Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

2012 BWCA trip (Brant Lake entry)
by Lightfoot

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 09/22/2012
Entry & Exit Point: Brant Lake (EP 52)
Number of Days: 7
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
Day 1 of 7
BWCA – 2012 (Sept 22 – Sept 28)

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This route is the one we had planned for 2011 but had to change due to the Pagami Creek fire. The route will take us through areas that were hit hard by the Cavity Lake fire (2006) and the Ham Lake fire (2007). We were looking forward to seeing an area 5 – 6 years after large fires went through. Even though the first 2 travel days would be spent in burn areas, the lakes we would camp on were just slightly affected by the fires. This provided us with some very nice campsites.

Checking the forecast the day before we entered, it looked to be a pretty nice week. The first day (Saturday) would be fairly miserable, but after mid-day Sunday, there was no mention of precipitation and only light winds. This sounded very nice, even with the cooler temperatures that were forecast. Well, the first day was right, but a couple of the other days were a little off. Monday we ended up spending an extra rest day on Gillis due to the high winds. Tuesday afternoon and evening gave us several passing showers after the morning started out just perfect.

We had traveled the first day of this route back in 1992. So along with the miserable weather, we knew we were in for a fairly rugged travel day. After that, the rest of the route would be new to us and looked to be very easy travel except maybe for the 360 rod portage on our last day. This proved to be true, and after the first travel day, was a very enjoyable trip.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day 1: Round Lake to Gillis Lake (6 miles, 8 portages, 415 rods; low=34 high=44)

After a comfortable night in the Tuscarora bunkhouse, we’re up, dressed, packed, and to the ‘mess-hall’ by 7:00. We were actually there before 7:00 so we shot a few baskets while we waited. After their very good French toast breakfast, we’re on our way to the parking area for the Brant Lake entry. We unload, park the vehicle and began paddling by about 8:30. Immediately we saw the results of the Ham Lake fire. The entire western half of Round Lake had been burned.

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Northwest shore of Round Lake

By this time, the temperature was nearing 40, along with a 10 – 15 mph WNW wind. We also had frequent squalls pass through that were accompanied by 20 – 25 mph gusts. The squalls varied from rain, to sleet, to snow; usually a combination of two or all three of these. Yep, this was the miserable weather we expected from the forecast. Luckily, all the lakes we were traveling through were small, so no large/dangerous wave action, just enough to keep you alert.

We weren’t so lucky with the portages. Even though we had traveled through this area before, we didn’t remember anything about the portages (it was 20 years ago after all). We only remembered that it was a rough travel day. There are only 8 portages, and none over 100 rods, but 4 were not nice. The first one (85 rods, Round – West Round) followed a very marshy area. It was nice & level but very wet and muddy. Craig decided to see how muddy & sunk up to his knees with the canoe on his shoulders. Based on his verbalizations, he was not happy.

The next 2 portages (West Round – Edith and Edith – Brant) were not bad. The paddle through Brant Lake was very nice. The shoreline had been all burnt out, but this revealed some nice rocky hillsides and the underbrush provided some nice color.

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Brant Lake shoreline

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Craig & John approach the portage

The next 3 portages (Brant – Gotter, Gotter – Flying, Flying – Green) all started with a very steep climb and ended with a very steep descent. During the descents, you really had to watch your footing as the snow/sleet had made the rocks and trails very wet and slick. Flying and Green lakes were the first lakes that didn’t show signs of the Ham Lake fire. Flying Lake has some very impressive rock walls along the west shore just beyond the portage to Green Lake.

We had been traveling, along with another canoe with an older guy and young guy. They were just in on a day-trip, to check out the area they would return to for their moose hunt in a few weeks. In their words, they were traveling “light and fast”. However, we seemed to catch up to them at each portage and we passed them on the portage into Flying Lake. From there, they turned north to Bingshick and we continued west to Green. We had seen no other travelers since Gotter (and they were going in the other direction), so on the Green Lake end of the portage, we took a short break. We drank some juice and ate some fruit as breakfast was beginning to wear-off.

We then finished our travels for the day, going from Green to Bat, to Gillis. The entire NW shore of Bat showed the results of the Cavity Lake fire. The first campsite on the south shore looked to be pretty nice, but the view across the lake was pretty baron. Once on Gillis, we had planned to shoot for the site on a point along the west shore. On our way by, we stopped at the second site along the north shore and checked it out. This site looked very nice, even though the tent pads weren’t real level. It was now about 2:00, so we decided to take it. We set up camp and relaxed for a short time, those 3 steep portages had taken a toll on all of us. At this camp, the tents were at opposite ends so you couldn’t even see one from the other.

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Chris’ tent at Gillis Lake

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Craig’s tent at Gillis Lake

Since we hadn’t had our regular lunch, we decided to have an early supper instead. This would allow us to hit the tents early tonight, which we were all planning to do. The steaks, rice pilaf, raspberry desert, and wine were all very good and properly enjoyed (even though it was a white zin rather than red). We finished supper and dishes by 6:00. Since it was still overcast, we didn’t have any hope for a sunset. After a short social time we cleaned up camp and headed to the tents before 7:00. We were all beat after a fairly rugged travel day. In the dim evening light some colors seemed to pop. Also, looking to the east, the clouds and the rippled reflection in the lake caught a little color.

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Craig’s tent & the red bush standout in low light

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Looking east caught a little color