Open Water Anyone?

Dark is good, light is not and I’m not talking about chicken meat.  I’m talking about the ice on the Seagull River and the other lakes of the Gunflint Trail and northern Minnesota. As you can see from the photos below by April 21, 2012 there was no ice left on the river and the earth was free of snow except for the dusting received the night before. This year the river is still very white with just a little bit of dark next to our docks, the first place for open water to appear. Last year we didn’t have open water by this time either but it was a very late ice out and by the looks of it we’re in for another late ice out. However, anything could happen and a hot sun, hard rain and lots of wind at the right time can speed up the process. My best guess is you can hold off asking, “Is the ice off of Sag yet?” until after the 10th of May.

Seagull River in front of Voyageur

Still ice on the Seagull River

Seagull River April 21, 2012

April 21, 2012


Have Dock, want to float

Seagull River Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

Photo of Gull Lake at end of Gunflint Trail

Trail’s End view of Gull Lake

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Posted in Seasonal activities

Moose Attacks Snowmobiler

Crazy but true a moose attacked a snowmobiler in Maine. I have yet to be attacked by a moose but I have had them huff and snort at me as well as charge me. In the instances when moose have been aggressive they have either been in rut or have had a calf with them. The rest of the time they rarely bother to look up at me.

It’s good to keep in mind moose are wild animals that could attack at any moment. Try to tell that to tourists on the Gunflint Trail and locals like me who love to get up close and personal with them.

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Posted in wildlife

Happy Earth Day 2014

What will you do for Mother Earth this Earth Day? The first Earth Day was in 1970 and from what I’ve read I understand we’ve come a long way since then but we still have a very long way to go.

Even in our town of Grand Marais where we cherish our water we can still do more. Within the last year something changed so we can only recycle #1 and #2 plastics. While many plastics are these numbers many aren’t and I find myself saving yogurt containers and plastic lids for who knows what or why. I just can’t bear to throw them into the garbage when I know they could be recycled elsewhere.

At the Cook County School my daughter was exasperated when trying to get a recycling container into the cafeteria. The kids aren’t allowed to leave the cafeteria to throw their aluminum or plastic items into the recycling bin so they go directly into the garbage. The school was doing a pretty good job at composting a while back but last fall when I was subbing I helped a girl retrieve her retainer from the cafeteria bags of garbage and found plenty of items that could have been recycled or composted.

We can all do more and need to do more. Do something good for our earth this Earth Day and every day.

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Get Outside and Play this May

I encourage you to go outside and play every month of the year because it is so good for you. Now the Minnesota DNR in celebration of Arbor Month is encouraging nature play this May.

2014 Arbor Month Celebration encourages nature play

A decline in nature play has prompted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to put this year’s Arbor Month (May) focus on encouraging kids to climb trees and play with nature in their back yards and within the community.

The 2014 State Arbor Month Celebration will be 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, May 17, at Oak Hill Park in St. Louis Park. The event will give families a chance to play with nature, while watching some of the best tree climbers in the state compete at the Minnesota Tree Climbing Championship.

According to the Children & Nature Network and the Commission on Education and Communication, 88 percent of children reported using a computer almost every day, while only 11 percent of children reported visiting a local park or natural area almost every day. In some cases, the use of electronic media has disconnected children and their parents from nature.

Nature play is easy, affordable and safe. Frequent, unstructured play in diverse natural settings promotes overall physical and emotional health, cognitive development, creativity, physical ability and coordination, the Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood reports. It also reduces stress and forms the foundation for responsible environmental behavior.

“Outdoor playtime can easily be doubled with a little planning and a commitment by parents to encourage their kids to climb trees, dig holes in dirt and sand, play in the leaves, plant a garden, build forts, run through tall grass and play with water,” said Jennifer Teegarden, DNR forestry outreach specialist.

State Arbor Month Celebration – May 17
9 a.m. — State Arbor Month ceremony with state dignitaries.
9:30 a.m. — Ceremonial tree planting.
10 a.m. — Musical performance by Kidtime with Rachel.
10 a.m.–noon — Nature play activities, exhibits and presentations.
8 a.m.–5 p.m. — Minnesota State Tree Climbing Championships.

For more information, visit

Posted in News

Living Green

It isn’t earth day quite yet but here is something really interesting. This map makes it impossible to live green, well, live in the green at least. The color green represents places that have no population.  It could be the site of a mall or business development because no one lives there or it could be a truly wild area where no one lives.

I love to look at maps and this map makes me happy because I see quite a bit of green left in the USA. Much of it is in Alaska which reminds me why I don’t want to visit there real soon.  I fear if I go to Alaska to visit then I may never wish to return. In any case, I’m glad to live in an area surrounded by green both on the map and in real life.

Where to Live.

Green Living?


Nobody lives here: The nearly 5 million Census Blocks with zero population

A Block is the smallest area unit used by the U.S. Census Bureau for tabulating statistics. As of the 2010 census, the United States consists of 11,078,300 Census Blocks. Of them, 4,871,270 blocks totaling 4.61 million square kilometers were reported to have no population living inside them. Despite having a population of more than 310 million people, 47 percent of the USA remains unoccupied.

Green shading indicates unoccupied Census Blocks. A single inhabitant is enough to omit a block from shading

Quick update: If you’re the kind of map lover who cares about cartographic accuracy, check out the new version which fixes the Gulf of California. If you save this map for your own projects, please use this one instead.

Map observations

The map tends to highlight two types of areas:

  • places where human habitation is physically restrictive or impossible, and
  • places where human habitation is prohibited by social or legal convention.

Water features such lakes, rivers, swamps and floodplains are revealed as places where it is hard for people to live. In addition, the mountains and deserts of the West, with their hostility to human survival, remain largely void of permanent population.

Of the places where settlement is prohibited, the most apparent are wilderness protection and recreational areas (such as national and state parks) and military bases. At the national and regional scales, these places appear as large green tracts surrounded by otherwise populated countryside.

At the local level, city and county parks emerge in contrast to their developed urban and suburban surroundings. At this scale, even major roads such as highways and interstates stretch like ribbons across the landscape.

Commercial and industrial areas are also likely to be green on this map. The local shopping mall, an office park, a warehouse district or a factory may have their own Census Blocks. But if people don’t live there, they will be considered “uninhabited”. So it should be noted that just because a block is unoccupied, that does not mean it is undeveloped.

Perhaps the two most notable anomalies on the map occur in Maine and the Dakotas. Northern Maine is conspicuously uninhabited. Despite being one of the earliest regions in North America to be settled by Europeans, the population there remains so low that large portions of the state’s interior have yet to be politically organized.

In the Dakotas, the border between North and South appears to be unexpectedly stark. Geographic phenomena typically do not respect artificial human boundaries. Throughout the rest of the map, state lines are often difficult to distinguish. But in the Dakotas, northern South Dakota is quite distinct from southern North Dakota. This is especially surprising considering that the county-level population density on both sides of the border is about the same at less than 10 people per square mile.

Finally, the differences between the eastern and western halves of the contiguous 48 states are particularly stark to me. In the east, with its larger population, unpopulated places are more likely to stand out on the map. In the west, the opposite is true. There, population centers stand out against the wilderness.

Ultimately, I made this map to show a different side of the United States. Human geographers spend so much time thinking about where people are. I thought I might bring some new insight by showing where they are not, adding contrast and context to the typical displays of the country’s population geography.

I’m sure I’ve all but scratched the surface of insight available from examining this map. There’s a lot of data here. What trends and patterns do you see?


  • The Gulf of California is missing from this version. I guess it got filled in while doing touch ups. Oops. There’s a link to a corrected map at the top of the post.
  • Some islands may be missing if they were not a part of the waterbody data sets I used.
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When the Wind Blows

I have a feeling when the wind blows off of Lake Superior this summer it’s going to be cold. The ice coverage on the Great Lakes has been the talk of the winter and for good reason. The lakes reached a peak of 92.2% ice cover this year which isn’t the highest recorded amount of ice coverage but close to the 1979 record of 94.7%.  I was surprised to see so much ice still on a satellite photo of Lake Superior taken on the 16th of April.  No wonder ships are having such troubles on the Great Lakes.

Lake Superior doesn’t usually get too balmy in the summer but there have been recent years when swimming in it is almost enjoyable. I doubt that will be the case this summer. While the rivers on the North Shore may be melting it’s going to take awhile for the ice to be off of Lake Superior. I wonder where ice off will occur first? Lake Superior or our inland lakes on the Gunflint Trail?  I guess we will have to wait and see.

Ice Coverage on Lake Superior

Lake Superior on April 16th, 2014

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Gooseberry in all her Glory

The great thing about Minnesota is the ability to experience the four seasons.  Some seasons are longer than we may like but they sure provide us with some beautiful scenery and things to talk about. I love the fact people share their videos so everyone can experience places they normally wouldn’t visit during the different seasons.  Check out these videos of Gooseberry Falls on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior in all her Glory.

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Up Next, National Parks Week

Do you have plans to visit a National Park this year for National Parks Week? This weekend there will be free admission to the National Parks and many activities are planned for the week.  I’m not sure of my plans but I do hope to at least get outside and “Go Wild!” as suggested by this year’s slogan.

With 401 units of the National Park System, how do you decide what to do during National Park Week? The folks at the National Park Service and National Park Foundation have some suggestions for you.

This year’s theme, “National Park Week: Go Wild!”, invites visitors to celebrate all that America’s 401 national parks have to offer. With free admission to all parks on April 19 and 20, and exciting activities and programs scheduled throughout the week, National Park Week is the perfect time to discover the diverse wildlife, iconic landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history found in America’s national parks.

How many of the National Parks have you visited? Check out this neat map and see for yourself. I’m thinking if this new snow we got last night sticks around for the weekend as wild as I get might be making my own bucket list of parks I want to visit.  If I’m really bored then maybe I will figure out which Parks I’ve been too and then develop criteria to describe what “visit” means. Does a picture at the entrance qualify? A souvenir from a store? A photo from the distance? Or do I need to spend a minimum of ten minutes there? Hike a trail? Stay overnight or maybe collect feces from a species? OK, that last one was a little gross and I don’t think the parks want you removing anything from them so we’ll strike that.

In any case, I hope you get out, go wild and explore one of the 401 National Parks this weekend.


Here’s a few I’ve visited off the top of my head, how about you?

  • Bryce National Canyon
  • Badlands
  • Carlsbad Caverns
  • Hot Springs
  • Devil’s Tower
  • Yellowstone
  • Grand Canyon
  • Wind Cave
  • Zion
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Voyageur Trading Post

I can check one thing off of my “To Do List.” I have purchased all of the clothing I need for the upcoming season and then some probably.  I’ve brought back some of last year’s favorites and added some new ones too.  It’s always a crap shoot to try to figure out what people will buy each year. If it’s cold we sell more sweatshirts, if it’s hot then more t-shirts. Even though neon colors may be “in” other places I don’t think I would sell much of it at the end of the Gunflint Trail.

I have also purchased almost all of my hats for the store too. One more style to get ordered and I’ll be able to check another thing off of my list.

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Lunar Eclipse

One thing nice about last night’s lunar eclipse was we knew when it was going to be so we could set an alarm clock and not miss it.  I probably wouldn’t have gotten up if Abby hadn’t expressed interest in seeing it but since she wanted to we both went out to see it.

The shadow was just beginning to cover up the moon when we went outside around 1:00am. Just one look and Abby had seen enough. It was a clear, cool night and the moon was big and bright. I saw it earlier in the evening around 9pm and it was huge and gorgeous. Luckily Layne Kennedy stayed up and took some nice pictures so I can share them with you.

Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse

Posted in News
  • Still getting cold at night on the Gunflint Trail. 21 degrees for a low. At least there aren't any bugs yet.

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