Cold Day on the Gunflint Trail

Tonight the temperature is predicted to drop into the 40′s and today it felt like fall. It was cool and breezy with a high of only 61 degrees. Some people like this weather, I’m not one of those. I prefer the high of 80 degrees we had on Sunday.

The temperature is supposed to get up into the 70′s again this week. I’m looking forward to sunshine and warmth to end the summer. School starts for the kids on Tuesday and the days of summer are dwindling.

The good news? The water temperature is warmer than the air and we can still enjoy swimming and paddling. Come on up before the lakes turn solid.

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Voyageur Crew from Owatonna

I better continue the introductions of our Voyageur Crew 2014 before they depart. We currently have three Voyageur Crew members from Owatonna, Minnesota which is also the hometown of Don Enzenauer who we bought Voyageur from over 20 years ago.

Matt Ritter is a 2nd year Crew Member who just graduated from Lake Superior College this spring. He majored in Automotive Service Technology and has a job in that field beginning mid-September. We’ll be sad to see him go and even sadder knowing he most likely has entered the real world and he won’t be returning to Voyageur next summer. We can’t be sure he won’t be back since what he really wants to be when he grows up is an inspiration to this planet. I think there’s a better chance of doing that at Voyageur then there is working on vehicles, but you never know.

Matt can perform all of the jobs at Voyageur and believe me, we’ve had him do them all. He transports groups via towboat, drives them in vehicles, cleans cabins, cleans gear, works in the store, cooks and does KP but he most enjoys building and fixing things. He’s done quite a few projects this year and they all turned out awesome. We’re going to miss his handy work around here.

You may remember Matt from the blog I wrote about the Ely Challenge. He was the paddling partner of Abigail who paddled to Ely and back in less than 24 hours. He also was a fierce competitor at the annual canoe races; we’ll have to ask him back at least to paddle for that next summer.

His favorite lake in the BWCA is Red Rock Lake and his favorite route includes Ottertrack.  He most wants to paddle the Falls Chain in the Quetico Park. I guess we know he’ll at least return to paddle again.

I guess I’ll have to introduce the other two Owatonna crew members in a different blog since this one got quite long.

Canoeing the BWCA

Paddling the Boundary Waters

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Don’t Get Lost

I read a story about a man getting lost in California while he was on a fishing trip and it reminded me about a couple I encountered the other day. I was out picking blueberries with friends in a very popular location.  We were talking and picking and then we heard someone yell, “HELLO!”.  We yelled back and in response we heard a man say, “Thank God, we were lost.”

We couldn’t see the man and didn’t see him until about twenty to thirty minutes later.  During this time we kept yelling to him so he could use our voices to figure out which way the road was. We were done picking but waited for him and his wife to get out to the road before we left. They emerged from the woods grateful, sweaty and disheveled.  He said he wouldn’t have known what to do if we hadn’t been there.

When they saw our buckets of blueberries they asked in astonishment, “Did you pick those right here by the road?” We answered, “Yes.” and then he said to both us and his wife, “Well, now we’ll know we don’t have to go in so far tomorrow.” To this his wife replied, “I won’t be going blueberry picking tomorrow.”

Thankfully this story had a happy ending.  It’s easy to get turned around in the woods especially since all of the trees and brush are about 10-12 feet tall. It’s very thick in places with tall grass hiding rocks, holes, downed timber and burned stumps. In one of the places I went picking I took flagging ribbon around to mark my path so I couldn’t get lost.

This reminded me of another story. A long time ago when Mike’s cousin Sheri was very young we went out hiking. I put her in charge of tying the flagging ribbon onto the trees while I attempted to locate/make my own trail to a destination I wanted to reach. The instructions I gave her were simple, “Just make sure you can see the last ribbon from where you tie the next ribbon.”

After awhile of bushwhacking I finally gave up and decided it was time to turn back the way we came. When I looked for the flagging I couldn’t see any in sight. I asked Sheri where the ribbon was and she said, “I ran out a long time ago.”

I think about that now and think it is so funny. On that particular day however I didn’t think it was funny. I was responsible for her and an employee I brought along on the expedition and I had no clue where to go. We eventually made it back to civilization exhausted and me soaking wet from a swim I had to do to in order to get someone to go back to get them with a boat.

Both of these stories had a happy ending but could just as easily not have been.  Try to keep the odds in your favor when you’re out in the woods and bring along a compass, map, whistle, flagging ribbon, gps, cell phone, sun dial or whatever else will help you from staying lost.

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Posted in personal stories, skills

Catch and Release Fishing in the BWCA

We encourage catch and release fishing in the Boundary Waters and Quetico Park. This helps to ensure quality fishing for canoe country campers who visit in the future. While it is nice to get a photo of your fish it is better for the fish if it is done while the fish is in the water. If you must have a photo of yourself with a fish you plan to release then be sure to follow the guidelines below and remember to support the weight of the fish body with a hand under its belly and keep the fish horizontal. Do not hold a fish by the lower jaw because it can damage jaw muscles that will affect the ability of the fish to feed after release. It’s fun to catch a fish and even more rewarding to watch it swim away after you have released it.


  1. Be Prepared. Too many times I have casted a lure into the water not expecting to catch a fish and one ends up stuck on my lure. I then find myself struggling to reach a needle nose or other tool in order to release the fish. Always plan to catch a fish and have a needle nose, gloves or whatever else you need nearby so you can quickly and efficiently release a fish.
  1. Be Efficient. You can increase the rate of survival if you avoid over playing the fish. Retrieve the fish deliberately, not too quickly, slowly or sporadically. This will help reduce the stress and fatigue a fish experiences.
  2. Go Barbless. The use of barbless hooks or cutting the barbs off of lures can aide in a quick release that does less damage to a fish.
  3. Wear Rubberized Gloves. I know it might look silly and your friends may make fun of you but if you are planning to release a fish then wear rubber gloves. It helps protect the coat of slime the fish needs on its body and gloves allow you to get a firm grip without squeezing the fish too hard. Touching fish with your bare hands can cause fungus growth or infections leading to the death of the fish.
  4. Fish Belong in Water. If at all possible it is best to release a fish while the fish is still in the water. Air is an enemy of fish and sunlight can damage their eyes. To release a fish in the water just reach over the side of the watercraft and use a needle-nosed pliers to gently remove the hook from the fish and watch it swim away.
  5. Cut the Line. When a fish has swallowed the hook do not try to remove the hook from inside of the fish. Just cut the line as close to the hook as possible and over time the hook will dissolve or dislodge.
  6. Handle With Care. If you must touch the fish then either wear gloves or wet your hands first to protect the slime coating.  Keep your fingers out of the gills and eyes and hold the fish firmly without squeezing and prevent the fish from battering itself on hard or hot surfaces. Support the body of the fish with a hand under the stomach even while it is in the water so the pressure on the hook is eliminated.
  7. Use Nets Sparingly. If you must bring the fish into the boat with a net then be sure it is a rubberized net. This type of net will cause less damage to the fish.
  8. Release with Care. Gently return the fish to the water in a headfirst position pointing it straight down to allow the fish to plunge into the water.
  9. Fish CPR.  A fish may need to be revived if it is exhausted or if it has spent too much time out of the water. Hold the fish in the water in their normal swimming position while supporting the belly and holding both the mouth and gills open.  Move them forward or hold them facing into a current to allow water to pass through their gills.  They should swim away under their own power.

If all efforts to release a fish fail then consider it as part of your catch.  Otherwise give each fish the best fighting chance at survival so they may go on to live and reproduce for other generations. Follow these guidelines and let them go so they can grow.

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Moose Calling at the State Fair

This might just be the way to get people from up north down to the Minnesota State Fair.

Hear the Call of the Moose at the Minnesota State Fair

Fairgoers can hear the Call of the Moose at the Minnesota State Fair. A new partnership between the Department of Natural Resources and Les Kouba Outdoors was formed to raise awareness of the plight of Minnesota moose and raise money for moose research and management.

At the fair:

Get info on a new critical habitat license plate featuring moose art by renowned wildlife artist Les Kouba. Information about the program is available on the DNR website at
Hear moose calling when the finalists of the Let Loose Your Minnesota Moose-Moose Calling Contest sound off on the DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29. The DNR’s Tom Rusch, Tower area wildlife manager, will give moose background, demonstrate calling and help judge. Sign up for the contest from 9 a.m. today through 12:45 p.m. Aug. 29, at the fair at the Call of the Moose Store, or online at or
Hear original music from Michael Monroe dedicated to the Call of the Moose Minnesota. Monroe blends vocals, guitars, bamboo and crystal flutes, and will perform at various times on Thursday, Aug. 28, at the Call of the Moose store, and at 1 p.m. on Aug. 29 before the calling contest.
Merchandise is being sold near the DNR building at the Call of the Moose store. A portion of the proceeds benefits moose research and management. See a restored statue of a life-size moose that has been displayed at the State Fair for nearly 20 years. This year, the moose is outfitted with a tracking collar similar to those used to track real moose in northern Minnesota. See a video of the moose restoration at
Why all the focus on moose? Moose in Minnesota are in trouble. A 50 percent decline in the moose population since 2010 has left the iconic Minnesota animal in real danger of disappearing.

Information on the partnership between the DNR and Les Kouba Outdoors is available online at Information from the DNR on moose research can be found at


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Funny Fox Video

We love fox and we know how curious and mischievous they are. I’m not sure why this person left their GoPro on the ground but the fox took advantage of the opportunity to steal it. The video mainly shows the inside of the fox’s mouth. I’ve always been tempted to put a GoPro on my dog or wish I could put one on a fox to see where they go. Guess I will just have to settle for this video for now.

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Posted in wildlife

What Happened to the Sun

The sun is getting lazy. It stays in bed longer in the morning and goes to bed much earlier in the evening. This week the sun has barely shown itself during the day. It’s as if the sun has decided to cut back on work. I’d like to tell the sun its work isn’t over yet.  There are still two more weeks before the kids start school again and they’d like some sunshine. When it’s overcast and a mist is falling from the sky it’s difficult to find the motivation to go fishing, paddling or swimming so hopefully the sun will put in a few more hours of work this week. According to the forecast the sun must have asked for more vacation time with the exception of Saturday when it looks like its scheduled to work.  Let’s hope the sun has a guilty conscious and decides to work a little harder these upcoming weeks.

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Minnesota Canoeing

Here’s a place for you to paddle if you live in Central Minnesota. Clear Waters Outfitting is owned by Mike’s first cousin Sandra and her husband Dan. Mike has been helping with their business since they started and still helps out when he can.  We’ve paddled a section of the river and had a great time. It’s not the Boundary Waters but it’s not a 6 hour drive from the Twin Cities either.  If you have time for a paddle then be sure to check Clear Waters out.

CLEARWATER, Minn. (WCCO) – The Mississippi is a powerful river spanning more than 2,000 miles. But there’s one stretch, not far from the metro, that’s shallow and peaceful enough to attract canoeists, paddle boarders and kayakers.

It’s a wide section between St. Cloud and Anoka that’s been designated “wild and scenic” by the DNR.   That means no one can put up new buildings or cut down trees along the shoreline.

It’s where Dan Meer and his family started their company, Clear Waters Outfitting, five years ago.

“Right here, it’s probably only about three, four feet deep,” Meer said. “But you can definitely see to the bottom.”

It’s a lush, green view that Meer appreciates probably more than most because of where he was ten years ago, patrolling parts of Iraq with the National Guard.

“Definitely an eye-opener to see the poverty and the things that go on in some other countries,” he said. “And it really made me realize how good we have it here in the U.S.”

But then he returned from his deployment to a struggling economy and a stressful job in the printing industry.

“After coming back from Iraq, I really started reevaluating what I was doing,” he said. “Plus the recession was in place.”

And that’s how CW Outfitting was born, a chance for the Meer family to get control in their lives, and help others at the same time.

“We just want to send people out to relax and have a good time, and get away from their normal busy lives,” Meer’s wife, Sandra, said.

“We do this for the love of the outdoors,” Meer said. “We’ve been very fortunate to find just a gorgeous stretch of river that we can share with people.”

They set up trips of anywhere from eight to 13 miles, on paddle boards, canoes and kayaks.

This week, Mark Arrington of Maple Grove, Minn. took an afternoon to kayak the Mississippi with his daughter and son.

“There’s some stretches where you see nothing but trees and wilderness, and it’s really pleasant,” Arrington said. “It’s not paddling in the city.”

“One group, I think the biggest count of eagles was 12 eagles in one trip,” said Meer. “People see deer, all sorts of wildlife.”

He could’ve made more money, sticking it out through the stresses of corporate life, but he has a new perspective on what’s important.

“It’s not money, and it’s not fame and all that stuff,” he said. “It’s all about people and just having fun in life.”

Meer said that section of river is also great for fishing. And on September 27th, they’ll host their first small-mouth bass fishing tournament.



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Voyageur Brewing Company Makes Front Page News

We’re super excited to see an article about the Voyageur Brewery on the front page of the Sunday Duluth News Tribune.  It’s been fun to see the progress being made on the tap room each time I go to Grand Marais. It will be even more fun when the building is done and we’re actually brewing. It will be awhile before that happens but I’m sure the time will fly by and be here before we know it. We hope you are excited to come visit the brewery and taste our beer!

Voyageur Brewing Co. owners Bruce Walters (from left), Mike Prom and Cara Sporn, all of Grand Marais, stand in the area that is going to be the taproom at the new production brewery under construction in Grand Marais on Thursday afternoon. (Clint Austin /

North Shore hops on brewery bandwagon

By Jana Hollingsworth on Aug 17, 2014 at 8:44 a.m.

The Voyageur Brewing Co. in Grand Marais is still a shell of wooden beams and metal but its owners have already been approached by Cook County purveyors of honey, maple syrup, hops, wild rice, apples and coffee.

Owners Mike Prom, Cara Sporn and Bruce Walters are eager to see how their brewery will weave local products into the seasonal offerings they plan to put on tap when their 20-barrel production brewery opens in 2015.

“All walks of life have come up to us and are excited,” Prom said of the building activity on Highway 61 in town, “from the third-generation, blue-collar local to those that live here three months out of the year.”

The 5,400-square-foot space will be the first of its kind in the area, and will house a taproom that also includes a fireplace and lake views, a kitchen for small plates, and a rooftop bar. Tours and tastings are planned for the beer marketed toward the adventure-seeker, and a conservative estimate of 1,000 barrels in the first year is expected.

Prom and his wife, Sue, own Voyageur Canoe Outfitters at the end of the Gunflint Trail. They have been longtime friends with Sporn and her husband, Paul, who owns the popular Grand Marais restaurant My Sister’s Place. Bruce Walters, an investor, and his family have been longtime friends with the Proms. The Walters family recently moved to Grand Marais from the Twin Cities area. The friends have been talking about a brewery for six years, and two years ago began market research and crafting a business plan. None of the owners are home-brewers, but have business backgrounds and profess a love for craft beer.

Collectively, they felt a production brewery and taproom was a missing piece on the Grand Marais landscape, and demographic research has shown the county’s residents are craft beer drinkers, Prom said.

The company will fill eight year-round jobs. A head brewer has yet to be announced, but Sporn revealed that on permanent offer would likely be an IPA, a Belgian wheat and either a stout or a porter style. Six beers will always be on tap. The owners are excited about the influence of Lake Superior water on their beer because of how little pretreatment it needs.

“That’s one of the reasons you’re seeing so many breweries around Lake Superior,” Prom said.

Voyageur’s plan is to handle local customers first, and eventually roll out to Duluth and the Iron Range. Within five years it hopes to make it to the Twin Cities. The brewery won’t compete with local restaurants. Its charcuterie platter and spent-grain pretzels, for example, will whet the appetite of beer drinkers before they set out for dinner. They’ll also allow food to be brought in. The brewery will sell bottles at first, and growlers made of stainless steel and environmentally friendly Nalgene water bottles that can be brought into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The owners will be joining a serious roster of more than 10 brewers in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin, some of whom they’ve gone to for advice. Sporn said the craft brewing community is one of the friendliest industries she’s encountered.

Other regional production companies include Bent Paddle Brewing Co., Lake Superior Brewing Co. and South Shore Brewing in Ashland. A smaller production company — Castle Danger Brewery — just opened a bigger facility in Two Harbors. Neighbor and Gunflint Tavern owner Jeff Gecas will roll out five varieties of beer in the next month from his new five-barrel system.

But the region isn’t saturated, said longtime Fitger’s Brewery head brewer Dave Hoops.

“People really like to buy stuff from these areas. The North Shore and Duluth, Grand Marais; they are all brand names these days,” he said. “I always go back to the fact that right now 92 percent of the beer drank in this country is Millers, Coors, etc. As long as the product is at the highest level of quality, I don’t think there is any kind of limit.”

Even in Duluth, he said, where there is a greater concentration of breweries, he sees space.

“You can see with the unbelievable success of Bent Paddle how much people want this,” Hoops said, noting that many of the breweries are small: “Borealis, Blacklist, Carmody. They are all great, but tiny. Bent Paddle is the only game in town going statewide. I think there is plenty of room yet.”

Walters said the surge in craft brewing in smaller towns hearkens back to the pre-Prohibition era when communities had their own breweries. It’s an inspirational locavore movement and it makes sense, he said.

Prom compared consumers’ obsession with craft beer to that of coffee and wine in recent decades.

“They’re not just accepting one flavor,” he said. “They want to see the local stuff. When we vacation together we find the brewpub. It’s part of the culture right now.”

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Sharing Makes Sense

I read this article and loved it so I thought I would share it with you, after all, sharing is caring!
Living Green 365  Sharing is caring

Have you heard of “collaborative consumption” or the “sharing economy”? They’ve become buzzwords with the rise of companies such as Airbnb and Zipcar. Both terms refer to the same economic model based on people and companies sharing, trading, reusing, and renting goods and services, rather than owning something outright. It can be as easy as sharing a snow-blower with neighbors instead of everyone on the block owning their own, or can be an entirely new business model like Airbnb where people rent out their extra bedroom to tourists. It is reinventing not just what we consume but how we consume.

The sharing economy offers benefits to participants as it strengthens community connections, allows access to goods without the cost of ownership, and reduces the environmental impact of most goods and services. It reminds me of that old adage we all heard in primary school: “Sharing is caring.” In the sharing economy, sharing is caring for your family, your community, and the environment.

There are tons of opportunities to get involved in sharing throughout Minnesota. It’s completely up to you how you want to get involved, from the individual to community level, and from sharing cars, to sharing used items, to sharing your skills with neighbors.

So check out some of these ideas on how to join the sharing economy:

Share your belongings and borrow from others. We all have those belongings that we rarely use and just sit in a closet or garage gathering dust. Why not find a use for them and share them with people in your community! Pass along your favorite books to people in your neighborhood by building a Little Free Library or holding a book-share event. If you have tools or items that you’d like to lend out to people, or are looking for something specific to borrow yourself, then the Sharing Shed might be for you. You can list what you have available to share, and search for items that you could use. Tool libraries offer a similar opportunity where people can checkout tools they need for free from a central location, rather than buying something new. If you want to learn more about how to start a sharing program like a tool library in your own community, then check out these handy instructions provided by the Center for the New American Dream.

Aim for reuse rather than buying new. If borrowing or renting won’t do, then look for something reused, refurbished, or repurposed! ReUSE Minnesota is a great resource for locating businesses and organizations that have used items for sale. You can also use the Hennepin County Choose to Reuse directory to search for specific items that are available used in stores throughout the area. Another great place to look for used products is the Twin Cities Free Market where you can find everything from TVs to dressers to exercise equipment, and the best part is that it’s free! And if you are a business, don’t forget the Minnesota Materials Exchange, a free service that links organizations with reusable goods they no longer need to those who can use them.

Save money by sharing cars and bikes. Owning a car can be expensive, especially given the harsh Minnesota winter conditions, and think about how much time that car just sits around each day. That is why various car-sharing programs such as HOURCAR and Zipcar offer the chance to enjoy the perks of using a car without the steep costs of owning one. When you use Car2Go you don’t even have to return the car to the same parking spot! But cars aren’t the only transportation option that can be shared. You can check out a bicycle at an hourly rate through Nice Ride MN, and when you’re done just return it to one of the kiosks throughout the Twin Cities. This is a great option for commuters or people who only bike occasionally. And finally, perhaps the most commonly used shared-transportation is the bus. Every time you ride the bus you reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, don’t have to worry about finding parking, and save money on car-related expenses! Check out the Metro Transit to find bus routes and learn more about other sharing-based transportation options such as carpooling. It’s never been easier to use a variety of options to get to your destination in a cheaper, more environmentally friendly way.

Share your skills. We all have talents and skills that other people might find useful. Why not put them to good use by teaching other people what you can do through a skill-share program. The Experimental College of the Twin Cities is a great chance to take classes taught by people on a range of topics from bike maintenance to film appreciation, or come up with a topic area and teach a class yourself! The classes are free and are a great chance to learn something new from a fellow community member. Similarly, the Hour Dollars program allows community members to swap time and services in an effort to strengthen communities. By completing services for other community members, you earn hours that can then be spent to have someone else help you out with a project. It’s a great way to get to know your community better and also get some work done!

Don’t forget about donating. Ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff you have scattered throughout your house, garage, or basement? No matter what you do, sometimes it seems like stuff just keeps accumulating. A great way to simplify your belongings, while helping others, is to donate your unwanted items to nearby thrift stores like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. You’ll be helping support the work of charity organizations and cleaning out your home. If you have more stuff than you can transport to a thrift store, then a garage sale might work well to reduce clutter. It’s a great way to remove unwanted things from your home, make some money, and ensure that the items are reused rather than traveling to a landfill.

Be creative! Think of new ways to share with your community. You could set up a free-swap with neighbors where people can exchange items, or host a community sharing event. Or perhaps you could organize a community clothing collection of well-maintained clothing to donate to a local second-hand store. Whatever you do, you’ll get something out of it whether it is a less-cluttered closet, meeting your neighbors, or the satisfaction of donating to a great cause.

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  • Whoever turned the heat off yesterday, kindly turn it back on! It's only 53 degrees today, brrrrr.

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