BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
June 18 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 7
Elevation: 1847 feet
Brule Lake - 41
Going Solo from Bower Trout to Ram
June 09, 2007
Bower Trout Lake
Ram Lake (44)
Number of Days:
My first stop was Two Harbors at Mc D’s at 5:30 AM and they just unlocked the door. I am their first customer of the day. That has to be a first for me. I really enjoy driving the North Shore early in the morning. Traffic moves at a nice pace, except for the old (greenish?) school bus I passed near Beaver Bay/Silver Bay, that has three aluminum boats strapped to the roof at different angles so they fit. That was an interesting site.
I pulled into Grand Marais Ranger Station at 7 AM. I am the first of the day again. Since I was solo and first of the day I was rewarded with a pass on the video. I aced the quiz, filled my water bottles, and was on my way. I noticed 5 vehicles in the lot and a line is forming inside. On to EP 43: Bower Trout.
The first left after crossing the South Brule River is 325 and I took that to the stop sign then hung another left. A quarter mile down the road a sign in the bushes on the right marks the Bower Trout landing. There were 3 other trucks in the parking lot, 2 from WI, 1 from MN. I unloaded the truck and carried everything to the lake. The carry was farther than I thought it would be. I drove my truck to the Ram Lake EP 44 parking lot after driving by it and finding it on the way back. There were 3 vehicles there all from MN. The walk back follows Fiddle Creek and it was making a lot of noise flowing down hill. There were a lot of moose tracks on the roads. Back at the parking lot of Bower Trout a young couple with a Brittany were unloading their SUV. I thought there was only one entry a day at this lake and I had it. It didn’t matter because I never saw them again. It is a beautiful day, I am guessing in the seventies and a west wind is picking up. I was hoping to be paddling before 9 AM but it is well after 9 AM before the paddle gets wet.
The 90r into Marshall Lake was easy, and the 30r into Dugout Lake was also easy. So far my feet are dry. The only thing I have forgotten was my new insoles for my 20-year-old Red Wing Irish Setters. They don’t feel the same as the sandals I have been kicking around in since April. The new used Wenonah Prism at 36 pounds is actually fun to paddle into the wind. On the East side of Dugout Lake it narrows and some large rocks makes the paddle upstream interesting but passable as long as I took my time and didn’t get flustered. I am glad I bought used because I have already scratched it, but I can’t tell what scratches are mine and what ones were already there. I feel like a 16 year old who just passed the drivers test and has the parents’ car out for the first time. Oops don’t know how that scratch got there. A major fire went through Dugout Lake many years ago. There are a lot of rock outcrops exposed and very few large trees. Yet it is still green.
The next three portages were fairly muddy but my feet are still amazingly dry. I sure like the Merino Wool socks I bought after hearing about them on the BWCA.com message board.
The wind is fairly strong but the narrow channels and small lakes have kept me sheltered from it. Swan Lake is next and it is a bigger lake. With the wind coming out of the west Swan will probably have some white caps. Sure enough when I get there it is lathered up and I am getting a little tired. I am unsure about paddling across. My solo skills are still being defined. I am tempted to camp on Swan for the night and rest. The first camp is open but I figure I would like to see the second camp. It would have a nice breeze. The second camp has a solo and an aluminum can dock there. I paddle on after I look back and see I have an audience at the camp watching me. The creek going into Swan bends around in all directions. I am looking for the portage on the north bank as the Fischer Map shows. I paddle as far as the creek lets me and I turn around. On the south side I find an opening that looks like a portage. The portage is 292r. They should round it to 300 because I doubt anyone would know. I unloaded and hauled the Mason pack and fishing poles first. The creek needs to be crossed and where the trail crosses the stream the water is waist deep. I notice some brush trampled down 10 yards upstream and see 2 trees crossing. If I am careful I can keep my feet dry as long as the trees can hold the 300 pounds I am at. Half way across I slip off, thigh deep water, wet feet, blood running down my leg from the scratch I got from a branch sticking off the tree. Dumb move. Lucky I didn’t roll an ankle or blow my knee out. I think about this dumb move to the end of the portage and at the end a young moose is standing in the water across the bay. I am exhausted and my camera is in the other pack at the canoe. I slam some water and back I go. I cross the stream twice more not caring about wet feet. Now I am worried that the two campsites on Vernon are taken on a Saturday afternoon. It must be easier to get to Vernon through the Brule especially with a west wind. What was I thinking? I will be looking for a spot on the Brule on Saturday night. It must be suppertime. I have not eaten since McD’s. Of course I had to take the challenging route.
The wind is tough on Vernon and I am exhausted. I push on looking for the campsite on the north side. I had seen a picture of it online and it is what brought me here. I come around a point and there is a red canoe sticking out from shore. Some one has the camp. No the canoe is at the portage on the other side of the rapids from the camp. The camp is empty. I paddle hard to the riprap protecting the shore. I pull my packs out, get the canoe on land, take my boots off and take the GPS out to see what time it is. To my surprise it is only 3:45 PM. Twenty-four hours ago I was leaving my classroom for the summer. Twelve hours ago I left my wife and son home sleeping. If I would of floated in here at 4:00 PM, the red canoe with 2 aluminum cans would be sitting here instead of me. Instead they head for the vacant south campsite. By 5:30 PM I have camp set up.
The wind died down and the biting knats mixed with biting flies are annoying me. I try the fishing and pump some water. I caught 2 smallies about 18” and a short northern. I really don’t feel like cleaning and eating fish tonight. On the way back I had a pair of Loons surface ten feet from me. They dove back down and I could see them swimming underwater next to the canoe. I went back to camp and boiled some water on my Primus Techno Trail. Mixed in some Bear Creek broccoli and cheese soup mix, with some Romen noodles and salami. I wiped the mess clean with a couple of tortilla shells. Washed it down with some Tang and it was better than any meal the school can cook up.
The creek with the rapids is flowing out of the Brule. After I hung my food using the baseball with a thin rope screwed on as my throwing weight. (Another successful trick I read about on the message board.) With fishing pole in hand I waded out in my boxers casting "Old Faithful", a black and silver number seven Rapala Countdown. The first ten casts produce 3 smallies and a nice walleye. Later I caught a 5# walleye. It was a good fish to end on. I was a getting a little cold standing in the water. A clean pair of Merino wool socks were just the ticket in the sleeping bag.
The campsite had been a little abused, or well used. The rocks around the fire grate were thrown everywhere to make room for the burning of large logs. The log benches were pulled apart, and there was a lot of small pieces of garbage lying around. The sound of the rapids really makes this site special. I am debating on staying tomorrow or move on and explore other parts. I am dead tired. I think it will be a decision left until morning. I canoed seven miles, portaged 487 rods and have the campsite I had dreamed about for months.
It must have been 7:00 AM when I woke up. I have decided to stay. This is a nice way to travel. I do as I feel. I slept hard for the first night sleeping alone in the wilderness. Total exhaustion might have something to do with it. Twice during the night I climbed out of the bag to relieve myself. The first time it was incredibly dark and cold. The second time there was a very faint hint of light. Both times it was too cold to be hanging around admiring my surroundings in my Merino wool socks.
About 8AM I slide the canoe in to explore and fish. I have decided a late breakfast/lunch and then a meal of fish for supper will be good today. I kept two Smallies, and released everything else. The lake was dead calm and the biting flies were enjoying the lack of resistance. Without clouds and a breeze the sun was cooking. A breeze finally did kick in and a few clouds rolled through. I went back to camp and left the fish in the rapids for supper. I had a light breakfast and some good coffee using the java press I brought. It was a relaxing day. I cleaned up camp, making a log bench with what was lying about. Picking up the rocks around camp the fire grate became user friendly. A thorough walk around camp cleaned up a lot of little pieces of junk. I entered the tent read a book until a midday nap kicked in. I have not had a midday nap in years.
I finally awoke and took a little hike up stream coming back with some perfect firewood. A nice pile was stacked and some birch bark, tinder and kindling waited for a match to get it started. I cleaned the fish and started getting supper ready. It consisted of the Smallies with Garlic, Mashed Red Potatoes. I thought my eyes were bigger than my stomach but it was no challenge for my stomach. I cleaned the dishes, Packed away the tarp and ropes. Packed the equipment bag for an early checkout the next morning. I took the fish guts for a little paddle down the lake and had a few casts along the way. Nothing seemed to be hungry so I went back to camp and waded the rapids. The Old Faithful Countdown caught several walleyes in front of camp until it finally broke off telling me it was time for bed. A beaver swam by me at about 10 yards and the loons were feeding in the bay. They again let me float within ten feet of them earlier in the night. This turned out to be a fantastic day. It definitely slowed my world down.
I packed and left Vernon about 6:45 AM. The portage on Vernon had a closed sign warning of a controlled burn in the area. The neighbors had come back through the portage late last night and I don’t see or smell any smoke. So I pushed on. The portage is up hill and a little tricky but a good warm up for the day. The Brule didn’t have a ripple on it until I scratched my way across. A fish jumped now and then telling me I should stay here some time and try the fishing in these waters. As I rounded the point to Lily Lake portage a campsite on the point had a teenage boy bobber fishing from shore. He didn’t see me sliding through. He was playing with a cell phone or Gameboy. When he saw me he pocketed the toy and paid attention to his bobber.
The portage is not clear on the Fischer but it was easily seen. The Mulligan Lake portage was pretty with huge Cedar trees. Mulligan is a pretty lake. There is supposed to be Brook Trout in there. The next portage took me into Grassy Lake and it is definitely grassy with a lot of floating bog. The 200-rod portage was easy to see. Another young teenage boy was there swatting mosquitoes with a paddle. He saw me gliding in and set the paddle down and played it cool. His teenage sister and a younger brother came walking in as I unloaded. Small talk told me they were from Chicago but they were Packer fans so they were ok in my book. You have to have guts to be a Packer fan in Chicago. They were excited to get out of the bush and stop at Wisconsin Dells on the way home. I found their dad carrying their second canoe. When I got back for my canoe and other pack the family was still organizing their gear. A little more small talk produced the family stayed one night on Brule and a night on Winchell. No fish were caught. These were the first people I talked to since I left the parking lot. Thoughts have turned to my family and what they have been doing in my absence. They were finishing up the graduation party list and my wife had to put some hours in at school as the guidance counselor. Jr. had hockey practice on Sunday night and maybe I will get home early enough on Wednesday to help out on the ice with the team.
On Wanihigan Lake I met a middle-aged man paddling a Prism with a Kayak paddle. He had put in on Brule early in the morning and went to Winchell to fish for a couple of hours and get a little workout in. He didn’t have any luck fishing but really didn’t seem to care. Just enjoying the paddle. I will have to remember that I could easily get a nice paddle in at home before the rest of the world gets too busy.
The portage into Winchell is short but the landing was challenging. Logs have blocked the shore. I got out on a huge log and pulled the canoe around the jam to shore. It is a beautiful spot with the sound of waterfalls in the background. I took some pictures of the canoe at both ends, pulled out the water pump, tied my favorite Lake Trout jig on and floated into Winchell. The GPS said 11:00 AM. The wind was picking up out of the south but the weather was perfect. I jigged and pumped water. No fish. I paddled for a vacant campsite to have a little lunch and take a break. At noon I paddled on. Winchell is a pretty lake with high rock cliffs on the south side. I tried jigging for a Laker along the way without a bite. A fire went through the east end of Winchell, probably last year. It is really brown with very little green showing. The portage trail to Gaskin skirts the eastern edge of the burn. One large pine tree lying on the ground was hollow and burned more on the inside than the outside. This portage is a little hilly and the landing on Gaskin is not ideal. A couple of Loons were chasing baitfish in the shallows of the little bay the portage ends in. I headed for a campsite on a point facing west. A friend at school recommended it. As I was paddling towards the site three canoes were leaving. Perfect timing. The site is a huge anthill but it is pretty. The first thing I did was swim and sit in the shallows to cool off. The sun was a cooker today with very few clouds.
Again I cleaned up camp, cut wood, and readied the grate for a fire. I skipped the tarp and the tent took no time getting ready. I boiled some water on the Techno and had 2 courses of broccoli/cheese soup, with Romen noodles, and summer sausage. I drank 7 quarts of water today. I explored and fished the lake after supper. I only caught one short walleye just before dark. There were plenty of beavers on this lake. As I lay in the tent it felt creepy. The wind was blowing through the tall pines. I did not see anyone else on the lake. There are a lot of strange noises. Without the sound of the rapids to put me to sleep the night noises are kind of strange.
I didn’t break camp until 10:00 AM, leaving a nice pile of firewood and a one-match start for the next campers. I did boil some water for some coffee to wash down the peanut butter tortilla and breakfast bars I had. I did not feel like being rushed. I decided to take the long way through Horseshoe Lake and see the sites. The portage into Jump Lake was a little tricky at the landing but it is nothing too tough. Jump Lake has a huge boulder sitting in the water like it dropped from the sky. The portage into Allen Lake was easy. I took a picture of the canoe at the landing of Allen. It is a pretty area. The one campsite overlooking the lake is a nice spot and it is empty. The 50-rod portage into Horseshoe Lake was another walk in the park. Horseshoe is another pretty lake. A couple of campsites are being used on this lake. I managed to catch myself before I had paddled too far east and back to the Gaskin portage. I had paddled by the channel that takes me to Vista Lake. As I neared the landing to the 21r portage into Vista I could hear the rushing of water. I was a little surprised to see the cascade flowing out of Vista into Horseshoe. It is a beautiful spot and I bet a few fish could be taken from the hole at the base of the falls. After taking some pictures I went to Vista. This is another gem of a lake. I had heard there were nice size walleye in this lake. The wind is out of the south and I feel a hint of coolness, like it is off Lake Superior. As I paddled by the south campsite I was in awe by the whole lake. The campsite overlooks a rock cliff island. Something made me turn back and check out the vacant site. I sat in the shade on the rock slab that slopes off into the water. After about an hour I retrieved my GPS to see what time it was and took a look at my map to determine if I should continue on. My goal for the day was Little Trout Lake, but one of the toughest portages of the trip is getting into Little Trout. I decided to stay where I am. Why pass up on such a beautiful spot? Thoughts of the family have been going through my head all day. The way it looks I am about four miles from the truck with some tough portages ahead.
I cleaned up camp, cut wood, and readied a fire, set the tent up next to the fire in the shade. I have overdosed on UV rays. I have a slight headache and some burned knees. I had a little snack of salami, cheese, tortilla, and trail mix. Concrete malt from Culvers is what would really hit spot. That will have to wait until the ride home tomorrow. I hung the food and slipped the canoe in and fished a yellow hairy jig around Vista. After floating a large portion of the lake and not getting a bite I took Old Faithful and walked back to base of the falls at Horseshoe and made a few casts. The first cast caught a walleye. A few more casts caught a 5# Northern. They were both tossed back to excite the next angler. The bugs found me and were very annoying without any dope to persuade them differently. I paddled back to camp and stopped at a small rock hump sticking out of the water. After casting and jigging the area thoroughly without a hint of a fish I continued on. The rock cliff island was glowing red from the setting sun. I took some pictures then headed towards the end of the bay to scout out the portage into Misquah that will start my day tomorrow. A stream flows in from Misquah so maybe some hungry fish will be present. As I was casting and floating to the end of the bay I spotted something black moving on shore. A large Black Bear and I saw him before he saw me. I was floating quietly directly towards him. I was about 30 yards out and tried setting my fishing pole down and grab the camera. The fishing pole did not sit quietly and the bear looked up, saw me make a move for the camera and turned for Misquah Lake. He sounded like a bunch of junior high boys escaping up the hill along the stream. He was a big bear and I am glad he didn’t pose for a picture. By running off as fast as he did that means he probably didn’t like camp food. But since he is only a quarter mile from camp I better get back and check my food bag. I did not have a lot of faith in the tree I hung it in.
I pumped water while watching a colony of beavers swim around and slap their tales at me. The food bag was hanging safely where I left it and I decided I was not hungry enough to take it down. I had a small fire and went for a short swim to get the crust off. Sitting by the fire I was looking ahead to tomorrow. The map shows about 4 miles from the truck, 520r of portages and a 190r that has a reputation to go with it. I better get a good night sleep.
I didn’t wake up as early as I would of liked to but I am on vacation. I break camp at 8:15 AM and a few minutes later I am on the portage to Misquah Lake. The landing is tricky but the walk is easy. Misquah reminds me of a crater lake surrounded by hills. On the northwest end a fire had burned off the larger trees and exposed a lot of rock outcrops.
The challenging 190r into Little Trout seems longer, but has something to do with the two hills that have to be climbed up then walked back down. It really is an interesting portage with a beautiful view of Little Trout and a variety of terrain. It is made up of large boulder fields, a wooded swamp boardwalk, old growth timber, and a hillside that is regenerating nicely from an old forest fire. The landing on Misquah is a boulder field. Up the trail I came across a large pile of bear spore and there is a lot of moose sign on the path. I ran into a Mad Mother Grouse. One of her chicks nearly got stepped on and she jumped out in front of me making a great display, then as I closed the gap she played injured and escorted me down the trail away from her chicks. The trail ends in another boulder field. Little Trout Lake is a beautiful spot and the island campsite looks like a comfortable place to stay. I wish I had another day so I could try for a grand slam and get a Laker for supper.
I was not expecting another steep hill on the portage to Rum. It is only 60r but the climb was fun. Rum Lake is nothing to write home about. On the flat 55r portage to Kroft a young couple from Rochester, MN were on their way into Little Trout. They had nice new Duluth packs, fancy paddles and an aluminum canoe. I would like to try out the Duluth Packs and the fancy paddles but they can keep the Al can. They are only the second group of people I have crossed on a portage and the first people I have seen since Horseshoe Lake. Kroft Lake is nothing to get excited about and the 80r portage to Ram is nothing tough. Ram Lake is a pretty lake and a nice way to end the trip. As I was unloading the canoe I heard what sounded like two gunshots coming from the west. My previous experiences have told me that what sounds like gunshots are the dropping of aluminum canoes on the rocks. I am guessing the young couple made it to Little Trout Lake.
The hike to the truck is up then down. It does have a nice view of some high hills to the east. My first trip to the truck was at 12:20 AM and I was on the road driving away at 1:10 PM. I stopped for a soda in Tofte as I was driving a little tired. In Two Harbors I hit the Culvers drive through and had a Snickers Concrete Malt and Cheese Curds. I was back in the driveway by 5:25 PM.
My first solo trip was exhausting but it is a really great feeling. I will be doing more solo trips. The route I took was awesome. It has a lot of areas to explore and could be stretched into a longer trip that could be more challenging or easier with scenic day loops. It is a beautiful part of the BWCAW that I don’t hear a lot about. I am actually apprehensive to post this report. I would hate to see this area over used and abused. I will be back to fish more of these lakes and enjoy area.