New Moon, Blue Moon, Blue Man, Superman, Supermoons?

This year there are several Super Moons according to the unscientific type. I probably know more about the Blue Man Group or Blue Moon Beer than I do a Supermoon but I know I will be watching the real moon on July 12th. And with a little luck I’ll be doing it from a Boundary Waters campsite!

Would the Real ‘SuperMoon’ Please Stand Up?

by David Dickinson on July 8, 2014

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The perigee Full Moon of June 22nd, 2013. Credit: Russell Bateman (@RussellBateman1)

The perigee Full Moon of June 22nd, 2013. Credit: Russell Bateman (@RussellBateman1)

‘Tis the season once again, when rogue Full Moons nearing perigee seem roam the summer skies to the breathless exhortations of many an astronomical neophyte at will. We know… by now, you’d think that there’d be nothing new under the Sun (or in this case, the Moon) to write about the closest Full Moons of the year.

But love ‘em or hate ‘em, tales of the “Supermoon” will soon be gracing ye ole internet again, with hyperbole that’s usually reserved for comets, meteor showers, and celeb debauchery, all promising the “biggest Full Moon EVER…” just like last year, and the year be for that, and the year before that…

How did this come to be?

What’s happening this summer: First, here’s the lowdown on what’s coming up. The closest Full Moon of 2014 occurs next month on August 10th at 18:11 Universal Time (UT) or 1:44 PM EDT. On that date, the Moon reaches perigee or its closest approach to the Earth at 356,896 kilometres distant at 17:44, less than an hour from Full. Of course, the Moon reaches perigee nearly as close once every anomalistic month (the time from perigee-to-perigee) of 27.55 days and passes Full phase once every synodic period (the period from like phase to phase) with a long term average of 29.53 days.

And the August perigee of the Moon only beats out the January 1st, 2014 perigee out by a scant 25 kilometres for the title of the closest perigee of the year, although the Moon was at New phase on that date, with lots less fanfare and hoopla for that one. Perigee itself can vary from 356,400 to 370,400 kilometres distant.

But there’s more. If you consider a “Supermoon” as a Full Moon falling within 24 hours of perigee, (folks like to play fast and loose with the informal definitions when the Supermoon rolls around, as you’ll see) then we actually have a trio of Supermoons on tap for 2014, with one this week on July 12th and September 9th as well.

What, then, is this lunacy?

Well, as many an informative and helpful commenter from previous years has mentioned, the term Supermoon was actually coined by an astrologer. Yes, I know… the same precession-denialists that gave us such eyebrow raising terms as “occultation,” “trine” and the like. Don’t get us started. The term “Supermoon” is a more modern pop culture creation that first appeared in a 1979 astrology publication, and the name stuck. A more accurate astronomical term for a “Supermoon” is a perigee-syzygy Full Moon or Proxigean Moon, but those just don’t seem to be able to “fill the seats” when it comes to internet hype.

One of the more arcane aspects set forth by the 1979 definition of a Supermoon is its curiously indistinct description as a “Full Moon which occurs with the Moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.” This is a strange demarcation, as it’s pretty vague as to the span of distance (perigee varies, due to the drag of the Sun on the Moon’s orbit in what’s known as the precession of the line of apsides) and time. The Moon and all celestial bodies move faster near perigee than apogee as per Kepler’s 2nd Law of planetary motion.

A photo essay comparing Full Moon sizes and appearance from one Supermoon to the next, spanning 2011-2012. Credit:

A photo essay comparing Full Moon sizes and appearance from one Supermoon to the next, spanning 2011-2012. Credit: Marion Haligowski/RadicalRetinscopy. Used with permission.

We very much prefer to think of a Proxigean Moon as defined by a “Full Moon within 24 hours of perigee”. There. Simple. Done.

And let’s not forget, Full phase is but an instant in time when the Moon passes an ecliptic longitude of 180 degrees opposite from the Sun. The Moon actually never reaches 100% illumination due to its 5.1 degree tilt to the ecliptic, as when it does fall exactly opposite to the Sun it also passes into the Earth’s shadow for a total lunar eclipse.

The truth is, the Moon does vary from 356,400 to 406,700 kilometres in its wonderfully complicated orbit about our fair world, and a discerning eye can tell the difference in its size from one lunation to the next. This means the apparent size of the Moon can vary from 29.3’ to 34.1’ — a difference of almost 5’ — from perigee to apogee. And that’s not taking into account the rising “Moon illusion,” which is actually a variation of an optical effect known as the Ponzo Illusion. And besides, the Moon is actually more distant when its on the local horizon than overhead, to the tune of about one Earth radius.

Like its bizarro cousin the “minimoon” and the Blue Moon (not the beer), the Supermoon will probably now forever be part of the informal astronomical lexicon. And just like recent years before 2014, astronomers will soon receive gushing platitudes during next month’s Full Moon from friends/relatives/random people on Twitter about how this was “the biggest Full Moon ever!!!”

Does the summer trio of Full Moons look bigger to you than any other time of year? It will be tough to tell the difference visually over the next three Full Moons. Perhaps a capture of the July, August and September Full Moons might just tease out the very slight difference between the three.

And for those preferring not to buy in to the annual Supermoon hype, the names for the July, August and September Full Moons are the Buck, Sturgeon and Corn Moon, respectively. And of course, the September Full Moon near the Equinox is also popularly known as the Harvest Moon.

And in case you’re wondering, or just looking to mark your calendar for the next annual “largest Full Moon(s) of all time,” here’s our nifty table of Supermoons through 2020, as reckoned by our handy definition of a Full Moon falling within 24 hours of perigee.

So what do you say? Let ‘em come for the hype, and stay for the science. Let’s take back the Supermoon.

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Posted in Seasonal activities

Quetico Park & BWCA Fires

I can’t remember the last time we had such a wet year and I can’t believe a fire would be able to start with all of the rain we have received. Obviously not all parts of the forest have received as much precipitation as we have on the Eastern edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. A couple of fires have started in the Quetico Provincial Park of Canada and one in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area on Disappointment Lake by Ely.   I do not know what caused the BWCA fire but one of the Quetico Park fires was caused by a campfire left unattended.

As always campers, lets remember to make sure our campfires are dead out!

Disappointment Island Fire

On June 30, 2014, a fire was reported in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) east of Ely on an island in Disappointment Lake (Township 64N Range 8W Section 33—see map). A Forest Service helicopter pilot reported stiff winds had carried a spot fire from the island to the mainland near a designated campsite.  Fire crews were dispatched to the scene. Size was estimated to be one acre on the island and one tenth of an acre on the eastern shore of Disappointment Lake.

According to the US Forest Service, fire managers are using confine and contain suppression tactics on the fire. Crews may use some hand ignition to confine the fire to the island. Fire crews will be in the area. Current conditions are damp but a drying trend is expected within the next few days.

All BWCAW entry points, portages, travel routes, and hiking trails remain open.

Two fires reported

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Tuesday, 8 July 2014 – 2:03pm

From the MNR

Two new fires were reported in the Northwest Region since the evening of July 4.
One was a human-caused fire in Quetico Park in Fort Frances District and one at Sandy Lake First Nation in Red Lake District.

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Fort Frances Fire #8, a 1.0-hectare blaze burning on an island at the south end of Quetico Park, currently is being monitored.
It started from a campfire left unattended.
Red Lake Fire #15, meanwhile, is listed as “under control” at 1.5 ha in size.
No problems are expected with this fire.
Sunny breaks, followed by rain and thunderstorms, continue to be the pattern for the Northwest Region—and this is forecast to continue for the rest of the week.
This ongoing rain has provided relief in terms of forest fire hazards but is keeping the risk of flooding high in the Kenora, Fort Frances, and Dryden areas, which have been dealing with high water and flooding concerns for weeks now.
The far northern sectors of the region have seen less rain and the fire situation reflects this, with four lightning-caused blazes in Red Lake District and one in Sioux Lookout District.
Most of these fires are being observed through aerial reconnaissance as they burn to natural boundaries.
For “FireSmart” tips, visit
A link to the Ontario Fire Danger Map, which is updated daily, can be found at
Report forest fires by dialing 310-FIRE (3473).

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Posted in BWCA

The Best Canoe and Kayak Magazine Cover Ever

What makes this month’s Canoe and Kayak Magazine’s cover so amazing? It features a Boundary Waters lake on it and not just any lake in the Boundary Waters. It’s a photo of our very own Saganaga Lake taken by one of our favorite photographers Layne Kennedy.

Layne took the photograph on Saganaga Lake in the Boundary Waters at sunrise. It was chosen for the Wilderness Issue and we couldn’t be prouder of Layne, the BWCA or Saganaga Lake. And to make it an even better issue it features two wilderness explorers who have ties to the Gunflint Trail in Minnesota.

Amy and Dave Freeman from Wilderness Classroom are featured in this month’s Canoe and Kayak Magazine. Amy worked at a Boundary Waters canoe trip outfitter on the Gunflint Trail before she became famous and Dave worked at one on Sawbill Lake.

YAY for Minnesota and all our fame in this month’s Wilderness Edition of the Canoe and Kayak Magazine.

Photo of Saganaga Lake in the BWCA

BWCA Lake Saganaga featured on Canoe and Kayak Magazine Cover

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Posted in News

Gunflint Trail Grouse

We’ve been seeing many momma grouse with a trail of babies following closely behind. While not all of the little ones will make it through the summer some will. That should make hunters happy this fall.

DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                        June 30, 2014

Ruffed grouse counts see increase, possibly signaling uptrend

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were significantly higher than last year across most of the bird’s range, according to a survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“Ruffed grouse drums increased 34 percent from the previous year, with the increase happening in the northern part of the state,” said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse project leader. “This may signal the start of an upswing in the grouse cycle that since 2009 has been in the declining phase.”

The increase is consistent with changes typical of the 10-year grouse cycle. The most recent peak in drum counts occurred in 2009. The cycle is less pronounced in the more southern regions of the state, near the edge of the ruffed grouse range.

Drumming is a low sound produced by males as they beat their wings rapidly and in increasing frequency to signal the location of their territory. Drumming displays also attract females that are ready to begin nesting.

Compared to last year’s survey, 2014 survey results for ruffed grouse indicated increases in the northeast survey region, which is the core of grouse range in Minnesota, from 0.9 drums per stop in 2013 to 1.3 in 2014. Drumming counts in the northwest increased from 0.7 drums per stop in 2013 to 1.2 in 2014. Drumming counts did not increase in the central hardwoods or southeast, with an average of 0.8 and 0.3 drums per stop, respectively.

Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions. This year observers recorded 1.1 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2012 and 2013 were 1.0 and 0.9, respectively. Counts vary from about 0.6 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 2.0 during years of high abundance.

Drumming counts are an indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population. The number of birds present during the fall hunting season also depends upon nesting success and chick survival during the spring and summer.

Minnesota frequently is the nation’s top ruffed grouse producer. On average, 115,000 hunters harvest 545,000 ruffed grouse in Minnesota each year, also making it the state’s most popular game bird. During the peak years of 1971 and 1989, hunters harvested more than 1 million ruffed grouse. Michigan and Wisconsin, which frequently field more hunters than Minnesota, round out the top three states in ruffed grouse harvest.

One reason for Minnesota’s status as a top grouse producer is an abundance of aspen and other ruffed grouse habitat, much of it located on county, state and national forests, where public hunting is allowed. An estimated 11.5 million of the state’s 16.3 million acres of forest are grouse habitat.

For the past 65 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations. This year,
DNR staff and cooperators from 11 organizations surveyed 121 routes across the state.

Sharp-tailed grouse counts stay steady
Statewide sharp-tailed grouse counts were higher in 2014 than in 2013, Roy said, although changes were not significant at the regional level. Observers look for male sharptails displaying on traditional mating areas, called leks or dancing grounds. This year’s statewide average of 9.8 grouse counted per dancing ground was similar to the long-term average since 1980. The 2009 average of 13.6 was as high as during any year since 1980. During the last 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground.

Overall, sharptail populations have declined in some areas as a result of habitat deterioration. In recent years, the DNR has increased prescribed burning and shearing that keep trees from overtaking the open brush lands that sharp-tailed grouse need to thrive.  This habitat management is important for healthy sharp-tailed grouse populations.

The DNR’s 2014 grouse survey report, which contains information on ruffed grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, will be available soon online at

Posted in News

Gunflint Trail Fishing Update

According to my son Josh and his friend Levi fishing has been good. They have spent the weekend out in the boat just around Voyageur and have had luck catching walleye, smallmouth and northern pike. While they haven’t brought any fish back home yet they assure me they are catching them and throwing them back.

Unfortunately now that Josh knows how to drive the boat I haven’t been invited to go fishing. In past summers I was begged to take them fishing and I loved taking them out onto Saganaga or into smaller lakes with the canoe. When I’ve mentioned doing that this weekend they have politely declined my invitation.

I guess that means if I want to go fishing I may end up going by myself. That is kind of like taking a walk without bringing the dog. It seems inefficient and like a waste of time to me. I guess I could rationalize spending time on the lake in the past because I was spending time with my son too.  This is quite the predicament.

For now I can say the Gunflint Trail fishing has been good but I don’t know that from personal experience. Hopefully the next time I give an update on fishing I will be able to share my personal success stories with you.

Walleye from the Quetico Park

 Quetico Park Walleyes

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Posted in fishing

Soggy Saturday in the Boundary Waters

We had a beautiful 4th of July on the Gunflint Trail with plenty of sunshine throughout the day. Today started out nice but things deteriorated quickly. It’s been raining off and on all day long and we’ve received almost an inch of rain since midnight. Thunderstorms have been moving in and out and lightning strikes have been flashing through the sky.

In spite of the sogginess guests are having a good time in the Boundary Waters. Fishing reports have been good and animal sightings frequent. A day of rain during a canoe camping trip in the BWCA makes you appreciate a nice day even more. I love to spend a day in the tent reading a book, playing cards and napping.

Here’s hoping you’ll come enjoy some time in the Boundary Waters this summer.

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A BWCA Canoe Trip to Make Your 4th of July Happier

There may not be parades of people passing by or fireworks but I’d rather be in the BWCA on the 4th of July than anywhere else. I can see parades of mergansers, listen to loons sing(instead of marching bands) and watch millions of stars twinkling in the night sky. What more could a person want?

I hope your 4th of July is Happy Wherever You Are.

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Lupine Lovers Outraged

Sometimes I say things in my blog that I don’t actually expect people to do. I want to apologize to the family who allowed their daughter to eat lupine seeds and ended up in the hospital.  I had know idea they were that toxic. I am joking, no one ended up in the hospital but as with anything you read on the web you should do your own investigation to be on the safe side. There are different types of lupines just as there are different types of mushrooms so do your research before eating them.

I have done research on lupines and I do know for a fact they are an invasive species in Northern Minnesota. The word invasive when dealing with plants implies that it is not native to the area. By saying non-native invasive species it is a little bit redundant but emphasizes the fact lupines are not originally from this area and they cause problems.

According to the National Park Service, “Invasive species threaten our environment in a very powerful way because they can alter the ecosystems and landscapes we seek to protect. Invasive species are “a non-native species whose introduction does, or is likely to cause, economic or environmental harm or harm to human, animal, or plant health” (Executive Order 13112, 1999). Invasive species aggressively compete with native species and are often the victor of the battle. In some cases, one invasive species can outcompete many native species thus reducing biodiversity.”

How do I know lupines are an invasive species? It says so on our Cook County Invasive Species website and I trust the names associated with this page. If you are questioning how this beautiful flower can be so bad then I recommend you contact one of the folks at the bottom of this page for more information.

Apparently the President of our Area cabin owners association has received 3 phone calls just this week about me sending groups of people out to pick all of the lupines on our road. I wish I had the time or person power to organize an event but in reality I have other projects that take priority. I have lupines on my own property that I am dealing with and dealt with last fall.  Our invasive species specialist came up last fall to help our youth group dig out lupine roots that run very deep and are very difficult to get out of the earth.

One thing I read recently is that bears like to eat lupine roots.  This makes me happy and hopeful as I have been wondering how to feed the bears for some time. Maybe I can pull out the lupines on my property and place their roots on top of the dumpster and the bears will be satisfied enough to leave our garbage alone? Maybe the bears will figure out how good they are to eat and they will eat all of the lupines on the Gunflint Trail! Wouldn’t that be wonderful…Lupines in Murren by Senti-



Invasive Team

Angelique Edgerton
Invasive Species Coordinator
USFS Gunflint Ranger Station
2020 West Hwy. 61
Grand Marais, MN 55604
(218) 387-3772

Dave Betts
Cook County Agriculture Inspector
609 East 4th Avenue
Grand Marais, MN 55604

Jack Greenlee
Plant Ecologist
Superior National Forest
Laurentian Ranger District
318 Forestry Rd.
Aurora, MN 55705
(218) 229-8817

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What Would John Muir Do?

Remember those bracelets that were popular some time ago? They had the letters, “WWJD” stamped out of the rubber? I do and that’s how I came up with the title of today’s blog. I don’t even know that much about John Muir but I watched a cute claymation about him and wanted to share it and I also wanted to talk about our recent bear visits hence the title, “What Would John Muir Do?”

Last night I saw the bear in the back of our pick-up truck looking for garbage. I yelled at him and he ran away but he had plenty of time prior to that to make a big mess, again. The bears are hungry right now and they are too lazy to forage for food when we make it so easy for them to have an easy big meal.  The berries are still a few weeks from being ripe so I don’t think last night will be the last visit by the bear.

While I was picking up garbage, ripping open bags of trash to find things that could be recycled so I could make more room in the dumpster the bear returned again and again. Each time he ran away but he didn’t wait too long to return. I was able to sort out enough plastic, glass & cardboard out of our dumpster(not without getting my hands dirty) to fit all of the garbage into the dumpster. It’s always a satisfying feeling to make room for more garbage by jumping up and down on a piece of cardboard placed on top of the bags of garbage(think human trash compactor). The bear could no longer get at any garbage anywhere near the dumpster.

The bear did what any smart bear would do and searched for more easy meals. Luckily he didn’t find much but that didn’t prevent him from tipping over all of the garbages on the Voyageur property. I sometimes wish I could just leave food out for the bears in one location so they wouldn’t get into garbage everywhere else. But then what would I do with my free time on a Tuesday evening?

Information about the guy who made the video can be found online.


WWJMD? “I must go now, the garbage is calling.”

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Posted in personal stories

First of July Feels Like Fall

If I had awakened from a coma today and someone asked me to guess what day it was I would have never guessed it was the first of July. The sun was hidden behind the clouds for the majority of the day and there was a light mist off and on throughout the day. The wind was blowing and the temperature only got up to 64 degrees. It certainly didn’t feel like the first of July today.

The forecast for the 4th of July on the Gunflint Trail looks a little more like July with temperatures expected to get up into the 70′s. This first part of July is always a great time to paddle in the Boundary Waters. Most folks are attending parades, family reunions and fireworks so that leaves the BWCA quieter than normal. If you are looking for something to do this 4th of July then give us a call, there are permits available and we’d love to see you at Voyageur.

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Posted in Seasonal activities

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