Posts Tagged ‘minnesota’

They Turn the Split Rock Lighthouse on Twice a Year (Day 56)

September 14th, 2009 Comments off

Once on the anniversary of its construction and once to commemorate the date of the sinking of the Ella Fitzgerald. Fine, Edmund Fitzgerald, what do I care?. “Starlit Hour” is my favorite song of hers. The boat never did much for me.

The lighthouse is a good one, located in Minnesota, north of Duluth, along the shores of Lake Superior.

split-rock-lighthouse-exterior (1)And by “good lighthouse”, I mean it’s reasonably polite and a generous tipper.

split-rock-foghorn (1)The foghorn gets used more than twice a year.

split-rock-interiorClichéed shot of spiral lighthouse staircase. Ah well.

split-rock-exteriorAnd it even seems to be situated usefully.

Yep, lighthouse. Apparently it was featured on a stamp as one of the “Great Lighthouses of the Great Lakes” some time in the 90s. And Lake Superior is really, really big.


Beaver, Beaver: Dam, Dam, Dam

September 12th, 2009 2 comments

Finally! A reason to have a strong opinion regarding beaver dams. Y’know, getting out of the canoe, having mud and brown water slosh into your boots, then yanking your fully loaded canoe across a bunch of sticks isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s sort of not the best either.

And would it kill the beavers to come out and give a guy a hand?

bwca_beaver-damYou gotta hand it to those beavers: they just wanted it more.

bwca_beaver-dam-fordIt’s really more shoving than it is yanking.

Ah, anyway. I was more anxious about Boundary Waters than I was about any other part of the trip, so I suppose now that it’s over I can start being anxious about grad school apps. Finally I can have a strong opinion about those, too (maybe).


Moose River to Nina Moose Lake to Agnes Lake (And Then Back) (Photos) (Day 55)

September 12th, 2009 2 comments

bwca_moose-river-parkingDay 1: Rudolph?



bwca_grasswaterThere’s probably some better way to crop this one.



bwca_turtleA fierce lake turtle!

bwca_walleyeDay 2: A fierce lake walleye!






bwca_return-in-fogDay 3: Heading Home


Overall, a pretty cool trip. I think going solo made it a little more of an adventure than it otherwise would’ve been — the place has to be a haven for Boy Scout troops, guys’ weeks out, etc. Also:

  • The solitude here is amazing. You go and find a campsite and you basically don’t need to remember that humanity exists after that point — which is a little unsettling when you’re out there by yourself.
  • The bird sounds here were all foreign too me.
  • Even the squirrels seemed off-model (I think they’re red squirrels rather than whatever the other kind are).
  • The lakes all do look kind of the same.
  • When paddling home in the fog Thursday morning, I actually got to use my compass (thanks!).
  • Paddling against the wind is one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever done multiple times. Fortunately it only happened for about the last hour of paddling on Day 1.
  • Had never caught a fish while paddling my own boat before. Probably a good thing it wasn’t a 30-lb. northern pike — that might’ve gotten awkward.
  • When I was coming out of the lake, the folks just putting in were asking me if it was crowded. Relative to Boundary Waters? No idea if that constitutes crowded. There are, like, seven campsites on Lake Agnes and they were all taken, but it didn’t *feel* crowded.
  • For having no padding under me (and no stuffing on the bottom of my sleeping bag), I slept remarkably well out there.
  • Finally got to dig into my MREs. The chili and macaroni one was excellent. Even the penne with vegetarian sausage was good.
  • Pretty much all the water out there is brown, I’m guessing from all the tannins in the trees filtering through the soil? Anyway — when you put that through your own water filter, it’s still brown when you drink it.

Close enough.


How to Portage a Canoe Solo at Boundary Waters in 26 Easy Steps (Day 54)

September 11th, 2009 2 comments

Before going on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area trip, I figured the hard part of portaging the canoe would be having to carry the canoe around. Not that carrying the canoe is fantastic or anything, just that — it’s more the inconvenience of having to unpack and re-pack every time than it is the canoe hauling. IMHO.

Here are photos to help you sympathize (empathize? I’ll take what I can get).

bwca_portage-landingStep 1: Land ahoy! Identify the landing up ahead (in this case, it’s where those rocks are on the right-hand shore).

bwca_land-the-canoeStep 2: Beach the canoe by paddling sort of hard and aiming the bow for a soft, rampy spot (if available).

bwca_climb-outStep 3: Carefully — *carefully* — climb up to the bow of the canoe and get out, making sure to maintain a low COG and balance all the way — this is expecially (you heard me) true if the landing is more rocks than sand.

bwca_haul-canoe-onto-landStep 4: Pick up the canoe at the bow and haul it the rest of the way onto land.

bwca_remove-bear-cannisterStep 5: Remove the bear barrel from the canoe and put it on the ground somewhere.

bwca_remove-backpackStep 6: Take your backpack out of the canoe.

bwca_attach-yokeStep 7: Attach the yoke to the canoe by lining up the clamps and tightening them down. Then, tighten them further.

bwca_empty-canoeStep 8: Take the plastic cover off your backpack, remove paddles, fishing poles, and anything else still lying around in the canoe, then take a picture of it all.

bwca_stow-pack-coverStep 9: Stow the backpack cover into one of the side pockets on your pack.

bwca_backpack-onStep 10: Put your backpack on. Almost ready to go, sport!

bwca_lift-canoeStep 11: Lift canoe over head. But don’t do it like I’m doing it in the photo — grab it around the middle and work it out that way. Trust me.

bwca_canoe-on-headStep 12: Put yoke around neck with pads on shoulders.

bwca_transport-canoeStep 13: Start walkin’!

bwca_arrive-at-put-inStep 14: Arrive at put-in location (the end of the portage).

bwca_put-canoe-downStep 15: Remove canoe from head. This will, 60-percent of the time, result in having your hat fall down over your face.

bwca_remove-packStep 16: Take off your pack and PFD.

bwca_cover-packStep 17: Put the plastic cover back over your backpack.

bwca_hike-back-mapStep 18: Head back to where you left the bear barrell and paddles. Maybe check out your map along the way.

bwca_put-on-barrelStep 19: Once you’ve arrived at the take-out, strap the bear barrell onto your back.

bwca_pick-up-paddlesStep 20: Pick up your paddles and fishing pole and whatever else.

bwca_carry-paddlesStep 21: Carry them back down the path toward the put-in location.

bwca_re-pack-canoeStep 22: Throw everything back into the canoe.

bwca_put-on-pfdStep 23: Put your PFD back on.

bwca_put-canoe-in-waterStep 24: Push, pull, and drag the loaded canoe back into the water.

bwca_get-into-canoeStep 25: Carefully get back into the canoe. This is trickier than getting out, especially on rocks (as shown).

bwca_shove-offStep 26: Sit down and shove off, matey! There are bigger adventures — and longer portages! — yet to come.

Anyway, point being: carrying the canoe isn’t that big a deal when it comes to portages. And it takes about 4x longer to do a portage if you’re trying to photograph yourself doing it. And to a certain extent, the portages break up the sometimes-monotony of paddling. And the trip I did didn’t have all that many portages (five each way, the longest of which was a half-mile). But every portage I did required me to hike the route three times (there, back, there), whereas people not doing it solo would probably only hike each one once.

C’est. La. Vie.

More to come on the actual, like, trip part of the trip. You’ll see.


Up Into the Northwoods (Day 53)

September 11th, 2009 3 comments

Understanding that it is the suspected home of Coal Dunkirk, I stayed the night of Day 52 in Bemidji, Minn. I liked how everyone there (as well as everyone north of there) talked like Frances McDormand from Fargo (ah heck, like a lot of characters from Fargo).

The drive from there to Ely, where the canoe trip would kick off, was pleasant enough and mostly looked like this:

road_to_elyAnd every little town has an identical, small, white Lutheran church in it.

mn_lutheran-churchLike this one.

Made it to Ely in mid-afternoon. Nice enough town, totally tourist-dependent, and a little scared-looking. I don’t know what I mean by that, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. Looked like every business was on the brink of bankruptcy, I guess. Maybe that’s what I mean by it.

ely_main-streetSee? Scared.

Got there, registered with the outfitter, who put the canoe on top of my truck, then took a tour through the bait shop. It turns out you don’t really fish for trout in Northern Minnesota, you only fish for pre-historic things that are better left unseen by the light of day. And it turns out that things that look like that sometimes bite on leeches. That morning, I’d never seen a leech before in my life. By evening, I owned a big ol’ sack full of ’em!

leech_bagLook at ’em go!

Stayed that night at the outfitter’s bunkhouse (btw, I used Voyageurs North as my outfitter and they were very cool, mad props), where I met some people from Wisconsin. The Wisconsinites also talked sort of like Frances McDormand from Fargo. Their leader was impressed (or appalled?) that I was going out to Boundary Waters by myself and gave me some firecrackers to throw at bears when the time came.

And then I slept badly.


Welcome to Minnesota — State #11

September 7th, 2009 1 comment

It’s an oddly shaped state.

welcome_minnesotaThe bug splatters are multiplying.

I entered Minnesota at Fargo-Moorhead. Gas is pretty cheap in MN (I bought it for $2.37 in Bemidji this morning). Confusingly, gas here generally comes in two octanes, both at the same price. I’m wondering if the cornpower folks have something to do with that.

And I’m heading to Boundary Waters tomorrow. In at #16 (Nina Moose River), paddling up to Lake Agnes, and camping there for a couple nights. Just, you know, fyi.


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