Voyageur Brewing News

Construction is underway at Voyageur Brewing Company on Highway 61 in Grand Marais, Minnesota.   Footings were poured and now the floor for the taproom has been poured. The main building is where the brewing will be done and the addition is where folks will be able to sample our craft beer and eat appetizers.  Things are progressing nicely and we’re super excited to see them continue. Follow along with the progress via Facebook and be sure to check out our website.

Construction at Voyageur Brewing Company

Craft beer in Grand Marais, Minnesota

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BWCA and Quetico Park Storm Stories

We had a chance to visit with some cabin owners who were camping in the Quetico Park during last week’s storm. Apparently they were very lucky as numerous trees fell down around their tent.  They were kind enough to send us some photos of their campsite.

Also in this blog entry is an article about communication devices in the wilderness. Mike is quoted in the article.

Photos courtesy of Jay and Cindy

Image of tent before storm

PAddling the Quetico Park

After winds in the Quetico Park

Quetico PArk

Close call in the Quetico Park

Quetico Park

Luckily no one was injured

Quetico Park campsite

Great Job hanging the food pack

BWCA and Quetico Storm

Big red pines fell down

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Satellite Phones Proving Vital in Wilderness

  • Article by: Doug Smith
  • Star Tribune
  • July 26, 2014 – 11:21 PM

When fierce winds toppled trees onto two campers huddled in their tent in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness last week, breaking bones, members of their group used a satellite phone to call for help.

Though the transmission was garbled, rescuers were able to locate the pair in the million-acre wilderness and, with much difficulty, get both to a hospital. Five other BWCA visitors also were hurt in the storm, which packed winds at 60 to 70 miles per hour.

The incident underscores the potential danger of traveling in a remote wilderness area, where help can be many miles and hours away. But they also highlight a trend — the increasing availability and use of satellite phones and other communication devices to call for help.

“We see more and more people with them,” said Kathy Zupancich of Zup’s Resort and Canoe Outfitters on Lac La Croix, which rents the devices to customers. Her husband, Mark, helped rescue the campers injured in Monday’s storm on Lady Boot Bay of Lac La Croix.

Kris Reichenbach, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service, agrees that more BWCA travelers, including Forest Service crews, are taking communication devices along.

“It’s certainly not a bad idea to have that as a backup if something goes wrong,” she said. “But we always urge people to not rely on technology to save them. It’s important for people to be prepared.”

Still, while more wilderness travelers are bringing such devices, those who do remain a small minority.

“I’d say maybe one in 10 (of our customers) rent a phone or bring their own,” Zupancich said.

“Most of our customers — definitely over 90 percent — don’t bring anything,” said Mike Prom, who with his wife, Sue, owns Voyageur Canoe Outfitters on Saganaga Lake along the Gunflint Trail. Like many outfitters, he rents satellite phones or SPOT messaging devices, which allow a person to send a text message. People also can track the wilderness traveler’s whereabouts with GPS.

“They can be helpful, but they also can give people a false sense of security,” Prom said. “We’re finding most people using [satellite] phones are using them to check on a sick parent or pregnant wife.”

His customers never have used one for a true emergency.

Prom and some others have mixed feelings about using such technology in the wilderness.

“There’s that inherent risk in the wilderness; that’s part of the reason you go,” he said. “It’s part of the challenge. You’re on your own.”

He and his wife don’t carry a device when they trek into the wilderness.

“It’s a decision people have to make,” said Prom, who is a local fire and ambulance volunteer. “I’ve been here 22 years, and I can count the number of serious injuries or deaths we’ve had [on the Gunflint Trail] on one hand.”

But Mark Anderson of Anderson’s Canoe Outfitters on Crane Lake saw firsthand last week the advantages of such devices. The two Louisiana residents who were hurt by downed trees on Lac La Croix were his customers. They had brought along their own satellite phone.

“They had 28 trees drop on that campsite. How long would they have been trapped without that phone?” he asked.

Satellite phones are expensive and owners must pay a monthly fee. Their reliability varies depending on satellite access.

Options in the BWCA and the neighboring 1.1 million-acre Quetico Provincial Park are limited. Cellphone coverage is spotty, at best.

“Generally people don’t even bring them, because it’s so hit and miss,” Zupancich said.

Anderson said improved cell coverage, including more nearby towers, would be a better alternative than satellite phones.

“Everyone has a cellphone,” he said. “These people could have seen that storm coming.” Anderson noted environmentalists opposed construction of a 450-foot cell tower near Ely last year. But better communications would improve safety for wilderness travelers, and he doesn’t see a conflict between technology and wilderness.

“People say it’s a wilderness, and it is, but this is 2014, not 1959,” Anderson said.

Two weeks ago a BWCA visitor went into diabetic shock, he said, and a canoeist with a satellite phone called for help. The person was flown out of the wilderness, but without quick action, could have died, he said.

Lt. Curt Erickson of the St. Louis County Sheriff’s volunteer rescue squad, who helped Monday in the Lac La Croix rescue, said one danger of more communication devices is questionable calls for help.

“We are more than willing to help people with legitimate needs,” he said.

But emergency responders are getting more calls, and some have been questionable, he said. Prom said a customer once sought emergency help at 11 p.m. when she couldn’t find a campsite.

The Boy Scout’s Northern Tier High Adventure base near Ely has its own radio system, and youths and their leaders take radios or satellite phones on every trip, said Kevin Dowling, general manager. “One of our requirements is to have an emergency backup system,” he said. “The only time they use the radio in the wilderness is in an emergency.”

When an eight-member Boy Scout group, facing big waves and strong winds, swamped a canoe in the BWCA last month and became stranded, they used a radio to call in help, which came via a motorboat, helicopter and floatplane.

“The radio worked effectively,” Dowling said. “That was a pretty dicey day.”

Meanwhile, Zupancich said the devastating 1999 BWCA storm seemed to spur more interest in wilderness communication devices. But it’s uncertain whether last week’s storm, and injuries, will prompt more travelers to carry them.

“We had a party come in the next morning, after the storm, and they chose not to rent them,” she said. “It’s personal preference.”

 

Doug Smith • dsmith@startribune.com

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Hard Boiled Eggs and Ham

I was invited to go canoe camping in the Boundary Waters with some friends last month. I told them my back was bad, my ankle was twisted, I didn’t like to cook over a campfire, I’m not that great of company but I could get them a tow across Saganaga Lake for a good price so they let me accompany them.

I’m not against cooking on a BWCA canoe trip I just prefer not to do it. Collecting fire wood, doing dishes and cooking is a ton of work and I prefer to just eat trail mix, almonds and peanut butter and jelly.  These girls however like to cook over a campfire and are super ambitious.  They packed all of the food and I will say I was surprised when our first lunch was hard boiled eggs and fresh apples.  When I canoe camp with Mike and the family lightweight is the priority for meal time. This was not so with these girls.

The first evening for dinner they pulled out a ham.  To go along with the ham they had fresh potatoes. I was a bit shocked to see a ham and potatoes and then later in the trip green peppers, red peppers, more apples and more potatoes.  They also brought along some “Momma Juice Boxes”, otherwise known as wine in a box.  I can’t complain about the food, it was delicious and I never had to carry the food pack.

While I’m probably not going to change the way I pack food on a canoe trip I will say it was nice to have fresh food and plenty of it on a BWCA canoe trip.

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Great Sunsets on the Gunflint Trail

It’s not difficult to find a beautiful sunset on the Gunflint Trail. It’s tempting to take photos every night as the sun goes down but I rarely do. Thankfully Josh was ambitious enough to snap a few photos the other night of the sunset on the Seagull River. Thanks Josh!

Sunsets on the Seagull River

Gunflint Trail sunsets

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Just Another Day in the BWCA

BWCA Fishing and Swimming

Swimming, Paddling, Fishing

Boundary Waters Fun

Just another day in paradise

Catch and Release in the BWCA

Ben’s Little BWCA Bass

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Gunflint Trail Canoe Race Success

Our Voyageur Crew had a fantastic time at the Gunflint Trail canoe races on July 16th.  The races are put on by the cabin owners to benefit the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department and they do a super job at feeding and entertaining the masses.  The number of hours volunteers spend collecting donations for the raffles, preparing food to sell and planning the activities is greatly appreciated by the community who enjoys the event. So many people help out to make the event happen and we’re grateful for all of their work and the donation to the GTVFD.

We’re also happy they hold the races because it gives our summer crew something to look forward to mid-summer. I joked around with the crew telling them things like,

  • “If you don’t win the race then don’t bother coming back to shore.”
  • “If you aren’t puking then you aren’t paddling hard enough.”
  • “Blood and bruising is expected.”

We have a mainly new crew this year and I guess they thought I was serious because we had bruising, bleeding and puking this year! They paddled hard and came home with lots of medals making Voyageur proud once again.

The 2014 Canoe Races were very successful because of the help of many volunteers and participants from up & down the Trail.
 
Volunteers (many of you):
1.  Prepared and sold more than $2000 of food.
2.  Sold thousands of raffle tickets.
3.  Donated raffle and auction items that raised $6,000.
 
Proceeds to the GTVFD totaled  $16,000, $4000 more than was raised in 2013.  
 
Another $1,000 +/- is pending (or tentative).
 
We’ll see you next year at the races.  Mark your calendar… July 15, 2015.  Food, fun and more will begin at 4 PM.

Gunflint Trail Canoe Races

Fun at the Gunflint Trail canoe races

Canoe winner at Gunflint Trail Canoe Races

Elsa Lunde, 13 years of age, wins the canoe at the Gunflint Trail Canoe Races

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Boundary Waters Fishing Fun

This past week we’ve had some gorgeous weather for being out in the Boundary Waters. My son Josh has been taking advantage of the sunny skies and has been spending as much time as possible fishing in the BWCA. He no longer needs me to accompany him in the boat but I received a token invite to go onto Saganaga with him the other day. It was the 90+ degree day and the water was as flat and calm as I’ve ever seen in it. In spite of the heat and ripple free water we were able to land two fish. He caught a small lake trout and a big northern pike.

The rest of the week Josh has had a friend or a Voyageur Crew member to fish with so I’ve lost my spot in the boat. It’s great to see him enjoying fishing so much as I’d much rather him be outside in the boat than inside on an electronic gadget.  The smallmouth bass have really started to bite this week, I guess the water is finally warm enough.  Some spots on Saganaga my depth finder was recording water surface temperatures of 74 degrees! That’s hot for the big lake.

I have an opportunity to go fishing with Josh and his friend today, so I better get off of the computer and grab my pole. I have to take advantage of the invitations while they last.

BWCA fishing

Catching fish in the BWCA

Fishing in the BWCA

Gunflint Trail fishing

Boundary Waters fishing fun

Fishing fun in the Boundary Waters

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High Winds and Injuries in the BWCA

Monday night another storm passed through the Boundary Waters. We experienced winds on the Gunflint Trail in the low 30′s and almost a half of an inch of rain. Luckily we didn’t hear of any injuries reported on our end of the BWCA and we didn’t lose power this time.  Unfortunately elsewhere in the BWCA a couple of campers were injured when a tree fell on them.  We’re hoping they have a quick recovery and that no other injuries are reported.

PRESS RELEASE
Superior National Forest
Superior National Forest
July 23, 2014
Contact: Kris Reichenbach 218-626-4393

Many Cooperate in Emergency Response to Windstorm

Winds from a thunderstorm early July 22, 2014 caused trees to blow down in areas across the Superior National Forest, with the most impacts in the far northwest part of the Forest in northern St. Louis County, Minnesota. Multiple agencies coordinated to rescue people from two groups injured from falling trees while camped in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).  No further storm related injuries have been reported and crews continue to patrol and assess storm impacts today.   More…

Starting in the early morning hours of July, 22, the St. Louis Sheriff’s Department, Crane Lake Volunteer Fire Department (CLVFD), local businesses, and the Superior National Forest worked together to conduct emergency response operations in parts of the LaCroix Ranger District that were impacted by the powerful thunderstorm.   Seven injuries were reported. One group used a satellite phone to call in an emergency to the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office at three a.m. from Lady Boot Bay of Lac LaCroix. Mark Zupancich of Zup’s Resort, Anderson’s Resort, SLCSR, and the Crane Lake Volunteer Fire Department (CLVFD) removed two injured people by boat to an ambulance. At approximately noon, a report of five more BWCAW visitors camped at Loon Lake-some who were still trapped in their tents from fallen trees, was received by SLCSR. Morse /Fall Lake First Responders (MFLFR), along with CLVFD members, extracted the trapped individuals.  First responders accompanied two people who were flown out by a Forest Service floatplane to Ely.  Three more people with less serious injuries were accompanied by first responders and brought out by boat to Crane Lake.  In a separate medical evacuation that was not storm-related, a Forest Service floatplane was also used and assisted by MFLFR and the Lake County Sheriff on Tuesday.

In response to the storm, an Interagency Incident Management Team was formed to ensure other parties are not in need of assistance and assess storm impacts.  Two Forest Service wilderness crews were already in the area of the storm and were redirected to check the safety of BWCAW visitors. Two Forest Service float planes flew patrols looking for any other injured parties and to assess the damage.  One additional Forest Service crew was inserted by float plane to Lac LaCroix.  A Minnesota State Patrol helicopter was on standby for closer assessments but was not utilized. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources used aircraft to help with public safety and storm damage assessments on the Canadian side of the border.

The Forest Service completed an aerial reconnaissance Tuesday and identified an area of concentrated impact in the Lac LaCroix Area, including Lady Boot Bay, Ge-be-on-e-quet Lake, Lady Boot Bay, Little Loon Lake, East Loon Bay, the Northern portion of the Sioux Hustler Trail, Little Gabro Area, Little Isabella Entry Point Area, Snake River Entry Point Area. Trees are also reported down at scattered locations across the Forest.

Based on current information, the Forest Service does not plan to close any part of the Superior National Forest due to the storm, including the BWCAW.  Visitors to the Superior National Forest and surrounding area are urged to watch for downed trees and take particular caution around trees that may have been damaged but are partially suspended or not already on the ground.  This is a reminder that visitors need to be prepared for conditions that may result from natural occurrences in the Wilderness and can expect downed trees on some portages and campsites as a result of this storm.  Crews will continue patrols to assess and remove blown down trees as appropriate.

Late-night storms topple trees, injure campers in BWCA

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 22, 2014 – 3:36 PM

The top wind speed reported to the National Weather Service came from Alexandria, at 59 miles per hour shortly after 11 p.m.

Thunderstorms carrying strong winds roared over the northern half of Minnesota late Monday and into Tuesday, knocking out electricity to thousands of customers and injuring campers in two locations in the sprawling the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, officials said.

Two campers in a group of 17 from Louisiana near Lady Boot Bay were injured when trees fell on their tents about 2:45 a.m., according to the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office. First responders transported the two by ambulance to a Virginia, Minn., hospital for treatment of noncritical injuries.

The two were identified by the Sheriff’s Office as Hayden Toups, 13, of Brusly, and Kirk Sanchez, 47, of Port Allen.

Another group of campers about 10 miles away at Loon Lake were hit by trees later Tuesday, with some injuries being reported, said Sheriff’s Sgt. Kevin Friebe.

Emergency responders “are still getting them out right now,” Friebe said shortly after 2 p.m. While he didn’t have specifics on the number of injured or how badly, the sergeant added that medical helicopters were being used, so “they’re obviously considered serious.”

An official at the Superior National Forest office in Duluth said the storms were quite violent, leaving about 100 trees down along the highway that connects Ely and Isabella about 40 miles to the southeast.

Elsewhere in the state, power was reported out around 11:30 p.m. Monday for some customers as far south as Staples, with windy conditions also peeling away parts of rooftops in the Todd County community, the National Weather Service (NWS) added.

Also, hail was reported early Tuesday in Ogilvie and Long Prairie.

The top wind speed reported to the weather service came from Alexandria, at 59 miles per hour shortly after 11 p.m.

Minnesota Power and Lake Country Power reported a combined 20,000 or so customers without electricity overnight in the Duluth area and elsewhere. Nearly 2,400 remained without power in the Brainerd area well after sunrise.

Minnesota Power said snapped tree limbs and uprooted trees caused trouble for the utility in International Falls, Duluth, Eveleth and Nisswa, among other communities. Trees toppled easily because of the ground’s saturation from heavy June rainfall, the utility added.

By late Tuesday morning, Minnesota Power was still working to restore power to roughly 6,500 of its customers.

“This storm raked across our service territory rather quickly and then subsided about 3 a.m.,” said John Muehlbauer, a Minnesota Power crew superintendent.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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Boom, Crash, Kapow!

That’s how I was woken up early Monday morning around 3:00am.  Bolts of lightning were striking nearby like it was a scene from an end of the world movie. I could picture people running and dodging the jagged streaks of electricity. The noise and light were also reminiscent of the 4th of July fireworks.  When I looked outside through my window I saw a strange pulsating and explosive light and heard a crazy whirring/buzzing noise that accompanied it.  Then all was quiet including every electronic device on the premise.

The neighbor’s electric box and ours across the Seagull River were both hit by lightning. Thankfully our neighbor used his radio to call the power company and by a little after 6:00am on Monday morning our power had been restored.  I LOVE our Arrowhead Electric linemen who are sent out on calls and respond so quickly and who are so efficient and fast at repairing our lines. Our busy morning would have been much more challenging without the use of our cash register and computers for getting groups out into the Boundary Waters this morning.

Not much rain fell with the lightning storm and that always freaks me out.  It’s been a very wet summer so far and we haven’t had to worry about wildfires for the most part. It’s still quite wet in the woods but lightning strikes can cause trees to smolder and when conditions do get dry then fires can start. I’m going to try not to worry about it because it doesn’t do any good anyway.

I guess Mother Nature just felt badly for me because I didn’t see any fireworks this 4th of July, thanks for the display.

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Wonderful Weather for a Boundary Waters Trip

Is sunshine and 70 degree temperatures the ideal weather to have for a Boundary Waters canoe trip? I was pondering this question as I slugged across a water swollen portage in a downpour on my last BWCA canoe trip.

It is wonderful to be at a Boundary Waters campsite relaxing on a rock underneath a sun-filled sky. Paddling a wilderness lake as the sunlight reflects off of the water’s surface is also a beautiful thing. But are there disadvantages to having perfectly warm, dry weather on a wilderness canoe trip? I determined there to be some benefits of experiencing not so wonderful weather during a BWCA trip.

  • Portages without mud puddles are boring. It’s much more exciting to not know what your foot will encounter when sloshing into the water.
  • Portages are just portages and not waterfalls if there hasn’t been any rain.
  • When it’s windy and raining there are no bugs to bother you.
  • Watching rain come from across the lake in sheets looks really cool.
  • Hearing thunder in the distance can make for good conversation as to what exactly the noise was.
  • Rain keeps your body cool and clean.
  • It gives you something to talk about during the day.

And of course, “bad” weather on your canoe trip makes you appreciate the wonderful weather even more.

BWCA canoe camping

Boundary Waters Canoe Trip

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