See our websites at ElyOutfittingCompany.com and BoundaryWatersGuideService.com.
We are a Boundary Waters canoe trip outfitter, Quetico outfitter, and guide service in Ely, Minnesota. This Boundary Waters blog shares photos, stories, humor, skills, and naturalist insights from guiding in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).
Most entries are from our founder and head guide, Jason Zabokrtsky. He is the Boundary Waters Blogger.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
On the way to Thunder Point, we got lucky and Peter spotted a cow moose with a newborn calf along the shore of Fraser Lake. The calf was probably less than a week and maybe less than 48 hours old.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
While gathering firewood today around our camp on Ima Lake in the BWCA, I worked my way through a dense thicket of speckled alder. The pollen burst away from the catkins in cloudy puffs.
Monday, May 25, 2009
- 100% waterproof
- Aggressive tread makes it super-stable on rocks
- 15" high which is about right for the depth of water at most portages
- Adequate support for portaging
- Easy to slide off to let your feet air out while paddling across the lake
I recommended that the group bring Northerner Max boots on the trip this week. They did and the weather has been cool, with rain this afternoon. They can't imagine not having these boots.
If you're driving to Ely, you can buy Northerner Max boots along the way at L&M Fleet Supply in Cloquet (click here for directions) or Virginia (click here for directions). This photo shows the crew this week with Northerner Max boots and happy feet.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Today I launched a six day BWCA canoe trip with a dad and his two sons. We put in at crystal-clear Snowbank Lake. This photo shows David proudly watching his sons, Eric and Peter, paddle away from our lunch spot on Ahsub Lake.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
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This entry is by guest Blogger Kyle Courtaway. Kyle has extensive backpacking, canoeing, and camping experience. He lives in Illinois and ventures to the Boundary Waters as often as he can.
People travel in the wilderness to, among other things, feel a sense of space apart from other humans. It is one aspect of being in the Boundary Waters that I have always valued.
I brought a satellite phone during my first canoe solo trip in case there were any emergencies and to put a call into my wife halfway through. While I felt like it was a smart decision, it also felt like a very large connection back to civilization. Personally, it felt like there was always a “crutch” in case I felt uncomfortable. Also the act of dialing a phone and speaking to someone back at home can have the effect of taking you out of the wilderness. The reality is that whether traveling alone or with a group it is important to have a method of communication in case something unexpected occurs.
On my solo trip this month, I took along the Satellite Personal Tracker (SPoT). The SPoT is a device that, similar to a sat phone, uses satellites as a method of communication (as opposed to mobile phones that are still spotty in the BW).
However, it is the differences between the SPoT and the satellite phone that, I believe, make it a great alternative to the sat phone for wilderness travel.
Construction: The first thing that you notice is that the SPoT is half the size of the sat phone. This makes it easier to carry in the day/fanny pack leaving it closer to you in case of emergency.
Durability and Portability: The SPoT is both durable (hard plastic shell) and waterproof. The sat phone requires it’s own waterproof case. This gives the sat phone a bulky profile to carry with you and generally leaves it sitting in a portage pack.
Communication: This is really where the SPoT is the optimal choice. The SPoT interface has three function buttons:
- 911: Sends a rescue signal and alerts the first responders to your location.
- Ask for Help: Sends a SMS text or email message to family and friends for their help at your location (obviously this is a non-life threatening emergency).
- OK: This button sends a pre-programmed SMS text or email message to family and friends and includes a link to Google Maps so they can see your location.
While the first two function buttons are critical, it’s the OK button that I found to be the best of part of the SPoT. This button allowed me to let my wife and family know I was ok as well as give them a picture of where I was without mentally leaving the wilderness to do it. In the "OK" email, SPoT provided a link to Google Maps showing my location. The above Google map is a sample from my trip. The SPoT also provided a set of satellite waypoints so I could review my route post-trip. Using the SPoT is unobtrusive; I would send my OK message when I was preparing dinner at night and put it away. Luckily, I can only give a first-hand review of the OK function and will have to leave the 911 and Ask for Help buttons for another trip!
Finally, the rental rate was half of what a satellite phone would have cost. For those who spend a great deal of time in the wilderness, it is still a significantly cheaper purchase than a sat phone and service. I also found the SPoT to be more reliable than the sat phone, which could take a long time to acquire satellites and sometimes didn’t work at all. As a safety and communication option for the wilderness, I would definitely recommend the SPoT for a BWCA trip.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
These false morels are deadly. Eaten raw they may lead to diarrhea and vomiting within a few hours. That's followed by dizziness, lethargy, and headache. Then, in severe cases, delirium, coma, and death in five to seven days.
However, some in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and around Ely, consider them a delicacy when prepared properly. The toxin in false morels is gyromitrin. The toxin, or some portion of it, is released by drying, par boiling, or sauteing. During these processes, the toxin is released as a gas. If cooked indoors without proper ventilation, the gas may poison the preparer.
Most guidebooks and wilderness guides wisely recommend treating all raw or cooked false morels as poisonous. Some research suggests that eating even properly prepared false morels may lead to poisoning. That is because individual false morels may contain different levels of the toxin, preparation methods reduce the toxins but may not eliminate them, and individuals react differently to different levels of the toxin.
With that said, I've eaten several meals of Ely-area false morels sauteed with butter. Their consistency and taste is remarkably similar to the safe gourmet true morel mushrooms. I had no known ill effects. However, since learning more about the significant potential dangers of false morels, I've concluded the risk probably isn't worth the benefit of this hazardous morsel.
Pictured are false morels on the Bass Lake Trail on May 17.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Kate and I began our trip through Lake One and Two with overcast skies and extra layers, but by evening's end, we were sitting comfortably under a star filled sky making s'mores. The morning brought sunshine as well as my first canoe portage - a bit shaky, but no harm done to the boat, nor flora, fauna or Ford (Kate, that is).
I reflected with Kate that the North Woods is the kind of place to remember when life seems hectic. When I am back in NC, it will be nice to know that the loons are still calling, the beavers are still building, the water is still flowing and the trees are still reaching their spring buds to the sky. Thanks to Kate and Jason for a wonderful adventure! I'll be back!
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Mike Hillman, host of the polka show on WELY radio today, provided some advice to those canoers:
"Put on every article of clothing you have, and go east."I took this photo at about 11 AM today.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
However, the common fear of black bears is largely due to the media's mischaracterization of our largely harmless black bears. If you're one of those scared of a Boundary Waters trip because of these creatures, a trip to the North American Bear Center near Ely may be all you need to unshackle yourself from unwarranted concern.
For example, the Bear Center studies bears by attaching radio collars around their necks, and then monitoring them. When I visited this week, I learned from a researcher that the wild black bears are not sedated when attaching radio collars. Instead, one person may feed some snacks to the bear while the other walks up and straps the collar on a wide-awake, wild black bear. And the bear lets them do it!
You will see lots of interesting and surprising research video throughout this educational and interesting destination.
Above is Ted, the biggest black bear in the viewing area at the Bear Center.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Saturday, May 2, 2009
We picked up new Wenonah kevlar ultralight canoes at the Wenonah Canoe Factory in
All Wenonah canoes are made in
We use ultralight Wenonah kevlar canoes because they make portaging a breeze. Most folks who've been there know that trading in a 65 or 70 pound aluminum canoe for a nimble 46 pound kevlar makes the difference between a backbreaker portage and a joyful walk in the woods.
Kevlar canoes are made from the same kevlar fibers as bulletproof vests. They are incredibly light and strong - though the kevlar canoes don't stop bullets.
One of the things that struck us about the manufacturing of Kevlar canoes is the amount of human labor required. Rather than being stamped out or easily molded, the Kevlar canoes require skilled hands at every phase - applying the gel coat, installing the kevlar layup, foam core, foam ribs, seats, and gunnels, and putting on the finishing touches. A video about the manufacture of Wenonah kevlar canoes is at http://www.wenonah.com/.