Boundary Waters trip to Rose Lake

We’ve been working on updates to our Boundary Waters canoe trip routes on our website for a number of years. It’s a

time consuming task and I have the tendency to want things to be perfect. What’s that saying, “Striving for perfection is the greatest stopper there is?” Well, I’ve decided to just get something down for each BWCAW route whether or not it’s perfect. I can always go back and edit the canoe trip routes at a later date, right?

BWCA watefall

Waterfall at Stairway Portage

The most recent BWCA route to be updated is the Rose Lake canoe trip via Duncan Lake and the Stairway Portage. Each Boundary Waters trip has a map, route description, short story and a brief history. Matt has been working on the map portion of the trip and then I go in and put photos in as I can find them.

I’ve shared the brief history portion below and if you’re interested in the full route description then check out the website.

Imagine sitting on the shores of a wilderness lake and hearing the sound of a train whistle in the distance. When the Gunflint Trail area was opened up for settlement in the 1800’s people began their journey inland from the shores of Lake Superior. They found towering pines, lakes teeming with fish and geological features that piqued their interest. Some who ventured here saw the beauty, solitude and peacefulness and decided to settle here. Others saw the tall trees and imagined making profits by harvesting and selling the lumber. And yet other folks saw the rocks and thought there might be gold or other minerals to mine and sell. But before any logging or mining could be done there needed to be a way to transport materials off of the Gunflint Trail and railroads were the answer.

The history of railroads on the Gunflint Trail is a little confusing because there were a number of them built by different companies for different reasons. Information about the railroads is somewhat sparse but this is what I have pieced together from a number of different sources.

Russell Alger and M.S. Smith both from Michigan decided to build a railroad in 1898 and name it the Duluth and Northern Minnesota, also known as the Alger-Smith line because it was owned by the logging firm of Alger, Smith and Company. The plan was to harvest timber and bring it from the Arrowhead Region to the Duluth area near the mouth of the Knife River.

The details are fuzzy but the line originally ended at Hornby.  I believe Alger-Smith completed their logging and sold the line to the General Logging Company of Cloquet who dismantled the railroad and stored the steel at Hornby.

In 1926 the General Logging Company of Cloquet decided to build a spur trail from Hornby(the end of the Duluth and Northern Minnesota) to Cascade Lake.  This spur was known as the General Logging Line and by 1929 it extended to Brule and Rose Lakes.  The logging didn’t last long for a number of reasons including the Brule Lake Fire of 1929, the beginning of the Great Depression, the dropping of the lumber market and the poor quality of the pine. The company pulled up the steel lines between 1939 and 1941 ending the era of the railroad on the Gunflint Trail.

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Lost in the Woods Advice from the USFS

The advice about what to do when you’re lost in the woods is from 1946 but some of it might still hold true.

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Lake Superior Splendor

A couple of sunset photos courtesy of Josh!

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Coming soon to Seagull Lake- 80-foot radio tower for your viewing pleasure!

WHAT? Someone decided it would be a good idea to place an 80-foot radio tower near the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department Hall #3 on Blankenburg Road near the Seagull Lake boat landing. I don’t have all of the details of the proposal but I plan to learn more about the proposed project in the next few days.  Here’s what I found via the USFS website.

Description: MnDOT has requested a communication site facility for the ARMER project located at the existing Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department Seagull Fire Hall #3 station. The site will house an 80′ communication tower, 12′ x 24′ equipment building.

According to the document a decision will be issued in 4/2018 with implementation 5/2018.

I hadn’t even heard about this proposal until this morning! I’m not sure why the project has been kept a secret or why a tower needs to be erected at Seagull Lake. It seems like we just had this argument a couple of years ago and now someone is just trying to push it through before anyone learns about it. Wouldn’t that be an unpleasant surprise for homeowners, cabin owners and visitors to the end of the Gunflint Trail?

An 80-foot tower would be seen from all over Seagull Lake and would not enhance the wilderness experience for the many BWCA users who visit Seagull Lake.  I’m sure the number of people who use the beach at the public landing for day recreation would not want to see a tower either. Nor any of the folks driving the Gunflint Trail SCENIC Byway.

I plan to find out more about this proposed project and will keep you informed. If you have questions or comments I’ve listed the contact information for the project below.

Contact Christina Tampio 218-663-8080

There is a meeting tomorrow at the Cook County Courthouse beginning at 5pm with time for public comment and discussion about towers (radio, cell phone service) in Cook County, including proposed towers up the Gunflint Trail. 



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Snowmobile Races on the Gunflint Trail

Here’s a nice video Josh Prom took of the snowmobile races on the Gunflint Trail last weekend.

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Snow in the Forecast and Ice Fishing Fun

Bring on the snow! There’s snow in the forecast and we’re hoping we get our fair share. Any snow we get now helps keep the trails for skiing and snowmobiling last longer. And it makes travel to fishing holes easier as well.

Matt and Cassidy have been able to get out ice fishing in the Boundary Waters and had some success the other day. Matt’s niece Avery is super fun to listen to in this short video clip.

catching fish in the BWCA

lake trout

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Rocking Robins

I didn’t see a robin but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible according to the Minnesota DNR.

Only 32 days till Spring . . .
The recent brief spells of warm weather have many people looking forward to spring here in the North Star State. While the season officially arrives on March 20, for many Minnesotans, the real arrival of spring is marked by the season’s first sighting of an American robin. But a February robin in Minnesota is not necessarily a sign of spring at all. Often it’s just a testament to a hearty and rugged bird that, like most of us in this state, possess the fortitude to stand up to Old Man Winter. Bold North indeed!

Like many other birds, some robins will stick around all winter, as long as there’s food and adequate shelter. For the robins that do fly south to places such as Mexico and the Caribbean, it has more to do with easy availability of food than with cold temperatures.

Winter robins here usually hang out in sheltered areas. Unlike in spring and summer, when their mating needs make them more territorial, they gather in large flocks. They move around from one area to another, wherever they can find trees and shrubs still bearing the berries and fruit that make up their winter diet. Sometimes these berries can begin to ferment and produce alcohol that actually causes the birds to get a little tipsy!

For the robins that migrate, the journey back to Minnesota will soon begin. Robins have several triggers that tell them to head north. The increasing daylight triggers hormones that urge the robin to establish a territory, mate and raise young. Waiting on the spring thaw and favorable south winds, the robins develop a restlessness that ornithologists call zugunruhe, a German word that comes from zug (migration) and unruhe (anxiety).

When you first hear a robin singing, that’s a real indicator that spring is just around the corner. Male robins sing to establish territory and lure females for mating. Their songs, coupled with increasing numbers of robins in the area, tell you that warmer weather is coming soon.

March is the robin’s peak migration month, so be on the lookout for the signs of spring. And if, in the meantime, you start to feel a little bit of your own zugunruhe, consider getting outside and visiting one of Minnesota’s state parks to see what else is stirring.

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Minnesota Moose Population Stable

From the Minnesota DNR

Moose population remains low but stable for a seventh year
Population estimate statistically unchanged from last year’s estimate

Results of the 2018 moose survey indicate the moose population in northeastern Minnesota remains stable but relatively low for the seventh year in a row, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“While the population appears stable, low numbers of moose are still a major concern for the DNR,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “We continue to pursue the best science, research and management tools available to us to help Minnesota’s moose.”

The 2018 aerial moose survey estimated 3,030 moose in northeastern Minnesota, statistically unchanged from last year’s estimate of 3,710. The survey is statistically sound, but there is inherent uncertainty associated with such surveys, because researchers will never see and count all of the animals across the 6,000 square mile survey area. Statistically, the DNR is 90 percent certain that the population is between 4,140 and 2,320 moose.

“The stability of moose numbers in recent years provides a reason for some optimism – after all, we’re not facing a significant decline,” said Glenn DelGiudice, DNR moose and deer project leader. “But this year’s results would be more palatable had they reflected the beginning of a turnaround in the population trend.”

Each year the population estimate is compared to 2006, because the state’s highest moose population estimate of 8,840 occurred that year. Currently, northeastern Minnesota’s moose population is estimated to be 65 percent lower than the peak estimate of 2006.

“While the trend of stability is encouraging, it does not allow us to forecast the future trajectory of the population,” DelGiudice said.

Reproductive success and adult survival have the greatest impact on the annual performance and dynamics of the moose population over time.

“Our field research has shown that annual pregnancy rates of adult females in this population have been robust,” DelGiudice said. “But it is a challenge to maintain a high number of adult females that can become pregnant, produce calves and rear them to 1 year of age.”

Survey results also indicate that calf survival to January has been relatively stable, but consistently low. Field studies have indicated that it is even lower by spring, translating to low numbers of moose calves living through their first year. Importantly, the DNR’s detailed investigations have shown that wolf predation has consistently accounted for about two-thirds of the calf mortality compared to one-third of the adult mortality.

Annual aerial moose surveys have been conducted each year since 1960 in the northeast.  Adjustments were made in 2005 to make the survey more accurate and annual results more comparable.

This year’s survey involved flying in 52 survey plots distributed across northeastern Minnesota’s moose range from Jan. 3 to Jan. 13. The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and 1854 Treaty Authority contributed funding and provided personnel for the annual moose survey.

More information about moose is available on the DNR website at

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Cross-country skiing isn’t for everyone

Did you happen to read the article about cross-country skiing in the New York Times Magazine? Sam Anderson’s article titled, “What Cross-Country Skiing Reveals About the Human Condition,” paints a picture of people who participate in cross-country skiing.

The picture I created in my mind after reading his article was of a crazy-eyed, helmet wearing, tight encased, stiff body with a frozen expression of boredom on the face of a dead body.

What does a cross-country skiier really look like? It looks like an old bearded man happily enjoying a ski on a frozen lake or a thirty-year-old woman pulling her kids behind her on a snowy path through the woods. It looks like two old women wearing Columbia jackets and ski pants as they shuffle side by side on a groomed trail or a young man skate skiing his way from point A to point B.

Are there heroes wearing helmets, tights and goggles gritting their teeth in a form of self-torture looking for glory of some sort? I suppose there may be but during my twenty plus years of cross-country skiing I have yet to see one. I do see people enjoying the thrill of a steep downhill, smiling with happiness as they spot wildlife in the woods and enjoying being out in the quiet, white wilderness.

Is cross-country skiing a great spectator sport? Not according to Anderson who describes it as “the least glamorous, least pyrotechnic, least watchable of the major Olympic sports.” But then again, life is not a spectator sport and I’d rather be out cross-country skiing than watching any of the competitions of the Olympics. I haven’t watched any of the Olympics yet but if I do it will certainly be cross-country skiing.

Annie Porkane wrote a rebuttal to Anderson’s article and she describes the sport as, “Arguably the toughest outdoor sport in the world, it requires a unique combination of  strength, speed, and endurance. The lateral movements of skate skiing are at once unnatural and exhausting, while the technique for proper classic skiing leaves most untrained participants feeling like they’re just shuffling around. To succeed at racing uphill, athletes have to have ridiculous VO2 maxes, and put in 800 to 1000-plus hours a year of endurance and strength training.”
In spite of how difficult the sport of cross-country skiing is, almost anyone can cross-country ski and most people who try it enjoy it. You don’t have to push yourself to the limits or find the steepest hills to climb. You can travel at your own pace or the pace of a friend. I’ll take a ski on a zero degree day any day over trodding along on a treadmill staring at the world outside. And don’t worry, you won’t ever find me wearing tights, a helmet or goggles while I’m skiing and if you happen to come across my dead body in the woods it’s a smile I was wearing on my face when I died.


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Happiness is skiing with your son

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