Destination: Bryce Breon

August 15, 2012

It was time for another Wednesday night hike.  This week, Paul chose the Bryce Breon Trail, one that we could access right here from Heston's.  We packed our picnic dinner of Oriental Chicken Salad, chips and beverages, and hit the trail.

The Minnesota Rovers is the group behind the development of the  Border Route Trail.  In the early '70's, they worked with the U.S. Forest Service to gain permission to build this system of trails that connects Gunflint Lake to Lake Superior.  You can find out more information at their website, and about the Border Route Trail group at this link.  The Bryce Breon Trail was named after two members of the group.

To reach the trail, we began on the High Line, and continued up to the South Rim.  As I expected, at this time of the year, the grasses and thimbleberry bushes had grown quite high.  Given all of the rain that we had received, the area could be viewed as either lush or overgrown.  The trail is cleared each year--often twice--but the vegetation always seems to win at some point or other.  A few deadfalls also covered the path, but were easy to scale.

Once atop the South Rim, the travel became easier.  Our feet were getting a bit wet, once again due to the rain.  Where small drainages crossed the trail, we picked our way through on hummocks and high spots.  The first overlook was as spectacular as ever, and Addie wondered about eating our dinner there. Paul, however, had a certain rock in mind, so we forged on.

The sign marking the start of the Bryce Breon was mostly visible, and we turned south.  At that point, I am always reminded of a story that Greg's mom had told me.  One fall, she was out hiking the same trail, and when she turned, just up ahead, she saw three large moose.  They were standing together, totally obscuring the path.  They didn't notice her, and she quietly waited, expecting that they would move along.  But they didn't.  They just stood there.  Finally, realizing that it could be quite awhile, Sharlene turned around to go back. No sense in riling up a gang like that!

It's mostly uphill to the South Rim, and then it levels off.  Once on the Bryce Breon, it begins to descend, as it makes its way to Loon Lake.  In the center portion, there is a magnificent stand of old cedar trees.  To me, it holds the magical feeling of a fairy forest, and my imagination tries to spot little characters among the mossy rocks and tree roots.  A small creek flows through a portion of it, increasing the storybook nature of it.  It was in that stretch that Paul pointed out the rock he had chosen for our picnic.

It was an easy enough climb to get to the top, and it was even cushioned, thanks to the bed of moss and leaves that had fallen there. Though we still had a bit of a ways to go, it was nice to stop for a short rest and a bite to eat.

After dinner, we continued on the trail for a  ways before Greg and Paul decided to head back in the direction that we had come.  Addie and I continued on towards Loon.  The plan was for the guys to go back and get the car, while we girls hiked to the Loon Lake public landing.  Greg would then pick us up for the ride back home.

I'm really glad that we chose to do the trek in this way.  I had not been on the shore of Loon Lake in several years, and I wanted to see for myself the trail conditions.  I learned a lot that night.  Once again, thanks to the rains, I found areas of the trail that were extremely wet.  Some of the grass was as tall as our shoulders, and we just accepted that our feet would be soaked from clambering through these swampy stretches.  As we did so, we were rewarded with excellent views of the lake and the moon rising over it.  We even saw a mama and baby loon pair (my second one this year!) swimming along in the waning light.

There is a lovely campsite on the shore of the lake, not far from the landing.  We took a moment to venture off-trail to see it, and it looks like a most hospitable place to spend a night or two.  Someone must have stayed there in recent times, as it was freshly cleared of all that vegetation that was elsewhere.  Thankfully, they had cleared the rest of the trail as well.  This made our final hike out a whole lot easier.  We reached the landing in the falling shades of twilight, and began our way up the road.  Soon we saw headlights, and Greg was there to provide the four-mile ride back to the lodge.

I am gaining a fresh knowledge base on these trails that we have been covering, and it's both enjoyable and useful.  Now when I recommend hikes to our guests, I can give them current information, and they will be better prepared to anticipate the conditions.  For someone wanting a casual hike, I would recommend beginning at the landing and going in to the campsite.  If you are looking for more adventure, continue as we did, along the shore and up the ridge. (Prepare to get wet feet!) You'll get to see the cedar forest then, too.  Or approach it from the South Rim side, and do as Paul and Greg did if you do not want to encounter the wetter conditions.  Overall, it was a good experience, and another wonderful memory to add to my bank.