[at-l] Minnesota Journal, Part 2

Mark Hudson mvhudson at gmail.com
Thu Sep 16 18:33:40 CDT 2010

This is most of the Border Route Trail (you miss part of the trail by
turning off onto the Superior Hiking Trail). Also the first 1.7 of the SHT.
The SHT journal I'm still transcribing...

8/20: Border Route Trail: Sock Lake -

Didn't try for breakfast at the lodge, I had leftover cereal and wanted a
reasonably early start. Headed out on the road about 6:40, on another blue
sky and sunshine morning. My pack was stuffed as full as it's ever been,
maybe even more so. Thankfully it carries well, and even more thankfully
today's terrain was relatively flat. After the quick road walk much of the
morning was spent on X-country ski trails, nice and wet from the dew. The
BRT did seem to be very well marked through there, so that helped. Finally
hit really good, even great, views – off the cliff tops overhanging Gunflint
Lake. I got to Loon Lake Road and thought I was hearing logging, but it was
the road being graded.

>From there I ended up in the '07 burn. Good thing for the cooler weather,
and I must have been making good time – I made it to the Crab Lake
outlet/Bridalveil Falls bridge for lunch. That short section hadn't burned,
so I had shade and water.

The first mile after lunch was a real piece of work, getting over to the
Crab Lake Cutoff through the burn with some *VERY* sketchy route finding.
The trail disappeared several times; blowdown, briers, and some open rock
all trying to do their part, somehow I made my way through it, but for a
while it looked like I might have to shoot a compass bearing. Before
Thompson Lake I got back on real trail (even if occasionally overgrown) in
real woods – very, very nice. I didn't realize how much the pack was putting
a beating on my until I took it off at Thompson Lake – jumped in for a quick
swim and then warmed up in the sun.

Getting to Sock Lake seemed to take forever, then the side trail seemed like
it would never end. Sock Lake is another beautiful MN lake... campsite on a
twelve foot ledge over the water, too bad the water below the ledge is only
two feet deep, it would be a great jumping spot. Cleaned up and was sitting
in the sun when a college student summer trail crew (Minnesota Conservation
Corps) pulled into camp. They're out on their last trip of the summer – six

 8/21: East End Clearwater Lake -

Rain started hitting the tent just before six. I made a run for the privy –
this was a deluxe one – it had a lid, so it was nice to beat the rain there.
Fetched the bear bag on the way back, but it was hard to get motivated with
the rain pattering on the tent. Left somewhere around seven, apparently the
trail crew wasn't motivated either, they weren't stirring yet.

By the time I left the rain was really coming down, and what I wasn't
getting from the sky I was getting from the brush. But the really good news
for the day was *trail*, real trail, no burns. Some brush – but *trail*!

Not much to say for the morning – wet – missed some views because of the low
ceiling – no breaks because of the rain. Missed a turn at the Stairway
Portage and got to see an extra lake. Scared myself with a synapse misfire
when I thought I forgot to pack my cook kit – but everything had been in the
tent out of the rain, so it had to be in the pack.

Well, after getting myself corrected at the Stairway Portage misadventure, I
made my way over to Rove Lake, where I met four canoers camping. The rain
had stopped at that point, and I was due for a break, and had a nice chat.
Not too bad a run from there to my designated stop – where I decided to keep
going. Turned out to be a longer day than I planned or wanted.

One last surprise – reached an overlook that looked exactly like one I hit
much earlier in the day, same lakes below and all... I guess they all look
the same after a while – but it took me a minute to see the differences and
convince myself that I didn't walk in a circle.

VERY hard time finding the designated campsite – it's more of a canoe site
and the the trail off the BRT is VERY obscure. Sharing camp with Michael
from Minneapolis, great chatting but now it's time for me to fade out...

 8/22: East End McFarland Lake -

Reached camp at a much more reasonable 2:30 today. Last night it was 6:30
and I was pretty much a zombie.

The rain has brought some of the mosquitoes back, not enough to need bug
dope, but I did have to fight a few off packing this morning.

Out of camp at 7; gray, misty, but warm. Easy run across the portage and
then a good climb to G. Lake that Michael was telling me about. I can't
imagine many people portage up there, nice place to have to yourself. More
climbing, the only views the bottom of clouds. Nicely cut open trail to the
first portage, then more undergrowth busting from there, still wet from
yesterdays rain. The sun finally burnt through the clouds about 10:30, but
according to my squishy boots it was still raining. Took lunch on a nameless
knob in the woods, no view but not many bugs either. From there it was about
two miles to the bottom of the portage on West Pike Lake, where I took a
little time for a clean-up swim.

>From there I started hitting mosquitoes, and if the rain brought them out it
brought the spiders (or inchworms) out too, seems like I was hitting webs
every thirty feet. Finally made it to the one good overlook of the day, with
one mile left to go. I was going to hang out at the view until I realized
that I could have all my stuff drying in the sun in camp.

Camp is a drive-up DPW campsite/public boat ramp, at the end of Arrowhead
Road (dirt). I had dreams of a a public campground (&shower) but this will
do nicely. There *is* a privy, now if I can find a garbage can.

The time, or I should say the sense of distance, is passing too quickly on
this trip. I left the BWCA this afternoon. Tomorrow I should be camping at
the start of the SHT (if I did the math right). That makes it seem like I
have WAY too much food to get to Grand Marais, but when I look at the
campsite list it's not as close as I think. I'd like to hit town on Thursday
(at least) so I have a chance to score a motel room, preferably for two
nights so I can have a rest day.

I've got to stop thinking about mileage. Somewhere, somehow, I messed up the
campsite calculations. It now looks like it's 7 or 7 ½ days to get from
Gunflint to Grand Marais. Looks like I've had more emergency food than I
need. :-)

 8/23: Superior Hiking Trail: Andy Creek Campsite -

Pawned off a pound of almonds on a young couple at the campsite last night,
they also took my garbage :-)

Bit foggy around the lake this morning; warm, and a heavy dew. I quickly
climbed out of the fog, stopped two miles later to pour the water out of my
boots and wring out my socks, gotta love that undergrowth. Some good views
at the start of the day, but I wondered what the trail was going to be like
outside the BWCA; essentially what little use it gets must be as a ski trail
in winter... Descended to the Pigeon River, crossed over to the Swamp River,
passed the Otter Creek Cutoff... and reached a clearcut where the trail
disappeared. To top it off it looks like they had delineated the edges of
the clearcut with blue paint – and blue survey tape! After fruitless trail
searching the GPS and the map showed me about a mile north of Rengo Road,
shot a compass bearing and started to bushwhack. You want to hear about
bushwhacking a clearcut, in the sun, on the warmest day of the hike so far?
I didn't think so... Fortunately I got lucky and found the logging road
before too long. Grassy, moose tracked, even occasionally shady – and going
in the right direction! I came out about ¼ mile west of the BRT trailhead,
where one car was parked. That trailhead is about ¼ mile west of the SHT
trailhead, where the same car pulled up while I was signing the register.
Nice older gent wearing his SHT t-shirt, wanting to know if I needed
anything :-)

About 1.7 miles to here, and another 5+ to Jackson Creek that I didn't have
in me. Beautiful trail coming in, I'm not expecting to need the compass
again! Water here does look like tea, and I'm in the tent hiding from the
skeeters, but at least I'm done for the day.

Crossed (or nearly crossed) the 100 mile point today. Needed Aleve at lunch
for the first time, tweaked my right thigh jumping blowdown this morning.
Left pinkie toe is sore from rubbing the boot wrong. And just before hitting
camp my left shin starting acting up, feels like I bruised it just above the
boot. Hope to get a day off in Grand Marais so my body can rest.

Oh- and it looks like at least one group started south ahead of me today,
seems that one of the crew has done the Northville-Placid Trail. It would be
interesting to catch them, but of course I have no idea how fast they're

Just did dinner, Lipton's Teriyake sides, okay but not all that exciting.
The skeeters were out, trying to have me for dinner, but not all that bad.
Tomorrow morning might be more interesting, especially with the open privy.

Now I'm thinking that “bruise” on my left shin might be a pulled muscle.
Would be nice to sit with my feet and legs in cold water, but the water here
is neither cold or deep. Dose myself good with painkiller/anti-inflamatory
tonight and give it another go tomorrow.

Managed to dry my boots and (smelly) socks in the sun, hopefully the trail
will be cut open nicely tomorrow and I can do my last “clean sock day”
before town. I'll see how much dew there is and decide which socks before I
leave camp. Speaking of dew, it's now cooling off nicely, may even get
chilly tonight.

<sigh> I keep looking in the quidebook and seeing four days to town, but the
last day is a whole five miles. So to make it in three days I either have to
do a twenty or haul water three miles to a dry camp. Four days gets me into
town on Thursday, but I don't know if I'll be able to find a room for Friday
night too. Oh well, we'll see.

Getting a little ripe inside the tent, will be nice to finally get laundry
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