Travel – MN

July 10, 2015 – BWCA Excursion – On the Trail and in the Woods

There’s a lot of interesting flora in the wilderness.

lady slipper

Here’s a showy lady slipper, the Minnesota state flower (within a few paces of Emma’s tent to boot).

pin cushion moss

This soft little orb is known as pincushion moss.


One of the most spectacular plants we encountered was this colony of Sundew growing on a log in Cherokee Creek.


This is a carnivorous plant. The end of the red hairs on this plant look like little drops of inviting dew. Surprise, if you are an insect looking for a dew drop or bit of nectar. It is sticky and “eats” the insects in the highly acidic, nutrient-deficient bog.

pitcher plant

Another carnivorous plant of the floating bog – the pitcher plant. Named for the inviting entrance that attracts insects and small children (OK, maybe not small children).

The insects slide down, the hairs inside the pitcher facing down, where a reservoir of liquid drowns them since they cannot crawl back out.

woman portaging canoe

Once more sporting the Meadville-Lombard swag, Linda portages the canoe between two lakes.

boy portaging canoe

Martin get in on the action as well. The biggest portaging day was 4 portages totaling about 432 rods, or about 1.25 miles. Yes, that means carrying the canoes, all the food, tents, and equipment for over a mile – over rocks, through mud, up and down hill.

Here we are hiding out in a grove of cedar trees on Sawbill Lake while we waited an hour or so for the lightning to stop. We had originally planned on staying the last night on Sawbill, but the rain, and unsettled weather led us to get out at about 4:00 in the afternoon and power-driving home to avoid the big storms.

We raced the storms out of the BWCA, then also raced the storms in the car from Duluth to Minneapolis.

Finally, the aftermath – getting everything unpacked and dried out before putting it away.

July 10, 2015 – BWCA Excursion – At Camp

This post collects photos from around the campsites.

Emma enjoying the night after arriving at Cherokee Lake.

Mom making pancakes stylin’ her Meadville-Lombard swag (sunglasses).

Plenty of time for hanging out in the hammock gazing at the wilderness.

frost lake

Incredible beach at Frost Lake. Decidedly not frosty on this uncharacteristically hot day. The sand on this beach is a stark contrast to the surrounding rock. Amazingly, you could walk out probably 200 yards or more before it reached four feet deep.

frost lake, frost lake sand beach

The beach with the A+ campsite on the rocky point at the end of the beach. Imagine having this beach all to yourself all day!

Hanging out waiting for dinner.

Martin on KP duty.

The nightly ritual of hanging the food back out of the reach of (most) bears.

young woman around fire

Finally, at the end of the day, some time around the fire.


July 9, 2015 – BWCA Excursion – On the Lake

Rather than a day-by-day account of the trip, I thought I’d break it up into themes. First up is “on the lake.”

cherokee creek

The intriguing Cherokee Creek – it narrowed and became more boggy as you approached the portage. Lots of great bog plants along the way.

Sometimes there’s paddling out in the open lake.

Other times it’s more of a river.

Or a narrower river.

cherokee creek

And even places just wide enough for a canoe to pass. (But no matter how narrow, beats carrying the canoe around.)

woman paddling canoe

Another hearty stern paddler.

cherokee lake

Looking south from a campsite perch on the northern edge of Cherokee Lake.

cherokee lake

Looking south from a campsite perch on the southern edge of Cherokee Lake.

July 12, 2014 – Getaway Day 2

We absolutely lucked out and got a great campsite at Split Rock State Park.  We happened to walk in just after a cancellation came in for one of the sites that you use a cart to haul all your stuff in, far away from other sites.

The dining room was ok.

But the view from the living room was spectacular, overlooking the lake and the lighthouse.

We headed down the hill to explore the lakeshore.

I’ve got the whole lighthouse in my hand…

This is a rather unfortunate composition of me against the lighthouse – Minnesota’s most photographed place, perhaps has never quite had this vantage point.

It was a wonderful night with the moonrise.  Can’t decide if the close-up, middle, or wide angle views are my favorite, so all follow.


July 11, 2014 – Dad and Kid Getaway Day 1

Heading North for a rare weekend with all three kids.  Might be the last time in a long time they are all together, except for a day before Claire leaves for Iceland.



Since we had some extra time, we stopped at one of those places we always drive by on the way up north, Moose Lake State Park Agate and and Geologic Center.  After ogling the agates in the display, it was time for some impromptu swimming. Martin decided it was time to try the experimental sand hair exfoliate.

Next it was off to Jay Cooke State Park, just south of Duluth – another one of those drive-by parks that often gets missed on the way up the North Shore.  It is one of Minnesota’s truly under-appreciated parks.

The St Louis River battles through strongly tilted slate beds as it runs into Lake Superior.

A broader view of the valley, downstream from the park.

A closer look at the tilted slate beds.

We lucked onto a primo camp site – not too close to other sites, with a nice rock backdrop.

The swinging bridge is replaced after the floods of 2012.

Martin gazes into what we called the “cauldron of doom” where the river drops into a maelstrom of water and foam.


The forest along the river near the highway bridge.


June 1, 2014 – A Superior Getaway: Day 3

Day three is only a few hours in the morning before the long drive back home.

beaver river

However, the Beaver River called as we drove over the bridge on highway 61, so we stepped out for a closer look.

north shore river

I love the minty green of the trees sneaking out of the fog.

Yet another perspective.

gooseberry falls

Finally one more look at Gooseberry middle falls after a night of rain.

gooseberry lower falls

Gooseberry lower falls.

Finally, Mark and Linda selfie.

I was struck with the stark contrast between a story on my phone with my location and experience this morning.  While enjoying the clear waters and parks of Minnesota, I read that the governor of Iowa had cut $9 million dollars from the state parks and outdoors budget and $11 million dollars from the clean water budget, despite being passed by both parties in the state house. Of course, there is enough money to give $110 million to a private company to build a fertilizer plant.

May 31, 2014 – A Superior Getaway: Day 2

With the threat of rain for the day, we made a quick trip to Gooseberry Falls early in the morning and found the wildly popular park, usually covered with people like ants, to be nearly empty.

The middle falls.

And one part of the lower falls, with an example of one of the most iconic and under-appreciated trees, the Cedar, its gnarly roots, holding of for dear life on the rock.

The drizzle and fog soon set in as we made the annual pilgrimage to Palisade Head.

Hiking to the north of the cliffs reveals a tundra-like landscape of rock, mosses and lichens, and small trees.

Did I say it was wet?

It was wet down at the beach as well, but as a bonus, made the rocks look their best.

We finally relented and went to Duluth in the evening and sampled some of the fare at Fitger’s Brewery – both dinner and beverage locally sourced.  I was surprised to learn they had their own herd of Scottish Highland cattle for meat for the restaurant – lots of spent grain to feed hearty northern cattle.

May 30, 2014 – A Superior Getaway: Day 1

Linda and I don’t have many chances to sneak away, but we did for a while this weekend.

split rock park beach

Of course, we headed to the big lake and explored some locations we hadn’t previously visited.  While we had visited the lighthouse portion of Split Rock State Park/Historical area, we had not explored the river portion and more remote part of the park.  The water is wonderful as it transitions from clear to turquoise to deep blue as it gets deeper.

split rock lighthouse

Here’s an obligatory view of the lighthouse.

split rock view

A vista from a hill close to shore, looking south towards Duluth.

marsh marigolds

A special shout out to my mother for remembrances of those who fetched these from the ash swamp many years ago.

eagle in tree

The trail soon turned into “animal kingdom” first with this Bald Eagle.

Then this rather skinny doe, no doubt much appreciative of the spring foliage.

ground squirrel

Look, Look, Squirrel!! I believe this is a Franklins Ground Squirrel.

split rock river

A hike up the river leads to a series of waterfalls.

split rock river

And more cascades further up the Split Rock River.

July 14, 2013 – Checking up on the Girls

By chance, we stayed within a few miles of our daughters’ summer workplace.  In fact, we could see the wind turbine at their camp from the balcony of our room!

The girls at Wolf Ridge looking inland (the opposite view looks over Lake Superior).

Self-portrait family shot.

Le Voyageur room at Wolf Ridge.

The small indoor climbing tower. I still think it’s great the girls wanted to work together this summer.

Here’s a view of our B&B cabin from the river. I’m standing on a rock island in the river and wasn’t quite high enough to see all the water over the rocks.

Linda and the “morning pages.”

One of the magical pools below the Inn.

Although we didn’t get a chance to use it, there was a fanciful wood-fired sauna! As if Dr. Suess wasn’t Finnish!

July 13, 2013 – Superior Hiking Trail

We spent the good part of the afternoon hiking on a segment of the Superior Hiking Trail from the Temperance River to the Cross River and back again. Of course the part we covered was less than 1%  of the entire trail (unless you count going there and back – then more than 1.7%!) of the total trail length of 296 miles – Duluth to the Canadian border.

I promised you more self-photos – this along the stretch where the trail goes along the Temperance River.

OK, one more.

Although hard to see in this photo, this is one of my favorite vantage of any north shore stream.  Right here, the river take a sharp 90 degree turn and you can stand on a rock seemingly in the middle of the river and look upstream at eye level with the onrushing waters and look downstream to a waterfall.

Superior Hiking Trail Sign

Finally away from the river, we snapped a photo of a trail marker.

Superior Hiking Trail Boardwalk

Some parts of the trail are wet and have a boardwalk.

Superior Hiking Trail mud

Some portions are wet and have mud.

Other portions are wet and have rock guides.

Superior Hiking Trail maples

Part of the trail passes through a maple forest.

Superior Hiking Trail aspen

Other parts an aspen forest.

Yet other parts, a pine forest.

Superior Hiking Trail ferns

Then there are open areas covered with ferns.

Superior Hiking Trail fireweed

Even some openings adorned with fireweed.

Every once and a while, you get a vista of Lake Superior.

Superior Hiking Trail cross river campground

There is a beautiful campsite at the Cross River.

Cross River

Another rolling and tumbling stream – the Cross River.

Cross River

Cascades, pools, and waterfalls upstream – a great playground.

A parting shot.

July 12, 2013 – Mark and Linda Get-Away

The longest time off Linda will have all summer is this three-day weekend in the middle of July. So we escaped north to Lake Superior. First stop is the always spectacular Palisade Head.

We thought we’d join the self-indulgent trend of self-photos – this is one of many on the trip!

We took a hike along the cliff to the north until we reached the signs alerting us to go no further as not to bother the nesting peregrine falcons – but this is a great view back to the south towards Palisade Head.

Some nifty flowers along the trail.

Fortunately, I was able to hold on and pull myself up from the brink.  But I was a bit perturbed that Linda was snapping photos instead of offering a hand 😉


June 7, 2013 – Superior Good Bye

The last night before heading home.

We had a nice site on a small hill overlooking an arm of Bearskin Lake.

east bearskin lake

‘Twas a beautiful night, so beautiful in fact, it was one of the rare nights it was so beautiful that the fish were enjoying it with me and refused to bite.  But as a consolation we first heard, then saw a moose getting into the lake and sloshing around for a bit.


Aah, the campfire at the end of the day.  And look – bare legs so that means skeeters weren’t so bad.

Lake Superior Shore

One last stop on the big lake on the way home for lunch.

Lake Superior Pebbles

Superior pebbles.

Flat rocks, water, and a kid.  What else do you need?

June 6, 2013 – A Short Superior History Tour

Since Martin seemed captivated by the history of the quarry at Banning State Park, we decided to to some more history.  First stop today was the St. Louis County Historical Society’s exhibits in the old train depot in Duluth.  Among other exhibits was one room chronicling the immigrant experience.  It was interesting to me since both sides of my family immigrated in the turn-of-the-century timeframe. Perhaps in biggest contrast to today’s immigrants, there were huge dormitories built for incoming immigrants to have a safe place to stay for a few months until they earned enough to get a place of their own.

But the main attraction here is the collection of vintage local trains.  One of the most fascinating to me was this rail mail car. The attendant would reach out with a hook and grab a mail bag hung up at many locations along the route where the train did not stop.  The mail was sorted en route, and the cool part was if the mail was for a stop further down the track, the attendent would throw out the mail bag, which could have included mail picked up just hours ago!  Beat that Fed Ex!  Of course, if the mail was on a stop behind the train’s route, it wouldn’t get delivered that day.

How awesome is this snowplow train!

Here’s a fancy dining car from back in the day.

And here is the mother of all locomotives.  This coal-fired steam locomotive was 128 feet long!  Over half the length was the compartment to carry coal.  This monster burned one ton of coal every six minutes!  It could carry 28 tons of coal in its own coal bin.  It ran iron ore from the Iron Range down to Lake Superior and in its day was the most powerful locomotive in existence.  There were many other trains, including cranes, a rotary snowplow, and the first locomotive to arrive in Minnesota, via boat, of course, not rail.

Then it was off to Split Rock Lighthouse.

When the lighthouse was built in 1910, there were no roads, so all the building supplies were lifted up the cliff via a steam-powered hoist and derrick, including all the bricks necessary to built the lighthouse, foghouse, three keeper houses and barns, along with of course all the supplies and people for a number of years (if the lake was calm).  Five years after construction a tramway was built to make things a bit easier, but it was not until 1924 that a highway was built, allowing more reliable transport of goods.

Martin loved the new slogan of the Split Rock “Before GPS, there was a really big light.”  The lighthouse ceased operation in 1969.

Part of the lamp, with the reflecting glass engineered to produce a beam visible from the furthest distance from the kerosene lamp.

split rock lamp

Some of the mechanics of the apparatus used to spin the light.  On the very top of this photo you can see a green disk that contained 300 pounds of mercury to help keep the light level.

If you find yourself in the neighborhood – drop in.

June 4, 2013 – Itasca Day One

The next day we headed over to Itasca State Park, Minnesota’s oldest and one of the biggest state parks.  An interesting story is about the nation’s first female park superintendent, Mary Gibbs. She was superintendent shortly after the park was formed, but before the lumber barons.  She had a showdown at gunpoint with the local logging boss regarding destruction of a dam at the headwaters, flooding the park, but making it easier to transport logs.  At the end of her life, she was just as fiesty, going on a hunger strike at the nursing home to protest being charged 75 cents extra to take her meal in her room instead of the dining hall.

Itasca State Park Sign

The north park entrance.

Itasca Cabin

Our cabin near the lake within the park.

Inside Itasca Cabin

The cabin is one of the gems built by the WPA in the 30’s. It had logs walls, wood floors, a sink, small fridge, sink, stove, but no oven, and bathroom without a shower.  But it was great timing to have the cabin over the 24 hours of rain on this segment of the trip.

Lake Itasca

One arm of Lake Itasca in the mist.

The light rain didn’t deter us from catching dinner.

rainbow on lake itasca

A rainbow was one reward for the rain.

It was an all white/yellow meal.  Fried fresh fish, rice side dish, applesauce, and with the leftover “Shore Lunch” fish brading, we breaded some onions for onion rings.

Lodge at Itasca State Park

After dinner, we toured the interpretive center and looked around the park.  This is the lodge for dining, with rooms on the 2nd floor, much like some of the classic park lodges in Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.

June 3, 2013 – Temperance River

Our second night was at Temperance River State Park.  The river is so named because, unlike most other tributaries to Lake Superior, this river does not have the characteristic rock or sand “bar” at the mouth of the river, thus it’s name!

Temperance River Campground, eureka apex 2-person tent

We snagged a good campsite, with nothing but trees and a short hill between us and Lake Superior.  I do not like the Eureka Apex tent – as you can see the rain fly makes you guess from which direction the the driving rain might arrive as the fly only covers 60% of the tent area.

hidden falls on temperanceriver

On up the river.  At one point, the entire river seems to emerge from a dark cave.

Up above, the entire flow of the river is constricted to this narrow passageway, very deep and bubbly.

A bit further upstream, the gorge widens a bit, and provides a permanent rainbow (at least on sunny days).

Temperance River

Upstream even further from the narrow gorge.

Finally around the bend, the river is at its “normal” width.


Spring catkins!

lake superior, bou at lake superior at dusk

Finally after dinner, we watched the evening ebb along the shore of Lake Superior.

June 2, 2013 – Martin-Daddy Week Begins!

This week is the 2nd annual Martin-Daddy explore the northwoods week in Northern Minnesota. We drag the canoe up for the girls to go on a BWCA trip and bum around waiting for them to come out. The first night we stayed at Banning State Park, which is about 60 miles south of Duluth on the Kettle River.

Boy on Kettle River

Martin along the Kettle River.

Banning State Park Camping Cabin

We stayed in a what they call a camping cabin – a cabin with a table and two bunk beds – no plumbing, no electricity. Good on rainy days or to keep bugs out and to have room to stretch around.

We made some foil dinners.

Hells Gate Trail Sign

We took the trail that was not recommended for young children – although shortly after the beginning of the trail we saw a family retreating with a stroller! I guess the vertical climbs 20 feet up rock faces was a bit too much for the stroller.  This is the friendly portion of the trail.

Kayak in Kettle River

The trail led to a rapids and we sat and watched a bunch of kayakers shoot through the rapids, most stayed head side up.

Martin points to a kettle – a geologic formation formed by rocks swirling in a hole until they drill down in the sandstone, making a pretty good cooking kettle in reverse.

Kettle Hole in Rock

A look up through the bottom of the kettle Martin pointed at in the previous picture. Most of the work was done about 10,000 years ago with the draining of glacial Lake Duluth.

The park was home to a turn-of-the-century quarry. Martin took us through the interpretive hike.

Banning Quarry Power house

This shot is looking inside the power house. It was a rather apocalyptic scene to view the ruins with trees growing inside the ruins of the building.

Before the power house, the holes were created by hand and blasted with black powder.


The woods were full of blooming trillium.

November 19, 2012 – Brief Morning on Lake Superior

Before the noon funeral, we were afforded a few brief moments on Lake Superior.

silhouettes on rocky beach at sunrise

We awoke before the sun and headed down to Brighton Beach.

ore boat at sunrise, lake superior

Merchant vessel Walter J. McCarthy Jr. heads out of port for points east.  She’s a modern great lakes boat, about 1/5 of a mile long, measuring 1,000 feet long.

November 20th on the lake in fall coats?

lester creek, creek in late fall

We also took a short walk up Lester Creek.  All of the shots today were taken within the city limits of Duluth, a great place to get outside.

June 7, 2012 – Someone Else’s Canoe Trip

While Martin and I were bumming around northern Minnesota, the girls and a couple of brother-friends were on a canoe trip.

I offered help, only as asked as Claire gets all things packed for the trip.

Aa beautiful day to hit the water paddling.

Emma, at the stern in her element.

Claire portaging the canoe between lakes.

All settled in at the campsite.

Creative cooling as always when camping – why not put some dried fruit and nuts in the biscuits?

Pump, pump, pump that water through the water purifier.

Some of the crew at the head of a portage.

The whole crew having a snack near the end of the day.  I take it as an encouraging sign that the bugs are not so bad to allow shorts.  I’m sure it must have been a great trip for the kids to manage successfully without parental guidance for five days in the wilderness.

June 6, 2012 – Last Day

Today was the last non-driving vacation day.  We arrived near Ely with some time to spare before picking up the kids, so Martin and I just hung out at the public landing on Snowbank Lake.

snowbank lake

Lunch on a deep, blue northern lake can’t be beat!  After picking up the canoers, cooking them up a dinner, I took a couple hours of quiet time and went back to Snowbank for a couple of hours.

smallmouth bass, smallmouth stringer

Once I found the pattern, the fish were easy to catch.  They weren’t falling for artificial spinners or plugs, they weren’t falling for leeches or crawlers suspended off the bottom in deeper water, they weren’t suspended over deeper water, but they were hanging out about 10-15 feet from shore, so I actually had to cast towards shore from the dock, not out into the lake.  The night was quiet, I only saw two boats go by, the same number of Bald Eagles that were screeching and circling nearby.

June 5, 2012 – Got Fish?

Today we settled in at friend’s cabin near Duluth.  Spent some quality time on the dock.

In between kayaking and floating around on the lake, Martin still found time to join us on the dock for some fishing.  He also managed to catch the biggest fish of the day.

Her looks a bit apprehensive about holding the prehistoric-looking pike.

A few ours on the boat yielded few fish, but fishing from the dock provided some pretty good action!

June 3rd, 2012 – Lock this Day Up, Part II

To top off our day, we spent some time near the St. Louis river south of Duluth.  Eventually the river drains into Lake Superior forming a large estuary and exits through the Duluth and Superior ship canals, and his held behind by Park Point (the beach from yesterday).  The Ojibwe call the river Gichigami-ziibi (the great lake-river).  It is the largest river to empty into Lake Superior.

There was 6-9 inches of rain the week before the arrived, so the river was near its peak flow.  There are the highest class rapids (class VI) at this point and below and ABOVE this picture is the take-out point for white-water rafters and more sedentary class IV rapids.

The root-beer colored water roars through this point in Jay Cooke State Park.

Further downstream, more ordinary standing waves and boils fill the channel.  The river was a loud, brash spectacle of water, rock and energy.

We stopped for dinner at Canal Park, and Martin worked up an appetite trying to pull the William A. Irvin, an ore boat anchored in the harbor.

After our visit to the river, we spent the night at Camp Miller in Sturgeon Lake, where I spent many summers as a counselor, naturalist, trip leader, and camp caretaker.  We stopped in and ended the day with a conversation long into the night with Bernie, a kindred spirit and fellow top-notch gardener and handyman.  The highlight was hearing about his maple sugaring and his first prize ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair for his syrup.

June 2, 2012 – Lock This Day Up and Throw Away the Key

This was a day so wonderful you wish you could lock it up and throw away the key.  Martin and I bummed down from Ely to south of Duluth, stopping as we pleased.  In fact, it was so scenic, I’m splitting it into two days, since it can’t all fit in one post.  We even saw a moose near the road on the drive down to the lake.

shovel point

It was a rare calm day on Lake Superior.  This is a view of Shovel Point, north of Silver Bay.

We stopped in for a look at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center near Finland, MN, to see where Claire will be working this summer.  Here’s a sign taken just for Linda.

The hike up to Marshall Mountain was fun.

Here it is, up on the top of the ridge overlooking Lake Superior.

Raven Lake to the left and Wolf Lake, not visible in this photo, to the right.

A replica Voyageur canoe, capable of taking 24 people along.

wolf lake

From the shore of Wolf Lake, looking towards the south.

The buildings at Wolf Ridge have the seashorey kind of look – this is the science center.  I hope it’s a great place for Claire to live and work this summer.
view from shovel point

A view looking down from Shovel Point towards Duluth.

calm lake superior

A rare calm day – you can see Wisconsin on the horizon.

stones in water

These are some underwater rocks on the shore.  Superior’s got stones!

Straight down from these rocks, we saw a giant fish – hard to tell how big it was, but from the only thing nearby to get an accurate measurement, it appeared to be about 2 loon lengths long.

gooseberry falls

We also stopped a ways down the road at Gooseberry Falls.

park point

The last stop on this portion of the day was a different kind of Superior shore, this one, a very long sandy beach from Duluth to Superior.

June 1, 2012 – Dropping Off the Girls in the BWCAW

For better or worse, we agreed to allow Claire and Emma go on their first longer canoe trip (without parents) with a couple of friends who happen to be brothers and do not have BWCA experience.  I used it as an opportunity to see them off and get them up and back.  Since it’s about a 10 hour drive, we stayed for a night before the trip and after the trip at Kawishiwi Lodge where we have spent many summers.

I’ve recently received complaints about the lack of pictures of me on the blog.  Here’s one at Lake One on the night of our arrival.

And one of Martin as well.

The crew the last night before heading into the wilderness.

The group just moments before they headed off down Moose Lake for points east and north.

September 13, 2011 – Vacationland Burning Up

Just across the lake from where we sleep for a week (and sometimes exactly where we sleep in a tent) a massive forest fire has already estimated to have burned 100,000 acres in the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota.  The Pagami Creek fire blossomed into an inferno on Monday.

Photo Credit Greg Seitz

Here’s a photo from the narrows between Lakes Two and Three during the fire taken last Sunday, before the fire really got ramped up. According to news reports, the fire makes its own downdrafts and creates three foot waves on relatively small lakes. Also, Kawishiwi Lodge owner Frank was in the news as firefighters used many of his outfitting canoes to set a backfire to prevent the fire from heading north and getting to the Fernberg Trail (being in a fire is probably the only time you’d want a aluminum canoe instead of a fiberglass).

Lake Two, Lake Three

Here’s Linda paddling the same narrows during a trip in 2008. We can now tell our grandkids, “we were there before this all burned.”

Lake Two Narrows

Here’s another shot from the same year, with the same distinctive island and tree visible in the first photo showing the fire. Here are all the photos on the High Hopes Blog to Lake Three.

Here’s a satellite shot from NASA. Just for scale, this photo shows the northern shore of Minnesota, parts of Lake Superior and the coast of Northern Wisconsin.

This map shows where the fire started. For the whole map view with frequent updates, see the national wildfire incident map.

one year ago…”Winter Squash”

August 7, 2011 – Paddle Out Day

Today was a day just to paddle out.  We had reservations at a bunk house, so we didn’t have to worry about finding a campsite or driving home 10 hours.

But first there were 6 portages to cross.  The 2nd and 3rd were a bit intimidating.  It might not look bad in this photo, but from the waters edge, it seemed like straight up – a challenge with an 18.5 long canoe on your back!

The portage trail itself was a bit bouldery and still wet from the night before.  Luckily, the only time I tripped was without the canoe on my back.

Here’s some extra fancy purple fungus on the trail.  Sometimes asparagus and some other things are purple when they are cold, but it had been warm, so I think purple was the normal color for this guy.

The day was mostly overcast, and we stopped for lunch at this campsite, which had the closest fire grate to the water I’ve ever seen at a BWCA site.

one year ago…”Children of the Corn”

August 6, 2011 – Last Night in the BWCA Brings Rain

The morning broke like all the rest on the trip – calm and warm.

That was welcome as we had about three miles of Winchell Lake left before we portaged to some smaller lakes that wind wouldn’t matter as much.

After a little more than a half day of paddling and some swimming and fishing, the skies finally unloaded on us.

I’m not sure you can call it a camping trip without rain.  Martin was eager to try out his new raingear, at least for a short time.

It was time to break out the tarp for a bit of protection around the kitchen.

Martin insisted that I take this photo for Claire, who had given Martin this freeze-dried ice cream for his birthday.  There you go Claire – this package traveled well – from DC to Iowa to BWCA.

one year ago…”Pesto!”

August 5, 2011 – Camping on Winchell Lake

Our next night was on Winchell Lake.  Winchell is a long lake, about five miles long with steep elevation on the south side, fronting the Misquah Hills.

boy with backpack

Martin was a trooper on the portages.  On the first portage he asked if he could take this backpack.  He hauled it all 14 portages on the trip over 700 rods, a bit over two miles.

boys fishing

Here, the boys are waiting for the fish to stop by on their lines.  In the background, a fire relatively recently passed through, thus all the dead trees.  The fire jumped the lake and kept going.

boy with smallmouth bass

The fishing paid off – here Martin shows two of the fish he caught for a fresh dinner!

winchell lake float

There’s not much that’s more relaxing than floating in the middle of a northern lake on a warm day.  The temps were in the mid-80’s which is a tad warm for this area, but the humidity was low, so it was still pleasant.

winchell lake campsite

The boys getting ready to start a fire – always a popular past-time.

duluth pack in tree

This site had a great bear tree.  The pack is hung up for the day, relatively safe from critters stealing the food at night.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #219″

August 4, 2011 – Wilderness Journey Begins Up the Gunflint at Poplar Lake

We left Tettegouche and had final stops in Grand Marais for last minute groceries, permits, bait and the like and hit the water by about noon.  We took off from Poplar Lake, where the other duo rented a canoe.

Here we are, moments before we head out.

Here’s the route – we had no specific plan, but the white is the route we ended up taking – Poplar to Lizz to Caribou to Horseshoe for night one camp.  Then off to Gaskin to Winchell for 2nd night camp.  Then from Winchell to Omega to Henson to Gaskin for 3rd night camp.  Finally last day from Gaskin to Jump to Allen to Horseshoe to Caribou to Lizz to Poplar.

Lizz Lake, our official BWCA entry point.

Martin manning the bow.

James, my Dad partner on the trip enjoying a cup o’ morning on Horseshoe Lake.

Martin manning the breakfast griddle with a pancake almost ready to go!

one year ago…”Getting Ready for State Fair-Like Event”

August 3, 2011 – Tettegouche Part 2

Our campground was within easy walking distance of a number of waterfalls on the Baptism River.

two step falls, baptism river

Here’s Two Step Falls in the fading light of day.

throwing rocks near waterfall

A most popular past-time for 10 year-old boys is throwing rocks in water – here you can catch part of the splash of the latest rock to be launched.

Further upstream the boys found a large log that was stuck in the river and first tried to help it downstream, and then later, maneuvered to direct bubbles in the stream.

high falls on baptism river

Martin thought that perhaps using a lever might help the project.  This is in front of the High Falls of the Baptism – the highest waterfall in Minnesota – a great place to play.

shovel point, shovel point sunset

In the evening, I took a stroll down to the lake to take in the sunset over Lake Superior, and sprinted out to Shovel Point.

palisade head from shovel point

The view from Shovel Point, looking back down Lake Superior towards Palisade Head. It was an exceptionally calm and quiet night on the lake. As a native Duluthian who moved away as a toddler, but moved back for high school and undergrad, the lake exerts a pull on me, even after all these years.  I was happy to spend even this little bit of time alone on the cliffs overlooking the lake in a rather rare calm and pristine mood.

one year ago…”From the “Berries Like the Rain”

August 2, 2011 – Boys Week Out Begins!

Martin and I journeyed north with another dad and ten-year old for a father-son wilderness excursion! As it is over 500 miles to the final destination, we took it in a couple of days. The first day we drove to Tettegouche State Park in Northern Minnesota.

backroads, northern Minnesota backroads

There are some nice journeys on the narrow, if not beautiful backroads of the North Shore of Lake Superior.

Palisade Head

One of my favorite sightseeing points is Palisade Head, now part of Tettegouche State Park.  It’s a wonderful cliff overlooking Lake Superior.

Here, Martin dares to peer over the edge!

Finally, Dad and Martin on the top.  Shovel Point is in the distance and a destination for later in the trip.

one year ago…”Lemon Tree”

July 15, 2011 – Dock Life

A large part of our life on vacation revolves around sitting on the dock.

Emma and Kate greet canoers on their journey.

It’s pretty much a law of the universe that the smallest person gets thrown off the dock.

Dock jumping hardly ever goes out of style.

Neighbors one cabin down fish near sunset.

Our travel compatriots relax on the dock – our cabin is straight up behind the dock.

A view of the dock facing out to the lake.

one year ago…”BWCA Day 1″

July 12, 2011 – Fishing Waters

One of the things I most look forward to is fishing in beautiful surroundings.

boy with northern pike

Here Martin shows off a baby northern pike he let go.

smallmouth bass

The nicest fish of a pretty lousy fishing week – the biggest of three smallmouth bass caught right together in some swift water – this one was 19 inches and was released.

Me in my natural habitat – on an island in a channel, baiting up.

Lake One Rapids

The rapids entering into Lake One from Lake Two.

Rapids to Confusion Lake

The head of the rapids from Lake One, heading to Confusion Lake.  I could spend a lot of time wandering down this river to the next lake!

one year ago…”The Resort”

July 10, 2010 – Loon Baby on the Lake

We’ve finally arrived at the cabin a few miles south of the Canadian Border. Right across from our cabin is a small island. This year there is a nesting loon pair on the island.

baby loon on back, lake one loon

The sight of a baby loon on a parent’s back to protect it from being eaten by large fish, is one of the neatest views in nature. We’re here for a week to soak up the water, woods, and cool weather.

one year ago…”Goat Milk Cheese (Chevre)”

May 29, 2011 – Daily Life of the Camper

Claire writes today.

Camping is a completely different style of life, and it’s so easy to forget everything but your basic needs which is endlessly refreshing.  We pride ourselves on building one match fires, and all of the fires that we cooked on in the Boundary Waters were made with a single match.

Claire stirs the food while tending to the fire at the first campsite.

One of the beautiful things about camping is that your whole life for that period of time can fit into a canoe, and you can carry it anywhere in two trips.  The efficiency of all the equipment is a beautiful thing.

Typically you try to find a campsite somewhere between 2 and 4 so you have time to set up camp.  Portaging and canoeing all morning and afternoon is exhausting.  Linda rests on a rock here after arriving at a campsite.

It gets cold at night.  One morning we woke up with ice in our water bottles.  Linda had the luxury of a brand new sleeping bag to keep her nice and toasty!  The tent also held up quite well and it was affectionately nicknamed the “Emerald City”

Sometimes the weather doesn’t go quite your way.  We were fortunate to have glorious day time weather all up until the last day when we awoke to raindrops.  That’s when you pile on the rain gear and put a smile/grimace on your face!

one year ago…”Garlic off to Great Start”

May 28, 2011 – Boundary Waters Adventures

Claire writes today. One of the conditions of going on the Boundary Waters trip was that Claire carried the canoe on some of the portages.  She and Linda split the portages about 50-50.

Here she carries the canoe on a portage

Claire paddles the bow in the canoe in one of the lakes they visited

Linda does her share of the beastly portages here.

The most useful (threatening) tool we had.

one year ago…”Smallest of Habitats”

May 27, 2011 – Mother-Daughter Get-Away

Claire requested a BWCA wilderness trip with her mother in the time between school and the start of her internship. Three weeks after ice-out isn’t necessarily the best time, but the bugs and other people are slow and sluggish at the end of May.

Here’s the route – plenty of portaging on this route.

At the Poplar Lake landing, ready to go!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #210″

July 18, 2010 – At the Waterfall

The final photos from the trip are from Tettegouche State Park.

baptism river sign

The primary feature of the park is the Baptism River and its journey to Lake Superior.

superior hiking trail sign

Part of the Superior Hiking Trail goes through the park.

Lake Superior Lookout

We took a slight detour and hiked up to this overlook along the trail.  Martin was a good sport and enjoyed looking back at the lake and knowing he had hiked from the water’s edge up to this point.  He put seven miles on his feet on this hike.

high falls on baptism river

The reward is the high falls of the Baptism River.  It is an enchanting place with a big pool below the cascading waterfalls.  For July, the falls had a pretty good flow.

Swimming in the pool is a great thrill among the sound of the crashing water and the spray from the falls.

As the week draws to a close, a group shot.  Emma commented that this was the first time she really missed her sister!

one year ago…”Final Day of Vacation”

July 17, 2010 – On the Big Water

We drove down the winding and scenic highway 1 from Ely to Lake Superior one day.

shovel point

This is a view of Shovel Point from near the mouth of the Baptism River.

kids on lake superior

The water in Lake Superior is uncharacteristically warm this year – the surface temperature this time of year is usually 39 degrees, but this year it is 59 degrees!

boy at shovel point

Rocks, water, boy – a winning combination!

Emma practices her stone skipping.

baptism river mouth

A view a bit up the hill of the scene of the previous photos.

one year ago…”Rain, Rain”

July 16, 2010 – BWCA Day 2

The promised threat of rain held off overnight, so we remained dry.

What a nice place for a mother and child to sit and watch the world wake up.

Of course, a cup of coffee in the morning helps.  It was refreshing to wear a sweatshirt when back home the weather was in the upper 90’s!

boy fishing

Martin at the scene of his first catch with his new fishing pole.

largemouth bass

Dad with the largest catch of the week – a catch and release largemouth bass – a bit of a rarity in this neck of the woods as smallmouth bass dominate the rocky shorelines.

teenagers paddling

The road home turned first blustery, then rainy, they thunderstorm.

portage puddle

By the time we arrived at the portage between Lakes One and Two, the raindrops got bigger.

wet portage

They finally gave us a good soaking.  We ended up huddled at the end of the portage for about an hour while the electrical storm passed by.  Of course, you could have easily predicted the only lightning storm of the week would pass by when we were out far away from the cabin.

one year ago…”International Wolf Center”

July 15, 2010 – BWCA Day 1

With the oldest two girls absent from our party this year, we were all able to make a foray into the BWCA.

Entering Lake Three

Here Emma rides the helm with her friend.  They shared a canoe and paddled with strength and confidence.

Two People in Canoe

Mike and Lori take a break in a narrows along the way to the campsite.

Lake Three Campsite

On Lake Three, near the portage to Horseshoe Lake, sits this wonderful island campsite – here’s the view from the water.

Lake Three Campsite

Here’s the view from the land.  This site offered lots of nice rocks, plentiful tent sites, and nice overlooks of the lake.

The crew assembled for a quick lunch upon landing.

One of the nice overlooks on the site.

Emma and Kate cooking their own gourmet wilderness meal!

hang food pack

And finally, a great tree to hide the food pack away from reach of hungry bears!

one year ago…”Touring Soudan Underground Mine”

July 14, 2010 – On the Land

Away from the water, the wild blueberries are abundant this year.

Some fun with a camera setting that just detects one color.

Wild blueberries in full color. Picking blueberries is rather relaxing and it’s a great excuse to get out and tromp around the woods, sphagnum bogs, and powerlines.  There’s a fine line between getting lost and not knowing exactly where you are!  I also managed to scare up a covey of young ruffed grouse.

Blueberries collected for human consumption!  We had blueberries on pancakes, blueberries in mixed fruit salad, and Linda made a blueberry pie as well.

Of course, we couldn’t go a whole week without picking and preserving some food!  In addition to the berries we ate fresh and froze, we canned over 30 jars of these delectable little morsels!

one year ago…”Overnight in the BWCA in the Rain”

July 13, 2010 – On the Water

A great part about vacation is quiet water activity.

boy in kayak

There are no boats making wakes, no buzzing jetskis, so the lakes are great for kids to swim across, fish, or kayak.

teenager in kayak

Emma paddling back from the beach via the water route instead of the shore path.

boy on dock

Most years the biggest fish is caught off the dock – not true this year – but it’s worth a try!

Dock jumping never goes out of style!

Nor does sitting on the dock with a book and refreshing beverage.

one year ago…”Something Fishy”

July 12, 2010 – The Resort

I think resort probably isn’t the right word for this place.  “Lodge and Outfitters” is probably much better.  There are not any golf courses, on-site restaurants (or probably not any within 20 miles), no pool, and no spa (although I think you could get a massage). Instead, what you get is a cabin in the only resort on a non-motorized lake in the Boundary Waters.

Kawishiwi Lodge

This is the main lodge where the latest concession to modernity is free wi-fi, which is a stark contrast to the old pine and national park-like interior to the lodge.

Cabin 11, Kawishiwi Lodge

Here’s our digs for the week – cabin 11 with 3 bedrooms plus a loft that sleeps four and a couple of bathrooms – really a spacious cabin with a screened in porch.

A late-night card game with everyone except Martin!

Cabin 7 Kawishiwi Lodge

One of my favorite cabins along the lakeside trail to the lodge.

one year ago…”Settled in at Kawishiwi Lodge”

July 11, 2010 – “End of the Road”

Being on the farm, to get away to a place more remote takes some driving!  About nine hours north of us, literally at the end of the road, we exchange our automobile for a canoe and cabin.

This sign is nearly to Canada, in far northern Minnesota and the area is affectionately known as “the end of the road.”  The local community owned radio station WELY is a hoot!  Charles Kuralt was so enamored with Ely and the station from discovering it during his “On the Road” show that he purchased it to keep it going.  It is now owned by the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and maintains its eclectic programming including Lutheran Hour, The Old Town Polka Show, 80’s Night, and this description of a Wednesday Night show called The Feast:

Following Quote by Chris Godsey at Secrets of the City

Dark evergreen silhouettes loom against a wash of indigo sky on both sides of Minnesota Highway 1. Driving southwest out of Ely, toward Tower, the early autumn moon is so bright, so close and full, that driving without headlights seems only appropriate.

After a news update from ABC Radio, the voice of late-night DJ Brett Ross takes over. Ross sounds surprisingly present: “From Alan Watts,” he intones, “‘When everyone recognizes beauty as beautiful, then there is ugliness. When everyone recognizes goodness as good, then there is evil.’” Ross’s conspiratorial baritone is the night’s perfect complement: ominous and comforting and mysterious; distant, yet intimate.

An electronic beat—a tune called “Salted Fatback” from a DJ named Mocean Worker—begins pulsing in and around a sound collage of snippets from the First Amendment, Martin Luther King, Jr.—“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord!”—and other revolutionary sources. After the beat runs on its own for a minute or so, Ross is back: “End of the Road Radio W-E-L-Y,” he announces, “at 94.5 over the FM airwaves, streaming live at, around the globe on the World Wide Web.

“It’s The Feast. So very good of you to drop in for another course.”

That’s WELY as in: owned by Charles Kuralt in the 1990s; saved from Minnesota Public Radio homogenization by a local buyer after Kuralt’s death; now owned by the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa; it’s a station that is inevitably compared to KBHR from the TV show Northern Exposure, primarily because they’re both eclectic community bastions in wilderness towns populated by plenty of delightfully eccentric and intellectual people.

Introductions accomplished, Ross launches into an hour of music and words: “Rolling” by Soul Coughing; “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” and “Life During Wartime” by the Talking Heads; Pink Floyd’s “Fearless.” He reads Emily Dickinson’s “To fight aloud, is very brave” over the tune “Invocation” by an Italian ambient-electronica duo called the Dining Rooms, then spins Pearl Jam’s “Footsteps” and “W.M.A. (White Male American),” Sara Softich’s “Whiskey,” and “When the Ship Comes in” by Bob Dylan.

Perhaps none of that would be remarkable anywhere, on its own or during daylight. But late at night, driving through a forest in northern Minnesota, it’s perfectly unique, unexpected, and thrilling.

More about the trip later…but thought I should make an appearance for the faithful.
one year ago…”10 Hours in the Car”

July 16, 2009 – International Wolf Center

Ely is also home to the International Wolf Center, a place that “advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wild lands and the human role in their future”

Part of the exhibit is an observation enclosure where visitors can try to get a glimpse of the wolves in their 1 1/4 acre enclosure.

The wolves are fed road-kill deer!  The center has webcams so you don’t have to go to Ely to see them.

one year ago…”Fruit on the Verge”

July 15, 2009 – Touring Tower Soudan Underground Mine

When it rains, it’s time to do some touristy indoor things, or in this case, underground tours.  The Tower-Soudan underground mine is now a state park and you go down the original mineshaft about a half-mile underground.

Here Martin plays with a toy model of the elevator shafts that show how the two shafts counterbalance each other.

Here’s an OSHA-approved open pulley and belt in the crushing room (not operational since the 1960’s)!

Donning hard hats, we’re ready to go down the shaft. Instead of the historical mining tour, we took the science/physics tour this time.  The mine is an ideal place for some types of experiments since the half-mile of overhead rock shields out many particles.

Here is one of the main rooms in the physics lab.  The large hexagonal thing near the center is the The MINOS (Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search) Far Detector is a 6,000 ton particle tracking device that is observing neutrinos sent from Fermilab, which is near Chicago.  MINOS tries to precisely determine mass differences among neutrinos, 3 of the 12 fundamental building blocks of matter.

Another experiment is The CDMS 2 (Cryogenic Dark Matter Search) Detector that seeks traces of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) that might comprise a significant fraction of Dark Matter. This baby is cold – at 0.02 degrees kelvin, about -460.  We all knew it could get cold in northern Minnesota, but -460?

One of the most fascinating objects is the mural on the right that depicts humanity’s search for the building blocks of matter.  It is so bizarre to see a large mural a half-mile underground.

one year ago…”Willow Nursery on Track”

July 14, 2009 – Overnight in the BWCA in the Rain

In the every other year take a couple of kids to the BWCA for an overnight, this year was the oldest girls and the dads.  Given the windy conditions, we opted to stay off of the open lakes and go up the Kawishiwi River instead this year.

Here’s Claire, happy at the end of the first portage.  Although you can’t see it, she insists on making it in one trip, so she has the other Duluth Pack on her pack and all the rest of her gear in her hands as I carried the canoe.

First order of business is to gather some firewood for later in the evening.

There were two different pathways for water to flow between these branches of the Kawishiwi River. The main channel is where the portage is, but this smaller channel also travels between the two bodies of water and is little, if ever explored.  So, Claire and I grabbed our rods and reels, some spinners and wandered up the stream until it met the lake.

It was great fun to catch smallmouth in the small pools below every riffle.  We must have caught a dozen on the trip up the creek.  It’s great fun to catch fish in the same water you’re standing in!

Did I mention yet that is was raining a good part of the day.  Here’s a makeshift shelter near the campfire that rivals and EZ-Up Canopy!  On this trip we forgot the fillet knife and ended up releasing a large number of good-sized smallmouth and walleye – some smallmouth and many walleye bigger than the one I caught off the dock in a previous picture were released on this trip.

one year ago…”Tubex Verdict”

June 29, 2009 – Blue Mounds State Park

The 20th Anniversary travel junket to SW MN continues with a stop at Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne, but nowhere near Shirley, Minnesota, although it is close to Marshall.

blue mounds top view

The outstanding feature of this park is the Sioux Quartzite cliffline that runs along the park.  This is the view from near the top of the cliffline looking towards the east.

blue mounds cliffline

A view from the bottom of the cliffline looking west.  Again, in the middle of the flat prairies, this anomaly of billion and a half-year old rock outcrop is quite stunning to see and contemplate.

The top of the cliffline is prairie with a bison herd, but along the base is a forest of oaks on the top and other mixed hardwoods further down the cliff.

Part of the rock was used as a quarry in days gone by.

manfred house

Noted author Fredrick Manfred built a house at the end of the cliffline directly into the rock.  His special room was the top where there was a commanding view of miles of prairie.  He wrote many books, and if I recall the info correctly, was nominated for Nobel prize for literature four times and gave the eulogy at the funeral of Sinclair Lewis.

manfred house bathroom

Even going to the bathroom in the house “exposed” a bit of nature.  Ultimately, the house was plagued by moisture problems from seepage from the bare rock that made up one side of the house.

Linda admires the 1.5 billion-year old Sioux quartzite.

yellow prickly pear

Prickly pear cactus were in bloom on the top of the cliffline.

Near the bottom, all kinds of fissures in the rock make for interesting places to explore.

If you restrict your gaze to the red rock fissures, you might be able to imagine that it looks  a bit like southern Utah and the Canyonlands country.

one year ago…”Late Cherries”

June 28, 2009 – Pipestone National Monument

The second day of our 20th tour, brought us to Pipestone National Monument near, strangely enough, Pipestone, Minnesota.

Pipestone National Monument Sign

This monument interprets and protects the site of native American pipestone quarries.  Most famously it was the stone used to carve peace and ceremonial pipes. It was a sacred site and was off limits for war and available for all tribes.  They didn’t even camp on the ground when they came.

Winnewissa Falls

Here’s a rare shot of a waterfall in the tallgrass prairies. This is Winnewissa Falls along Pipestone Creek within the park, falling over a ledge of the Precambian (very old) Sioux Quartzite.

Go ahead, look through for guidance!

Oracle at Pipestone

See the oracle in the rock?

The pipestone layer is at the bottom of this small quarry – about 12 inches thick.  Native Americans still mine and craft the pipestone and by law are the only ones able to do so.

one year ago…”Des Moines Art Festival”

June 27, 2009 – 20th Anniversary Trip to Dayton House in Worthington, MN

Time and $$ (see septic tank installation) prevented us from celebrating our 20th anniversary on a long trip, but we wanted to get away and note the milestone nonetheless, so we planned a trip to everyone’s favorite vacation destination, the prairies of Southwestern Minnesota!

Dayton House Front View

The first night, we stayed at the historic Dayton House in Worthington, Minnesota. When I booked the room, I didn’t realize it was Dayton as in Dayton-Hudson/Target. It was the family house of the Dayton family for many years before the Daytons purchased property on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis.

Linda lounges in one of the lovingly restored bedrooms. The house was restored as a joint venture of the community and the Dayton heirs.

Dayton House Staircase

The house was a shell of its former self in 1992 when it was sold for $15,000. This staircase was walled over, which in some ways protected it.

Dayton House Hallway

This is a small sitting area between the two suites on the top floor. Since no one else was staying at the house that night, we were offered the run of the house, including the downstairs. In addition to a bed and breakfast, the house is a great setting for showers, and piano recitals, among the furnishings a Steinway piano.

We ate breakfast on the front porch. The house was a wonderful place to stay and we highly recommend it if you are looking for a getaway in SW Minnesota.

Ethiopian Restaurant

You’ll never know what you’ll find in small towns, and in Worthington, we found an Ethiopian Restaurant. As we’ve never had food prepared in that style, we jumped at the chance. We found that Ethiopian food is generally served without silverware. The base is this large bread/pancake-like circle and the food is brought in separate dishes and is served by ripping a section of the bread and wrapping the meats/beans/toppings in the bread.

Lake Okabena Rainbow

After dinner we took a walk around Lake Okabena – about a 5 mile walk. About halfway around the lake a storm rolled in and we were about three miles away from the house and were without our cell phones. We found a picnic shelter along the lake and waited out the rain before the rainbow came. A few steps back onto the road, the host at the Dayton House was driving around the lake looking for us, because we had told her we might walk around the lake after dinner. How’s that for hospitality!

one year ago…”Chickens Need Rethinking”

April 4, 2009 – Conference Day Two – Ice Breaker

The second day of the meeting was highlighted by singer/songwriter Peter Mayer.

Peter spent time talking about and playing his music

In the afternoon we wandered down the downtown skywalk and found by pure serendipity that a US Coast Guard Ice Breaker was docked at the port and open for public tours.

The ship was the Mackinaw, a fairly new ice breaker to the fleet. The ice breakers don’t “slice” or cut the ice, but rather the bow of the ship pushes up on top of the ice and the weight of the ship collapses or breaks the ice.

Some of the heavy duty chains on deck.

This has got to be a top of the line coffee maker! (and spill resistant as well).  Another item that did not escape my attention was a big Weber gas grill strapped to the aft deck rail of the Mackinaw.

Linda and Claire from the top deck of the Mackinaw overlooking the aerial lift bridge.  It was great fun to get a close-up look at such a unique piece of Great Lakes craft.

one year ago…”Photo Friday – Far From Home”

April 3, 2009 – Linda’s Keynote

On Friday evening Linda gave the keynote address at the Prairie Star District Annual conference, this year in Duluth, MN.

The conference theme was “Our Blue Boat Home” and Linda’s talk was accompanied by photos from around the farm and Midwest.  The talk was well received and Linda got a standing ovation from the 320 or so in attendance. A rebroadcast of the speech (1 hour and 15 minutes) is available online (go to the conference page and click the video box below the talk description – Linda is first introduced by Rev Brian Eslinger in the video.

To loosen up our speaker, we went down to the lake before the talk to “center” the speaker.

Claire with some rounded ice chunks from the lake.

The ice is a wonderful arctic blue pushed up along the shore.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #112″

July 12, 2008 – Rainy End to Vacation

The last few days of the trip were more rain than sun.

The high the last full day was supposed to be 80 degrees, but it struggled to reach 60.

A little rain doesn’t stop the kids from going outside – otherwise it’s time to snuggle up to a board game or deck of cards and be thankful we’re not in a tent in an all-day rain.

The sunset brought a ray of clearing on the last evening.

The final official vacation act is a stop at the Tower Cafe, amazingly enough, located in Tower, MN for a final breakfast on the way back home.  The cross-winds were strong on the way home, so with the canoe on top of the van, we couldn’t truck along at 70 mph, so it was a slower-than-usual trip home, but as trips home from vacation go now that the kids are older, it wasn’t even close to the longest ride home.

one year ago…”BWCA Trip”

July 11, 2008 – Young Girls and Moms Overnight

The last few years we’ve been sending a crew of four for an overnight and two long days away from the cabin.  This year it was the moms and younger girls who set out. It seems more to the way of the wilderness to go with a smaller party, rather than dragging 9 people on one outing.

Canoes all packed, ready to embark on the trip.

The portage is where the young girls show their mettle – here Kate is carrying the Duluth Pack from one lake to the next over a trail.  This was the first year that Emma carried the canoe by herself on a portage as well!

Trip leaders extraordinaire Linda and Lori congratulate themselves on raising girls to the helpful portage age.

Emma readies the bear tree rock – ready to heave it over a high branch to store the food pack high off the ground and away from hungry black bears.

Once camp is set, it’s time to relax and take in some sunshine and solitude.

Morning comes early sleeping on the ground, but having other grounds along perks up the morning.

The channel between Lake Two and Lake Three (there are evidently so many lakes, they grew tired of naming them, or ran out of names).

A morning paddle break and consulting the maps for progress on the journey back to the cabin.

A new canoe this year for Kate and Lori to paddle – along with our black Bell – they were dubbed salt and pepper on the trip, even though ours is named “leech.”

Linda at the helm, maneuvering the canoe back home.

one year ago…”Soudan Underground Mine Tour”

July 10, 2008 – Dock Life and Bushwhacking

An important component to vacation is adapting to life on the dock.

The dock is a great place to be as it is a good place to watch the world go by – it’s usually a bit breezier (less buggy), and a place to watch bobber and read a book.  Over the years, there has been a steady escalation in discovery and procurement of the ultimate dock chairs.

The trade-offs are portability vs ability of chair to withstand wind and not blow into the lake.  This chair is firmly anchored to the dock!

One day when the younger girls and moms were out on an overnight, we looked at our map and decided we’d try to get to a location up a series of rapids and pools to another lake. There was not a trail or portage between these lakes, which is rare – we thought “how bad can it be?” and especially if we weren’t in a hurry or had a lot of gear, we could find our way over land or water and find the remote fishing hole that receives few, if, any visitors.  Here Martin catches his breath after we bushwhack over the first group of rapids, paddle over a short pool and try to plot the next rapids, whether it would be better to drag the canoes up the rapids, or make a path over land.

The water path was not very feasible – long stretches of inches-deep water flowing over a bed of boulders.  The over land path was not much better – stretches of mud interrupted by steep rocky ledges all along a winding stream with thick growth.  We tried for an hour or so before resigning ourselves to the obvious fact that there was a perfectly good reason there was not a portage trail between these two lakes in this location.

We brought some gorp (good old raisins and peanuts) along for a snack which the kids enjoyed on the adventure.

one year ago…”Blueberries for More than Sal!”

July 9, 2008 – Catching Bait and Fish

Another popular vacation pastime is fishing.

This year we added a minnow seine to our list of stuff to drag up to the cabin.  By all accounts it was a wildly successful venture as we were able to catch as many minnows as we needed.  In past years, if we wanted minnows after the first 2-3 days, we’d have to fetch them in town, 23 miles away, so we often went without.

Marty and I quickly got the hang of the seine net and scooped up no where near our limit of 24 dozen!  It made catching the bait almost as much fun as catching the fish.

Not all the fish are this big!  Here is a tough decision between taking off a fish or eating a smore!

One evening we paddled out to a rocky, treeless island and fished in the middle of the lake.  One of Martin’s new lures gave him a thrill – he bought some impregnatedfishysmellingrubber crawdads and had the pleasure of a small pike jump out of the water to get his lure as he was lifting the crawdad out of the water.  I decided the rubbery crayfish was the perfect 7-year-old bait as it is equally alluring being reeled in or lying on the bottom when attention wanes.

Here I am modeling my new line of “Fidel Wear” as I realized all my clothes that day were olive green and brown, unofficial colors of the revloution.  Fishing was not great – probably caught about a dozen keepers.  We found that a snapping turtle found the docks to be an open buffet.

One day we caught some fish in the morning and a few hours later, all that was left were the fish heads on the stringer.  The next day, on a deeper dock and with us gone for just an hour for dinner, the turtle got another meal.  So, on the annual mid-week shopping run to Ely, I got one of the old fashioned collapsable steel mesh baskets to keep the fish in and officially closed the all you can eat buffet.

one year ago…”Fishing at Sunset”

July 8, 2008 – Swimming and Biking in the Northwoods

Swimming is by far one of the highlights of the trip for the kids.

By the boathouse is a dock that is high off the water and most excellent for jumping into the lake both backwards…

and frontwards…

and with a goofy look on your face. The kids enjoy hours jumping into the water here.

I dragged Emma away from the lake long enough for a tortuous bike ride over the boulders, loose rock, and gravel of an old logging road that leads right from the cabin. We biked miles and never came to the end.

Some of the hills were very steep and Emma and I both took turns losing our grip on the trail near the bottom of steep hills that curved at the bottom.  We both came up uninjured.

The wild strawberries weren’t quite as large as the ones back home, but sure tasted good back deep in the woods on the bike ride.

one year ago…”Road Trip!”

July 7, 2008 – Settling in at Kawishiwi Lodge

Yesterday was a big travel day – 10 hours in the van to Kawishiwi Lodge only a few miles south of Canada, literally at the end of the road near Ely, MN.  We like the place as it is the only resort that sits on a BWCA Wilderness lake and therefore are no motorboats, jet skis, or even air traffic over the area.  The kids can swim in the lake and canoe without worrying about propellers or wakes.

Everyone thought the minivan is as sporty as it can look with the black canoe up on top.

Emma is eager with anticipation as she helps unload the canoe from the top of the van.

Here’s home for most of the week.

Cabin 10 has been our home the past few years since the kids grew up and it was harder to share a cabin with another family.

Linda unpacks the food inside the cabin.  Most of the lumber is cut and sawn right at the resort at the resort’s own sawmill.

one year ago…”Garlic Harvest Begins”

July 14, 2007 – Random Shots from Claire

The pictures today are courtesy of Claire – a few shots she took over the week.

Here I am in what we affectionately call “Lake One and a Half” a small body of water between the two portages that connect from Lake One to Lake Two.

Pure bliss for a six-year old is throwing rocks and sand without anybody telling you to stop!

It seems we spend a good amount of our day on the docks – reading, fishing, or swimming.  Yes, you can fish all around the lake and get skunked and then come home and catch walleyes off the dock while reading a book!

All the kids like to go to the big dock near the boathouse and jump into the water.

one year ago…

July 13, 2007 – BWCA Trip Day 2

In the afternoon, a series of storms blew in.  We were taken aback, when paddling in the rain squalls in the 65 degree weather, to have a bolt of lightning seemingly appear out of nowhere (it didn’t seem like thunderstorm weather as it had been raining off an on all day and cold).  We quickly skeedaddled to the nearest shoreline and used the time to have lunch.  By the time we finished there were no further bolts, so we continued into Lake Three.

Here’s my “magazine cover” shot near our campsite on Lake Three.  Just an hour or so before this, we had already found a campsite as it looked like unstable weather continued to approach, so we abandonded plans to go further.  It was a good decision as there was about three hours of lightning and intermittent rain after we had camp set up.  Some other folks out on a trip sought shelter in our campsite as they were out and some didn’t have rain gear, they had no shelter, so we perched them under a tarp we set up for a few hours.  Amazingly, we saw many parties paddling across the lake during the lightning storm, betting the bolts would not hit them.

The night before, we instruct the girls on the finer points of hanging the food pack in the air, to make it harder for critters, large and small, to get the food back overnight.

Here are the girls after a squall moved through.  Shortly before this, we could hear a big wind coming at us far off in the woods, and with a bit of trepidation listened as it moved closer.  When the crescendo of windswept trees intersected with our campsite, we could see out on the lake a section where the wind actually lifted water off the surface of the lake and danced it around up in the air.

Some woodland flowers in bloom.  If my northland botany is still trustworthy – I think these are called pippsissewa.

one year ago…

July 12, 2007 – BWCA Trip

Today, we left for an overnight trip in the BWCA with the two dads and two oldest girls.  Next year the two younger girls and Moms will go out from the cabin.

Here we are set for departure under sunny skies and great anticipation to continue the girls along the path of wilderness camping.

Clouds move in on route and scattered sprinkles bring out the rain gear.  The temperature is in the low 60s.



We were able to portage with one trip.  Claire double packed and I took the canoe.  This is on the portage between Lake One and Lake Two (there are so many lakes in Minnesota, they must have been tired of thinking of new names and this chain consists of Lakes 1, 2, 3, and 4.

The adolescent girls were especially proud of their portaging expertise when we were able to make it in one trip and the group of 8 men and boys needed two trips and 4-6 people to carry the canoes across.
One of the camp chores is cutting firewood, here in the rain for the evening campfire.

one year ago…

July 11, 2007 – Soudan Underground Mine Tour

Today brought driving rain, strong winds and cold temperatures, so it was a good day to visit the underground mine in nearby Soudan.  It is now a state park and as part of the tour, you travel down the original mine elevators about a half-mile underground to the 27th level of the mine and then travel about 3/4 of a mile in a small train at the lowest level.

Here onlookers watch the drum and cable that hoist the elevator cars up and down the half-mile to the bottom.

Martin anxiously awaits the trip to the bottom during his last moments before heading underground.

Linda, a half-mile underground heading down even deeper in the mine.

Martin a bit more relaxed now that he is safely down to the 27th level.  The mine stopped operation in 1962 and produced very rich ore – 68%-72% iron. A 12 inch block of ore weighed 350 pounds.

There is now a physics lab at the bottom of the lab that is investigating the elementary nature of particles, shielded from the atmosphere by a half-mile of rock.


one year ago…

July 10, 2007 – Blueberries for More than Sal!

We tend to enjoy things on vacation that others might not think are enjoying!  Being the preserving/putting food away folks that we are, we bring canning jars along in case we get enough blueberries!

The blueberries this year were exceptional.  I had resigned myself to a bad year since there were fires earlier this spring and the whole arrowhead region was dry.  But the rains must have been well-timed for the blueberries.  The berries were large and plentiful.

We made sure to “eat local” even while on vacation!  We had fresh blueberry pancakes, blueberry muffins, blueberry cobbler and fried walleye.  In addition to all the blueberries we ate fresh, we brough home 24 half-pint jars of whole canned berries and many gallons more fresh to make jam and freeze.  I think we must have picked about 6 gallons of blueberries throughout the week.
one year ago…

July 9, 2007 – Fishing at Sunset

Linda and I snuck off tonight to go canoeing and fishing.

Here she is on Lake One and I only wish her smile was because of the great mess of fish she was pulling in.  But being on the lake and having a moment when bugs aren’t around is reason enough to smile.  We paddled to the rapids that spill into Lake One and I was quite surprised not to catch any at the head, tail, back eddy or anywhere near the rapids.

The route back to the cabin is directly into the sunset and around the bend.
one year ago…

November 24, 2006 – Working off the Feast

There’s nice park nestled within the city limits of Rochester, MN called Quarry Hill. There are ponds, nature center, old quarry relics, caves, lots of fossils, and a huge unmarked cemetery.

Not many November 24 days when shirtsleeves are appropriate attire in Minnesota! Here are the kids after the hike up to the top of the quarry. It stopped producing in the 1950’s.

There are also many caves – some of the bigger ones which were used by the state hospital for food storage from the 1880’s to the the 1940’s. There’s a big field within the park where the state hospital buried patients who died. There are over 2,000 people buried in the field, without markers. They were buried until 1965 when the hospital closed. There are efforts to mark the gravesites appropriately.

There’s also a great 20 acre Oak Savanna on the highest point overlooking the city.

July 15, 2006 – Last Day

The 12 hour ride home commenced this morning. It was a tense ride home as it was very hot, the wind was howling, and with the canoe on the van making us a high profile vehicle, it required many stops to find the best way to have the canoe tied down to make it sturdy and not create an annoying humming sound of the straps.

Yesterday’s shot of all the girls on the dock.

The dock in front of the cabin provided the most entertaining moment of the week. You’ll notice the wheels at the end of the dock. The girls were all sitting at the end of the dock, with their feet hanging in the water. I went out to see them and that was enough weight to tip the teeter totter and dunk the girls in the lake, while we all frantically backpedalled to right the see-saw. The screams and scrambling were great amusement to those on land. Since we “live” on the dock, it was strange that it took that long to happen.

I leave with one final view of the lake from the shore near the cabin.

July 14, 2006 – Fire!

One day when we were out on the day trip, we saw a big smoke plume and a couple of ashes even fell down on us. When we got back to camp, we found out the fire was 5-10 miles away (Turtle Lake Fire) and didn’t pose a current danger to the cabin. Here is a photo of the smoke plume from the dock.

In this picture, the smoke looks like cumulus clouds.

July 12, 2006 – On the Lake

We have a lot of fun on the lake. The name of the lake is Lake One, it is connected to Lake Two, Lake Three, and Lake Four. I guess there were so many lakes in Minnesota, they got tired of coming up with names.

One fun thing is boating – here Martin is in a rubber raft with a new found friend.

Here are the four girls on the day trip we take to a more remote island on part of the lake for lunch.

The greatest fun is jumping off the dock into the lake.

Out in the middle of the lake is a giant boulder that lurks just below the surface. Here are the girls standing on the boulder.

July 11, 2006 – Away from the Lake

We make sure to take in some of the fun away from the lake. Blueberries are abundant.

We went out three mornings and got enough to make blueberry, muffins, blueberry cobbler, blueberry pancakes, make one batch of jam and 17 jars of canned berries – great for pancakes.

Even when we leave the farm, we bring the canning kettle!

On one of the trails near the cabin, an Osprey has made a nest.

We also drag the bikes along to ride around camp and on the logging trails.

July 10, 2006 – Vacation Food

We take turns cooking with the other family we go with, so no one person has to worry about cooking all the time and we get different meals than usual.

Martin loves to help cook, and here he is helping crack eggs for breakfast.

Smores are a traditional dinner time snack and Emma is our master marshmallow roaster.

July 9, 2006 – Vacation Begins

Today, the annual trek to the North Woods begins.

We spend our summer vacation at Kawishiwi Lodge, the only resort on a lake in the BWCAW, a federal wilderness area where motorized craft are prohibited. It makes for a peaceful lakeshore and makes swimming out to the middle of the lake more relaxing.

It’s a long trip up there – 520 miles – only a few miles from Canada. We’ve been going to the same place for 9 years and in the area for 12, so the kids are very attached.

June 4, 2006 – Inland from the Lake

On the way home, we stopped at Jay Cooke State Park. It is a spectacular park, relatively unknown compared to the other parks north of Duluth.

Martin couldn’t get enough “rock climbing” either on rock slopes or rock walls.

The railroad trestle behind the young woman is now a bike trail – part of the Munger Trail.

The St Louis River spills through rock cascades and falls. They’ve set up extreme kayaking through this portion of the river. For all you river freaks, the rapids are rated Class V in high water, which is right under Class VI (Niagra Falls).

Leisurely rock throwing is under-rated.

As is the “4th of July” throwing handfuls of rocks up all at once. We spent some time perfecting the art of rock skipping. I believe no childhood is complete without learning and practicing this art.

The trillium were in bloom along the trails and the light was just right!

June 3, 2006 – Superior Day

We had a great time on Lake Superior this weekend. We had a family graduation in a nearby town, so made the most out of our too short 7 hour (one-way) drive. When we arrived, it was hot, so we headed down to Park Point.

Park Point, on the tip of the lake, is the longest baymouth sand spit bar in the world, about 10 miles long and about 500 feet wide. It’s a great place on a warm day (a bit of a rarity on Lake Superior).

It’s the simplest elements that make for great fun.



Water on body rolled with sand.

Here are the kids down at Canal Park and the Aerial Lift Bridge at Canal Park in Duluth. This is a fun bridge, as any time a boat comes in, the middle of the bridge lifts up. This is the bridge to drive over to get to Park Point.

July 22, 2005 – Solitude (well, almost)

Although the time at the cabin is filled with activity – there are a few moments of solitude. Just past sunset, I dragged Claire off for a walk. Her reluctance soon waned as we walked down a trail and took a turn off through the brush. We encountered an animal trail and ended up in a spongey bog at the headwaters of a small lake, with a stream meandering through it. Our expressed purpose was to look for moose, but we did not see any. Claire appreciated the sparseness, strangeness, and solitude, even with the bugs. She commented that she doubted there were too many people ever in that bog, let alone wearing pajamas.

Another time of solitude was when I had a chance to fish in the middle of a riffle, with water pouring out on both sides, the fish in the boiling water less than 10 feet from my feet.

One night, just after sunsset we were out on the dock when a pack of timber wolves started howling. Martin’s eyes got very large and he burrowed into his mother.

July 21, 2005 – Lake Superior/Emma Search & Rescue

We started the day off with a lunch on the shore of Lake Superior. Of, course, swimming was part of the deal.

The water’s a bit colder, but still fun to wait for the waves.
After lunch we hiked the 1.5 mile path up the Baptism River to the High Falls, the highest waterfalls in Minnesota.

Dad and Martin hiking across the river. Martin earned a t-shirt of his choice by walking the entire way – there and back. We all wished we could walk one mile less than our age in an afternoon!

We had a bit of a project, building a dam across the river – you can see we got about 15 feet of rock dam built before it was time to go. It’s never too early to embed a love for civil engineering in a child.

On the way back, Emma was separated from the group, and at a fork on the trail, headed on the Lake Superior Hiking Trail, instead of the trail back to Lake Superior. Linda, Martin and I were the last ones out and when we got back, the rest of the party said – where’s Emma?

So, Linda and I drove up highway 1 where the Lake Superior Trail crossed the road, Mike and Lori, retraced our steps, and Grandma stayed at the vehicles with the rest of the kids. It’s rather unnerving, walking through the woods, calling out your lost child’s name. We made it back to the falls with no sign of Emma. All the things that run through your mind – she fell in the river, fell off a high place, was abducted, or just dazed and confused and lost. Near the falls, we talked to a party that had seen a young girl in a swim suit go up over the falls, to the footbridge, with another party. That trail, went to another campground, so I took that trail, gave Linda the keys to the van, she went back to the ranger station, and I continued on to the Tetteguche trailhead.

Emma was found shortly after we left – she said the trail suddenly climbed up a steep stone stairway before coming to a big rock outcrop and she knew it was the wrong way. So she turned back, took the other fork, and found her way back to the lake. There were some moments of apprehension for daughter and parents!

July 19, 2005 – Blueberries

It is a good year for blueberries in the northwoods. Always the foragers, we brought our canning kettle and canning jars and canned and froze blueberries (can’t get the farmers out of us, I guess). Grandma Jo even made a fresh blueberry cobbler.

The berries were particularly luscious this year. We went out a couple of times and got about 3 gallons of berries. My grandfather, Walter, was an avid blueberry picker, who did not live too far from where we were. I find comfort in the spongy, sphagnum places the biggest berries grow.

July 18, 2005 – Fish

Fishing is another fun part of the trip. This year Martin, set up with a bobber and worm, caught his first fish, from hooking to reeling in, from the dock.

Just watch, I can do this.

Wow – I did it myself!

The big fish of the week award goes to Claire for reeling in this northern pike. She dethrones her father, whose three year big fish streak was broken.

July 17, 2005 – In the Canoe

One of the things we like best about this place is the fact that no motorized craft are allowed. It is the one time a year (so far) we get to play with our indulgence, our Bell canoe, lovingly named “leech.” It should last us our lives, as the canoes are works of art that are built for a lifetime.
bell canoe
The canoe is a composite hull, using Kevlar for lightness and graphite for strength, thus the black color, and wooden trim and seats for beauty. It is 18.5 feet long and only weighs 57 pounds and handles like no other.
bell canoe
The view from the bow!
bell canoe
Linda heartily paddling from the stern on the way back from a fishing voyage.

June 5, 2005 – At the Lake Along the Way

I received the e-mail from Marianne Saturday saying that Dean had passed away and the funeral was Sunday (the next day) in Duluth. We had arranged to move a piano that some folks had kindly borrowed to us back to their grandchild in Des Moines, so as soon as we moved that without incident, we arranged care for the girls and hopped in the van with Martin for the 7 hour drive up north.

We stayed at Mike and Lori’s cabin a short ways out of Duluth. We arrived after dark – it was a dark, rainy, foggy night. The next morning was nicer, so we got the first real maiden voyage in the new pontoon boat.

It was a nice interlude on the way up.