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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Perceptive dogsledders preempt peeing dog

Bill and Ann on a dogsled trip this week figured out the dog Lewis (shown here). Lewis wanted to pee at the top of every hill.  His top-of-hill leg-lifting meant their dogsled stopped shy of the crest and they had to push it to get it over the top.

Then they got an idea.  As they approached the hilltop, and before Lewis marked the spot, they gave a preemptive command:  "On by. On by, Lewis."

It worked!  Lewis obeyed - or was distracted by the command - and thenceforth pulled their sled smoothly over the hilltops. Kudos to Bill and Ann!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snow Sculptures in Ely at the Winter Festival

The Ely Winter Festival wrapped up this past weekend, just as I wrapped up a dogsled trip. I made it to see the snow sculptures in Whiteside Park in the afternoon. Come late January every year, large blocks of snow get set up in the park, which professionals and amateurs then sculpt into unique, creative formations. This year was no exception with many artful and original ideas. Some pieces are cold-weather themed, some are not. The snow sculptures will start to melt soon, so if you're in the Ely area, you will want to make the trip to Whiteside Park soon to see the art before it's gone. Above is a clever sculpture entitled "A Study in Repitition." The below photo, from an autobiographically-inspired carver, a piece entitled "Snow Carver Carving."

By Guest Blogger: Dogsled and Canoe Guide Kate Ford

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Kids come up with the darndest of ideas! I've been guiding a parent-child trip, and we spent this afternoon playing on the lake by the lodge with a few dogs. Everybody tried skiing, and even those who were total beginners stayed upright much of the time. The skiing was a quick introduction to the next activity: the group was all excited, though perhaps a bit nervous, to give skijoring a try. Each person gave it a whirl around our corner of the lake, and our cooperative dogs happily pulled the people on skis behind them. Everybody decided that it was much easier than they expected and very fun!

While waiting their turn to skijor, the kids (ages 9 up to 16) came up with a new version of the sport: "sled-joring." They hooked themselves up to a dog or two and let the dog pull them on a plastic sled. They discovered that this way they had much less of a chance of falling down. Here, Bones pulls Douglas on their creative new setup.

By guest blogger: Dogsled and Canoe Guide Kate Ford

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

North Pole Shakedown

Every winter, adventurous sorts come to the woods outside of Ely to prepare for attempts to reach the North Pole by dogsled or ski. It is an opportunity for these people to see how their cold weather systems perform and learn skills for dogsledding and cold weather travel and camping. We call these North Pole Shakedowns. It is an opportunity for people to determine if they can safely attempt this sort of trip.

Elham, a participant from Dubai, is training to dogsled to the North Pole. This photo shows her frying some breakfast bagels with cheese in the glow of the tent during the Shakedown this week near Ely.

I guided the dogsledding portion of the Shakedown trip. Winter camping with us included a group of people shaking down for a pulk trip to the Pole. The really intriguing thing about the pulk group is that two of the participants were pulling pulks on their second hearts. Really. They both had received heart transplants. They traveled alongside their cardiologists, and are planning to pull pulks to the North Pole in April. Both the pulk and dogsled groups plan to start at 88 or 89 degrees north latitude for their attempts at the Pole.