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

2020 Trips - Above Walls of Stone

By Riley Smith Print Icon Print Report View/Leave Comments (0)
Dates:August 11-12, 2020
Entry Point:59 - Partridge Lake/South Lake Trail (BWCA)
Lakes:Bearskin, Duncan, East Otter, Moss, Partridge, Rose

We crossed the Gunflint and started the well-marked hike. As soon as we crossed a few hundred feet from the road though, it became clear that this trail doesn’t see the traffic of the main BRT. It quickly vanished into chest-deep ferns and a tangle of hazelnuts. We bashed and crashed through thick sections only to break out into towering pines or rich cedars. The trail meandered north and, after what felt like more than an hour, we stumbled into the Partridge campsite. Heading north from there, we finally hit the main BRT, and the trail opened up. The sun was setting by the time we hit the first West Rose overlook and we sat down to enjoy it, hoping we wouldn’t miss the Partridge Spur Trail in the dark. After heading east, we found the spur trail and started heading for the campsite. At this point one of us, I don’t remember who, shined a light up to head level into the trees and into two perfectly glowing eyes! They belonged to the most adorable little Saw-Whet owl. What luck! They are such cool creatures. Hiking through the wreckage of the blowdown on Partridge was rather haunting in the dark with the skeletal remains of an ancient cedar stand laid low all around. This must have been quite the place before the storm! We found the campsite unoccupied and cooked dinner under the starlit sky. We stayed up awhile to enjoy the stars, vowing to wake up early to make it to the next overlook for sunrise.

We woke early and made fast time to the main West Rose overlook made famous by the trail guide cover photo. The cliffs are absolutely breathtaking, especially under the purple hues of dawn! At this moment, I had the faintest dream that if I ever found a partner one day who loved this wilderness as I do, and the day came to ask them to marry me then I could think of no finer place in canoe country than the western cliffs of Rose. That inkling came true only a few years later. See the later trip report. Beyond wanting to watch the sunrise, we had other motivating factors like the fact we were expected back for work at the end of the trail at lunchtime. Little did we know the challenge that lay ahead. We hoped to see a moose as we passed the pond, but none were there this morning. The overlook near Rose Falls is always a special one and the falls themselves are ever spectacular. We had little time to sit and admire. On turning off onto Caribou Rock, we hit the real challenge of the morning. Somewhere along the way in a less-than-adoring reflection, I pondered who had upset this trail builder so that they felt the need to observe both every high point and every low point along the eastern shore of Duncan. The Caribou rock trail seemed to climb up and down and up and down, and we huffed and puffed enjoying the overlooks as much for our current inability to breathe as for the rich scenery. Somewhere just before the portage, we became distracted by a wildlife trail and lost the actual path. After climbing down a cliff for some while, simply assuming it was another of the trail designer’s cruelties, we scurried back to the path. We managed to break out into the portage eventually where we ran into a canoe group. We filled up on water there before making a hasty finish out to the trailhead. We did manage to return by lunch and checked into work right on time. This stretch of the Border Route is as scenic as any stretch of Canoe Country, this is for certain. Its scenery is well-earned which makes it all the sweater. It was fun to get out of a canoe for a spell and see some trails where the rugged nature of the wilderness really hits with pungency. Until the next time.

Sunset over Rose

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