Category: Boundary Waters

Ode to Autumn (Canoe Trips)

“So, how often do you get out for trips yourself?”

We’ve spent all summer answering that question and now the answer that we usually give is upon us: September.

September is when we go on canoe trips.

Of course, that’s not a hard fast rule. Like most folks, we go when we can. Sometimes that means June, sometimes we manage to sneak away at the peak of the season in late July or early August, but if we have our druthers, September is the month we choose for paddling trips.

Last autumn, Andy managed to get out for a trip with his buddy Andrew during the second full week of September. They did a six day/five night Quetico canoe trip via the Falls Chains, Kawnipi, Agnes, and McEwen Lakes.

Quetico Provincial Park Ontario Canada Paddle Trip It’s not the best photo documented canoe trip that ever was. Andrew’s camera broke on the second night they were out there.

(Here’s the last photo that camera ever took – Andrew with a walleye on the shores of Heronshaw.)

Quetico Provincial Park blue walleye catch

But the photos that they did get show just how beautiful an autumn canoe trip can be.

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There are lots of reasons to opt for a late season canoe trip. With school back in session, the woods of the Boundary Waters and Quetico get pretty quiet. While there’s a little influx of visitors over each weekend in September, after Labor Day it’s not unheard of to go for days without seeing another soul, especially in Quetico. Traffic-free portages and the lack of campsite competition allow late season visitors to travel at their own pace. The days are noticeably shorter, which forces you to set up camp earlier and cool nights are infamous for good “sleeping weather.” The lakes start turning over, which means better lake trout fishing, if not poorer swimming conditions as the water temperature drops.

Of course, fewer people in the woods and colder temperatures mean late season campers need to be a little more vigilant about their personal safety. It’s especially important to have a good pair of rain gear along to keep you warm and dry during the inevitable September storms. Also, use a heavy duty pack liner to keep all your gear bone dry while you travel and embrace the lifejacket as your most important canoe trip fashion accessory.

If you’re hoping to get some fall colors in your late season canoe trip photos, be sure to check out the fall color updates that the Superior National Forest naturalist posts weekly. Although we’re starting to see some of the brushy undergrowth turn on the Centennial Trail hillside along the Round Lake Road, we’re still a ways out from true fall colors on the Gunflint Trail. A wet summer like the one we’ve just experienced usually coincides with lingering fall colors, but we’re not going to make any color predictions just yet.

While we can’t tell you when to time your trip for peak fall colors, here are a few things we can tell you definitely about planning an autumn Boundary Waters canoe trip:

  • If you want more daylight than nighttime on your trip: go before the autumnal equinox on September 22nd.
  • If you want to catch lake trout: go before the lake trout season closes on September 30th.
  • If you’d like to enjoy French toast the morning you start your trip: go before we close the kitchen on September 30th.
  • If you don’t want to pay for a Boundary Waters permit: go on or after October 1st, when all you need is a free, self-issuing Boundary Waters permit to camp overnight in the BWCAW.

A couple other autumn notes: our office hours are now 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. for the remainder of the 2016 season. We continue to serve breakfast at 7 a.m., so bunkhouse guests can still get an early start on the morning of their trip.

We hope to see you for an autumn canoe trip this fall.

What’s your favorite part of a late or early season canoe trip? 

Review: DeLorme InReach Wilderness Messaging Device

As the world becomes increasingly globalized and technology makes it easier and easier to stay in touch, we’re finding that more Boundary Waters visitors than ever want a way to get in touch with the outside world in case of emergency while in the wilderness or so they can keep up on any news from home. Tuscarora’s been offering satellite phones for a few years to help people with the somewhat incongruous goals of getting away from it all and still being reachable. For most people, having a satellite phone provides a sense of security for both themselves and their loved ones, the same way having a fully stocked first aid kit provides peace of mind on the trail. Like that first aid kit, a satellite phone’s meant to be just another tool in your pack in case the unthinkable happens.

But now that people have their phones on them almost every waking moment, sometimes people view a satellite phone as a clunky cell phone rather than an emergency device. This is when the three big “cons” of satellite phone usage pop up:

  1. Our satellite phone has a battery life of about 24 hours. This essentially makes the phone a call-out only device because it needs to be turned off for the majority of your trip to make sure it has enough “juice” to call in case of an emergency.
  2. You must be out in the open to get a signal for the phone. Satellite phones are notorious for dropped calls.
  3. Satellite phones are ‘spensive. Replacement costs are around $1300, so you really, really don’t want to accidentally drop it in the lake.

We figured there had to be a better way for people to do their canoe trips and still remain in contact.

Enter the DeLorme Inreach device.

DeLorme Inreach

A longtime time Tuscarora guest has been talking up the DeLorme Inreach device for a while and this spring we decided to give it a whirl. It’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison to compare the Inreach to a satellite phone, since you can’t make calls with the Inreach. Rather, the Inreach is a texting device that allows you to send text messages and emails (160 character limit per message) to people back home and have two-way conversations that way. There’s no monthly limit on messages that can be sent with our plan, so you don’t have to worry about racking up a big bill, no matter how much you use it during your travels.

The device also has an emergency SOS button that sends your location to emergency response and allows you to send a message describing the emergency. After the SOS button is pushed, it sends your location every 10 minutes to emergency response if you’re moving, or sends the location every 30 minutes if you’re stationery. Obviously, not a button you want to press accidentally, but handy to have, “just in case.”

Other things the Inreach can do:

  • Post your location on social media, including Facebook and Twitter.
  • Shoot waypoints on a map.
  • Uses a whole lot less battery than a satellite phone. You don’t want to leave it on during your entire trip, but you can use it freely without worrying about the battery dying.
  • Is water resistant and floats. Replacement costs are around $300.

A couple weeks back, Andy and his buddy Quinn decided to take advantage of this summer’s high water and paddle the Greenwood River about 30 miles southeast of Tuscarora. The Greenwood River not technically in the Boundary Waters, but it’s tucked away in some pretty remote reaches of the Superior National Forest. Arguably, you’re more likely to find assistance during an emergency when you’re in the Boundary Waters than in Greenwood country, since, more often than not, you’re on an established travel path while traveling in the BWCA. Down in Greenwood country, if you run into trouble, it’s going to be a long time before someone stumbles upon you.

Greenwood River

While no one really thought Andy and Quinn would find peril during their afternoon trip down the Greenwood, Andy threw in the Inreach to see how it would work in a wilderness situation.

When we were testing out the DeLorme around Tuscarora, we found that it can take a little while for the messages to transmit if you’re not out in the open. Also, if you’re moving while the Inreach is transmitting, it can get a little confused and might send duplicate messages. However, when Andy was down at Greenwood, we were able to go back and forth with just a minute or two lag time between messages.

When you open the link in the email or text sent with the Inreach, you’re brought to a map that pinpoints where the message was sent from. You reply to the Inreach sender right in the little message box on the righthand side of the screen.

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You can zoom in and out on the map to get a very specific location.

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Even if you didn’t want to message anyone during your trip, it would be kind of neat to send yourself your location so at the end of your trip you have several snapshots of your route.

All in all, we’ve found the Delorme Inreach to be a viable alternative to a satellite phone. You might not be able to send or receive very detailed messages with it, but it is a good way to check in at home with a simple, “all’s well,” and with its GPS tracking capability, it’s a useful tool if you have the misfortune of ending up at the center of a search and rescue mission. It’s a device that satisfies the map geek and provides peace of mind.

Currently we have one DeLorme in reach available for rental at Tuscarora and if it proves popular, we’ll make more available. If you try one out, be sure to let us know what you think.

10 Reasons to Canoe Trip as a 20-something

10 Reasons Millennials should Canoe Trip

For decades, the U.S. Forest Service and paddling enthusiasts have been bemoaning the moribund state of canoe country visitors. A 2011 USFS survey of Boundary Waters visitors placed the average age of BWCAW campers at 45 years old – a stark contrast to a 1969 survey that pitted the average at 26 years old.

But in our business, we see loads of younger adults using and enjoying the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. In fact, considering all the data we’ve read and heard anecdotally about the Boundary Waters and Quetico only being used by “old men,” we were a little shocked at just how young the average Tuscarora guest is.

If you never visited the Boundary Waters as a child, your 20s are a great time to discover this beloved wilderness area. We think every 20-something should experience wilderness canoe tripping. Here’s our top 10 reasons why young adults, and really anyone contemplating a first-time canoe trip, should take the plunge, er, we mean, paddle.

 

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Paddle your own canoe: You might have felt like an adult in college, but it turns out “real life” is a little more complicated than juggling your class schedule, homework, work study job, and funtivities. Suddenly you’re making decisions about your retirement account and starting to pay back those student loans. What the heck?! Canoe trips bolster self-confidence, improves your mood, and reduces psychological illness. After doing a Boundary Waters canoe trip where you rely solely on your own body and mind to get you and your gear from Point A to Point B, you’ll feel like you can conquer the world.
Agnes Lake Quetico summer canoe trip

 

A vacation you can afford: Canoe trips are one of the most affordable vacations you can take. A completely outfitted 4 day/3 night canoe trip with ultralight Kevlar canoes will cost you less than $500 in northeastern Minnesota’s fabled Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park. That means all you need to worry about is your personal clothing and transportation to the outfitters – the food, canoe, paddles, lifejackets, tent, packs, etc., is all included in the ticket price. The price is even lower if you can bum some camping gear off of friends and family. Kevlar canoes rent for less than $50 per day and aluminum canoes rent for even less.

(Check out our personal gear checklist to see what you’ll be responsible for packing. Wondering about the vittles we’ll be packing? Here’s the camping menu.)

Make lifetime memories: Beautiful sunsets. Loons calling across the lake on a moonlight evening. Catching a walleye on your first cast. That time your best friend swamped the canoe reaching for the selfie stick at the portage landing. The memories you make in canoe country will bring a smile for years to come.

 

Portaging through the Cavity Wildfire area in 2006

 

You won’t ever be any younger than you are right now: While not necessarily strenuous, canoe trips do demand a certain physical rigor. We hear from so many people who have “aged out” of canoe trips or who have had to cut down on their canoe trip mileage significantly with each passing year, or rather, each passing knee surgery. Don’t pencil that 14-day wilderness canoe adventure you’re dreaming of for some foggy “someday.” Do it now, while your body is strong, tough, and forgiving.

Refresh and restore your creativity: Adulting can be monotonous and mind numbing at times. At the end of the workday, you might find yourself sacked out on the couch watching reruns rather than finishing the novel you swore you’d have done by now or starting your “insert favorite activity here” company. Happily, a study that psychologist Dr. Frank Ferraro of Nebraska Wesleyan University did in the Boundary Waters shows that time in the woods can jumpstart creativity and other cognitive activities. That research is backed up by many other studies, so throw a notepad and sketchbook in your personal pack and prepare to be inspired.

 

Quetico fishing for Northern Pike

 

Get cracking on your bucket list: The Boundary Waters consistently does well on travel bucket lists. As America’s most popular wilderness area, the Boundary Waters made it into the first edition of 1000 Places to See Before You Die and Huffington Post named the BWCA the one thing you must do in Minnesota.

Make adventure a habit: A life of adventure doesn’t just happen. You need to consistently make the decision to break out of the 9-5 grind. An annual canoe trip might be just the thing to help shape a life of exploration and discovery. Combined, the Boundary Waters and Quetico covers more than 2 million acres of North American wilderness so you could visit these special places every year for decades and see a new section of the wilderness on each trip.

 

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Challenge yourself: According to happiness expert, Gretchen Rubin, we’re happiest when we exist in a state of growth. Don’t think you can paddle 25 miles and carry your canoe and all the gear and food you need over 20 portages? Prove yourself wrong. You’ll be so happy you did.

Disconnect to connect: If you’re tired of getting together with your friends and just watching everyone poke at their phones around the restaurant table, it might time to head to canoe country. Your cell phone won’t work here and you’ll have time to truly connect and go with the natural flow of life, without being a slave to the “refresh” button. Bonus: too much time in front of blue screens is a known cause of insomnia and studies show that camping can reset your biological clock, so you could sleep better while you’re camping.

 

 

Reevaluate priorities: You’ll probably look at life a little differently after a canoe trip. It’s fascinating to see all the items you need to survive a week in the wilderness fit in a couple packs at the bottom of a canoe. Although millennials are notorious for having much less attachment to “stuff” and life’s material trappings than their baby boomer parents, you might find that a canoe trip has you rethinking the things that are truly important in life.

Did/do you canoe trip in your 20s? What would you add to this list?

BWCA Trip Report: Granite River in High Water

Tuscarora Granite River Canoe Route

Since late winter, my friend Kati and I have been trying to plan a quick canoe trip. Like most canoe trips, even though it was just the two of us, it took a little finagling to sync up our schedules. Last week, we managed to carve out a sliver of time for a two day canoe trip and decided to tackle the Granite River Route. Kati’d paddled the route once during her three seasons as a canoe guide at Wilderness Canoe Base and I’d flirted with the route (aka a day trip to Sag Falls and another day trip to Clove Lake via Larch Creek) but had never paddled it in full.

DAY 1

14:25 – Kati rolls into Tuscarora. We quickly transfer all of her personal items into the gear pack that Andy and I threw together the night before.

14:50 – Depart Tuscarora for the Cross River Bridge on the North Gunflint Lake Road.

15:05 – Load the canoe and paddle off.

Kati near the Cross River Bridge on Gunflint Lake

We pass through the Gunflint Narrows into Magnetic Lake, but go through too quickly to really get a look at the trestle remnants hiding under the water from the old railroad bridge that spanned Gunflint Lake in the late 1800s. In Magnetic Lake, we pass our second historical highlight  – the Swiss Chalet style cabin on Gallagher’s Island. This unique cabin was built in the 1920s by the Gallagher family and it’s been carefully maintained ever since. Because it’s a private residence, we didn’t want to paddle right next to it, so our pictures don’t show how very cute it is, even from a distance.

Chalet Cabin on Magnetic Lake's Gallagher's Island

16:00 – Turn the corner and officially enter the Boundary Waters (although we missed the sign) and the Granite River. Reach our first portage of the day and spot the first of countless international border markers dotting the route. About 9 inches of rain had fallen on the Gunflint Trail in the last few weeks, so the portages are a little sloppy and/or flooded.

Canada/U.S. International Boundary Marker on the Granite River

16:40 – After another short portage, (and a slight bushwhacking stint) we arrive at the base of Little Rock Falls and snap some photos. Nourished from a quick handful of GORP, we soldier on. Thankfully, in June you have about 18 hours of daylight to paddle in each day, so we have plenty of time to set up camp yet.

Little Rock Falls between Magnetic Lake and the Granite River along the Gunflint Trail

17:15 – Arrive Wood Horse portage. There are moccasin flowers, false lily of the valley, and other spring wildflowers everywhere!

Paddling the Granite River between Little Rock Falls and Clove Lake

18:15 – We paddle by the Granite River’s first campsite, near where the Pine River flows in. The site is up on a high rock face and is uninhabited. We decide to press on and see if there are any open sites on Clove Lake. Halfway down the portage, we see that the campsite across the lake is occupied and hear voices coming from the other campsite near the portage. Neither of us had any desire to camp in the campsite on the far side of the lake (it has a great beach, but is a buggy site this time of year), so we turn around.

19:00 – Return to Pine River campsite. Unload gear. Grab pots and pans and paddle to the widest part of the river to fill up on water.

19:10 – I set up stove in the Pine River campsite, put water on to boil for supper. Kati scopes out tent pads.

19:20 – Water boils. Stir in red beans and rice mix with slices of bratwurst. Turn pot down to a simmer. Attempt to figure out how to set up Andy’s “Big Agnes” 2-person tent.

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19:40 – Test supper. Done! Take off heat, put water on to boil for dishes and to put in Nalgene bottles to cool over night for drinking the next morning. Return to tent pad to stake out tent.

19:45 – Dinner is served.

20:00 – Clean up campsite, tuck canoe behind trees for the night. Enjoy a spectacular sunset.

Granite River Boundary Waters sunset

21:10 – Turn in for the night

DAY 2

Corydalis on Granite River BWCAW campsite

Wake up to very noisy chickadees singing in the trees above our tent. Based on the light coming into the tent, figure it must be around 7 a.m. Go back to sleep.

07:10 – Decide to get going. Both shocked to discover that it’s only 7. Head out to the fire grate to put on water for oatmeal and tea.

08:00 – Enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the sunshine on the rock face overlooking the glass-calm Granite River. Realize that in a string of rainy, cold days we’ve somehow won the weather lottery for our short trip.

08:30 – Start packing up the campsite. We pause to take a lot of photos around the site, especially of the trio of moccasin flowers blooming towards the back of the site.

Pink Moccasin flowers blooming in the BWCA Gunflint Trail

09:20 – Slather on sunscreen and don ridiculous sun hats. Paddle to Clove Lake portage.

09:30 – Start the Clove Lake portage for the second time in as many days. Over breakfast, we decided against single portaging and I have a much happier portage than the night before. While I run back for the food pack, Kati stays at the Clove Lake side of the portage and repacks the gear pack so it rests better on her back so she can have happier portages for the rest of the day too.

10:20 – Paddle across Clove Lake. Both the southern campsites are full. This proves to be the most people we see all day.

11ish – Arrive at portage. Quickly discover that the first half of the 40 rod portage is ankle deep in squelching, boot swallowing muck, aka loon sh!t. We persevere and treat ourselves with several handfuls of GORP and big drinks of water at the portage’s end.

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11:40 – Push off again and enjoy a quiet paddle through an especially scenic portion of the river. After the mucky state of the last portage, neither of us is any big rush to make it to “Swamp Portage.”

12:00 – Arrive Swamp Portage. Not as bad as we had feared. A little buggy, sure, and the end of the portage is basically a river, but we spy tadpoles and frogs swimming in the portage pools and beautiful marsh marigold foliage frames the portage boardwalk.

Granite River portage, high water in June

12:25 – Feeling, to quote Winnie-the-Pooh, a little “11 o’clockish,” we decide to press on to Gneiss Lake before breaking for lunch. This means two more portages and a tricky bit of current stand between us a summer sausage and cheese sandwich lunch.

12:40 – Reach Granite River portage. Warmed by the first sunlight we’ve had in week, dragonfly nymphs are hatching near the portage landings. Bad news for mosquitoes – good news for campers!

Dragonfly nymph hatch in the Boundary Waters

13:00 – Around the corner from the portage, we navigate through the one bit of real current on the Granite River that you don’t portage around. We head for the deep center of the river and are merrily whisked down the river. Wheee!! Like going down a waterside! In the widening in the river after the current, we spy a pair of loons – the one creature Kati was hoping to see on the trip.

13:40 – We finish the Gneiss Lake portage and start looking for a campsite to eat lunch at on Gneiss Lake. The primo campsite on the island is taken and its residents are fishing nearby, so we settle on lunch on the rock face of the most northern campsite on the lake.

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14:20 – We pack up lunch and start making our way towards Devil’s Elbow and Marabouef Lake. We still haven’t decided if we’re going to camp on the Granite River or on one of the island sites on Saganaga near Sag Falls. We have to meet a towboat at Sag Falls at noon the next day, so making it to Sag means a quiet, slow morning tomorrow, but two more portages today. On the other hand, it feels pretty good to think that all the day’s portaging is already behind us.

We make our way slowly through the Devil’s Elbow and Marabouef Lake, swinging by each campsite to check it out.

15:50 – Find ourselves at the northern most peninsula with campsites on Marabouef Lake. Figure we can be on Sag by 6, but opt instead to camp on the last campsite on Marabouef, a north facing site tucked into a quiet bay.

16:40 – Do a water run, start boiling water and setting up camp.

18:20 – Enjoy a fine camp dinner of Pesto Pasta Primavera with Salmon. We don’t feel like bothering with a fire, so we just break s’more ingredients into our chocolate pudding and call that good enough.

Marabouef Lake campsite

19:00 – Clean up campsite. We cool off our Nalgenes filled with boiled water by putting them on a stringer and floating them in the lake. We take a gander at the map and try to determine when we need to depart the campsite the next morning to make it to Sag Falls by noon.

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21:00 – Bedtime.

DAY 3

07:00 – Wake up. Slower start than the day before. No need to boil water, since we just need cold water to mix into our granola and neither of us are coffee drinkers.

08:00 – Start taking down the campsite.

09:15 – Depart campsite. The wind’s picked up and we have to paddle hard to turn the corner into the southerly wind. Once we’re headed the right direction though, the wind pushes us up the river towards our final destination. We stop paddling for a minute and realize that with the wind, we could reach Sag Falls in time for our pick up, even without paddling another stroke. Dark storm clouds start to gather and thunder rumbles in the background. We notice taller trees where the Sag Corridor Fire of 1995 burned the river.

10:10 – Reach Horsetail Rapids portage. Pull on rain pants and jacket. Start portage.

10:15 – Downpour starts.

10:20 – Downpour ends. I’m now hanging out on the base of lone cedar tree in the middle of calf deep water with the canoe on my shoulders. There’s a 30 ft. section of calf deep water covering the portage trail to the canoe landing on the other side of the portage. I can’t see how deep the water is and I really don’t want to slip in the water or onto the steep rock face next to the water with a Kevlar canoe on my shoulders. We opt to take the canoe off and two man it through the deep water.

Kati tackles the Horsetail Rapids portage in high water on the Granite River

10:50 – Depart Horsetail Rapids portage. Count our blessings that we decided to camp on Marabouef the night before instead of attempting to make it all the way out to Sag. Better to deal with flooded portages first thing in the day.

11:10 – Arrive Sag Falls portage.

Sag Falls at the end of the Granite River by Saganaga Lake

11:30 – Canoe and all gear at the tow boat pick up point on the Sag Lake side the Falls. Have snack. Wait for towboat.

Tuscarora Outfitters towboat driver Jack

12:00 – Jack arrives in the towboat.

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12:40 – Reach public landing on Sag Lake Trail. It’s Friday and the landing is full of people loading up their boats to get to their cabins on the Canadian side of Sag.

13:10 – Arrive Tuscarora. Unpack Kati’s items. Rouge thunderstorm rolls in. Mark up Granite River map with all the insight we’ve gained from the trip. Start planning next year’s trip.

 

Spring into Bingshick

Daffodils in a May snowstorm on the Gunflint Trail

Daffodils prevailing in the Fishing Opener snowstorm of 2016

The ice out at the end of last month signaled time to kick things into high gear at Tuscarora to prepare for the busy paddling season ahead. (If you were counting on your fingers, we were just one day shy of five full months of ice on Round Lake, since the lake froze over on November 26, 2015 last fall. Not a record by any stretch of the imagination, but not exactly the non-winter we were predicting in early December either.) Over the last few weeks, we’ve been putting docks in, deep cleaning cabins, pulling canoes out of their winter slumber lands (aka, the dining hall), training in staff, stocking the gift shop, and juggling all the other miscellaneous tasks that come with getting a canoe outfitters ready to roll for summer. 

West Round Portage to Round Lake from Brant Lake BWCAW entry point

But we haven’t been keeping our noses so closely to the grindstone that we haven’t noticed the natural world slowly waking up around us.

Tuscarora is suddenly overrun with grouse and snowshoe hares. Hares haven’t fully switched out of their winter coats yet (and given the below freezing, windy, snowy fishing opener we had last weekend, neither have we!) and are running around with white “socks” on. The flower bulbs we planted last spring are blooming beside the outfitting building. The loon pair has returned to Round Lake and will hopefully start sitting on their nest soon. In the woods, you might stumble upon the early spring wildflowers of violets and wood anemones as the trees and scrubs continue to leaf out. Baby mammals (moose, wolves, fox, et. al) are taking their first tentative steps along forest paths. And in the full circle of life, the bugs – including some of the winged, biting kind – are making themselves known as well.

Purple Violet blooming in the Boundary Waters spring time

Andy snuck off yesterday with his buddy, Quinn, to do a day paddle up through Brant Lake towards Faye and Bingshick. They had such a good time catching up that they forgot to take much in the way of photos. No doubt, they were busy plotting ways to make the second annual Boundary Waters Canoe Expo – of which Quinn is the main mover and shaker – even better than last year’s. This photo of Quinn from yesterday does show that the weather has improved significantly since last weekend. We’ve been enjoying t-shirt weather with highs in the mid 60s.

Quinn Paddling to Bingshick Lake

The guys did a loop from Flying to Faye to Glee to Bingshick, back to Flying. It’s remote, rugged country, seldom traveled as many people with Brant Lake entry point permits often put their heads down and truck past this country on their way to Bat and Gillis. The Bingshick area really scorched in the Cavity Lake Fire of 2006, so the lake shores are covered with patches of waist-high to 10 ft. tall young jack pines, alder, and birch trees. Because the fire burned so hot through the dense Blowdown debris that covered the forest floor in 2006, the area is recovering at a slower rate than the forest affected by the much larger and destructive Ham Lake Fire that burned Gunflint Trail forest mostly outside of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in May 2007. You might remember from last spring that this area is also known for the elusive Arethusa Bulbosa Orchid.

Spruce Bog south of J.A. Paulsen Lake in BWCAW

The area Andy and Quinn paddled was filled with gullies and crags and Andy said it was easy to imagine that the topography they encountered was once underwater structure as part of a large lake that stretched up to Seagull Lake and beyond. Although renderings of the Great Lake Agassiz often don’t show the lake’s southeast shore reaching as far into the Minnesota Arrowhead region as we are, some geologists hypothesize that Agassiz certainly did cover much of today’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It’s fascinating to watch the woods transition from season to season and even more interesting to think of the major transitions this land has gone through over the millennium to create this wilderness area.