Paddle - BWCA, Quetico, Sylvania, and other paddling places

2020 Trips - Brant Lake Solo

By Riley Smith Print Icon Print Report View/Leave Comments (0)
Dates:June 9-10, 2020
Entry Point:52 - Brant Lake (BWCA)
Lakes:Bat, Bingshick, Brandt, Edith, Fay, Flying, French, Gillis, Glee, Gotter, Green, Honker, Ron, Round, Seahorse, Warclub

I pulled into the lot at Round Lake and unloaded the canoe. There was a stiff wind coming out of the west, a headwind, which inevitably would slow the pace. I traveled west into West Round and Edith. On one of the portages, I encountered a pair of guys just finishing up their Kekekabic route where they hiked the Kek westward and paddled back. It seemed a wonderful route that I may just have to consider someday. From Edith, I paddled the south channel into Brant rather than portaging. Once on Brant, I found the first two campsites full. Figures since it was already almost 6:00. Now for the quandary. The final campsite on Brant leaves plenty to be desired. I certainly am not picky on a solo travel trip where I’d only be sleeping in the site. However, with a few hours of daylight left, I chose to move on. The portage out of Brant is a brute, something that was new to me on this trip, but would continue to impress itself upon me numerous times in the future. I single portaged to save time which had me huffing a bit when it was said and done. Early-season trips remind a person of what was lost in the off-season! Gotter is a beautiful lake, but even little Gotter had a strong headwind coming across it that day. I worked my way to the corner to see if I could find the old Crag portage. No luck this day! Unfortunatley, the wind caught my lightly weighted canoe and shoved me right on top of a barely submerged boulder. Yikes! Poor outfitted canoe. I worked my way over to the Flying portage. Later in the season, a friend of mine would lose their phone in this very spot. The mud has a way of sticking with you and really clinging on. This trip was before the stair replacement, and I haven’t had the pleasure of returning yet. I’m looking forward to seeing it! For me, it was down the slippery wooden stairs to Flying. It’s a brief respite in the canoe before portaging again. The portage out of Flying gains some elevation though the footing is often better than the trails that proceed it. On Green, the still ever-present wind out of the west was a reminder that time was of the essence and travel would continue to be painfully slow. I pulled behind one of the peninsulas on the southern shore where I noticed a small white shape floating in the water. It was a waterproof disposable camera of all things! I wonder where someone dropped this? I later posted the camera on the lost and found online and, after it went unclaimed for a year, and with some swirling questions about the ethical quandary, I had the film developed. Unfortunately, no photos seemed to survive the time exposed. Back to the trip. After fighting my way down Green, I reached the portage into Bat. This portage is much nicer early in the season, in the late summer it can be a muddy crawl to get from open water to a portageable trail. I could tell on Bat that the northern campsite was already occupied and hoped that I hadn’t overextended myself. The sun was already setting and pushing further on did not sound pleasant. The first site was open and, being an optimist, I pushed to the second. If nothing else, I would have a tailwind back if needed! The second campsite was open so I parked myself for the night. I slept well but the wind never died down. Tomorrow would be an even greater challenge...

I woke to the same familiar strong wind out of the west. Just figured that West should be my direction of travel! It was progress to the portage and, on the other side, I faced down the largest chop I’ve attempted solo. Chop doesn’t usually scare me in a well-weighted hull. With minimal weight in a bit of a jumpy canoe to begin with, I knew my work was cut out for me. I made a good line for the north shore and made slow but steady progress until I was tossed ashore near the second campsite. Poor canoe.... I kept moving and caught some relief in the back bay. French Lake was really bad with white caps coming hard out of the west. I struggled to get offshore with waves trying, and occasionally succeeding, to drive my back into the jagged rocks. I really hate dinging up a canoe, especially one that’s not mine. All told it took some hours to get from my campsite on Batt to the “turn” heading into Seahorse where I would catch the tailwind.

Wind on French

Not that the northern lakes are large enough to offer too much reward in that regard. Seahorse is an interesting lake and the portages are burned and narrow. I made good time through Seahorse and Warclub and into Fay. I turned north into Glee just to see it and then into Bingshick. I stopped at the western side for a snack and a hike into Honker. The portages out of Bingshick were quite the site. I found no less than four landings to get to the “trail.” None of the trail options felt like an official portage. There was a waterfall flowing down the centerline and the passageway felt as if every other visitor simply chose the route that looked the best for them. I had no choice but to follow suit. The next portage south is nary an improvement over the first with jagged rocks and knee-deep water; it demanded a lot for a portage with so few rods to its credit! Now on Flying, the homeward route would be a mirror image of the previous night. I got out of my canoe on the point on Gotter and hiked up to the top of the cliff for wonderful views occasionally peaking through the post-burn thicket.

View from Gotter

Over the portage, I traveled back to Brant and eventually on to Round. This trip proved a bit rigorous solo. thanks in part to the route planning, and in part due to the tempest. It was an introduction to an entry I would return to plenty in the coming years, and a chance to see some new lakes and trails. A nice adventure was had. Soon, I was back to work, waiting for another off day and another wilderness excursion.

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