Northern Lights in the Boundary Waters

Things are wonderful at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters and the end of the Gunflint Trail. We’ve got guests paddling the BWCA, fishing on Saganaga and enjoying area hiking trails and we have a wonderful summer crew to serve them.  They have all been out enjoying the Boundary Waters on their days off and on a recent trip Evan, back for his third year, took some amazing photos of the northern lights. Enjoying the northern lights in the Boundary Waters? It just doesn’t get much better than that.

BWCA Northern Lights

Evan Gates

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Swimming in Lake Superior

Abby went for a dip in Lake Superior already this year. A little chilly but not as chilly as it usually is this time of the year or compared to last year.  There aren’t too many days of the year I feel like jumping into Lake Superior and Sunday, May 17th when she jumped in definitely wasn’t one of those days.

Lake Superior Water Temperatures

Lake Superior Water temperatures

 

On May 17, 2015 Lake Superior had an average surface water temperature of 37.7 degrees. This is 2.5 degrees warmer than May 17, 2014 and 0.8 degrees warmer than the 20-year average.

 

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Memorial Weekend Forecast

I hope you are planning to visit the Gunflint Trail this weekend and of course us at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters too.  The forecast looks like the best weather ever for Memorial Weekend.  With sunshine, highs in the 70′s, very small chance of precipitation and just a breeze for wind the conditions for paddling are going to be perfect.

Some of our Voyageur Crew is out taking advantage of the beautiful weather already.  Hannah took a new crew member into the BWCA today and tomorrow Tony will venture out on a trip too.  It’s such a great time to be out in the woods. Very few people, not many bugs and plenty of fish to be caught! It just doesn’t get much better than this.

Boundary Waters

Gunflint Trail

 

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Snow Day in May?

We received just a dusting of the white stuff on May 19th at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters.  It disappeared quickly as the temperature made it’s way into the 50′s.  Most people camping in the Boundary Waters would rather not wake up to snow on their tent in the morning but as long as it warms up in the afternoon I’d rather have snow than rain on my canoe trip.

BWCA canoe trip with snow

Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

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Canoe Trip Plans

When are you paddling the Boundary Waters? I have a couple of trips I’m wanting to take this summer; one with my family and one with my son and his friend.  Of course my son and his friend think they should be able to canoe and camp in the BWCA by themselves since they are 14 years-old now.  The  problem with that is as soon as I let them go out alone then I’ll never be needed or welcome on their trip again.

I obviously can’t let them go out on their own this year, or next and possibly not until they are 21 or older. I need to accompany them for their sake and mine!

Canoe camping in the BWCA

Boundary Waters Canoe Trip

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One Simple Reason I’m Not Catching Fish

I came across an article on the Take Me Fishing Blog called “5 Simple Reasons You’re Not Catching Fish.” There’s just one reason I am not catching fish this year and that’s because I haven’t been out fishing yet.  Sad as it may seem it is the truth.

Yesterday Josh had a triple header for baseball south of Duluth and Abby played in a volleyball tournament in Duluth.  Today is the second day of her two-day tournament and the good news is, it’s the last tournament of the very long season.  She has a play-off game for softball on Tuesday and if they lose that game then they will be done for the season. There are just a couple of weeks left of school and then it’s Trail time again.

Band concerts, dances, team dinners and sports keep us very busy during the school year. I’m not sure who looks forward to summer more, the kids or me? All I do know is Josh and I are both ready to go fishing and we don’t care if we don’t catch any fish!

5 Simple Reasons You Aren’t Catching Fish

Every angler has experienced at least one crummy day of fishing that they would rather just forget. As much as no one wants to admit it, most of us have come home (GASP!) skunked at one time or another. It happens. However, if your landing net actually has cobwebs in it or if you have absolutely no clue what “bass thumb” means, you should probably read on.

Here are five simple reasons you aren’t catching fish:

1.  You tend to stay in one spot even when you aren’t catching fish. There is no magic formula that dictates the precise length of time you should fish one particular spot before moving. However, if you’ve been in the same spot for a half hour to an hour without a single bite, it’s probably time to rethink your location. Take a look around. Are you fishing an area where there is structure? Are you fishing an area with current? Baitfish and other game fish prey will usually be found near structure or in areas with current.

2.  You aren’t monitoring the weather or tide conditions in advance. Weather and tide conditions can play a large part in your level of fishing success or frustration. Anglers often avoid fishing on “blue bird sky” weather days because these clear days usually follow a cold front and the fishing can be very challenging. Conversely, fish will often feed aggressively right before a drop in pressure or arriving front. When fishing saltwater (or freshwater tidal areas), it’s important that you check your local tide charts and plan to fish during times of a strong incoming or outgoing tide if possible.

3.  You over-think your fishing strategies. Any angler who has fished a competitive tournament has likely experienced the frustration of over-thinking his or her fishing strategy. If you start second-guessing yourself when it comes to tactics that have consistently worked well for you, you can end up spending your entire day switching baits, lures, tackle or spots without giving anything enough of a chance to work. There has to be a proper balance between this reason and reason number one above.

4.  You are either not using the right lures or fishing your lures too fast. Just because you caught a nice fish on a specific lure five years ago, doesn’t mean that you will keep catching fish on the same lure regardless of the conditions. Test different lures under a variety of conditions. When it comes to the speed of your retrieve, remember that during the summer months certain species (such as trout, smallmouth bass or largemouth bass) can become somewhat lazy as the water temperatures increase. This means that you will need to slow down your retrieve in order to make your lure an easier target.

5.  You aren’t tying strong enough knots or the right kinds of knots. If you are hooking up, but are losing fish before you can land them, it could be that the quality of your knots is to blame. Are your hooks, lures or leader lines coming off? Do you know how to tie a couple of good fishing lure, hook or rig knots? How about a couple of strong line-joining knots? Research and practice tying reliable knots so that you come home with a photo of your catch instead of telling a story about the big one that got away (and took your $10 lure along with it).

What other reasons have had you skunked instead of catching? Share your comments by logging into the Take Me Fishing Community.

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Go Canoeing

This article about getting kids to spend more time in the great outdoors saved the best for the last. They listed a bunch of different activities you can do with your kids and guess what the last suggestion was? Yep, go canoeing!  I’ll add to it by saying, “Go canoeing with Voyageur Canoe Outfitters!”

 

Great ways to get your kids outdoors and active

Get them off the screens and get them outside

By

Too often these days, children default to sitting in front of screens to interact with the virtual world rather than getting outside and experiencing it for real.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with playing on the computer or video console, but there needs to be a balance.

Sadly, the passive ease with which our children now choose to spend their time seems to have robbed them of the attribute we parents were forced to develop by dint of there being no computer or video games to mindlessly play when we were growing up: imagination!

So there’s now a campaign urging children to take back their ‘wild time’ by swapping 30 minutes of screen use for outdoor activities, such as conkers and camping.

The Wild Network‘s Andy Simpson said: “The tragic truth is that kids have lost touch with nature and the outdoors in just one generation.

“Time spent outdoors is down, roaming ranges have fallen drastically, activity levels are declining and the ability to identify common species has been lost.

“With many more parents becoming concerned about the dominance of screen time in their children’s lives, and growing scientific evidence that a decline in active time is bad news for the health and happiness of our children, we all need to become marketing directors for nature.

“An extra 30 minutes of wild time every day for all under 12-year-olds in the UK would be the equivalent of just three months of their childhood spent outdoors.

“We want parents to see what this magical wonder product does for their kids’ development, independence and creativity, by giving wild time a go.”

David Bond, who made the film Project Wild Thing, added: “I wanted to understand why my children’s childhood is so different from mine, whether this matters and, if it does, what I can do about it.

“The reasons why kids, whether they live in cities or the countryside, have become disconnected from nature and the outdoors are complex.

“Project Wild Thing isn’t some misty-eyed nostalgia for the past. We need to make more space for wild time in children’s daily routine, freeing this generation of kids to have the sort of experiences that many of us took for granted.

“It’s all about finding wildness on your doorstep and discovering the sights, sounds and smells of nature, whether in a back garden, local park or green space at the end of the road.”

Sarah Blackwell, from Get Children Outdoors, said: “I’ve made it my mission to to help children establish and grow in confidence, self-esteem and emotional awareness through activity in the outdoors.”

Sounds like a good idea, yes? So why not start with these nostalgic memories from our own childhoods as featured on the Wild Thing Project and Get Children Outdoors?

• Create some landscape art – draw or write names with twigs, stones or leaves, and then take photographs.

• Dig the garden/allotment together.

• Go collecting – pebbles, shells, pottery, hazelnuts, fungi, kindling for the fire.

• Go on a ‘blindfold walk’ to use sound and touch rather than sight.

• Climb the highest hill near where you live – race to see who can get to the top first.

• Go out in the rain.

• Roll down a really big hill.

• Camp out in the wild.

• Skim a stone.

• Run around in the rain.

• Fly a kite.

• Catch a fish with a net.

• Take a bag to collect wild treasures, and a notebook to write or draw in.

• Take your kids outside with a camera or phone, and see how many different types of wildlife you can find – for identification help go to iSpot.

• Eat an apple straight from a tree.

• Play conkers.

• Go on a really long bike ride.

• Make a trail with sticks.

• Make mud pies.

• Dam a stream.

• Play nature eye spy on the journey to school.

• Make a daisy chain.

• Set up a snail race.

• Create some wild art.

• Play Pooh sticks.

• Jump over waves.

• Pick blackberries growing in the wild.

• Snail watching – count the number of snails that you see on the walk home from school.

• Visit a farm.

• Go on a walk barefoot.

• Make a grass trumpet.

• Hunt for fossils and bones.

• Go star gazing.

• Climb a huge hill.

• Explore inside a tree.

• Explore a cave.

• Hold a scary beast.

• Hunt for bugs.

• Find some frog spawn.

• Catch a falling leaf.

• Track wild animals.

• Discover what’s in a pond.

• Make a home for a wild animal.

• Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool.

• Bring up a butterfly.

• Catch a crab.

• Go on a nature walk at night.

• Plant it, grow it, eat it.

• Go swimming in the sea.

• Build a raft.

• Go bird watching.

• Find your way with a map and compass.

• Climb a rock.

• Cook on a campfire.

• Learn to ride a horse.

• Canoe down a river.

 

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The Eagle Hasn’t Landed

The nesting eaglets are testing their wings but haven’t flown from the nest yet. If you haven’t checked out the eagle cam then I urge you to do so. It is so neat to see them at such a close range. The nest next to Highway 61 is in plain view but you can’t see what is going on inside.  Take a peek, you’ll be glad you did.

May 14, 2015 – EagleCam Update

Up, Up, and Away

As many of you have already noticed, the eaglets have started to “branch.” Branching means they are moving onto branches neighboring the nest. Both are also exercising their wings, jumping and hovering over the nest, and will be soon taking their maiden flight. The camera cannot be zoomed out any further than it is.  In order to have a great close-up view, we had to sacrifice seeing the larger area around the nest.  We will pan the camera around from time to time when we are able, to provide a view of the nest as well as the branch above it.

Food on a string?

Many saw the eagles bring prey into the nest that appeared to be on a string or leash. Rest assured that the eagles did not bring someone’s beloved pet into the nest. Instead we were able to determine that the prey was a fish attached to a stringer. It isn’t likely that the eagles ‘stole’ the fish from an angler though… More likely the eagles found a dead fish that an angler had abandoned or lost accidentally.

EagleCam FAQs:

Q:  Why are the eaglets’ heads and tails not white?

A: The transition from their brown juvenile colors to their adult colors with a white head and tail takes four to five years. Here is some additional information describing this transition: http://www.featheredphotography.com/blog/2013/01/27/a-guide-to-aging-bald-eagles/

Q: How old are the eaglets?

A: The eaglets started to hatch on Feb. 24. This makes the eaglets approximately 11 weeks old as of this update.

Q: When will the eaglets start flying?

A: Eaglets typically make their first flight between roughly 10 to 13 weeks of age (so it could be any day now). They may hang around the nest and their parents for another one to two months.

Important Links:

Watch the MNDNR EagleCam live at: mndnr.gov/eaglecam

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MinnesotaNongameWildlifeProgram

Do not forget to checkout past EagleCam Updates.

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Energy Saving Idea

We have quite a few water heaters at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters and many of them are only used during the summertime. I found some great tips for dealing with water heaters from the Minnesota Department of Commerce. You may only have one water heater but these tips could help you cut down on your energy use and save money too.

May 15, 2015

Water heating tips to save on your utility bill
Water heating is the second largest energy expense in U.S. homes, accounting for about 18 percent of your utility bill. Heating and cooling is first at about 50 percent. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), there are several basic ways to cut your water heating bills: use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, and buy a new, more efficient water heater.

Some common water heating tips from the DOE and Minnesota Department of Commerce include:

  • Install aerating, low-flow faucets and showerheads.
  • Repair leaky faucets promptly; a leaky faucet wastes gallons of water in a short period of time.
  • Use less hot water—take shorter showers, wash only full loads of laundry and dishes, and don’t let hot water run when shaving or washing dishes by hand.
  • Set the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees F to get comfortable hot water for most uses. Set too high, or at 140 degrees, your water heater can waste up to $60 annually in standby heat losses. Temperatures over 120 can increase the risk of scalding.
  • Insulate the first 6 feet of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater.
  • If you are in the market for a new dishwasher or clothes washer, buy an efficient, water-saving ENERGY STAR® model to reduce hot water use.
  • Drain a quart of water from your water tank every 3 months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your heater.
  • If your water heater is 10-12 years old, you will likely need to replace it soon. Buy a new high-efficiency ENERGY STAR water heater. A gas-fired, power-vented model, for example, is vented through a sidewall or vertical roof vent and reduces backdrafting concerns.
  • It is best to research new water heaters before the old one fails. Determine the water heater that best meets your needs and look for the ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels. ENERGY STAR-certified water heaters can use 50 percent less energy than equipment that meets the minimum federal standard. You can find the ENERGY STAR label on water heaters in several categories.

DOE offers guidance on “Selecting a New Water Heater”  and “Water Heating Tips.” For consumer information on water heating, including water heating options and when to replace your water heater, check out the Home Energy Guide (pdf) from the Department of Commerce.

Posted in environment

Ribbit- What the frog says

I often wonder what type of frog is making a particular sound when I’m listening by a pond or marsh on the Gunflint Trail.  When you’re out in the Boundary Waters you can hear a lot of different frogs and birds and it’s fun to be able to identify the sounds.  I have a compact disc somewhere of frog sounds and bird sounds but haven’t listened to them since my kids started complaining to me when I put them in the c.d. player in the car.  While none of the frog sounds I listened to on this website sounded exactly like, “ribbit,” it was fun to listen to them and jog my memory a little. I’m looking forward to going listening again and being able to remember what each frog says. Now if I can just find those cd’s and make the kids listen to them again…

 

Frog Facts – did you know?

  • Frogs absorb water through their skin so they don’t need to drink.
  • Frogs can lay as many as 4,000 eggs in frogspawn.
  • The eyes and nose of a frog are on top of its head so it can breathe and see when most of its body is under the water.
  • Frogs need both water and land to live.
  • A frog can change the color of its skin depending on its surroundings.
  • Frogs have long back legs and webbed feet for jumping and swimming.
  • Certain frogs can jump up to 20 times their own body length in a single leap.
  • Frogs usually eat meat (bugs and worms) and swallow their food whole.
  • The world’s biggest frog is the goliath frog from Cameroon in West Africa. Their body can be one-foot long.
  • The smallest frogs in the world are less than half-an-inch long.
  • The eggs of the marsupial frog are laid in a brood pouch on the mothers back and the young hatch out in a zipper-like fashion from the pouch.
  • In the Seychelles, there is a male frog that carries its young around on its back until they become adults.
  • Research has shown that Ammonium Nitrate (a fertilizer) can cause agonizing death for frogs. This fertilizer is spread on fields in the spring when frogs are migrating. Frogs suffer a massive toxic attack if they come in contact with it.
  • Asian tree frogs build nests in trees over water so when their tadpoles hatch, they drop directly into the water.
  • People who study frogs and toads are called herpetologists. Herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles.
  • Frog bones form a new ring every year when the frog is hibernating, just like trees do. Scientists can count these rings to discover the age of the frog.
  • The wax frog retains moisture in dry weather by producing wax from its skin and coating itself in it.
  • Because frogs come out in the rain, people used to think that they fell to earth in the rain! And in nineteenth century England, people tried catching them to prove it.
  • One type of desert frog can wait as long as seven years for water by surrounding itself in a type of transparent bag that becomes its first meal once the rain comes.
  • Amphibians’ eyes come in all shapes and sizes. Some even have square or heart shaped pupils. But amphibians don’t see color — they only see in black or white.
  • A frog’s skin reflects the same amount of ultraviolet light as its immediate surroundings. This way it can protect itself from predators like snakes.
  • The golden dart frog is the most poisonous frog on earth and the skin of one frog could kill up to 1,000 people.
  • In recent years, a painkiller with 200 times the power of morphine has been found in the skin of a frog.
  • Some frogs can survive in conditions well below freezing. The Grey Tree Frog. for example, can survive even though its heart stops. It does this by making its own antifreeze, which stops its body from freezing completely.
  • The male Darwins Frog takes its mate’s eggs into its mouth as soon as they show signs of life and they stay there until they emerge as fully grown froglets.
  • Frogs cannot live in the sea or any salt water.
  • There are more than 4,000 types of amphibians in the world, but Europe has very few–only 45 species.
  • Many of the most brightly colored tropical frogs are colored in this way to warn predators that they are poisonous.

Facts are from the Irish Peatland Conservation Council and are used with permission.

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  • Three year crew member Evan Gates captured these beautiful northern lights on his first BWCA trip of the season.... t.co/dutKTzKqYU

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