Boundary Waters Blog

Enjoy the Perseids in the Boundary Waters

A place with no light pollution is the perfect place to watch a meteor shower. The Boundary Waters, Quetico Park or the Gunflint Trail are a few options for this year’s Perseids which will be extra special because of the almost moonless nights.

Start watching for Perseids now

Peak mornings – August 11, 12 and 13 – are moon-free. With only a slim waning moon up before dawn this week, start watching in a dark sky now.

No matter where you live worldwide, the 2018 Perseid meteor shower will probably produce the greatest number of meteors on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13. In a dark, moonless sky, this annual shower often produces some 50 meteors per hour … often many more. And this year, in 2018, there’ll be no moonlight to ruin the show.

It’ll be an awesome year to watch the Perseids!

In the Northern Hemisphere, we rank the August Perseids as an all-time favorite meteor shower of every year. For us, this major shower takes place during the lazy, hazy days of summer, when many families are on vacation. And what could be more luxurious than taking a siesta in the heat of the day and watching this summertime classic in the relative coolness of night?

People tend to focus on the peak mornings of the shower and that’s entirely appropriate. But meteors in annual showers – which come from streams of debris left behind in space by comets – typically last weeks, not days. Perseid meteors have been streaking across our skies since around July 17. We’ll see Perseids for 10 days or so after the peak mornings on August 11, 12 and 13. What’s more, the Perseids tend to build up gradually, yet fall off rapidly. So it’s possible to catch Perseid meteors now.

When and how should I watch the Perseid meteor shower in 2018? The best time to watch most meteor showers is between midnight and dawn, and the Perseids are no exception. The best mornings are probably August 11, 12 and 13. The best skies are those far from city lights.

At this writing (August 7, 2018), the moon is a waning crescent up before dawn, in the peak Perseid hours. It might interfere some with your view of any early Perseids that happen to be flying, but it won’t interfere much, and might even enhance your enjoyment of the early morning sky. Plus a crescent moon is easy to blot out by sitting in the shadow of a tree or building. And, as the days leading up to new moon pass, the moon will be rising closer and closer to the time of sunrise. New moon will be August 11.

So don’t think you have to wait until the peak mornings to see any meteors. If you have a dark sky, start watching now!

Also remember, the the Delta Aquariid meteor shower is still rambling along steadily. You’ll see mostly Perseids but also a few Delta Aquariids in the mix.

No matter how many meteors you see, you might see something, and it might be a lot of fun.

Composite of 12 images acquired on August 13, 2017, by Felix Zai in Toronto. He wrote: “Perseid meteor shower gave a good show even though the moonlight drowned out most of the fainter ones. A huge fireball was captured in this photo.” Thanks, Felix! By the way, it’s only in a meteor “storm” that you’d see this many meteors at once. Even in a rich shower, you typically see only 1 or 2 meteors at a time. Click for more 2017 Perseids.

Don’t rule out early evenings, either. In a typical year, although the meteor numbers increase after midnight, the Perseid meteors still start to fly at mid-to-late evening from northerly latitudes. South of the equator, the Perseids start to streak the sky around midnight. If fortune smiles upon you, the evening hours might offer you an earthgrazer – a looooong, slow, colorful meteor traveling horizontally across the evening sky. Earthgrazer meteors are rare but memorable. Perseid earthgrazers appear before midnight, when the radiant point of the shower is close to the horizon.

The constellation Perseus, radiant of the Perseid meteor shower

From mid-northern latitudes, the constellation Perseus, the stars Capella and Aldebaran, and the Pleiades cluster light up the northeast sky in the wee hours after midnight on August nights. The meteors radiate from Perseus.

Cassiopeia and Double Cluster

Here’s a cool binocular object to look for while you’re watching the meteors. The constellation Cassiopeia points out the famous Double Cluster in northern tip of the constellation Perseus. Plus, the Double Cluster nearly marks the radiant of the Perseid meteor shower. Photo by Flickr user madmiked.

General rules for Perseid-watching. No special equipment, or knowledge of the constellations, needed.

Find a dark, open sky to enjoy the show. An open sky is essential because these meteors fly across the sky in many different directions and in front of numerous constellations.

Give yourself at least an hour of observing time, for the meteors in meteor showers come in spurts and are interspersed with lulls. Remember, your eyes can take as long as 20 minutes to adapt to the darkness of night. So don’t rush the process.

Know that the meteors all come from a single point in the sky. If you trace the paths of the Perseid meteors backwards, you’d find they all come from a point in front of the constellation Perseus. Don’t worry about which stars are Perseus. Just enjoying knowing and observing that they all come from one place on the sky’s dome.

Enjoy the comfort of a reclining lawn chair. Bring along some other things you might enjoy also, like a thermos filled with a hot drink.

Remember … all good things come to those who wait. Meteors are part of nature. There’s no way to predict exactly how many you’ll see on any given night. Find a good spot, watch, wait.

You’ll see some.

Earth encounters debris from comet, via AstroBob

Earth encounters debris from comet, via Astro Bob.

What’s the source of the Perseid meteor shower? Every year, from around July 17 to August 24, our planet Earth crosses the orbital path of Comet Swift-Tuttle, the parent of the Perseid meteor shower. Debris from this comet litters the comet’s orbit, but we don’t really get into the thick of the comet rubble until after the first week of August. The bits and pieces from Comet Swift-Tuttle slam into the Earth’s upper atmosphere at some 130,000 miles (210,000 km) per hour, lighting up the nighttime with fast-moving Perseid meteors.

If our planet happens to pass through an unusually dense clump of meteoroids – comet rubble – we’ll see an elevated number of meteors. We can always hope!

Comet Swift-Tuttle has a very eccentric – oblong – orbit that takes this comet outside the orbit of Pluto when farthest from the sun, and inside the Earth’s orbit when closest to the sun. It orbits the sun in a period of about 133 years. Every time this comet passes through the inner solar system, the sun warms and softens up the ices in the comet, causing it to release fresh comet material into its orbital stream.

Comet Swift-Tuttle last reached perihelion – closest point to the sun – in December 1992 and will do so next in July 2126.

The radiant point for the Perseid meteor shower is in the constellation Perseus.  But you don't have to find a shower's radiant point to see meteors.  Instead, the meteors will be flying in all parts of the sky.

The radiant point for the Perseid meteor shower is in the constellation Perseus. But you don’t have to find a shower’s radiant point to see meteors. Instead, the meteors will be flying in all parts of the sky.

What is the radiant point for the Perseid meteor shower? If you trace all the Perseid meteors backward, they all seem to come from the constellation Perseus, near the famous Double Cluster. Hence, the meteor shower is named in the honor of the constellation Perseus the Hero.

However, this is a chance alignment of the meteor shower radiant with the constellation Perseus. The stars in Perseus are light-years distant while these meteors burn up about 100 kilometers (60 miles) above the Earth’s surface. If any meteor survives its fiery plunge to hit the ground intact, the remaining portion is called a meteorite. Few – if any – meteors in meteor showers become meteorites, however, because of the flimsy nature of comet debris. Most meteorites are the remains of asteroids.

In ancient Greek star lore, Perseus is the son of the god Zeus and the mortal Danae. It is said that the Perseid shower commemorates the time when Zeus visited Danae, the mother of Perseus, in a shower of gold.

Russ Adams caught these 2 meteors, traveling on parallel paths, on the morning of August 11, 2017. Click for more 2017 Perseids.

Bottom line: The 2018 Perseid meteor shower is expected to produce the most meteors in the predawn hours of August 11, 12, and 13. But with only a slim crescent moon up before dawn now, you can start looking for Perseid meteors now!

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Looking for worms?

I should have become an investigative reporter because I always have so many questions I’d like to know the answers to. For instance, how lost can a person get looking for worms? Or how often is the USFS going to spend funds searching for people who go “missing” from a campsite? I don’t know how long this person was missing or any of the details but it sure would be nice to know…

Washington Man Safely Located after Going Missing in BWCA

Washington Man Safely Located after Going Missing in BWCA Photo: KSTP/Matt Belanger

August 07, 2018 04:13 PM

A Washington man was safely located after he was reported missing from a campground in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office identified the man as Daniel Teeter.

The sheriff’s office said it received a report of a missing camper near Crooked Lake early Tuesday morning.

RELATED: Crews Search for Missing Canoeists in BWCA

According to his group, Teeter said he was going to look for worms to use as fishing bait.

The U.S. Forest Service was able to successfully locate Teeter using an airplane.

Authorities said he was uninjured.

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Small Fire in the Boundary Waters

A small fire was detected on Ogishkemuncie Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area on July 30th.

Boundary Waters fire

Ogishkemuncie Lake Fire

At approximately 5:15 p.m. on July 31 the U.S. Forest Service sent the following update on the wildfire. 

On July 30, a lighting caused wildfire was detected on the south/southwest side of  Ogishkemuncie Lake. The fire is located between Ogishkemuncie and Mueller lakes on a portage trail. This is southwest of Seagull and Jasper Lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in Lake County. The fire is about one acre in size.

The fire is creeping and smoldering in a mix of conifer and hardwood trees.  A crew of four firefighters paddled into the area and are receiving equipment to help with suppression efforts and the potential of growth. An additional crew of six has been ordered from Ely and will arrive via Beaver Float plane to assist with suppression activities.

There is an approaching weather system with expected showers and thunderstorms this evening and overnight. The increase in moisture will assist with suppression efforts. Fire growth would be slowed if it reaches the area that was burned during the 2006 Cavity lake fire which is 1.5 miles to the east of the Ogish fire.

This area is a travel route in the BWCAW, please be mindful of fire crews. You may also encounter aircraft in the area. Firefighter and public safety are the most important priorities in all wildfire response. Due to the remote setting of this fire, the suppression efforts will be undertaken deliberately with life safety in mind.

One helicopter and one beaver plane are available to assist.

A fire burning near Ogishkemuncie Lake. Photo courtesy of US Forest Service

There are no closures at this time.

The fire is located approximately 4.5 miles southwest of Sea Gull Lake in the BWCAW.

Size Up
Currently, the fire is 2 acres in size and is smoldering – no active flame, but it is hot (images are from this morning).  The decision that was made was to get out ahead of it to not allow it to stand up and go.

Resources and Plan
There is a 4 person fire crew currently on the scene awaiting a sling load of equipment to put water on it.  It has moderate growth potential, so we want to get out ahead of it particularly due to the approaching cold front where winds could increase and become sporadic.  An additional crew of six (6) has been ordered from Ely and will arrive via Beaver in the next hour or so to assist with light suppression activities.

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Dark Sky on the Gunflint Trail

Looking for a place to go stargazing or get a good view of Mars? The dark sky on the Gunflint Trail or in the BWCA is the perfect place. We won’t be able to see the lunar eclipse but we will be able to see the full moon and possibly some of the Delta Aquariids meteor shower.

LUNAR ECLIPSE AND MARTIAN CONJUNCTION: Friday, July 27th, is a big night for astronomy. Mars will be at opposition, making a 15-year close approach to Earth. The full Moon and Mars will be in conjunction. And, best of all, the Moon will pass through the shadow of Earth, producing the longest lunar eclipse in a century. Visit today’s edition of Spaceweather.com for sky maps, animations, and observing tips.

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Biggest Blueberry on the Gunflint Trail

Come on up to Voyageur Canoe Outfitters and pick some blueberries!

Cook County, Minn. – Travel– Businesses along the Gunflint Trail (also known as County Road 12) in Cook County, Minn. are hosting the second annual Biggest Blueberry Contest, which started on Friday, July 20. Blueberries will be measured by weight, and must be picked fresh and not store bought.

There will weigh stations at Bearskin Lodge, Golden Eagle Lodge, Hungry Jack Outfitters, Rockwood Lodge, Tuscarora Lodge, Gunflint Lodge and Chik-Wauk Museum & Nature Center, Way of the Wilderness, Poplar Creek Guesthouse, Gunflint Pines Resort, Seagull Outfitters, Poplar Haus, Nor’Wester Lodge, Trout Lake, Voyageur Canoe Outfitters, all of which are along the Gunflint Trail.

Berry pickers will be able to submit their biggest blueberry at these locations. In addition to three grand prizes for the biggest blueberry, all submissions will be entered to win random drawings for custom biggest blueberry PopSockets throughout the contest.

Blueberries in the Gunflint Trail area are already ripening and tend to peak around late July or early August. Wild blueberries are easy to identify, looking much like the grocery store variety, only smaller. The plants are woody shrubs, usually less than two feet tall and resemble miniature trees. They grow best in dry, well-drained, rocky soil with good sun and are often found in recent burn areas. For more information on berry picking and the biggest blueberry contest, go to https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/biggest-blueberry-contest-gunflint-trail/.

The Gunflint Trail

Beginning in the center of the town of Grand Marais, County Road 12 (also known as the Gunflint Trail) is a 55-mile paved road that adjoins U.S. Highway 61. County Road 12’s route goes through the Superior National Forest to Saganaga Lake near the Canadian border. According to Explore Minnesota, there are no towns along the route, but side roads lead to resorts, campgrounds, canoe outfitters, and boat ramps. Many nearby lakes are within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which is primarily accessible by non-motorized boats. There is great fishing along the Gunflint Trail, and miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails. Wildlife abounds, so there’s a chance of spotting deer, moose or bear, seeing a wide variety of birds, or hearing the howls of wolves.

About Visit Cook County

Visit Cook County encompasses the northeastern Minnesota communities of Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and Grand Portage, commonly referred to as “the Arrowhead” and the “North Shore of Lake Superior”.  Grand Marais, Minn., has earned several national accolades — most recently it was named USA Today’s Best Midwestern Small Town, Outside Magazine’s The 16 Best Places to Live in the U.S. 2016, and Budget Travel’s 2015 Coolest Small Town in America. Rekindle your sense of adventure by exploring the Superior National Forest or paddling through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Discover what makes the communities of Cook County, Minn. “Naturally Unforgettable.” Connect on social media using #visitcc, Twitter @CookCoVisitorsFacebook, or Instagram @donorthmn. Learn more at www.visitcookcounty.com.

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Posted in Gunflint Trail

Blueberry picking time on the Gunflint Trail

You learn something every day so they say. Today I learned where the phrase, “Jumped the gun” came from. According to the world wide web, “This idiom refers to an athlete in a race who starts running before the starter has fired the gun.” In my opinion a few anxious blueberry pickers have jumped the gun but does it matter? Of course not.

There are some ripe blueberries on the Gunflint Trail ready to be picked. Does this mean I have been out picking? Nope. Not yet. When you live on the Gunflint Trail you tend to wait until the picking is a little better, just like I usually don’t start a canoe trip in the rain. When you are only on the Gunflint Trail for a day or a week then you must take advantage of the opportunity.

Just remember, other people are waiting(patiently or impatiently) to pick blueberries so be careful not to stomp on the bushes or strip them of all of the green ones waiting to ripen.

 

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Posted in Gunflint Trail

Keeping Clean in the Boundary Waters

What I love about paddling and camping in the Boundary Waters is the ability to keep somewhat clean. The lakes provide all of the water you need to bathe unlike some hiking trips that never pass by a good water source.  Does that mean you can lather up with biodegradable soap and jump in the lake to rinse off? Not at all.

Biodegradable soap is only biodegradable in soil and not in water.  Soaps are usually deemed biodegradable if bacteria can break them down to at least 90-percent water, CO2, and organic material within six months.   Soap still contaminates and contains chemicals that are not natural to the environment and it will take time for soil to break it down. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t want to drink it then don’t put it in the water. Bug spray, sunscreen, lotion and soap should be washed off on shore a minimum of 200 feet from the water source.

How clean do you need to be when camping in the BWCA? I never bring shampoo or conditioner on my Boundary Waters trips and I use soap very sparingly. The exception to this rule is after using the latrine I use anti-bacterial hand soap. I try to use the least amount of bug spray and sunscreen so this means wearing clothes that cover my body to protect me from the sun and spraying bug spray on the clothing and not on my body.

Some people love to use wet wipes and while they are convenient they cause excess waste and need to be packed out of the wilderness.  Some people throw them into the latrine but I feel it’s putting too much extra paper into the latrine. I don’t think wet wipes biodegrade as quickly as single ply toilet paper, but I could be wrong.

If you care about being clean then bring along a washcloth, camp towel and/or bandanna. Scrubbing yourself with a wet washcloth can do wonders to get you clean. You can boil water to use and even put warm water into a camp shower if you want to feel like you’re really getting clean. Soap is really not needed in order to get clean especially if you use a hand sanitizer after using the toilet.

I don’t get uptight about keeping clean while in the Boundary Waters. There is dirt, mud, pine needles, sap and more just waiting to stick to you and it’s really not a big deal if it does. It’s more important to me the water in the wilderness stays clean, I can clean up when I get back to civilization.

A few helpful things to remember…

  • Only use biodegradable soap when absolutely necessary and a minimum of 200 feet from the water
  • Keep all soaps, lotions, sunscreens & bug spray 200 feet from the water
  • Just like rinsing off before jumping into a pool, rinse your body off 200 feet from the water prior to getting into the lake. This will remove soaps, lotions, sunscreen & bug spray.
  • Use a washcloth to scrub dirt off of you.
  • Embrace the dirt, it won’t hurt you.
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How to poop in the woods or the Quetico Park

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has fancy latrines at every campsite. This makes pooping in the woods very easy. The Quetico Park and many other wilderness areas do not have latrines. Some places make you pack your poop and paper out of the woods and although it doesn’t sound like much fun I’ve heard it isn’t that bad. In the Quetico Provincial Park you don’t have to pack your poop out but you should do a great job at disposing of it.

Campsites in the Quetico Park do not have latrines and some of the campsites are used frequently. At some campsites you’ll come across toilet paper and other people’s shit which is not a pleasant experience. In order to make everyone’s wilderness experience more pleasurable and leave no trace, extra care and thought should be given to the important topic of how to go poop in the woods.

While most guide books recommend going at least 100 or 200 feet away from a water source to do your deed there is no rule against going even farther away. If you’re worried about getting lost then make a trail with ribbons in the trees and just be sure to remove them before you leave. When there’s more than one person camping it’s nice to dig a latrine that everyone can use. I know, it sounds gross but it isn’t, read on.

The perfect location for a latrine is well away from water, camp and/or any trails. Ideally this is a private and protected spot that receives ample sunshine which will speed up decomposition. Find a high place where water would not normally run(in the event of rain) and an area with deep soil or forest material so you can easily dig a hole and cover the hole back up.

The Quetico Park is rocky country so you may not be able to dig a very deep hole. Six inches is suggested by most “experts” but again, you can always did deeper.  Use a small shovel to dig a 4-6 inch wide trench about 12 inches or longer depending upon the number of people in your group and how many nights you are staying.  Everyone in the group will use the latrine and after placing their deposit will carefully cover it up using a trowel. Before vacating your campsite be sure to fill in the entire latrine whether or not it was used.

There are different views about packing out toilet paper but I have never done it. What I suggest is to use as little paper as possible and then use a stick to stir the paper in with the poop, a little bit of dirt and some leaves to aid in decomposition and prevent animals or nature from exposing long ribbons of dirty toilet paper.  Once finished place the stick in the hole and cover the hole completely. Do your best to keep your trowel poop free.

When we’re camping we place the toilet bag in the middle of the path to the latrine. It contains toilet paper(in a ziplock bag), a trowel(in a separate bag) and hand sanitizer for use after. That way we know if the bag is gone someone is using the latrine and we won’t interrupt them in the middle of their duty.

Hopefully these tips will help you and other campers leave no trace while pooping in the Quetico Park or woods somewhere else.

 

 

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Grouse attack on the Gunflint Trail

Have you ever been threatened by a grouse? They are small but fierce creatures who are very protective of their young. I have never been attacked by a grouse but I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t kept on my merry way I most certainly would have been.

On Tuesday I went for a walk and in the distance I saw a grouse standing in the middle of the road. This is actually quite common as they like to sun themselves on trails and roads.  As I approached the grouse she fluffed her feathers up and began to walk around in circles dragging one wing on the ground. If I hadn’t just seen her standing upright and completely unharmed I would have thought she had been hit by a car. Her theatrics continued with dust from the road billowing up behind her until I got closer. Then she changed her helpless routine to one of dominance and aggression.  With feathers fluffed and chest held high she approached me hissing. I told her I wasn’t going to harm her or her chicks but she wouldn’t back down. I sidestepped her and continued on my way. She pursued me until she was sure I was not coming back and then she quickly waddled into the ditch where I’m sure her brood was waiting patiently for her return.

Image result for grouse with chicks

On Wednesday I went on another walk and encountered another grouse in a totally different place. This time I saw the mom and a few of her chicks on the road and I knew that I was in for another grouse attack. Her fake broken wing act was not as convincing as the grouse from the day before but a newbie to grouse tactics may have fell for it. I continued walking and sure enough her wing heeled miraculously and she hotly pursued me hissing loudly with feathers fluffed. I didn’t change direction and for a second I thought maybe she will actually take flight and peck my eyeballs out. But as soon as she felt I was far enough away she turned back to her chicks and huddled them together leading them down into the ditch.

Grouse mommas are quite similar to human mommas. They care deeply about their young and will protect them at any cost. Hopefully my acting is better than a grouse.

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Posted in Gunflint Trail

Muddy portage paths in the Boundary Waters

Boundary Waters portage path

BWCA portage

The Leave No Trace principle of not hiking on a muddy trail doesn’t work well if you’re on a portage in the Boundary Waters or on a thru-hike on some extensive hiking trail. In the BWCA you will encounter wet portages and there usually isn’t an option to turn around unless you want to alter your route. What should you do when you encounter mud on a trail?

If you’re in the BWCA you have hopefully already given yourself permission to get your feet wet so a little bit of mud shouldn’t be a big deal. When you encounter a portage with mud on it then proceed with caution down the middle of the trail. Do not go around it because you’ll end up damaging plants and making the trail wider and more prone to erosion. You don’t want to create new trails that could possibly confuse other trekkers either. If there’s a down tree in the way then consider taking the time to move it or use your saw to cut it up if you can. If you can’t move the tree or cut it up then when you’re back in civilization let the USFS know about it. They may have crews in the area that can take care of it.

portaging the BWCA

Boundary Waters portage

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