We started out from Crane Lake where we would be crossing 30 miles of water to reach the trailhead.
We had planned on heading out at 7:00 am on September 12th, but were delayed 3 1/2 hours due to extremely thick fog. We finally got going but the fog was still in the process of lifting.
The sun burned through the fog and it turned into a beautiful calm day. Perfect for travelling across 25,130 acre Namakan Lake.
The trailhead to Beast Lake is at the very end of Mica Bay. (Mica Bay is on the way to the Kettle Falls Hotel). There’s a good dock to park your boat and an outhouse at the landing.
The trail/portage to Beast Lake is .9 miles and just before you reach the lake, the Cruiser Lake Trail branches off and heads to the south and west. You climb a steep hill before following a rock ridge that runs above the south shore of Beast Lake.
We were headed to Brown Lake where we planned on setting up a base camp. The campsite was an easy 3 mile hike from the trailhead. Right before we got to the site however, we had to climb down a rather steep descent over slippery rocks. With a heavy pack on your back it presents its own challenges to the uninitiated. We found the lakes up in this region to be set deep down in the valleys with rock ridges running between.
We found the great campsite and set up camp. The view from the tent over Brown Lake was gorgeous.
The site had a fire ring, tent pad, latrine, and a bear pole!
We hung our food on the pole for safe-keeping after a lunch of Tuna wraps. Boy, food sure tastes good when you’re out in the wilderness!
After lunch we took a quick swim, yes swimming on Sept 12th in northern Minnesota is invigorating! We gathered enough firewood for dinner that night and then we decided to hike the 1.9 miles south to Cruiser Lake at about 3:30 in the afternoon.
Cruiser Lake is the highest lake in the park at 1,246 feet above sea level. This must explain why we didn’t have to go down a steep descent when we reached this lake. Brown lake where we were camping was at 1,176 feet – a bit lower than Cruiser Lake. The waters of Cruiser Lake are cystal clear. I believe there are Lake Trout present in this lake. It is clear, deep, and cold.
Hiking back to our camp, we crossed a beaver pond. The Park Service has built a nice boardwalk going through the wet area. Birds were abundant in this area. Canada Geese were on the pond along with a couple Mallards and Ring-necked Ducks. Pine Siskins were chattering away from the tops of the Spruce trees where they were feeding on the cones.
As we walked along the rock ridges, Rock Cairns marked the trail. It was a good thing because this part of the trail goes over a lot of exposed rock and there is no evidence of a trail worn into the ground. You must keep a close eye on the Cairns as getting lost up here would not be a good thing.
At one point we surprised a big FISHER MARTEN! He dashed into the woods just as quickly as we saw him. What a beautiful creature! His thick dark brown coat of fur and long tail make this relative of the weasel worth seeing.
Getting back to camp we started making dinner when we heard a Barred Owl hooting: “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all“. Tonight we had foil dinner baked in the campfire. The foil packet contained chicken breast, mixed vegetables, and hand-parched wild rice. Dove chocolate bars were for dessert.
As it got dark we watched the campfire burn and then we heard Wolves start howling. Ahh, the sound of the wilderness. It was a late night before we turned in, the full moon and warm temperatures made the evening very enjoyable.