Disappointment on Brule
by Spartan2

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/01/2013
Entry & Exit Point: Brule Lake (EP 41)
Number of Days: 3
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
It was just Spartan1 and Spartan2 this year. This is the earliest we have ever been in the BWCA. We planned a six-day base-camping trip because of my joint pain issues and my inability to carry packs over the portages. I also wanted to exorcise the demon in my mind about nasty Brule Lake, since the only other time we were on this big lake we had the most dangerous and scary paddling experience of our lives. Things didn't work out the way we hoped. There wasn't any demon this time, but there were lots of other challenges.
Part 1 of 5
Prologue:

This was planned to be a really easy trip. For the past year I had been having increasing problems with back pain, foot pain, and knee pain. I have a knee replacement scheduled for later in the summer. We wanted to spend six days on the eastern end of Brule Lake, base-camping and taking some day trips, weather permitting. We were hoping for some nice weather, and some calm paddling conditions. As we approach our 68th birthdays this summer, we realize that we are slowing down, and our expectations were quite modest.

We left home on May 29th, after deciding to take a leisurely route across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this time, something we haven’t done in quite a few years. Since we weren’t taking our granddaughter with us for a cabin week before our trip as we had the past few years, there was no reason to go through Chicago. Our grandchild experience this time would be a cabin week with grandson Robert, after our canoe trip.

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Monday night’s first stop was at the Holiday Inn Express in St. Ignace. We had a lake view room with a lovely view of Mackinac Island off our balcony. This was a nice way to start getting into the vacation frame of mind. A big plate of lake perch at the Galley restaurant didn’t hurt, either.

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Since the pool at this hotel didn’t open until 9 AM, (this is a pet peeve of mine, as I like an early morning swim) we were on the road after breakfast and on the way to our next destination, Ironwood. This doesn’t take all day. That gave us time to take a little side trip down Peninsula Point to visit the little lighthouse there.

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Then we meandered across the U. P., finally ending up at Ironwood, where we stayed at the Comfort Inn. I was again frustrated there, as the pool hours said 7 AM-11 PM, but when I was there at 7AM in my swimsuit, the pool was being cleaned, and the maintenance man said, “It will be at least 7:30.” Since we wanted to get on the road, I again missed my morning swim.

The drive across Wisconsin and into Minnesota was pleasant, with sunny skies and dropping temperatures. We stopped in Duluth at the Duluth Pack store, and then at the factory, to inquire about repairs for our “Duluth Pack” which was damaged on last year’s canoe trip, only to find out (to Neil’s chagrin) that it isn’t a “Duluth Pack” at all, but some sort of knock-off! We bought the pack in 1973 used from Canadian Waters, and he has always assumed it was a Duluth Pack. He was quite crestfallen to get the news, and they were not willing to fix it, either! But it was a neat experience to see the Duluth Pack factory, at least!

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A lovely lunch at the Black Woods Grill helped to ease our pain, and then we were off to travel the north shore. It was foggy on Lake Superior, and sunny overhead. A beautiful day for driving our favorite route!

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We stopped to admire the Split Rock Lighthouse (of course.)

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And finally, we were at the Tofte Ranger station, ready to watch the obligatory video, take our quiz, and pick up our permit. Outside the ranger station we ran into “highplainsdrifter”, who introduced himself to us after seeing our flying moose sticker on the canoe. It was fun to have a quick, congenial conversation with him. He and his son were headed for a much longer and more strenuous trip than ours, and they were in a hurry to get back on the road.

On this night before our canoe trip we were staying at the "Cliff Dweller on the Lake". It is a place we have passed many times and always wondered about, a motel that is only one room deep with every room having a balcony overlooking Lake Superior. We checked in mid-afternoon, and I was so pleased to see the view from our balcony on this nice day. Of course I immediately start snapping photos!

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As we were getting our packs organized and ready for the next morning’s canoe trip departure, we kept looking out of the big window and watching the view of the lake. Slowly we began to notice that clouds were forming over the lake; it looked like a storm might be blowing in from across the lake, and it appeared that it was developing very quickly!

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I set up the tripod on the balcony to record some cloud shots, and to try to catch lightning if it should be possible. That was when we saw a “show” of cloud formations that was quite awesome. In retrospect, I should have just put the camera on video, but I was so busy snapping new frames when new formations appeared that I didn’t even think to change settings. Here are just a few of our favorites:

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After a rather spectacular thunderstorm, things quieted down again and we headed off to the Cascades Restaurant for dinner. Then we came back to finish charging camera batteries and doing the last-minute packing for our departure in the morning.

It was a restless night (I usually having trouble sleeping the night before a canoe trip) and I was awake at 4:30, disappointed to see that the sunrise was totally unremarkable. We had breakfast at the hotel and started out on the gravel roads for Brule on a cold, foggy, damp morning.