5/11/13 - Today's Sawbill Lake ice report: 10". Progress is still happening in spite of cool temperatures.
5/11/13 - Today's Sawbill Lake ice report: 10". Progress is happening in spite of cool temperatures.
Baker Lake opened up yesterday, but we don't know if the lakes north of Baker (Peterson, Kelly and Jack) are open. A warmer forecast after the weekend should do the trick for most of the lakes near Sawbill. - Bill
I've been getting a lot of questions about possibly paddling around the edges of the lake. As you can see, that is not yet possible.
Sawbill Lake is getting darker, even on a cold, cloudy and blustery day like today.
The snow is finally receding on the Gunflint Trail (although the lakes still have plenty of ice). When Scott came in the morning, he said he thought that due to the cooler weather, the rivers are not as high and are clearing up. As I drove up the Gunflint Trail, I noticed that the flow of Devil Track River as it crosses the Gunflint looked swift but not raging. However, after an hour up the trail, I noticed much more urgency on the part of the Devil Track. That means the remaining snow is melting today and the flow is stronger. Steelhead may be a little tough this weekend.
Looks like you still have time to submit a guess in our First Annual Ice Out Prediction Contest. Of course, even if the fishing isn’t up to par yet, a day on the Gunflint Trail still beats a day just about anywhere else. And you can always spend Mother’s Day at the annual Naniboujou Mother’s Day Brunch – that’s where you’ll find all the locals come Sunday.
This is Minnesota fishing opener weekend and it is also the weekend that many take their first foray into the BWCA. This year is going to be different since there is still a lot of snow and ice on the Gunflint Trail. The shore lines are starting to see some progress, but it may be a bit yet before we can really get out on the lakes. While the lakes may not be ready for fishing yet, people are hitting the rivers and streams, looking for those elusive steelhead.
If you are a hardy soul and are going to go canoeing in the next couple of weeks, there are some precautions you should think about. First and foremost, please wear your life jacket. The lakes are very cold and it is going to take some really warm weather before they are safe. Of course you should wear life jackets at all times anyway, but many do not. This time of the year it is imperative because if you do tip, you have very little time to get to safety. The last thing you want to do is spend the first five minutes in the water looking for and putting on your PFD; the time is better spent assessing the situation and taking care of your paddling companions.
If you own a Hydroskin type jacket, which is basically a wet suit top, it is also a good idea to have this on.
Most importantly, if a tip occurs, get out of the water as soon as possible. You should be paddling close to shore, so hopefully you can quickly get out of the water and get dry. This is not a time to try to paddle across the middle of Sag.
The BWCA is a wilderness and should be treated as such. Do not be complacent because you have been there many times. Safety first. We like our visitors and we want you to be coming to see us for many years to come. It is very sad to hear about someone who will not come back due to a tragic accident.
5/10/13 - Today's Sawbill Lake ice report: 13". Not much progress since yesterday due to a cold night last night. It looks like melting will slow down during the weekend and then return with a vengeance early next week. - Bill
It is hard to believe, but as I write this week’s Unorganized Territory, Cook County is preparing for yet another storm, which is predicted to bring several inches of snow. I feel quite sorry for people who don’t like winter. They must be at their wit’s end, because even I am getting tired of snow.
I’m not entirely surprised that we are expecting snow in the beautiful month of May. It’s happened before. I vividly recall a winter long, long, ago, when I lived in Grand Marais and was supposed to pack up my car to leave Cook County on May 1, 1982.
It was at the end of a long separation from my soldier husband, Chuck. He had completed a yearlong tour of duty in Korea. Since his assignment was in the lessthan hospitable area of that divided country, our two sons and I spent the year in Minnesota. Chuck had returned to U.S.A. and was waiting for the kids, my sister Rhodelle and me to make the trek cross-country to Fort Ord in Monterey, California to see him.
We were understandably excited. It was hard for our family to be apart for a year. Our youngest son, Gideon was just 6 months old when Chuck left. We wrote and exchanged videotapes and 3-year-old Benjamin and I counted down the days together. We couldn’t wait to load up our belongings in our 1980 AMC Spirit hatchback to head west.
Our impending departure was bittersweet though. As hard as it was for our family to be apart for a year, it was nice for the kids and me to be “home.” I always felt a bit guilty. The separation was harder on Chuck being in a foreign, sometimes-hostile country all alone.
The boys and I lived at my parents’ house—in the basement. My brother Ryan had taken over my former room. But we had a nice cozy space and we enjoyed being with family. It was nice to have my parents to lean on a bit and it was nice for them to get to know their grandsons. It was going to be hard to be so far away from our large and boisterous family once again.
I had also reconnected with some high school girlfriends. Gone were the petty disagreements of teenaged years. We were united in the struggles of being adults, being parents. The night before I was to leave, I had dinner with my two very best girlfriends. We sat and talked for hours and when it was time for me to leave, we clung to each other in a group hug, sobbing at losing what we had. We knew it would never be the same.
When I finally disengaged and cried my way home, I had a hard time sleeping. I almost wished I didn’t have to leave. When the alarm went off the next morning, I awoke with excitement and sadness. And then I looked out the window at the huge snowdrifts against the house. Turning on the TV I learned that the storm was so bad, portions of Highway 61 were covered with impassable snowdrifts. Travel was not recommended.
My trip to California to reunite with Chuck was postponed. It was then I realized that I really did want to make the trip. As much as I loved my dear girlfriends, I missed my soldier and I wanted my family to be together again.
My friends were undaunted by the snow and they shoveled out a vehicle, bundled themselves and their children up, and headed to my house for one more goodbye. I think by that time we had cried ourselves out. This goodbye was not as sad. No, things would never be the same, but we would always be friends. We would always be able to pick up the conversation where we left off, whether it’s been a week, a month, a year, or five years.
The next day the skies had cleared and the Minnesota Department of Transportation had done its job. My sister, my kids and I crowded into that little economy car and headed west—away from the snow!
~ ~ ~
Love is a flower that grows in any soil, works its sweet miracles undaunted by autumn frost or winter snow, blooming fair and fragrant all the year, and blessing those who give and those who receive.
Louisa May Alcott
Published – Cook County News-Herald, May 4, 2013
October 2012 Week One
One More Month in Quetico
October paddling can be some of the best of the year, and for the longest time it seemed I was the only one who knew. Over the past few years I have experienced the best canoe country has to offer in October. On average it is an unpredictable month. It offers splendidly crisp days, devoid of bugs and people. It can also offer cold relentless winds that hint at winter, and interminable periods of rain and snow. The last few have graced me with the former. Unseasonably warm temperatures, clear skies and light winds have dominated most days of travel the past few years, almost so often that I start wishing for clouds, just for a change in lighting. It’s hard to imagine the string of good weather I have had during this notoriously unsettled month. The last two Octobers seem like a blur of unnaturally sun-drenched days, rosy and golden twilights and quiet star speckled nights. These are a collection of perfect memories, some of the best of my life. Rarely are they broken up by dullness. The periods of gray do exist though; they stand out, because of their rarity. They seem worse in retrospect. One cannot probe the interior of a boreal wilderness late in autumn without running into periods of inclement weather. Seemingly I had avoided long stretches of nastiness, until now. Oct 1 It’s the third October in a row I am staring at Gull Lake, theoretically equipped to survive a month of canoe camping in Quetico Provincial Park. Again the parking lot is desolate. The day started calm and clear, as our group of four prepares two MNII’s and seven Duluth packs, clouds and wind move in. Our motley crew consists of Paige May who joined me last year, and Victoria and Elizabeth Doane who will be making their first visit to the Park. As we make our way up the Seagull River and out into the vastness that is Saganaga Lake, I contemplate the next four weeks. Will a group consisting of two sisters and two couples make it out alive? How did we accrue seven packs? Will the weather hold? How long will it take us to reach Atikokan Ontario? After finishing up at the ranger station our progress slows as a North wind picks up. We crawl across Cache Bay. The roar of Silver Falls in the distance is a welcome sound. On our way back from the first trip across we run into another group. We also meet two men near the falls who are camped on Saganagons Lake. Already we have encountered more human life in one day than we did in 30 days last year. Is the secret out on October? Our foursome pushes into a stiff headwind; the dying light of the day keeps us scanning for campsites. We find a nice open site on the south side of Saganagons Lake, right where you start getting the feeling that it’s a bigger lake than you thought. The winds force us towards the back of the site for dinner. As we finish our “extra thick” pork chops the wind dies and the sky clears. My first night back in Quetico is a perfect one.
Oct 2 We rise with the sun and before long the day is warm. As the last drops of coffee drip, we notice a party of six moving Northeast up Saganagons. I really think the secret on October is out. Paddling through the falls chain the third time is not as thrilling as the first. I live vicariously through Tori my paddling partner to keep it interesting. She’s a geologist and you can tell. At almost every portage landing I look up and find her crouched over examining rocks, sometimes down on hands and knees with a hand lens. The falls chain must look different to everybody, but I wonder what it looks like through the eyes of a geologist. As the sun climbs the little wind there is dies and again, I move through this part of Canada under perfect conditions. After the portage around Canyon Falls the idea for a swim is hard to pass up. We decide to make camp on the same site we occupied a year prior on Kenny Lake. A frozen pesto chicken noodle soup is reheated over a cedar fire as the day comes to a close. I anticipate the coming days as they will bring with them new lakes, unexplored territory. Wherever I find myself in Quetico I am happy, but I am happiest when I find myself somewhere new.
Oct 3 Our third morning is a copy of yesterdays. Once more our ensemble enjoys an unusually warm October day. Kennebas Falls provides the first and only portage of the day. A wrecked Bell canoe emerges from a tangle of cedar as we approach, just above the falls. It is a ghost of an awful experience, and we all quietly envision exactly how it met its demise. We glide up Kawnipi under clear skies, in between two worlds. The real one and the one perfectly reflected beneath us. As far as the eye can see there isn’t a breath of wind. We meander to the Northwest, stopping frequently for pictures and fishing. At Rose Island we bear southwest, and begin considering campsites. Three different sites are investigated before we find a nice island spot. Paige and I head back out after camp is set up in search of dinner. On his first cast Paige lands a nice pike, a perfect accompaniment to Szechuan stir fry. As we paddle back to camp in dying light, the sun makes one last appearance. Birch and Aspen still bursting with neon yellow leaves are aflame in amber light. Deep crimson Maples sneak down the hillside before meeting their other worldly brethren mirrored in the waters of Kawnipi. Our cadence slows as the surreal scene engulfs us. Moments like this are ephemeral to the eyes, but permanent to the life of the mind. As the sun melts into the horizon we reach camp. Over dinner we crank the weather radio in time to hear the words “Winter Weather Advisory” before the robot fades into static. Conversation ceases and eyes widen as I search for better reception. Over the course of an hour we are able to piece together our dismal forecast. Heavy winds picking up out of the East, then South then Southwest throughout the next 24 hours, temperatures dropping, and accumulation of snow up to 3”-5”. Standing in a T-shirt the weather robot warns of the dangers of “open areas.” I pull out the map. There are quite a few “open areas” on tomorrow’s route. We decide it wise to get an early start to try and get ahead of the southwest wind, and snow.
Oct 4 Gusts wake us early. Laying in our hammocks it is hard to tell from which way. It’s gray, but surprisingly warm still, and we are happy to see the wind still blowing out of the East. By the time we reach the portage into Keewatin Lake the temperature is considerably cooler. We pass pictographs on our way to the portage into Hurlburt Creek. Unfortunately I do not corroborate the location of said portage on my Fisher map with my Chrismar, and find the Fisher wrong. Wrong enough that we have to back track around a point of land into a headwind. It won’t be the last time I curse the Fisher maps.
The portage from Keewatin into Hurlburt Creek is obviously not traveled very often. We reach the creek and notice the wind has stopped. We move down the creek under slate skies, which although the wind has died still move with speed. The eerie silence lasts only minutes, enough time for me to joke that it’s the wind changing direction, at the same time we are. The joke becomes reality as we reach the shores of Williams Lake and to our horror realize the wind is out of the South, our direction of travel for the rest of the day. Williams and Payne Lakes are small enough that we only occasionally run into headwinds, its Hurlburt Lake that worries us. Hurlburt, four miles long running from Southwest to Northeast appears to be set up for perfectly funneling the gales that must be in excess of 30 mph now. We haven’t seen a campsite since Keewatin, which is five portages back. The Fisher map shows one campsite on Hurlburt, about a mile down on the East side of the lake. It seems our only option. As we scramble over dried creek bed into Hurlburt Lake it starts raining. The northernmost bay of the lake offers some protection, and it actually doesn’t look that bad. Tori and I move out onto the lake first. Quickly we are forced behind an island and the last point before we will be at the mercy of the windstorm. The red dot marking the site on our Fisher seems to glow. It’s our only hope, our only sanctuary for miles, and it’s so close. The time is now and we strike off into the churning mess. It is a quartering head wind, as luck would have it. The waves are manageable, but the gusts threaten to literally blow us over. We lean hard into the wind which must be blasting 50 mph. The far shoreline is reached and we find refuge behind a slight point, before heading back out directly into the wind in search of a home. As we inch along shore we reach and then pass the point where a site should have been. We stare shocked at steep rocky shoreline that climbs 10 feet before flattening into a jumble of downed Spruce and Cedar. There is no site. At the same time we realize what trouble we are in a gale slams into us and stops us dead. For a moment we actually move backwards. We muster strength that must only be allowed by the body for use in times of grave danger, and make it to another point just large enough to block some wind. To any observers (which I guarantee there were not) we must look ridiculous. As we catch our breaths, I feel tiny, insignificant. This storm doesn’t care about us. Hurlburt could eat us alive and nobody would know. The idea to make our own camp is hard to deny, but we need an actual site that we can hole up at for a couple days, considering the forecast. I spend the next hour and three miles in a state of disconnection. I go to my happy place, trying not to think about the distance. Muscles and minds are pushed to their limits. Just one more mile, just one more bend, just one more point, finally just one more stroke. It’s hard to believe it even possible to paddle that hard for that long, but we had no choice. The portage into Trant Lake offers a welcome break.
Rain changes to heavy sleet as we hunt for a decent spot to stop. To the dismay of the group the first site is deemed unworthy. It is too exposed. I think we are all at the point of mental and physical collapse when we reach the next site on the map. Happily, we find it fits our needs perfectly. Plenty of wood, and a large flat area well protected from, well, everything at this point. Rain flies, tents and firewood are first orders of business, second, a healthy allotment of rum. As darkness and a winter storm settle in around us we dry out around the fire. Dinner is homemade chili, and lots of it. As the wind and snow persists, it becomes obvious we won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Considering it was one of the most taxing days in a canoe, it feels exhilarating to be set up in the heart of Quetico warm and dry, ready to withstand an intense fall snowstorm.
Oct 5 Knowing we would be spending the day in camp I linger in my sleeping bag, listening. Just beyond the thin nylon protection of my tent is a cold gray world. Finally we all make our way to the fire where we would spend the day, reading, drinking tea, and napping. Most of the snow must have hit south of us, as we only received an inch or so overnight. The winds tapered a bit in the afternoon, and by dark it was calm, a couple of stars even popped out for a second. As we settle into our coldest night yet, Kahshahpiwi Lake and beyond was on our minds. Now that we’ve got this winter storm behind us it should be smooth sailing, right?
Oct 6 Another steely cold day greets us as we emerge from our tents. At least it’s calm. By mid-morning we are cruising towards our first portage. After spending a day weather bound we are looking forward to covering some ground. We eye the 1200 meter portage between Trant and Kahshahpiwi, knowing not the toll it will exact on us.
Packs are hefted and by 11am we are moving. After 300 meters the portage veers into a swampy section. Plenty of foot prints encourage us to press on. The trail grows even fainter as it climbs back onto solid rock, and then drops back onto a field of muck and tamarack. It now seems we are following a single set of boot prints. The muck field opens up into what looks like a drained beaver pond, holding 6 inches of black sludge. Loading a canoe on the edge of such a mess looks almost as impossible as paddling on it, so we stay on what footing we have. As we approach a wall of ostensibly impenetrable downed tamarack, the boot prints vanish, and our minds race. This cannot possibly be the portage trail. We drop packs and back track, in search of a better way. The entire swamp is surrounded by steep cliffs, leading us to believe we didn’t miss the real portage. We conclude that the quagmire must usually hold enough water to paddle. Obviously it doesn’t now, so we’ll make our own portage. After returning for boats we pull out our Sven saws and begin clearing a path through the tangled mess. Attempting to maneuver yourself and a saw through a thick stand of eyeball impaling Tamarack is dreadful. Waist high downed Spruce threatens to pierce a femoral artery, and the layer of fetid muck tries to steal our boots. Sweat pours from our brows, and obscenities pour from our gaping mouths. Again we have no alternative but to press on. At last we reach solid ground, a broken beaver dam, and the portage; somehow none of us have been perforated. Our new bush portage does the trick as we head back to gather packs and canoes. Thinking our troubles must be behind us we move quickly down the portage, reach Kahshahpiwi and realize they are not. Once more low water levels haunt us. The landing is a bone dry, the creek barely a trickle and choked with the devious work of beavers. Water is visible 100 meters up the shoreline, we head towards it. Soon we are bobbing atop an open expanse of bog. Each step is a gamble. As I hopscotch across floating islands of dirt and grass I hear the shrieks and curses of lost gambles behind me. Three hours after we started, at last we reach the shores of Kahshahpiwi.
With the day half gone, we start paddling. A light Northwest wind does little to impede our progress up Kahshahpiwi and Keefer. After hauling into Sark Lake the shadows grow long and we decide it wise to stop. A nice island site is procured, and while splitting firewood the days clouds make their way East just in time for sunset. Tacos with fresh guacamole go a long way in boosting spirits after another long and arduous day. Clear skies give way to temperatures in low 20’s and we sleep hard.
Oct 7 It is gray and calm as we load canoes and anticipate advancing farther into the core of Quetico. The pleasurable days of sun and color are gone. Vibrant trees of yellow and red have been stripped of their pigment by the gales of yesterday’s storm. They now stand as ghosts of fall, portents of winter. Our progress is swift up Sark and Cairn Lakes. We slice through glass calm waters with considerable ease. At the north end of Cairn we veer west, and carry over into Heronshaw. Our eyes stare skyward as the blanket of dull breaks up, and the winds increase. During our short paddle to the portage into Metacryst Lake the winds pick up even further. On closer inspection the waters of Metacryst are quite unsettled. Belligerent little whitecaps are whipping up in a hurry, with noticeable ambitions for a bulkier existence. We make haste and struggle to get started into the headwind. Our arms are still recovering from battle with Hurlburt two days prior, so it is fortunate we only toil a mile. We portage into an unnamed lake and portage again into Baird Lake before lingering for lunch. Cheese and jerky help us in our continued struggle to the west. Everyone is frustrated with the incessant winds. Whichever direction we turn our canoes, the winds turn with us. After a week of travel I joke with confidence that we can navigate without maps, simply paddle into the wind and we’ll make it Atikokan eventually. The portage out of Baird into Cutty creek is slightly better than bushwhacking. Thick balsam stands reach out to seize every strap, buckle and fold on our packs. Piloting canoes through such a labyrinth of sharp twists proves maddening. As soon as we consider the possibility were on the wrong path, we discover the creek. It’s a perfect creek. This late in the year we are leery of creeks and their record of low water, but Cutty creek is plenty full. A dense thicket of still yellow Tamaracks crowd the creek, protecting us from bothersome winds, and provide an enchanted scene. As we creep along my mind wanders.
I love mysterious dark forests, they conjure fantastical images. Somewhere in that shadowy abyss lies a tiny cottage, enveloped in mats of dangling mosses and moisture. A crooked chimney aims a wisp of curling smoke towards the tree tops. Behind a round golden window hangs a flickering lantern. Inside, the air is heavy with aroma. Warm vestiges of cedar and spruce dominate the senses, inducing heavy eyes, a want for the overstuffed easy chair next to the wood stove, and a steaming cup of tea. A cold slap of wind jars my mind back to reality. Our crew exits the protection of Cutty and plods once more into our foe.
Eag Lake fortunately turns us to the north, and easier paddling. A lack of campsites and rugged portages suggest this route is rarely travelled. We have intelligence that advocates for setting up on a nice site on Camel Lake. It puts our minds at ease knowing a site exists, since we have been deceived in the most infuriating way two days prior. The remaining portion of Cutty Creek is again captivating. Around every bend we flush dozens of waterfowl. Mergansers, mallards, and the occasional Canadian goose flee as we approach. The advice we received on the Camel campsite was correct, as we find it more than adequate. It is a nice flat point facing west nestled amongst old growth white pines, some of the largest we have seen yet. Plenty of cedar is secured and we dine on fresh pesto and biscuits. The weather robot predicts rain, so we pitch tents. As the silence of the night fills me with calm I return to my cabin in the hollow, and fall asleep next to the fire.
Okay, I have to admit that before I started working on the Stone Harbor web site, I had never heard of steelhead, so the guys at the store schooled me on these beautiful silver bullets. What follows are the basics I’ve gleaned so far. (By the way, if you are already an avid steelhead fisher, you might want to skip today’s blog. For those of you who are new to steelhead fishing, read on.)
Believe it or not, Lake Superior’s steelhead are not native to the area. Back in 1885, the U.S. Fish Commission (now the National Marine Fisheries Service) brought steelhead here from the McCloud River in California. Lake Superior turned out to be a nice fit for the transported fish but the surrounding tributaries were not all so accommodating–of the 60 North Shore rivers and streams available for steelhead migration, only about 20 of them can support a significant steelhead run.
While steelhead are sometimes called steelhead trout, they are actually in the salmon family. Like their salmon cousins, these fish are anadromous. Ana what? For the non-Latin scholars among us, anadromous means they return to their original hatching ground to spawn. And continuing with the Latin lesson: steelhead are also iteroparous, which means they can spawn several times (their Pacific salmon kinfolk can only spawn once).
And this spawning is what gets folks along the North Shore so excited this time of year. The steelhead run is the time when the fish are running up the river to spawn. It occurs when the streams reach temperatures in the 40′s. Usually that happens in April but with the late spring this year, the temperatures are just now hitting their mark.
Because the steelhead are heading up the river to spawn, they may only be caught on a catch and release basis. And if you plan on fishing for them, be sure to have a trout stamp and use only single hooks.
Now that we’re talking about fishing, what is so special about fishing for steelhead? It turns out these little guys are fantastic fighters. They are quite acrobatic once they are hooked, running upstream and downstream, just to get away. Fishing for them requires a few tricks, from the rods to the lures to the “chuck & duck” fly fishing technique. And those tricks are best taught in person, so if you want to learn more, check out our Fly Fishing Tours.
5/9/13 - Big progress! Today's Sawbill Lake ice report: 14".
Here is note from Sawbill Poet Laureate, Ed Dallas, who lives in north central Minnesota:
Just to let you folks know there is light at the end of the tunnel as the ice on our little lake went out yesterday and I will be canoeing this afternoon careful to not be run over by all the ducks and loons. Now if by chance Sawbill Lake still has plenty of "hard water" to make the opener a little difficult then this haiku might be newsletter material.
the old dare devil skips
across the bay
Have a good one,
The wind is coming up today. That will help. It did not freeze last night. That’s another plus. We had some rain showers yesterday and drizzling today. It all works to soften the ice. Once things start to move, the ice can go out very quickly.
Animals are starting to move around more. Some guests saw the first bear of the season up near the end of the Trail. Some other guests saw a moose cow and what appeared to be a very young calf – probably this spring’s young. At any rate Mama was keep close track of it. In spite of the resident lynx at the lodge, I saw three snowshoe hares while driving out the side road last night. The deer are around but look very thin. Some grass should start to green up soon and that will help. I think the fawns will be very small this year. Warm sunshine after they are born would go a long way toward keeping them healthy.
Last night around 7:30 we had an interesting combination of temperatures on the lake. The ice was cold, the air was warm and a little rain was coming down. The result was a mist rising off the ice. I stood and watched as the mist went right along the north shore of the lake toward the east. You could actually see it moving along. Then it spread over most of the lake for a short time. It was a little eerie to watch.
Most of the snow is gone from the woods. The waters are filling up the creeks, rivers and swamps. This in turn is flowing into the lakes. I can see the level of Gunflint coming up. My gauge is the northeast corner of the main dock. Two logs and the flat board are still out of water. It is going up every day just a little. Bruce thinks the entire dock will be covered with water. We will see.
We spent Monday night and Tuesday in Duluth with Don and Marilyn. Upper Lakes Foods who sells us most of our food was having a show of most of their venders. Tasting in the evening was extensive but easy since most of the food fit into the appetizer or light meal category. It was Tuesday morning that got to your stomach. We have to taste to learn anything but at 9:00 a.m. you can go from apple pie to garlic sausage to steak. My stomach is not really comfortable with the random mixture of food and the timing of the meal. At any rate, we all survived and found a few things to add to our menu.
Saturday is the opening of the walleye season. With a little luck a couple of the small lakes will be open but don’t expect to hear of anyone getting a boat load of fish.
So, we’re all pretty sure that spring has arrived, including the songbirds, tulips, grass and waterfalls.
And the crocuses are blooming in town.
All this is to say that yard work, hikes and just being outdoors is pretty much what everyone is doing this weekend.
There is some great music –the Pete K Group returns to the Gunflint Tavern on Friday and Saturday nights and the Portage band plays at the American Legion on Friday night, so that can be added to your schedule. And, the Spring Band Concert is set for 7 p.m. Monday night in the High School gym with both the Middle School and High School Bands.
The fishing opener is this weekend — it will probably be a pretty icy one, although the warm weather is reportedly melting the lakes in record time. And Mother’s Day is Sunday, too.
Here in Grand Marais, “Ellie the Elephant and the Silly Shades Brigade,” a play written for pre-school-age children through the age of 3 (but adults welcome) will be presented by the Duluth Playhouse at the Grand Marais Public Library at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
Nine days later, on Monday, May 20, Sarah Stonich, author of “These Granite Islands,” “The Ice Chorus,” the memoir “Shelter” and newly released “Vacationland,” will speak at the public library at 3 p.m.
To get a preview and hear an interview with Stonich, tune into The Roadhouse on WTIP Radio this Friday night, May 10. The Roadhouse airs from 5-7 p.m.
Also this weekend, the Gunflint Green Up, which had to be rescheduled because of the snow, will be held. Meet at Chik-Wauk Nature Center, 28 Moose Pond Drive, about 37 miles up the Gunflint Trail, at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The work will center around clean-up from winter, prepping trails and whatever work the weather allows. Everyone invited. Call Gunflint Lodge at 218-388-6932 for more information.
Graduating seniors Adrianna Berglund, Cailin Carpenter, Brenna Hay, Sarah Larsen, Mara MacDonell, Jordyn Kirk and Michaela Peterson were given the “Commitment to Excellence in Theater Arts Award.” for their enthusiasm, hard work and dedication to the theater.
The Grand Marais Art Colony will have a table at the Grain Belt Bottling House during the Art-A-Whirl in Minneapolis next weekend, May 17-19.
Also, the Art Colony’s director, Amy Demmer, joins Greg Wright, director of North House Folk School, Jan Sivertson, owner of Sivertson Gallery and Jay Andersen of WTIP Radio, in a discussion on how the arts impact our community.The panel discussion will be held at Cook County Higher Education from 4-6 p.m. Monday, May 13.
Entitled “More Than Pretty: The Economics of Cook County’s Arts and Crafts,” the panel will discuss what arts and crafts mean in Cook County and would they could mean if the community united behind a program to grow and sustain them further.
Everyone invited. Refreshments will be served.
There’s still time to enroll in Laurie Toth’s “Soft Pastel Painting” at the Art Colony. The class runs from May 17-19. For information about this class and others, click here.
There’s also just enough time to register for the Woodland Chamber Music Workshop at Surfside Resort June 25-30. The deadline to register is May 15. For more info, click here.
The Arrowhead Regional Arts Council will announce its 2014/15 Biennial Plan on Thursday, May 16 at 6 p.m. at the ARAC headquarters in Duluth, 1301 Rice Lake Road, Suite 120.
ARAC executive director, Bob DeArmond, will present an overview of changes to the council programming and grant programs, which will become effective July 1. This will include new and ongoing grants, grant deadlines and grant maximums/match requirements. The plan will be posted on ARAC’s Website when completed. To see a copy of the plan online, visit www.aracouncil.org after May 16.
For music this weekend:
Thursday, May 9:
Eric Frost, Bill Hansen, Jessa Wellendal Frost play the Gunflint Tavern, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, May 10:
- Portage Band, American Legion, 6 p.m.
- Pete K Group, Gunflint Tavern, 9 p.m.
Saturday, May 11:
- Pete K Group, Gunflint Tavern, 9 p.m.
Sunday, May 12:
- Diet Folk Duo, Gunflint Tavern, 8 p.m.
Monday, May 13:
- Spring Band Concert, Middle School and High School Bands, ISD 166, 7 p.m.
There are lots of photographs this week. We’ll start out with some waterfall shots, which are so fun to look at this time of year.
Here’s one by Ann Possis.
About a week before, Travis Novitsky (www.travisnovitsky.com) caught this at the High Falls on the Pigeon River after our May snow storm.
Tom J. Spence caught this shot of the Cross River Falls.
Bryan Hansel (www.bryanhansel.com) took the long view of the falls on the Cascade River.
This one is by Nace Hagemann (www.nacehagemannphotography.smugmug.com).
Calmness prevailed on Lake Superior.
Stephan Hoglund (www.stephanhoglundphotography.com) took this shot.
A little later in the day, Sarah Reller caught this.
And Nace Hagemann took this sunset shot up the Gunflint Trail.
Wildlife photos came across our desk this week, too.
Here’s a Dennis Chick, taken at his cabin on Hungry Jack Lake during one of our ice storms. Even martens struggled with the slick coatings.
Sparky Stensaas ((www.thephotonaturalist.com) aimed his camera at the water this week and came up with this incredible portrait of a Horned Grebe.
And Layne Kennedy (www.laynekennedy.com) shot this inspiring oak tree in the Twin Cities. He added the quote:
“If you listen carefully, you can hear your vision speaking. It’s good to stop and hear what it has to say.”
Andrew Beavers, on the other hand, decided to get right to making art in the woods.
And last, but not least, here’s an homage to Mother’s Day. This goose just plain refused to give up and get off her nest. This photo was taken in southern Minnesota.
Happy Mother’s Day. everyone! And have a great weekend.
P.S. Here’s proof of spring. Check out this video that Bill Hansen made on the Sawbill Trail. it’s captioned “Two Lynx Have A Conversation Near Sawbill Lake.” It’s gone viral. Here’s the link.
5/8/13 - Sorry for the slow post. I was out of town yesterday. May 8th Sawbill Lake ice report: 19". - Bill
To answer the question on everyone's mind, yes we still have ice on Round Lake. However, spring is happening in fast forward all along the Gunflint so we are getting closer! Last weekend was pretty chilly again. Nights were below freezing and grey skies shed a wintery mix on us during the day. It felt like we spring had stalled for a while there.
We opened our gates for the outfitting season on May 1st, technically speaking, even though it didn't feel like summer yet. We have been juggling jobs based on what the weather is doing. We are trying to get some raking in. It is a little strange to be raking around the slow melting snow plow piles but at least we are outside. We are doing some spring cleaning inside as well and getting the suburbans tuned up. Summer staff is starting to arrive which gets everyone excited. With more hands around, we started to pull out the Kevlar canoes from winter storage. A sure sign of spring if ever there was one!
Taking the Kevlar canoes out of dining hall
Shuffling the canoes from the dining hall to the canoe yard
We drove up to the End of Trail campground to check things out on Sunday afternoon. The creeks and ditches along the side of the road which were full and overflowing two weeks before have slowed down some to a more normal spring level. The smaller beaver pond ice is starting to turn black and break up into chunks which is a good sign. The rapids into Gull Lake were flowing fast and strong. Seagull Lake and Saganaga Lake are still frozen but there are some good sized holes and fissures showing up. It is definitely at the point where it is a little sketchy to be walking on it.
Gull Lake rapids
On Monday, the staff couldn't resist the urge to paddle on Cross River just down the drive way. We put in along side the road right above the rapids and paddled towards the portage toward Ham Lake. The portage was still covered in a layer of snow so we didn't get to far, but at least it was a paddle! The Cross River dock is still surrounded by ice flows, but the waterfowl are enjoying the open parts.
Paddling on Cross River
Skirting the edges of the ice
Just making sure you can't paddle through the ice...
Cross River rapids by Round Lake Road
Yesterday we ran to Duluth to get some summer supplies. All the small rivers were flowing fast and rock cuts along the road were covered in ephemeral water falls. We couldn't resist a stop at Gooseberry State Park to take a look at the falls! Along the way back we spotted 137 deer, 3 fox, 1 bobcat and a wolf all on the side of the road! For those of you planning on traveling up Highway 61, please be careful!
Gooseberry State ParkThis week has been warm, sunny and just beautiful! We still can't tell you for certain when the ice will be out. The larger lakes like Saganaga will take longer than Round Lake to clear. We are still thinking we will have ice for fishing opener on May 11th. The following week we have high hopes for however! For those of you with early trips, keep checking in. Don't worry, when the ice goes out, we will be posting on everything from the blog to Facebook. We are just as impatient and excited as all of you! Rachel
Round Lake this morning
Round Lake this morning
5/7/13 - Today's Sawbill Lake ice report: 23" of ice. The Sawbill Lake Ice Technicians had to hop across open water on the end of the dock to make their measurement. The ice hasn't "floated up" yet, but that will probably happen today. Some of the smaller ponds along the road will probably lose their ice today. The local rivers are all ice free now.
The lynx video below has gone modestly viral on YouTube. It's the most viewed and most emailed entry on the Duluth News Tribune website and was linked to on Facebook this morning by Minnesota Public Radio's popular Morning Edition host, Cathy Wurzer. What fun! - Bill
Emily is eager to meet Cook County residents! For starters, she will be organizing several tours of the new facility for the public. Please join the Boards and Staff of Cook County, the City of Grand Marais and ISD166 for the first of these tours on Friday, May 10, at 8:30 AM. Meet at the Eagle Doors of ISD166. If you can't make it this week, no worries, there will be more tours as the project evolves!
Please join me in welcoming Emily Marshall to Cook County. Please join me in wishing her every success in her new position! I know she's going to do a great job!