Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Homer trip is a ...Homer Run
by lindylair

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/06/2018
Entry Point: Homer Lake (EP 40)
Exit Point: Homer Lake (EP 40)  
Number of Days: 5
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
A few weeks ago my tripping buddy Jim realized he had 5 days off right after the 4th so we decided to go camping. The initial idea was car camping somewhere north but I realized it might be our only opportunity for a BWCA trip this year so i proposed it and it took him all of 2 seconds to agree. He picked the Homer Lake entry because he had not been there before and we look for easy routes these days that allow for more time for relaxation, photography and day trips. Couldn't have asked for a better trip.

The nice gravel put in at the Homer Lake entry

We left the Twin Cities about 5am on Friday morning. With gas, food, bait and permit stops we arrived at the landing about noon. Our plan was for an easy basecamp trip with daytrips most days to explore, fish and take photos. We considered the Homer sites but were really planning on Vern Lake unless one really caught our eye. They were all taken so it was a moot point. So we took the northern route to Vern. We had read that it could be very muddy and the first short portage was indeed...shoe sucking mud right at the beginning but after the first 10 yards or so it was fine. There were several 2x8 planks lying along the side of the portage at one point, doing absolutely no good so we relocated a few of them to the first 15 yards or so to help with the footing there. The next portage was slightly longer but super easy and we were on Vern Lake. There are two campsites on Vern and we had read about the finer points of both but we opted for the one to the east, just a short paddle from the portage. Turned out to be a good decision.

It is a pretty nice campsite with a couple decent tent sites, ok kitchen and a great rocky front porch to lounge, stargaze and fish from. That's what sold us, plus the fact that it was literally across the lake from the mouth of the Vern River which was one of our planned daytrips. Not the greatest site for drainage in a heavy rain...more on that later.

A nice large and pretty flat tent site down by the lake. Mine is a two man tent, you could easily fit a 4-6 man tent there.

The rocks at waters edge and the view from the site

This has become our customary water setup and allows for 16 liters of filtered water available...nice to have.

Friday was a mellow day once we got to camp with setup and relaxation on the agenda. Sometimes folks talk about it taking a day or two to get in the "rhythm" up there but on this trip I think I was there by about 7pm. This site had a very nice westerly, and hence sunset view but no sunrise view which is the only downside to the site. We typically get up at 5 am and put the coffee on while we begin shooting sunrise photos but on this trip we resigned ourselves to sleeping in...oh the agony:) Still got up by 615ish most days but actually slept until 8am on our last

We love to see clouds rolling in around sunset time because with clouds you usually get much more colorful and interesting, and sometimes incredible sunset shots. But alas, every evening was cloudless except for one so we got shots like these:

Even a couple clouds can add interest to a photo, this was the extent of the clouds we had at sunset on 3 of the 4 nights

Saturday we took a trip to explore the Vern River and it was absolutely beautiful. The Vern was wider than I had imagined but also narrowed down nicely in several spots. Lots of nice rock outcroppings along the way and some excellent fishing spots as well. We stopped at the downed log we had heard about and sure enough, we did just fine with the fishing there. Several walleyes and a couple smallmouth too. We continued on for quite a ways and came to another narrow spot and stopped to fish again. On the north side of that narrow spot is a deep hole that was very good to us, some dandy smallmouth and lots of fun. We had brought lunch with but we were having so much fun we forgot to eat. We tied off a stringer of walleye on a log by the downed tree but forgot it as we ventured further north. Oh well, we can get it on the way back. Danged if we didn't forget it on the way back too and didn't even think of it until we were back at camp. There was dinner. You are welcome otters or turtles. We went about halfway up to Weird Lake and decided we had better head back but I would love to come back and go further, it looked to be navigable for quite a ways yet. Gorgeous place.

The downed log on the Vern

The second narrows on the Vern, the honey hole was just to the north of the passage where we got these:

My buddy Jim, does he look happy?

My turn

A wide spot in the Vern

Sunday turned out to be a day of leisure in camp, mostly dictated by a series of 4 significant storms that blew in throughout the morning and early afternoon. Luckily we had a nice tarp setup that allowed us and our gear to stay dry and view the storms mostly with interest but at times a little concern. The first storm was what I would call moderately heavy with wind and pretty good rain. But the second, whoa. In my life I have not seen it rain much harder than that one, it was a doozy, and strong winds blowing it around. I am not sure how many campsites up there would have come out of this one dry but here's what ours looked like after this storm:

The third storm was a strong one as well and we watched as our camp was pelted by dime size hail for about 15 minutes. The only amusing part was watching the hailstones ping off the frying pan or the fire grate and bounce several feet into the air. After an hour or two to dry out a little storm 4 blew in just for good measure. The day was a series of storms, off and on rain and massive nasty looking cloud banks. perhaps we deserved it because we finally got our wish for some clouds at sunset.

As the sun sank lower in the sky the clouds and the colors changed, every minute was a different scene

The bizarre colors and clouds created a strange kind of light back at camp:

Monday was our last full day in and we decided to daytrip over to East Pipe Lake and take a peek at Pipe Lake as well. It was a very scenic paddle and i got my biggest fish of the trip, a nice Pike trolling on East Pipe. We had lunch on a small rock island in the middle of the lake and slowly made our way back. On the way to Pipe:

Monday night in camp, Jim relaxing and a plug for the site:)

On the way out Tuesday morning via the southern route

Miscellaneous shots and thoughts:

Mosquitoes were pretty bad at dusk but we had windy nights most of the time which helped a lot. Also prominent first thing in the morning but not noticeable during the day. The dang ankle biting flies when you are paddling though...grrr

Fishing was pretty good although we really didn't fish a lot. Caught them at every pool below a riffle that we tried. We also caught walleyes, smallies and pike right from camp.

Lots of frogs and toads around camp

The Vern River is really cool, worth further exploration(and fishing)...The mouth of the Vern River, right across from our campsite

A great trip, better than anticipated. Great weather, a scenic place, good fishing and plenty of peace and quiet. We saw but two canoes the whole time we were there. A great easy entry with good daytrip options and nice campsites. I'm getting kind of close so I considered this trip practicing for retirement. I think I will be good at it.

The view to the northwest up Vern Lake. The rock outcropping on the right is the portage entry from Whack lake. Nobody came across it while we were there.

Fiery skies

Thanks for reading