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BWCA & Quetico Canoe Outfitting and Wilderness Resort on Minnesota's Gunflint Trail
Updated: 8 hours 23 min ago

Do You Know This Man?

Mon, 07/18/2016 - 5:54pm

If you’re a fan of canoe country, you’ve probably stumbled across some photos of our buddy, Andrew. Last year, he served as the poster boy for the first annual Boundary Waters Canoe Expo. Over the years his photo has also appeared in numerous other advertisements for Visit Cook County and Tuscarora. You’ve also seen him in our post about 20-somethings going on canoe trips.

But who is this man of mystery so often spied in the bow of a Souris River Quetico 17?

Andrew, Andy, and I all worked together at Hungry Jack Outfitters back in the “Aughts.” He comes from “canoeing stock” – his mom worked on the Gunflint Trail as a young adult – and as a teenager, he did many canoe trips through Camp Menogyn, including a five week trip through the Canadian wilderness. Since our Hungry Jack days, the three of us have covered a lot of miles together, from roaming around Portland, OR to running Chicago’s Shamrock Shuffle this past spring (FYI: Andrew can run 8 km 14 minutes faster than I can), and, of course, he and Andy have gone on lots and lots of trips through Quetico Provincial Park.

Right now, Andrew is a biology PhD student at the University of Michigan where he focuses on the venom systems of mollusks. The end goal of his research is to create a way that the venom of mollusks can be used as human medicine, particularly as a side-effect free anesthesia. He spends a portion of each summer collecting cone snails for research from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean off Japanese or Samoan coasts.

Despite research that takes him around the world, back at the end of May, Andrew and his girlfriend, Clara, managed to carve out a week to spend in the Quetico. As you can see from the map below, they just did a teeny, tiny, little trip:

Andy and Andrew are known for their high mileage Quetico trips and Clara wanted to be sure that Andrew didn’t take it easy on her just because it was her first canoe trip. A quick gander at the map shows that Andrew did not let Clara’s lack of canoe trip experience impact the trip’s distance. In six days and five nights, they paddled 80+ miles. Oh, did I mention that Andrew and Clara had both run marathons two days before the start of their canoe trip? Obviously, these are not two people who are afraid of high mileage!

After a towboat ride from the Tuscarora dock on Saganaga Lake up to Hook Island on the Canadian side of Saganaga, Andrew and Clara paddled over to the Cache Bay Ranger Station to pick up their permit for the Man Chain. From Cache Bay, they headed up past Silver Falls, into Saganagons, and into the Man Chain which they followed down to Carp Lake and the International Border.

Loons rafting on This Man Lake

After paddling a few miles west on the border, they went over Prairie Portage and then cut back up into the Canadian interior via Sunday Bay in Basswood Lake. As they headed east back towards their starting point, they passed through Agnes, Louisa, McEwen, and Wet Lakes, before finally heading south via Saganagons and Cache Bay.

Despite a wide variety of temperatures and weather that characterizes this spring, they had a great trip. In her first visit to Superior/Quetico country, Clara managed to see more of canoe country than some people see in years of BWCAW and Quetico canoe trips. A trip of this magnitude certainly isn’t for everyone, but these two, it worked just fine.

What’s the longest canoe trip you’ve ever done?

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Blue Nights on the Gunflint Trail

Thu, 07/07/2016 - 1:40pm

“In certain latitudes there comes a span of time approaching and following the summer solstice, some weeks in all, when the twilights turn long and blue . . . .  You find yourself swimming in the color blue: the actual light is blue, and over the course of an hour or so this blue depends, becomes more intense even as it darkens and fades. . . . The French called this time of day “l’heure blue.” To the English it was “the gloaming.” The very word “gloaming” reverberates, echoes — the gloaming, the glimmer, the glitter, the glisten, the glamour – carrying in its consonants the images of houses shuttering, gardens darkening, grass-lined rivers slipping through the shadows. During the blue nights, you think the end of days will never come.”  – Joan Didion

Photo by Anne Victoria Photography

I checked out Joan Didion’s Blue Nights on a whim last week and was struck by how in the very first chapter, she managed to articulate a seasonal concept that I’ve always felt, but never been able to name. There’s a certain magic and promise in the long days and short nights that mark the weeks on either end of the summer solstice. It’s as though the world decided to give our summer days a little more length and a little more poignancy because of how very short our summer season is. Yet I’ve never had a way of describe this time of year beyond “summer,” which is too open-ended a descriptor to really sum up how the season really feels. But considering that here in canoe country, we immerse ourselves in the color blue all summer long, “blue nights” is a most apt description for Minnesota summer. We paddle and play in blue, we swim in blue, we sleep in blue. It’s a season both delicate and fearless, filled with a sense of “if not now, when?”

As Didion notes, “Blue nights are the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but they are also its warning.” Soon enough, we’ll be trying out that new overnight oats recipe, pulling out the wool sweaters, making our homes snug as the breeze rustles an autumnal chill through the aspen and birch leaves.

But for now, the hygge days are far away.

During these blue nights, we anchor our boats and cast for walleye and bass until the sun disappears completely behind the far shoreline of Round Lake. We let the summer breeze blow through the cabin curtains all night long. We marvel at legions of dragonflies soaring overhead. We watch the loons dive around our canoe. The birds chirp long into the evening and the evening air smells of roses and other wildflowers.

We know this won’t last forever. We soak it up and wring as much summery goodness as we can from these golden days and blue, blue nights.

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