Day Trip into Canada

Now that my children are older and I don’t have to be watching them 24-7 I have a little bit of free time. Combine that with the fact we have an amazing Voyageur Crew led by Tony and Hannah and I have found a considerable amount of time to take a few day trips. Last week one day I grew restless around noon and started to daydream about a day trip. I asked Tony what the schedule was, determined someone could take me out and pick me up and also determined I wasn’t really needed at Voyageur for the rest of the day.

With a solo Prism canoe, fishing rod and tennis shoes the towboat departed from the Voyageur dock. Tony dropped me off at the Northern Light Falls that spills from Wantello Lake into Saganaga. I portaged my gear and canoe into Wantello Lake and began my adventure. There’s a section of fast moving water beneath a bridge that I tried my hardest to make it up and through the rapids. Unfortunately I couldn’t get that last little bit of oomph to make it over the final ripple and as soon as I slowed due to exhaustion my canoe slipped back down the rapids.  I decided to wade and pull my canoe through the rapids because it required alot less effort on my part.

I paddled around the lake trolling a spoon and catching plenty of northern pike. There are walleye in the lake too but I didn’t seek them out and they didn’t jump into my canoe.  There’s a beautiful waterfall from Northern Light into Wantello but unfortunately there was a group hanging out there so I didn’t explore as much as I would have liked to. I did paddle the perimeter of the lake before making my way back to the bridge.

Paddling down the rapids would have been much easier than it was going up them but me being the ever cautious paddler I decided to walk the canoe down the rapids as well.  Then I pulled the canoe out of the water, changed my shoes and went for a run on the snowmobile trail/logging road. I had been on the trail in the winter and thought it would be a great place for a run. I had visions of lynx, bear and moose but the only thing I saw was a couple of grouse and a couple on a 4-wheeler who were just as surprised to see me as I was to see them.

After the run I got back into my canoe, paddled to the portage, portaged my canoe and gear and then paddled to a campsite on Saganaga to await my pick up. I took a swim and had time to relax before I was picked up shortly after 7pm.  It was a glorious adventure and one I hope to take again real soon.

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Posted in paddling adventures

Too Many Adventures, Too Little Time

There are so many possibilities for day trip options on the Gunflint Trail it’s difficult to decide what to do when you have a free day. The obvious choice is to go canoeing but there’s the not so obvious options such as hiking, biking, fishing and shopping.  While shopping never appears at the top of my list there are alot of people who like to browse all of the small gift shops at the resorts along the Trail. It’s a great excuse to drive down each road and check out what all of the resorts look like.

Biking on the Gunflint Trail itself isn’t a great idea due to the non-existent shoulders and lack of bike paths. Off of the Gunflint Trail there are quite a few options to choose from. There’s the old Gunflint Trail(County Road 92), Pine Mountain Road, Lima Mountain Road, Greenwood Road and many other shorter logging roads you can explore.

Hiking is one of my favorite activities and there are plenty of trails to choose from. There’s the Magnetic Rock Trail, Seagull Lake Nature Trail, Centennial Trail, Lima Mountain Trail, Northern Lights(Blueberry Hill), all of the trails at Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center and all of the spur trails leading to the Border Route Trail to name a few.  They are all different lengths and different terrain and you could spend days hiking and still not hike them all. The best part of hiking on the Gunflint Trail is there are very few other people hiking.

Fishing is a favorite activity but I guess you could say I’m a fair weather fisher woman. I like to be in the boat out on the water when it’s a beautiful sunny day whether or not the fish are biting. But if it isn’t a nice day outside then I don’t necessarily need to be fishing.  There are so many lakes to choose from on the Gunflint Trail all offering different species and scenery.

As you can see, there are plenty of things to do on the Gunflint Trail.  So many things to choose from you’ll have too little time to do them all and need to return again and again to get them all in.

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Posted in News

Good Times Near Grand Marais

There are plenty of outdoor activities to find around Grand Marais. Some involve a car ride but others you can get to with just two wheels of the bicycle kind.  Josh and his friend Ben enjoy fishing and I don’t think it matters to them whether or not they catch a fish. Half of the time I question whether or not there are even fish where they are attempting to catch fish.

The other day found the three of us in Grand Marais. They wanted to go fishing, I wanted to go biking so we compromised on biking to a fishing spot. With backpacks on we pedaled East out of town towards the Canadian Border. Josh looked a bit like an insect due to the two fishing poles sticking out of his backpack that closely resembled antennae.

We made our way to Kadunce Wayside which is about 10 miles from Grand Marais. While they attempted to catch fish I took a hike to County Road 14 and back which was almost perfect timing because they were ready to leave when I got back. We biked most of the way back to Grand Marais before stopping for a dip in Durfee Creek to cool off.  Climbing the rocks, soaking our feet and cooling off beneath the warm sunshine made it one of those days to remember.

Whenever we can get away from computers, X boxes, cell phones and other electronics I consider it a great day. A great day it was indeed.

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Posted in fishing

Happy 4th of July!

I hope you aren’t reading this blog on the 4th of July. I would prefer you were outside enjoying your family and friends on this special day.  May you all have a wonderful 4th of July!

Posted in News

Playing in Puddles

This time of the year a person can spot many different species of butterflies flying around on the Gunflint Trail. You can also spot them on the ground where there are mud puddles but according to this website it is primarily the males who puddle.   The butterflies like the salt and minerals found in the puddles and the nutrients are incorporated into their sperm.

I recently noticed butterflies puddling on a dead animal and I guess they like blood, tears and urine! Andre Coatzer(a butterfly expert) suggests trying this experiment, I’ll leave that up to you to decide if you want to do it. I’ll just settle for seeing them wherever they are in nature.

A slightly strange experiment can be performed to test the ‘salt theory’ (it’s best performed when no one else is around). Firstly, find a sandy bank or a muddy patch situated in direct sunlight where there are plenty of butterflies. Next, pour a salt mixture over a wet, but butterfly-free, patch (in the less civilised version of this experiment you can replace salt with urine – butterflies are attracted to the sodium and ammonium ions). You can return to the spot later, when it is still warm outside, but before the moisture in the area has evaporated, and, if all goes well, you can photograph or observe the butterflies on your newly created “mud-puddling” spot.

Although this experiment can be very effective, it’s sometimes necessary to place a dummy butterfly on the patch as well to coax others in the area to join in. This dummy can be anything from a roadkill butterfly found stuck to the grill of your car, to a fake paper specimen. Keep in mind that all butterflies do not go to mud, so your best bet is something that is either white, resembling a butterfly from the family Pieridae, or black like the underside of a swallowtail butterfly from the Papilionidae family.

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Posted in wildlife

Fan Non-Fiction

Most of you have heard of Fan Fiction when ordinary people write their own story or plot using characters from an already published book.  My daughter used to read a ton of it when it involved her favorite books.  What I am referring to is not Fan Fiction but Fan Non-Fiction.

Fan non-fiction is true information about fans(the kind that have blades and spin).  It’s a big pet peeve of mine when people leave fans on when they aren’t even in the room. I have always thought it was a big waste of electricity and it turns out I was right!

July 1, 2015

When a fan spins and nobody is there, is it cooling?
Fans cool people. Fans don’t significantly cool rooms, furniture, or walls.

Moving air cools us by removing our body heat from our skin (think wind chill). This process is enhanced through the evaporation of sweat from our skin.

There are only two times that fans can actually cool a room:

Removing excess heat and moisture through bathroom or kitchen fans.
Moving cooler air into a room, either through an air conditioning system or by moving cooler outside air into the house.
The bottom line: A turning fan in an unoccupied space is doing one thing—using electricity.

Fans are effective home cooling devices for rooms—when occupied. Just as with wind chill in the winter, moving air will quickly reduce our skin temperature, especially when evaporating perspiration. Even homes that use air conditioning can benefit from the use of fans. Cooling our bodies with a fan means we can turn up the temperature on our air conditioner, and save energy overall.

For instance, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees with no reduction in comfort, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). During moderately hot weather, ceiling fans may allow you to avoid using your air conditioner altogether. When shopping for ceiling fans, look for the ENERGY STAR® label. This designation means the fans will move air 20 percent more efficiently, on average, than standard models.

During Minnesota’s winter months, fans will not reduce your heating costs, because the movement of air currents will cool our bodies slightly. This cooling effect may prompt residents to unnecessarily raise their thermostat and overheat their homes.

For more information on fans, visit the Minnesota Department of Commerce Home Energy Guide and the DOE’s “Fans for Cooling” webpage.

Minnesota Energy Tips is provided twice a month by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. Contact the division’s Energy Information Center at or 800-657-3710 with energy questions.


Posted in environment

Big Bad Wolf, Goldilocks or Black Bear?

I have a strange feeling we are living in a warped Fairy Tale. We don’t have any pigs living in our house but we do sometimes have oatmeal(porridge) for breakfast and we definitely have bears.

Once upon a time there was a big, black bear. It was early in the summer, there were no ripe berries to eat and he was very, very hungry. He was tired of clawing at tree stumps and looking for ants and bugs to eat. His hunger never seemed to subside and tearing and digging was too much work for the reward.

What this bear really looked forward to was a big, easy meal.  When he drifted off to sleep at night he could hear the grumbling of his tummy. When he saw his reflection in the lake he didn’t like how skinny he was getting. He was cranky, tired and hungry. He was so hungry all he dreamed about was finding a dumpster unlocked or food left in a garbage can at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters.

As he ambled from one cabin to another checking for garbage he started to formulate a plan in his head. Persistence had to pay off eventually.  He recalled the last time he hit pay dirt at Voyageur and he regretted making such a big mess the last time he was there because now the two-leggeds were being very careful with his next meal. The dumpster was locked, the trucks were food free and the yippee four-legged seemed to smell him from a mile away.

He knew he shouldn’t have thrown a fit when there was no garbage in the containers but he couldn’t help himself from knocking over the wooden bin and making a mess of the few glass bottles in one of the containers.  He had a feeling he had gone too far but he just kept checking and waiting for an opportunity.

The moon kept getting bigger and still there were no berries that were good enough to satisfy his palette.

“Well,” thought the bear. “I can’t wait around for any garbage to be left out, I need to take matters into my own paws.”

He could smell the banana bread before he even got onto the deck. He crept along the deck as quietly as possible and thought to himself, “I wonder where that pesky four-legged is tonight, why isn’t he yipping? Is this some sort of a trap?”

When he saw the banana bread through the window of the lodge unit he just knew he had to have it. Luck was finally on his side as someone left the window open so wide he knew he would be able to slide through it and into the kitchen before anyone would be the wiser.  He carefully pulled the screen out without even ripping it, thinking to himself, “This is so easy!”

Then he hoisted himself up and into the window and dropped into the kitchen with the softest paws he had. What he saw made his mouth water. Spread out on the table in front of him was a smorgasbord complete with banana bread, chocolate chips and his favorite blueberry muffins.

Then his worst nightmare happened, the room filled with lights and a horrendous high-pitched noise of three girls screaming pierced the quiet night. He swore to himself, cursed the two-leggeds and considered his options. Three two-leggeds were on the spiral stairs stomping like mad and then another two-legged popped her head out of  the bedroom door and startled him. He really didn’t want to leave but those two-leggeds just would not shut up. He grabbed the loaf of banana bread and left the comfort of the lodge unit to finish it outside where it was a little more quiet.

Feeling satisfied with himself, congratulating himself on being persistent he took a large dump next to the wrappings of the banana bread and went away for a good night’s sleep on a full stomach.

And the four two-leggeds didn’t get a wink of sleep the rest of the night…

To be continued…

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Posted in wildlife

Trip to Ely, Minnesota

Yesterday I took a trip to Ely, Minnesota but unfortunately it was in a vehicle instead of a canoe. It’s a bit faster than paddling but not half as enjoyable. If a road stretched from the end of the Gunflint Trail over to the Moose Lake area then a drive would be pretty fast but such a road does not exist. From the Gunflint Trail a person has to drive back to Grand Marais, then almost all of the way down to Silver Bay and then take Highway 1 over to Ely, Minnesota. It’s a minimum of 3 hours if you’re at cruising altitude without any traffic on the road.

The purpose of the drive was to watch baseball. I’ve been to Ely during most seasons of the year and summer is not my favorite. For a moment yesterday I thought it was the 4th of July because the string of vehicles I had to wait for to get back onto the main road was so long. The Dairy Queen was beyond busy and I felt like I was playing the video game Frogger as I attempted to avoid pedestrians entering the roadway.

A hundred years ago when Mike and I were looking at buying a canoe outfitting business we were very close to purchasing one on White Iron Lake outside of Ely.  We were let down when that deal didn’t happen but it was probably one of those things that happens for a reason and I’m glad it did.  Even though Ely is on the edge of the wilderness just like us and we’re not very far away from each other it’s a different world over there.  Ely is known as the canoe capitol and I’m glad they have that title, I don’t think I want the Gunflint Trail to be that busy.

Ely has some great things and great people living there too. The International Wolf Center, the Bear Center and some nice shops but the next time I visit I hope it is by way of the paddle.


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Posted in BWCA

Chik-Wauk Celebrates 5 Years

It’s hard to believe Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center has been open for 5 years already. It seems like yesterday I was visiting with Ralph and Bea but I guess it’s been a few years.

One visit to their place will most likely hold a permanent space in my memory. It was July 4th, 1999, the year of the big blowdown. I was concerned about them after the storm cleared so I drove over to check on them. Trees blocked their driveway so I parked at the end of the road and walked in.  I knocked on their door and no one came so I knocked a little harder and yelled out.  I was beginning to panic when Bea came to the door looking a little sleepy.  I asked her if everything was ok and she said, “Yes, why?” I told her about the big windstorm and she said she and Ralph had been napping and didn’t even know there had been a storm. I was glad they were fine and said we’d have someone come clear their road with the chainsaw in awhile in case they needed to get out.  Now both Ralph and Bea are gone but Chik-Wauk remains.

To celebrate the anniversary the Gunflint Trail Historical Society is having a dinner fundraiser catered by Valentini’s Restaurant in Duluth. It will be held at the Seagull Lake Community Center on July 5th and tickets can be purchased online. If you can’t make the dinner but still want to support the museum and the expansion you can do that online too. 

Happy Anniversary Chik-Wauk!


Ralph and Bea Griffis in 1976

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Posted in Chik-Wauk

Office with a View

I’m not sure which is more of a constant companion, my laptop computer or Rugby my dog. My laptop sits on a table on the deck outside while Rugby lies beneath the table. Rugby sleeps at the foot of my bed while my laptop rests next to it. The laptop accompanies me on the treadmill courtesy of my treadmill desk and Rugby sits on the floor nearby. Yesterday Rugby accompanied me in my portable office so I guess he wins.

I decided to drive the towboat yesterday because a group of my friends were heading out on a Boundary Waters trip. Rugby decided to come along for the ride while the laptop stayed at home.  As I was boating across Saganaga I couldn’t help but take in my surroundings. The water was like glass it was so calm. The sky was a beautiful blue and the pine studded islands seemed to float somewhere between the water and the sky. Loons swam nearby, eagles sat perched majestically in trees and seagulls could be seen on distant rocks. Joy filled me when I thought to myself, “This is my office.”

How lucky could a person be? To live in a place as beautiful as I do and be able to enjoy the incredible scenery and serenity on a daily basis means I’m pretty lucky. I watched as dragonflies flittered above the water’s surface and wondered how many people have experienced this just one day of their life?

Our goal at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters is to help introduce as many people as we can to this amazing place at the end of the Gunflint Trail.  It’s magical and we want others to experience it. Come check out my office with a view and say, “Hello to Rugby and my laptop too.”

Boundary Waters Saganaga

Rugby enjoying the view

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Posted in BWCA

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