Ok Minnesotans: this one is for you....
For a few years I've had the Border Route Trail on my radar but haven't been able to find much information about it and was generally told not to hike it by Park-Ranger types.
From the evening of May 1st through the morning of May 9th a couple buddies and I hiked from pincushion mountain (above Grand Marais) north to the northern terminus of the SHT (53+ miles), then west via the Border Route Trail to Heston's Resort on Gunflint Lake (54+ miles), the proprietors of which helped us with our car shuttle.
Anyway, I was very impressed by the BRT, and feel a little bit of an obligation to spread the good word about it as there seems to be minimal info on-line and perhaps even a bit of fear regarding how rugged and remote the trail is. This is a trail that would benefit from a broader base of advocates.
To make a long story short, I am a huge fan of the SHT and through-hiked it last fall. I feel that the BRT offers a fantastic continuation of this trail and perhaps even better views with a much wilder feel. It was better cleared/maintained than I had anticipated and there was a consistent tread to follow for the entire ~54 miles of trail that we walked. That said, it did have a distinct feel compared with the SHT and our hourly hiking pace was generally about 2/3 of what we were able to do on the SHT.
The BRT is more rugged, remote, and does have some issues with somewhat frequent downed trees and underbrush encroaching on the trail in some places (a result of the "big blow" of 1999 during which significant sections of the forest cannopy was destroyed resulting in more sunlight reaching the forest floor and promoting the growth of smaller plants and trees along the trail).
However, the recent efforts of trail crews are very much apparent and as I
mentioned, the trail was generally in decent shape for this early in the year and very hikeable.
Specifically, the trail was by far most overgrown within the BWCA where there is about a 10 mile section starting 1.5 miles east of stairway portage/falls continuing west to roughly mucker lake that suffered from a fair bit of overgrowth and made for some draining hiking (though the veiws in this section are amazing).
I am posting a trip report in a couple of sections: first, here are some shots a brief description of our 53 miles on the SHT. I'll post the BRT report in my next post.
Also, a note. I did this trip with UL gear but my buddies didn't, (and they did just fine): I guess that is the joy of being 25...
pincushion parking lot, after being dropped off by Barb Heston.
Bear bags hangin in the morning
No bridge over the Kadunce river? No problem.
Sea gulls on the lake walk.
5.5 ounce homemade (myog) cuben tarp: my home for the week.
On the road again
A couple shots of the brule river:
Trees at Hazel camp (snack stop)
End of the SHT.
At this point we had finished the SHT portion of our trip in just over three days, giving us four full days to do the BRT. So far we had a relatively plesant trip with moderate weather, a well cleared trail and no bugs. The BRT was absolutely an unknown to all of us, so it was fun to be walking toward the trailhead for three days: how rugged would it be? Will we have to turn back? Are we actually in danger of losing the trail or getting lost? We set up camp at a small site beside Swamp River along otter lake road, and figured we'd find out in the morning. For the tie being, temps were dropping, and we decided to make some dinner and rest up:
Dinner along the swamp river
Shortly after eating the sun set and we went to bed. It started to drizzle...and get windy...and pour sideways rain...
Next post coming up later this morning.