Border Route Trail Fail

Our planned route.

My last trip was a hike on the Border Route Trail (BRT), a very rough, remote trail located in the Boundary Waters Wildnerness Canoe Area. This was the first time I’d actually ever done any hiking in the area, previously I’d just done some cross country skiing day trips in the area.

Due to the remoteness, permit requirements for summer usage, and just the general difficulty of the trail it sees far less usage than the nearby Superior Hiking Trail. The trail was created in the 1970s by the MN Rovers Outing Club, at the time it was the first trail in MN created entirely by volunteers. I read somewhere, I think in their trail guide, that at the time it was just a bunch of fit enthusiastic college kids. So they focused on cramming in as many great views as they could, ignoring any attempts at a leisurely or easily hiked trail. The trail profile for our route confirms this.

Not many flat spots…

I plotted out a pretty low mileage trip, knowing how strenuous the hike could be. Some insane people have actually managed to cover the whole 60+ miles of the trail in less than 24 hours. That was not our plan.

Unfortunately a few people in the group had to drop out in the days before the hike, and another friend ended up not feeling well and we had to turn back after just a night out. Shit happens, the trail will be there next year, and I plan on attempting it again next May 2022. I didnt take many pictures, and it turns out a lot of them were pretty crummy as is but here were the decent ones I got.

Cedar Grove just off of McFarland trail head.
Overlooking John Lake
Looking down at John and East Pike Lakes
Newer trail sign
False Morels I think
Campsite at Pine Lake
Sunset at Pine Lake
Overlook near West Pike Lake just off of portage
One of the few open trail sections
Another view of the overlook off of the portage between Pine and West Pike Lake

Some other random notes from this trip:

  • It took us roughly 6 hours to go from the McFarland Trailhead to our 1st campsite, 8.3 miles according to CalTopo.
  • My friend woke me up several times in the night hearing animal noises that turned out to be a rabbit! So expect rabbits at the designated campsites.
  • We did see some moose poop on the trail but no moose.
  • Ate one of the vacuum packed and compressed MountainHouse meals, Chicken Teriyaki, not bad at all 7/10.
  • My friend was pretty dehydrated on the trip, I had some Medi-Lyte pills in my first aid kit that he said did wonders in helping him feel better. I bought a huge box to have on hand now. They seemed to make a big difference pretty quickly after taking them.
  • We saw a grouse on the trail that was pretty cool and some garter snakes.
  • I was getting tired of fussing with my whoopi slings on the hammock, might switch back to straps.
  • I bought a pair of toe sock liners and they were awesome! No blisters at all in between my toes like I would occasionally get on really hilly trails.
  • My little MiniBullDesigns can stove worked great and was super light and quiet too. RIP tinney (the stove maker).
  • I made a point to use my little sit pad and it was great. Really helpful to keep it on top of the pack for quick access.

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