Other Owatonnanians at the end of the Gunflint Trail

I think I made that word up but doesn’t it look cool? Last week I introduced Matt Ritter, one of our Voyageur Crew members from Owatonna and today I’ll introduce two others. Paul Swenson is a friend of Matt’s and Ryan Ritter is Matt’s brother. Paul has been working at Voyageur all summer but Ryan recently arrived after his short 900 mile canoe trip to Hudson Bay.

I haven’t had a ton of time to talk to Ryan about his epic paddling adventure but you can read a little bit about it on Facebook.  I know they saw Musk Ox, Polar Bears, Whales and Caribou and they saw very few people.  I haven’t had him fill out his Questionnaire about paddling in the BWCA so I might have to save that information for another post. He plans to stay at Voyageur through the fall and I couldn’t be happier. He’s done some great work in the short amount of time he has been here including clearing with a chain saw and painting a cabin. Keep up the great work Ryan.

Paul Swenson arrived early in the spring and has been with us ever since. He knows how to do everything there is to do at Voyageur but he prefers some tasks over others. He likes to build stuff and work on projects while he’s working and when he’s not working he likes to fish. His favorite Boundary Waters lake is Saganaga and his favorite route is the Granite River.  When he’s not at Voyageur he enjoys playing hockey, snowboarding and fishing.

Maybe that’s why Paul tolerates our 13 year-old son Josh and his friends so well? Josh likes to fish and loves to play hockey too. Paul is great with the kids and our guests.

Paul is a Sophomore Marketing major at UMD in Duluth, Minnesota. When he grows up he wants to be Mike Prom. I’m not sure how concerned I should be about that since he didn’t say he wants to be “like” Mike but actually wants to be him.

In any case Paul has been a great asset to Voyageur and we’re super lucky to have him as part of our crew.

Paul on left, Josh on right

Paul and Josh

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in News

Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center Pie Social

It’s not like you need a reason to take a drive up the Gunflint Trail but if it makes you feel better then here’s a reason. Sunday is the annual Pie and Ice Cream Social held at Chik-Wauk Museum.  Visiting the Museum is always a good time and if the weather is nice then be sure to take a hike too. There are quite a few hikes to choose from and the last time I was there blueberries still lined the hiking trail to Blueberry Hill.  Whether or not there are blueberries the views from the hiking trails are beautiful and it’s great to spend time outside.

Chik-Wauk Museum

Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center on the Gunflint Trail

Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center will host an Old Fashioned Pie and Ice Cream Social on the museum front porch and grounds over Labor Day weekend on Sunday, August 31, from 11am – 4pm. As always, there’s a suggested donation for pie, ice cream and beverage. This day also features the annual Chik-Wauk “sidewalk” sale which offers steep discounts on many gift shop items. It will be a fun way to wrap up the summer and say “so long till next year,” to our friends and neighbors. 

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in News

Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?

To get to his winter home of course! Please use caution when driving on the Gunflint Trail and lend a helping hand to a turtle.

DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                             Aug. 28, 2014

Baby turtles are hatching and adults are getting ready for winter
Help turtles safely cross roads

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is asking people to share the road with hatchling and adult turtles this fall.

Turtles crossing roads in late-August and September are often moving to familiar overwintering locations. Unfortunately, many hatchling and adult turtles’ have to cross roads to get to wintering areas.

“Roadway mortality is believed to be a major factor in turtle population declines throughout the United States,” said Christopher Smith, DNR nongame wildlife specialist.

In Minnesota, where all turtles are mainly aquatic, overland journeys usually occur: in connection with seasonal movements between different wetland habitats; during the annual early summer nesting migration of egg laden females; or when newly hatched youngsters seek out the backwaters and ponds that will serve as their permanent home. Turtles can travel many miles during a single year, and may even be found far from water; this is no need for concern.

Giving turtles a hand
Here are some tips to help turtles across roads:

Avoid danger. Simply pulling off the road and turning on hazard lights may alert other drivers to slow down. Be aware of surroundings and traffic.
Avoid excessive handling. While wanting to inspect turtles closely is understandable, excessive handling can disrupt normal behavior. Prolonged examination of turtles should therefore be limited to only one or two individuals of each species.
Allow unassisted road crossings. When turtles can safely cross roads unaided due to a lack of oncoming traffic allow them to do so. Observe from a distance and avoid rapid movements, as doing otherwise will often cause turtles to change direction, stop, or seek shelter within their shells.
Handle turtles gently. If necessary to pick them up, all turtles except Snappers and Softshells should be grasped gently along the shell edge near the mid-point of the body. Many turtles empty their bladder when lifted off the ground, so be careful not to drop them if they should suddenly expel water.
Maintain direction of travel. Always move turtles in the same direction they were traveling in when encountered. Turtles should always be moved across roadways in as direct a line as possible.
Find more information at www.dnr.state.mn.us/reptiles_amphibians/helping-turtles-roads.html.

Check out the DNR’s turtle poster:http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/nongame/turtle_poster.pdf.

Tagged with: ,
Posted in wildlife

Our House is a Very Fine House

Do you ever wish you could live in a tent in the wilderness? Think about how little time you would have to spend cleaning and making beds. It sounds quite attractive to me especially if I could set the tent up in the Boundary Waters. It would make a very fine house indeed.

Camping in the Boundary Waters

Camping in the BWCA

Tagged with: ,
Posted in BWCA

Paddling Safely in the Boundary Waters

Some of these suggestions for safe paddling aren’t applicable in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area but I figure most of our readers paddle elsewhere too.  It’s a short, cute video that is a good reminder to be smart wherever you paddle.  With Labor Day Weekend right around the corner I’m hoping many of you plan to paddle and this will keep you paddling safely.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in skills

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.

Posted in News

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

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in News

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.

Tagged with: ,
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.

Posted in News

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 www.mndnr.gov/plates.
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 www.leskoubaoutdoors.com or www.callofthemoose.com.
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 http://youtu.be/h8Np4zu__xA.
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 www.callofthemoose.com. Information from the DNR on moose research can be found at www.mndnr.gov/moose.


Tagged with: , ,
Posted in News

Follow @bwcabloglady on twitter.

Pin It   

Receive this Blog via Email

Sign up for our online newsletter: