Welcome to the BWCAW blog of Ely Outfitting Company and Boundary Waters Guide Service!

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.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Lovely Painted Lady

Greetings from this lovely Painted Lady butterfly living near Wood Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness!

This beautiful butterfly may look familiar to you, and for good reason: they are quite common, even around the world. They migrate from Mexico all the way to Canada just below the Arctic circle and are also found around the globe, including Europe, Asia, and Africa. In fact, because of this multi-national policy, this butterfly has the nickname "Cosmopolitan." The only places the Painted Lady (Vanessa Cardui) is not found is Antarctica and Australia.

Unlike the Compton Tortoiseshell Butterfly, the Painted Lady lays one egg at a time, on the top of a plant leaf. Once the larva grows into a caterpillar, this animal loves to eat thistle. This gives it yet another name: the Thistle Butterfly. Like other butterflies, once well-fed, it wraps itself in silk, changes form, and emerges as the lovely butterfly we see in the summer here in northern Minnesota.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Trail Work in the BWCAW

We ran into this group of hard-working Minnesota Conservation Corps volunteers out on the trail recently. It had been a hot and humid week, and this day was certainly no exception. These folks had been working hard most days since mid-June.

Often, portages require some maintenance, particulary those that are heavily-used or particularly wet. As portages get trod over, they can become muddy and mucky, particularly in a rainy summer. When that happens, many people tend to walk around the mud puddle instead of through it. That causes the mud puddle and the trail to get wider and wider, as portagers trample down the natural growth on either side of the trail.
This team was gathering rocks by digging into the shallow dirt and bedrock a short distance off the side of the trail and using sledge hammers to break large rocks into smaller pieces, digging out the main portage trail, adding those rocks upon which to walk, and surrounding the rocks with dirt. Not an easy task, and certainly made harder by the hot and humid conditions of this particlar day.

The work is hard, but it will last a long time into the future. There are 42 Conservation Corps volunteers out in the Boundary Waters this summer, plus more elsewhere in Minnesota doing trail work. All of these "MCC" members are ages 18 to 25, and are part of the Americorps program, which saw a big boost with federal stimulus money last summer. The Conservation Corps members are now enjoying their second summer in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, with hope for many years to come.

This particular group of two women and three men seemed exceptionally pleased to be out there, despite the fact that the only non-mud color on every person was their yellow Conservation Corps-issued hard hat. A job well-done!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Compton Tortoiseshell Butterfly

We found this pretty butterfly out in the Boundary Waters recently. It alighted on our dark-colored life jackets, shirts and pants multiple times. Perhaps it was warming itself, even with the sun already fairly high.

It is the Compton Tortoiseshell (nymphalis vaualbum), which is a species found in much of the northern half of the United States. We felt lucky to find such a beautiful specimen that was also helpfully still for a photo.

This butterfly, like most others, eats only liquids as an adult. However, unlike many other butterflies whose main source of nourishment is nectar from wildflowers, this butterfly prefers sap and rotting fruit. Fortunately, there are plenty of raspberries and blueberries this season! The adult lays her eggs in clusters, typically in hardwood forests. This particular butterfly likely started out life on one of our plentiful paper birch trees, as it emerged from its egg stage. As a caterpillar in the larva stage, it started out munching on the tasty birch leaves. After gaining enough nourishment, it then transformed itself into the pupa stage (also called chrysalis), and later emerged as this beautiful butterfly.