Check out the Boundary Waters Blog for more information about the boot brush stations in Cook County.
Check out the Boundary Waters Blog for more information about the boot brush stations in Cook County.
Want to share your experience? Then please do so on this blog or on Trip Advisor. We'd be very appreciative and would love hearing all about your trip.
This is a time for people to get involved and contact their representatives in congress. The reasons for HR 1505 may make sense for the border country down south but it certainly doesn't make sense for the wilderness areas along the border of Canada.
I've posted an excerpt from this full article for you to ponder.
The stated reasons for HR 1505 are:
1. Reason given: To stop the turf war between federal agencies. The Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) don’t like DHS on their land. Hmmm. Maybe they have good reasons to keep DHS off their land.
Solution A: Let the county sheriff decide who comes into his county, as according to the US Constitution. This is Rehberg’s proposed amendment.
Solution B: Return all federally confiscated land back to the states. This should be done anyway.
The irony is DHS-CBP never asked for power to overrule land managers or ignore environmental laws. Last spring the Government Accountability Office found,
“Most agents reported that land management laws have had no effect on Border Patrol’s overall measure of border security.”
2. Reason given: Drug growers are hiding in our forests.
Solution A: Declare state sovereignty over federal drug laws. We don’t need feds coming into Montana enforcing federal laws that conflict with Montana laws.
Solution B: Stop America’s War on Drugs.
America’s War on Drugs is a scam. It keeps the price of drugs high by limiting supply, so drug cartels and our CIA can make money selling drugs. It hires police to catch pot growers and smokers who overflow our prisons. But wealthy drug dealers who pay off the police have a free run. The solution is not to give DHS control over our land. The solution is to stop the War on Drugs.
Solution C: Rather than a War on Drugs, how about a massive information campaign in media and schools telling people how bad drugs are? Think we can’t do it? Why did we make Joe Camel illegal? Because Joe Camel proved good advertising will influence people’s behavior. Look at what the government has done to influence people to “believe” in global warming. With massive spending, media hype, and school indoctination they have accomplished a virtual miracle in causing people to believe in global warming when no evidence exists. This proves it would be easy to get most of our population to give up drugs, and this would be far cheaper and more effective than the War on Drugs.
Solution D: Let DHS prove themselves on our southern border first.
Virtually all drugs used in America come across our southern border and DHS has not been able to stop it. So why should we allow DHS to control non-existent drug traffic over our northern border when they can’t stop the problem where it exists?
The National Drug Intelligence Center, a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, recently released a document entitled the “National Drug Threat Assessment 2011”. The Assessment’s Executive Summary states
The illicit trafficking and abuse of drugs present a challenging, dynamic threat to the United States. Overall demand is rising, largely supplied by illicit drugs smuggled to U.S. markets by major transnational criminal organizations (TCOs).
Major Mexican-based TCOs continue to solidify their dominance over the wholesale illicit drug trade as they control the movement of most of the foreign-produced drug supply across the U.S. Southwest Border. The estimated economic cost of illicit drug use to society for 2007 was more than $193 billion.”
One of the contributing factors is the high demand for drugs in the United States. This high demand finances the drug cartels, allowing them to spend more and expand their operations.
The Southwest Border remains the primary gateway for moving illicit drugs into the United States. Most illicit drugs available in the United States are smuggled overland across the Southwest Border…”
Despite enhanced detection efforts and better countermeasures, Mexican drug traffickers will continue to build tunnels under the Southwest Border.
That DHS would be involved in controlling drug operations begs the question of what is the role of DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration)? Is DHS is taking over all police powers of the federal government?
3. Reason given: To catch criminals who are hiding in our forests.
Solution A: This is a county sheriff problem. The idea that we need HR 1505 to find Dave Burgert who is hiding somewhere in the mountains is ridiculous. He did not commit a federal crime. Besides, he may be found innocent if he could get a fair trial but he cannot get a fair trial. Finding Burgert has nothing to do with controlling our borders. The Burgert problem may have more to do with corruption in our law enforcement and legal systems that should be investigated by our FBI.
More importantly, using the Burgert example shows the real intent of HR 1505 is to control American citizens.
4. Reason given: To stop illegal aliens from coming into America.
Solution A: Stop all the benefits the illegal’s receive free from the American taxpayer.
Solution B: Elect a president who will get serious about stopping illegal immigration.
Tom DeWeese “E-Verify and the Emerging Surveillance State” says,
The fact is, the U.S. government is not doing its job to secure the border and stop the flood of illegal aliens from rushing across it. Even though Congress passed legislation demanding that a fence be built, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has dragged its feet, deliberately holding up the project.
Moreover, DHS is fighting efforts in local communities to allow police to arrest illegal’s. There is little effort to tighten visa security, or allow law enforcement to track down and deport those who stay here past their allotted time. Those illegal’s caught committing crimes are still allowed to leave, only to easily and surreptitiously return at their will. The border is a sieve. There is no border control – period.
DHS imprisons border guards who actually do their jobs, like stopping an illegal from crossing our border. Our Justice Department sues Arizona for attempting to do the border control job DHS is supposed to do. Does this sound like they are serious about stopping illegal immigration?
Obama recently announced he would allow illegal immigrants to remain in the US so long as they are not caught committing a crime. As a result, our Border Patrol has halted its long-standing routine searching of buses, trains and airports for illegal immigrants at transportation hubs. This routine has long been considered an effective tool for finding illegal immigrants. Now, these border patrol agents spend their days doing crossword puzzles.
Do you see a pattern here? All the claimed reasons for HR 1505 are the result of federal laws or lack of enforcement of our Constitution. Now the feds want another law to supposedly cure the problems they created.
Name: Kathleen Sovell
Voyage: Boundary Waters Canoe Trip
NOTICE TO CAMPERS, HUNTERS, AND OTHER FOREST VISITORS:
Campfires and Open Fires Prohibited on the Superior National Forest
Despite cold temperatures and frost, fire danger remains high to very high in the state. To reduce the potential for new fire starts, the USDA Forest Service and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have restricted the use of campfires and open fires in specified areas.
On the Superior National Forest, as of Friday, September 16, 2011, it is prohibited to build, maintain, or use a fire or campfire, including charcoal fires, wood-burning camp stoves, and charcoal grills anywhere on national forest lands within the boundaries of the Superior National Forest, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Use of pressurized liquid gas stoves is allowed.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has issued restrictions on the use of campfires and open fires on private or state-owned lands within the Superior National Forest administrative boundaries, no open burning is allowed including burn barrels, campfires and recreational fires, except that charcoal fires are allowed in a grill or other receptacle designed for such use and associated with a residence, and pressurized gas stoves may be used but must be attended at all times. In addition, no burning permits will be issued, and no use of fireworks is allowed. Minnesota Parks and Trails facilities that are included in these restrictions are Judge Magney, Cascade River and Temperance River State Parks, Hinsdale Island on Lake Vermilion, Sullivan Lake Campground north of Two Harbors, and any other forest campgrounds, waysides and day use areas within the Superior National Forest boundary.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has issued restrictions for lands outside of the Superior National Forest boundaries as well. For details, please see: www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Forest Service have issued restrictions on campfires in several counties in Northeastern Minnesota. Counties with campfire and open fire restrictions are Cook, Lake, Koochiching, Itasca and northern St. Louis.
On federally owned land in the Superior National Forest (parts of Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties) all open fires and campfires are prohibited except for pressurized liquid gas stoves. – Forest Service restrictions.
On private or state-owned lands within the Superior National Forest administrative boundaries, no open burning is allowed including burn barrels, campfires and recreational fires, except that charcoal fires are allowed in a grill or other receptacle designed for such use and associated with a residence, and pressurized gas stoves may be used but must be attended at all times. In addition, no burning permits will be issued, and no use of fireworks is allowed. Minnesota Parks and Trails facilities that are included in these restrictions are Judge Magney, Cascade River and Temperance River State Parks, Hinsdale Island on Lake Vermilion, Sullivan Lake Campground north of Two Harbors, and any other forest campgrounds, waysides and day use areas within the Superior National Forest boundary.
For the areas of Cook, Lake and northern St. Louis counties, not within the Superior National Forest, and for Koochiching and Itasca counties, campfires or recreational fires are allowed only in a designated fire receptacle designed for such use and associated with a residence, dwelling, campground, or resort. In addition, no burning permits will be issued to the general public and no use of fireworks is allowed outside of municipalities. Special permits and prescribed burning may be allowed. The portion of St. Louis County covered by these restrictions is north of a line from Silica to Central Lakes to Brimson (with the exact line being the township line between T55N and T56N such that it includes all of T56N).
The 200 acre Pagami Creek Fire could have been left to burn as the USFS policy states however the USFS made a decision to intervene. They didn't put the fire out but they did start a bigger fire in order to create a fire break around popular BWCA lakes Lake One and Lake Two. Also in their plan was to prevent the fire from reaching the populated Fernberg Road. This disruption of a natural forest fire caused the fire to grow from 200 acres to over 2000 acres.
Was the fire forecast predicting strong winds from the south that would put private properties on the Fernberg Road in danger? Was it necessary to light the small Pagami Creek Fire in order to save a couple of popular canoe routes in the Boundary Waters? Someone in the USFS thought so and signed their name to a burn plan that resulted in one of the biggest forest fires of this century in Minnesota.
If a canoe outfitter can see a forecast calling for 90 degree temperatures and strong winds from the North then surely an experienced fire expert has access to the same if not better information. It was unseasonably hot weather that helped spread the Pagami Creek Fire but that weather was in the forecast. There wasn't rain in any of the forecasts I saw and I questioned the act of a prescribed burn under such conditions.
There is no doubt prescribed burns are useful and helpful in preventing the spread of wildfire. The Gunflint Ranger District has completed many of them since the 1999 Blowdown and these have been successful at protecting private properties. These have all been done after weeks of careful planning and monitoring of the weather. None of these prescribed burns have ever gotten out of control.
If the Pagami Creek Fire is defended by the USFS on the basis of a hands-off, let it burn policy then they should not have ignited the surrounding forest when there were no properties or life in danger. The additional acreage they lit on fire could very well have been what caused the Pagami Creek Fire to explode. Had there only been the 200 acres around the lightning strike to worry about when conditions rapidly deteriorated then would the fire have grown to over 100,000 acres in size?
There is no question forest fires are part of the history of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Fires have been suppressed in the BWCA in the past while fires are proven to be wonderful for the forest ecology and are a part of nature. This all makes sense to me but what doesn't make sense is saying, "We're going to let nature take it's course because it was a lightning strike and we're going to add a couple of thousand acres by starting more fires oursevles. Doesn't the saying "You can't have your cake and eat it to." apply to the USFS?
I don't know whether or not the USFS should let things burn but I do believe they should make a decision and take responsibility for their actions no matter how the situation turns out.
While the fire is not in the Gunflint Ranger District there will still be closures for public safety. Unofficial word is entry points on the west side of the Gunflint Trail such as Poplar and Round will be closed while entry points on the east side of the BWCA remain open. Saganaga and Seagull Lake only will be open for camping and travel but guests will be required to stay on those main lakes only.
While to me it is unfathomable the Pagami Creek Fire will reach the Gunflint Trail the USFS doesn't want to worry about possible evacuations. Keeping wilderness travelers off of the interior lakes of the BWCA will help firefighters concentrate on their firefighting efforts. Aircraft will need access to lakes for filling up their water supplies and do not want to worry about canoes in their way.
When we receive official closures from the USFS we will post them. In the meantime please keep the safety of the firefighters and residents of the north country in your thoughts and prayers.
Fire Activity Increases on Pagami Creek Fire Prompting Temporary Closures
Incident: Pagami Creek Fire Wildfire
Released: 1 day ago
Contact: Fire Information 218-365-3177
Fire Activity Increases on Pagami Creek Fire Prompting Temporary Closures
Ely, MN... Unseasonably dry, warm conditions and low relative humidities yesterday allowed the Pagami Creek Fire to burn actively south of the Lakes One and Two area. The burn out operation conducted last weekend was successful in reducing the threat of the fire escaping the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and threatening the Fernberg corridor to the north.
To provide for public safety the Superior National Forest is temporarily closing the following:
- - As a precautionary measure the campsites on Lakes Two and Three will be closed. Visitors currently in that area will be contacted by public safety crews. Alternatives include returning to Lake One for those leaving the area before Monday. Visitors who will be in the Wilderness beyond Monday are asked to head east into Lake Four or beyond. People intending to visit Lake One are encouraged to find other plans or paddle on the Kawishiwi River.
- - All campsites on Clearwater Lake
- - The portage between Lake Two and Clearwater Lake
- - The portage between Turtle Lake and Clearwater Lake
- - The portage between Camdre Lake and Clearwater Lake
- - The Powwow Trail
Public Safety crews will be contacting BWCAW visitors in affected areas to alert them of any safety concerns.
As the Pagami Creek Fire moves south it is continuing to provide resource management benefits such as preparing seed beds for pine regeneration and decreasing fuels for future wildfires. As the fire burns to the south it is reaching older burned areas. These earlier burns may function like fuel breaks and decrease the likelihood of the fire moving further south.
Paddlers are asked to avoid the fire area.
People throughout northeastern Minnesota have been experiencing smoke from the Pagami Creek Fire. The increase in fire activity means an increase in smoke as well. The location of the smoke will be dependent on wind direction. Anyone with a history of cardiac or respiratory disease should be aware that visitors to the Lakes One, Two and Three area are likely to experience heavy smoke at times.
Persistent warm, dry conditions have raised the fire danger throughout the area. Visitors are reminded to be careful with all fire use and ensure that their campfires doused thoroughly until cool to the touch.
Firefighters plan controlled burn today in BWCAWLabor Day weekend vacationers in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness might have to adjust their plans today as firefighters seek to contain a wildfire in a popular area.
By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune
In a news release, the U.S. Forest Service said a controlled burn is planned today to reduce fuel for the Pagami Creek Fire, which was first detected on Aug. 18 and has consumed 130 acres of woodland.
The controlled burn, or “burnout,” will take place between the fire and Lakes One and Two. The two portages between those lakes will be closed for a period of time during the burnout. Visitors with travel plans including those lakes are most likely to avoid delays if they cross the portages before 2 p.m. today, the news release said.
Visitors also should be aware that they probably will see and smell smoke today. People with a history of cardiac or respiratory illnesses should be aware that the smoke may be heavy at times and may be present for several days in the fire area. Visitors also should expect to hear pumps running as part of sprinkler systems used to dampen fuels along the portages. Aircraft will be heard and seen in the fire area.
The portages will be reopened as quickly as possible, the news release said. Public safety crews will be on hand to escort paddlers.
It also was noted that the operation is weather-dependent and could change on short notice.
The fire, which was caused by lightning, is being managed by more than 100 wildland firefighters from several agencies. Lightning-caused fires in the wilderness area are mostly allowed to run their course. But firefighters hope to use the controlled burn to reduce fuels that might allow the fire to threaten private properties along the Fernberg corridor or affect the Lake One and Lake Two area.
A drying pattern is expected soon, the news release said. Despite recent showers and cooler conditions, the fire danger in the Boundary Waters region remains high.
Maybe they are spending their time fishing to supplement the food donated by Jack Links and Richmoor Foods for their expedition? We'll have to wait and see.
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Things looked a bit shaky and first, as one of our cars almost broke down about 500 feet away from VCO. Rather than being a disastrous start to the week, it proved to be a sign of good things to come, as when I informed the staff of VCO of the problem, they told me not to worry about it, and promised to go to town while we were out on the water and pick up the parts we would need to fix our vehicle. As it turned out, not only did they get the parts, but they also went above and beyond and actually completed the repairs.
Feeling relieved that things were going to be taken care of, and thus able to focus on the fun and adventure that this week was supposed to be about, we set out early the next morning after a cozy bunkhouse stay and delicious pancake breakfast.
The first day of paddling was beautiful and relaxing. With no wind, Saganaga Lake was calm and easy to manage. We found two sites (we had ten people split into two groups) around Long Island and Gold Island that were absolutely gorgeous and we stayed there for our first night on the water.
Day two was relatively quiet. We didn't feel like moving camp right away, so we stayed where we were and did some fishing and exploring. The only excitement came when my brother and I accidentally swamped our canoe in some very cold, very open water. Fortunately, other members of our group were nearby and towed us to a nearby island where we dried off and warmed up before heading back to camp.
The next day we decided to strike camp and continue along our loop, hoping to camp on Red Rock Lake. Unfortunately, our timing was bad, and every site we found was occupied. Thus, we continued on to Alpine Lake, completing our first portage along the way. A rather strong wind (the only inclement weather we had the whole week) was blowing in our faces the whole way, and while we only canoed about 8 miles or so, it felt like we did the work of 16 miles or more by the time we found our new campsites.
We stayed on Alpine Lake for two nights, and while it was eerie to see the destruction that remained from the huge wildfire some years before, the scenery was nonetheless beautiful.
We moved on, completing the 128 rod portage, to Seagull Lake, and, after some light paddling, found two incredible sites on Miles Island for our final night on the water. Since it was still early in the day, we decided to check out the nearby Palisades. The 80-90 foot bluffs gave us a spectacular view of the surrounding area, and was a favorite spot for the photographers of the group. When we were ready to head back to the campsite, we were fortunate to see a mother moose and her two calves swimming from one island to another. This was certainly the highlight of our wildlife sightings, which also included numerous bald eagles, ducks, and loons. Later, the clouds that had blanketed the sky that day had started to break up in the early evening, which led to a spectacular sunset.
Our final day of paddling took us to our third and final portage near some waterfalls, and finally back to VCO. When we arrived, we found that our vehicle had already been repaired. We packed up our cars with things we would not need that night, and went to the lodge for a pizza party.
Our last night was spent in the same bunkhouse as our first night, and after an early wake up call, we were back on the road to Milwaukee. Everyone agreed that the trip had been a wonderful experience, and certainly took away memories that will last a lifetime. The staff members of VCO are some of the friendliest, most helpful people I have ever met, and I can't wait to come back for another trip in the future.
Voyage: Boundary Waters Canoe Trip
Larch Creek, Entry Point 80 into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a great place to begin your BWCA canoe camping adventure. It's perfect for a day trip or a multiple night wilderness camping trip. You can choose to do a base camp on Larch Lake and come back out the same way or paddle in through the Creek and come out through Saganaga Lake or Gunflint Lake via the Granite River.
Larch Creek is a little bit different than your typical entry points into the Boundary Waters. It's a narrow, winding creek surrounded by Larch trees and tall reeds. The creek is quite shallow and there are numerous beaver dams along the way. Paddlers must be prepared to get out of their canoe to make it over the beaver dams and should plan on getting their feet wet as with any other time you get into and out of a canoe.
Larch Lake was affected by the Ham Lake Fire in 2007 so there is new growth of jack pines everywhere. There are some older trees along the lakeshore and quite a few at the island campsite. The island campsite is like an oasis in a desert and it's an absolutely perfect BWCA campsite. The other campsites on Larch are a little grown over but the one in the back bay is nice too.
If you feel like traveling and camping at a different site then you'll head to the Granite River. The River flows north to Saganaga but the only place you'll find much current is at the rapids and there are portages around those. It's just as easy to paddle upstream as it is to paddle downstream. It's farther to travel out to Saganaga so if you want more paddling then north is the direction to go and if you want less paddling and portaging you can travel south to Gunflint Lake.
Larch Entry Point is a great Boundary Waters Route for anyone but especially for those without much canoe camping experience. If you don't have much time then it's also a good entry point into the BWCA because you can be into the BWCA in minutes and camping in no time. The only time Larch isn't a good Boundary Waters route is when the creek is too low to navigate. If it's been really dry for a long time then the water levels can make the creek almost impassible.
Any other time Larch is a great place to enjoy the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
View Boundary Waters Route Larch Creek in a larger map
Last Thursday night around 7pm a son left a campsite where he, his brother and his father were camping. He paddled away from camp to go fishing for awhile but he never returned. He wasn't wearing a life vest and maybe if he had he'd still be alive today. We'll never know because since Thursday his body has sat at the bottom of Swan Lake in over 80 feet of water. Recovery efforts have not been successful due to the location and weather. I imagine they will be able to retrieve his body or it will eventually float to the surface. But the life in his body is gone and no amount of time or effort to retrieve his body will bring it back. Tonight it will be a full week since he sunk to the bottom of the wilderness lake. Even if the life jacket wouldn't have saved his life it would have made recovering his body alot easier and it would have made things a little less painful for his family and loved ones. Please wear your life vest, it only works if you wear it.
On Monday a small fire on Gaskin Lake was reported by a group camping in the Boundary Waters. It's a small fire on a peninsula that isn't expected to grow in size and the USFS is keeping an eye on it. Similar to the small, cigar shaped fire back in 2007 that was expected to burn out into the wilderness never to be seen again. Only Mother Nature had other ideas and that was the start of the Ham Lake Fire. Structures were burned to the ground and people's homes and lives were disrupted and changed forever.
One person was responsible for the Ham Lake Fire. An individual who was careless with his campfire. Something many of us have been at one time or another. Maybe we've thrown paper on a fire, left the fire from breakfast smoldering while going out fishing during the daytime or not made sure the coals were cool. Then "Poof" that's the time a major wildfire starts and we're responsible. It could happen to any of us and maybe the Gaskin Lake Fire was from a lightning strike, then again, maybe not. Being responsible for a wildfire is a huge burden to bear and the person who started the Ham Lake Fire couldn't handle it and took his life. Be careful with fire folks.
I don't want to read about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the news unless it's a report of a great canoe camping trip. I don't want to read about you in the newspaper unless it's because of some great achievement. The BWCA is a great place let's keep things positive by using caution with fire and always wearing your life vest.
The Gunflint District received information on a wildfire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on Monday night, June 13, 2011. The fire is located on a small peninsula on the southwest end of Gaskin Lake where it was first detected by campers at about 8:00 in the evening.
Fire personnel completed a reconnaissance flight early Tuesday morning to determine the agency’s response to the fire. According to the Forest Service the fire is currently about three acres in size and smoldering in a mix of white pine cedar and hardwoods and is not expanding in size. Wind conditions for the next few days are expected to be toward Gaskin Lake and as a result the fire is not expected to enlarge significantly.
The fire management response will be to monitor the fire and not take any direct action. There is one aircraft in the area today and the pilot will be routinely monitoring the fire. There is also a wilderness crew on Gaskin Lake to talk to wilderness visitors and provide a surface level review of the fire. The Forest Service says, “Our response could change if conditions warrant.”
The International Falls Newspaper wrote a great article about the guys and their Voyage in today's edition.
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The trip of a lifetime, By EMILY GEDDE, Staff Writer
The longest trip Will Tanner has ever been on lasted five days. This summer, he will exceed that trip by 75 days.
Along with three others who call themselves the Voyageur Hudson Bay Expedition Crew, Tanner is embarking on an 80-day, 1,400-mile canoe and portage trip from Lake Superior to Hudson Bay in what the foursome call “a trip of a lifetime.”
“I made a list of pros and cons and then I was like, ‘heck yeah,’” Tanner said of his decision to go on the journey.
Tanner, Andrew Spaeth, Adam Maxwell, and Mike Swenson, all 23 years old, are now leaving their cell phones and the life they knew behind for almost three months to take on the wilderness and develop a true appreciation for nature and everything that comes with it. The mission of the Voyageurs Hudson Bay Expedition is to promote the continued protection of the scenic waterways of Minnesota and Canada through experience, education, and outreach.
Planning the journey
The idea for the trip that brought the crew through Voyageurs National Park, International Falls, and Baudette this week, started last fall when Maxwell came up with a plan to spend his summer in the wilderness.
“I wanted a big adventure,” he said.
Maxwell approached Swenson, his friend and co-worker, to see if he’d be interested in planning a canoe trip that would take them around Minnesota and Canada and into the unexpected. The two wilderness buffs had previously worked together during the summers at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters north of Grand Marais, Minn., at the end of the Gunflint Trail. They decided this summer would be the perfect opportunity for the adventure since the outfitting store was celebrating its 50 year anniversary.
Mike and Sue Prom, who own the business, offered their full support for the crew and their journey.
“They are part of our family,” Sue said of the Voyageur crew. “Any dreams of our crew are our dreams, too. Anything we can do to help any of them along the way in life we want to do, especially if it involves a wilderness adventure we would love to be a part of.”
With the stage set, Maxwell and Swenson brought Spaeth and Tanner on board to complete the crew they would spend 80 days with.
Sponsors were lined up and donations were made and the crew launched their canoes in the waters of Lake Superior at Grand Portage May 23.
A rough start
After almost eight months of planning, setting sail came as a relief for the Voyageur crew.
“After planning so long, it is such a relief to finally be out here,” Tanner told The Journal Tuesday.
However, the group agreed, the first two days tested their physical abilities.
“We took Grand Portage, which is an 8.5 mile portage that is basically all up hill,” Spaeth said. “We had to carry our canoes and packs the entire way. It is one of the most difficult things I have ever done.”
Spaeth added that while paddling the Pigeon River, which is located in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the crew had to wade waist-deep through the cold water steering their canoes and gear.
“The water (in the river) flows towards Lake Superior and we were going against the current,” he said. “In the first two days, we kind of got thrown into the trip head first.”
Maxwell agreed. “Those first few days were interesting.”
Developing a routine
After spending almost three weeks on the water, the four young men agree a routine has noticeably set in.
“This is starting to feel very natural,” Tanner said with a laugh.
“This is becoming more of a lifestyle than a vacation,” Swenson added.
Each morning, according to Maxwell, morning light gets the crew moving and if the weather will allow them, they will spend about 10 hours paddling each day.
They experienced their first thunderstorm while paddling Rainy River Tuesday morning and have had several days of rain so far.
“We just don’t want wind,” Maxwell said. “Wind is way worse than rain for what we are doing.”
During the day, the voyageurs eat oatmeal, granola cereal, and pancakes for breakfast; trail mix and candy bars in the afternoon; and freeze dried foods for dinner.
“I think 60 out of the 80 nights we have freeze dried foods that Richmoor Foods donated to us,” Maxwell said laughing. “They actually aren’t too bad, but our favorite is the Hudson Bay Bar. It is basically as many calories as you can stuff in a little bar.”
They also fish several nights out of the week to fill their plates.
While paddling, Spaeth, Maxwell, Tanner, and Swenson rotate partners every day.
“It helps us get to know each other better every third day,” said Tanner who came into the crew not knowing his three counterparts as well as they knew each other.
Tanner added that while daily entertainment mostly consists of conversation between canoes, singing fills the air every now and then, too.
“You find out who can sing, who can’t sing, if it doesn’t matter,” he joked. “I’m a song singer — good or bad.”
Each night, the group sets up camp, sometimes in the backyards of people who live along their route.
“People in International Falls and along Rainy River have been super hospitable,” Spaeth said. “One night the people whose yard we stayed in came down and had s’mores and a beer with us.”
Evenings and windy days also bring out a running cribbage tournament between tent mates.
Tanner said that as of Tuesday, he and Spaeth were beating Swenson and Maxwell 11 games to 10.
Keeping in contact
The Voyageurs Hudson Bay Expedition crew have equipped themselves with a SPOT locator device that sends a satellite signal to the Voyageur Hudson Bay Expedition website every 10 minutes updating those who are following their journey.
“It’s super exciting to watch their progress and wonder what the scenery they are seeing is like,” said Prom of keeping tabs on the group.
“It makes the trip really cool for us and for everyone we meet along the way,” Spaeth noted.
The crew say they spot each other if they’re not paddling side by side by the pink paddles they are using.
“We’re paddling with pink paddles to raise awareness for breast cancer,” Spaeth explained. “We’re really proud to do that.”
The men have also had two planned stops, including one in Baudette, to pick up food and supplies and make a phone call or two.
Their last stop to refurbish their supply will be in Pinawa, Manitoba. The food collected on that stop is expected to last the final 43 days of the expedition.
“The last leg our journey won’t be very populated,” Swenson said. “I think it’ll be kind of nice.”
A life changing experience
Each crew member shared similar feelings that this trip would change their lives forever.
“I already have more of respect for the wilderness,” Spaeth said.
“Oh man, it is so great to be on the trip,” Tanner added.
Swenson said that in the modern world, people are constantly bombarded by so many things, but for him to be able to leave that and go into the wilderness is such a rare opportunity — especially for this amount of time.
“I think it’ll be hard to adjust back to normal life when this is said and done,” he said.
The trip is scheduled to conclude around Aug. 10 when the crew reaches York Factory, a former settlement and trading post located on the southwestern shore of Hudson Bay in northeastern Manitoba. From there, the four men will board a float plane and then a train to Winnipeg where friends will transport them back to Voyageur Canoe Outfitters where a celebration will await.
“It’ll be a big one,” Swenson said of the party.
The four have no doubt in their minds that their bond will be as close as ever once the trip is over.
“I kinda went on this trip with three strangers, but I already have made three of my best friends,” Tanner said.
“I love that every day I wake up and I’m in a new place,” Swenson said. “This is just awesome.”
Spaeth said once he returns home he will “figure out my life, I guess.”
And Maxwell calls the experience “as good as it gets.”
The four voyageurs together encourage anyone who is thinking about a trip like the one they’re on to take advantage of the opportunity because it may only come around once.
“This kind of trip is possible if you want to make it possible,” Tanner concluded. “Find the people who know how to do it — or think they know how to do it, and buddy up with them. You can become the person you want to be.”
Meet the members of the Voyageur Hudson Bay Expedition Crew:
Although Tanner has not been a part of the Voyageur Canoe Outfitters crew, he has lived and worked on the Gunflint Trail just three miles away at Wilderness Canoe Base as a canoe trip guide and stayed through the winter. He graduated from New London-Spicer high school and from St. Olaf College in Northfield in 2010. Tanner said he is ready to experience a sense of timelessness on the canoe trip — free from the scheduled hours of the day and is looking forward to discovering the state of mind an 80-day expedition produces.
Spaeth has been a part of the Voyageur Canoe Outfitters crew since he graduated from high school in 2007. He’s been a key employee who most guests know by name. He is originally from Montevideo and graduated from Bemidji State University in 2010. Spaeth says he is looking forward to the pure adventure, amazing fishing, and being away from his cell phone and e-mail while on this canoe journey.
Swenson was a crew member at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters for the summers of 2006 and 2007 and then went to work as a canoe guide at Sommers Boy Scout Base in 2008 and Wilderness Canoe Base in 2010. He is from Plymouth and graduated high school from Maple Grove. In 2010, he graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College and is currently working as a chemist. While he is on this journey this summer, he said he wants to find a place that is truly wild.
Maxwell started working for Voyageur Canoe Outfitters in the fall of 2007 and has worked every summer since. He’s contributed to the success of Voyageur over the years through his dedication and hard work. He was a frequent guest who came up to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for canoe trips with his uncle. He’s originally from Crystal Lake, Ill., and is attending Lake Superior College in Duluth. Maxwell says he is most looking forward to the sense of true adventure, where paddling and camping will become a way of life.
For more information or to track the journey, visit http://blog.canoeit .
com/blog/voyageur-canoe-outfitters, www.voyageurhudsonbayexpedition.com  or search Voyageurs Hudson Bay Expedition on Facebook.
Their adventure on Lake of the Woods continues tomorrow. Having paddled on the Lake of the Woods with Mike many moons ago, I am envious of the Voyageur Crew.
Mike began his canoeing career as a camper and guide at Lake Trails Base Camp. I fondly recall the summer after my Junior Year in High School when Mike asked if I wanted to be a camper for a session. I was a bit perplexed when he said there wasn't electricity on the island. I kindly declined since there would be no place to plug my curling iron in.
Things have changed over the years and flat irons have replaced curling irons. I've also adjusted to no power and living in the middle of nowhere. I would love to be able to join the Crew on this amazing expedition and am so proud of them and their accomplishments.
There are amazing adventures awaiting the Voyageur Crew and you if you're interested in paddling the BWCA with Voyageur this summer, just give us a call! 1-888-CANOEIT!
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Yesterday the Expedition Crew would have paddled past the Rainy River First Nation. "Rainy River First Nation is situated 39 kilometers west of Fort Frances, Ontario. Presently occupying 2,464 hectares of reserve land, an additional land area of 18,725 hectares was awarded in 2005...Rainy River First Nation is a community dedicated to the restoration and preservation of its ancestral Ojibway culture and tradition..."the Rainy River First Nations were ideally situated at the centre of an active network of established trade routes. “Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung” (The Place of Long Rapids), was Manitou Rapid’s designated meeting and trading destination. With a 5,000 to 6,000 year history, this site is regarded as sacred to present day." the site now houses 20 – 25 burial mounds, the largest of its kind in Canada. The sacred mounds edging the river terraces of Rainy River and Long Sault Rapids were declared a National Historic Site in 1970...With architects working to create a reproduction of a tribal Elder’s vision, a world-class Interpretive Cultural Centre was built at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung, over three decades in the making, officially opening in 1999. Also known as “Manitou Mounds”, (Manitou meaning “Spirit), the Centre is literally built into a riverbank, containing five galleries with over 10,000 artifacts, a conservation lab, a gift shop and restaurant serving traditional Ojibway cuisine. Manitou Mounds attracts thousands of annual visitors, eager to observe displays and interpretations of ancient Ojibway culture. "
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Little Vermilion Lake is located immediately downstream of the Loon River. It is part of the Namakan Resevoir which includes Crane, Kabetogama, Namakan and Sand Point Lakes. As they exited Little Vermillion Lake they left the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and will not be paddling the BWCA anymore this trip. They spent their first night outside of the BWCA on Sand Point Lake.
Day 12 will find the Voyageur Crew paddling in a park of their own name, Voyageurs National Park.
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We're not sure if they encountered the same wind we had but our best guess is yes. Hopefully they enjoyed the warmer temperatures that got up into the high 70's on the Gunflint Trail.
The Crew would have portaged around many of the rapids on the Maligne River today. I'm guessing the guys saw very few people as this is a remote area of the Quetico Park. I can't wait to see pictures and hear more about it.
In just a half of an hour it will be Adam's birthday. I know it will be one he'll always remember.
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Mike is convinced the Voyageur Hudson Bay Expedition Crew paddled hard just to prove him wrong. He made the comment they wouldn't be able to make it from Grand Portage to Sag by Thursday. But like clockwork the Hudson Bay canoe crew ticked right along in perfect unison and made it to Sag by Thursday, quite easily I may add.
The expedition crew traveled in the Boundary Waters from the Devil's Elbow area on the Granite River out to Saganaga Lake. Thanks to the SPOT we were able to see exactly where they were so we could meet them out at American Point.
Sheri and I were alerted to the fact the Voyageur Hudson Bay Crew was near the old Customs on Sag Lake. With the speed they were traveling we were worried they would paddle faster to American Point than we would be able to boat there. We had to load a few items into the boat before we left and thankfully arrived before they did.
We waited patiently beneath the tall pines while we listened to the birds sing. We relaxed with the sunshine on our faces and enjoyed the quiet moments and smell of cedar.
After awhile we began to wonder where the canoe crew was. We knew how fast they could paddle yet something was preventing them from making progress across Saganaga and it surely wasn't the wind.
There are very few days when the north side of Saganaga is dead calm but there wasn't a ripple to be seen. The guys had paddled and boated around Saganaga many times so we couldn't imagine they would be lost.
We continued to chat while we kept an impatient eye on the water. At one point we radioed back to Voyageur Canoe Outfitters to make sure the SPOT hadn't disappeared from the radar. Every so often we scanned the surface looking for the Boundary Waters travelers.
Finally we saw a speck of pink flash along the water and we knew the guys were on their way. What took them so long and how long it actually took them to get from Customs Island on Saganaga to American Point is a story for another day.
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