Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Eagle Mountain and Whale Lake camping
by HighnDry

Trip Type: Hiking
Entry Date: 06/22/2013
Entry Point: Brule Lake (EP 41)
Exit Point: Other  
Number of Days: 2
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
A Must-do hike/adventure for every Minnesotan whether you were born here or are transplants (like me). Camping on Whale Lake and great views of Shrike, Eagle, Zoo and Crow with Cascade way off in the distance!
We drove up from the Twin Cities on Friday night and made it all the way to Temperance R. State Park at 9:30PM before we had to call it quits due to exhaustion and luckily there were walk-up campsites still available! It had threatened rain on and off with dense fog over Duluth and the harbor so that you couldn’t see L.Superior (or 50ft in front of you!) as you descended that last long stretch of I35 into town. The marathon was also that weekend and swinging through town and up 61 after 6PM or so was probably a blessing as the traffic was minimal.

After a somewhat wet wake-up at Temperance and a last view of the magnificent, grey undulating surf, we headed up to Grand Marais to pick up our permits, restock on coffee at the JavaMoose in town and climb up the Gunflint taking the turn-off for Devil’s Track lake.

Turning right on 27, we left the pavement and coasted through some very green, verdant woodlands scanning for moose (hah hah) and enjoying the scenery of a very grey, overcast, misty day that left the woods mostly deserted. We made the trail head by 11:30 or so, packed up and headed up the trail about an hour later.

This was our shake-out trip to get used to heavier packs, get our kids hiking legs back in shape, and test out gear for a couple of canoe trips-with-portaging coming up in a couple of weeks in BWCA and Quetico. It’s a nice hike over very gently rolling landscape with the occasional bog bridge, well-maintained, spanning the swampy parts. It took us about 25 to 40 minutes to make the “half- way” point of the BWCA boundary line and another 30 or 40 minutes to finally arrive at Whale Lake where we camped.

Campsites are really only located in two places. One is a 5 star at the north end of the lake just passed the Brule Lake trail. The first is a 2- or 3-star spot at best only because it is located a good distance (300 yards?) off of the trail in a bit of grassy, wet clearing. It has a fire pit but looks like it’s only large enough to accommodate 1 dome tent for 2 or 3 people. We left that one and headed for the north end of the lake where we bivied with our two 1-person tents snugged tightly into a site near the lake on a rocky ledge. This was fine for us because it was sheltered enough and our neighbors at the 5-star site nearby graciously hosted us at their campfire when we needed it! Thankful for that bit of Minnesota hospitality, we headed up to Eagle Mountain which is only about a 15 to 20 minute easy climb from the north end of the lake. Beautiful views of Crow, Eagle, Zoo and Cascade way off in the distance.

Next morning we ate a hardy bacon-biscuit and oatmeal breakfast, broke camp and headed out in what became an on-and-off deluge ?. We hiked it out without the pauses on the way in and made it back to the trail head in a little under an hour and twenty minutes – back to dry clothes and a car. All in all, a great short trip!