Boundary Waters Blog
The Scout Belt Pack by Sospenders is the most comfortable, lightweight PFD there is. If you are an adult who can swim then this is the PFD for you. It is a Type V User-Assisted Inflatable Belt Pack Style PFD that is U.S. Coast Guard approved only when worn. It is so small that it would never get in your way so you would have no reason to not wear it. I love to wear this while fishing in a boat or while paddling a canoe because I can't even tell it is there. It doesn't rub my shoulders or make me too hot. A life vest will save your life so you want one that you are willing to wear all of the time. Sospenders has a complete line of self-inflating PFD's that will automatically inflate upon contact with water. These are perfect for people of any age or swimming ability. To learn more about Sospenders be sure to check out their website. We have both the Scout model by Sospender available at Voyageur that retails for $69.95 and the Sport Series Inflatable PFD for $89.95.
When the snow starts to melt and the rains begin to fall we enter another season on the Gunflint Trail, Mud. Everywhere you look inside and outside, there it is. You can't beat it, so you may as well join it. I do this by finding my favorite hiking trails and tromping through the woods. No bugs, no people, just me and my mud. There are some awesome hiking trails in and around the Boundary Waters and on the Gunflint Trail. I enjoy looking for signs of wildlife and finding the solitude of Spring on the Trail. Come be a guest of Voyageur and explore the trails and enjoy the Season.
The last day of Lake Trout fishing in the Boundary Waters is March 31st. We had guests who had good luck catching Lake Trout as well as Walleyes on Saganaga. Northern Light Lake was producing some great catches of Whitefish too. Walleye fishing on Saganaga will remain open until April 15th when it will close for about a month so they can spawn. The border waters between Canada and Minnesota remain open year round for fishing Northern Pike and Smallmouth Bass. As long as the ice stays good we can head out and try our luck ice fishing.
The weather has been so beautiful this past week that I forgot about rain. I was looking at the forecast for the week and noticed there is quite a good chance we will be receiving some precipitation and it won't be in the form of snow. The prediction is for temperatures in the high 30's and 40's with rain expected towards the end of the week. Rain is a four letter word in the Spring for people who like snow. Rain will eat up whatever good snow there is and put an end to any hopes of playing in the snow. It will also make travel on the lakes extremely slippery and unless we get more snow it will end skiing on the lakes too. What am I doing sitting here writing this blog when I should be out playing in the snow for what could be the last time? Sorry to cut it short, but I gotta go.
While almost all of my friends are anxiously awaiting Spring and Summer I am hanging on as long as I can to Winter. I just don't want to let it go yet. Yesterday we went snowmobiling as a family, the whole family came along, even Rugby! He rode in a front pack that I wore underneath my jacket and really enjoyed himself. We rode on the Canadian logging roads from Saganaga down to Gunflint and the trails were in phenomenal shape. Once we got there the kids had rides on an inter tube pulled behind the snowmobile and then Heather and I snowmobiled over to Bridal Falls. We hiked through the snow and up to Bridal Falls. There was still a huge veil of ice covering the falls but the water could be seen and heard underneath. We had a great time exploring the falls and relaxing on the snow in the warm sun. With days like this who needs Summer?
It was a beautiful day on the Gunflint Trail yesterday. The sun was shining brightly and the sky was a magical blue. Heather and I went out for a cross-country ski on the Upper Gunflint Trails. Surprisingly the trails were in pretty good shape. Where there was shade the trail was hard, but where there was sun was a different, slushy story. The higher the sun got the softer and trickier the trails became to ski. It was a glorious time to be out skiing and a t-shirt and shorts would have been sufficient to stay warm. If I go out skiing on the trails again then I will need to go early in the morning if I hope to have a hard packed trail. Otherwise the days of skiing on the Upper Gunflint Trails are coming to an end.
The dates have been set for next year's Winter Tracks Festival on the Gunflint Trail. It will begin on March 1st and end on the 4th. We are already making plans to make the event bigger and better in 2007. We have two chair people ready to handle the task and an excited committee to do the work. We hope to bring in some new activities and keep some of the favorite old ones. If you have any ideas for next year's festival then please let us know. We like to offer all sorts of winter recreation opportunities including, snowmobiling, dog sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, snow sculptures and more. We're thinking about adding curling, skijoring, and many other great activities. What sounds like fun to you? Please let us know and make your reservations early for Winter Tracks 2007.
The kids will have their Spring Break starting next weekend so we will be leaving the Gunflint Trail and heading South. We will be away for a week and by the time we return I am afraid most of my lovely snow will have disappeared. This weekend I will try frantically to pack in the winter activities I love best. I plan to ski the Trails on Saturday and hopefully go Lake Trout fishing in the Boundary Waters on Sunday. Some time in there I would love to squeeze in a short snowshoe hike or snowmobile ride. There are trails I wanted to ski, lakes I wanted to fish, and places I wanted to snowmobile to, but most of them will have to wait until next year. Another thing I have to do before we leave is to get down to eat at Trail Center because they close on April 2nd for the entire month. Now can you see why I get so depressed this time of the year? Oh well, soon the lakes will thaw and Winter will just be a memory until time flies by through the Summer and Winter is upon us again.
Just when you thought it was all over... Yesterday as I was driving home from town I noticed a strange looking sky. Just a few minutes later the sky was filled with big, white, fluffy snowflakes. It snowed and snowed the entire way home and it looked like a mid-winter blizzard. It continued to snow throughout the day and into the evening creating once again a snow covered scene. The trees are coated with snow and the new snow brightens up our "old" piles of snow. The Gunflint Trail that was completely dry is wet and slippery again. I know this snow will not last and that sooner, rather than later I will have to put away my winter toys. The only solace I find in hanging up my skis and snowshoes is the sad memory of putting away my paddle last fall and my excited anticipation of taking it out as soon as the ice has melted for another year.
Those people who have been outside the past few evenings have been treated to a few shows put on by the Northern Lights. My friend Heather enjoyed them while sitting on a chair in the middle of Gunflint Lake. I can just picture her now with popcorn in one hand and a can of coke in the other staring at the sky like it is a big movie screen. She neglected to call and tell me about the show because she thought it wouldn't be a big deal to me since I've lived up here so long. I can't imagine not wanting to go outside and see them because they are such an amazing thing to watch. As the colors dance across the sky one cannot help but get mesmerized by it all. Combine that with the sounds of the winter silence and it almost becomes mystical. Colors change from green to pink to white to purple as they make their way back and forth across the northern sky. I never grow tired of watching their show no matter how many times I see them.
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to help make ice up at Chippewa Inn on the Canadian Side of Saganaga. I have always wanted to help but have been away every time they do it. They first snow blow off a large section of ice, then score a grid in the ice. They cut the blocks, chisel them out, and then haul them up to the storage shed where they will wait for summer. When summer comes they will be used by guests and fishermen who stop in to buy ice. I believe they said it takes over 600 blocks of ice to fill the shed and these aren't small blocks. It's quite the production with people lifting, hauling, and generally having a blast while doing so. The day ended by flooding the grid and enjoying each other's company with a potluck and bonfire. It was an awesome day.
Today is the first official day of Spring! It is the Vernal Equinox which means equal night, or 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. From now on there will be more daylight than darkness, yipppeeee! The sun will be getting stronger, the snow will melt faster, and before we know it we will be outfitting groups into the Boundary Waters. Do you have your summer canoe trip planned yet? There are still plenty of permits available from the Gunflint Trail both for the BWCA and Quetico. If you would like help in choosing a route then feel free to give us a call or e-mail us. We'd love to see you at Voyageur this summer!
While we didn't exhibit at the Milwaukee Sport Show this year we did still get to visit it. After a day at Canoecopia we traveled to Milwaukee to see some of our friends at the Show. We used to do what they call the Sport Show Circuit each winter, 7-10 shows of a week to 10 days each. The same business owners traveled from city to city almost like gypsies. We'd say goodbye in Kansas City and see them again in Indianapolis. We'd visit during the day, dine out at night and really get to know these people during the long days at the Sport Shows. Of course as resort owners none of us have time to keep up with each other during the summer, so we would wait to see each other at the shows. This was the first year we didn't do any shows since we bought Voyageur in 1993. It's hard not to see these people and sad not to be able to spend time with them. We were lucky to be able to see some of them at the show and will have to try and reconnect with the others we missed some other time. Josh enjoyed himself at the dog show, lumberjack show, and fishing at the Trout Pond.
I find this time of year unsettling. Mother Nature doesn't seem to know what to do and neither do I. One day I'm trying to run outside, then the next day I am back on skis. It will be 40 degrees one day and then below zero the next. They are still grooming both the snowmobile trail and the cross country ski trails but ice fishing for Lake Trout has ended for another winter. It makes me sad to see the snow leave us but happy to know the open water is just around the corner. Spring begins on March 20th and while some people are ready to start gardening I still want to shovel. Change is difficult for me, maybe there is a benefit to living somewhere without the 4 seasons? Nah, if it was always one season we would begin to take it for granted and that's one thing you never want to do. So be sure to live in the moment and Savor the Season whatever it is.
Last week Mike, Josh and I traveled to Madison, Wisconsin where Canoecopia is held. Canoecopia is the world's largest paddlesport expo and is put on by the owners of Rutabaga, a paddlesport shop located in Madison. While we were there Mike attended various meetings for PPA(Professional Paddlesport Association) and we attended a couple of seminars. One seminar was put on by a neighbor of ours who used to own Clearwater Lodge and Outfitters on the Gunflint Trail. Bob Marchino and Charlie Helbing took a canoe trip last summer along the Voyageur's Highway. Bob had a slide show and presentation about this awesome trip and there was standing room only. Mike and I also helped out at the Gunflint Trail Association Booth while we were there. If you ever get a chance to attend Canoecopia then I highly recommend it.
The sun is rising earlier every day and I am loving it. After dropping Abby off at the bus stop I drove down the trail to cross country ski. It was a cold morning, about 4 below, and there was frost on the trees and the snow was sparkling. As I skied through the woods I tried to take in everything around me, knowing it could be one of the last times I get out this season. I stopped to listen and I heard it. Complete silence. Not a bird chirping, a vehicle going by, nor the crunch of the snow, just the sound of my heart beating. I took a deep breath and smelled it. Not exhaust or garbage, no real scent at all, just pure, fresh air. I looked around and I saw it. Not a building in site, just the beauty of the snow and trees against the backdrop of a beautiful blue sky and the sun shining down brightly. I wonder if there are other places on earth as special as the Gunflint Trail. Out there today, I found it. A place so wonderful I never want to leave. Have a sunshiny day.
In order to paddle your canoe in the state of Minnesota it must be registered. You can register it in your own state or you can register it in the state of Minnesota. Some states do not require registration for canoes but will still allow you to do so if you pay the fee. A guest of ours, David Jakoby, found out it was a better deal to register it in Minnesota than in his own state of Kentucky. He didn't want to spend valuable vacation time in line registering his canoe so he registered it ahead of time. This can be done through the mail and will take a couple of weeks to process. You will need to send a check for $24.00 and the following information to:
DNR License Center
500 Lafayette Rd.
St. Paul, MN. 55155-4026
Owner's Name and Owners DOB
copy of Drivers license
length of canoe
Model (can just put canoe)
hull ID #
and county of use (in MN.)
Voyageur is located in Cook County.
We are still looking for a couple of employees for this summer. If you know of someone who you think would be a good addition to our staff then please tell them to give us a call. We look for hard working, energetic, positive people to work from 10-12 weeks during the summer months. It's nice to find people who have visited the BWCA and who share our passion in introducing people to the area. It takes a special type of person to live at the end of the Gunflint Trail. Our staff doesn't live in fancy quarters; it's more like a bunk. Radio reception is pretty much zero, cell coverage doesn't exist, there is no cable television, internet access is limited, and the nearest McDonalds is almost 3 hours away. But the benefits of living in this beautiful place for a summer and having the opportunity to paddle and camp on your time off far outweighs the inconveniences of living at the end of the Gunflint Trail.
Does the word Merchandise Mart mean anything to you? It's a place where retail store buyers can go to in order to find the latest and greatest items to offer for sale in their store. The Minneapolis Gift Show at the Umaga and old Radisson South is one of these types of places. We try to go to the gift show every couple of years in order to keep our Trading Post at Voyageur full of unique northwood's items. The show usually overlaps the dates of the Milwaukee Sport Show that we normally attend so we haven't been able to browse the Gift Mart for a few years. Since we aren't at the Milwaukee Show this year we will be searching the many stores in the Gift Mart for a couple of days instead. Mike has the pleasure of accompanying me from showroom to showroom of gifts and clothing just waiting for that perfect gift to jump off of the shelf at me. Wish us luck!
I kind of forgot about the snow flea until we were out fishing the other day. Bonnie mentioned seeing something moving around on the top of her hole and one of the guys said it was just snow. She insisted it was a bug and so I started to look more closely at my hole and saw snow fleas in the water and on the snow around it. I always used to think there wasn't such a thing as a snow flea, but last year I checked into it and found out they really do exist. I didn't realize they could swim, but I guess they can. They look like small flecks of pepper in the snow and if you watch them carefully then you can see them actually jump around like fleas too. They live underneath large amounts of snow and can survive through the winter because the snow provides enough insulation for them to survive. On warm sunny winter days these and other winter bugs find their way to the surface for whatever reason.
I finally got to go Lake Trout fishing this past week. We decided to explore some areas where we had never been and got lucky enough to find some fish there. We started out early in the morning on snowmobiles, five of us in all. We road on portage trails, across lakes, frozen ponds, alongside of streams and through some gorgeous scenery for about 28 miles before reaching our destination. It was a lake in Canada that had been burned in the 1995 Wet Lake Fire. It was the same year as the Sag Fire so much of the forest looked very similar in size, a unique area. We tried our luck for a couple of hours with only one bite, so we moved on. The next lake had not been burned and was absolutely beautiful. We drilled some more holes and within the first half an hour I had caught two Lake Trout. Bonnie helped me get them out of the hole and I almost caught her with my hook on the 2nd fish. The hook came out of the fish's mouth and got her right on her neck gaiter as she was reaching into the hole to grab the Trout before it could swim back down the hole. Luckily Bonnie is fast or we wouldn't have had enough fish to feed everyone that evening.
Along with the tracks I like to leave in fresh snow are the tracks of all of the wilderness critters who live up here. It is always fun to drive the Gunflint Trail after a fresh snow and see where the moose have been coming out of the woods to lick the salt. Before the plow comes to erase the tracks of our fox friends we can see just how far they have travelled the trail and which way they are headed. When snowshoeing or snowmobiling near open water you can sometimes see otter slides. The otter will run for a good distance before sliding across the snow on his stomache leaving a deep channel in the snow. The cross-country ski trails are covered with deer tracks around Gunflint Lake as well as wolf scat. The wolves have been keeping the deer herd on their toes and occasionally will find a slow one. Along many of the trails you can see piles of deer fur and remains the wolves have left behind. Every track has a story to tell as long as you take the time to read it.
I recently read about a winter road being similar to a painter's canvas. Right after a snow, before any tracks are made the road is blank, like an unpainted piece of canvas. Although I am not an artist I am always tempted while out where there is fresh snow to make my presence known. Sometimes while snowshoeing I plop off of the trail to make a snow angel. Other times while out snowmobiling I take off into the fresh snow and make a circle or a letter or a design. It is such a beautiful sight to see untouched, fresh snow, but there is also something inviting and tempting about it as well. I'm hoping for a fresh blanket of snow soon so I can get out and paint my own picture once again.
March has certainly come in like a lamb, does that mean it will go out like a lion? I can never remember how that saying goes. We have experienced mild temperatures so far this month and this week has been way too warm for me. After getting 2 inches of snow on the 5th, and 1.5 inches of white stuff on the 6th, it seems Mother Nature just wants to get rid of it. Temperatures have been up in the 30's during the daytime and haven't cooled down much at night. Last night we got a good 3 inches of wet, heavy snow, but with the thermometer reading 31 degrees at 6 AM, who knows if it will last til noon. Predictions are for more warm temperatures in the mid- 30's and lows only in the double digits. There's a good chance of precipitation but with this warm weather we never know if it will be snow or rain. Hopefully it will stay cool and we'll get a good dumping of white stuff to last us into April. I'm not ready to put away my skis just yet.
The days just keep getting longer on the Gunflint Trail. There are hardly any stars left in the sky when I take Abby out to the bus in the mornings. Twilight is around 6:05 AM with the sun rising around 6:40 AM. In the afternoon when I pick her up at the bus stop at 4:30 PM there is plenty of daylight left for her to enjoy. The sun doesn't set now until about 6:45 PM. Soon we will experience equal hours of day and night, the 20th of March to be exact. This date marks the beginning of Spring and the Spring Equinox when everyone will have 12 hours of daylight. Although I am looking forward to more daylight I am dreading trying to convince the kids it is bedtime when the sun is still shining in the sky.
There have been a number of babies born this year to people associated with the Gunflint Trail and me. On January 17th my good friend Karla had a baby girl named Katherine. Karla and her husband Tim operate the Gunflint Wilderness Camp across the river from us in the summer. A past employee of Voyageur, Alison Sakry, now LaTourell, and her husband Bob welcomed their new daughter Grace into this world on the 1st of March. A friend who used to work on the Gunflint Trail and now lives in Grand Marais gave birth to yet another girl on the 3rd of March. Theresa and Kyle Oberg are excited to have Amery as a new addition to their family. Jonathon Rova used to work at Wilderness Canoe Base but now lives in town with his wife Nancy. They welcomed a baby boy named Paavo into their lives this year as well. Congratulations to everyone and let's hope it wasn't anything in the water!
Are you looking for a new way to tour the Quetico Park? You can join fellow cross-country skiers in the 5th Annual Cross Quetico Lakes Tour on March 18th. The Beaten Path Nordic Club from Atikokan, Ontario has another great day of skiing in the Quetico Park planned. Cache Bay Ranger Janice Matichuck will participate again this year. The route travels about 36 kilometers across the frozen lakes of the Quetico Park. You can learn more about the tour by checking out their website.
Even though we aren't paddling up here this time of the year there are other people paddling in other places. This past week there were a number of deaths that may have been prevented had the paddlers been wearing their life vests. A kayaker paddling in a stream in Hawaii died after capsizing. In Massachuesetts a search continued for a man who was out canoeing and wasn't wearing a life vest. A kayaker's body was found on the shore of the Potomac River without a life vest on. A canoe overturned in some rapids in Pennsylvania and a 19 year old man drown because he was not wearing a life vest. Wearing a life vest is especially important when paddling in cold waters because hypothermia can happen quickly. If you become unconscous while wearing a flotation device then at least rescuers have a better chance of finding you in time to help you. If they don't find you in time to save you then at least they will hopefully be able to recover your body and give your friends and family some peace of mind. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and wear your life vest the next time you head out onto the water.
There have been quite a few Lynx sightings lately on the Gunflint Trail. A friend of ours took this photo of a Lynx sunning itself in their driveway the other day. It has been seen frequently around their house and doesn't appear to be afraid at all. Another person sighted one crossing the Gunflint Trail near Birch Lake. We haven't seen our Canadian Lynx yet while snowmobiling, but maybe this weekend.
A recent letter from our County Commissioner informed us the Gypsy Moth is in Cook County. The Gypsy Moth is similar to the Forest Tent Caterpillar in how it can defoliate trees in a forest leaving them in a weakened state and sometimes killing them. A few years ago we had a Forest Tent Caterpillar infestation and I swore I would leave if it happened again. The caterpillars were everywhere; on the side of the house, hanging from trees, and eating every green leaf in site. I remember on a trip to Duluth the Expressway was covered in a dark green slime that smelled like freshly mown lawn. It was actually a gazillion smashed Forest Tent Caterpillars that were full of leaves.
March is a great month on the Gunflint Trail. Luckily we get to keep most of our snow throughout the month so we can still enjoy all of the great winter activities with mild temperatures. While most parts of the state and country are beginning their thaw, we still have Winter around to enjoy for some time. The month of March has many names for its moon. It has been known as the Storm, Seed, Plow, Worm, Sap, and Whispering Wind Moon. The Algonquin refer to it as the Catching Fish Moon, Chippewa as the Snow Crust Moon, and the Arapaho as the Buffalo Dropping their Calves Moon. Whatever you want to refer to it as March will be a hanging on to winter moon for me.