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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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Quetico Park Has New Blood

Boundary Waters Blog - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 8:09pm

New and hopefully improved leadership for the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario.

New leadership for Quetico Park

by Jessica Smith on April 9, 2014

Quetico Park’s new superintendent, Trevor Gibb, hails from London – “Ontario’s banana belt” in his words – but has clocked a few miles around Canada. While most recently he served as assistant superintendent for the Cochrane area cluster of 29 provincial parks, he started out working in the provincial parks system in 2003 at the Killarney wilderness park as a warden, before advancing.

Because “the role was seasonal, I was able to do my education in the winters.” He earned his geography degree at the University of Western Ontario, then completed a teaching degree at Mt. St. Vincent University, Hailfax, in 2009. The next year he spent teaching high school at Iqaluit, on Baffin Island. The community of 5,000 Inuit residents had class sizes similar to Atikokan’s.

“It was an amazing experience. I had the students out on the ice once a week, skiing, traditional fishing and seal hunting. Sometimes I would give my head a shake, and think ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m getting paid to take these kids out and do these traditional activities with them,” said Gibb.

His return to park management in Cochrane was as a replacement to Jennifer Lukacic who came to Quetico in 2011 as an assistant superintendent. (For the past five months, Lukacic has filled in as acting superintendent here, following Jeff Bonnema’s departure.)

“Parks are where my values lie. I love protected areas and getting out in the wilderness,” said Gibb.

He has been on the job for three weeks, and part of his work has been on the public review of the preliminary park management plan. He said he is committed to working with all stakeholders, including Lac La Croix FN, which shares in managing the park’s western area through the 1994 Agreement of Co-Existence. (He and assistant superintendent Blier visited Lac La Croix last week.)

The management plan, which was originally scheduled for completion in 2010, “may be finalized in the next couple of years. We’re not going to rush it; we want to make sure [we] get input from all those who have a local interest,” said Gibb, who will address Council April 14 to introduce himself to the Town and discuss management plans and objectives.

Handling one large park like Quetico is no less complex than the ‘clusters of smaller parks in the northeastern part of the province he said.

“Quetico is such a complex park, that there are a number of pieces to deal with,” he said, adding however, that in the past, he has overseen areas where it was logistically very difficult to get into all of the parks (many, like White Otter, that are non-operating), requiring travel by train, float plane or helicopter. In that respect, “It’s nice to be able to focus on one piece of real estate.”

“I understand Quetico is a special place within Ontario Park’s system, and the importance of maintaining its impact on a provincial, national and global scale, and maintaining its ecological integrity and its value to park users. And also the importance of that continued partnership with Lac La Croix in the management and operation of the park.”

Gibb said he loves the north, snow (he’s already bought a snowmobile and hopes to get involved in curling and cross-country skiing), and the wilderness areas, and as someone who enjoys fishing and canoeing, he is looking forward to hitting the lakes here. Gibb adds that he is going to have to learn the ‘hut stroke,’ as he has observed it seems to be the preferred paddling technique here.

He will be joined here shortly by partner Bridget, a biologist who is studying for her Masters at the University of Manitoba.

Jason Blier

New assistant superintendent Jason Blier (pronounced the French way, Blee-eh) and wife Crystal actually moved here when he began his position last fall. A self-described “northern boy” born and raised in Schreiber, he said Atikokan and Quetico is a great place to put down roots. Like Gibb, his education background isn’t in park management. In fact, he studied physics, math and computer science at Lakehead University and electrical engineering at Confederation College – what he calls a “techy geeky background.”

“I love the mechanics of things like snowmobiles, computers… I love diving into a technical manual. I’m a lot of fun at parties,” he joked. (That passion has come in handy for Gibb however, who relied on Blier’s technical expertise in his snowmobile purchase).

So with a technical background, how has he wound up working in parks?

“My whole life has revolved around parks. I am a child of parks,” said Blier. “My earliest memories were camping in parks with my grandparents and parents, and that helped formed my values system.”

He started out as a maintenance worker in 1996 and held various positions in parks such as Neys and Rainbow Falls, before becoming acting superintendent for a year and a half for the 27 parks in the Nipigon and North Shore area. In fact the park cluster he managed shared a boundary with Gibb’s jurisdiction. Since 2008, he has served as assistant – and most recently acting superintendent – of Kakabeka Falls and its 12 adjacent provincial parks.

Blier will take on the operations, logistics and staffing functions for Quetico, and said he sees “a bright future for the park.”

Since he has already had a little time to settle in here, he said he loves the town, is fascinated by its history (particularly the Steep Rock Mine diversion, both the engineering brilliance, and the environmental quandary left in its wake), and the wilderness here. He enjoys paddling, but his water vessel of choice is a kayak.

“My wife is very happy here too; we plan on making this our home,” he adds. The couple are animal lovers and own horses and three dogs.

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Spring! Fingerstyle Music, Art & More

North Shore Art Scene - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 10:56pm

John Gregor caught this shot of the Middle Falls of the Gooseberry Falls. The spring melt is beginning.

The first weeks of April can be quiet in the Northwoods as snow begins to slowly melt in the rivers and maple sap flows into waiting buckets. But there’s still lots to do on the North Shore this weekend.

This is the last week for  the musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.”  

First up — “Fiddler on the Roof.”

We’re hearing lots of exciting things about this iconic, award-winning musical, a production of  Lake Superior Community Theatre – Great acting, wonderful voices, a powerful production.

The final performances of the play are at the Two Harbors High School Auditorium this Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Performances start at 7 p.m.

Call 218-220-0682 to reserve your seat or click here.

A few of the glazed and painted pots by Ginny Sims awaiting firing at the Grand Marais Art Colony.

Ceramic artist Ginny Sims concludes her artist residency at the Grand Marais Colony this week with a Community Engagement Project from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday.

Participants are asked to bring an object that has meaning for them, and Sims will lead them in creating large-scale drawings inspired by the objects as well as discuss her process of creating them for her own work.

Preregistration is required. Call 387-2737 for more information.

Also this weekend the not-to-be-missed Fingerstyle Guitar Masters Weekend will be held at the Bluefin Resort in Tofte. Gordon Thorne performs at the Bluefin Grille on Friday night, a full complement of classes on Saturday, and then an evening concert with Phil Heywood and Eric Lugosch at the Bluefin Grille at 7:30 p.m. Tickets available at the door.

The Saturday workshops are from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 1 3:30 p.m. and are open to anyone.
To pre-register for for the workshops, email or call 218-353-7308. One session is $30, both sessions are $50 (lunch included).

This is also Mountain Meltdown Weekend at Lutsen Mountains with lots of music on Saturday and Sunday at Papa Charlie’s. Cook County bands are featured on Sunday. Here’s the schedule:

Saturday, April 12:

  • 11:30 a.m. – Carroll
  • 1 p.m. – Bad Bad Hats
  • 2:30 p.m. – Fury Things
  • 4 p.m. – Nathan Miller
  • 9:30 p.m. – TBA

Sunday, April 13:

  • 11:30 a.m. – Whurl (Derek Smith, Erik Lastine, Will Seaton)
  • 1 p.m. – Joe Paulik Band (Joe Paulik, Jessi Nicholson, John Mianowski, Derek Smith, Max Bichel)
  • 2:30 p.m. – Cook County’s Most Wanted (Rod Dockan, Al Oikari, Carah Thomas, Gary Croft, Snuffy Smith, Steve Johnson, Derek Smith)
  • 4 p.m. – Spruce Roots (Eric Frost, Jessa Frost, Bill Hansen, Travis Wickwire, Jim Elverhoy)

Other music opportunities on Saturday include Maria Nickolay, who will play at the Cascade Lodge Pub at 7 p.m. and Cook County’s Most Wanted, who will play for an Ice Out! party at the American Legion., 8 p.m.

Loon totems by Nancy Seaton.

In other art news, fused glass artist Nancy Seaton will be the featured artist on WDSE’s The Playlist, which airs at 9 p.m. on Thursday night. She will talk about the creative process involved in making her fused glass work.

A fused glass wall hanging by Seaton can also be seen at the “Mapping Mystery: Entry Points to the Creative” exhibit at the Johnson Heritage Post. The show concludes on Sunday.

The “Mapping Mystery” exhibit features works in a variety of different media by local artists. The Heritage Post is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 1-4 p.m. on Sunday.

Art and Ambiance, a fundraiser for the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, featuring a live and silent auction of affordable, original works by more than 40 local and regional artists, is at 7 p.m. (EST) April 11. CBC’s Lisa Laco is the host with Dave Shaw as auctioneer. Jazz musician Robin Ranger will play. For more info, visit

“Spring Has Sprung,” an multi-media exhibit of the Voyageur Artists group, opens at the Waterfront Gallery with a reception from 3-5 p.m. on Saturday, April 12. Participating artists include Sandi Pillsbury Gredzens, Elsie Cook, John Anderson, Michelle Ronning, Rose Kadera Vastilla, Helen Hartley, Linda Hoffman, Nancy Steinhauser, Dorothy Moe, Sheila Fallon, Shelley Getten, Arlee Wilkes, Marlene Miller and Joyce Gow. The Waterfront Gallery is located at 632 First Ave., in Two Harbors. The exhibit continues through June 7.

And here’s a heads-up to two music events April 19. Jazz singer Prudence Johnson will be a guest artist at a Michael Monroe Log Cabin Concert. For tickets, call 218-387-2919.

The Midnight Ramble, a celebration of Levon Helm’s life, will be held at Cascade Lodge Pub this spring. Stay tuned for details.

Here’s the music schedule for this weekend:

Thursday, April 10:

  • Joe Paulik, Gunflint Tavern, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, April 11:

  • Portage Band, American Legion, 6 p.m.
  • Gordon Thorne, Bluefin Grille, Tofte, 8 p.m.
  • Rod Dockan & Friends, Gunflint Tavern, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 12:

  • Mountain Meltdown, Papa Charlie’s, all day
  • Maria Nickolay, Cascade Lodge Pub, 7 p.m.
  • Eric Lugosch and Phil Heywood, Fingerstyle Masters Weekend, Bluefin Grille, 7:30 p.m.
  • Cook County’s Most Wanted, American Legion, 8 p.m.
  • Joe Paulik Band, Gunflint Tavern, 8:30 p.m.

Sunday, April 13:

  • Mountain Meltdown, Papa Charlie’s, 11:30 to 5 p.m.
  • Pushing Chain, Gunflint Tavern, 7 p.m.

We found an interesting series of photos this week. We’re assuming that people are pretty tired of looking at ice, but we’ve included a few of them anyway. Otherwise, there are some interesting wildlife shots that have popped up.

First up, a joke. Joe Paulik posted this on his Facebook page. Take a look:

“No sand in Minnesota but we’re very adaptable. We find other perfectly good places to stick our heads.”  – Joe Paulik


Here’s a Michael Furtman.

A snowshoe hare shows the chocolate swirls of spring. Photo by Michael Furtman.


Christian Dalbec took this photo of a hawk apparently trying to remove a leaf from its talons.

The hawks are returning. Photo by Christian Dalbec.


Here’s a sweet shot of an eagle parent feeding the youngest of its chicks.  Here’s a link to the cam so you can watch the action (or lack of action) yourself.

A Bald Eagle feeds one of its three chicks that have hatched in a nest monitored by the Minnesota DNR.


Paul Sundberg took this great photo of a pine marten.

Paul Sundberg caught this pine marten as it went to investigate the birdfeeder in his back yard. They like red squirrels who like birdfeeders.


The bears are starting to come out, too.

This bear sat in theis group of trees all day yawning. Photo courtesy of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.


Here’s a reminder of the beauty of the ice caves at the national park. The ice caves are closed for the season.

The ice caves at sunrise by Mike de Witt.


Here’s a wonderful B&W shot of ice by Duluth photographer Brett Grandson

“Light Storm” by Brett Grandson.


Here’s a lovely shot by Travis Novitsky.

“Seventh Sunset of April 2014.” by Travis Novitsky.


And here’s another gorgeous sunset by David Johnson.

“Plate Ice Sunset” by David Johnson.


And here’s a final ice shot. (Probably not the last of the season, although we can hope.)

“Frost on the Window” by Jamie Rabold.

Have a great weekend, everyone!












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Mexico Kayaking Adventure

Boundary Waters Blog - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 4:26pm

I don’t have time to keep up on everything and somehow I missed the release of 3 more episodes of the Red Bull Mexico Kayaking Adventure.  While it looks like fun I can’t imagine paddling those places. It looks beautiful but scary.  I think I’ll stick to the BWCA for now!

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Family Night in Hovland – April 22nd

Moving Matters - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 9:01am

What does a walkable/bikeable community look like?

Moving Matters Family Night
Tuesday, April 22nd
6:00 PM
Hovland Town Hall

Join us for a family night at Hovland Town Hall, with free dinner and a fun hands-on activity. All families and community members are welcome.

Dinner will be provided, followed by the activity ‘Planning Thru Play.’ Just bring your family and your experiences of walking and biking in Cook County.

Please RSVP for food numbers. You may RSVP on Facebook, email, or call 218-387-2330 x110, by Friday, April 18. Also let us know the # of people that will be attending for your family (so we can plan for dinner).

See you on the 22nd!


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