After a fifteen mile five hour kayak trip down the Brule River in Wisconsin with Brule River Canoe Rental, you would think the adventure would be over for the day. I settled into my camp chair in the Brule River State Forest and checked out the map in the park newsletter.
On the first page I read about the park history. It states:
“The Bois Brule River Valley and the uppermost St. Croix River Valley were carved by melt water flowing south from glacial Lake Superior and the surrounding uplands. When the glaciers receded, a divide was formed out of which the Brule and St. Croix Rivers flow today in opposite directions. A portage was established between these two rivers, connecting Lake Superior and the Mississippi River watersheds.”
I continued to read that this portage was used as early as 1400 by Native Americans. First it was the Mascoutins and then later the Sauk, Sioux, and Chippewas. As the white men moved in, the route became used by explorers, trappers, traders, those involved with mineral exploration, and loggers.
Another section of the newsletter pertaining to hiking in the state forest notes that the North Country National Scenic Trail passes through the state forest. It follows the Brule/St. Croix Historical Portage Trail for the first two miles.
I turned the page to the map of the state forest and found the parking lot for the trail at Upper St. Croix Lake at the crossroads of county P and County A just south of the little town of Lake Nebagamon. I looked at my watch and saw it was getting close to 5 p.m. I figured it would take me a half hour to drive there and two hours to walk it.
When one has the opportunity to walk on a historic trail following in the footsteps of Native Americans and explorers who used it for over five hundred centuries, it is time to move. I jumped out of my chair into my car, and I was off to Upper St. Croix Lake.
Unfortunately, I did not read the newsletter as closely as I should have. I failed to see that the North Country Trail and the historic portage trail were the same trail. After I walked out of the parking lot, I saw the trailhead for the North Country Trail and walked right past it. Instead, I found a snowmobile trail that I followed for a half hour before turning around and realizing it was not the right trail. A sign that said “no entry, private property” alerted me I was not on a state forest or national scenic trail.
When you park in the Upper St. Croix Lake Parking lot head up the parking lot road to the County A. The North Country National Scenic Trail Trailhead is on your left about halfway up the parking lot road. Follow this until you cross the road and then you will pick up signs with mile markers to the portage.
By this time it was near dark. If I choose to walk to the portage, I would be finishing in pitch darkness as the sun was already setting. I had my headlamp in my fanny pack, so I was off. I was leaving the park tomorrow and would not have another chance to hike this historic trail.
About a half mile into the trail, I was treated to a beautiful overlook west over the beautiful Wisconsin northwoods. The sun was setting below a line of clouds, which were pink in the distance. I enjoyed the scene for a moment and then took off.
I finally made the end of the portage trail at about 7 p.m. It was almost dark, but I had a last moment of sunlight to take a photo of the headwaters of the Brule River. It was not much to see as it was just a tiny creek, but the history of this river, portage, and divide was not lost on me.
I took a photo and thought of Native Americans in canoes made from birch bark or whatever tree they used loading their vessels for the trip down to Lake Superior. They entered the water and their paddles silently cut into the clear water of the Brule. They were returning from hunting or trading trip, or possibly just heading toward another home.
I headed back to the car in pitch darkness with my headlamp on. Fortunately, the trail is wide and well marked. I definitely would recommend hiking this historic section of the trail, but my tip is to not begin it at 6 p.m. at night. Another tip is to make sure you are on the right trail before proceeding.
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Like you I enjoy a trail with history. What a nice find! One of my most memorable hikes was up the Hieroglyphic Canyon at the base of Superstition Mountain in Arizona. An amazing collection of Hohokam petroglyphs.
Erika recently posted..Six fitness tips for adventure
Didn’t Stevie Wonder sing a song about that?
What a beautiful area. It must have been quite an experience walking these trails, used so long ago by Native Americans. Thanks for sharing the history, along with your photos.
Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..My ten favorite things about the USA
Once I started walking I became more concerned about the dwindling light, but I appreciated the history later.
Oh, Ted… lol. Your tips at the end are brilliant. Though you are much braver than I, and good on ya for taking advantage of an opportunity when it was presented to you. Thanks for sharing all this great info; I know where I’m heading for my next Northwoods adventure!
Francesca recently posted..Harvest Tour 2012: Scenes from Franklin County
This area is not too far away from Leinenkugel’s should you want to combine some beer drinking with hiking or kayaking.
love the picture of the sunset, ted! youre such an outdoorsmen. things that the lazy travelers would probably never be caught doing: walking through the woods at night. xo
thelazytravelers recently posted..jetsetters: @InNatsShoes
Probably not my most brilliant moment, but I am glad I had the foresight to have my headlamp in my fanny pack.
So interesting! I really must do a better job of traveling within my own country. I feel like I know so much about all of these other countries, but so much less about my own. You’re convincing me to get out there and do some more exploring!
The World Wanderer recently posted..The Cheetahs Come Out to Play.
Other countries are pretty sweet too, but you can’t always be traveling overseas.
Love the sunset pic! Pretty sure I’d have freaked out hiking back in the dark:)
D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Hotel Duval Tallahassee – Check-In Florida
Fortunately, the trail was well marked, I already had hiked over it, so I was familiar with the route, and I had a flashlight. I would be lying to see I was not a little frightened. Walking in the dark where bears, wolves, and sometimes mountain lions live by yourself can make the mind wander.
I’m pretty sure that if you added up all the miles you’ve walked you could have already traversed the USA twice. Seriously.
Leah Travels recently posted..Packing Non-Negotiables: Stuff I Gotta Have
This trail is part of a 4,500 mile trail and that is only a little over half of the U.S. I have a lot miles to go.
love the sunset photo 🙂
@mrsoaroundworld recently posted..50 shades of blue – Photos of the week
I was glad to get a nice view out of the hike before it got too dark.
love that sunset photo! when i saw the title of the post i thought this was going to be a story on St. Croix – the Caribbean island. love it either way but do you think we can swing a trip to St. Croix where we camp on a beach & capture sunset photos there some day??
lola recently posted..where to party in Europe
Sounds like a good tweet up to me!
Wisconsin really seems like quite the beautiful state. Thanks for sharing Ted.
John recently posted..Designs They Are A Changin’
I think it is very similar to Colorado in some respects although it does not have the mountains. A real outdoorsy state though.
Wow, I think it is awesome that this trail has been used since the 1400s! It made me think of Lewis & Clark and their incredible courage to explore new lands. Thank you for sharing so many good details about all I need to explore still!
Raul (@ilivetotravel) recently posted..Visiting a “Secondary” Town – the Cultural Capital of Romania: Iaşi (Iasi)