Vague Path Through the Woods: Trip Report on MN's Border Route Trail

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

Update: See the video on our trip, “24 Hours on the Border Route,” here.

Map in hand and looking north, my compass needle spun as we approached the big rock on the top of the hill. It was mile 1 on the Border Route Trail, a little-traveled path that traverses Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and the area’s weird magnetism was already altering navigation on our course. “It spins when you get close to the rock!” said Peter Wentzel, one of my hiking partners for the trip.

border route trail - magnetic rock.jpg

Giant natural obelisk: Magnetic Rock is near the western end of the trail; photo by Peter Wentzel

The anvil top of Magnetic Rock, a giant natural obelisk embedded with polarizing iron ore, towered overhead. Its strange pull on compass needles is known to hikers of the Border Route Trail, and magnetized ore in hills further along the path are rumored to render compasses useless for hikers trying not to get lost.

Staying on course proved a challenge during our trip over Labor Day weekend. Despite detailed topo maps and navigational know-how, my group — including Wentzel, T.C. Worley, and myself — got lost more than once on our fast-and-light trek. The Border Route Trail, created in the 1970s, is remote and hardly used. Deadfall clogs the path. Thorns and grasses drape from either edge, obscuring the 10-inch trail in hundreds of spots along its length.

We began our trek on the Border Route on a Sunday afternoon at 1:20pm. The premise of our trip was “fast and light,” and with that theme in mind we ran and hiked for nearly 24 hours straight. Our goal was to see a giant swath of the trail in short time while also pushing physical limits. A record traverse of the trail in under 24 hours would be a cherry on the sundae if we could pull it off.

border route trail signpost 2.jpg

Signpost on the trail; photo by T.C. Worley

In the end, we did not even come close. Our 24-hour challenge turned into 29 hours, and even then we did not make it quite to the end. But from the trailhead and nearby Magnetic Rock at the western terminus, we ran, hiked, and eventually stumbled along more or less for 52 miles before a significant rest. Then, after a rest night (pizza in town and 10 full hours of sleep!) we drove back to where we left off to knock through the rest of the trail, running much of the remaining 12 miles to the end.

border route trail - hiking.jpg

Peter Wentzel (left) and Stephen Regenold on the move for a well-cleared portion of the path; photo by T.C. Worley

The Border Route Trail was a challenge, both physically and navigationally. We got off route and lost a half-dozen times, including a serious episode around 10p.m. the first night where our compass needles spun weird and we hiked more than three miles off route. Dazed and confused, we stumbled into a cabin settlement and sheepishly knocked on a door. “Can you guys please point us back to the Border Route Trail?” was our plea.

The cabin owner, Mitch, did more than that — he fired up a small boat and motored us across Birch Lake at midnight. Mitch dropped us off just after we saw a moose on the water’s edge, and we jumped from his small craft onto a mushy shoreline before hacking into a spruce swamp. “Keep heading east to the trail,” Mitch shouted, disappearing into the night.

We bushwhacked for 20 minutes before dropping back onto a path. Reoriented, we trekked north to again join the Border Route where we left off. Three or four hours wasted on a bad turn!

border route trail - lost at night.jpg

Wentzel (left) and Regenold lost in the night; photo by T.C. Worley

The final day, running through lowlands near the end, the trail faded in and out of existence. There was almost no trace of a “trail” for long stretches. Blue flagging tape, hung occasionally on trees, was the only savoir in the swampy bottoms near the Pigeon River.

By the end, we completed the entire trail with no injury bigger than a swollen knee (T.C.) and bruised and bashed shins (myself). The Border Route was an epic, tough trail. There were no other backpackers on the entire route. Overlooks into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area were jaw-dropping and serene. Waterfalls and rushing streams and cliffs clogged the route, and for two days the area’s loons and woodpeckers and flushing grouse provided the only soundtrack for our trip. As for our challenge, the Border Route Trail proved wild and tough — a perfect venue to push limits and revel in deep nature in the same act.

—Check out the video on Regenold and crew’s Border Route trip, “24 Hours on the Border Route.”. Connect with Gear Junkie at Facebook.com/TheGearJunkie or on Twitter via @TheGearJunkie.

map of border route trail minnesota.jpg

65-mile Border Route trail crosses a swath of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Commenting on post : Vague Path Through the Woods: Trip Report on MN's Border Route Trail
Posted by Mike - 09/09/2011 01:22 PM

Might not get lost if you weren’t wearing sunglasses at night??? ;^)
OTOH, sounds like a great trip…formerly of MN, I’ve always thought the Kek and Isle Royale would make great ultras. Keep up the great ‘work’.

Posted by Stephen Regenold - 09/09/2011 01:48 PM

Mike – Did the Kek (Kekekabic) a couple yrs. ago. Not nearly as scenic as the B. Route but fun nonetheless, and a similar navigational challenge.

Posted by andy - 09/09/2011 02:19 PM

stephen, good report. epic trip. Grant and i will try the 24 hour goal next spring – sounds like it may be tough nut to crack. we’ll have more daylight though. also might like to try an unsupported Packraft to isle royale, a run of the trail, then packraft back via thunder bay or something. good combo, too much fun style trip in our neck of the woods.

Posted by Steve - Duluth - 09/09/2011 02:21 PM

Slow down – try camping – we did and it was great – and we didn’t get lost!

Posted by SR - 09/09/2011 03:23 PM

It’s doable in 24 hours. Would be a mighty hurt, but doable. Pack raft to Isle Royale? That would be a serious haul and a wild ride. I like your thinking there. . .

Posted by SR - 09/09/2011 03:24 PM

To Steve – Did your crew do the whole trail? How long did it take/how many miles a day?

Posted by Tman - 09/09/2011 10:54 PM

Great Job Stephen

I hiked the BRT in 2009 and 2010 and I have the best collection of photos of the BRT posted on the internet. check it out at http://sites.google.com/site/isawtman/
It is a non-commercial website and is my little service project for future hikers of the trail.
I’m from Madison, Wisconsin, but I came up to MN to see Stephen’s presentation at the Outdoor Expo. Been keeping tabs on you since.

Posted by Ed Solstad - 09/10/2011 08:25 AM

Better to do it in the spring using the GPS track data.
For those of you interested in learning more about the trail and in helping to keep it open, we invite you to sign up for one of our fall maintenance trips.Go to www.borderroutetrail.com

Posted by tman - 09/10/2011 07:18 PM

I went on a BRT Trail Clearing Trip in 2010. It was a great experience which made me realize that the BRT is one of the most difficult trails in the Mainland US to maintain. First of all, you need to canoe into the trail, then because of the Wilderness rules, you cannot use power tools. Because the BWCA area is rocky with little top soil, trees develop a pan root instead of a tap root and are more likely to tip over onto the trail. Also, because of the Wilderness Rules, the trail cannot be marked (blazed) and the BRT signs were grandfathered in, or else they wouldn’t be permitted. Stephen, if you are thinking about doing some community service and giving back a little bit, being on a BRT Trail Crew would be the perfect thing for you and your friends. And you can test some gear, too.

Posted by Mitch R. - 09/14/2011 11:37 AM

Nice report.

How about a story on possible packraft trips in MN?

I picked up a packraft for expedition canyoneering in the Grand Canyon. I am itching to use it around here.

Posted by Tman - 09/17/2011 12:12 AM

Hi, I don’t quite understand
how you got so far off course.
Birch Lake is hell and gone from
the Border Route. Perhaps you got
sidetracked onto the South Lake Trail,
But I would have thought that tech savvy
guys would have it all on the GPS.
At any rate, if anybody in the future
wants to do the BRT in 24 hours, I would
suggest starting in the middle of the night
so that you are doing the interior
wilderness portion during the day.

Posted by Stephen Regenold - 09/17/2011 04:02 PM

Yes, I believe we were sidetracked onto the South Lake Trail a bit, and then we cut east (thinking it was still the B Route) onto a trail that disintegrated into woods.

Posted by UpNorthica - 09/21/2011 03:34 AM

Awesome challenge! Also encouraging to hear that the BRT (and not just the Kek) is so little-used. In the future, perhaps more people will favor the trails vs. the crowded portages? Who knows?

Posted by T.C. Worley - 09/22/2011 08:52 AM

Also, Tman – we’re a map and compass outfit. No GPS for us on this trek. Our little detour did allow us to see a moose at least.

Posted by Mike P - 10/06/2011 01:00 PM

Loved watching the video from this, looked like a ton of fun! I can only imagine how odd it would be for the compass to act so wonky.

Posted by Tman - 10/14/2011 12:51 PM

After seeing the video I’m
a little bit skeptical about
your Border Route claim.
There’s no footage of you
guys anywhere recognizable
in the interior of the Border
Route. No Stairway Falls, No
Watap Cliffs, No West Pike Lake
overlook. And there are some
signs on the Border Route that
you could have taken photos of.
Instead, there is just the shot
at the sign of you coming out
of the Boundary Waters

If you have photos or video of
any of that stuff, put it on the
web.

Posted by T.C. Worley - 10/14/2011 09:54 PM

T-Man: I’ll let the stress fracture in my foot and ongoing IT band issues since this trek stand as my proof of finishing the beast.

Posted by Tman - 10/15/2011 07:41 PM

I’m sorry about your stress
fracture and T Band issues. But
if you were at Daniels Lake at
dawn, you should have plenty
of great photos of the Watap Cliffs.
There are other things on the
video that don’t add up.

What do I think? I think you walked
in on the Daniels Lake Access Trail
to get that SPOT waypoint.

Look, you guys did a fantastic video.
It’s beautiful and a great asset to
the Border Route Trail. Thank you
for that.

Posted by Peter Wentzel - 10/16/2011 10:06 AM

Why would a hiker, outdoorsman, or especially a journalist make up a tale of accomplishing the border route in a fast time? It isn’t like this was an impossible task that no one else is capable of accomplishing. It is an example of how a fit person, with the right gear, can move quickly in tough terrain from point A to point B. There isn’t anything to be gained by fabricating the story.

I don’t own a GPS that will assist me in navigating except for the one in my vehicle. This was a compass and map only excursion. I did take my AMOD GPS tracker that I use for Adventure Racing, because I like to document my races/excursions and learn from my bobbles along the way. Here is the link to the GPS track from this trip. Border Route

Unfortunately, do to the nature of the trail, I had to bail at mile 53 to return to the Twin Cities for work the next day. The GJ continued to complete the entire route. We discussed the content/title of the article when it became clear that we would not finish in 24 hours as planned. We decided that the entire route had to be completed to remain true to the theme.

It baffles me as to why you would question this.

I have additional pics if you need those also…

Posted by Tman - 10/16/2011 07:14 PM

Why would it baffle you that I would question this?

The video only has recognizable scenes from
west of Topper Lake and around the Arrowhead
Trail to Otter Lake Road. In other words,
there are no recognizable scenes from the
interior of the Border Route.

If you have video of the Gear Junkie at
the Watap Cliffs, Mountain Lake Overlook
or any other interior segments, then just
post them. You can post them quick and
easy on Youtube and just send me the
link.

Your data track from AMOD does look good.
But there still is one thing on the video and
data track that makes me wonder.

Posted by Peter Wentzel - 10/16/2011 07:51 PM

I am baffled because I don’t see what we would gain by fabricating this story, and what you would gain by proving us wrong. Your questioning our integrity just screams that you have an axe to grind.

The gps route matches the story perfectly. No one would travel the route the way we did.

Posted by Andy - 10/16/2011 08:51 PM

I certainly think it is important to question Steven’s teams credibility. After all I think that this supposed stunt of theirs is what garnered them international fame, recognition, and corporate sponsorships worth millions of dollars. You guys did end up getting all those things, right? Shameless. I bet you took a helicopter up kings peak too, didn’t you. After all I didn’t see any photos of you guys by that summit rock…. You know, THAT summit rock….. You could have just stood there and taken the damn photo if you really did it. Just shameless.

Posted by UpNorthica - 10/16/2011 09:37 PM

Seems to me if they’d decided to fabricate, that they’d have spun it to sound like they had indeed finished in 24hrs or less.

They didn’t though. They also could have edited out the whole getting-lost sequence. They didn’t edit it out, though. This shows integrity to me.

Siding with the Junkie.

Posted by Tman - 10/16/2011 10:23 PM

Peter

Believe me, I don’t have an axe to grind.

I saw the video and it made me wonder.
That’s all.

And the question still remains, do you
have any video of the Gear Junkie
somewhere in the interior of the
Border Route?

You can reply with a simple yes or no

Posted by gil reubens - 10/16/2011 10:42 PM

Yeah seriously, where is the video?
Maybe its because most of the video you took is of the pool at the Days Inn in Ely.
This is outragous.
Just a simple yes or no.

Posted by Vanstr - 10/16/2011 11:28 PM

The BRT was a difficult trail on July 4th 1999. The blow down was amazing and very very difficult to locate any foot of a supposed trail after the straight line winds blow 25% of all the trees down. I understand how navigation would be difficult as it took me nine hours to travel 2 miles after the storm passed. Lucky to be alive I was. So enjoy the trail years later when you can actually locate the path and travel fast and light. So stop bitching bitter Tman and enjoy the out of doors.

Posted by Steven - 10/17/2011 01:04 PM

I can see photos and video of gearjunkie competing in Patagonia in an adventure race. Anyone who can handle that type of exertion and physical strain can no doubt be taken seriously on a small day hike. Tman, like so many other ignorant pot stirrers, seems to me like on of those fat-ass “ back in my day”, beer gut outdoorsmen. Gearjunkies team shouldn’t even respond to these ignorant rants. Keep doing great gear reviews and giving inspiration to your followers. We know the truth. Let the car campers out there like Tman say what thy want.

Posted by Steven - 10/17/2011 01:15 PM

Whatdya say Tman? Where are your interior trail videos? Trouble uploading your slides from 1978? If you are such an expert on those particular trails let’s see what you have. My bet is that the last time you got outside was to turn off your sprinkler.

Posted by Steven - 10/17/2011 03:11 PM

…still waiting for our hero, captain Tman, keeper of forrest and glen, to provide us with the truth about MN interior trails… stay tuned!

Posted by Steven - 10/17/2011 04:52 PM

Sorry GJ, that dude was a douche. I’m out.

Posted by Tman - 10/17/2011 11:14 PM

I really don’t know how to
respond to some of the stuff
that’s been posted on here.

Bottom line is that I’ve made
my point and I am waiting for
Stephen, TC or Peter to bring
something to the table.

The one thing that I will say is
that I do trust the Gear Junkie’s
opinion on gear. I traveled up
to Minneapolis and saw the GJ
presentation at the Outdoor Expo.
I purchased Hydropel after the
GJ recommended it at the Expo, and
it worked well for me.

And I will continue to trust the
GJ opinion on Gear.

Over the last three years I taken
treks on the Kek, BRT, and SHT.
I don’t have a video camera person
that accompanies me on these hikes,
but I do have thousands of photos
of my hikes posted on the internet.

I believe I’ve conducted my affairs
in this matter in a professional way,
and I wish others would do the same.

Posted by T.C. Worley - 10/18/2011 02:18 AM

T-Man. All I can say is that Stephen without a doubt finished this trail- I promise. We have hours of footage that did not make the video. It is only a few minutes long afterall, and the editor chose the most fitting clips for visual purposes- not the most thorough trail coverage.

Anyone who knows Stephen and the GJ crew knows that to assume a scam is absurd. Stephen is about as stand-up as a guy gets and my respect for him grows the longer I know him. Calling him a liar does not fit my definition of professional.

I – the camera man, left the trek for several hours when we did not make the original goal. I moved the car to the end of the trail and hiked in to meet Stephen, capture b-roll and find a nice overlook to spend some time at. It was not part of the original plan, but for logistics it needed to happen.

So, let’s put this to rest. This trek, like the other two that we’ve now completed was completed entirely by Stephen and in some cases his partners in the hike. This is my final answer.

Posted by Steven - 10/18/2011 06:32 AM

Tman, are you the chairman of some secretive MN hiking trail governing board? I only ask because I have been reading GJ for several years now and I have NEVER seen this kind of obsessive attention given to such a straightforward story. Tman, your accusations are baseless and, honestly, quite silly. Take what dignity you have left, if any, and find a new “hiker” forum to troll. Better yet, clean up your Coleman camp kitchen, vacuum out the old station wagon, and get a good campsite reserved for this coming weekend. Might do you some good to get off that couch and into some fresh air.

Posted by Tman - 10/18/2011 07:44 AM

TC

You should have just given that explanation in the first place instead of saying that you had T Band issues and a stress fracture. In fact, you had plenty of chances to give that explanation, and you kept on letting people hammer me. Thanks.

So, basically what you are saying is that I was right, there is no recognizable scenes of Stephen in the interior in the video. This was the basis of my skepticism. After you guys kept skirting the issue, my skepticism grew. At least I was honest and told you guys what I was thinking.

I knew something funky happened at the Daniels Lake Access Trail. I’m assuming that’s where you hiked out.

The Daniels Lake photo was also one of my red flags. Daniel’s Lake is not on the Border Route Trail. Why would someone traveling fast and light take a 1/2 mile (1/4 mile each way) detour down the Daniels Lake Access Trail?

Also, the shot of Stephen at the Boundary Waters sign near the Arrowhead Trail, did not include Peter. But now that makes sense because since you left the trail, Peter was probably the cameraman for that scene.

I accept your explanation, and wish it would have came much sooner

And for the poster Steven, the Secretive MN Hiking Trail Governing Board doesn’t think Steven has hiked a mile of trail

Posted by Steven - 10/18/2011 12:16 PM

Fine by me.

Posted by Greg - 10/18/2011 07:37 PM

I know Tman. I’ve actually monitored trips he’s done on the Kekakabic, the Border Route trail and others via his SPOT messenger real time.

He’s a incredible advocate of the Border Route trail and works tirelessly to promote this trail for no commercial purpose. That being said let’s be clear, GearJunkie has a clear commercial purpose.

I’ll just say this, something doesn’t ring true to me after seeing the video, either. The explanations are even more suspect. Listen we all know all to well those in the outdoor commercial world need to keep pushing the envelope to maintain their credibility, and their audience.

What absolutely rings hollow to me is that the cameraman saying he hiked back out to move the car. The outrage from the community here is undeserved regarding Tman’s observations. Clearly the cameraman, at least, didn’t complete the whole trip. I would be surprised if anyone did.

Listen, if you are going to have a commercial interest and then make bold claims, at a minimum don’t put yourself in a position to have anyone question your credibility. Knowing that members of the party bailed out (“to move the car”…whatever) and that there is no video footage or photos of anything in the interior, well…I’m with Tman on this one.

I for one think backpacking should be about camping, not about measuring “feats” regarding doing everything faster, first, or “bestest.”

Tman knows the BRT better than anyone I know. If he suspects something isn’t kosher, I’d say he has a good reason.

For my money: GearJunkie didn’t respect the difficulty of the trail, and after getting lost walked back out the way they came in. They finished the video by driving to the other side.

Then again, I don’t have a lot of patience for those of the ego ilk of GearJunkie and their kind. Didn’t play sports when competition was relevant, and now are competing against their own demons.

GJ and fanboys: Grow up, slow down and enjoy the BRT if you ever do take the time to really backpack it. I’m sure you’d be surprised at what a beautiful trail it actually is!

As for Tman, well no one can doubt his veracity. He’s got complete photo documentation of every one of his trips. Then again, he’s also not trying to profit from being a wanker “peak-bagger.” He just enjoys this magnificent trail.

New rule, until you’ve done the BRT as many times as Tman, cut him some slack. He’s a quality guy, and someone I’ll hike with anyday. There are very few people who would know better what “is missing” from the photos/video.

Tman – Next time you do this route, count me in. I for one am getting fat!

Posted by pat - 10/18/2011 08:06 PM

I think the single biggest thing that Tman missed is that they didn’t claim to have actually pulled off the feat in 24 hours. If you look at the GPS route of one of the crew you can see exact times, places, etc.

I think it is quite humbling and authentic to put it out there, publicly, as a crazy challenge and work like hell to accomplish it. Especially if you don’t. GearJunkie didn’t complete the challenge in under 24 hours, but they got damn close.

Of course there is a commercial interest in GearJunkie, is that wrong? Tman might be a good dude but how can you expect to accuse an organization of fabricating something and not get some blowback.

He’s wrong.

Posted by stephan - 10/19/2011 10:08 AM

Wow, I’ll start with wow. I’d like to thank the GJ staff half way on this response. There is a climate today of distrust of many commercial inspired outdoors types that really does come from legitimate grounds. All too often we are seeing them in the news as frauds. I don’t see any problem in asking a professional group such as GJ to provide more proof, and I am surprised that it hasn’t been offered since there is a lot of unused footage.

I am a trusting person but the response on this thread reminds me of the response given by Bernie Madoff’s close friends right up until he was placed in assigned living spaces.
No, I am not comparing GJ to Bernie Madoff, nearly the way this thread has been handled. People can vouch for eachother a lot lately but it is much easier to accept photo proof.

First rule of publicity is (non politics) “do what you say”. The second rule should be don’t be surprised if you are asked to prove you did what you said. I won’t lie because the responses leave me with a bitter taste especially seeing as this is a publicity event for them in the first place.

While I think this would be a fantastic feat to do I can’t say I understand why it was important or why it means much to so many people. To me it’s like saying I have the fastest time running through the metropolitan museum of the arts.

I hope you guys did enjoy the beauty of the trail while you were there. I know I love it and have been playing on it for a few years now. Yes it would be easier to follow if there were blazes allowed I’m sure. The key ingredient for my navigation recipe is daylight though. I think I would end up lost as well in the dark there and I’ve been there enough to think I have a grasp on the route in most areas.

So to the GJ staff, thanks for not joining the derogatory side of these responses and keeping your comments professional. Less can be said of some other commercial outdoorsmen at this exact moment.

Posted by Greg - 10/20/2011 07:39 PM

Okay. For the record, Tman is a former Eagle Scout and spends a significant amount of his time volunteering both in his faith and to continue the scouting tradition. Not even counting the time he has spent advocating that others enjoy the BRT and Kekakabic routes. That is just for context.

All the ad hominem attackes directed at Tman are absurd, but about par for those that spend more time on the internet than actually getting “out there.” Tman has done BRT more than anyone I know. He follows the fast and light principles and is a huge fan of GearJunkie. I’ve followed his progress “real time” via his Spot messenger on the BRT, and enjoyed his photo galleries showing extensive coverage of the BRT. Again, just for context.

The infantile personal attacks and “circle the wagons” mentality evident in this thread are just ridiculous. Considering the claim GJ is making, and the conspicuousness of any corroborating evidence showing GJ on the interior of the trail, and considering that at least one member of the crew quit and drove to the end, any reasonable intelligent person would have to view the post/thread/video with a healthy dose of skepticism.

For the record, this is what we know to be true: GearJunkie completely underestimated the difficulty of BRT. The BRT probably is one of the most poorly marked and difficult to follow trails/routes around. The stated goal of completing it in 24 hours was ridiculous in the first place. It can not be overstated how difficult it can be to find and stay “on trail” on the BRT under a noon day sun. For entire long stretches it is almost impossible.
As the video portrays a compass becomes almost useless, and maps are worthless.

Yet GearJunkie went off trail, spent three hours hobnobbing with the locals, and then went back to the BRT, and completed it in 29 hours? Four hours over their 24 goal, really? That means removing the three hours of lost time, GJ completed the BRT in just one hour over their 24 goal. Without GPS. On the most poorly marked and difficult to follow trail in the US. With trail so infrequently used that it would be nearly impossible to follow without the tracts of blow-downs and overgrowth…and all in the dark with non-functioning compasses.

Sure.

This is also what GearJunkie weaves as a narrative from the video:

1.)Footage of GearJunkie starting the BRT.
2.)GearJunkie “got lost” and ended up coming out just where someone trying to deliberately “walk out” and quit the BRT would go if the trail was too much for their goal.
3.)Footage of someone walking out the last fifteen yards of the BRT.

Then throw in, that at the very least, one member of the group, the photographer/cinematographer quit and drove to the end of the BRT.

So the narrative is that while no evidence exists to show that they actually didn’t quit, and that at least one person in the party did quit and drove to the end, that we are to believe that GearJunkie managed to complete the BRT in 25 hours and largely in the dark (not counting the “walk out” time).

I invite anyone to actually go and enjoy the beauty and splendor of the BRT. Do it in the daylight. Take pictures, and enjoy your time there. Then come to your own conclusions about those that make their living off bold claims, websites promoting their outdoor prowess, and commercial relationships where failing would create brand risk for the sponsors.

Posted by moss - 10/20/2011 08:41 PM

For the record I do not know any of the people here on this site as I came across it but could not help from giving my 2 cents. The BRT is one of my favorite hiking trails in the upper midwest. It is rugged, remote and challenging to say the least and has some great views and overlooks. It also happens to be 65 miles long from start to finish.

I thank you for the video and effort you made on this beautiful trail but have to be honest and say I don’t believe for a minute you guys completed the whole trail in 31 hours. With all due respect, no how, no way. I am not saying you can’t complete it, just saying in that little of time to cover 65 rugged miles on a trail that is not well marked.

I have to agree with the skeptics on the lack of photos of at least a few of the many scenic overlooks on the interior part of the trail. What about at the very least a photo of one of many views of beautiful Rose Lake, Rat Lake and South Lake all in one glorious view? It is almost impossible not to stop and soak in that view and not take a photo.

Again, I mean no disrespect but can’t figure out why anyone would want to “rush” through some of the most beautiful country in the upper midwest without soaking in the many wonderful views with at least a few photos of some of the lakes and I don’t mean Daniels Lake as that does not count.

Posted by John - 10/20/2011 11:46 PM

It’ll be interesting to see if GJ posts anything else from the trek. I personally don’t have the cynical attitude though that just because it’s a commercial enterprise, they’re deliberately falsifying info. I also take into account that The GJ is part of a pretty great adventure racing team. Taking 2nd place in the 2011 patagonian race pretty much gives me the thumbs up that he has the skills to pull off that trail in 24 hours (though he didn’t), that and the fact that his AR team has a great ranking after this season of racing (http://www.checkpointtracker.com/rankings) – I’d say give him the benefit of the doubt, but apparently that’s too much for some.

Posted by Tman - 10/21/2011 12:49 AM

I want to raise the White Flag on this discussion. The major points have been made, and it’s really pointless to continue. The only three people who know what happened are the three people who were out there. And whether you accept their explanations or not, is up to you.

I just want to clear up some confusing stuff.

Some people think that the Gear Junkie completed the trail in 29 hours. This is not the case. If you believe Peter Wentzel’s GPS track, which he brought in as evidence, it shows him stopping at the Arrowhead Trail at the end of 29 hours. And as the Gear Junkie says in the first line of the video, “That’s not the end of the Trail.” The end of the trail is 13 miles to the east at Otter Lake Road. And the problem with the GPS Track is that anybody could have been carrying the GPS Unit, with or without the Gear Junkie. It does appear that the Gear Junkie did complete those last 13 miles, but I’m guessing that it would add another 6 hours to the total at the rate they were going.

Peter Wentzel also asked “Why would a hiker, outdoorsman, or especially a journalist make up a tale of accomplishing the border route in a fast time?” I think the answer is fairly obvious. If the Gear Junkie fails, then his sponsor’s products also fail. The video was sponsored by Timberland and they don’t want people thinking that their products failed. It seems as though the Gear Junkie has stopped being the journalist and has started to become the story, if that makes any sense.

I think it’s going a little far to compare the Gear Junkie with Bernie Madoff. The Gear Junkie gave it his best shot, and whether he made it through or not really doesn’t hurt anyone. The Junkies did make a really cool video that will be an asset to the Border Route Trail. And if anyone wants to see the stuff that’s not on the video, just come on over to my website. If you google “I saw Tman” and you will find it. That’s a shameless plug, but my website has no commercial interests, and is a service project so future hikers of the trail can see what it’s like.

But I do agree with the Madoff poster Stephan that this whole episode was handled badly. I am your customer. I spend hundreds of dollars each year on outdoor gear. I am part of the demographics that you want reading your website. But you made me feel like Gear Junkie is GM and that I am the dorky bicycle rider.

To the poster Moss, again, if you believe Peter Wentzel’s GPS Data, the Junkies would have been at the Rose Cliffs after dark, so it would have been hard to take a photo of Rose Lake, Rat Lake and South Lake. To me it would be extremely dangerous going across the Rose Cliffs at night. And I was asking for video and not Photos. I know enough about Adobe Photoshop that I could put the Gear Junkie in a photo at the Rose Cliffs if you want me to.

I want to say thanks to my friend and backpacking advisor Greg. I called him while I was on break at work (I work second shift) and I asked Greg to review everything to see if I was out of line. I when I got home from work I saw that he posted, and what a post that was. Greg has a way of analyzing and communicating things that always amazes me. And as my backpacking advisor, there have been times I was sure glad I heeded his advice, and other times I regretted not heeding his advise. To Greg: let’s plan on doing your favorite Indian Peak’s Route in July. But for my usual Memorial Day week trip, the Secretive MN Hiking Trail Governing Board has asked me to do the North Country Trail from Walker, MN to Frazee MN.

And one last playful jab at the Gear Junkie, I hope your Treasure Hunt in Roanoke, Virginia goes better than the hunt for video of you in the interior of the Border Route Trail.

Regards from me, Tman

It’s funny how this “Vague Path through the Woods” article all of a sudden dropped off the Gear Junkie’s most popular articles list.

Posted by Kurt Refsnider - 10/21/2011 12:56 AM

Wow, I’ll also start with a wow. I’ve chased a lot of records like this over the past few years, nailed a few, got blown out of the water on more than a few, and never once had the legitimacy of my efforts questioned, so I was intrigued to see what this fuss was all this was about.

Immediately upon reading these comments, I concluded that these two skeptics have never tried to (1) cover huge ground in a day to see what’s really possible, and (2) looked at the GPX file of the 29 hours of this adventure. 52 miles in 29 hours is not difficult to do, even on a rugged and overgrown route like the BRT. But opinions of route difficulty aside, how about a more rational assessment of what did or didn’t happen?

For those of you in such doubt, download a free demo copy of Topofusion, download the GPX track linked above, download the BRT GPX track from the BRT website, open them both up, and take a gander at the time stamps. It looks like the GPS unit was an hour off, but you can clearly see where these guys missed turns, wandered around in circles for a few minutes, meandered 500 feet down toward Daniels Lake, hiked off route to Birch Lake, and lo and behold, you can even see which cabin is Mitch’s based on where they spent 15 minutes stopped. Mitch’s apparently only felt comfortable motoring his boat along at 5-6 mph in the dark.

Also, since some of you seem so concerned with disproving whether or not this really happened, look at where they were during the dark hours of the night. Rose Lake, Rat Lake, and South Lake were all passed in the wee hours of the morning. They crossed the Stairway Portage and those scenic cliffs in deep darkness (but they still stopped there for 40 minutes apparently), too. Watap Cliffs were passed mid-morning, and by then, I’m sure taking photographs wasn’t the first thing on these guys’ minds.

But in all honesty, here’s a group of guys who didn’t come close to doing what they hoped to do in record time, got lost, took a freakin’ boat ride to get back on route, and have a gpx file to document exactly where they were when (as well as their speed between points, point elevations, etc.).

Please, have a gander at that GPX file and post your thoughts on what you see. It looks to me like these guys covered 52 miles in 29 hours, just like they claim. I’ve spent a lot of time in that country, been on sections of the BRT, and I don’t see any reason to think they somehow went to all the effort to fake this GPX track.

And for the record, I don’t know any of these guys, don’t devote any time to volunteering in any faith, was never a scout, and don’t understand the relevance of those last two facts.

Posted by Daniel - 10/21/2011 02:19 AM

Kurt – Excellent points. I was skeptical for a moment, but then read your thoughtful and professional explanation which seem to back up exactly what Mr. GearJunkie has claimed. How wise to actually compare GPX to the story before commenting. I wish I had done the same before making my initial judgement.

T-man, it seems an apology is in order.

I do not know Mr. GearJunkie, but hope to some day.

-cheers, Daniel

Posted by NDay - 10/21/2011 08:30 AM

Sounds like there’s some people who are really unhappy (jealous) That Stephen is making a living for himself and his family doing what he loves.
I’ve done 10+ races with/on Stephen’s various teams and I feel qualified to say that Stephen is not someone who would even consider an intentional fabrication of any sort.

As long as we’re questioning intentions, Tman’s first post claims to have “the best collection of photo’s” and later a “shameless plug” for: “I saw Tman” (don’t worry there’s no commercial interest, but it would be cool if more traffic was generated). Controversy increases exposure, exposure increases traffic, traffic increases value. What are your intentions Tman? You don’t have to answer or defend yourself because I’ve already made a decision about what your intentions are. Kind of like you deciding that Stephen was just using this story to make money, whether or not it was true.

It seems to me that Tman is attempting to piggy back on the incredibly hard work that Stephen and his team have put into creating: a wonderful website, an asset to those of us who spend time outdoors, a great life for his family and an honest living.

Stephen is not hard to get in contact with. Any questions about the integrity of this story could have been directed to Stephen in a format other than a public forum. If that had been done, I’m sure anyone familiar with the trail would realize that GJ had in fact done what he said. It also wouldn’t look like they were trying to redirect traffic to their own websites.

Posted by Tman - 10/21/2011 08:36 AM

I was hoping this was going to end.
but I’m going to respond to these
last 3 posters

To Kurt
I have looked at Peter Wentzel’s
GPS File and I can confirm that it
pretty much goes along the Border Route.
It looks that they got off course on to
the Topper Lake Access Trail and that
Mitch took them over to the South Lake
Trail to reconnect with the Border Route.
It looks like they also got a little off course
sometime right after Magnetic Rock.

Whether I have had a big day on
the trail is not even relevant to this
conversation. You’re trying to make
me feel like the dorky bicyclist, again.

Kurt, I don’t know where you’re getting
the information that Mitch’s name is
Mitch, and that they were there in the
wee hours of the morning. And if you read
my post correctly, I told Moss that the
Junkies were at the Rose Cliffs in the
dark.

To John
The fact that the Junkies came in 2nd
Place at Patagonia is a major accomplishment,
no doubt. But what the Junkie does at
the world’s greatest outdoor competition
where there’s plenty of people monitoring it,
might be different than what he does
out on the Border Route with nobody monitoring it.

Daniel, whether an apology is in order on my
part is still debatable. I was on another forum
where people were confused and making claims
about one of Andrew Skurka’s Trips. Skurka found
out about it, came on the forum and gave a detailed explanation
of exactly what happened. That’s not happening here.

I think that the Gear Junkie found out the hard
way about compasses on the Border Route. And he
found out the hard way that he should have video
of every section of his treks

So let’s just end this now, before we get more
people coming on thinking the Border Route is
near Ely

regards from me, Tman

I see we’re back on the Most Popular list again

Posted by Tman - 10/21/2011 09:08 AM

NDay, you posted while I was typing.

As Greg said, I work tirelessly to help
promote the trail

And if you had any questions about my
integrity, you should have emailed me
privately. My email address is prominently
shown on my website, another shameless
plug.

Posted by Fishvilla - 10/21/2011 09:14 AM

Tman is an obvious troll. Just ignore him and let his idiocy die.
To the GJ/YS team, congrats on your great achievement. It inspires me to get out there and challenge myself by going farther and faster than before.

Posted by Brian - 10/21/2011 09:19 AM

TMan says he hoped this thread would end, but it seems he always needs to have the last word and take a parting shot.

TMan’s friends say he has contributed to maintaining and publicizing the trail. Thank you for that.

But I race against Stephen and Peter. If anyone can travel through wilderness quickly, they can. They have the athletic ability and tons of experience navigating at night in unfamiliar terrain.

I know them to be honest men. Their word is good enough for me. The GPS track should be good enough for those of you that don’t know them.

TMan should be more careful about publicly questioning other people’s integrity. In fact, I believe he owes them all an apology. Or at least an end to this sorry thread.

Posted by Peter Wentzel - 10/21/2011 09:36 AM

Open to all…. If you want to see the pictures I took, friend me on Facebook with an explanation of why you want to be my friend “Verification of GJ Border Route Trail”, and you can see the pictures that GJ took of me at the Lake Watap cliffs. You can even see where a friend asked, “Where is this photo?” and my reply. Oddly, my pics and comments went up a day before this article, and my friends posts and my reply came a day before Tman’s first complimentary post and a full week prior to his first question as to the validity of our story.

When we make something up, we cover all the bases…

Please forgive me if I don’t retain you as a friend on my Facebook page for more than 60 minutes.

Posted by Hammstah - 10/21/2011 10:24 AM

Stephen, Peter and T.C., you guys rock! Epic hike, fellas! Great article, too.

To the dufus trying to give them a hard time, get over yourself and go do their trail yourself…and report back to us how you do.

Posted by J Peacock - 10/21/2011 11:15 AM

not that it matters much, but our “popular” feed isn’t really a conspiracy theory – it just pulls in the articles with the most pageviews over the prior 24 hours to when you visit the site and ranks them. Magical ;)

Posted by pat - 10/21/2011 11:19 AM

Is Magical Pixie Dust involved in the magical rankings?

Posted by Kurt Refsnider - 10/21/2011 11:44 AM

Tman, just to clarify, your last lengthy post was composed as I was writing mine, so I didn’t see a few of your comments until this morning. And according to the trip report, Mitch was the guy who gave them the boat ride across the lake.

Thanks for all your work promoting the BRT. The world needs more routes like this for people to go and find their own adventures.

Posted by Tman - 10/21/2011 12:16 PM

Yep, the Facebook page clearly shows
Peter Wentzel at the Watap Cliffs. So
I do feel good about Peter being at
Watap. Almost all of the shots of me
on the Border Route were done by a
camera with a timer. I’m expecting that
Peter has a camera with that capability,
too.

Watap is the most spectacular place on
the Border Route Trail. I don’t believe
for a moment that if the GJ had video
from Watap, that it wouldn’t make the
director’s cut. Peter Wentzel’s photo’s
do show that it was a beautiful day.
The only way it wouldn’t have made the
director’s cut is if it was foggy and
you couldn’t see anything.

Look, if it makes everybody happy, I
will now confirm that the Gear Junkie
did the whole Border Route Trail.
And I already estimated that the time
would be about 35 hours.

And I will admit that NDay almost got me.
I didn’t do this because I wanted more
people to visit my website. I did it
because I wanted the GJ to post more
footage of the Border Route Trail, and
especially, the Watap Cliffs, the most
spectacular place on the BRT.

I figured that it would be very easy for
the GJ to post something. I guess I
figured wrong.

Is EVERYBODY happy now.

So everybody just stop with the name calling
and go out and hike the Border Route Trail.
You can join the ranks of people like GJ and
myself, who have completed the trail. And Peter,
I’m hoping you’ll go back and do the last 13 miles.
They are spectacular. No Waterfalls but
there are a dozen great overlooks

regards from me, Tman

Posted by Tman - 10/22/2011 06:33 AM

I believe this whole controversy has been a scam by the Gear Junkie. When he writes stuff on his facebook page like “The Ensuing Drama continues in the comments section” or “The Debate rages on, more readers scratching their heads,” it’s clear that the Gear Junkie isn’t taking this very seriously. That’s why I wanted to stop this whole discussion.

Peter Wentzel seems a little pissed off at me. Whether he is truly pissed off, or just playing his part for the Gear Junkie is a mystery. Maybe Peter feels this whole episode is an embarrassment to him in particular. Look at the dynamics between the three junkies on this trip. T.O. is the cameraman. GJ is the star. So what is Peter’s job in this whole affair? Most likely, Peter is the Navigator. In the video we see Peter holding the map and GJ questioning him about where they are.

So, as the navigator, perhaps Peter feels he’s responsible for the Junkies not completing the Border Route in 24 hours. But as the Navigator, Peter has been asked to do the nearly impossible task of following the Border Route at night with only a compass. I still don’t quite understand the “with only a compass” part of it. Since one of Gear Junkie’s sponsors is Spot Messenger, you’d think he’d be showing off the newest Spot that works with a Delorme GPS unit.

Peter doesn’t look too happy as they are traveling across the lake in the boat. And he doesn’t look too happy at the Watap Cliffs, either. That’s a shame, because it truly is an amazing vista.

Anyway, if there is video of the Gear Junkie in the interior of the Border Route, they are probably intentionally not showing it.

We’ve all been dubed by the Gear Junkie.

Posted by Svatlana Monsoon - 10/22/2011 05:53 PM

That video was the bomb!
Did you see that Tman?
What does the T stand for anyways?

Posted by Scott W. - 10/23/2011 08:47 AM

It is now perfectly clear to me that T-man is a complete moron. Give it up, man. I’ve withheld my comments until now. But seriously, GET A F*CKING LIFE! Nobody gives a shit about your manic ramblings. Your theories are pointless and who cares whether you completed the trail-lots of people do. Please blend back into the internet and leave true adventurers alone, beacuse you clearly cannot fathom their ideals. I cannot even believe how offensive you are with your wild claims of deceit. You are a rude man. These GearJunkie guys have way more class than you and with that alone have really earned my trust

I personally challenge you to show some class and do what you are asking of everyone else – STOP COMMENTING.

Posted by Veronica - 10/23/2011 10:14 AM

“I believe this whole controversy has been a scam by the Gear Junkie.” But you started it, Tman!!! Unless you’re part of it…
“That’s why I wanted to stop this whole discussion.” Then stop it.

Posted by Veronica - 10/23/2011 10:28 AM

Also, your comments about Peter’s role are very negative. For someone who’s said to be so religious, I’m even more surprised about your malice. You also seem to have no knowledge of what teamwork is all about, and you seem to not have understood the “compass” part that TC Worley already explained.

Posted by Shawn - 10/23/2011 02:14 PM

Tman, I’ve done a number of climbs, races, hikes, long bike rides… with Stephen (including the Kek) and I’ve also done at least one long ride with T.C. (Maah Daah Hey trail). Suggesting they fabricated anything is an absolute joke.

There is a whole community of outdoor enthusiasts and adventure nuts that both Stephen and T.C. have done races and trips with. Those people will stand behind both of them.

The only person you’ve invalidated here is yourself.

Posted by Tman - 10/24/2011 11:36 PM

I’ve been called a lot of things in these comments. Some of them include being the Keeper of the Forest and Glen. I was also called a member of the Secretive MN Hiking Trail Government Board. Actually, those were some of the nicer things I was called. But, because of my involvement in those two jobs, I have learned of a new situation that will definitely have a detrimental effect on the Gear Junkie and all his fans and friends. It’s seems that the Gear Junkie has committed to the light and fast way of backpacking and hiking. What I’m about to say will hamper his ability to do so, on Minnesota’s most legendary trail.

While the debate raged on here in the comments section, one of the largest fires in the history of the Boundary Waters ravaged over 145 square miles of land. This truly is a sad event. What does this have to do with the Gear Junkie? Well, the fire has devastated the Pow Wow Trail. Experts think that all 30 miles are gone. I just know the Pow Wow Trail had to be on the Gear Junkie’s list of Trails that he wanted to do light and fast. After all, the trail does have a reputation, and is the setting of Cary Griffith’s book called “Lost in the Wild.”

Is there any hope for the Pow Wow Trail? Perhaps. On this upcoming Thursday night, October 27, 6:30 pm at Midwest Mountaineering, there will be a meeting with the Forest Service regarding the restoration of the Pow Wow Trail. They are trying not to make the same mistakes that were made on the Kekekabic Trail after the 2007 Ham Lake Fire. I live down in Madtown, so I will not be attending the meeting.

I’d like to invite the Gear Junkie and his Junkie Nation to take on this cause. It would be the perfect project for him in many ways. First, when he is out helping restore the trail, it would be the perfect time to test some gear. Plus, as a Journalist, he would have the opportunity to write about the restoration. You never know, it could catch the attention of the Pulizters. Also, when the restoration is complete, the Gear Junkie would then have the opportunity to hike it fast and light. He would be the only Journalist to get video from the interior of the Pow Wow Trail.

Many of the Gear Junkie’s friends and followers have said they have done climbs, races, hikes and long bike rides with the Gear Junkie. Now they would have the opportunity to add something else to that list: restoring a trail.

Think about it.

Posted by Nday - 10/25/2011 05:28 AM

That’s not a bad idea Tman. Then after the Gear Junkie writes an article about it, you could enter one of his forums and tell everyone that it actually wasn’t Stephen and his friends that contributed to the restoration of the trail, it was TMAN! You can then let them know that all they have to do for proof is google “Tman saves Minnesota” and the proof will be overwhelming (just like the border trail incident).

Posted by Bman - 10/25/2011 06:17 AM

Tman, sounds like a cause for you to take on for a little redemption of character. Give Mr. Junkie a break (and maybe a long drawn out apology). It’s obvious that you get a kick outta disturbing the peace.
Now go wrap some duct tape around your cats tail, cause he’s totally asking for it being all purry like that.

Posted by Scott W. - 10/25/2011 08:18 AM

Tman. I think it is too late for you to redeem yourself with a “great idea” for GJ staffers to contribute to the forest. Seriously? You spend weeks accusing the GearJunkie of lying and now you want to suggest a “cause” for him? You have some nerve, but not much brain.

Also, fires in the BWCA are part of the bigger ecological plan, so don’t worry about your precious trail you’ve taken such ownership of.

Get off our high horse and go find a new site to haunt. This one’s tired of your B.S.

PS- I knew you couldn’t stop commenting. Trolls never can.

Posted by tman - 10/26/2011 01:21 AM

I don’t think I’ve invalidated myself at all

I’ve asked several valid questions like “Do you have any video from the interior?,” and “Why would someone traveling fast and light take a 1/2 mile side trip to take a picture of a Lake?,” and neither of those questions in particular had been answered at all.

And I have already conceded that the Gear Junkie probably did do all the Border Route Trail. And I did that several days ago. So what’s your problem.

Fires are part of the bigger ecological plan, but trails are not. This trail will need to be restored or else it will cease to be.

I most likely will not have anything to do with the restoration of the Pow Wow Trail, so I will not lay any claim to restoring it. The Pow Wow Trail is too far for me to drive just for a work weekend.

Instead, I have already made my 2012 commitment to help build the North Country Trail near Copper Falls State Park. It is about a 5 hour drive from Madison, so I will be able to make work weekends.

Posted by Svatlana Monsoon - 10/29/2011 08:54 PM

………yawn

Posted by MR Blister - 03/20/2012 11:20 PM

Thanks for the video guys. I won’t weigh in on the silly accusations. I am more interested in the BRT, Having through hiked the SHT (I even have pictures!, sorry couldn’t resist.) I have always just stuck with topos and compass for all my hiking. But I am thinking about getting a Garmin E-trex, for the BRT, but someone said that the maps have trouble with Garmins. Anyone else have this issure, or any other advice? Thanks,

Posted by Tman - 03/25/2012 02:58 PM

Mr Blister,
I can’t advise you on the GPS, but I can about the Border Route Trail. First of all, you need a Border Route Guidebook, and as luck would have it, they are coming out with a new version in the next few weeks. Secondly, check out my website. I have the best collection of photos posted on the internet of the Border Route Trail. I even have photos of the Watap Cliffs, West Pike Lake Overlook and other places you didn’t see in the video. My non-commercial website is located at http://sites.google.com/site/isawtman/ And if you are from Minnesota, you might want to go to the Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Expo in late April. Ed Solstad will be presenting a session on the Border Route Trail, plus check out their booth

Posted by dezflaverous - 05/23/2013 07:39 PM

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sixty-Five-for-Fun/426011120823869

Posted by schooter - 10/08/2013 11:58 AM

Just completed 27 miles of the Border Route at the west end starting at Gunflint and finishing at Clearwater. Did it over little less than 2 days with ~45 lb overnight packs (we’ll pack lighter next time!). This was the first significant hike for the two of us. What an epic trail! Stairway Falls delivered an amazing climb!

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