BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 06 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 7
Elevation: 1847 feet
Brule Lake - 41
Brule Lake Loop was good to us
June 11, 2011
Number of Days:
Arrived at Sawtooth at 6:55 and got our permit. (either stopped or slowed down for deer 4 times on hwy 61!) We watched the video and then got news that there might be more air and boat traffic than normal because authorities were searching for a missing canoeist. With that sobering thought as we left Tofte traveling up Hwy 2 to avoid a mountain bike rally that was taking place on the Caribou Trail - not a big deal.
We started paddling on Brule Lake around 9:15 under a cool and overcast sky. Paddling primarily north we got our pattern of paddling with new partners and portaging our set of gear rather easily. Lily Lake led to Mulligan and I was thinking I was back in shape and this was going to be a breeze. After Mulligan we pulled way off to the side of the portage and had a quick lunch. It appeared we saw a faint portage trail alongside the next little lake we were to paddle on. It wasn’t much of a lake mostly 3-4 inches and hardly enough to float a loaded canoe. We struggled a hundred yards or so through the muck and got to the portage way earlier than we’d planned. My Voyageur map showed the portage to be 186 to 350 rods long. Apparently when water levels are really low the portage trail started back by our lunch site.
We had to have covered the longer distance which really was a challenge for me the first day out. Do-able but a challenge. We paddled Wanahigan Lake and entered Winchell to bright sun and the Misquah Hills towering above. Beautiful. We were also lucky in that the first site north of the portage was open and we were tired enough to “crash” into our first site around 2:30.
A day of mostly paddling got started on the water at 7:55. This was a bright and beautiful travel day. As we headed east we took a moment to stretch at the 8th site from west to east. This was a nice site with plenty of room and a good landing area. After a snack and a stone skipping contest we journeyed on. It was interesting watching the south side of Winchell Lake to see where fire had claimed the forest in 2006 but everything was green today.
We entered Gaskin Lake and hugged the shore to the east taking the easternmost campsite. Unbelievable in that what I thought was a set of steps leading from the shoreline to the campsite was indeed a set of steps! This site was a pleasure! Elevated and breezy it was comfy and bug free. Most of us took a nap outside our tents that afternoon with nary a bug to bother us. While it got breezier the sun stayed out and treated us to a sunset to end our day.
Travel day. One thing about our group this year is we don’t mess around in the morning and we get going early. On the water at 7:00 am. Gaskin was mirror smooth and slid under us easily. The portage to Henson was steep and surprisingly muddy 95 rods. Henson impressed me as a lake to travel through but not to stay on. It was closed in and seemed pretty buggy. The first site on the lake was very small with only two tent pads and the second site had tall grass/weeds around the fire grate. We ventured on the Omega Lake and took the site on the southernmost shore. I instantly fell in love with this lake and this site! One of the most gorgeous views I’ve ever encountered. As we explored the lake we found an active loon nest which I’ve never encountered before. We did our best not to get too close yet try to get a look.
Not a travel day. Got up early anyway to fish with only one northern to our credit but lots of loon action with one keeping a close eye on us wherever we went. Came back to camp for breakfast of pancakes, bacon, and syrup.
Since we were on Omega Lake we felt it appropriate to paddle to Alpha Lake. We headed north out of Omega and found tough going on the portage into Phalanx Lake. This has to be seldom used as the trail was grown over and footing was horrible in some washed out areas. It was worth it though. Phalanx was an easy paddle and the portage into Finn Lake is short yet and incredibly dark, dank and rocky little wash area where Phalanx must really rush it’s overflow into Finn during the spring months. We traveled past a tree with bear sign and marveled at the steep stone cliff to our right. We found a path up the backside of it and got a really spectacular look at Finn Lake! We returned to the canoe and paddled eastward until we hit two apparently old and overgrown beaver dams. We could see Alpha Lake in the distance and while Terry and Cody hiked ahead to the last dam Scott and I were content to watch them and admire the scenery. On the return we had lunch atop a huge rock on Finn Lake and soaked up some sun from the cloudless sky.
Up very early and left camp at 6:45. Cliff Lake was impressive as we allowed the east wind to push us gently along as we admired the steep northern edge. I noticed on the map that there would be an elevation change as we left Cliff and moved on to North Cone. My map marks it to be 147 rods but it honestly felt a lot longer. The early part was a short but sharp climb and then there was the longest downhill hike with patches of smooth packed dirt mixed with absolutely rugged rock strewn stretches. The rest of the group said it felt like 147 rods to them but to me I swear it was longer. North Cone into Mid Cone was a brief 1 rod lift over a tree root. I was in the lead canoe and saw the site on Mid Cone taken so passed it by. Terry stopped and asked and gave me a yell when he discovered the father and son occupying it were about to leave. Well, we’d found a site but I’d rate it a 1 on a scale of 5. Hardly room for our tents and exposed to a now very strong east wind we rolled the dice on staying here instead of getting closer to Brule and finding nothing.
The winds picked up very strong in the afternoon and for an evening meal we actually erected a tarp wind screen which helped us to keep a decent fire going to prepare supper. I kept an eye on the clouds wondering what the strong wind might mean for us and snapped some interesting cloud formations but the wind died later on and we never did get any rain.
Highlight of the day - we taught Cody how to play euchre and had a blast with Scott and I playing by normal rules and Terry and Cody getting to see each other’s cards and table talk. It’s been a while since I played and it was a fun experience to teach the game to a kid.
Slept in. Woke up to very gray skies, misty rain and not much energy in the camp(ers). We all had a cold breakfast and went back to tents to read or sleep some more. The spitting mist finally let up and Terry and Cody went exploring while Scott and I tried some fishing. The day was really a rest up for the push out the next day.
Moderate to heavy fog covered Mid Cone Lake as we woke very early and were on the water by 6:00 am. Our first portage was an easy 25 rod and turned out to be our last. The second one which the map showed to be 35 rods was found by Terry and Cody the day before to be floatable so we avoided that one and emerged on a very closed in Brule Lake. At times we could see a quarter mile or so and other times it was less. We paddled by feel and with a couple of course revisions we found our way back to EP 41 and were quickly on our way home. By leaving when we did those with the longest trip were home about supper time. Again hard to believe I can be waking up on a gorgeous BW lake and having supper with family knowing I have about an 8+ hour drive.
Great weather overall. Had some fantastic campsites. We had safe travel. I mention here that when we got home people were filling me in on the young man from Janesville that drowned had been found and his body recovered not that far from where we were. How sad and my wishes for peace and comfort go out to his family and friends. This isn’t a 100% safe activity we do but when we take the necessary precautions and conditions are favorable this is a fantastic place to visit and allow nature to recharge our batteries.