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.

Posted in News

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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Posted in BWCA

Best Time to Paddle the Boundary Waters

I’ve always said, “Any time you can paddle the Boundary Waters is the best time to paddle the Boundary Waters.” Taking that into consideration the next thing to consider is what you want to experience while you are in the Boundary Waters or what you don’t want to experience while there. Knowing what you want out of a canoe camping trip in the BWCA will help you determine the best time to visit.

Many people come to the Boundary Waters to experience the solitude of the wilderness.  While route choice plays a big part in getting away from people the time of the paddling season makes a big difference too.  I was out paddling last week and I began to wonder if there had been an atomic bomb that went off somewhere because there were so few people out there.

If the main goal of your canoe trip is to not see many people then paddling the Boundary Waters around the 4th of July is a great time. We were towed out past American Point and we didn’t see anyone camping anywhere. We portaged into Ottertrack and didn’t meet anyone on Monument Portage which rarely happens. We saw a couple of canoes on Ester Lake and one group camped there but no groups camped on Hansen Lake or Ottertrack.  For 4 days we had so few encounters with other people we felt like it was the middle of October.

Every year we see a dip in visitors around the 4th of July.  People have picnics, parades, family reunions and fireworks to attend on the 4th of July and they don’t want to miss out on the annual festivities.  That leaves the Boundary Waters empty for people who are willing to give up their sparklers for twinkling stars in the night sky. Of course May, September and October are also great times to paddle if you’re looking to get away from people, but in July you have water warm enough for swimming too.

I love camping in the BWCA when I don’t see other groups so I was super happy to be paddling a week after the 4th of July and see so few people.  While it may not be great for business it’s super for folks who are able to paddle during that time.

Best time to paddle the BWCA

Quiet time in the BWCA

 

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Posted in BWCA

Loon Chicks are Hatching in the BWCA

We usually start seeing baby loons around the 4th of July in the BWCA. This year it was a little bit later but now that we started seeing them guests have reported seeing them everywhere in the Boundary Waters and Quetico Park.

The tiny balls of fluff ride around on the adult loon’s back after they are first born. It’s a real treat to see one tucked beneath the wing of a loon. The chicks are sometimes so well hidden you would never guess there was one there. Once the chick gets a little bit bigger it will start swimming on its own. It’s fun to be able to watch from a distance as an adult loon attempts to feed the chick. I’ve watched as a loon placed some food directly into the mouth of the chick and then progressed to placing the food directly in front of the chick on the surface of the water and by day’s end the adult was placing it just below the surface so the chick had to get it’s face wet.  The chick learns quickly how to fish for itself.

Loons are beautiful creatures and even more so when there’s a chick on their back.

Boundary Waters Loon Chicks

Loon chicks in the Boundary Waters

Boundary Waters Wildlife

Loons hatching in the BWCA

 

 

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Posted in wildlife

Blue Bears

It’s not a new species of bear but the bears are blue because they are sad. The blueberry crop has not ripened yet and the bears are hungry.  One very skinny bear has been checking out the garbages at Voyageur on a regular basis.   Rugby(guard dog extraordinaire) has done a good job at keeping the bear on his toes but I feel badly the blueberries aren’t ripe yet.

Blueberry harvesters in the area also feel badly the berries aren’t quite ready. In most recent years the crop has been ready by this time of the summer but due to the late spring it will be a couple of weeks before they are ripe. Hopefully the blueberry pickers can resist the temptation to enter the picking areas until it’s time to pick otherwise the plants will get damaged and we’ll have fewer blueberries making people and bears bluer.

There are some delicious tasting wild strawberries around for people who are ready to pick. There are even a few ripe raspberries and what looks like a good Thimble Berry crop in the making. Let’s hope the recent sunshine will speed up the ripening process so our bears will no longer be blue.

Interesting bear facts from Hiking in Bear Country-

Sides explains that a bear’s teeth can be very sharp, indicating that the bear eats meat. The back teeth are flat, telling of diet of plant material.

Seventy-five percent of a black bear’s diet consists of plant material. The rest is made up of berries, fish, or maybe a fawn in the spring. Each chomp is important for researchers. Teeth marks can reveal a bear’s age, sex, and even how many times it has given birth.

Bears venture out around 100 miles for food. Some even travel 40 miles just for an acorn. For them, it’s worth it. Storing food for the winter is a number-one goal. A hibernating bear can burn 3,000 – 4,000 calories a day in the winter.

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Voyageur Brewing Company

Have you heard the exciting news? Mike and I are part of a new craft brewery coming to Grand Marais, Minnesota. Two other couples are involved in this exciting adventure so we’ll still be able to take care of all of our guests at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters while brewing some great beer.

Voyageur Brewing Company is located on Highway 61 right across the street from the Lake Superior harbor and Java Moose coffee shop. Ground was broken last week for the Tap Room that will have light appetizers and of course, beer! We’ll have growlers that you can fill with our beer to bring into the Boundary Waters and then re-fill when you’re on your way home.  We also plan to bottle our beer so you can find your favorite in a local liquor store.

We’ve started a blog and we’re on Facebook so you can follow along with our progress.  We’ll be asking for input along the way so be sure to “like” our page and check it out often.  We plan to be brewing beer before the end of the year and we’ll be looking forward to having you visit the Voyageur Brewing Company in Grand Marais, Minnesota.

Craft Beer in Grand Marais, Minnesota

Grand Marais Brewing Company

Voyageur Brewery

Voyageur Brewery in Grand Marais, Minnesota

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Posted in News

How Bad are the Bugs in the Boundary Waters?

The great thing about the bugs found in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota is none of them are likely to kill you with a single bite. If you have an allergy to bees or some other unusual condition then there is a slight possibility of death but for the most part the bugs in the Boundary Waters just “bug” you. This along with the fact we do not have poisonous snakes makes me quite comfortable while canoe camping in the BWCA even if there are insects buzzing around.

I just spent a few nights in the Boundary Waters and was pleasantly surprised with the current bug population(or lack there of it).  The way the mosquitoes have been around Voyageur this year made me think I would be lifted away by mosquitoes out on the trail but they were not bad except right at dusk.  They appeared for about an hour in the morning at dawn and another hour at night and that was about it.  The portages(even though they were very wet) were relatively mosquito free and I had no reason to wear a head net.

The blueberry pollinator(Black Fly) population has also dwindled down to almost nothing.  They are usually gone by the first part of July but I thought with the delayed summer we might have them around a little longer this year. Black flies tend to like some people more than others and luckily they don’t like me very much or I don’t react to their saliva like some folks do. These are the small but stout flies that like to swarm around your head and bite you around the neck, behind the ears and on the scalp. Kids or people experiencing black flies for the first time will often bleed or swell up and may even get a fever but for the most part they just annoy you. Unlike other flies they can’t bite through clothing so if you wear long sleeves and long pants then they won’t be able to bite you.

The benefit of rain and wind when you’re out paddling the BWCA is the biting fly(barn fly, stable fly, dog fly) isn’t around to suck your blood.  These flies are the ones that land and bite quickly and their bite usually hurts. When you try to slap at them they are long gone but return just as quickly as they departed to bite you again. These biting flies are persistent and don’t seem to mind bug spray, even those with Deet.  To protect yourself against them you can wear pants or stay inside as they aren’t normally found indoors.  Early morning and late afternoon are peak times as well as during warm periods following rainfall. Catnip oil has been said to help prevent bites and is worth a try if these flies are out in full force.

I’ve been to places where the bugs are way worse than I’ve ever experienced them in the Boundary Waters. When you’re outside in the summertime there are most likely going to be bugs outside with you.  You can protect yourself with clothing, repellent or just staying inside during certain times of the day. And if you just can’t be inside and aren’t prepared for bugs the good news is when you’re in the Boundary Waters they might bite you but they probably aren’t going to kill you.

 

 

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Boundary Waters Unique Mouse

My first thought was, “Is that a kangaroo rat or what?” Then I thought, “We don’t have kangaroo rats in Minnesota, they live in a desert.” Of the 5 of us camping in the Boundary Waters none of us could identify the mouse that was hopping around our campfire late one evening.  None of us had ever seen such a mouse and none of us was particularly fond of seeing one at that particular time.

The thing about normal mice is they seemingly come out of nowhere to startle a person with their appearance and quick movements. The mouse we were seeing had movements that were unexpected and unpredictable. Rather than running along the ground in a somewhat expected pattern the mouse we were watching leaped and bounded from one place to the next. This made the mouse seem even more threatening to the 5 BWCA campers.

We all vowed to check the internet when we got home so we could determine what kind of mouse jumped around like a kangaroo.   According to my research the woodland jumping mouse is found in Northeastern Minnesota and this must have been the visitor to our Boundary Waters campsite.

from the DNR…  Jumping Mice

Two species of jumping mice live in Minnesota: the meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius) and the less common woodland jumping mouse (Napaeozapus insignis). The meadow jumping mouse ranges throughout Minnesota. The woodland jumping mouse stays in the woods of northeastern Minnesota.

With their long hind feet and the longest tail of any Minnesota mouse, they can jump more than three feet to avoid danger. They are also good swimmers and divers. But the main way they avoid predators is by standing very still.

Found in the Boundary Waters Woodland Jumping Mouse

BWCA woodland jumping mouse

 

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Gunflint Trail Canoe Races

It’s that time of the year and the Gunflint Trail Canoe Races are here again.  This Wednesday evening folks will gather at Gunflint Lake to raise funds for the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department.  There will be food, raffle prizes and of course the annual canoe races.  Come support the GTVFD, cheer for the Voyageur Crew and have a great time at the Gunflint Trail Canoe Races.

Gunflint Trail Canoe Races – A Northwoods evening of family fun!
Wednesday, July 16, 2014 4:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Gunflint Lodge Waterfront
143 S. Gunflint Lake
Grand Marais, MN 55604
This is a fundraiser for the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department.

All proceeds go to the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department
The event times are as follows:
4:00 pm-7:30 pm Silent Auction
4:00 pm Kids Fun events begin
4:30 pm Food service begins
6:00 pm Canoe Races begin with the long distance race followed by many age and gender races with gunnel pumping as the finale.
Race registration is at the waterfront.
6:00 pm General Raffle

The Canoe Races are sponsored by the Gunflint-Seagull-Saganaga Property Owners Associations and Chris Steele of Seagull Lake is the 2014 chair. Proceeds from this top summer Trail event go to the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department which provides fire, emergency and rescue services to keep residents and visitors safe. The deparmnet is completing a long term program that has upgraded facilities at all three stations along the Trail and welcomes funds to maintain these buildings and equipment.

For more information contact:
Julie Henricksson, the Gunflint Trail Canoe Races Committee at 218-388-2246.

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