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, April 25, 2010

Sap Remover

Five-year-old Lucas trotted out of the woods with his hands above his head shouting: "I need the sap remover! I need the sap remover!"

Sure enough, the spring sap is running and he found it. But, no problem. He just needed the liquid hand sanitizer out of the toilet paper kit.

It's a good tip to carry liquid hand sanitizer on your Boundary Waters trip for the obvious purposes, and also to remove pesky sap that doesn't come off with plain soap. That's one of the reasons we include hand sanitizer in our complete Boundary Waters canoe trip outfitting packages.

Monday, April 5, 2010

March BWCAW Canoe Trip

It's almost never possible to do a Boundary Waters canoe trip in March. But, with our early spring, and summer-like temps, I eagerly watched the forecast in hopes of just such a March trip. Sure enough, the rivers freed up from ice quickly and even some of the lakes were going out by the end of the month.

One of the joys of life in the Northwoods is that we can take advantage of the lovely weather that arrives at unexpected times. It would seem pretty unreasonable to actually plan a March canoe trip here. But, with good weather and warm temps forecast, I charged out on March 31 for an overnight BWCAW canoe trip up the Little Indian Sioux River. The planned route took me south on the Little Indian Sioux, past Sioux Falls (shown in the photo), up the Little Pony River, through Bootleg Lake, then out the south end of Bootleg and back north on the Little Indian Sioux.

As I paddled toward Bootleg, my curiosity about whether it would be open or locked in ice yet grew. Fortunately, the typically low (and sometimes virtually impassable) Little Pony River had adequate water, and I portaged into Bootleg at about 6 PM. A stroke of luck meant the lake had opened up and was virtually ice-free except for some candle ice that collected near the portage. Lexee-dog seemed intrigued by the sound of the ice chinkling against my paddle and the canoe.

What a remarkable trip. With two days of t-shirt weather I observed a bonanza of wildlife celebrating the advent of spring. I saw all sorts of firsts for the 2010 ice-out season: beavers slapping their tails, muskrats, minnows, a leech, mosquitoes (two!), a fish jumping, mallards, a herring gull, Canada geese flying north, maybe an osprey in the distance, and some other ducks.

But the wildlife highlight of the trip occurred within about a mile of the takeout. As I rounded a bend, I spied two trumpeter swans leisurely preening themselves on the river. They let me relax and watch them swim gracefully for about twenty minutes. I used up the last of my camera battery life before they decided to fly off.

The swans' final act delighted me. I've never seen other birds do this, but I've seen it with trumpeter swans here before. They took flight going away from me, flew for a distance, then u-turned and flew back toward my canoe. They then did a fly-by directly overhead, not far above, with the sound of rushing air crossing their six feet wingspan. As I watched, they seemed to tilt their wings in a "welcome to our woods, happy to share" sort of message. The experience felt like the true launch of the paddling season.

I basked in the good feelings of watching such remarkable birds - creatures so pure and clean and white and ornate it seems they belong in my grandmother's china hutch. The experience will be a highlight of my year.

So pleased with the encounter, I decided against replacing my camera battery for the rest of the short paddle to the take-out. Then I rounded another bend and spied a moose grazing along the shore. That image will just remain in my head.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

World Event Missed While On Trail - Boundary Waters Renamed

On the paddle to the takeout after a camping trip, the question often arises: "What major news did we miss while in the wilderness?" I returned from a two-day BWCAW trip late tonight and hardly considered what might have happened during such a brief jaunt out. However, I was shocked when I found this major international news in a press release in my email.


Ely, Minn. Signs Deal with Private Funding Source

ELY, MINNESOTA — April 1, 2010 — Ely, Minn announces today it has, signed a multi-year deal for naming rights to the legendary Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). The new corporate sponsor will be Minnesota-based International Dairy Queen, Inc. (IDQ).

The Boundary Waters region, on the US-Canada border between Ontario and Minnesota, is a popular destination for campers, as well as canoe and fishing enthusiasts, and those looking for natural scenery and relaxation.

As of today, the region will be officially known as the International Dairy Queen Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, or IDQBWCAW.

“We have been fielding offers for years, turning down everyone from AARP to the ASPCA. But this year, we had to make a difficult decision,” says Roger Skraba, Ely Mayor. “Beautiful unspoiled wilderness doesn’t pay for itself. And who doesn’t have fond memories of a Dilly Bar? It’s a win-win. This will usher in an era of great corporate, tourism and environmental partnerships.”

“We were looking for a way to promote the 25h birthday of our signature Blizzard Treat, as well as a unique tribute to International Dairy Queen in this, our 70th year,” says Michael Keller, Chief Brand Officer for IDQ. “When we thought about it, this made perfect sense. Ely has blizzards, we have Blizzards. They’re international, we’re international. They have a guy named Buster who hangs out at one of the local bars. We have a treat called the Buster Bar. It’s sort of serendipitous, actually.”

I know this is shocking news. Can you complain or stop this? Well, first check the date of the press release, and then you can go to the Ely Chamber of Commerce website (ely.org) for more info. We're happy to outfit your Boundary Waters canoe trip no matter what it's called.