It would be really neat to see a blue moon that is actually the color blue. According to SpaceWeather there is a chance we might just see one this month. Our first full moon of the month of July was on July 2nd and our second or blue moon will be on July 31st. A blue moon is just the second full moon of a specific month. However, sometimes due to ash from volcanoes or wildfires(like we’re experiencing in the western United States) the moon appears blue because the ash filters out the other colors. You can read all about it below and if you want a front row seat to moon and star viewing then come on up to the Gunflint Trail where lack of artificial light makes it one of the best places for stargazing.
WILL THE MOON REALLY TURN BLUE? When someone says “Once in a Blue Moon,” you know what they mean: rare, seldom, even absurd. This year it means “the end of July.” For the second time this month, the Moon is about to become full. There was one full Moon on July 2nd, and now another is coming on July 31st. According to modern folklore, the second full Moon in a calendar month is “blue.” Strange but true: Sometimes the Moon really turns blue. Scroll past the waxing full Moon, photographed on July 25th by Giuseppe Petricca of Pisa, Italy, for more information:
The blue areas in the color-enhanced image (right) are caused by titanium in lunar soil. [more]
A truly-blue Moon usually requires a volcanic eruption. Back in 1883, for example, people saw blue moons almost every night after the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa exploded with the force of a 100-megaton nuclear bomb. Plumes of ash rose to the very top of Earth’s atmosphere, and the Moon became an azure-colored disk.
Krakatoa’s ash was the reason. Some of the plumes were filled with particles 1 micron wide, about the same as the wavelength of red light. Particles of this special size strongly scatter red light, while allowing blue light to pass through. Krakatoa’s clouds thus acted like a blue filter. People also saw blue-colored Moons in 1983 after the eruption of the El Chichon volcano in Mexico. And there are reports of blue Moons caused by Mt. St. Helens in 1980 and Mount Pinatubo in 1991.
Forest fires can do the same trick. A famous example is the giant muskeg fire of Sept. 1953 in Alberta, Canada. Clouds of smoke containing micron-sized oil droplets produced lavender suns and blue Moons all the way from North America to England. At this time of year, summer wildfires often produce smoke with an abundance of micron-sized particles–just the right size to turn the Moon truly blue. Sky watchers in western parts of the USA and Canada, where wildfires are in progress, could experience this phenomenon.
We’re at that rare point in the summer; that point where all staff members for the season are here at Tuscarora.
In early May, the staff members started trickling in and now, with the arrival of our last housekeeper, Kenzie, in mid-July, all 11 staff members are finally together . . . at least for now. But in just a few days, the staff members will begin dispersing, heading back home to spend some time with family and friends before returning to college or their next adventure.
We knew it was now or never for getting the 2015 staff photo, so on Sunday afternoon, right after lunch, we trooped everyone out onto the outfitting office steps to sit in the midday sun on one of the hottest days in the last five years to smile pretty for the camera for a couple minutes.
2015 Tuscarora Staff
Front row (L-R): Sean, Liz, Dan, and Mack the Dog
2nd row (L-R): Jack, Kamille, Kenzie, and Mitch
3rd row (L-R): Frank, Shelby, Carter, and Emma
4th row (L-R): Ada and Andy
Special thanks to Andy Ahrendt for serving as this year’s staff photographer; we just wish he and Sue had hopped in the photo too.
We’re thankful for a lot of things this summer, but at the tippy top of the “things to be thankful” list is this year’s staff. Our hats go off to Andy and Sue for hiring such a smart, committed, and lovably goofy crew. We’ve so appreciated their willingness to tackle even the least glamorous of jobs and to step up when necessary to keep everything going swimmingly.
We hope if you’ve been up this summer that you’ve enjoyed their company as well. Maybe you had French toast served and/or prepared by Carter, Emma, Kamille, or Kenzie. Or you’ve been outfitted with paddles, lifejackets, and transported to your entry point by Dan, Frank, Jack, Mitch, or Sean. If you got camp food with us, your food pack was probably filled with smiley faces, compliments of Liz, the food packer. Behind the scenes, Shelby has kept the whole crew fed and happy in her role as crew cook/cheerleader.
It’s hard to imagine life at Tuscarora with this crew, but if we’re lucky, hopefully at least a few of them will return for a second season next year.
A night in the Boundary Waters is too much for some people. A 7-day summer canoe trip feels like an eternity to most kids. Most people never even think about winter camping yet two Minnesota adventurers are going to spend an entire year in the BWCA.
Amy and Dave Freeman of Wilderness Classroom Organization are embarking on their trip this September. They plan to paddle during the liquid months and use sled dogs during the frozen months to travel over 3000 miles.
Why are they doing this? “To promote preserving the area from the effects of sulfide-ore copper mining.”
This isn’t their first expedition and I’m sure it won’t be there last. They were named National Geographic Explorers of the year in 2014 for their North American Odyssey. They have kayaked around Lake Superior and biked and paddled their way across South America as well. For that trip Amy took along one of my pink canoe paddles.
We first met Amy when she worked at a Gunflint Trail canoe outfitter years ago. She and her husband split their time between Ely and Grand Marais when they aren’t out on an adventure. We wish them the best on their newest pursuit.
Some people say it isn’t that hot here because it isn’t that humid. Others say it’s much hotter where they are from. I say, “It’s hot for here.”
People who live near the biggest air conditioner(Lake Superior) don’t feel “hot” very often. A nice day in Grand Marais, Minnesota is when the sun is shining and it’s 60 degrees. At the end of the Gunflint Trail it can get hot but we usually don’t have a prolonged heat wave. And up here, a heat wave is happening now.
We had over 80 degree temperatures on seven of the past ten days. Yesterday the temperature soared up to 92 degrees. I have a bad memory but I can’t remember the last time we had temperatures this hot for this long.
It is supposed to be in the 90′s again today. Thank goodness I have a river to cool off in throughout the day because I can’t handle the heat.
We’re hoping for some rain tomorrow to cool things off and give the blueberries a drink. The forecast calls for more “hot” weather throughout the weekend.
And while temperatures may not feel hot to you, they certainly do to this Gunflint gal.
7/27/15 - Christmas comes but once a year... except at Sawbill!
Each summer, in either June or July, Sawbill crew members don Santa hats, crank up holiday tunes an spend hours baking and decorating cookies for our second Christmas. On the 24th, a festive dinner is held after everyone is off work, and we exchange presents and listen to a mixed CD put together by the crew members.
This amazing Christmas tree cookie was made by Kevin, and was later devoured by some Boy Scouts.
Crew members pose with their gifts
Olive received a jar of olives, and a kiwi likeness of herself, a nod to her semester spent in New Zealand.
Cindy Lou reacts to opening her present
Even Uno got dressed up for the occasion - Logan asked him to bring good fishing.
Festivities lasted long into the night, and leftovers are still being enjoyed. Happy Holidays, however you celebrate them! - Elena
Visitors of Voyageur Canoe Outfitters are able to take advantage of our awesome location on the very edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Every day something amazing and awe inspiring happens and if you’re lucky and looking then you get to see it.
Last week one of our tow boat drivers was coming back to our dock and he saw a mother moose and her calf swimming across the river. He used his radio to tell us about it and others were able to go out onto the dock and enjoy it.
Anna and Joe were out fishing on Gull Lake Friday afternoon. A loon was swimming with her newborn chick on her back when suddenly an eagle swooped in and stole her chick. Feathers flew, loons cried and within seconds the chick and eagle were gone.
Josh and I took a quick fishing break yesterday. We heard a noise in the woods and pretty soon a small black bear came out to the water’s edge. It ripped apart a log, sat in the water and when it finally noticed us retreated back into the woods.
We caught some smallmouth bass and as Josh was reeling in a small one a northern pike attacked it. The little bass got away but we netted the 30″ northern pike and then released it.
Yes, there are cool things happening near Voyageur all of the time. We invite you to come see for yourself.
People are out and about on the Gunflint Trail. There are vehicles parked along side of the road at some of the well-known blueberry picking spots. We’ve seen people with bug nets and ice cream buckets crouched down in the weeds. Are the blueberries ready?
In my expert opinion, maybe. If they are ready to be picked then this year won’t be one of the better years for picking. I think the pickers have jumped the gun because I’m seeing more green berries than blue ones and that equals difficult/time consuming picking. I much prefer picking when all of the berries are ripe and ready to be picked.
Maybe this is the only time those blueberry pickers have to pick. It is better than nothing and if you don’t mind moving, squatting, reaching, standing, moving, squatting, reaching, standing and finding small or green berries in your bucket then the berry picking is fine.
I would like to say, “You won’t find me out picking yet.” but that would be a lie. I have been out looking for berries and I have picked some too. But I have spent more time driving and wandering around than I have actually picking but that’s ok too. With the hot weather in the forecast I urge everyone to bring along plenty of water, take time to get out of the sun and don’t wander too far from the road.
Oh, and by the way, the raspberries are ripe and ready to be picked!
We had the pleasure of meeting two adventurers at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters on Tuesday. Nick Canney and paddling partner Mujo Catic started their canoe trip on May 1st at the Stuart River Portage. They plan to camp and canoe in the BWCA until mid-October.
They will have spent over five months canoeing by the time they are finished with their trip. What an excellent adventure. So far they have paddled 150 miles and they haven’t seen a moose yet. They have caught fish and on the opener they caught a 22″ northern pike. As they were reeling it in a larger(around 11 pounds) northern pike grabbed it. They were able to get both fish into the canoe and were quite excited about it.
Nick Canney and Mujo Catic love the outdoors and they hope their trip sparks the interest of other young people so they too will venture into the Boundary Waters. We hope they inspire others to paddle the BWCA and continue to have a wonderful journey.
A guest of ours put together a nice video of his group in the Boundary Waters. I love to see people’s videos and photos of their time spent in the canoe country wilderness. I also love to share these items with my blog readers so if you have some to share then please email them to me, I’d appreciate it.
There are a few cuss words in the middle of the video but I still give it a 5 star rating. Thanks for sharing Len! Video Courtesy of Len Brewer of Killshots, a company that specializes in creating graphics for hunting and fishing websites.
Canoe Fishing trip into the BWCA on June 3, 2015.
There are lots of things to do this weekend and, if you’re judicious with your timing, you just might be able to see it all. (Keep your time-travel suit at the ready, however, just in case.)
First up is “Kalileh,” a magical production by an Iranian composer and pianist who has written a piece especially for the Magic Smelt Puppet Troupe of Duluth and the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra. The Lake Superior Youth Chorus will also perform.
Hooshyar Khayam, who lives in Iran and was commissioned to compose the work, will attend the performances at the Marshall Performing Arts Center at UMD on Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Puppeteer Jim Ouray, who works with the Good Harbor Hill Players in Grand Marais for the winter and summer solstice pageants, is the artistic director of the Magic Smelt Puppet Troupe. To hear a snippet of the music and learn more about this remarkable collaboration, click here.
And on Friday, there’s more magic to see when Hazel Belvo and Marsha Cushmore open an exhibit at the Johnson Heritage Post with new work and a new focus.
The opening reception is from 5-7 p.m.
Belvo will be showing a new series of paintings, and Cushmore will have a number of prints based on her abstract studies of tree bark.
Both artists will also have other work on exhibit, including three Sky/Water paintings by Cushmore, and Belvo’s paintings of the Zinfandel vines in Sonoma, Calif.
Immediately following the reception, wander over to Harbor Park where “troubadour” Ben Weaver will be in performance at 7 p.m.
Weaver is completing a 16-day circumnavigation of Lake Superior on his bicycle and is stopping in communities along the way to share poetry, music and stories to unify people who live on the shores of the Big Lake. The event is sponsored by Superior North Outdoor Center and the Grand Marais Music Collaborative. Everyone is invited. Weaver will stop in at WTIP’s The Roadhouse around 5:20 p.m. to talk about his project.
Meanwhile, up the hill aways, the Grand Marais Playhouse Summer Theater Festival continues at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts with the comedy “Moon Over Buffalo” and the musical “I Love You. You’re Perfect. Now Change” in repertory through Aug. 2. “Moon Over Buffalo” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday, “I Love You” at 7 p.m. Saturday. The reviews of both shows have been excellent. Tickets are available at the door.
On Friday and Saturday, there will be outdoor demonstrations at the Bally Blacksmith Shop from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. All are invited to come watch and share stories.
On Saturday, the Cook County Farm & Craft Market will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Senior Center parking lot. Hovland strawberries, early vegetables, flowers and plants will be featured as well as a variety of arts and crafts made by Cook County residents.
Maggie Anderson will give a pottery demo at the Grand Marais Art Colony at 1 p.m., and poet Caroline Giles Banks will read from her new “Picture a Poem” at Drury Lane Books at 5 p.m.
And, there’s lots going on at North House Folk School, too, including two-hour mini courses (breadbaking on Thursdays and raising a timber frame on Fridays). The craft residency this week features Allen Holzheuter demonstrating spinning in The Commons from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through through Saturday, and the good ship Hjordis sails daily on a two-hour cruise. Visit northhouse.org for more info.
And, if you’re going to Thunder Bay on Saturday, stop off at the park near the Hoito and take in the Die Active Y-Art Sale from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT). The event is being held in partnership with the Valley Fresh Buskers Festival, Juy 25-26. The Y-Art Sale features the unique works of young-blooded artists, clothing designers and crafters. Shop for original art & crafts, handmade jewelry, vintage clothing & treasures, zines, books, buttons, records and more! Plus, live music, lemonade and food vendors.
- Fisherman’s Picnic, Grand Marais, July 30-Aug. 2
- Pour at 4, Bronze pour at Last Chance Gallery, 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2
- Rendezvous Days and Pow-wow, Grand Portage, Aug. 7-9
- Susan Frame: Sumi-e painting exhibit, Johnson Heritage Post, opens Aug. 14
- The Rev. R.L. Bush and the Revived Sons, (the best gospel group on the circuit today), North Shore Music Association, ACA, Aug. 22. The Rev. Bush was the lead singer for the Carpenter Ants, who performed here last year.
In other art news,
And last, but not least, the Chalk.a.Lot festival in Two Harbors was a great success this year, with lots of artwork on the sidewalks. Some of the artists who participated were ArtedeMoira, David Gilsvik, Lenn Soderlund, David Zinn and Lauri Olson Hohman. Her chalk art came in second. Here it is:
Alex Deters and Brian Borglum came in first with their chalk art, below.
There’s lots of music this weekend. Here’s the schedule:
Thursday, July 23:
- Joe Paulik, Music by the Campfire, Lutsen Resort, 6 p.m.
Friday, July 24:
- Portage Band, American Legion, 6 p.m.
- Pete Kavanaugh, Music by the Campfire, Eagle Ridge Resort, 7 p.m.
- Jim & Michele Miller, Cascade Lodge Pub, 7:30p.m.
- Eric Frost, Voyageur Brewing Co., 8 p.m.
- Bug Lite, Gun Flint Tavern, 9 p.m.
- Joe Paulik, Bluefin Grille, 9 p.m.
Saturday, July 25:
- Superior Siren, Voyageur Brewing Co. Rooftop, 3 p.m.
- SplinterTones, Harbor Park, 4-7 p.m.
- J Squared and the Makers, Papa Charlie’s Deck, 6 p.m.
- Joe Paulik, Music by the Campfire, Bluefin Bay, 7 p.m.
- Jan Kallberg, Lutsen Resort, 7 p.m.
- Michael Monroe, Log Cabin Concert, rural Grand Marais, 387-2919 for reservations
- Pushing Chain, Gun Flint Tavern, 9 p.m.
Sunday, July 26:
- The SplinterTones, Sunday Music on the Mountain, Caribou Highlands Lodge, 5-8 p.m.
- Jim & Michelle Miller, Gun Flint Tavern, 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 28:
- Briand Morrison, The Pie Place Cafe, 6-8 p.m.
Summer has obviously arrived, and with it, photos of flowers. Here is a selection:
And here are some wonderful wildlife shots.
And here are some beautiful landscapes.
And finally, a beauty by Mary Amerman.
Have a good weekend, everyone!
Just after we put last week’s issue “to bed” we received the disheartening news that Minnesota Power was going to idle the Taconite Harbor Energy Center in the fall of 2016.
I felt sick, thinking of all the friends who work at the plant, who rely on their job there to be able to live here on the North Shore.
I understand that Minnesota Power will try to help the 40-plus employees find work elsewhere. But that means families will have to either have long-distance lives or will have to leave their homes. It means taking kids out of schools and spouses away from well-established jobs in the community. I’m heartbroken for the Taconite Harbor folks who are facing this overwhelming change.
In addition to feeling sad for the families, I’m concerned about the impact this will have on our county’s economy. Minnesota Power is a major commercial taxpayer—will the value of their property be as high for a shuttered power plant as an operational one?
Will our schools, which are already struggling with declining funds because of decreased enrollment, be able to carry on with even fewer students? How will our clinic and hospital absorb the loss of that many families with decent medical insurance?
And, if the power plant ceases to exist, will it nullify our relationship— and therefore the credit we get on our property taxes— because we reside in what was a taconite district?
Will the idling have an impact statewide? According to Minnesota Power officials, when running at full capacity the Taconite Harbor Energy Center provides electricity for about 120,000 residential customers. Will taking that much electrical production out of the statewide power pool drive rates higher across the board?
Although hints of the idling have been coming for years, I didn’t really believe it would happen. I grew up with the power plant in Schroeder and went to school with kids who lived in the bustling town of Taconite Harbor. Crossing the county line and coming into Schroeder to see the billowing white steam clouds was part of coming home.
I know the cause of the closure is a mix of market forces and environmental issues. But as a kid I didn’t think much about the health effects of coal. As an adult, living away from the North Shore, I remember hearing environmental concerns about emissions from coal burning power plants. But truthfully, I still didn’t think much about it.
When our military family lived in Mannheim, Germany in the late 1970s, I was more bothered by the towers of the nuclear power plant we drove by on a regular basis.
The ugly side of coal was revealed to me on our second stint in Germany. When the Iron Curtain started to slip in 1989 and Czechoslovakia opened its borders to American tourists, we took advantage and visited Prague.
Our family was welcomed kindly by the Czech people. We enjoyed seeing the Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge, which is featured in the opening scene of the first Mission Impossible movie. I bought an exquisite crystal vase and a matryoshka doll and we enjoyed crepes made by street vendors. It is an amazing town and we could see why it is sometimes considered equal in beauty to Paris.
I did notice though, that the stunning old buildings were dingy. A haze hung over the historic city. We enjoyed the trip nonetheless, but when we returned to Germany the subject came up. I asked why the former communist country seemed so smoggy? I was informed that it is because of the prevalence of coal—and the lack of environmental oversight.
I was glad then, when I moved back to Cook County in 1995 and started working at the local newspaper to learn—and write about— Minnesota Power’s efforts to meet and exceed the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. I was pleased to work on articles detailing the millions of dollars being invested in the plant to reduce its sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury emissions while producing power.
But recently I’ve been troubled by the push to eliminate coal from our country’s portfolio forever. For some groups no matter how low the emissions go, it is not low enough.
I’m not an engineer, but Minnesota Power’s plan to keep improving its coal burning techniques made sense to me. We need power to operate our computers and charge our cellphones and heat our houses. I don’t think enough power can be generated from wind farms and solar panels for all of us. I’m not an energy broker, but I think coal needs to be part of our country’s energy portfolio— especially coal that can be processed in compliance with U.S. standards for emissions.
I’m not a scientist, but I thought Minnesota Power was on the right track in Schroeder. I’m sorry it won’t get to continue down that path.
In times like these it helps to recall that there have always been times like these.
Do you consider a camping chair in the Boundary Waters a necessity or a luxury? For me it depends upon the type of trip I am taking and how much portaging I’ll be doing. When we plan to set up a base camp it’s nice to bring along a lightweight camp chair.
Now days there are a large variety of camp chairs to choose from. When we started outfitting canoe trips into the BWCA over 20 years ago the two options were the big sling type camp chairs by Coleman or a Crazy Creek chair. While the big chairs are comfortable they are far from lightweight and Crazy Creek chairs are nice but they don’t get you off of the ground.
The ground is great when it’s dry, level and insect free. Many campsites have logs to sit on, nice rocks to stretch out on and comfortable places to sit. However it’s nice to have a chair that gets you off of the ground and away from biting ants, crawling insects and a wet bottom.
I have two camp chairs I really like, one is the Alite Monarch Butterfly and the other a Big Agnes Helinox. The Helinox Camp One Chair is the most comfortable but weighs 2 pounds while the Alite only weighs a little over 1 pound. The Alite is about $30 less expensive at $69 and the Helinox at $99.
Other companies make camp chairs including Therm-a-Rest, Alps Mountaineering and of course Coleman. Do you have a favorite camping chair? Is it a necessity in the BWCA or a luxury? Let me know.
It’s true, headlines scare me. And I got a little bit scared after reading about the boy pinned in a rapids in the BWCA at the beginning of July. He was there for hours, they had no way to communicate with the outside world and the story could have had a very unhappy ending. He was with his church youth group and with the help of rescuers he lived and is able to tell his story of faith.
When I heard about this story Mike and Josh, along with their church group was about to embark on their week long Quetico Park wilderness canoe trip on the Falls Chain. This chain is known for current and waterfalls and the boys going along were 14 and 15-year-olds. It’s that, “I am invincible.” stage of life for boys. They did make it home without incidence and all went well.
How about the “Brain Eating Amoeba” headline? A Minnesota boy died earlier this month from swimming in a lake because he developed a condition known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis or PAM. The amoeba(Naegleria fowleri) is a single celled organism sometimes found in the sediment at the bottom of warm bodies of fresh water. When water that contains this amoeba enters through the nose it makes its way to the brain and the result is almost always fatal.
These are scary and awful headlines indeed. I feel for the families and friends of the victims of these awful headlines. But these headlines are few and far between. More common are headlines describing kidnappings, attempted rapes, burglaries, fatal car crashes, shootings and more.
I hope people don’t alter their plans to go swimming in lakes or take canoe trips because of the headlines. Even though they are scare inducing the chances of something like that happening are rare and the benefits of participating in these activities are endless.
“Good Night Loon” is a popular children’s book title, Good-Bye Bear is not. Good-Bye and Good Riddance is what we’re saying about our overly friendly neighborhood bear. The lodge loving bear has been dealt with for the last time.
We are sad the bear had to die but knew it needed to. It had been getting way too bold and it was just a matter of time before someone was going to get caught in a bad situation with the bear.
On Saturday night Tony and Hannah returned to their lodge unit and noticed the screen pulled out and the window wide open. When they peered inside they saw the bear, sprawled out on his stomach, on the kitchen floor, happily munching on potato chips and pretzels. They made a phone call to the neighbor since Mike and I were in town. This neighbor knew about the problem and has a big hunting career(he’s killed one other nuisance bear in his 40 plus years of life.
With the thought of getting rid of the bear in the safest manner they walked back to the lodge unit where the bear was still eating chips. He aimed the gun through the window and perfectly executed the bear with one kill shot. The bear did not suffer and died while enjoying his last meal.
Not so perfectly thought out was the mess the execution of the bear would make inside Tony and Hannah’s living quarters. There are no pictures recorded of the carnage but from what I was told it looked like a mob execution. Thankfully the crew members lent a hand in getting the mess cleaned up but there are still some blood stains on the deck.
We can open our windows once again and let the fresh breezes cool us off. Except for Elsa in the kitchen who has a very determined squirrel who chews a new hole in the screen every day in an attempt to get at her delicious baked goods. And the saga continues.
7/19/15 - Just this month Sawbill took on its youngest "intern" - Alex Lundgren, age 9.
Alex has been coming to Sawbill since he was a baby, and has wanted to work for here for just about as long. He was promised a job just as soon a he turned nine, which he did earlier this year. Alex came up for a week, and was nice enough to let his parents tag along while he "worked."
This summer, Alex received training in working the store desk and washing life jackets. When he and his parents come later this summer, he may graduate to washing tents!
Alex learns to play cribbage during a quiet night in the store - all Sawbill crew members are required to know how to play cribbage, and Alex is determined to have a strong application when he is able to apply for a real job - only nine more years!
We loved having Alex with us (as did the customers) and are eagerly anticipating his return. - Elena
My garden is starting to produce! So far I have harvested parsley, chives, 2 kinds of lettuce and broccoli. The picture is of Bruce standing next to my green beans. We are going to have a lot of them. Next to the beans are tomatoes. I hope to have some ripen but they don’t usually do too well for me. Sometimes I wonder why I even try growing them. Behind Bruce is a long bed of raspberries. They look really good. Pretty soon we should start to see little red berries.
The lodge and outfitters are really busy now. Families are here with kids and grandparents. It is great to have them running busily around the property. Many of the families have been with us for years. It is fun to see kids grow up. They surprise us every year with how much they have grown. Soon it is time for college and weddings and grandchildren. Life is fun.
Last Wednesday was time for the annual canoe races. They have been held on Gunflint Lake for over 25 years. In addition to the actual races there are sloppy joes, calico beans, hot dogs, homemade bars, pop chips, etc in the food tent. The raffle goes all night with great stuff to take a chance on. There is a silent auction and several live auctions. Bruce and I got a beautiful wooden depth map of Gunflint Lake. It is the kind of thing you never could buy in a store.
My job the last few years has been to sell raffle tickets. There is one raffle for the various gift items and then the grand raffle for a Wenonah kayak. You cannot imagine how busy we were selling tickets. There were 3-4 of us working on it and people seemed to be just throwing money at us. We could hardly keep track of who was getting what. The smart ones are the grandmothers who bring their return address mailing labels.
When the night is over, it is time to go up and count the money. This year we set a new record. The Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department got about $20,000. That is not too bad for just a little event. Of course it takes lots of people to put in lots of time. Chris Steele from Seagull Lake headed up the event. He did a great job.
Pretty soon Bruce and I will go back to the lodge for Sunday BBQ. He carves and I stand around talking. Don smokes the ribs, salmon, and chicken over hickory from Missouri. Tonight we have just about 150 people in camp. There are a few clouds in the sky but it is supposed to be a beautiful night. After the guests have eaten, we will feed the staff. The BBQ starts on Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day weekend. When it is over, I can’t eat ribs again for several weeks. Restaurants just don’t do them as well as Don does.
The great debate continues about SPOT Locators and products similar to them. SPOT stands for Satellite Positioning and Tracking and they provide a way to track someone or something using satellites. Especially popular for the wilderness adventurer these devices have raised quite a few issues over the years.
A standard SPOT locator allows you to transmit a couple of messages, one stating you are “ok”, another asking for “help” and the third activating “911″. If you activate the “Help” button then whoever you have given access to your account or decided to send emails to will be notified. If you activate the “911” button then emergency service agencies will be activated.
The challenge with using these devices is there is no way to know what type of emergency is happening or if indeed it is a real emergency. Some people consider being tired or hungry while hiking a mountain an emergency and put rescuers in danger for no reason. Sometimes buttons get accidentally hit and other times a device can malfunction as was the case with the camp across the river from us earlier this year.
The campers were out canoeing when a thunderstorm rolled in. They got to shore to wait it out and sometime during this storm lightning interfered with the transmission and caused their locator to activate 911. They remained where they were to wait out the storm and rescuers believed it was a true emergency. When the locator started moving again there was a bit of confusion but rescuers pursued them from the east, west and from above in the form of a beaver airplane. They found the group and found out everything was “Ok” which was great news.
However, in this instance and in many other instances the lives of the volunteer rescuers were interrupted. These people were pulled away from their normal lives, possibly their work, family or sleep. They put themselves at risk by hiking, paddling, climbing or portaging rugged terrain in an effort to find the campers. As volunteers they get paid nothing for their time or effort. As for the resources used by the USFS like the beaver that flew to find this group, the USFS does not have a way to “bill” for their services. So money that could be used for the forest is wasted on a non-emergency.
We send out SPOT Locators if groups want to rent them so this just as easily could have happened to us. Someone could easily make a mistake or choose to call something an emergency and the same thing would happen. These devices are terrific if they work but dead batteries, user error and misuse can make them a big headache too.
The stories of rescues are awesome and everyone involved is thankful for the devices that notified them. I just wonder how people who are sent out on non-essential rescues feel?
Is there something better than a SPOT out there? The camp has switched devices, some people praise satellite phones and others choose to use nothing. Is a false sense of security given when these devices are taken along on a wilderness trip? No gadget can take into consideration common sense so it’s really up to the user and whenever humans are involved there’s always room for error.
The berry season is getting underway on the Gunflint Trail. I have been seeing vehicles parked on the sides of the road on my way up to work each day. Berry pickers are very smart by getting out early in the morning before it gets too warm out.
Visitors to the museum have been finding blueberries, raspberries and wild strawberries on our hiking trails here on property. You also need to keep an eye for wildlife when you are out picking the berries. We did have a party see a mother bear and three baby cubs trying to enjoy the harvest themselves.
There is joy in paddling a canoe. The feel of the blade slipping into the water, the sight of the swirl created by the pull and the forward momentum gained with each stroke is a beautiful thing. Floating on top of the water, watching the ripples or reflection of the sky on the surface as you glide along with no sounds of a motor is trance inducing.
Canoeing is a fairly inexpensive activity and a wonderful thing for people of any age to do but especially for kids. That’s why I was disappointed to not see a paddling sport listed as one of the popular outdoor activities for people ages 6-24 years-old.
The Outdoor Insight magazine listed the Most Popular Youth Outdoor Activities for the above age group. Here is what they have.
- Running, Jogging & Trail Running 25.6%
- Bicycling(Road, Mountain & BMX 21.2%
- Camping(Car, Backyard & RV) 18.5%
- Fishing(Fresh, Salt & Fly) 18%
- Hiking 12.8%
There are places to paddle all over and there is no shortage of canoes or kayaks. Paddling is easy to learn how to do and something kids can do on their own with very little worry for their adults. All you have to do is find a place where there isn’t much boat traffic, put a life vest on and off they go. It’s good exercise and great for their brain.
We offer discounted rates for kids and youth groups at Voyageur and we also include the free use of a canoe with our housing rentals. I encourage you to bring your kids up to Voyageur and get them into a canoe. It’s a lifelong sport that has huge benefits and besides that, it’s tons of fun.
I’m sure there’s at least one person who is waiting for an update on the bear situation at Voyageur. The good news is the bear hasn’t gotten into any buildings lately. He did bite into Elsa’s liquid laundry detergent and proceeded to drag her empty cooler into the woods but that is about it. He was a “no show” on his execution nights so lucky for him he is still alive, so is the toad.
What toad you ask? The toad the VCO crew watched get swallowed by a snake this morning. They didn’t want to intervene with nature so they did nothing to help the toad as it was slowly devoured by a snake. Good thing for the toad the snake sucked off more than it could suck and the toad exited the snake and hopped away with only an injured leg.
Speaking of injuries… The Voyageur Crew performed amazingly at the annual canoe races with only a few bumps and bruises to show for it. I’ll have a full re-cap in a later blog.
There are a few blueberries beginning to ripen but not enough to warrant a picking day yet. A week possibly two and there should be some good picking. Raspberries are looking better for those with patience. The forecast for the next week looks amazing so get yourself up to the BWCA and visit us at Voyaguer!
I’ll leave you with an amazing photo taken by crew member Evan Gates.