Last Week

It’s the last week of summer break for the kids and then it’s back to school next week. Practices and games for their sports are in full swing and for all practical purposes summer is over for them. It’s bittersweet more sweet than bitter because I’m ready for them to have some structure and a schedule that doesn’t involve hours of Netflix or snapchats.

They both spent way too much time in town this summer and not up at Voyageur. It’s such a luxury to have boats, a swimming dock, paddle boards and a river right outside your front door. In town it takes a little planning and a vehicle to gain access to a lake.   We didn’t want them to have regular jobs and we thought between the brewery and canoe outfitters they could pick where and when they wanted to work. That would leave us flexible in case we wanted to do something as a family.  It turns out it was easier  to not work and as 16 and 15 year-olds they didn’t want to do anything as a family either.  So they had a very unscheduled laid back summer,  hopefully they enjoyed it because it’s back to the rat race of school and sports.

Posted in News

Waterskiing to Cache Bay

There are some of you who have paddled from our dock to Cache Bay. It’s a fairly long paddle and probably takes the average person four to five hours. It feels like a long time even when you are in a boat so I can’t imagine how it would feel to waterski all of the way to Cache Bay.

There are some old wooden water skis in our lodge that belonged to Ralph and Bea Griffis who used to own and operate Chik-Wauk Lodge. Back in those days you could have any size motor on your boat and you could go anywhere you wanted with a motor. That meant you could waterski wherever you wanted too. And for Bea Griffis that meant waterskiing all the way to the Cache Bay Ranger Station from Chik-Wauk. It’s roughly the same distance from Chik-Wauk to the Ranger Station as it is from our place to the Ranger Station minus the rapids. An amazing feat to someone like me who tried repeatedly and unsucessfully to waterski at a friend’s cabin in the 8th grade.

I don’t like to say I can’t do something. So since the 8th grade when someone has mentioned waterskiing over the years I have said, “I want to try to waterski sometime because I couldn’t do it in the 8th grade.”  Many people have said, “I’ll take you, let’s go this summer, I’ll call you.”  So, for 30 plus years I’ve waited for the call and opportunity.

It turns out I just hadn’t mentioned it to the right person. The first weekend in August I gave my usual line to a father of one of Josh’s classmates and he called and texted me not once or twice but until it finally worked out for me to go to their house on the lake and give it a shot.

He and his friends on the lake are amazing waterskiers. They have a course set up and fly through it on one ski at speeds I’m almost afraid to be in the boat at. But it turned out he also had a boom attachment that made it super easy to pop out of the water and ski.  It was awesome to be able to waterski.  I didn’t get up on top of the water using a rope behind the boat because I was super satisfied having been able to ski next to the boat.  It is a really neat feeling to be on top of the water and I can see why Bea would have wanted to waterski all of the way to Cache Bay.  While I won’t ever be able to legally waterski to Cache Bay I at least know what it would feel like to carve through the waters of Saganaga on two wooden skis.

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Posted in Chik-Wauk

Devil’s Kettle

Devil’s Kettle is located in Judge C. Magney State Park. Every year there are trails I need to hike at least once and Devil’s Kettle is one of them.

judge c. magney state park

judge c. magney state park



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Posted in News

Kayak Fishing Tournament

I wish I could take Josh’s kayak down to fish in this tournament but football will keep me otherwise occupied. The BronzeBack Classic will be held on October 1st from 7:45am to 6:00pm on the Mississippi River.  The star of the video is married to Mike’s cousin and is co-owner of ClearWaters Outfitting Company in Clearwater, Minnesota.  It’s a great section of the river and we’ve paddled it as a family. I encourage you to paddle with ClearWaters and why not try your luck during their kayak fishing tournament? 

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Posted in fishing

Our Incredible Voyageur Crew

It feels like summer just started yet some of our amazing crew have already left and returned to civilization for another school year. It is so sad to see them leave and each one takes a little piece of my heart with them but what they have added to my heart during the summer is always more than enough to make up for the loss.  We always have great crews and this year was no exception.  Thanks for an amazing and unforgettable summer everyone!

Voyageur Canoe Outfitters Crew

Voyageur Canoe Crew 2016


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Posted in News

Minnesota Wolf Population

I know our wolf population on the Gunflint Trail is healthy. Two times this summer when picking blueberries I heard wolves howl.  I saw their scat but unfortunately didn’t get to see them. Here’s what the Minnesota DNR has to say about the Minnesota Wolf population.


Minnesota’s wolf population remains stable

Results from the latest wolf population survey show no significant change in Minnesota’s wolf population during the past four winters, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

The latest survey results estimate that within Minnesota’s wolf range there were 439 wolf packs and 2,278 wolves last winter, compared to 374 packs and 2,221 wolves the year before. There has been no biologically or statistically significant change in the size of the statewide mid-winter wolf population over the past four years.

“The consistent wolf population surveys over the last several years are further evidence of the health and stability of Minnesota’s wolf population,” said Dan Stark, large carnivore specialist for the DNR.

The population survey is conducted in mid-winter near the low point of the annual population cycle. Immediately following birth of pups each spring, the wolf population typically doubles, though many pups do not survive to the following winter.

Minnesota’s wolf population remains above the state’s minimum goal of at least 1,600 wolves and is above the federal recovery goal of 1,251 to 1,400.

Although the population estimate was not significantly different from last year, survey results suggest wolf packs used less area on average than the previous year (62 versus 73 square miles), resulting in an increase in the estimated number of packs. This pattern is consistent with the increase in deer numbers observed in many parts of wolf range.

According to John Erb, DNR wolf research scientist, when prey numbers change, wolves must eventually re-adjust to the new conditions.

“In recent years we’ve observed a decline in prey that translated into larger wolf pack territories, and the reverse is now to be expected if deer numbers continue to increase,” Erb said.

The survey estimated an average of 4.4 wolves per pack, down from an average pack size of 5.1 wolves per pack in last year’s survey. The slight drop in average pack size from last winter could be a result of many factors, although pack size is not as correlated with prey density as is territory size. The late start and early end to winter snow cover reduced the amount of time available for wolf pack counts, which could contribute to a lower estimate.

“Regardless of the explanation, over the past 30 years, average mid-winter pack size has not shown much variability, ranging from 5.6 to 4.3,” Erb said. “Counts are assumed to represent minimum estimates given the challenges with detecting all members of a pack together at the same time.”

The DNR’s goal for wolf management, as outlined in the state’s wolf management plan, is to ensure the long-term survival of wolves in Minnesota while addressing wolf-human conflicts. Wolves in Minnesota returned to the federal list of threatened species as a result of a Washington, D.C. federal district court ruling in December 2014.

Visit the DNR website at to find the full report, an FAQ and an overview of wolf management in the state, including the wolf management plan.

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Posted in wildlife

School Shopping

It seemed like it would be the perfect day to make a quick trip to Duluth to get the much needed school supplies. Abby already had to be in Two Harbors for volleyball so it’s just another 30 minutes in the vehicle.  A Tuesday, not a holiday nor a weekend so things should have been relatively calm except for the fact it was move in day at UMD.

I’m pretty sure every UMD student was in Target with their parents buying everything they needed for college and then some.  Fans and air conditioners were flying off of the shelves along with pillows, coffee makers and anything else parents and kids thought they needed.

We needed folders, notebooks, pens, pencils and a calculator.  Can you believe there was only one package of #2 pencils left and since we had to ask an associate to help us purchase a calculator we both completely forgot about it and left without getting it?

The place was beyond chaotic and there were way too many people there for my comfort level. Hopefully next year I’ll remember to check UMD’s calendar and make sure it isn’t move in day before I make a trip to Duluth.


Posted in News

Thimbleberries are Good and Good for You

Gunflint BWCA


While driving with my kids recently they threatened to put blinders on me. I could see thimbleberry bushes lining the road and I wanted to stop and pick them. I did stop a couple of times and that’s when the kids started to use their hands as blinders.  For all of our safety I decided I wouldn’t stop to pick anymore.

Thimbleberries taste good and contain Vitamins A and C.  They can be a bit tart but it’s a flavor I enjoy. They are fun to pick because you can usually do so standing upright. Thimbleberries are a delicate berry similar to raspberries so you have to pick them carefully or you can cause other ripe berries to fall off of the plant.  If they aren’t quite ripe they will be a little more difficult to pull off and if they are too ripe then they will end up as red mush on your fingers. When they are plucked off of the plant they resemble thimbles so that is how they got their name.  I love their leaves because they are big and have a fuzzy feel to them.

If you see me on the side of the road, don’t worry, I’m probably just picking thimbleberries.  Here’s some more information about this great berry.


Thimbleberry’s real name is Rubus parviflorus. It is in the Rosaceae (Rose) family and is in the same genus (Rubus) as raspberry, blackberry, loganberry, boysenberry, tayberry, dewberry and many others. Rubus fruit are an aggregate fruit composed of small, individual drupes, each individual is termed a drupelet. In a sense they are many little berries grouped together to make one large berry.IMG_2549

The young shoots, roots and leaves have been used to treat many ailments. A tea is made of the leaves or roots as a blood tonic in the treatment of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dysentery. Its effects are believed to tone and strengthen the stomach helping increase appetite. Rich in vitamin C, Thimbleberry helps boost your immune system and was used to ward off scurvy. A poultice of the dried powdered leaves treats wounds and burns and the fresh leaves can be crushed and applied to treat acne. A decoction of the roots has also been taken to treat acne.IMG_2550



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Posted in environment

Wondering about Wintergreen

Wintergreen is such a pretty plant. You can find it in the BWCA and on the Gunflint Trail in abundance. Did you know its leaves and berries can be used?   Here’s some information from the emergency outdoors blog.

The leaves and berries can be eaten as a trail nibble. They are both very flavorful, however the leaves can irritate the stomach if swallowed. The volatile oil of wintergreen is very toxic, so one should never take the volatile oil internally. It is said that a mere 6 milliliters of wintergreen oil can kill an adult human. The active ingredient in the oil is methyl salicylate, which is a compound similar to aspirin. In fact the oil of wintergreen was used in some of the first commercially prepared aspirin tablets. Due to this property, the wintergreen plant was used by many civilizations in much the same way as we do aspirin today. Most often the chemical would be derived in a tea, which would soothe sore muscles, calm a headache, and relieve general pain. For a more potent supply the tea would be left steeping for several days until it started to ferment. This fermented liquid was the preferred method for use as a medicine.

Cooking the leaves or berries of the wintergreen plant will fill the house with the wonderful aroma, but the flavor of the berries and leaves will have diminished. When the leaves or berries are heated the volatile oils are vaporized into the air. If you want to use the berries for their flavor it is best to use them fresh. Pureeing them will bring out more flavor to the food.

The young leaves in the spring while still red are tender and highly flavored with oil of wintergreen (checkerberry), but in the mid-summer become tough and less palatable.

Woodmen esteem the mature leaves as a substitute for tea. In the eighteenth century the plant was highly reputed as a tea-substitute; and we are told that the French-Canadian court-physician, Dr. Hugues Gaultier “decouvrit le the du Canada… qu’il designa comme un breuvage excellent.” (Translated to: Canada discovered the tea … designated as a great beverage)

BWCA wintergreen





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Posted in environment

Rugby Dog Rules

“Can the dog go outside? “Yes, he goes anywhere he wants to.” However the dog, Rugby, is going to be 11 years old in October and he is pretty much deaf. He also has no fear of vehicles and has been known to sit down in the middle of our driveway at Voyageur or behind tires of parked cars.

Rugby also loves people. He loves to meet new people and greet them in the store or outside. The next time you’re at Voyageur take an extra look around and say hello to Rugby and check behind your tires before you leave.

Voyageur Canoe Outfitters



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Posted in News

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