Monday, June 15, 2009
Roughing it on the Border Route Trail
Is the Superior Hiking Trail too cushy for you? Too many bridges over streams? Too many handrails on those steps? Just can't stand seeing other PEOPLE every 20 minutes?
Man up. Get out on the Border Route Trail. It's rough out there!
I've been looking for trails to include in the forthcoming Hiking the North Shore. For me to include a trail in a book, the trail needs to be fairly easy to find and not too difficult to follow. The BRT can be hard to find and hard to follow.
If you're accustomed to the Superior Hiking Trail, you'll find the BRT less maintained and less accessible. You'll also find it equally dramatic in its scenery and far more wild and uncrowded.
The BRT is 65 miles long and connects the Superior Hiking Trail with the Kekekabic Trail, cutting across the BWCA Wilderness. It's accessed off the Arrowhead Trail and the Gunflint Trail.
The BRT is known for its dramatic scenery. The border lakes area in the tip of the Arrowhead has a geologic story unique to Minnesota, the result of which are long narrow lakes edged by steep cliffs. The picture above is from the BRT looking east across South Fowl Lake past the Pigeon Cliffs area.
But, ooh, it's rough out there.
Just for example, the main indicator of the trail is blue flagging, like this:
The trail doesn't get enough foot traffic to grind in a treadway (the bare dirt place where your boots hit), nor do the trail builders create a treadway as they do on the Superior Hiking Trail.
The BRT was built by volunteers and the Superior National Forest back in the 1970s. It predates the SHT by a decade. Yet it still feels fresh and wild and under construction, like the first draft of a trail.
Did I find a trail to include in the book? I think so. The access off the Arrowhead Road up by Macfarland Lake is easy to find, and the trail east of there is fairly easy to follow. And the views are gorgeous.
Is it rough? It's rough AND tough. But if you're accustomed to the Superior Hiking Trail, with its wide and frequent clearing and consistent signage, be careful. Get a map at the Lake Superior Trading Post and bring a compass.