Fall on the Gunflint Trail

It hardly feels like the first day of fall with the temperature at 8am reading 67 degrees at the end of the Gunflint Trail. But the calendar says it’s true so we must believe what it says. I for one do not like to believe summer is over. I’m never ready to put away camping gear and swap rakes for shovels at my doorstep.

I am a lover of light and this time of the year we lose light.  Today is the “Equinox” so we have equal hours of night and day but from now on we’ll have shorter days until the winter solstice. The warmth of the sun also dissipates and like geese flocking south the summer residents of the area depart along with the hours of daylight.

Despite the lack of daylight fall is a spectacular season. With football games, the smell of smoke from wood stoves and the sight of beautiful fall colors in the woods it’s difficult to not enjoy the season.

According to an article on CNN the season known as fall wasn’t always called fall.  The word “harvest” was used to describe the season until the 1300’s and then the word “autumn” arrived in English writing. Poets were responsible for writing about “the fall of leaves” and eventually it was shortened to “fall” and that’s what American’s have called it since the mid-1800’s.

Feel free to call it what you like and savor it. It won’t last forever and soon snowflakes will fall from the sky and cover the leaves that have fallen from our trees bringing us another season to enjoy.



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Canoeist Struck by Turkey?

That isn’t a headline I can say I have seen before.  Near Ely, MN, a wild turkey flew out of the woods and struck a vehicle with a canoe on top of it. The windshield broke and the man thought the turkey would fly off but it got tangled in the rope tying the canoe down. He was eventually able to cut it loose and set it free. I didn’t realize they had wild turkeys in Ely!

Paul Pengal works to free a tangled turkey that got caught up in the ropes of a canoeist traveling near Winton this week.

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Gunflint Trail Hiking- South Lake Trail


Hiking the Gunflint Trail

Border Route Trail Intersection

It had been a number of years since I last hiked the South Lake Trail. As far as hiking trails on the Gunflint Trail the South Lake Trail is not that special. It doesn’t offer amazing views like the Caribou Rock Trail, Honeymoon Bluff or Blueberry Hill trails. It doesn’t have a neat geophysical feature like the Magnetic Rock Trail or a historical feature like the Centennial Rock Trail. There’s no old fire tower to see like the Lima Mountain Trail or Fire Tower Lookout.

Gunflint Trail hiking

Hiking the South Lake Trail

The South Lake Trail is a nice trail through the woods that meanders it’s way past lakes and through a diverse forest before ending at the shore of South Lake. It begins in the mid-trail area right off of the Gunflint Trail across the road from Rockwood Lodge.  Some people use the trail to access the Border Route Trail while others use it to get to some remote fishing lakes. Since a portion of the trail is outside of the BWCA there can be instances of motorized travel but it is quite rare.  The hiking trail crosses the snowmobile trail before you get to a boardwalk that takes you across a bog.  About a mile from the Gunflint Trail you’ll encounter Birch Lake on the left side of the trail. You’ll then see a trail sign for Moss Lake to your right. You can take the short trail to see the lake or hike it out to the Hungry Jack Lake Road. Continuing on the trail for a little over a mile you’ll enter into the BWCA.

Hiking Gunflint Trail

Border Route Hiking Trail

A travel permit for entry point 59 is needed for day use and overnight use of the South Lake Trail. For day use you just need to fill out a self-issuing permit but to spend the night you’ll need to reserve a permit. Partridge Lake has a campsite on it about one mile before the Border Route Trail.  There isn’t very much room for a tent and the hiking trail separates the campsite from the latrine. You can fish from the campsite and people have caught lake trout from the shore.

South Lake Trail

Partridge Lake


The trail intersects with the Border Route Trail and then it’s about 1/3 of a mile to the campsite on the shore of South Lake. Over this short distance the trail drops about 300 vertical feet from the ridge to the lake. The campsite was damaged in 2016 by a windstorm but it was cleaned up and ready to be used again as of August 2017.

Boundary Waters hiking

South Lake campsite

The South Lake Trail passes through alder, over creeks, past towering pine trees, through cedar stands and offers a great variety of plant life. The trail was well maintained by the Border Route Hiking Club volunteer crews. There were very few down trees but that can change with a heavy snow in the winter or a large wind. You can check out the website for updates on all trail sections of the Border Route.

BWCAW hiking trail

South Lake Trail to Rose Lake

While most websites and literature say the trail is 3.5 miles each way my GPS watch ended up with a solid 8 miles. I did do a little exploring but I didn’t think it certainly wasn’t a miles worth. The trail is rocky in places and has a few steep ascents and descents but I was able to  make the round trip in 3 hours. A little slower than hikes on the wider, more traveled Superior Hiking Trail but still a good pace. I didn’t see another soul or have to deal with any bugs. It was great to get to hike the South Lake Trail and can’t wait to get back into the woods to take the Moss Lake Trail next.

Gunflint Trail hiking

South Lake Trail

hiking the Gunflint Trail

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Lake Superior Sunset

While out for Abby’s Senior pictures the other night we had a terrific opportunity to capture a beautiful sunset on Lake Superior.

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Mosquitoes in September on the Gunflint Trail

The warm temperatures on the Gunflint Trail and the recent rainfall were enough to hatch a new crop of mosquitoes. What an unfortunate turn of events for those who seek out the BWCA in September for lack of bugs! I was bitten more on Saturday then I was all summer long! On Sunday it was windy enough the bugs were not bothering me. Hopefully the 31 degree low temperature last night killed them off for good!

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Unexpected Visitors in the Canoe Country

While Abby and I were camping on Saganaga over Labor Day weekend we had unexpected visitors. We could hear the sound of people talking and the occasional bark of a dog but we didn’t pay it much attention. Then we heard a familiar, “Yoo Hoo” and knew it was Janice from Cache Bay.

We were expecting Janice to visit as she had told Abby she might camp with us for the evening. What we weren’t expecting were two more watercraft with a man in each and a dog perched on the bow of one.

It turned out it was Mike Ranta from Atikokan, his dog Spitzi and a photographer named David Jackson. Mike and Spitizi were the recipients of Canoe & Kayak Magazine’s 2015 Expedition of the Year award for their solo cross continent canoe expedition. In 2016 Mike and Spitzi made the trip again honoring veterans along the way.

We encountered the “Modern Day Voyageur” from Atikokan, Ontario while on his third crossing of the continent. This time photographer David Jackson was along to document the adventure in honor of raising awareness for PTSD of First Responders.

We chatted a bit and then heard the reason we were so honored with their visit. It turns out David had broken his paddle along the way and Janice had a spare at Cache Bay she was willing to let him use. It happened to be one of my Pink Paddles I had given Janice as a birthday present. Sure enough David was holding my paddle and Janice took the opportunity to introduce them to the creator of the paddle.

I’m not one to enjoy making small talk with strangers but when those strangers happen to be on an amazing adventure like they were I could have talked for hours. Unfortunately they didn’t have spare time so after Abby and I added our signatures to Mike’s canoe they were on their way once again. Janice paddled with them across Saganaga to the first portage before returning to our camp for the evening.

We then learned more about the explorers and their adventure. Stories about how they had to pull carts on highways through the Rockies. With canoes and gear loaded they walked over 500 miles! Wind and waves kept them windbound for a number of days on a couple of large lakes including Lake Winnipeg which is notorious for large and sudden waves. These delays caused the expedition to be about 2 months behind schedule and unsure if they would be able to successfully cross Lake Superior this late in the year.

Most people would never consider embarking on such a journey. Most people would call it quits when faced with adversity and weather delays. Mike and David are not most people. These men have something inside of them. Something that if it could be bottled, marketed and sold in stores would make them billionaires. A mix of determination, grit, inner peace, drive, sense of purpose, kindness, companionship, trust, patience, common sense and a deep love of the earth and adventure.


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Busy Bears

We’ve been hearing reports of bear activity lately.  The berry picking wasn’t good for the bears either and they are in need of food before they hibernate for the winter. They are looking wherever they can for some good food so it’s super important to keep a clean camp and hang your packs. Someone encountered a sow and cub near the portage from Alpine Lake to Red Rock Lake. A group of ours talked to some people on the south arm of Knife Lake who had a bear come into their camp. On the portage between Duncan and West Bearskin a bear had a torn up pack and another group who had a bear come into their camp said it wasn’t deterred even when the group shot a gun and used air horns.  We received the following information from the USFS.

Two men who guided brown bear hunters in Alaska for ten years were chased off of Seagull after one night.  They were camped on the site at the top of the lake, above Miles Island.   They had 9 visits from 5 DIFFERENT black bears in less than 24 hours.   They said they basically had a packed trail through their campsite and they just kept coming back.   A sow and a cub, a cinnamon colored bear, a huge black bear, and a random medium sized bear.   Then, when they gave up and left, they had a bear in the parking lot by their vehicle in the campground to add insult to injury. They are very bear aware and finally just gave up because they were tired of chasing them out of the site and looking behind their backs.

They are veteran Seagull campers, been doing this for years.  They keep a clean site, even go as far as washing out the freeze dried food bags.  One of the bears kept pulling the rocks away from the fire grate when they went out fishing.  (so there were at least two more visits when they weren’t in the campsite.)  They had their pack and their small bag of trash hung from trees.  They said the big bear was huffing at them and came within 5 feet before running away.

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TGIF? What could it stand for besides “Thank goodness it’s Friday?” How about “Thank goodness it’s fall?” As a business owner or someone who services tourists you might find yourself thinking that because you’re super tired from a busy summer.  The folks who work the Minnesota State Fair get a little taste of the resort life when they have 10 days of 12 plus hours of work each day. But they only have to do it for 10 days.

The good news is we are continually refreshed by the enthusiasm of our guests who are just as excited to be experiencing the wilderness as those guests of ours in June.  We’re super thankful for all of our guests. Can you think of a way to use the letters “TGIF” and express thanks for guests?  Share your thoughts!


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My Happy Place

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It’s beginning to look a lot like fall

The fall colors are here and they are beautiful.

Minnesota fall colors

DNR News Release
For Immediate Release:
Sept. 7, 2017

Expect a near perfect fall leaf season in Minnesota state parks and trails

The Fall Color Finder goes live Sept. 7    Adequate rainfall nearly statewide combined with lots of summer sunshine point to a beautiful fall leaf season.

Starting Sept. 7 and on every Thursday throughout fall, people can consult the Fall Color Finder to learn more about peak fall color (www.mndnr.gov/fallcolors). This tool comes courtesy of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division and features:

A map that shows peak color across Minnesota.
A link to fall color programs and events.
A slideshow.
A photo uploader that provides a great way for sharing fall photos.
“It’s that time of year again – kids are back in school, evenings are getting cooler, and leaves are changing color,” said Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. “This fall, I encourage Minnesotans to get outside and enjoy fall colors in their state parks. Minnesotans can even use the DNR’s Fall Color Finder to determine when leaves will be most vivid in every corner of the state. I hope to see you on the trail this fall.”

Rainfall and sunshine throughout the summer months determine the depth of color each fall in Minnesota. Kao Thao, a naturalist with Fort Snelling State Park, said that temperatures also come into play. An early freezing frost, for example, cuts short fall color.

“A light frost at the start of the color season actually helps produce vivid color,” Thao said. “During those summers when we experience a severe drought, colors are dulled somewhat. But we had plenty of rain and there’s always plenty of sunlight, so the leaf season at Fort Snelling State Park should be beautiful.”

Elsewhere the west-central and northwestern parts of the state saw less rain this summer than the metro area. Sometimes a less rain, but not drought conditions, actually increase the color display.

All of the above begs a seasonal question often asked of the DNR. Just why do those leaves change color? Longer end-of-summer days and shorter bouts with sunshine as well as cooler nights trigger the color change. The most brilliant leaves show their hues after many warm and sunny days and cool nights.

Those shorter periods of daylight mean a closing off of the leaf veins that carry liquid sugar in and out of leaves. As a consequence, sugars in the leaf permit the red and purple colors to develop. Purple-like and red pigments are found in the leaves of maple and oak, some varieties of ash, and tall shrubs like cherry, sumac and viburnum.

Yellow is always present in leaves all summer long, but the color is revealed when the green pigment in chlorophyll breaks down. The yellow leaves, found in ash, aspen, basswood, birch, cottonwood and elm, may be short in lifespan due to drought conditions. If it’s dry, not as much sugar is produced so there isn’t as much color.

Check out a state park, recreation area, state forest, trail and water trail. Each is within viewing distance of beautiful leaf color. There’s a state park within about 30 minutes of nearly every town and city in the state. Find a state park at mndnr.gov/parkfinder.

As a general rule, colors typically peak between mid-September and early October in the northern third of Minnesota, between late September and early October in the central third of the state, and between late September and mid-October in the southern third, which includes the Twin Cities.

State park fall programs are listed in the 2017 “Programs and Events” sampler available at state parks and recreation areas, Twin Cities libraries, and at metro outdoor retail stores. The DNR Information Center will mail the brochure if requested. A listing of all fall programs can be found online at www.mndnr.gov/fallcolor.

For more information, contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or call 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday).




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  • A trip to the Seagull Lake palisades never disappoints.

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