BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
February 06 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 7
Elevation: 1847 feet
Brule Lake - 41
Two Rivers and a Big Lake (plus others)
June 03, 2012
Homer Lake (40)
Number of Days:
We arrive at Brule Lake around 7:45 and with the two of us it doesn’t take long to ready ourselves. We work out the best way to trim the canoe and are fortunate to have a friendly couple that are there for a fishing day-trip offer to take a few “before” pics of us.
We’re off and paddling a very calm and wonderful lake! (I’d been worried about what they caution regarding starting a trip on such a large body of water but this morning is sunny, calm and pleasant) This moment has been a goal for me since mid February’s shoulder surgery. My rehab has been focused on this very experience and I’m grateful I’m paddling strongly and without pain.
Terry, much more than me, like to “check out” open sites. So as we head east along the south shore we take our time and stop every so often to add to our data base about what the campsites are like. Interestingly , along the north shore just before entering Brule Bay, we spot a campsite that has a small area burned around it. As we inspect we try to figure what could have happened here. A campfire get away from someone and they were able to put it out? A dieing campfire sent a spark after someone left and a rain doused it? (On our way home we stopped at Sawtooth Outfitters to discuss refinishing Terry’s Kevlar canoe and we asked if they knew what had happened at this site. We were told that during the Pagami fire last year there were many planes in the area and one of the tanker pilots saw this little blaze that might have been from a lightning strike and quickly buzzed it with a water drop to extinguish it.) We had not thought of that!
As we entered Brule Bay we encountered Mama and baby moose out swimming! We followed at a distance to see where they were headed and saw them scramble out at a very steep shoreline. Mama powered her way to the top with no trouble but Jr. was having trouble. Mama grunted and “talked” to it the whole way up providing encouragement until it reached her. At that point they both just disappeared into the woods like a magician had waved a wand.
We searched for a site marked on my Voyageur map that should have been back in a cove but could not find it. We took a gorgeous little site on the southern side that was in view of the portage into Vernon Lake and we could hear a waterfall or rapids of some sort - from quite a distance a way.
It was time for lunch so we broke open the food pack as some showers started up with off and on rain. We tarpped off the kitchen area and settled in to camp number one.
Before mid afternoon we decided to see what Vernon Lake had to offer. We could hear the loud rapids as we portaged in and knew there was something special along this portage. A quick left on the lake brought us to a campsite where we beached and went exploring. A short walk brought us to the absolutely most gorgeous little place. With the way the sunlight was playing through the trees, the green of the moss covered rocks , the jumble of trees, the mist in the air and the roar of the water I didn’t want to leave. Terry climbed around and explored and I just sat and took it all in for at least an hour. If you’ve not experience this water fall and “glen” I hope you do sometime. My dad’s name was Vernon and this will be the 15th year he’s been gone now. I had some amazing thoughts and memories of him as I sat and studied this area. You had to be there - and I hope you are soon!
We circled Vernon Lake, check out another site and then headed back with dark clouds looming in the distance.
At around 8 in the evening I’m sitting along the lake reading and realize I’ve made a terrible decision on this trip. I chose to leave fishing gear at home and travel lighter - Aack! The lake is alive with fish surface feeding and the sights and sounds of fish are everywhere. I vowed there will be a trip in my near future where that’s all I do is fish. Terry and the others I go with choose to explore rather than sit and “pound the water” so I’ll either have to shake my son free for a trip for find some others that are dyed in the wool fishermen. Oh well. The beauty of the evening soon takes over my feeling of remorse thank goodness.
This year I left the Crazy Creek chair behind and brought a three legged folding stool. That, at least, was a great decision for this trip!
We entered the bay that led to Lilly Lake and proceeded through Mulligan. The portage north brought us to a pretty but shallow and mucky bottomed little water that was a struggle for our lightened canoe to travel through. We left this “mud paddle” and were part of a mosquito feast on a long portage into Wannigan Lake. After a short paddle we headed west portaging into Cliff Lake. It was here that the threatening dark clouds finally chose to let it rain. It became on/off but was the kind that it was a hard enough rain when it came down you needed rain gear or you’d get soaked. For a while it became a costume change with the raingear until it finally passed by us.
Cliff Lake was paddled in a heavier rain. The north wall is certainly a steep rock face. It left me wishing to visit it again on a sunnier day.
The portage into North Cone left me puzzled. My map shows a 147 rd portage but it has to be longer than that. There is considerable up and down travel and footing is tough with the rock lined trail. Maybe it just seems longer because I had to take more care with foot placement. Rocks were still wet and I wasn’t about to take an uncalled for spill and land on my shoulder or crack my head open.
Once we hit North Cone Lake we were done portaging anyway since we were able to canoe into Mid and South Cone Lakes with little problem. We entered Cone Bay greeted by a nice breeze and the rain had now passed by. After about 5 hours we were back in camp for lunch. A great lazy afternoon doing camp chores, reading, resting, and enjoying the breeze to keep the bugs off us.
There is a very interesting portage between Juno and Vern Lakes. You start climbing straight up to where you can see out over a rough area that contains a large beaver lodge and the Hoover Dam of beaver dams. When I thought the portage was about to end it continued on to get us clear of the beaver dam. An interesting place.
About 11:30 we laid claim to the second site down on Vern Lake. It’s right across from the entrance to Vern River and about a hundred yards from the portage into Whack Lake. We set up camp and had lunch as the wind continued to pick up. We couldn’t get the last portage out of our mind so we made plans to travel back up the lake to explore some more.
We headed back up Vern Lake dealing with the wind around 1:30. Just as we got there we were startled by a huge clap of thunder and a sudden pouring rain. There were dark clouds in the area but they didn’t alarm us until now. A video of me would have been hilarious as I’m grabbing rain gear from the pack, hopping on one foot after another pulling up pants, and zipping and buttoning to stay dry only to have, on the final zip, the rain stop on a dime and the sun pop out. Terry had forgotten his rain gear and was going to “ride it out” while I was going to be high and dry. By the time I got everything off and dried and back in the pack I had worked up more sweat than he had gotten wet in the whole deal.
On the way back to camp we fought some stronger wind but made a few stops to pick up some really decent firewood from all the downed and dead stuff there was.
The map showed we’d have a few short portages but on this gorgeous morning we were able to glide along until just before East Pipe Lake. We circled the lake and couldn’t help but notice the fire damage levels. The bigger island was noticeably different from the surrounding shoreline. There was no sign of tree life coming back, just a denuded looking island. We wondered if this was due to a hot spot in the fire that would have burned so hot that it would have burned out any organic matter in the soil??
Portaging up to Pipe Lake gave us a great little spot to over look East Pipe, have a snack break, and observe another good sized beaver dam. The wind was picking up again and we chose not to travel to the end of Pipe and check campsites. We backtracked through East Pipe into Homer Lake and back through Whack Lake. The Portage between them was waterlogged so we found some beaver cuttings and filled in the wet spots to make the portage easier. We’d be coming out that way in the morning with our gear so we made it a little better than it was.
The rest of the afternoon was a relaxing one enjoying the breeze and reading. The landing of the campsite has an enormous ant hill so I crushed up some peanuts and sesame sticks and scattered the pieces. Within a few hours the place was clean! Man, they had more energy than I did and it was neat to watch them work so hard. I suppose they have heard of leave no trace?
Had a safe drive home and was unpacking and throwing clothes into the washer by 8pm. I liked the Brule Lake area.