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4/17/28 - 28" is today's Sawbill Lake ice measurement.

Sawbill Newsletter - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 1:12pm

4/17/28 - 28" is today's Sawbill Lake ice measurement. I don't think we've lost any ice overnight. The bottom of the ice sheet undulates, so you can get several inches of variation depending on the where you drill the hole. - Bill

4" of new snow overnight. Spring seems far away today, but things change fast at this time of year.

Phoebe, Chief of Outfitter Security, is an enthusiastic helper in the daily ice thickness test.

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Focus on the cross*

Unorganized Territory - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 12:00pm

It is not very often that Unorganized Territory takes a religious tone. It is not often that I feel driven to talk about my faith. I am kind of a quiet Christian.

I don’t feel that I have the knowledge or expertise to offer a homily. I leave that to the “professionals”— the wonderful cadre of ministerium members who offer insight and inspiration to News-Herald readers each week in our Spiritual Reflections.

It has been a pleasure getting to know the shepherds of our community churches as they take their turn at the “church column.” Every month we see a new face on the column and hear a new voice. Every month I’m inspired by the different interpretations offered of that old, old story.

So I am content to read the spiritual reflections and write about other things, such as politics—local or national, family—kids or grandkids, wildlife—deer or rabbits or some other topic. I tend to keep my thoughts about God to myself.

But occasionally I question whether I should be a quiet Christian or if I should use this bully pulpit to share the peace and strength I gain from prayer and faith in God. I thought about weighing in with my opinion on God and heaven and the afterlife during the spate of atheist versus Christian letters last year, but I didn’t.

However, taking part in the Community Good Friday Cross Walk last week brought the question to mind again.

The Cross Walk is a wonderful tradition. I love that friends and neighbors from nearly all of our North Shore churches take part. It’s amazing that participants come from a variety of faiths, ages, and circumstances to walk together from church to church, offering prayers for each congregation. I am so thankful that on this one day, our community sets aside its political and religious differences and walks together as one.

Unfortunately, I don’t participate in the Cross Walk as a quiet Christian, walking thoughtfully, meditating on the meaning of following the cross.

No, I’m dashing ahead to get a picture of the cross bearer coming down the hill. I’m scrambling onto retaining walls or landscape rocks to get a better angle for a photo. I’m standing off to the side snapping pictures during the prayers. So I’m perhaps not paying as much attention to the sacred words as I should.

But somehow God used the event to get through to me anyway. As I balance atop a pile of rocks to get the best angle, I struggle with finding the focal point for the picture. I want to capture the essence of the event. I hold the shutter halfway down in preparation of taking the perfect photo. I slowly scan the crowd looking for the front of the procession. As I press the shutter, I think to myself, “Focus on the cross.”

Focus on the cross…

Community members take turns leading the procession, carrying the heavy cross through the streets of Grand Marais.

I think of the first Good Friday, of Jesus, beaten and bloody, carrying the cross through the streets of Jerusalem. What would my role be, if I were there at that first Good Friday?

Would I be there as a member of the press? Recording the torment of the innocent man judged guilty by the mob? Documenting the action on papyrus for the weekly news?

Would I be a member of the mob, swept up in the madness that released Barabas and called for the crucifixion of an innocent man?

Would I feel empathy for Christ’s struggle? Would I help carry the cross? Would I offer a sip of water? Would I follow the carpenter, the teacher, the Prince of Peace?

I’m fortunate that I didn’t have to make that decision. But I can make the decision that I will speak up and let people know that I am a follower of Christ. I won’t do it every week. I’ll leave the spiritual reflections to the professionals.

But I will try to focus on the cross.

+   +   +   +   +   +   +

This is my commandment, that ye
love one another.

Jesus, John 15:12

 * This column was first published in the Cook County News-Herald on April 30, 2011.
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Up Next, National Parks Week

Boundary Waters Blog - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 9:07am

Do you have plans to visit a National Park this year for National Parks Week? This weekend there will be free admission to the National Parks and many activities are planned for the week.  I’m not sure of my plans but I do hope to at least get outside and “Go Wild!” as suggested by this year’s slogan.

With 401 units of the National Park System, how do you decide what to do during National Park Week? The folks at the National Park Service and National Park Foundation have some suggestions for you.

This year’s theme, “National Park Week: Go Wild!”, invites visitors to celebrate all that America’s 401 national parks have to offer. With free admission to all parks on April 19 and 20, and exciting activities and programs scheduled throughout the week, National Park Week is the perfect time to discover the diverse wildlife, iconic landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history found in America’s national parks.

How many of the National Parks have you visited? Check out this neat map and see for yourself. I’m thinking if this new snow we got last night sticks around for the weekend as wild as I get might be making my own bucket list of parks I want to visit.  If I’m really bored then maybe I will figure out which Parks I’ve been too and then develop criteria to describe what “visit” means. Does a picture at the entrance qualify? A souvenir from a store? A photo from the distance? Or do I need to spend a minimum of ten minutes there? Hike a trail? Stay overnight or maybe collect feces from a species? OK, that last one was a little gross and I don’t think the parks want you removing anything from them so we’ll strike that.

In any case, I hope you get out, go wild and explore one of the 401 National Parks this weekend.


Here’s a few I’ve visited off the top of my head, how about you?

  • Bryce National Canyon
  • Badlands
  • Carlsbad Caverns
  • Hot Springs
  • Devil’s Tower
  • Yellowstone
  • Grand Canyon
  • Wind Cave
  • Zion
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Ice-Out! Music & the Easter Bunny

North Shore Art Scene - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 10:51pm

Bob King of the Duluth News-Tribune timed it perfectly — he arrived at Gooseberry Falls just before ice-out and took an incredible video and photos. For the link, see below.

Rivers are opening up all over the North Shore and some, like Duluth News-Tribune photographer, Andrew Krueger, caught the magic moments. Here’s a link to a video he took of the ice-out, which has gone viral.  See our photo section at the end for more images of early spring rivers.

There are some fun events scheduled for this weekend, too.

Prudence Johnson

Twin Cities jazz singer Prudence Johnson will be a guest performer at Michael Monroe’s Log Cabin Concert on Saturday night. She will perform with Jane Aleckson of Big Top Chatauqua. Monroe will perform a short set during the show. The reception is at 7 p.m., the music starts at 8 p.m. For reservations, call 387-2919.

Also this weekend, the 5th annual Easter Egg Fundaiser for KIDS Plus will be held at the Cook County Community Center from 9 a.m. to noon. Bruce Johnson will be available to take photos with the Easter Bunny.The Easter Egg Hunt will be at 10 a.m. Cost is $5 per child, $10 per family. Other games and activities are planned, and refreshments will be served. One perk this year… there will be two raffles for $400+ each in gifts and certificates. Tickets are $3 and can be purchased the event as well as Buck’s Hardware and the Cook County Extension office. All proceeds will go toward youth programs in the county. The public is invited. Because of good snow cover, Lutsen Mountains is open for skiing and snowboarding this weekend. On Easter Sunday, there will be a Sunrise Service on Moose Mountain followed by an Easter Egg Hunt.  The public is invited. (Gondola tickets must be purchased.)

“A Separate Reality,” intaglio print by George Raab.

In Thunder Bay, George Raab, an internationally known printmaker, will open at exhibit at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery on April 19. Entitled “Into the Woods: Etchings by George Raab,” the exhibit features his intaglio prints inspired by his photographs. He will give an artist talk at 7:30 p.m.(EST) April 24. The exhibit is open through June. 15.

In other art news, Sivertson Gallery will be releasing giclee prints of Howard Sivertson paintings that haven’t been seen for years. The gallery has already released a number of giclee prints of  paintings by David Gilsvik and Liz Sivertson. Mark Tessier is putting a catalog together of the new prints. The Seniors at Cook County High School took at trip to the Guthrie Theatre in the Twin Cities recently to watch Shakespeare’s “Othello.” The Grand Marais Art Colony has just released its catalog for spring, summer and fall classes and workshops. For more information, call 387-2737. Greg Wright and North House Folk School will be featured on WDSE’s The Playlist on Thursday, April 17. The Playlist airs at 9 p.m.

Great Gifts of Lutsen is featuring a wide variety of cards crafted by local and regional artists include Terri Nelson deNatale, Earl Orf, John Peyton, Betsy Bowen, Kelly Dupre, Kristin Accola, Jane Richards and  Jackie Kotlarek.

“Point Lobos–China Point” by Sandi Pillsbury-Gredzens.

Sandi Pillsbury Gredzens has had a painting accepted in the Laguna Plein Air Painters annual show in Newport Beach, Calif. The show opens April 26.

And speaking of April 26, Peter Yarrow’s concert at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts next Saturday night has almost sold out. To get your tickets, click here.

Here’s the music scheduled for this week:

Thursday, April 17:

  • Local’s Night, Cascade Lodge Pub, 7 p.m.
  • Gordon Thorne, Gunflint Tavern, 7:30 p.m.
  • Bump Blomberg, Lutsen Resort, 8 p.m.

Friday, April 18:

Gone Already, Gunflint Tavern, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 19:

  • Maria Nickolay, Lusten Resort, 7 p.m.
  • Michael Monroe’s Log Cabin Concert with special guests Prudence Johnson &  Jane Aleckson, 7 p.m. Reservations: 387-2919.
  • Gone Already, Gunflint Tavern, 8:30 p.m.
  • Wayne Renn, Grand Portage Lodge & Casino, 8:30 p.m.

Sunday, April 20:

Joe & Jessie, Gunflint Tavern, 7 p.m.

Lots of cool photos this week.

Let’s start with an awesome photo taken by Don Davison during the recent school trip to the Guthrie.

CCHS student Steve Borud gazes out at the city from the Guthrie.  Photo by Don Davison.

Ice-out was definitely on everyone’s mind this week — but the cold weather held that dramatic event at bay for some of the North Shore rivers. Nevertheless, we found some beautiful photos..

Travis Novitsky took this shot of the High Falls on the Pigeon River, which are just beginning to open.

Photo by Travis Novitsky.


took this shot of the Temperance River … also just opening up when he was there.

Photo by Thomas Spence.


And then there’s this:

Richard Hoeg caught this incredible shot of a paddler shooting The Deeps earlier this week.

Lake Superior still has plenty of ice, however. David Johnson was out shooting some of it.

Photo by David Johnson.


And Jessica Barr caught this gorgeous iceberg the other day.

Photo by Jessica Barr.


Jamie Rabold and friends were out lighting up the Lester River this week and took this award-winning photo.

Photo by Jamie Rabold.


But another kind of light took the headlines  this week — the full eclipse of the moon.

Here are some of the images we found:

Two of our favorite photographers decided to sequence their images.

First up is Layne Kennedy‘s dramatic collage.

Photo by Lane Kennedy.

And here’s Bryan Hansel‘s take — a longer sequence of moon changes.

Photo by Bryan Hansel.


And here’s one of the most popular images we found. It’s by Judi Barsness… Blood Moon over Lake Superior.

Photo by Judi Barsness.


Happy Easter, everyone! Have a good weekend.










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Voyageur Trading Post

Boundary Waters Blog - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 8:34pm

I can check one thing off of my “To Do List.” I have purchased all of the clothing I need for the upcoming season and then some probably.  I’ve brought back some of last year’s favorites and added some new ones too.  It’s always a crap shoot to try to figure out what people will buy each year. If it’s cold we sell more sweatshirts, if it’s hot then more t-shirts. Even though neon colors may be “in” other places I don’t think I would sell much of it at the end of the Gunflint Trail.

I have also purchased almost all of my hats for the store too. One more style to get ordered and I’ll be able to check another thing off of my list.

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4.16.14 Ski season ends — see you next winter!

Bearskin Lodge Ski Trail Reports - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 7:48pm

Thanks for another great ski season.  Yes, the winter temperatures could have been a little warmer this year, but the excellent snow conditions made up for the cold days.

We do, alas, still have lots of snow, but we groomed for the last time on April 5.  We’re in “waiting for spring” mode,  as the snow gradually melts and makes a watery, icy mess of our world.  Road access is erratic at the moment, so if you plan to visit us in April, call first.  The downside of having great snow is that it is very slow to disappear.

Use this web site to plan for next year’s ski season.  Our trails stay the same each year.  We can never predict when we will first start to groom, but many years we start grooming in November.  See you next winter!


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4/16/14 - Here is the sweetest essay from Matthew Campbell about a canoe trip he took last summer with his brother, Sawbill crew member Tyler Campbell.

Sawbill Newsletter - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 1:58pm

4/16/14 - Here is the sweetest essay from Matthew Campbell about a canoe trip he took last summer with his brother, Sawbill crew member Tyler Campbell.

Last summer i went on a three day trip into the boundary waters with my brother Tyler. My brother works at a campground in Tofte Minnesota, the campground is named Sawbill. Sawbill is a wonderful place that my family has been enjoying for many years. We make sure we go at least once a summer. My brother has been going to Sawbill since he was a very little child, all of my siblings have. This is a magical place. Its a getaway spot for my family that relaxes the mind,soul and body. Its a place for family and fun and getting away from the stresses of daily life. It is a place to get in touch with nature and it really makes me think about my life. It is a place with many memories.

Like i said i went on a three day trip into the boundary waters with Tyler. When we first planned this trip my other brother, Ben, was supposed to come with us but he was unable to make it because he had hockey. Just before we had finished packing Tyler and I decided we were going the take the Kawasachong river up past Malberg down River lake to see some pictographs. We also decided not to stay on one lake the whole time but instead pick a new site each night. It was set to be a great adventure.

We started our voyage on Lake Kawishiwi, a twenty minute drive from Sawbill Lake. It was a cloudy overcast day with a chance of rain, but nothing could get in the way of having a great trip with my brother. We paddled hard for hours through rain, fog, and a tiny bit of sun. When we finally got to Lake Phoebe where we were planning to stay. We went all around Lake Phoebe checking out all of the sites hoping to find an open one, but to no avail. We had to paddle a little bit farther to Lake Polly where we settled in for the night. My rain jacket had kept my arms and torso dry but i forgot my rain pants so my legs were soaked to the bone, i felt 20 pounds heavier because of all the rainwater.

The campsite we found sat on a gently sloping hill with a gigantic rock at the base that extended far into the water it looked like it went on forever reaching into the deepest depths of the water and acted as a landing of sorts for canoes to load and unload. About fifteen yards from the rock was a tiny island with a small pine tree and two baby poplars. It was more of a rock than an island. The space in between the rock and the the island would have been perfect for fishing if the weather had permitted it. The hill the site was on had two natural banks in it. On the lower bank there was a small fire box, about the size of a shoebox surrounded by furniture made of logs and big rocks. The upper was a perfect spot to hang our tarp and set up the "kitchen". To the left of the lower bank was a small, circular area, shaded by a multitude of trees, for our yellow , three man, Eureka tent. After unpacking our green Duluth Packs the first thing we did was put up the tarp. Next we set up the tent and by then it was time for dinner. We scarfed down a dinner of Hamburger Helper and hot chocolate as fast as possible because we had not eaten anything but trailmix that whole day. I think its amazing how food seems to taste better when you are so hungry you could eat a horse. After washing the dishes Tyler hung the pack so the bear wouldn't get it while i brushed my team and made sure nothing was left out in the rain.

I hopped into the tent and whipped off my soaked clothes and put them at the base of my camp mattress so i could stuff it to the bottom of my Sealpack in the morning. Tyler climbed in through the other side and did the same. We each grabbed our books, I was reading The Hobbit and he was reading Walden. After maybe ten minutes of quiet reading I heard a shuffling a little ways from the tent followed by a low grunt. I wasn't sure if something had actually grunted or if i was hearing things so I didn’t say anything to Tyler and I continued to read. About a minute later i heard the same shuffling and grunting, this time i put my book down and listened to the silence of the night straining to hear the sound again but I couldn’t and just to clarify that i wasn't losing my mind i turned to Tyler and asked in a hushed tone "Did you hear that?" he set Walden down and replied "Hear what?" He had just confirmed that i was in fact going crazy. I said "Nothing...nevermind." Two minutes after that i heard it again but Tyler had confirmed that i was paranoid so i ignored it. This time Tyler put his book down and whispered "Matthew!" He had surprised me with his sudden shout of a whisper and i jumped and whipped my head to him and replied in the same tone "What?" "Did you hear that?" He craned his neck to listen for it "That grunt?" he turned to me and smiled. He said "Matthew, I think we have a bear in our campsite." Before your trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) you must watch a video that tells you the basics of what you must do, in the video there is a circumstance where a bear enters a site and the two campers bang their pots together to scare off the black beast, but we didn't have anything to clang together. I wish i could have seen how wide my eyes were when I looked at my brother and asked whispered "what do we do??" my reaction only made him smile wider and chuckle to himself. My eyes widened not because i was scared but because I was excited. Adrenaline coursed through my veins and I got really pumped because its not everyday that you get to be this close to a bear. He thought for a second and said "while we need to make noise to scare him away I’ll read from my book." I set The Hobbit down and fell asleep listening to my brother read a very lengthy description of a pond to a bear.

I woke up the second day to the pitter patter of rain over my head. I sat still listening to the ratta tat tat of rain on my tent as a waited for Tyler to wake up and watched the drops of water streak down the rain fly, when i watch then i like to think are racing. Tyler woke up and we got dressed trying to delay getting wet for as long as possible but it was inevitable. We rushed to take down the food pack and prepare a breakfast of instant oatmeal and hot chocolate. "Well are we going to pack up and move on or just day trip to the pictographs?" I asked even though I already knew the answer "We can pack up now and see the pictographs today and stay on malberg tonight and then paddle back in the morning tomorrow or we can stay here and see the pictographs today or we can just paddle around and not go to the pictographs. Its up to you." "Since its raining i think we should keep camp here and paddle to see the pictographs now." "Okay do you still want to go fishing on Koma?" Tyler asked because i had been talking about fishing all trip long and Koma is a great lake for catching walleye "I would love too if this rain would ever let up" i chuckled. He brushed his light brown dreadlocks out off his face and scratched his his tiredly. "Alright lets bring lunch in the small bag and hang the big pack. You get the paddles and lifejackets I'll get the food." "Sounds good."

Tyler pushed us off the big rock into the water, rippling from a heavy drizzle of rain. There was a breeze blowing directly in our faces as we paddled hard towards the portage to Koma Lake. We canoed through Polly and Koma easily but then we had to row all the way up the long narrow Lake Malberg. By the time we took a break on the portage to Malberg the wind and rain had both picked up to make a nasty combination to be traveling in. "Do you want to go back now?" Tyler asked, rain dripping off his barely visible, scruffy, blond beard. "No we made it half way lets push on." He looked at me with doubt that i would make it all the way. "Okay lets get going." We made it to the last portage of the day, through a whipping wind with horizontal rain biting into my skin like needles. This last portage was a long one with parts that had knee deep swampy water. "Are you sure you want to keep going?" he asked "I don't know" "well its up to you Matthew." "lets go back." "alright." I felt terrible. i had looked forward to this trip for weeks and seeing pictographs was one of the coolest things and now I was turning around because i was too weak to continue. We stopped at a campsite on Malberg to have lunch. The campsite was on a huge rock that was more like a cliff than a boulder. The rock would have been great for jumping into the water if the weather had allowed it. We ate a lunch of refried beans on a quesadilla with cheese and salami. It tasted much better than it looked. We paddled through Koma and fished a little but it was pointless because nothing would bite in this terrible rain.

When we got back to camp we got the food pack down and snacked on red licorice while Tyler read and i just sat on a log and thought about nature. It's not often that anyone takes the time out of their busy life to just sit and appreciate nature. That is the reason i love the BWCA, it really allows you to connect with mother nature and calms the soul. Tyler started dinner and I approached him. "Can i make a fire?" I asked him. "Sure! matches are in a ziplock bag in the food pack, you know what wood to pick right?" "Yes only wrist sized pieces that are dry and dead." "Alright go ahead." I gathered firewood and started the fire. It was a challenge to start it with what i had. the rain had ceased so we could finally eat and warm ourselves and dry our wet sandals. After we ate we sat around the fire, feeding it wood until we ran out. We talked. Tyler smoked one of his honey scented cigars, the pine smelling smoke from the fire mingled with the smoke from his cigar creating a delicious smell that relaxed me. The reason I had looked forward to this trip so much is because my brother Tyler was twenty-four. I was thirteen. He moved out of the house when he was eighteen and spent as little time at home as possible before that. I was seven when he left. I never really got to spend any time with him when I was little like my brother Ben did. For as well as I knew him my parents could have just found a bum on the streets and told me I was related to him and i would have believed them. This was the first time I had spent time with him. And this night in particular was my favorite night i have spent with him. Around the fire talking about adult things. Almost as if we were equals. It was the first time we had really connected. I am the youngest of four children. My closest sibling is ben who is six years older than me, next is Katie ten years older than me and then Tyler at eleven years older than me. Katie was only a year younger but i was a lot closer to her. Tyler was my role model when i was little, I wanted to be like him sooooooo much because he was the coolest. I tried to spend as much time as I could when i was younger, he loved music I just happened to love to listen to the same music he did, he lifted weights and i asked him if I could try. I must have been like the annoying puppy he never wanted but he was still a great brother. This night, around the fire, was one of two moments that I had really felt like his brother instead of a little kid he had to see sometimes. I went to bed that night with the biggest smile I have ever had.

Sawbill Lake ice was 31" thick again today. At least it hasn't added any thickness. - Bill

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Lunar Eclipse

Boundary Waters Blog - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 7:40pm

One thing nice about last night’s lunar eclipse was we knew when it was going to be so we could set an alarm clock and not miss it.  I probably wouldn’t have gotten up if Abby hadn’t expressed interest in seeing it but since she wanted to we both went out to see it.

The shadow was just beginning to cover up the moon when we went outside around 1:00am. Just one look and Abby had seen enough. It was a clear, cool night and the moon was big and bright. I saw it earlier in the evening around 9pm and it was huge and gorgeous. Luckily Layne Kennedy stayed up and took some nice pictures so I can share them with you.

Lunar Eclipse

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4/15/14 - Today's Sawbill Lake ice measurement is 31".

Sawbill Newsletter - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 1:22pm

4/15/14 - Today's Sawbill Lake ice measurement is 31". There was very little progress yesterday. The high temperature was 25F and the low was 13F. The sun did provide a little melting, despite the cold temperatures.

Here are some pictures taken by ice measurement crew this morning:

First the bad news. The Sawbill store still looks like the middle of winter, except for the snow being shed from the metal roof.

Now the good news. Sawbill Creek is wide open, which is a major indicator of impending spring.

Leif Gilsvik hanging out on the old, abandoned bridge across Sawbill Creek.

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Today's Sawbill Lake ice measurement was 33".

Sawbill Newsletter - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 5:55pm

4/14/14 -

Today's Sawbill Lake ice measurement was 33". A cold snap is definitely slowing down the melting today.

This very fresh wolf scat was near the canoe landing this morning. It made Roy very nervous.

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Fun Fishing Facts

Boundary Waters Blog - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 4:26pm

Less than a month until the Minnesota Fishing Opener but who knows if we’ll have open water or not.  Until then you can entertain yourself with these fun fishing facts provided by the Minnesota DNR.

DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                  April 14, 2014

Minnesota fishing facts

The following information about fishing can be used in stories in preparation for the fishing opener on Saturday, May 10.

Anglers and waters

About 1.5 million licensed anglers.
About 500,000 people are expected to fish on opening day of the walleye and northern pike season, Saturday, May 10.
Minnesota has 11,842 lakes, 5,400 of which are managed by DNR fisheries. There are 18,000 miles of fishable rivers and streams, including 3,600 miles of trout streams.
Average annual expenditure per angler is about $1,500. 1
Although not every kind of fish lives everywhere, 162 species of fish can be found in Minnesota waters.
Participation and the economy

Fishing contributes $2.4 billion to the state’s economy in direct retail sales, ranking Minnesota fourth in the nation for angler expenditures. 1
Fishing supports 35,400 Minnesota jobs. 1
Minnesota ranks second in resident fishing participation at 32 percent, second only to Alaska. 1
Minnesota is the third most-popular inland fishing destination in the country. 1
Minnesota ranks sixth among states with the highest number of anglers. The top three states are Florida, Texas and Michigan. 1
Who goes fishing

Most resident anglers – 855,000 of them in fact – are from urban areas. The remaining 474,000 resident anglers live in greater Minnesota. 1
Men account for 66 percent of resident anglers. Women account for 34 percent. 1
Fishing habits

Significantly more time is spent fishing on lakes rather than rivers and streams. 1
The average Minnesota angler spends 15 days fishing each year, with 84 percent of resident anglers never fishing anywhere else but Minnesota. 1
The most sought-after fish species, in order of preference, are crappie, panfish, walleye and northern pike. 1
1 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (

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Calm in an emergency

Unorganized Territory - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 4:14pm

I have covered my share of catastrophes—real and pretend—in my 14 years of working for our community newspaper. I’ve learned a lot about fire behavior, prevention and safety. So you wouldn’t think I would be freaked out when a fickle electrical device started smoldering recently.

You would think, with a number of volunteer firefighters in the family—sons, brother, brother-in-law and cousins—some of their calmness about fire would rub off. I’ve watched these dear relatives fight fires numerous times, cringing as they entered smoky buildings or climbed ladders to cut holes in roofs of burning buildings.

Watching local firefighters battling fire is scary enough for me. This June 2013 fire at Devil Track Lake had firefighters from six departments, as well as some U.S. Forest Service personnel on scene.

Just last week, April 5, readers saw an article I wrote after watching our fledging volunteer firefighters undergoing fire training, knocking down vehicle fires at the Grand Marais Fire Hall. They were the essence of calm as they muscled hoses around and shot water on live fires.

I’ve also watched our local firefighters giving fire safety presentations in elementary classrooms. It’s fun to watch the kids checking out all the fire gear and absorbing the safety message. I’ve listened enough times that I know exactly what I should do if I somehow encounter a fire—or worse, catch fire. I know that you shouldn’t run around screaming. I’ve heard those excited students shout, “ Stop, drop and roll!” I know that one of the main things to do in case of fire is to remain calm.

I’ve also attended the Cook County Emergency Services Conference nearly every year in its 25-year history. I’ve learned a lot there, not just about fire. The interesting conference covers a wide variety of emergency training. Everything from rope rescue to wilderness orienteering, from water rescue to airbag safety, from vehicle extraction to accident scene triage, from landing zone safety and arson investigations, from radio communications to caring for injured pets, from handling hazardous materials to recognizing meth labs and much, much more has been covered at the conference over the years. Sitting in the emergency services conference, I have come to understand that the key to just about any emergency is being prepared and remaining calm.

Knowing and doing though is a different matter. Fortunately—and unfortunately—I was in the immediate vicinity during my near calamity.

Fortunately because the smoldering didn’t lead to flames.

Unfortunately because the gadget that was sputtering and spitting rancid-smelling black smoke was my hair straightener! I was in the midst of smoothing the kinks out of the right side of my hair— always a somewhat dangerous situation even with a hot iron that is working perfectly—when I heard a strange crackling sound in my ear. As I moved the straightening iron away from my head, I was shocked to see black smoke rolling out and sparks flying.

For a moment I just held it in my hand, perplexed. Then, I realized it was likely going to burst into flame. I dropped it onto the counter and said something impolite. And, not very calmly, I reached over and pulled the electrical cord from the wall extension.

It stopped smoking and sputtering almost instantly, but the stench was horrendous.

Shaking, I let it sit on the counter and cool down for a while. I didn’t want to throw it out right away and start a real fire. It was scary enough having nearly caught my hair on fire.

I shudder to think what could have happened. I frequently turn on the straightener and let it heat up while I do household tasks. What if it had burst into flames, caught the hand towel on fire, and spread to the medicine cabinets and then the curtain and…?

Scary thoughts and a good reminder not to leave electrical devices unattended. I thought of saving this story for the Unorganized Territory that would be published near the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Prevention Week, but that is not until next October. By then, I would have forgotten the frightening experience. So I thought I’d share the reminder now.

It is timely anyway, because it made me think a bit about the well trained emergency responders who would come if my house caught fire or if I had been burned by the errant hot iron.

I’m looking forward to this year’s Emergency Management Conference, which will be held April 25-26, where a lot of these folks will gather. It will give me a chance to say “thanks” to all of our hardworking emergency responders.

And it will give me a chance to learn more about staying calm—or at least trying to stay calm!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It’s what you learn after
you know it all that counts.

Coach John Wooden

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The Great Place Race – Apply Today!

Moving Matters - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 10:50am

Do you have a unique idea on how to make a place great? The Great Place Race is looking for you and your great idea to make more great places in Cook County and Grand Portage. The Great Place Race is a friendly, local competition for mini-grants to use high impact, low cost ideas to create great places in our communities.

What makes a Great Place?
A place that is inviting, beautiful, and catches the eye. A Great Place encourages people to slow down and spend time there. A Great Place reflects the unique character and identity of the community. To help enhance and create these great places, Moving Matters and the Cook County Chamber of Commerce will give out seed grants of $250-$1,000 to folks in Cook County or Grand Portage that have a compelling plan to use high impact and low cost ideas to make a place great. Projects need to be completed by July 31, 2014 and be put in place by the applicant. The mini-grant can cover the cost of items like planters, plants, paint, signs, chairs, public art, community gardens, bike racks, and much more.

How to Apply
The short, simple application is available here or paper copies available at the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic front desk. Deadline for applications is April 30th. For more information, contact Maren Webb at 218-387-2330 x110 or

The Great Place Race is sponsored by the Moving Matters project of the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic and the Cook County Chamber of Commerce. The Moving Matters project, with funding from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota’s Center for Prevention, is working to create safer and more accessible places to walk and bike in Cook County and Grand Portage.

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Thinking About Summer

Boundary Waters Blog - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 9:33pm

If you haven’t put your canoe trip on the calendar yet then it’s time to do so. I have to do the same thing or the summer flies by without them happening.  The challenge is finding room on the calendar for all of the trips I want to take.

Last year I took Josh and a friend into a secret lake in the BWCA for a few days and they want to do a repeat of it. They had a grand time paddling around the lake, catching fish and swimming.  I also took Josh and 5 of his friends for a basecamp trip on Saganaga for a few nights. They too want to do that trip again this year. Then there’s the church youth group that wants to go out into the Boundary Waters again this summer and my one girlfriend and I want to get out together again. We want to take a family trip and I’d love to get a solo canoe trip in as well.  I fear there aren’t enough days in the summer for all of the paddling and camping I want to do.

If only the paddling season lasted as long as winter has this year.  Hopefully you will be able to get all of the canoe trips you want to take to fit onto your summer calendar, it’s definitely time to start thinking about summer.

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4/13/14 - Today's ice measurement on Sawbill Lake is 31".

Sawbill Newsletter - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 12:42pm

4/13/14 - Today's ice measurement on Sawbill Lake is 31".

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4/12/14 - Today's ice measurement is 35" with the top 6" highly degraded and honeycombed.

Sawbill Newsletter - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 12:24pm

4/12/14 - Today's ice measurement is 35" with the top 6" highly degraded and honeycombed. The first ice-out lakes have been reported in southern Minnesota. We are usually about a month later, but it depends entirely on the weather.

We had a nice visit the other day from the new interns at North House Folk School. Former crew member, Jessa Frost, is the program director at North House and Sawbill's own Cindy Hansen works there part time. If you're interested in traditional crafts, you will love North House. - Bill

(Front to back) Emily Derke and Mary Cowen - NH interns, Leif Gilsvik, Jessa Frost, Austin Kennedy - NH intern, and the ever graceful Cindy Hansen. Photo by Nils John Anderson.

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Snowy Sky

Boundary Waters Blog - Sat, 04/12/2014 - 6:09pm

After yesterday’s nice and sunny sky today’s sky is a stark contrast. It’s been a dreary day and the sun did not even peek out to say, “Hello.”  We even saw some snow flurries in the sky. I won’t let that dampen my enthusiasm for the nice weather that is eventually going to be the main stay.  While the cold wind may have been blowing it cannot last much longer.  The lakes will thaw, the snow will melt and summer will be here once again.

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What Do the Following Things Have in Common?

Boundary Waters Blog - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 3:45pm

Butter Braids, magazines, Schwan’s, Little Ceasars and Special Cookies all have something in common.  They are all things my kids have been trying to sell for fundraisers this year. I used to think having Abby sell Girl Scout Cookies was a pain but now I know that I had barely scratched the surface of fundraising.

I know I shouldn’t complain. I remember selling light bulbs and poinsetta plants door to door when I was a kid but in case you haven’t noticed, times are different these days. Even in the small town of Grand Marais you don’t send your kid door to door. First of all they don’t have any free time to do it, second of all they don’t know everyone and lastly it’s not the smartest or safest thing to do.

I understand fundraising can keep overall costs of a program from being super expensive.  I just sometimes wish they would charge more or offer a buy out because it’s the parents who end up dealing with the deliveries.

I recently heard a friend of mine say, “How many magazine subscriptions does one person need?” One would be too many for me so when I get those envelopes in the mail I just toss them into the garbage. The kids get “points” for just mailing them out anyway.

So, if you ever find yourself in need of a magazine subscription ask me, chances are I could fit it into one of the many fundraisers my kids are doing. And when you come to my house don’t be shocked to find 20 Little Ceasar Pizza Kits, 30 buckets of frozen cookie dough or a stack of Butter Braids in the freezer, it’s a heck of a lot easier just to buy them all and eat them ourselves then ask another person if they want to buy something to help my kid.

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April at Gunflint

Gunflint Lodge - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 1:36pm
Bruce and I were gone for a few days at the beginning of the week. We were both impressed by the amount of snow that has melted in just those few days. Since then it has continued to melt even more. At lunch today, someone told me that the snow has melted a foot in the last few days. Certainly our driveway at Tucker Lake is almost bare. My seven-foot snow banks are down so I can look over the tops of them. Out in the garden I still can't see the outlines of the raised beds but the raspberry canes are now visible. The real day to watch will be tomorrow. The forecast is for 70% chance of snow/rain. Rain would be wonderful but snow is not so welcome. Freezing rain is a terrible forecast so that would be nice to avoid. April is a month when I seem to always be looking forward. We are not very busy and I look forward to getting into the summer season. Reservations are coming in and I look forward to having them come in faster. The ice is getting a little bit dark and I look forward to open water. The snow is still here and I look forward to bare ground. Once the ground is bare then I can look forward to planting my garden in June. Once the garden is planted I look every day to see if any little plant has popped up. But let's get through April first. Some friends on the lake and I are getting ready to start a new project. We want to record all the stories we know about earlier residents of Gunflint Lake. Of course, there are going to be lots of conversations about how we should have asked Justine or Peggy about their stories. It is truly amazing how fast information about people can just get lost. So four of us are going to work on what we know and can find out about those who lived on Gunflint Lake before us. I am betting that we will find some amazing stories to save. At the Tucker Lake house we have two pine martens who seem to have taken us over. Usually just one of them appears but this morning both were here together. Last night they ate the chicken bones Bruce put out. This morning they were cleaning up sunflower seeds that the birds had dropped on the ground. How many sunflower seeds does it take to fill up a pine marten? Now that the Tucker Lake road is down to bare ground, Bruce wants to start walking on it in the morning. We usually do very well at this until Bruce feels that he should be at the lodge at 7:00 a.m. It is a wonderful walk of 1 mile to the Gunflint Trail. He is usually in a race when he does it but I take a more leisurely approach. The nights have been quite warm and we have been able to open our bedroom to fresh, outside air. What a joy it is.
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4/11/14 - The first measurement on the countdown to ice-out on Sawbill Lake was taken yesterday.

Sawbill Newsletter - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 11:24am

4/11/14 - The first measurement on the countdown to ice-out on Sawbill Lake was taken yesterday. 33" of ice was the official reading.

Sawbill crew member Leif Gilsvik puts his back into it for the first daily ice measurement leading to the open water season. Photo by Nils John Anderson.

That said, we've lost at least half our snow pack in the last few days. A high sun, warm winds and temps near 50 have all taken a toll. I estimate an average snow depth of about 18", down form nearly 40" at the beginning of the week. - Bill

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