Sunday, June 14, 2009
We had a little slower start to our Sunday, as we both slept in a bit, enjoying the campsite as long as possible. Our destination for today was the campsite along the north edge of Partridge Lake and then a day-hike up to the cliffs above Rose Lake. As we hit the Border Route again, walking east, we reflected on how often the terrain of the trail would change. Sometimes we would be walking on a wide path (before entering the BWCA), then hit a burnout area, then find ourselves between stands of pines, then have brush obscuring any aerial view of the trail, then be forced to hop deadfall with annoying frequency, etc.
The first two miles of trail were fairly flat and bland, though certainly a relaxing way to start the morning! Then we hit the view from the end of the ridge above Mucker Lake. The descent down was rather angular. In other words, we were already grumbling about how ridiculous this would be heading out (more on that later!). While the area around Mucker Lake was low-lying and swampy, it had a certain kind of appeal. The log across the stream pouring out of Mucker made us both remark that this looked like a State Park trail and yet it most definitely wasn't. There was plenty of mud on the trail alongside Mucker, but thereafter things changed considerably.
The Border Route east of Mucker is a different kind of animal. It's not that the trail was hard to follow. In fact, there were very few moments from here out where the trail wasn't obvious. Instead, the biggest trial was the encroachment of brush on the sides of the path. Every step meant that something was going to rub against my legs, arms and face. Even clad in light fabric covering my arms and legs and a bug net across the face, this did get a bit tedious. There was plenty of deadfall to struggle with a backpack through, as well. The ascent of the Border Route just east of the South Lake Trail was very tiring, but at the top all of the bothersome brush of the past hour or so was well worth it. The first views of Rose Lake whet my appetite for a later hike to the top of the cliffs.
The Border Route trail guide warns that the path to the Partridge Lake campsite is not well-marked, but in fact there is now a new-looking sign that pointed us in the right direction. The trail down to Partridge Lake wasn't hard to follow, but there was a ton of wild encroachment on the path. We found ourselves after about fifteen minutes at a swamp with trees strewn everywhere. I would not be surprised if a tornado blew through here recently for how the trees were thrown about in just this one location. We couldn't find the path for several minutes, eventually weaving through several trees to find the trail on the far side of the swamp. Afterward we realized the intended route here is over a beaver dam. However, that dam looks particularly fragile (not to mention wet and muddy!) and we decided later to retrace our steps rather than try to cross it.
After setting up camp on Partridge, which is a pretty nice campsite as well, and resting for the better part of the afternoon, we left our packs back at camp, hung our food and made for the Rose cliffs. The word that comes to mind here is spectacular--well worth the trip for this alone. This was the highlight of my trip, hands down.
Distance hiked: 8.0 miles (5.6 with packs)