Winter Camping ~ Take 2

After my first successful winter camping trip last year, and pouring over plans with my friend Bre for several months on another trip this year my husband also became highly interested in the idea of winter camping and suggested we go winter camping ourselves this winter as well! Two trips in one year? I’m in!

So – on Wednesday February 15 we schlepped the kiddo off to my moms and the dogs off to Jason’s parents, and took off for the north woods – Ely area to be exact on an overcast Wednesday morning.

When we arrived to Ely we stopped by Piragis first to pick up our negative 30 degree sleeping bags and a Nemo Moki tent. We set it up at the store to ensure we knew what we were doing. It was a little clunky, but got it figured out fairly easy.

After we checked everything out  we drove by Whiteside Park where they had these amazing snow sculptures! I walked through, snapped some photos, and marveled at their creators handy work.

Next we checked into the Adventure Inn, a divergence from our usual bunkhouse lodging. It was a basic, but snug hotel with the most delightful (elderly) host Louise.  She was a doll, and was always so excited whenever she saw us. We promptly decided this would be our new go-to place when we stayed in Ely.

FINALLY, we ended the night by having dinner at Insula. I ate here twice with KC back in 2015 and fell head over heels in love with the joint, but hadn’t made it back since. After an a great hamburger (with Ghost pepper cheese) we went back to the hotel, got settled, and snuggled in for a night of RoboCop while I read my (William Kent Krueger) WKK book, Blood Hollow.

Deciding where to go on this trip was quite the challenge. I longed to see any kind of pictographs, so I had been thinking a nice and easy trip to Hegman Lake – with camping over on Little Bass Lake to provide a bit of solitude might be nice. After all – we probably wouldn’t do this trip in the spring/summer/fall months, so this was really interesting.

Another thought was Wood Lake – this was an easy one with the plethora of Northern available in the lake and we hadn’t been there before.

Finally the idea of heading to Snowbank and camping on Parent or Disappointment was also really intriguing. With Snowbank being a popular trout lake and us not having fished for trout before this was really really interesting.

All in all – we decided on Snowbank to Disappointment.

Thursday February 16

brittons
So – our alarms were set for 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at Britons,  and were on the road by 9:00, and crossing Pickerel Bay of Snowbank by 10:00 a.m. The crossing proved mostly uneventful, but more tiresome than we expected. We finally found an ice road which was much easier to walk on since the snow was all packed down. I decided against wearing my life jacket when I saw cars on the lake, but still had my ice awls around my neck as we tromped across with my Frost River Isle Royale Jr pack strapped to me, and Jason pulling our sled.

We decided to take the shorter portage from Snowbank to Parent, and give up on Disappointment all together. In the future we agreed we’d both take a sled to spread out the weight a bit more. It was piled high, and heavy.

Crossing over by the portage to Parent we noticed a plethora of houses. Something new that we haven’t experienced before (houses so close to a portage). We got on the portage and immediately took in all of the devastation from last July’s blowdown.

There were trees down everywhere. Some of the pines were only blown over at the top making them look like they were straight out of Whoville and a Dr. Seuss book.

whoville

The portage was a bit up and down, but manageable.

Once we arrived on Parent we were completely alone. No boot, ski, or animal tracks. We were alone.

Jason wanted to camp on the ice, but I wanted the bathroom nearby since I was a bit shy to just – go on the ground. (Perhaps Quetico wouldn’t look good on me…) so we settled for a campsite taking care to not disturb it too much.

The site was full of blown down trees, including one that fell over right over the… modified fire-pit/kitchen area.

Someone had gone to great lengths to create a full size bench that could easily accommodate 6, and carved in the back to make it look more… luxurious. We were taken aback quite honestly.

bench

Then we saw on the tree that had fallen across the fire pit folks etching their initials in the wood. This made us sad, and equally less guilty feeling for camping at this summer site.

tree

Jason went to work drilling some holes nearby to get some tip-ups in and I organized our supplies.

The wind had picked up something fierce, and I started getting very – very cold. I made the very silly mistake of putting on too many tight layers, which is exactly what you DON’T want to do. There was no room between layers to warm me up. Luckily we had a bunch of handwarmers.   Jason and I started looking for firewood, and it appeared that down the shoreline there was a good deal of downed deadwood, so we hauled it back over, and started to get a fire going as we got our tent ready to set up.

This tent, while somewhat “easy” in the store to set up, is a total a$$hat in the field. The internal poles would not set up where they were supposed to. We had no trouble in the store, but they kept popping out of place in the field. Eventually we got them to stay after taking a little break, and trying again.

The fire was a bear to keep going. It was starving for oxygen, and the wood would not catch. We got it started enough (or rather threw enough small stuff at it) to boil some water and heat up our food and that was about it. While tending to – said “fire” we heard a mans voice behind us. We turned suddenly to find an old man and a dog in our camp thanking us for blazing a trail. He was on a day-ski to disappointment with his very large black Sheppard.

He was a local guy, and warned us that with the warm up, the whole area could be a nasty slush field. We shot the breeze a bit, and he was on his way.

Dinner was a super easy Prego Ready Meal, and enjoyed some hot cider with it. After the dishes were washed we went to bed around 6:00 p.m. since keeping a fire going was futile and listed to the wind howling as we tried to get warm in our sleeping bags. I definitely need to get different mittens. My hands, and frankly entire body was dangerously cold, and it was thanks to hand warmers that kept me going. I put some down on my femoral arteries, and the others in my armpits, and I was golden!

We both agreed that winter camping wasn’t exactly for us. Perhaps too much effort for the reward… No fish, no fire on day 1.

Friday February 17
After a fairly amazing night sleep in the woods (the best so far) we slept in a bit, and woke up around 8:00 a.m. which is crazy for us since we’re always up early in the field. Perhaps no kid- no dogs really did the trick! I read my WKK book and waited for the sun to come up higher and warm us up.

I noticed some frost on the ceiling of the tent, and it wasn’t until it started dripping on us, that I realized it was inside from condensation.

tent-frost

Shortly after our little “condensation rain shower”, we got up, loaded the sled, and went to the other side of the lake to do a little day fishing. Thought I heard some wolves howling. It started out as one. A long howl. Then eventually more, and more. Strangely I was not scared. Not even at all. I was curious. They were getting closer. In the end we decided it was most likely a dog sled team.  Out to the middle of the lake we brought our stove, some wood, and our breakfast out with us.

This. Was. Awesome.

I read my WKK book, and we enjoyed some coffee, and a Kind Breakfast bar in the middle of the lake while Jason worked the fishing.  Brilliant blue skies, and a silence that was the biggest comfort of the entire trip.

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As the day lagged on – and fishing proving futile, and our stove which was a pistol to boil water (never had such a hard time in our lives).. we decided to actually head back to Ely around 4pm, get a hotel room at the Adventure Inn again, and call this trip good.

So. That’s exactly what we did. We bused everything down, loaded everything up and headed back. The slush was getting pretty significant by now after a 50, or near 50 degree day on the lake, and we were glad we pulled the plug early. Peace out Parent Lake. May you give the spring and summer anglers better luck than us. And folks  – treat your campsites better.

We got back to the car with no trouble, and luckily Adventure Inn had one more room. A last minute cancellation! We took it, and actually got the same room we had two days before. From there we walked up to the Ely Steakhouse, and enjoyed a nice meal with some adult beverages.

We spoke at large about our summer trip, and our keen interest and excitement to get into the world of Hammock camping! This will be a good way to distribute our tent weight which is currently 12#, and will be very helpful for me in the summer as I hike the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). Lots to explore here, but we’re about 97% sure we’re going this route starting this spring!

The service at the restaurant was pretty poor/slow, so we will probably not be back. We were there on our first trip with the same issues. O’well.

After we got back to our room we promptly fell asleep and set no alarm.

Saturday February 18
Woke up leisurely around 8:30 a.m. grabbed the hotel coffee and pastries, and headed up the Echo trail to the Hegman entry point. Pulled in and two other cars were parked. A leisurely day trip out to the pictographs.

We walked along a very packed, very noticeable trail from the parking lot, all the way out to the pictos. It was a gorgeous walk, and I immediately regretted wearing my jacket, and hat. My wool sweater was plenty, so I took off my coat and carried it like a baby.

Finally got to the pictographs on the north end, and it was amazing. I was surprised at how high they were up and marveled at the artists drawing. To me – it was God the creator, or the Gitchi Manitou looking over his creation.

pictos

Finally we turned back, and saw scores of people walking in to see the great pictographs too. We estimated about 20 more people were hiking in after us. Definitely busting the rules and regs in the BWCA. The parking lot was completely full so people were parking on the Echo Trail!

Lastly we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Grilled Cheese Emporium with amazing service, dropped off our gear at Piragis, and headed home.

While winter camping may not be for us, the BWCA and wilderness adventure definitely is.

See ya in the summer Ely! See ya in the summer!

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Huntin’, Fishin, & Lovin’ Everyday!

FINALLY!!!!

I got back to the BWCAW!!! I absolutely can’t believe I only took one trip last year! Two trips per year should be the norm from here out.It was time to do a little…. Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ every day! (minus the hunting part).

This past Labor Day weekend we headed up to the Gunflint Trail (which was a first for us). Destination – EP #47 Lizz/Swamp with hopes to basecamp on Horseshoe!

Unlike prior trips we elected to wait to pack everything until just a few days before we took off! Again we took my CCS pack, Frost River Pack, Mr.MN’s pack, and MiniMN’s pack. We re-distributed the weight from our Spring 2016 trip, and things were looking good!

We also took only our JRT (Jack Russell Terrier) and left our GSP (German Shorthair Pointer) back home with the boarder!

Wednesday evening we left home around 6:30pm and headed up north towards Superior Ridge Inn off Hwy 61 just south of Schroeder, MN. We wanted to get a nice head start so that we didn’t have to leave the Twin Cities at 3:00 a.m. to make it up north by 7:00 or 8:00 a.m.

Coming down the big hill to Duluth while it was all light up was quite a site, but it was weird driving on the north shore in the dark! I saw loads of deer in the ditches, so I was a bit cautious of pushing the speed lest they jump out at me.

Superior Ridge Inn was a fine place to stay, though we only stayed about 7 hours (sleeping 6.5 of them). We rolled in around 10:30 p.m. after stopping for Hardies for dinner (husbands request).

We all fell fast asleep since our alarm was set for 5:30 a.m.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. and I was ready to roll! Mr.MN scooped MiniMN out of her slumber, and carried her to the car and we were finally off! It was still mostly dark , but we got to watch the sun rise over Lake Superior which is always a treat.

We did make a pit stop however at Java Moose and Worlds Best Donuts for breakfast in Grand Marais which was great. My co-worker mentioned that the donuts were small, but I thought they were big enough for us to each have one. We’re not huge breakfast eaters though.  We then blazed the trail up the Gunflint to Rockwood outfitters to pick up our permits, and hopefully some leeches since all of the bait shops were closed so early in the morning.

Unlike the Ely side, everything is fast asleep off the Gunflint until 8:00 a.m. In fact Rockwood Outfitters were the only ones we could find that opened at 7:00 a.m. We were used to outfitters (specifically VNO) opening at 5:30 a.m.  and staying open until 10 p.m.in the busy season. Here everything closed down at 6:00 p.m.

We pulled in and the owners greeted us. We unloaded everything right there after they announced we could park with them vs. the public landing down the road for a flat rate of $10. We were in. They also had some leeches, so we grabbed about two dozen of them as well. We unloaded our vehicle as other folks started waking up to put in. We worked quickly after learning they were headed to the very location we were.

They provided us clear, and easy directions to the Lizz portage, and even helped us push off and get MiniMN in her seat. Talk about full service! I’d recommend this helpful bunch if you’re looking for an outfitter on Poplar Lake.

The directions couldn’t have been easier, so we found the portage to Lizz without any problems. MiniMN was happy to see that it was simple land mass that separated the lakes vs. rapids and a water fall requiring a portage. We got everything unloaded and took a look back without any sign of our “same entry permit day” comrades.

The portage to Lizz was easy as could be! Husband and kiddo saw an oversized deer hoof track in the mud (which was pretty solidified) and determined it must be a moose hoof. At the end of the portage we met a group of young canoeists who looked to be about college age. In fact we learned they were entering freshman at St. Scolastica who offers incoming freshmen the opportunity to go on a BWCA trip to meet new friends, and form bonds. I thought that was pretty darn awesome.

Lizz was a super easy paddle, and the other portage to Caribou couldn’t have been easier to find. The muck on this end was a little more legit, but still wasn’t as bad as my recent hike on the SHT after Silver Bay received 6″ of rain… but I digress.

This was a little more of a “hike” but the 65-70 rods (depending on which map you consult) with little log “bridges” on them in the lower areas that looked more prone to being muddy, but everything was hard packed when we walked through. It was very easy, and MiniMN took it like a champ without even a peep. She was very pro-portaging this time, and I didn’t even have to bribe her with candy or Girl Scout Cookies!

Caribou was a beautiful lake. We “parallel parked” the canoe and hopped in. My feet got a bit wet, but I didn’t mind since I had new hiking sandals, so most of the time I just walked into the water up to my knees which was much easier than teeter-tottering on a rock trying not to get wet. This is definitely the way to go!

That first site on Caribou was open, but we decided to head to Hoseshoe instead. That 20 rod portage was the easiest one we’d encounter on our entire trip, and very soon we arrived on Horseshoe. The first two sites were open, but we were really hoping for sites 675, or 674 as it was primo moose viewing areas… but they were both taken, along with 673! We paddled down one of the arms, and that site was open!

We all got out and walked around, but the firepit was secluded from the water, and the path to the toilet was very rocky. It didn’t have that magical feel to it, so we paddled back north to one of the (hopefully still open) sites. On our way back towards site 675 we noticed a flotilla of four canoes (the ones we saw at Rockwood) with loaded gear also looking for a site. The race was on!

We mentioned to them the site we just left was open, and paddled north while they pondered their next move. From this angle site 672 looked awesome. One walk around and it was going to be home sweet home for us for the next few days. We threw everything up on shore, and cracked open some wine (and Koolaid) to celebrate!

Later that evening we tried our hand at fishing (success but small), and had bratz for dinner which were amazing! This is the way to go for meal #1 of the night. Jason missed his steak, but I still loved the simplicity of the bratz, and lower risk of blood all over everything else!

After we got camp cleaned up (in the dark) we came back out towards the fire pit, and noticed a gorgeous display of northern lights, stars and the visible milky way! I was so glad to have my good camera with, though I am still a novice at nighttime photography.

We all popped a melatonin and fell fast asleep.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Friday we slept in a tad – well by our wilderness standards of 6:30 a.m. – we all slept in until 8:00 a.m. or later. We had a good rest, but our tent was pitched on a slight slope so we all kind of rolled at night.Sadie our JRT demands to sleep in my sleeping bag each night, so we rolled together depending on how she wanted to sleep.

Once emerging from the tent, we lazily walked back to get our food bag, and had an amazing breakfast of oatmeal and coffee! (ha!) (The kiddo got hot cocoa though). In the future we might try to bring our farm fresh eggs with us since they don’t require refrigeration. We’re also planning to invest in a bear vault or hope to get one for Christmas (wink wink).

After breakfast was cleaned up thanks to Kiwi (MiniMN’s nickname), and promises of extra snickers bars at night, we were off for Vista lake, which MiniMN wanted to visit after seeing this video.

The paddle past site 675 on horseshoe was amazing, and very moosey feeling. Loads of lily pads and vegetation. The paddle was very enjoyable, and the portage to Vista was very easy to find.

The portage itself was a rocky mess though. The take out of horseshoe wasn’t too bad, but lots and lots of rocks to contend with towards Vista. It reminded me of the first portage from Mudro into Fourtown but on a lighter scale.

Soon we arrived to Vista and the entry in was much trickier with all of the rocks.

We paddled down to the 5 star campsite towards Misqua lake to have lunch. That was the cats meow of all sites! The views were awesome, the tent pads close to the pit and level, and the path to the potty closer than at our site. It was very enjoyable to relax and borrow another site for an hour or so. We didn’t see anyone else on Vista until we were nearly finished with lunch when we saw our Rockwood friends fishing nearby.

All, but one of our leeches got out of our leech locker (we’ll need a more sophisticated one in the future), so we fished with fake bait, and lures. We decided to fish the eastern bays and I got an eater smallie on the north-eastern bay on a Fliker Shad lure!

Finally – we were going to eat a bona-fide fish from the BWCA!

We let the wind, which had picked up by now,  blow us back to the portage to horseshoe.

Anchors down, we fished the lower part o Horseshoe, and then made a right hand turn to the far eastern arm of Horseshoe where Jason accidentally hooked his other pole and threw it out into the lake!!!!

Luckily for us/him the water was pretty shallow and it was resting about 3 feet on some vegetation. Phew! We paddled down towards that other campsite, but it was taken, so we turned around before we got there.

On our way back to the main section of the lake we noticed two otters grunting at us, and played peak-a-boo as we paddled by.

Once we came back towards camp we realized we had some new neighbors directly across from us. They had three canoes and from what we could surmise, a truck load of kids with them.

We pan fried the fish in some ghee and lemon juice and made mac and cheese to go with it. It was absolutely wonderful!

After we got dinner all cleaned up we were back in the canoe for an evening paddle and fishing until dark. We could hear our new neighbors hooting and hollering, and making all kinds of noise. We thought maybe they were a Boy Scout troop and hoped that they had a curfew.

We made a decent campfire that evening, drank wine, and played Yahtzee.  Our kiddo fell asleep mid-Yahtzee while Jason and I stayed up to plan future trips. He challenged me to reserve our days off from work,but NOT reserve a permit until the day before we leave, and leave it up to chance where we go…. At first I thought he was nuts, but then the idea started to really grow on me…So – that is my 2018 goal since I already have two spots in mind for the 2017 season! (Somebody stop me!)

We carried little miss to our tent, and we all fell fast asleep.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

This morning we slept in even further! Even Sadie wanted to sleep in, which is another reason why she gets to come with us on our trips. Today we hoped to go up to Caribou Lake to fish some spots I learned about on bwca.com.

The portage back over to Caribou was like going to the State Fair. So many people on this portage that we gave each other the: “this is crazy” look. Perhaps in the future we’ll skip the Labor Day weekend trip and plan a mid-October trip instead when MiniMN is out of school again. We crave our solitude that we’ve gotten on our previous pre-Memorial Weekend trips, and loved them!

It probably took us 30 minutes to get through that portage,but finally we made it. We worked our way along the lake, cast, nothing, cast, nothing, cast nothing…..

This continued for the whole day which was overcast, and very very windy. MiniMN fell asleep in the canoe after complaining that her ear hurt. I was worried she was going to have a full blown ear infection and was planning on how we were going to get through the night, or pull out if it turned into such. I encouraged her to nap, so she did for about 2 hours while me and Jason fished. That was awesome, because Sadie was sleeping too, so we got some REAL quiet as we saw nobody on Caribou for the day.

After we had enough of cast, and….. reeling back in empty handed we paddled back towards the Horseshoe portage with whitecaps and wind in our face. That was a workout, but thankfully everyone else was still asleep so nobody rocked the boat.

Upon return to Horseshoe the wind was still whipped up pretty bad, so we decided to gather some firewood, and just relax on the rocks and read, finish our Yahtzee game from the night before and relax.

We noticed our neighbors, which now no longer appeared to be scouts, but rather two dads and about 6 kids between them were in groups of kids in the canoes and fishing. They’d yell across the lake, “Got one….” “What?”, “So and So got a fish”, “What kind?”, “A northern, its huge… probably… 6 inches!”…. It was kind of cute… but mostly annoying.

After listening to these kids reel in fish after fish in front of our campsite we decided to head back out on the lake once our fire had subsided and extinguished. We paddled the northwestern arm of Horseshoe all the way down past the narrows which were really rocky paddling until we were completely secluded. Peace…..

With that came loads of lily pads however,and fishing was no longer feasible, so we turned back for dinner. The thing about Horseshoe is that each little arm of it, and section of it is wildly different from the next. The northwest arm reminded me of Ely Lakes, while the southeastern arm was almost swampy looking.

Dinner was Teriyaki rice and chicken, and some Snickers. We organized everything for our departure the next day and relaxed by the fire to play some cards. The sky was cloudy so we did not see much in the way of stars. It would be an early bedtime for us, as we heard our neighbors STILL shouting across the lake at dark.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

We didn’t set any alarms to set out, but I woke up around 7:00 a.m. to the light of day, and picked up my book to read a bit while I waited for Kiwi and Jason to wake up.

Around 8:30 a.m. or so everyone else woke up and we began the process of tearing down camp.

Our neighbors to the east seemed pretty quiet, which is probable since I swear they were making noise past 11:00 p.m.!

The paddle out was pleasant, and we only saw two groups on the portages, which was very nice compared to our day trip to Caribou the day before.  We compared notes with one couple who had paddled through Horseshoe, Gaskin, Winchell, Jump and Allen, and every site they had passed was taken!

Caribou lake was of course windy again, but this time, no white caps to contend with. On our way out of Caribou I looked back to that first site (which was taken now) and was really glad we didn’t stop there. The whole site looks really exposed, and who wants people looking in on you all day? That’s what William O’Brien State Park is for right?

Little miss nearly got whiny on the 65-70 rod portage from Caribou to Lizz, and tried to drop her pack and “quit” mid-portage, but daddy got her re-situated with a canoe on his shoulders, and she was back in business.

We met a group of three older ladies coming out of Lizz who were on their annual girls only trip. They had loads of gear, but looked like professionals! (I guess this was their 20th year or so).

The paddle on Lizz was uneventful. I wonder what the fishing would be like on this lake. I wonder if it ever gets any action with people just passing it through. We did see a couple perched up on an island on the northern end with a cooler, and sunbathing.  Perhaps “cabin-ers” or locals from Poplar.

The kiddo was pro-portage since it was the last one, and fairly easy. Right once we got to Poplar she dropped her pack and announced, “Last portage of the year!”.

For the size of Poplar lake, it was rather calm paddling, which was nice. We looked for the green cabin with the flat roof, took a right, and were headed back for Rockwood Outfitters where our car awaited. Once we got close the owners came out and greeted us, and helped us unload! Talk about full service!

We mentioned to them how busy it was, and they told us about a group that had put in the day prior, couldn’t find anywhere to stay, so they had to camp overnight on a portage, and then paddled back out the next morning since there was “no room at the inn”. I’m starting to think mid-October is sounding better and better!

We got loaded up in a jiffy, and were headed for Trail Center!

I pulled in, and noticed a firm sign on the door that insinuated that pets were not welcome… We’ve had bad experiences leaving Sadie put, and the deck to eat out back wasn’t accessible from outside like the Chocolate Moose was in Ely. So I walked in to have a look around, and came back out with a hungry belly. We’ll be back in Mid-October – dogless… so we’ll have to check it out more thoroughly then!

Instead we opted for Dairy Queen in downtown Grand Marais, and ate out on the rocks near the breakwater. The kiddo earned a blizzard which she was really pumped about and I earned an iced mocha from Java Moose for the drive home!

We had a blast on this trip, but I don’t think we’ll visit this particular area again at this time of year. Just too busy! I used to think I didn’t mind seeing people, but that’s when we only saw one or two people per day, verses one or ten per hour.

All in all, we liked the Gunflint side, and I’m sure we’ll be back again, but we did miss the nostalgic canoeing town of Ely with all of its shops right there, and their overly pro-BOUNDARY WATERS feel versus outfitters scattered along the Gunflint Trail. They are definitely different, and for now, we are team Ely!

❤ Linds

Keep Calm & Paddle On

 

Truth be told, I kind of hate these, “Keep Calm & _____” fill in the blank posters that were going around Facebook last year, but when looking back on our trip  the sentiment was just about perfect and I couldn’t think of a better title for our trip report!

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Pre-Day Friday May 20:

Technically, this is pre-entry date, so I will call it pre-day.  My husband took the day off, we shuttled the kid off to school for half a morning, and I did some final work for my employer before “shuffling off to buffalo“.  We blazed out of the Twin Cities around noon on Friday the 20th and began our 3.5 hour journey up to Ely, MN. Saw lots of “Flying Moose” stickers on cars, and swung into Spirit of the Wilderness to talk with Steve! His enthusiasm is always infectious!

Realized we forgot the kennel so my dreams for eating at Insula that night were completely dashed since we didn’t trust our dogs in the Bunkhouse by themselves. To say I was not disappointed would be a lie, but decided to eat on the patio deck at the Chocolate Moose and the dogs could be just off the deck next to us. The food was alright. I had Thai Lettuce Wraps trying to be GF still. Husband had a burger, and MiniMN had a hot dog. The wine was lovely on the deck along with the pleasantly warm weather, which really elevated the place and experience.

The waitress even gave us some water bowls for the dogs! A nice touch indeed.

After dinner I convinced Mr.MN to head out to Kawishiwi Falls for a night hike. We brought the fishing stuff with us, but had no luck. The waterfall was bursting with water, and my heart was set in the right spot.

It was very hot out. Unfortunately we packed a lot of long sleeves, and pants, but I did have a tank top on – so I wore that most of the night, and now I think I actually have a sunburn! ha.

Later on I talked with Lynn at VNO. She has to be one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever encountered. She gave us lots of great tips, and recommended the longer 40 rod portage from Upper to Lower Pauness. She also practically assured us we’d hear wolves howling in the area. This terrified me, but I knew they don’t eat humans… 😉

The dogs slept like rocks,and I was kept awake by bunkhouse neighbors who were all excited for what laid ahead of them on their trip. Around 11pm there was a stampeede of people upstairs of us. It was highly annoying, but I knew that VNO was housing several Hot Shots for the Foss/Crab Lake fire – so I tried not to be too mad.

Saturday May 21 – Day 1:
I’m no dummy, I know the Spirit of the Lord is everywhere, but oh how I feel it so much stronger in these pine stands, balsam, granite outcroppings, and tannic waters. A combination of no cell service – so the phone goes instantly into airplane mode to conserve batteries, and Gods amazing creation so immersed in your every being its hard to not recognize the Spirit of the Lord directly in front of you.

We had a quick and easy breakfast in the car this time of cereal bars, coffee from the gas station, and donuts, and blazed up the Echo Trail. We passed by the Mudro access and I remembered fondly our trip last year. This time we had a much longer treck up the Echo Trail to the Little Indian Sioux River – North.

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I thought of my bwca.com friend Kanoes. He died suddenly in his sleep at the age of 57. I thought how weird life is. How we’re here one minute, and just like water flowing over the rocks with rapids – gone the next.  I couldn’t help but think about my dad dying suddenly at 64.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed, but today I get to witness creation in the flesh.

Told Mr.MN about this trip report I head read on bwca.com and how they had forgotten their paddles and life jackets had to drive all the way back to Ely! We both agreed that would be maddening!

Got unloaded quite a bit quicker than last year despite having more things. The morning was a little chilly, and realize I had forgotten a regular coat for MiniMN but had an extra coat myself – so I gave her that, and it wasn’t too too big.

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Saw another van pull in of 3 soloists. Suddenly heard a loud F bomb. Followed quickly by several more F bombs…. Apparently they too had mis-matched solo paddles and had to drive all the way back to Ely!! I would be irate.

Grabbed the Frost River pack and headed down to the river. This FR pack is decidedly not fun to carry. Its heavy, and my pots and stove are gouging my back. The dog is pulling me on the leash, despite having the gentle leader, and he keeps stoping to try to shake it off. I’m already annoyed and we’re not even on the river yet.

Paddle up the LIS is a nice, quiet,  meandering river .Saw lots of Red  Wing Blackbirdsd and a pair of Trumpeter Swans. Settled in and my mood brightened!

Saw the Elm Portage clear across the river. The entry for it was very obvious. Walked the first treck over and Crosby is constantly pulling on the leash ripping my arm off or stops abruptly as we’re going downhill.

We are double portaging this time, which I wasn’t too excited about, but everyone assured me, the walk back is usually pretty nice.

Saw a man on the portage, Crosby stared at him incredulously. I noticed this, but thought the man seemed really nice so I wasn’t sure why in the world he was so freaked out. Suddenly, Crosby bolted backwards nearly tearing my arm or dislocating my shoulder in the process. Now my mood is soured again.

Grab my CCS pack, which is decidedly more comfortable, but all that it has in it is clothes, and sleeping bags etc, so its a treat to portage. Crosby continues to be a pain on this portage, and I ended up having a bloody nose on the portage. Of course I don’t have a kleenex on me, and the last thing I’m going to do is wipe my nose on my sleeve.

So I try to tip my face upward and keep it in. The waterfall on Elm portage is gorgeous and stunning. Trying to look on the bright side of things.

At end of Elm portage we were met by couple of guys daytripping that told us about the shorter portage to LP and some beaver dams ahead that we have to strong arm across.

We decide, even if we have to tripple portage, the shorter portage was the way to go. I hadn’t really researched this one, so I didn’t know if the portage was on the right or the left. They both looked plausable, but we chose the left. We hiked up a steep hill and at the top saw a campsite that was unoccupied. The treck back down to the lake was like a billy goat portage! Short, but really steep. I kept Crosby on a short leash, and we all did okay. We didn’t have MiniMN portage anything on this one, since it was technically difficult.

The paddle through Lower Pauness was pleasant. Saw a husband/wife that were camped at the lower site just north of the short portage. It looked nice, and they gave us a wave.

Began looking for Shell portage on our right. The guys we met on the Elm Portage said it was a sandy landing, but kind of tucked behind some trees. We didn’t see it. Kept consulting the map, but didn’t see anything that resembled the portage.

Someone had a red canoe and we found it! Praise Jesus! Thank you Red Canoe man for helping us spot the portage!

This portage was beastly. The entrance was a total muck field.  Lost of people on it, so we all shared glances of misery and “oh yay – downhill now” commentaries. We passed the Sioux Hustler Trail (SHT) and MiniMN announced how badly she had to go to the bathroom. Her and I hiked down the SHT a bit and took an off trail potty break.

Finally came to the Beaver pond very annoying. Second part was nice but longer than I thought.

 

Guys from the parking lot (that had to drive all the way back to Ely) caught us. WTF. Made me feel like we are the slowest people in the world, but they don’t have two dogs and a kid with them right? 😉 One of the guys were impressed with MiniMN as she did the 220 rod portage and stoked her up a little bit. He then asked how much longer and I said just over the hill….

Mr.MN went back for last pack & I rewarded K with Thin Mints.

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Shell is a beautiful lake. Lots of people were paddling around, and we decided to try and make it to Lynx.

Passed between Con Island and the smaller island and made our way East. Consulted the map but didn’t know exactly which way to go. Suddenly this floating rock appeared and I knew after watching all of the SHUG videos that this was the way to go. It was now referred to as the Shug Rock.

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Just to the left of this rock you come to a little bay with a campsite, and the portage is directly at the end of the bay. We saw a group camped there of 6 in Hawaiian shirts, swimming having fun. They paddled out to the glacier rock and were jumping into the lake. They said it was slightly warmer than Lake Superior.

Found the Little shell portage easily. The portage itself is not hard, and probably our favorite. This would be the last portage we’d have to do before arriving at our camp on Lynx.

Passed the Sioux Hustler Trail again on this portage.

Little Shell is beautiful! Very clear water. Would consider camping on this lake in the future. The pathway was  open to paddle to Lynx so we didn’t have to do the 4 rod portage. Took the lower east campsite after knowing it had good reviews. Lots of folks said it was a beach site, but I’m not sure what “beach” they were talking about. Slight sandy bottom so maybe that’s what people were talking about?  Sprawling multi-level site with a grand view of the lake. Fished a bit off shore, drank 2 gallons of water.

We made the mistake of not having full water bottles and were practically dying of thirst. Definitely were dehydrated. Saw a crayfish swimming right by our boat landing.

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Got things set up lazily, and found the toilet. This one had no lid, but there was a nice tree next to it to bungee our toilet paper to.

For the size of this site, there was really not many level root free tent pads available, but it would more than do for our family of three.

Entertainment for kiddos in the northwoods:

Eventually decided to get dinner out. Tonight was supposed to be Steak, baby red potatoes, and asparagus. Opened the stuff sack and dinner was an absolute mess.  Potatoes and asparagus were dripping in blood, our lemon for fish was burst open, and ruined. The steak bled over everything. I’ll never do this again. I was very parinoid, but we got things cleaned up, or burned some of our food. It was sad. Had just steak for dinner.

I definitely want heliniox chairs, or some kind of chair option.

Compared to last year’s trip, the bugs are horrible! These little black flies are mean. They land on you and bite you!

We are the only ones on Lynx from what we can tell which is odd for the size of the lake.

After we got our steak mess cleaned up, we went to hang the rest of our food. Couldn’t find any good places to hang our bag. MiniMN had an idea so we let her try to help us find a tree. Had to walk 1/4 mile away from camp, but alas, this would do. Now I want URSACK bags too with odor proof stuff sacks so we don’t have to worry about hanging our food.

Enjoyed our fire and the sunset. Even at dusk it was still hot out.

Mr.MN leaned into me…. “What does it do for you…tripping in the BWCA?” One look over the lake said it all. Part of it is the planning which I absolutely love, and part of it is the challenge and learning to overcome. Not having any cell phone service, and relying on what is right in front of you. Plus it is so darn quiet.

After we had enough of the night sky, we retreated to our tent. MiniMN begged us to play yatzhee, so we did. Mr.MN won.

Head lamps went off, and the wheels started turning. Suddenly looked around the perimiter of our tent and began worrying about bears and wild life. Dreamed a pack of Lynx (who are solitary animals) would tear into the tent as well.

Tossed/turned in my 5 degree bag. Definitely too hot for this trip. I was in a full body sweat around midnight/1am as the full moon rose across tent.

A nearby Loon couple was going absolutely berserk in the moonlight for over 20 minutes.  Prayed I wouldn’t hear any howling wolves, and drifted off to sleep.

Sunday May 22 – Day 2:

Woke up to a quiet world. Sadie snuggling MiniMN in a deep sleep.

Arose to no Mr.MN. I climbed out of the tent and looked around. He must be out fishing. Wrote in my journal on the rocks.  MiniMN really sleeping in. About 45 minutes later spotted Mr.MN by the Little Shell portage/path fishing in peace.

It was a quiet beautiful morning on Lynx.

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I was in much better spirits today.

Didn’t want to leave camp to get the food bag and have MiniMN to awake to nobody in camp, so I waited. She finally woke up, we got bag down from tree to get breakfast. Hot Cocoa/Coffee/Oatmeal. It was good. Instead of the regular Instant Quaker Oats we did last year, I made up these packs from this website.  I even added raw almonds to mine which gave it a nice crunch.

Here is a quick video from the perspective of a child in the BWCA:

Cleaned camp. Went fishing in E. Bay just north of the southern campsite. Forgot our anchor bags, so we paddled back to camp get them as there was a nice breeze on the lake. Thanks Ducks for the tip! Works wonderfully!

Fished nearly the whole bay with all that we had, topwater, spoons, Gulp on bobbers, nothing. Had a snack in canoe, and just sat for a while and enjoyed each others company.

We were going to fish the west side of lynx but the wind was getting so bad, and the dogs were growing restless, so we decided to head back to camp and make up Mac & Cheese. Relaxed under my CCS tarp & listened to pair of loons romance each other and MiniMN  entertain herself. She was talking to her imaginary friends and pretending she was a singer song writer at a book store.  She announced to everyone said she had to sing about “The Strawberry Patch” because her manager already promoted the song…then said, “alright everyone, will you help me sing this next song?” and proceeded to make up some words to the Strawberry Patch song. MR.MN took our rainfly off the tent and took a nap in there, and the dogs were splattered about camp in a mid-afternoon slumber.

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I studied the map for a bit to see about possible ideas for moving or day trips. Definitely want to eat a little more before we move to lighten the load. Maybe Tuesday…. We will discuss once Mr.MN wakes up. The girl and I try fishing off shore and not a bite.

Mr.MN wakes up, we discuss going out to Lake Agawato for some SMB fishing. The water is still way too whipped up to go anywhere so we decide to prepare dinner which is Tacos tonight. We get to lighten the load of jalapeños and onions at least. We make the tacos, which was freeze dried chicken & Trader Joes seasoning. One bite & MiniMN’s mouth is on fire! We had never used TJs taco seasoning before and it was hot hot hot.

Luckily I packed extra freeze dried chicken and its  super easy to reconstitute. I could just kick myself for trying something new in the boundary waters.

The wind settles down so I go to get some water & check out the portage to Lake Agawato. I sat backwards in the bow seat and paddled to the middle of the bay – but man I got hit by the wind at the front of my canoe and started swinging and came dangerously close to tipping.

I paddled & dug deep with all my might. Finally scooped up some water & abandoned checking out the portage. Kept trying to get to camp, but I could not get back to the landing so I shouted for MiniMN to get Dad… he comes to shore with a puzzled look and says, what do you want me to do and I say I don’t know but I’m getting blown all over the place.

Eventually a small path away from camp before some huge boulders I spot a landing & dig. Mr. & Mini run over and got me safe. Mr. paddled back to the real landing just fine.

We will defnitely want to wait until aflter dinner to go anywhere.

Later after didnner the lake was like glass. A strong contrast to the whipping waters of earlier.

We paddled south from our campsite all along to the western shore of Lynx .We tried wounded minnow, spinners, fishin’ off the bottom & fishing with a bobber and not a single bite! A gorgeous sunset was painted on the night sky!

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The dogs were getting restless which interrupted the peace however. Once we got back we had a roaring fire as the moon rose. Went down to the boat landing and went hunting for crayfish. Saw frogs, toads and a wolf spider. That sucker was HUGE!  Eventually fell asleep. Sadie (Our Jack Russell Terrier) was snuggled in with MiniMN in her sleeping bag, laying on her back and snoring logs!

Monday May 23 – Day 3:

Arose to the sound of the wind and the sweet elixer of sleep tempted me to rest longer, but once I’m awake I find it tricky to fall back to sleep. Across the lake the sky fell grey and threatened our chance of moving. Mr.MN wanted to stay put, but we were giving this lake all that we had without even a nibble. The clouds blew north and Mr.MN made the announcement, “Pack this shit up – lets move.”.

We got camp busted down & ready to go in 1.5 hours and we were off. The wind had really picked up and we were paddling directly into the wind. Like my friend Canoearoo said of her biggest pet-peves, no being a fake paddler today! We were digging hard but made it over to Little Shell unscathed. We found the portage and made it over. Shell looked pretty darn wavy but no whitecaps we were hoping and praying one of the Con Island sites were available but nobody else was paddling today so we weren’t too hopeful.

As we rounded the corner near the glacier erratic to the right towards Con Island our hearts sank as we saw the south site was taken. Almost assuredly the north site would be taken as well since that’s often noted the best site on the lake.

The waves really kicked in and soon we were paddling white caps! I prayed so hard to make land safe and thought how dumb it was to move at that moment. Father keep us safe. Do not let us tip and oh Lord let one of the other two island sites be open or we have a strong paddle into the wind and waves.

Phew, the middle site was free – in a pinch we could stay there, but it didn’t look very nice. As we paddled north, I prayed fervently the north site wouldn’t be taken. I kept expecting to see a tarp or tent, but never did. We docked the canoe to get a look & I jumped ashore to ensure it really was free and sure enough, it was ours for the taking! PTL Thank you Jesus! Its free! its ours!

The site was gorgeous and tucked back into a little cove making the lake feel small.

We got set up.

After some searching found the toilet, which the FS really needs to address as it is almost full. At least to ground level!

Lunch, was summer sausage, nuts & cheese, but we were still hungry so I made up some Cous Cous & Vegetables with soy sauce. That hit the spot!

Fished from shore and saw a whole nest of frog eggs in the water!

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The water on Shell is dirty and more tannic, but not as much as I expected.

A lovely bench seat by the fire

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Saw a few wrapapers of tootsie rolls/tea bags by the fire, so that lost a little of its magic. Packed them up in our own garbage bag.

Under the bench we found matches & cigars which Mr.MN helped himself to.

Got our tarp hung beautifully over old an log.

It was much cooler today but still in tank top. I’m noticing that I’m getting sunburned I look like I spent a week in Mexico instead of the Northwoods of Minnesota.

Saw storm clouds rolling in to the west so we decided we better get dinner going. Pad Thai. It was very good!

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Got in a panic trying to find a tree as the storm pushed in Con Island N has zero trees for bags. The rain came in huge drops, just as we finished and darted for the tarp as we watched the rain pour down.

Decidedly at this point in our lives 6-7 day trips aren’t for us. We think a 4 day or 4 night trip is about perfect and will plan for that in the future. After the storm passes we get out in canoe & fish the ^ shoreline near Heritage. Crosby lost his balance sitting up in the canoe, and almost tipped us over. Hearts are pumping.

MiniMN is working on casting lures and has a spoon she likes casting.

The lake was like glass. Jason gets a huge fat northern,but I can’t figure out the net so it gets away! I did get a video on the GoPro though.

 

We came back to camp & got a fire roaring. We tell stories about Elanore the man who sells coconuts…. as we grow tired.

We cozied up in the tent and fell fast asleep.

Tuesday May 24 – Day 4:

Felt like we really slept in today. Mr. MN woke up with a horrible headache, and burning eyes. Took some advil and slowly felt better.

Crosby ran off into the woods, and had to hike around looking for him. Trip has been stressful and not too relaxing with him. He is officially uninvited from future trips. His food is heavy, pulls on the leash too much, running off, restless in canoe.

Try to hike the trails on the island with Sadie, but they all peter out. We have a lazy morning to try and recapture our spirits.

We decide to cut our trip short and leave tomorrow to meet up with our friends and family for dispersed camping in the Chippewa National Forest. (CNF)

I definitely want to hit up Heritage Lake before we leave though and on our way out tomorrow I want to see Devils Cascade.

Portaged into Heritage. Portage was pretty flat, rocky in some spots. Landing kind of tricky. Muddy, but not too bad. 3/10. Heritage lake is beautiful. One of the most beautiful lakes I’ve seen. Fished like heck with NOTHING. Storm clouds rolled in and we headed back to camp.

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Noted some guys fishing on Peninsula next to our campsite. Said they’ve been skunked on the fishing too.

Read BWJ under the tarp and watched the rain fall. Garbanzo Bean size hail. The CCS tarp held up like champ though.

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Had Mac & Cheese for lunch. Sorted out our dinners/food bags for CNF.

More relaxing around the tent & look at maps & plan future trips. Definitely want to plan shorter trips, and less portaging.  Snowbank to Parent & Disappointment, or  Little Gabro to Gabro to base all look like good options, but also really looking forward to going to the Gunflint, or Sawbill.

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Got everything packed for the hike/paddle out. Everything loaded into Frost River Pack much smarter and it is so much more comfortable now without my pots & stove gouging my lower back. Dare I even say I really like this pack now!

Had Tuna Alfredo Parmesan with Frenches Fried Onions. Thought of Kanoes from bwca.com as it was his tip to make this and was one of his favorites.

Head to the tent and play 2 games of yahtzee. I got 222 on the first round, and MiniMN got 307 with a bonus Yahtzee on round 2.

Alarm is set for 5:30 a.m. for an early morning break down since we want to make a quick pitstop to Devils Cascade on the way out.

I’m excited to get to the 220 rod beast portage out of the way right away! After that we’ll do the 40 rod to Upper Pauness, and back down the LIS to the car where I have an entire roll of Thin Mints waiting for us as a reward!

Wednesday May 25 – Day 5:

Alarm goes off and everyone wants to stay asleep. I read the Falls Chain article in the Spring 2016 issue of BWJ while I wait for my family to arise.

After I finish reading I woke them up and we got on the water by 7:30 a.m.

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The paddle to Shell was uneventful. We didn’t have the strong waters, but there was a light breeze.

The portage sucked as bad as ever. Its very very muddy on both ends, and the beaver dam is damn annoying. MiniMN had a positive attitude on it, and carried her pack, and the Thwart Bag/Map Case across.

We swung to the right to check out Devils Cascade. We could hear the rushing water, but the landing was very obvious. The landing was a beautiful sandy beach landing, which was nice. We pulled everything up on shore, and left lots of room for others if they were going to be arriving or taking out.

The hike/portage was very well maintained and had a few ups and downs. Maybe because we weren’t carying anything I thought it was pretty easy. We hiked to the campsite that over looks the cascade and the rest of the LIS to the North. It was a gorgeous campsite, but had a severe drop off which would make me nervous with exploratory dogs and kids.

Back to the canoe we went. The peninsula campsite was occupied but looked very nice on Lower Pauness. It had a great view, and just across was another campsite. It didn’t look too special, but would do if you needed to.

We found the portage over to Upper Pauness and it looked steeper than my notes had made it sound. It really wans’t bad though, and we were across in no time. Rocky on both sides. We were exited to get paddling for a little while instead of portaging.

As we came towards the Little Indian Sioux River though the wind picked up from the south, and the current seemed much stronger than before. We paddled like the dickens, and within 15 minutes I thought my arms were going to fall right off.

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We paddled with all of our might over the beaver dams, and only rubbed the bottom on one once.

The wind picked up and we were digging! The way the sun was shining on the river though we missed a big submerged boulder and before we knew it we were stuck right over the top of it like a teeter totter! I prayed so hard that the dogs, and kiddo would be calm….. keep calm I kept thinking, keep calm. Slow, and calculated movements were key. The river was about 10 feet deep in this location, and we could not push off the rock which as best we could surmise – was right below the bow seat.

We had MiniMN move to the packs behind her seat, and tried to carefully wiggle backwards… nothing. Finally, I too moved on the packs behind me and we gently wiggled backwards, and we were FREE!!!!!!

I was never so thankful in all of my life.

I was actually happy to see the Elm Portage so I could give my sad arms a rest. The portage was met with happy spirits, and we commented that Elm Falls looked like Root Beer bursting over the brink!

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Back into the canoe we went, but I knew there weren’t rocks south of Elm Portage that we had to be concerned about. The wind settled some, but it was still a paddle.  Finally as we came close to the LIS entry portage the wind died, and the river was glass. Figures.

We hauled everything up to the car, and left the Little Indian Siox River behind us.

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Got a shower at VNO which felt like royal spa treatment,and loaded up on some groceries for the CNF.

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Spent the next 5 days over in the CNF with our family and friends. Caught lots of crappie, sunnies, and LMB on topewater lures. It almost wasn’t fair how much fish we were catching.

We enjoyed our time with them, but we were also excited to get home. Sunday we finally crawled into our own beds. I was never so thankful to get off my Exped, and see running water!

Sunday night, I booked our BWCAW trip #2 of this season! We’ll head up to the Lizz | Swamp entry point, and basecamp on Caribou Lake, taking day trips into Horseshoe, and Vista. All of the portages are short, and easy, and it should only take us 2 hours or so to get to our campsite.

Looking on the horizon to the next trip!

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❤ Linds

Simple Gifts

After my trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness this past May – I became acutely aware what I was thankful for – and what I was not. What was important… and what was not.

To start with – we have been incredibly blessed with health! In the past year my daughter went to the doctor ONCE for an ear infection back in January. Blessed doesn’t begin to describe the hand God is giving us. I am so thankful each and every day that we wake up healthy and happy.

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Perhaps it is because my dad died so suddenly back in July of 2014 – that small nuances of life no longer bother me a bit. My patience has increased ten-fold – and I am utterly grateful for each and every breath I take.

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My dad taught me so much about interpersonal relationships. He taught me that human relationships were the most important thing that we can do with other people. The laundry and the lawn can wait – but the real important things of life – are giving your undivided attention to the moments at hand.

If I could be the fraction of a human being that my dad was – I may be doing okay.

I started a list last year – inspired by one of my favorite authors Ann Voskamp – A Thousand Gifts – where I’ve been jotting down all of the things I love and am thankful in life for and living each day as though it were Thanksgiving.

The list items –  may be as minute as watching tiny snow flakes fall to the earth, or gratitude for my amazing family or something as huge as my gratitude for Jesus. Taking full inventory of these Simple Gifts in their most raw form each and every day – even in the ‘minutia’ has expanded my appreciation of life tenfold.

Further – I’m blessed that I live in a country – though there are times that we may feel otherwise – we really are free to worship whomever and whatever we please. I can go to church with my daughter and feel assured that I’m not going to be physically harmed leaving church.

I’ve been working very hard since last May to get my life down to simplicity. I’ve said no to things that while amazing on their own – were emptying my bucket and not supporting the things in life I claim to be most important.

I’m thankful I was given the foresight to see that reality for me.

My life really does feel less rushed. I have time for the things that fill my bucket.  – Time to go on a walk with a friend, enjoy a glass of wine on the deck with a neighbor, read my daughter Little House in the Big woods or simply take a nap on a Sunday afternoon.

I’m thankful that I have a place I can go to a few times per year and see the full handiwork of God in nature – away from distractions of technology and the business of life. This place is a true Simple Gift. I’m thankful that I have legs to carry me to this place- and arms to paddle me deep into His amazing wilderness.

Happy Thanksgiving my dear readers. Will you take time to notice how amazing a simple snow flake is, the richness of family and friends around your table and the amazing grace of this life we live.

Mom + Daughter | Retreat

From the moment I found out I was having a girl – I had wanted to go on a retreat so to speak with her once she got older/old enough for an annual mom/daughter weekend – to grow our bond especially during those tween/teen years.

Because I have become obsessed with Ely – that’s where we were headed off to!

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On the docket of fun:

Because I am a shade of crazy for Ely, and Northern Minnesota that I can’t quite convay to you on this blog – we got out the door by 5:30am {Why yes- I did pack everything into the car the night before!}! I had made a super fun playlist with hits from the Oakee Dokee Brothers, Jose Gonzalez, and Kruger Brothers.

We were off! Except a few miles into our trip I realized that our connection road to I-35 was closed down and I had planned on stopping for gas! Well finally after some twists and turns we found a gas station filled up on coffee, cocoa donuts and gasoline and we’re officially off!

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Took the typical 35 to 33 to 53 to 169/1 that I had taken for the third time now this year! I could drive up to Ely in my sleep I swear!

Little miss slept most of the way up since it was still fully dark out and the miles ticked by. Finally we stopped at Bearhead state park for a bathroom break and to check out the campsites. A few of them are quite nice and I wouldn’t mind staying there. I’ve heard the group site is legendary!

Once up in Ely – we stopped by the Spirit of the Wilderness outfitters to pick up a map of Lake One. Little miss were headed to the end of the road of 169 to the Lake One entry point.

We paddled around for a bit. I had been warned that the Lake One entry point could be confusing, and true to form the twists and turns on the Kawishiwi River left me feeling a bit confused and little miss was freaked out in the Kayak! Oh vey! I made her paddle around with me though for an hour or so since I hauled the Kayak all the way up north.

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After we lived it up on the river – we took out and drove back towards Ely to go hiking out to Kawishiwi Falls. We were the only car in the parking lot. It was sunny out and the leaves were in peak color on both the birch and the tamaraks. The walk was easy but a little errie since we were the only ones out there. I kept imagining a wolf to come by and snack on us like we were breakfast cereal, but all we encountered was a squirrel gathering nuts.

Miss K loved the view of the water falls. She wanted to get closer, but closer meant falling down a ravine – so I make her stay backed up. I was eager to get back to the car, but she was loving the private views of the waterfall.

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Later that day we at lunch at the Grilled Cheese Imporium, shopped at Piragus, and visited the Kawishiwi River Ranger Station!

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Dinner was at Insula which is by and far my new favorite restaurant of Ely. I had the ghost pepper cheeseburger (and a nice glass of Pinot) and little miss had chicken tenders.  Later we headed back to the bunkhouse to watch Big Hero 6 and go to bed.

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The next morning we woke up to pitter-patter rain – and we were headed to the North American Bear Center. We spent quite a bit of time there taking in all of the sights – and then had a spot of lunch and headed back to the bunkhouse for a nap!

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After naps it was still raining but too early for dinner so we headed to the Piragus Bookstore! We spent hours pouring over books until we realized they were closing, and ended up buying a few of them to take with us.

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Dinner was at Sir G’s which was not as good as Insula – but the customer service was very nice. Miss K and I split a plate of spaghetti and salads.

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Friday we spent the day at the International Wolf Center! I had been told not to get too “excited” about seeing the wolves as they are often alusive, but they were right up by the glass for the entire day. They had wolf hunting game, and several seminars which we stuck around for.

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Then we headed off Hwy 1 to hike at Gabro. Again – the eerie feeling came back so we only hiked in a little while. Over my research last year I came to know of a large pack of known wolves in the area – so again I let fear get the better of me and took miss K up the Echo trail to Slim Lake.

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That hike was absolutely GORGEOUS as snow flurries poured down on us. The area suffered a burn a while ago – so the blackness of the chared stumps along with some vivid colors were eye popping. The lake as always was breathtaking! We skipped rocks for quite a while and I had none of that fear that I did on the other hikes.

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We headed back to town eventually and went back to the Wolf Center until they too closed.

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Dinner was at Insula and it was a hit again!

Later that evening I met up with my cousin and her husband and headed to their gorgeous log cabin on Burntside Lake. It was absolutely wonderful and their hospitality was lovely.

The next morning – around 5:30 a.m. we were packed in the car and headed to Grand Marais for Moose Madness!

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Watching the sun rise over Hwy 1 was beyond epic! I was listening to a lot of Hillsong United so it tied in perfectly with the majesty of the moment. The twists and turns of the road were a blast in the dark I can hardly imagine how great they’d be in the light. I hope to take the Harley up on these roads some day!

We arrived in Grand Marais early in the morning and promptly stopped by Java Moose for a BWCA Mocha and Hot Chocolate for the little miss. Actually ran into someone I knew and after some hellos and have a good trips we finished up and drove up the Gunflint Trail for a bit and I determined we will be BACK on the Gunflint next fall for our Fall BWCA trip! It was so beautiful! After some time we went  to the visitor center to hit up Moose Madness.

Miss K earned some moose bucks and got a few fun items.

On our way back home we hit up nearly every State Park along the way including a trip down the Alpine Slide at Lutsen.

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Finally on our way back home we hit up the North Shore favorites of the Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls.

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It was great getting back home to my own bed – but valued each and every moment with my daughter. We had an amazing time and definitely grew closer in our relationship!

Daytrip into the BWCA

This past Labor Day Weekend  we took a trip up to Fenske Lake group site off the Echo Trail just north of Ely – and took a few day trips while we were there!

Our first daytrip was into Mudro last Saturday (9/5) for a bit of fishing.

Since we had already been to Mudro we knew what to expect. We got there around 4pm in the afternoon – filled out our day permit and headed down the portage path to Picket Creek.

The water seemed lower than when we were there in May – so we made extra care around the rocks.

We fished the north side of the lake up towards the outlet up to Fourtown- but did not make that final turn towards that first portage as we didn’t want to have to battle the current/drifting etc. We ended up having quite a bit of luck on that last bend before going to Fourtown.

We fished until 7:45 or so when the sun had gone down. Caught some SMB (Small Mouth Bass) and very nice looking sunnies. We didn’t keep anything though since the only keepers were three sunnies and we didn’t feel like cleaning them.

Dusk across the lake was a bit eerie – and once we got to Picket Creek we were met by two beavers who splashed us as we went by their home. The whole way on the creek felt a bit odd since it was so late at night and we were happy to see the car again.

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The next day (9/6) I was eager to get back to some more EP’s but my husband wanted to relax and try his luck on fishing Fenske – so I threw on my Keen’s, packed up the dogs and decided to go to several EPs to check out their initial portage path in – knowing [sadly] I couldn’t go any further without a canoe and paddle.

My first stop was Angleworm. Filed out another day permit and set off! I saw my co-workers car in the lot – since I knew she was out hiking the entire loop – so that was kind of neat.  I knew this was a 716 rod portage in – but man – after 20 minutes or so of a small – shady buggy path I ended up getting a bit spooked being out there all by myself after running into some fresh bear scat and a print that I was convinced was bear – regardless of the fact that I had dogs with me – I turned around and walked back to the car. I heard something up ahead so I started singing and was relieved that it was just a couple and their own dog! My imagination is out of control sometimes!

Next up was Hegman Lake. Again – another day permit – since you need one for each EP… This was definitely more of my jam with its towering trees and pine needle flooring! I made the pleasant hike down to the lake and enjoyed the beautiful views! I had none of that spooky feeling with me – and I will DEFINITELY be back with my family on our next canoe trip! The lake reminded me of Gun Lake – with its crystal clear water – though the structure definitely looked different. It had a nice large landing for room to get situated with portage packs etc.

I would highly recommend this EP for folks with families! Not only are the portages pretty simple – there are pictographs one lake and a carry over – over! (my daughter is super excited to see them!)

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Last but not least – was Slim Lake EP.

I took a right off the Echo Trail towards the North Arm. I didn’t see a sign for Slim Lake as I had with Angleworm and Hegman – so I drove all the way down to Camp Du Nord and saw a sign that said Superior Forest Hiking Trails and thought – hmm that must be it.

I hopped out of my car when I saw a sign for Slim Lake Hiking – “more difficult”. I thought that seemed odd since everyone said that the portage path into Slim was a piece of cake – AND I didn’t see the brown sign with the day permit box. I figured the sign must be at the lake… so I set off.

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While hiking I thought it seemed rather difficult from what I read over at bwca.com – and wondered if I was on the wrong path. After 30 minutes of hiking with no compass, and more difficulty bushwhacking and questioning if I was going the right way after many twists and turns –   I decided I best turn around before I became lost in the forest. Luckily I had packed plenty of water for my dogs and I.

I made it back to my car [thankful] – and was annoyed that either everyone over exaggerated how easy this was – or that I clearly wasted time on the wrong path. I was driving back to Fenske when I saw a tiny little sign that said Slim Lake on it – so I took a left and went down the dirt road.

WALA – there was the REAL entry point into Slim. I filled out another day permit and headed on in.

This portage was a cake walk in comparison to all other portages I had ever been on and certainly easier than the original path I was on. Met some super nice people at the landing – and they stated the path I was on would have lead me to Slim, but I would have been hiking for a very very long time before I ever reached the lake!

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All in all – I am also interested in trying out Slim Lake. While I’m not shy of doing more arduous portages like those from Mudro to Fourtown – the easy ones will be nice for my daughter as well!

Stay tuned for my “Camptober” trip report! It is TBD on if we do our traditional State Park trip – or if we try Hegman Lake!

Gear Review: Biolite Stove

When deciding which stove to purchase for the BWCA one thing was clear. I did NOT want to haul in a bunch of fuel. I don’t know if it was the idea of the added weight, or the potential for screwing something up with the canister etc. but the MSR type stoves really made me nervous for some reason.

I had contemplated just skipping the stove option all together – to opt for cooking on the fire grate until I ran across the Biolite stove.

Small, compact, and using NO fuel whatsoever except mother natures sticks, and fallen branches – i was immediately intrigued, while also remaining highly skeptical. I mean really – you just add twigs to it, click a light of fire and you’re set to go – with the fan charging the fan by itself?

At $130 a pop – this was not something I wanted to just “try” if it did not work. We decided to purchase EVERY piece of equipment needed for canoe camping since we decided early on that this was going to be our new ‘thing’ – so I did not want to waste money on an item that wouldn’t work.

The worker at REI swore that the thing worked amazing – but still I remained skeptical.

IMG_1608                                I put the stove on my REI wishlist that our family suggested we make for ideas for Christmas/birthday gifts last year, and low and behold my mother-in-law purchased this for me for my birthday! I was floored to try it because we likely wouldn’t have purchased it on our own.

IMG_1540                             On Christmas Eve we took our GSR Cook set along with some branches from the fireplace and tried it out. Much to our surprise in just 8 minutes we had boiling water [faster than our kitchen stove]- and were able to charge our iPhones as well.

I was instantly impressed and was ready to use it in the North Woods.

IMG_1533                         Upon entry into the BWCA our first meal was actually right on the fire grate – but thereafter we used our Biolite stove for every meal. We had our 7 year old daughter “hunt” for some smaller sticks/twigs and branches and form a little pile. This was always her camp chore which was easy for her – and never had a complaint of “its too heavy”.

We always gathered “quite” the little pile. Perhaps the amount of sticks/twigs that would fit in an average shoe box. Yes. You do have to re-stoke the stove by adding more in, but as long as you have all of the sticks/twigs gathered it’s easy peasy.

The food heated quickly without any worry of added canisters/fuel and the worry of running out or using too much etc.

As far as the charging went – it went okay. I kept my iPhone 6 in airplane mode and charged it every night at dinner keeping it consistently in that 50-60% charge.

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The BioLite Stove worked excellently for us since we experienced steady rain and snow for the first part of our trip making it difficult to keep the regular camp fire going. Being able to fire up the BioLite under the tarp was hugely beneficial, and we were even able to warm our hands on it!

We also thought it cooled down exceptionally fast being able to store it quickly in its nylon stuff sack.

I’m excited to try out the accessories on our next trip!

All in all I would give the BioLite 5 Stars out of 5 and was thoroughly impressed by it! Give it a try this summer or next!