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.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bob Cary Print Sale and Our Last Hurrah of the Summer

Jackpine Bob Cary is an Ely legend: a radio personality, an artist, a fisherman, and generally a beloved character who passed away a few years ago. His daughter Barb Cary Hall is hosting a big sale of all things Cary, including his prints, both color and black & white, and his books. Many of his beautiful pieces are signed and numbered. These pleasant folks stopped by today and found some great classic prints at a wonderful price.
While here at our shop, Barb is also swapping stories about her dad. Come on by anytime this weekend to share a story or two. Our shop is open from 10am-4pm every day this weekend, to go along with Ely's Harvest Moon Festival. In addition to the Bob Cary print sale, everything else in the store is at least 10% off, with a few items even 40% off. Come on by! We'd love to see you here!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bluegills in Their Underwater World

We found these extraordinarily curious Bluegills on Hustler Lake in the Boundary Waters. They are called Bluegills thanks to the dot of color you can see on the side of both fish. That blue or black spot is actually an extension of the gill cover. They are excellent fish to eat, and these particular fish sure didn't make themselves too hard to bring in. Lucky for them, all I had was my camera! They are known for nibbling on bait, and you might notice that one of the fish went for my finger shortly after I put the camera in the water. (Apologies for jerking the camera a little at that point... I wasn't sure if it would hurt! In fact, I don't think I even felt it at all.)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Day Hiking in the Boundary Waters on the Sioux-Hustler Trail

I guided a group of five strong sixty-something hikers this week. It was their first canoe trip, but certainly not their first experience camping! These pleasant folks from Virginia have been hiking and backpacking on some big adventures all over the United States. With this background, the group was keen on hiking for a day in the Boundary Waters. On our layover day, then, we decided to head over to the Sioux-Hustler Hiking Trail to see what we could find.

We discovered that the nearly mile-long Oyster to Hustler portage is flooded out for about ten rods (or canoe-lengths). While a few portages may have some muck and mud, I have never seen another portage as flooded as this. Not to be dissuaded, our group went for it.

Fortunately, it was solid ground as we waded through the mid-thigh-deep water and headed on down the trail on a perfect day. We turned on to the Sioux-Hustler trail from the portage and shortly discovered an extraordinarily large beaver dam. The beavers here had been hard at work for years to create this stunning piece of engineering.

This dam held back about four vertical feet of water. I checked out the different growth to be found in this wetland growing in the dam itself and discovered this pretty green leaf. It is called Sensitive Fern and is apparently named such for its sensitivity to cold temperatures. After tonight's predicted frost, these leaves will be some of the first to wilt and disappear.

Though this 100-foot long dam was constructed like all beaver dams in such a fashion that a person can walk on it, our group decided to turn back and investigate the other direction of the trail. Upon a high rock, we found these beautiful specimens of Gray Reindeer Lichen, sometimes called Caribou Lichen or Caribou Moss. It is named for its obvious resemblance to the antlers these animals sport through the summer months. It is also the primary source of food farther north for caribou in the winter. Caribou were once found occasionally in this corner of Minnesota. Now they are only very rarely found in a small portion of northwestern Minnesota, coming down occasionally from Canada.

These lichens probably took around 80 to 100 years to grow up to the eight-inch height we found. Lichens are a complex partnership of fungus and algae, and are pioneers in bare, rocky areas. They break down rock minerals with their lichenase acids, creating a small crack in the rock where water can freeze and ultimately create more cracks in the rock. This makes a place for the lichen to gain a foothold and thrive. Dust and dirt blow in, slowly creating organic build-up, and ultimately allowing more growth to eventually come in. As part of their assurance of success, the lichen dries out with the weather. During a dry spell, the fungal portion of the lichen thickens the walls and slows or shuts down the photosynthesis process to await a more friendly environment. This ensures that it can survive the extreme heat and cold of northern Minnesota. In the summer, after a dry spell, the slow-growing plants will crunch down into dust under weight, which is why our group stuck to the trail.

The group had a great time out on the water, paddling, portaging and exploring along the hiking trail. I only hope that I am that active and strong in my sixties. An inspiration to us all!