outfitter. A short "discussion" with the outfitter ensues...I always take a spare paddle just in case one breaks, and she insists that those are the ones that people leave behind at a portage. I give in, seems easier than forcing her to give me one. At least we have 1 spare for the 2 canoes, so we just go with the flow. Our entry point is only 20 miles up the Gunflint, and before you know it we're unloading gear and setting off down the portage. It's a little muddy, but there's a pretty nice boardwalk. Alex wanted to see if she could portage the lighter canoe- last time she couldn't even take one step. She trucked off down the portage, did the whole 80 rods. She was pretty pumped! We got ready to launch the canoes, and Alex stepped into what looked like a muddy spot alongside the boardwalk....and promptly sunk up to mid-thigh! She kept on laughing, and off we went. Bower Trout is a pretty little lake, and we were stoked to explore it. We looked at the campsites...pretty small and we all agreed they would work in a pinch or for a solo, but not a group. Next stop, Marshall Lake. Another boardwalk/dock greeted us, and we prepared mentally for a muddy slog. As far as the new tevas go, the report is mixed. My toes and protected, but the mesh traps every little bit ot muddy stick next to my feet. Robin has a sweet pair of Keens that have open sides...looks like the way to go. By the time we hit Marshall, it was mid-day, and we cruised down the lake to the campsite. It's large, really beautiful, and we made it our own for the night. With Robin just learning to canoe, and Jesse still working on his steering skills, it made sense to take it slow and soak up the sights.

The campsite is surrounded by cedars, and has paths down to where the mouth of the Brule empties into Marshall...really pretty. it also has a beaver lodge close by. Towards dark we saw him swim by. We got into our routine of setting up camp- Robin set up her tent, Jesse set up our big tent and Jules' small one, and Alex and Jules went off to gather firewood. I set up the kitchen, got out snacks, and started getting ready to make dinner. Tonight was burgers, scalloped potatoes, and pnut butter brownies....yum!


Day 3 of 6

Wednesday, August 05, 2009 Morning arrives, and the birds are singing their hearts out. I'm up and making coffee, rummaging in the blue barrel for breakfast. This morning it's hash browns, scrambled eggs, and bagels toasted on the grill- very satisfying. Can I just say...I love dried hashbrowns! We clean up, pack our gear, and head for Swan. Looks like 4 short portages, an easy day. We are soon to discover that distances can be deceiving....there has been plenty of rain up north this summer. The portages are either boulder gardens, ankle deep sucking mud, or boulders surrounded by ankle deep sucking mud. YAY! Most frequently heard comment..."At least it's short" We run into a group coming out- a family with youngish kids- maybe 6-10 years old. Sounds like they had an awesome time, it's good to see another generation loving the woods. They tell us that all the sites on Swan are empty...good news.

After portage #2 we stop and pick blueberries- it has burned fairly recently in this area, and the crop is just ripening. We get enough that pie will be our dessert tonight. We head on our way and are passed by a group of young guys heading in to Swan, and resolve to pick up our speed a little. No one really wants to have to do that 281 rod portage into Vernon today! As a side note, they are heard saying "Good thing it's a rental" as they drop their aluminum canoe onto the rocks at the end of the portage. Grrrrr.....the canoe was rented from Rockwood. No excuse for that, IMHO.

We head across Swan...both sites on the point are taken, but the site in the bay is empty, and it's a beauty. Nice sized, plenty of tent pads, and a nice raspberry crop. We set up camp, and since we'll be here 2 nights, I decide to set up my new Granite Gear tarp....what a nice piece of gear! We have just finished cutting up firewood when a storm rolls in, and we all tuck ourselves under the tarp to wait it out.

As we are sitting there, a group comes from Vernon but turns when they see us...I feel bad for them, knowing hat there's nothing open until Marshall. The rain doesn't last long, and we're treated to an awesome double rainbow.

The wind dies down, there's the most wonderful golden light....a photographer's wet dream...

Dinner tonight is curried chicken and rice, and blueberry pie. Absolutely amazing, if I do say so myself. Got to scrounge up some dehydrated coconut milk for next time! We sit up late around the fire, the moon rises, and robin says..."what's that noise?" It's the first notes of wolves howling! Sounds like they are JUST over the hill, they are really loud. I have to admit, when I walked back to the latrine, I had a crazy desire to bang some pots and pans, or at least whistle loudly. Kept telling myself that I was being silly, but there you go- even I can be psyched out by really close wolves. The fire burned down, we went to bed, another perfect day draws to a close.


Day 4 of 6

Thursday, August 06, 2009

This is a layover day, time for everyone to bum around camp, explore, do whatever they want. The guys want to nap and hang out in camp, Robin and Alex and I opt to explore. Alex also wants to practice steering when we really have no pressing need to get anywhere quickly- so I'll get to duff for once. I rustle up some apple pancakes for breakfast and drink coffee by the fire, then it's time to head out.

We diddle around the lake for awhile, then head for the portage into Vernon. The bit of river before the portage is gorgeous, just about my favorite type of northwoods topography. It's all floating bog and tamarack swamp, crystal clear water with long strands of water weeds that look like pale yellow- green hair. Wow. So lovely that for once I almost forgot to take a single picture.

It's nice to hike around without our packs, we all agree, and decide to treat the portage as a hiking trail. The canoe will stay on Swan. This portage is long, but super easy. There is one last piece of a cabin wall standing in the woods- an old logging camp, if I'm not mistaken.

There's also a nice little footbridge over a creek that feeds into the Brule R.

We eat a whole lot of raspberries while hiking, and just generally enjoy a walk in the woods. We putz around paddling slowly back to camp, and get dinner cooking. Tonight we feast on chili, cheese quesadillas, and cornbread. A good day was had by all!


Day 5 of 6

Friday, August 07, 2009

Today is a travel day, we need to head back towards our entry point. By now we know that we travel fairly slowly, and that's ok. Breakfast is potato pancakes and apple sauce, not quite as good as homemade but still darn tasty. Alex does the dishes while the rest of us break camp.

We head back across Swan to the 1st portage- what a pretty little lake! it's a nice morning, sunny and not too windy.

The portages don't seem as tough as the first time through- we are getting stronger. Makes me wish this was a 2 week trip! Jesse twisted his ankle yesterday, so Alex and I are doing most of the canoe portaging.Met Jeff from the message boards here with his wife or GF...didn't ask, but they were headed for Swan. We head back out past the windstorm and burn damage on Skidway and Dugout, and find the site on Marshall open again. Tonight we have a camp "pet" -this pretty butterfly who finds my new lifevest very attractive.

Camp setup has become pretty routine, and before you know it we're sitting down to our "last supper" of chicken wild rice soup and cheddar garlic biscuits. I snap a few photos of our crew around camp, and also this very cool plant that I'm not familiar with yet. Once I get home to my plant books it will be id'ed as "rose twisted stalk".

We get to bed early, before dark. Tomorrow I have to be in Duluth before 4 PM to do a radio show on KUMD.


Day 6 of 6

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Our final morning is cloudy and cool. I'm up just past dawn, and the coffee is ready along with a quick breakfast of biscuits and gravy. We get everything packed up, and pose for a group shot before hitting the water.

Off we go, through the 1st portage and on to Bower Trout. The guys are ahead of the girl's canoe, and we see them stop paddling and start to drift. We catch up and Jesse says "Listen!" It is dead silent, just the occasional birdcall. So peaceful. "This is why we come here, isn't it?" he says. Damn. I must have done something right with that boy, I think.

Alex carries the heavy canoe on the last portage- that girl is a rockstar!

Soon the cars are loaded, and we're making our way back to the outfitter. I put my watch back on, and discover that we have time to either eat at Sven and Ole's or wins. We have a darn good lunch, and drive back down the shore to Duluth. Another wonderful 5 days of memories, and another newbie caught hook, line and sinker!


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