#HikeThatSHT ~ Part 1

June 2017
Age: 36

Start: Martin Road
Finish: Normanna Road

14 15 Miles

I wanted to embark on this holy journey from my friends Greg & Kelli’s place in Duluth. I used to work with them at TCM, but since they moved to Duluth in the Chester Park neighborhood. I thought this would be a good launching point.

Though the new official start of the SHT begins down at Jay Cooke, I’m a traditions kind of gal and starting near the official Martin Road seemed as good as any place to start. Launching this adventure from the comforts of Greg & Kelli’s however, with a glorious Hot cup of coffee in the morning = priceless.

I suppose it was sometime during the fall of 2015 or spring of 2016 when I got this ridiculous urge to hike the entire Superior Hiking Trail by the time I was 40. Kind of this 40 in 40 idea of spending 40 days in the wilderness the year I turned 40.

After realizing that would be too much time away from my family I decided to break up my SHT(y) plans, and focus on spending 40 NON-CONSECUTIVE days out in the wilderness!

Knowing also that I wouldn’t be able to take an extended leave at this time to do the whole thing I conjured up this notion that I could hike approximately 4-5 sections each year and then on the year that I was actually 40 finish it off in a 10-12 day stretch.

So off I went after work to Duluth Minnesota. I hadn’t taken a solo, longer road trip since high school, so it was kind of weird adjusting to the solo ride. I blasted my radio however and sang along on top of my lungs! It was pretty exciting.

I arrived to Duluth around 6:15 pm our so and swung into Duluth Pack for a few quick items, and then enjoyed dinner on the patio of Canal Park Brewing with Kelli & Greg and their dog Gracie. If you haven’t been there before – drop what you’re doing and go enjoy a mango habanero burger, and a glass of malbec on the shores of Lake Superior!

We headed back to their place to re-pack our packs for our overnight camping adventure, and laughed ourselves silly until finally it was time to retire for the night.

I was awoken by soft light coming in through the bedroom windows with the white curtains. It was so peaceful, but I was eager to hit the trail. Kelli’s sweet fiance/ my friend Greg made us all coffee and before you knew it, I was dropping my car off at Normanna road, and Kelli drove us back to Martin Road.

We snapped a photo and we were officially off on the trail… except I noticed we were heading south when we should be heading north. Realizing that we turned around to head back to the parking lot to regroup. We noticed another trail leading the way towards Lismore Road. Now we’re in business!

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Right off the bat we are trudging through the North Shore State Trail (NSST/Snowmobile trail) that was fully logged with water. Within our first few steps our feet were already wet, and poor Kelli wore trail running shoes. Luckily I had on my water proof Keen hiking boots, so I was mostly okay.

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This first section was all along a grassy trail that clearly was a snowmobile trail when we saw signs that said, “Speed Limit – 30MPH” – okay – we’ll try to keep our hiking speed under control!

This is definitely not what I remember the SHT trail to be, but in order to do the whole trail one must endure the sucky parts too. This definitely is a sucky section that is nothing to write home about – or maybe it is.

I had recently purchased some new Black Diamond hiking poles that were pretty highly rated, but I found them to come apart every time they got stuck in the mud. I was getting annoyed. I thought I had a great piece of equipment but apparently not.

The tall grass was full of poison oak and poison ivy which was nearly unavoidable. I also imagined that once we got to camp we’d be covered in ticks.

Soon the sun dipped behind some clouds and an eerie feeling of being watched come over us. We tried to talk Kelli’s wedding plans, but soon it was apparent that we were deep in wolf territory with not just this one, but many many piles of scat. Perhaps a wolf super highway!

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Eventually coming to a pond I remarked that I thought we were getting close to the Bald Eagle campsite. We looked around, but saw no sign for a spur trail to the campsite.

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Soon after we came to the Lester River were we had planned to camp for the night. Knowing it was supposed to be amazing for hammock camping I was surprised by the snowmobiles shelter, and vault toilet with walls and a door. Thinking there is no way this could be the campsite we kept walking to find it.

FINALLY – we saw a sign to get us off the God-forsaken NSST and onto the single track SHT trail through the cedar groves. Red roots abounded, and the coolness of the deeper woods was welcoming.

My pole got stuck in the mud – yet again, but this time I realized one pole was much longer than the other – oh! I guess if you pull the handle all the way up it locks in place! Hooray – no more collapsing poles!

We kept looking for signs for a campsite and were surprised when we came up to Lismore Road! What? How did we pass two campsites! Ugh. We put our packs down in the parking lot, and had lunch.

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Realizing it was only noon, and we hiked 7 miles in 3 hours we decided instead of back tracking a mile or so to find the campsite, we’d press on to the next campsite Lone Tree closer to Normanna.

So hike and hike we did. Leaving the Lismore parking lot we had to hike along Lismore for a half mile before being dumped right back onto the evil NSST. Again it was FULL of water, and the mosquitoes were complete kamikaze’s and unrelentless! Eventually I had to drop my pack and spray an angry amount of Deet on my arms while teeth gritting – muttering with force, “take that ass-holes”.

Eventually we meandered through the woods through a logging area. It was acres upon acres of decimated forest. It was kind of sad and spooky.

Soon we were hiking down a “logging road” and were growing tired with deliriousness. I finally said, “I have to sit down”, so I sat down, but it wasn’t comfortable, and I exclaimed, “Watch – the campsite is around the next corner”, and it was!!! Eventually we came upon the “Lone Tree” campsite, and relaxed. Dropped our packs and were like YES!!!!!!

Unfortunately though it was not conducive to hanging two hammocks for camping. Utterly demoralized we retreated to the fact we’d hiked our 20-30# packs for no reason at all…

Soon a fellow gal hiker came up to our camp who was actually thru-hiking the trail all at once, and today was her day 1. She was surprised to see other hikers as the only people who even hike this section are those doing a thru – or section hike like myself.

We shared some memories from the trail and how bad it sucked and soon we were off towards my car.

More logging, and more miles and miles of the grassy bull crap. ūüė¶

Finally we made it to my car where we chugged gallons of water! We decided since we were jipped on camping on the trail we’d head over to Gooseberry Falls State Park to camp for the night. So, after a decent relaxation session in the car – ¬†we drove over to HWY 61 up towards Two Harbors, under the tunnels and to Gooseberry (after a stop at Dairy Queen for a hot dog and a Blizzard!) on our way.

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No room at the inn though – there were aprox 7 sitees at Gooseberry open but none were good for hammock camping. The ones that were good or even great for hammock camping were already taken by fellow campers.

So we checked out Split Rock. FULL. Jay Cooke – FULL.

So I dropped Kell off at her car and made it home to the Twin Cities by 10:15pm.

All in all it was a great trip, with amazing company! I hiked in my heavy pack for no reason at all – but it was great training for my BWCA trip later this summer. Portages will be a cake walk after this!

Lets do it again next month!

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All Dressed up ~ Trader Joe’s Instant Coffee

Well РI am a sucker for coffee and having a bit of Joe out in the back-country is no exception.  At home, I prefer my coffee straight up Рblack.

For me however, I find I run into a problem, when the coffee I usually bring to the backcountry – (Starbucks Via) usually tastes pretty bitter and burnt and not the ideal cup of hot deliciousness you’d expect on a perfect serene morning in the Boundary Waters. ¬†For me , it often requires ¬†a bit of creamer, or sugar to cut the bitterness, and my husband always prefers cream and sugar in his coffee regardless of the quality of the bean, or brewing method.

When adding dry creamer, and sugar (which definitely adds weight to the food pack) it makes the whole solution taste kind of weird. We’ve also tried the Mate2Go concentrated liquid creamer to kind of cut down in weight, but again, blah for the taste for me.

Perhaps I’m a java snob… perhaps I hadn’t found the right coffee, or the right balance of instant + creamer, or way to brew; ¬†instant vs. pour over, vs. french press….

So – I was super pumped when on a recent Trader Joe’s run I came¬†across this little beauty! The package looked promising with its cute little poka-dots and cleaver marketing lines. (After all – that’s how you should shop right?)IMG_20170413_181541
Ten packets at $1.99 was a steal, and I was super interested. This definitely seemed, “too good to be true”, especially for the price, but then again, at $1.99 it was definitely worth a try, and everything I’ve ever bought at Trader Joe’s had been delicious so far.

So, I threw it in my cart, went to the checkout and was pretty eager to give it a go.

 

 

 

My first impression was that the packets themselves are a bit longer and wider than the Starbucks via, but not obscenely so. ¬†(Perhaps the size of a Crayola Marker). They’ll definitely still pack-down pretty nice, and when I consider I don’t need to haul in sugar and creamer separately it makes the change in size completely negligible.

Once I opened the packet it was evident that little sugar and creamer crystals were present.  The coffee ingredients well Рsmelled like coffee too, despite there looking like a LOT of cream and sugar.

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As I poured hot water over the solution, the aroma was really nice and the “creamer color” ratio looked about on par for someone who likes creamer in their coffee. So I figured it’d be a win for my husband and a win for me – so long as it didn’t have an overly artificial taste, or a lingering bitter taste.

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I was really happy with the result! This was with 8oz of water added, so if you wanted it more diluted you could certainly add more water if the size of your cup allows. (This is my brand new Mini Bull Design “Cult Classic” Foster Beer Pot. (I obviously watch too many Shug videos, and if you recognize this pot, maybe you do too!)

The taste is¬†wonderful. It was like having a REAL decent cup of coffee with some half-and-half and sugar added. It didn’t taste weird, or artificial, bitter or overly sweet. (Especially given the fact that coffee is #4 on the list of ingredients!!!) Conclusion: Definitely stocking up in BULK on this stuff. This has been my very favorite coffee for the Boundary Waters / SHT hiking I’ve tried to date, and I’ve tried a lot!

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So – next time you’re in the market for some coffee for the BWCA, Quetico and beyond, check out the Trader Joes Instant Coffee – All¬†Dressed Up.¬†

Meal Review – Good To-Go brand

Simplicity – simplicity – simplicity!

That’s where its at for me in the back-country. I was so excited to test out this new brand “Good To-Go” when I saw it on the shelf at my local REI. They are both gluten free and vegetarian, so if that is something that is a need for you – then these might be right for you!

On my last trip to the wilderness I tested two of these.  The Classic Marinara with Penne, and the Thai Curry. After reading rave reviews I figured I was in good hands.

Classic Marinara with Penne
As with most of these packaged meals for backcounty – it comes in two servings, well at least the package I picked up at REI was.

This meal couldn’t have been easier! Simply add two cups of water to the pouch. It does take at least 20 minutes to soften up those noodles tho, so you do have to plan ahead so that you’re not eating in the dark like I did on the first night!

I also carried in a tiny little bottle of crushed red peppers since I like my food nice and spicy!

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This was really good. I compared it in my mind to the Prego Ready Meals, and thought this was better, and lighter! I only ate about half of it though. There was so much left over that I had to pack it back out.

Thai Curry
Right out of the bat I set aside the coconut milk, since that isn’t my favorite, added my two cups of water in and I was set!

The spice is real folks. I didn’t even need to add any crushed red peppers, and the taste is delicious! Little pieces of peas, broccoli and green beans were a really nice touch. ¬†Again, there was way too much for one person to eat the two serving size. (Did a company finally get their serving sizes right? )

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Later that night my tummy was a little rumbly though – so I might be a bit shy to try this one again.

All in all – I really like this company, and their meals don’t remind me of an MRE from my Navy days like some of the other companies do. I’m also really excited to see on their website that they DO in fact offer single sizes and lots of new delicious choices!

 

 

Winter Camping – Take 3

Ah – my last and final winter camping trip!

My co-worker Bre and I decided to head up north again for another addition of Winter camping. This time we were fully outfitted with CCS Pulks, a winter tent and hot stove. Along with additional friends NingA & Canoearoo, we made the most of our cushy winter camping experience.

We ended up choosing the Clearwater entry point for the amazing vistas, high recommendations, and general feasibility. Starting back at the end of September we poured out ideas for various locations which included Wood Lake, Sawbill, Missing Link Lake etc. But in the end we decided a base-camp on Clearwater would be the right choice for us.

A new staple in my wilderness packing is Melatonin. I am/was a horrific wilderness sleeper. I absolutely LOVE my days out in the wild, but at nightfall my imagination runs dangerously free. I imagine wolves, bears, and weirdos¬†surrounding us waiting to kill… and I usually get zero sleep at night, which often causes me to feel sick the next several days after the trip to lack of sleep… so again this time I was armed… with good old fashioned pharmaceuticals.

My trip just two weeks ago proved to me that I could sleep peacefully in the woods.

Thursday March 2, 2017
Thursday afternoon we pulled out of the Twin Cities and embarked on that wonderful four hour car ride up Interstate 35 all the way up to Grand Marais. Once we neared Tettegouche State Park there was no end to the amount of deer we saw crossing, and along side of Hwy 61 all the way to our bunkhouse! This would be the highlight of our wilderness viewing.

Once we arrived in Grand Marais, we swung into Voyageur Brewery for a bite to eat, however with some various dietary concerns, and lack of options we relocated over to the Harbor House Grille. An adorable restaurant built out of an old house. We cozied up next to the fire place, and shared great conversation for the weekend ahead and had burgers 4 ways!

After dinner we shot a bit past Grand Marais to sleep at the The Hungry Hippie Farm & Hostel that is popular with Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) enthusiasts as it is shortly off the trail. In many ways I would have been happy to just set up shop right here for the remaining days.

The drive up CR-14 was long and dark. We passed the SHT and began wondering if there was going to be a sign directing us to the hostel. Eventually, through the trees,  all light up in the dark was the outline of the barn Рobviously our turn.  We parked, knocked on the house door, and were greeted enthusiastically by the owners and their children. She showed us around, the downstairs common area, including the individual rooms that go for $50 (they were pretty nice), and brought us to the upstairs of the barn where the -cheaper-  bunks were. They were absolutely adorable, and in chalk had noted our bunks!

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We all snuggled up in our beds, donned our headlamps and read our books, or Skyped our husbands for the last time before our real wilderness adventure began! In the evening the barn got pretty hot. Our one trip-mate stealthily jumped down from the top bunk and turned down the heat. From here on out she earned her trail name ~ NingA.

We dozed off to sleep, thankful that we were sleeping in the bunkhouse tonight since the temperatures dropped down to -6 degrees.

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Friday March 3, 2017
With temperatures hovering barely to zero, we woke up semi-lazily, and headed back in towards Grand Marais for coffee & breakfast at Java Moose. The view back in towards Grand Marais was absolutely spectacular with clear skies you could see for miles and miles down the coast. I am absolutely kicking myself now for not pulling over for a photo opp.

At Java Moose we enjoyed tasty oatmeal and breakfast sandwiches, and then were soon on our way up the Gunflint Trail where we saw more deer on the side of the road. I immediately threw off my fears of wolves since there were so many deer for their picking.

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The drive down Clearwater Road was so pretty. Eventually we came to the Clearwater entry point at the end of the road to a non-parking lot, and ended up driving out onto the ice by accident.

Backed up the trailer, and parked on the side of the boat launch where others instructed us to park.

We unloaded fairly quickly, thought at times it looked like a yard sale in the middle of the parking lot, since two others were going on a winter adventure ahead of us, and then 3 more pulled up behind us.

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As we crossed the ice – the ice was absolutely BOOMING! It sounded like this for the entire day and into the night. At first it was a bit unnerving when a big boom thundered underfoot, but eventually I got used to it, and rather liked the sound.

Eventually we passed from the public areas into the wilderness towards our camp off the BRT (Border Route Trail). ¬†The banks up to the campsite were very steep and ice laden. I wonder how tricky it is in the warmer months…

We found a nice spot for the tent that was protected from the wind by some trees. Unfortunately the snow was kind of crummy for snow anchors, so we had to anchor out to the surrounding trees.  Canoearoo and NinjA went off to gather wood while Bre and I got the tent and stove set up.

Later that night I took my Nils ice auger out and drilled through 2.5 feet of ice for some water. We all spent time cutting wood,and using the axe. After Bre went to town with the axe we gave her trail name to her – “LumberBre“.

Canoearoo and I got our holes drilled for tip-ups hoping for some legendary Lake Trout. We used huge frozen minnows on treble hooks and waited eagerly for the monsters to bite while NinjA and LumberBre gathered some more wood down the shore line far away from camp.

The day was cold, but with the position of the sun, and lack of wind it felt pretty warm. Everyone was in high spirits.

Later that night we pulled in our tip-ups, and set off to make dinner, but not before we took in the breathtaking views of the sunset on Clearwater Lake.

Since one of my trip partners is a vegetarian, and the others have a bit of specific needs of their own we all decided to pack our own meals.

After Basecamp Dad and I’s trip two weeks ago I discovered I HATE doing dishes in the winter,¬†due to frozen hands so I packed in delights that required no dishes to be washed.

Tonight’s meal was a Good – to – Go – meal. I had the Classic Marinara with Penne. They are vegetarian and gluten free, and delicious! They took about 20-minutes to set after we spend a while boiling water. ¬†Bre charged her iPhone off my Biolite stove.

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The Classic Marinara, mixed in with a bit of crushed red pepper, it was pretty darn good. I would definitely have this again. Serving size says 2, and for me, I would say that was right. I had a bunch left over.

After dinner we got our food hung, and Bre got the hot tent – well – getting hot. Once inside we saw the benefit of a hot tent. We all hunkered inside and had some good conversation while contemplating the days activity quietly to ourselves.

That night felt terribly cold. I had a zero degree sleeping bag, and with the forecast calling for a low of 16 degrees it barely felt adequate. During the middle of the night, my head (which was under two hats and a balaclava) became terribly cold, and I clung to my hot packs for dear life.

The hot tent was not hot, though we didn’t keep it prime stoked throughout the night. It was cold. So very cold that night.

Saturday March 4, 2017
To be honest. Last night – was rough. It was SO COLD!

We did wake up to a warm tent however. Bre had gotten the fire going first thing in the morning, and we all woke up pleasantly so after a cold – cold night. We hung out for quite a while in the tent before getting the courage to go out and get our breakfast going. NinjA had brought her food inside the tent, so she got her breakfast taco going/defrosting on the wood stove, and her coffee as well. (Good call).

Eventually we all meandered out of the tent, and re-drilled the hole so we could get some fresh water boiling for everyone’s water/coffee for the day.

Today’s high was supposed to be 36 with a low of 25, but it was absolutely frigid. I definitely packed for the forecast, and not the worst case scenario. I’m not very talented at this winter camping game!

I enjoyed a huge thermos of Starbucks Via – Italian Roast, and some Bailey’s non-alcoholic creamer which I had to warm by the outdoor fire to defrost since it was frozen solid. The Italian Roast is decidedly not my favorite. It is kind of bitter, so you really need the cream to cut it. I also had a Kind breakfast bar. This was about as low maintenance as you can get for breakfast.

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Bre & NinjA packed up a day-pack and hiked up the Border Route Trail towards Rove Lake so they could see Canada, and Canoearoo and myself tried our hand at some more ice fishing, and relaxing.

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We ended up moving down to the lake out of camp for the day since it was sunny on the ice, and warmed us up a bit.

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Later on for lunch I tried my¬†bagel sandwich with¬†turkey, basil and onion. It was the “Bruegers Bagel” of the north woods, but it too froze completely the night before, and it had to be warmed on the fire. After I got it to an edible state it was pretty good. ¬†I have to remember to make these when we go car camping.

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Still cold, and not thoroughly enjoying this whole winter camping thing… I joked to Canoearoo that I bet I could hike out to my SUV, drive to the Trail Center, have a hot meal and be back before the others came back from their hike, but in the end I sucked it up, and enjoyed myself with good company and conversation.

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Eventually the other ladies came back from their hike. While crossing a lake they felt uneasy about it, and heard some uncomforting cracking sounds, so they quickly got off the ice and made their way back. They said the trail was exceptionally groomed as if someone went through with a snowblower making a nice clear path.

We began gathering our stuff up for the hike out tomorrow, and agreed we’d skip breakfast in camp and head straight for Trail Center in the morning for a big hearty meal that we didn’t have to prepare or thaw.

After our evening chores were complete, we got our various dinners going. This time was another addition of Good-To-Go Thai Curry. It was very delicious with peas, broccoli, and green beans, and none of them tasted dehydrated.  Again, there was far too much for me to eat.

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NinjA had the fire going in the hot tent, so when everything was battened down we retreated to the tent which was real warm, and felt good with the wind picking up speed. As the others started fading one by one, I got lost deeply¬†in my William Kent Krueger Book, “Copper Ridge” the sixth¬†in his installment on the Corcoran O’Conner series. To say I’m hooked is an understatement!

I donned six hot packs throughout my body after last night’s uncomfortable sleep, and changed up my clothes which felt much warmer. NinjA kept the fire going throughout the night.

Laying there it sounded like F14 Jets were taking off on the eastern side of Clearwater and roared their way down the runway of the lake. I was surely glad I wasn’t paddling in it as it whipped our tent. I prayed our knots would hold, and they did.

Tonight was much much warmer, and I slept mostly comfortable.

Sunday March 5, 2017
We all arose about 7:30 or so. We laid there not wanting to get out of our sleeping bags with the cool air on our noses, but one by one we sat up. The wood stove was cool to the touch, and looking around I said, “In the words of Basecamp Dad… lets pack this *hit up!”.

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So we did, and in no time we were back down on the ice ready to pull our pulks westbound down Clearwater Lake. We arrived to the car without dramatics, and took off towards Trail Center.

I drank about 6 cups of coffee with creamer, and thee most delicious blueberry french toast with sausage a girl could find on the Gunflint Trail. If you haven’t checked out Trail Center… drop everything you have, and drive straight here. You won’t regret it, or their adorable customer service.

Final Thoughts
Alas, my final thoughts… Firstly- I really really wanted to enjoy this. But… for me it was cold. Maybe my gear was not robust enough, but I found winter camping to me more work than the reward…

We found out once we were back in civilization that Friday > Saturday got down to 10 below zero!!!! No wonder I was so cold!

The silence of the north-woods in the winter is breathtaking, and awe inspiring. It drowns out the sounds in my head… and tunes into the sounds of my soul, making the emotion absolutely deafening.

For this reason, I’m drawn to these spaces, but these feelings I get, I do find during the warmer months as well..

While I probably will not venture out into these snowy months washout the promise of a ¬†sound heated structure, I will venture to these parts again… I long for the defrosting of lakes frozen, into liquid poetry… to chase the silence… to¬†chase the stillness of my soul…¬†

Preggo Ready Meals

While perusing the aisles at the local Super Target I ran into these Prego Ready Meals. I was intrigued. Picked one up, and threw it in the cart.mnlindsey80-130217-174540

You can either microwave them, or if you’re in the backcountry, simply open and dump into a cooking pot. Its all of the convenience of Spaghetti O’s & Meatballs without the contraband aluminum can!

Once I got home I promptly threw that baby in the microwave and made Basecamp Dad and Basecamp Kid try it. At first they looked at me like, “Do we really need to taste test?” ¬†“Yes, because half the time you don’t LOVE backcountry meals, so were going to approve them all before we go from now on!”.

Not surprisingly they both loved it.

Pros:
Tastes Delish (as far as this kind of food goes)
Easy to transport
There is meat in it!
Something the whole family loves

Cons:
Heavy (Might be able to repackage and dehydrate if you were concerned about weight)
Without an abundance of sauce it burns easily in the GSI cookset pots – so ya gotta keep it stirring

On me and Basecamp Dad’s recent winter trip I packed two of these along and a tiny plastic bottle of crushed red peppers. I’m thinking if we had a Bota Box of Cabernet along, and some naan for over the fire this would have been just about perfect!

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Will absolutely add this to our mainstay.

Winter Camping – Take 2

After my first¬†successful winter camping trip last year, and pouring over plans with my friend Bre for several months on another trip this year my husband also became highly interested in the idea of winter camping and suggested we go winter camping ourselves this winter as well! Two trips in one year? I’m in!

So – on Wednesday February 15 we schlepped the kiddo off to my moms and the dogs off to Basecamp Dad’s parents, and took off for the north woods – Ely area to be exact on an overcast Wednesday morning.

When we arrived to Ely we stopped by Piragis first to pick up our negative 30 degree sleeping bags and a Nemo Moki tent. We set it up at the store to ensure we knew what we were doing. It was a little clunky, but got it figured out fairly easy.

After we checked everything out  we drove by Whiteside Park where they had these amazing snow sculptures! I walked through, snapped some photos, and marveled at their creators handy work.

Next we checked into the Adventure Inn, a divergence from our usual bunkhouse lodging. It was a basic, but snug hotel with the most delightful (elderly) host Louise.  She was a doll, and was always so excited whenever she saw us. We promptly decided this would be our new go-to place when we stayed in Ely.

FINALLY, we ended the night by having dinner at Insula. I ate here twice with KC back in 2015 and fell head over heels in love with the joint, but hadn’t made it back since. After an a¬†great hamburger (with Ghost pepper cheese) we went back to the hotel, got settled, and snuggled in for a night of RoboCop while I read my (William Kent Krueger) WKK book, Blood Hollow.

Deciding where to go on this trip was quite the challenge. I longed to see any kind of pictographs, so I had been thinking a nice and easy trip to Hegman Lake – with camping over on Little Bass Lake to provide a bit of solitude might be nice. After all – we probably wouldn’t do this trip in the spring/summer/fall months, so this was really interesting.

Another thought was Wood Lake – this was an easy one with the plethora of Northern available in the lake and we hadn’t been there before.

Finally the idea of heading to Snowbank and camping on Parent or Disappointment was also really intriguing. With Snowbank being a popular trout lake and us not having fished for trout before this was really really interesting.

All in all – we decided on Snowbank to Disappointment.

Thursday February 16

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So Рour alarms were set for 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at Britons,  and were on the road by 9:00, and crossing Pickerel Bay of Snowbank by 10:00 a.m. The crossing proved mostly uneventful, but more tiresome than we expected. We finally found an ice road which was much easier to walk on since the snow was all packed down. I decided against wearing my life jacket when I saw cars on the lake, but still had my ice awls around my neck as we tromped across with my Frost River Isle Royale Jr pack strapped to me, and Basecamp Dad pulling our sled.

We decided to take the shorter portage from Snowbank to Parent, and give up on Disappointment all together. In the future we agreed we’d both take a sled to spread out the weight a bit more. It was piled high, and heavy.

Crossing over by the portage to Parent we noticed a plethora of houses. Something new that we haven’t experienced before (houses so close to a portage). We got on the portage and immediately took in all of the devastation from last July’s blowdown.

There were trees down everywhere. Some of the pines were only blown over at the top making them look like they were straight out of Whoville and a Dr. Seuss book.

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The portage was a bit up and down, but manageable.

Once we arrived on Parent we were completely alone. No boot, ski, or animal tracks. We were alone.

Basecamp Dad wanted to camp on the ice, but I wanted the bathroom nearby since I was a bit shy to just – go on the ground. (Perhaps Quetico wouldn’t look good on me…) so we settled for a campsite taking care to not disturb it too much.

The site was full of blown down trees, including one that fell over right over the… modified fire-pit/kitchen area.

Someone had gone to great lengths to create a full size bench that could easily accommodate 6, and carved in the back to make it look more… luxurious. We were¬†taken aback quite honestly.

bench

Then we saw on the tree that had fallen across the fire pit folks etching their initials in the wood. This made us sad, and equally less guilty feeling for camping at this summer site.

tree

Basecamp Dad went to work drilling some holes nearby to get some tip-ups in and I organized our supplies.

The wind had picked up something fierce, and I started getting very – very cold. I made the very silly mistake of putting on too many tight layers, which is exactly what you DON’T want to do. There was no room between layers to warm me up. Luckily we had a bunch of handwarmers. ¬†Basecamp Dad and I started looking for firewood, and it appeared that down the shoreline there was a good deal of downed deadwood, so we hauled it back over, and started¬†to get a fire going¬†as we got our tent ready to set up.

This tent, while somewhat “easy” in the store to set up, is a total a$$hat in the field. The internal poles would not set up where they were supposed to. We had no trouble in the store, but they kept popping out of place in the field. Eventually we got them to stay after taking a little break, and trying again.

The fire was a bear to keep going. It was starving for oxygen, and the wood would not catch. We got it started enough (or rather threw enough small stuff at it) to boil some water and heat up our food and that was about it. While tending to – said “fire” we heard a mans voice behind us. We turned suddenly to find an old man and a dog in our camp thanking us for blazing a trail. He was on a day-ski to disappointment with his very large black Sheppard.

He was a local guy, and warned us that with the warm up, the whole area could be a nasty slush field. We shot the breeze a bit, and he was on his way.

Dinner was a super easy Prego Ready Meal, and enjoyed some hot cider with it. After the dishes were washed we went to bed around 6:00 p.m. since keeping a fire going was futile and listed to the wind howling as we tried to get warm in our sleeping bags. I definitely need to get different mittens. My hands, and frankly entire body was dangerously cold, and it was thanks to hand warmers that kept me going. I put some down on my femoral arteries, and the others in my armpits, and I was golden!

We both agreed that winter camping wasn’t exactly for us. Perhaps too much effort for the reward… No fish, no fire on day 1.

Friday February 17
After a fairly amazing night sleep in the woods (the best so far) we slept in a bit, and woke up around 8:00 a.m. which is crazy for us since we’re always up early in the field. Perhaps no kid- no dogs really did the trick! I read my WKK book and waited for the sun to come up higher and warm us up.

I noticed some frost on the ceiling of the tent, and it wasn’t until it started dripping on us, that I realized it was inside from condensation.

tent-frost

Shortly after our little “condensation rain shower”, we got up, loaded the sled, and went to the other side of the lake to do a little day fishing. Thought I heard some wolves howling. It started out as one. A long howl. Then eventually more, and more. Strangely I was not scared. Not even at all. I was curious. They were getting closer. In the end we decided it was most likely a dog sled team. ¬†Out to the middle of the lake we brought our stove, some wood, and our breakfast out with us.

This. Was. Awesome.

I read my WKK book, and we enjoyed some coffee, and a Kind Breakfast bar in the middle of the lake while Basecamp Dad worked the fishing.  Brilliant blue skies, and a silence that was the biggest comfort of the entire trip.

blue-1

blue-2

blue-3

blue-4

blue-5

As the day lagged on – and fishing proving futile, and our stove which was a pistol to boil water (never had such a hard time in our lives).. we decided to actually head back to Ely around 4pm, get a hotel room at the Adventure Inn again, and call this trip good.

So. That’s exactly what we did. We bused everything down, loaded everything up and headed back. The slush was getting pretty significant by now after a 50, or near 50 degree day on the lake, and we were glad we pulled the plug early. Peace out Parent Lake. May you give the spring and summer anglers better luck than us. And folks ¬†– treat your campsites better.

We got back to the car with no trouble, and luckily Adventure Inn had one more room. A last minute cancellation! We took it, and actually got the same room we had two days before. From there we walked up to the Ely Steakhouse, and enjoyed a nice meal with some adult beverages.

We spoke at large about our summer trip, and our keen interest and excitement to get into the world of Hammock camping! This will be a good way to distribute our tent weight which is currently 12#, and will be very helpful for me in the summer as I hike the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). Lots to explore here, but we’re about 97% sure we’re going this route starting this spring!

The service at the restaurant was pretty poor/slow, so we will probably not be back. We were there on our first trip with the same issues. O’well.

After we got back to our room we promptly fell asleep and set no alarm.

Saturday February 18
Woke up leisurely around 8:30 a.m. grabbed the hotel coffee and pastries, and headed up the Echo trail to the Hegman entry point. Pulled in and two other cars were parked. A leisurely day trip out to the pictographs.

We walked along a very packed, very noticeable trail from the parking lot, all the way out to the pictos. It was a gorgeous walk, and I immediately regretted wearing my jacket, and hat. My wool sweater was plenty, so I took off my coat and carried it like a baby.

Finally got to the pictographs on the north end, and it was amazing. I was surprised at how high they were up and marveled at the artists drawing. To me – it was God the creator, or the Gitchi Manitou looking over his creation.

pictos

Finally we turned back, and saw scores of people walking in to see the great pictographs too. We estimated about 20 more people were hiking in after us. Definitely busting the rules and regs in the BWCA. The parking lot was completely full so people were parking on the Echo Trail!

Lastly we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Grilled Cheese Emporium with amazing service, dropped off our gear at Piragis, and headed home.

While winter camping may not be for us, the BWCA and wilderness adventure definitely is.

See ya in the summer Ely! See ya in the summer!

Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ every day!

FINALLY!!!!

I got back to the BWCAW!!! I absolutely can’t believe I only took one trip last year! Two trips per year should be the norm from here out.It was time to do a little…. Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ every day! (minus the hunting part).

This past Labor Day weekend we headed up to the Gunflint Trail (which was a first for us). Destination – EP #47 Lizz/Swamp with hopes to basecamp on Horseshoe!

Unlike prior trips we elected to wait to pack everything until just a few days before we took off! Again we took my CCS pack, Frost River Pack, Basecamp Dad’s¬†pack, and Basecamp Kid’s pack. We re-distributed the weight from our Spring 2016 trip, and things were looking good!

We also took Basecamp JRT (Jack Russell Terrier) and left Basecamp GSP (German Shorthair Pointer) back home with the boarder!

Wednesday evening we left home around 6:30pm and headed up north towards Superior Ridge Inn off Hwy 61 just south of Schroeder, MN. We wanted to get a nice head start so that we didn’t have to leave the Twin Cities at 3:00 a.m. to make it up north by 7:00 or 8:00 a.m.

Coming down the big hill to Duluth while it was all light up was quite a site, but it was weird driving on the north shore in the dark! I saw loads of deer in the ditches, so I was a bit cautious of pushing the speed lest they jump out at me.

Superior Ridge Inn was a fine place to stay, though we only stayed about 7 hours (sleeping 6.5 of them). We rolled in around 10:30 p.m. after stopping for Hardies for dinner (husbands request).

We all fell fast asleep since our alarm was set for 5:30 a.m.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. and I was ready to roll! Basecamp Dad scooped Basecamp Kid out of her slumber, and carried her to the car and we were finally off! It was still mostly dark , but we got to watch the sun rise over Lake Superior which is always a treat.

We did make a pit stop however at Java Moose and Worlds Best Donuts for breakfast in Grand Marais which was great. My co-worker mentioned that the donuts were small, but I thought they were big enough for us to each have one. We’re not huge breakfast eaters though.¬†¬†We then blazed the trail up the Gunflint to Rockwood outfitters to pick up our permits, and hopefully some leeches since all of the bait shops were closed so early in the morning.

Unlike the Ely side, everything is fast asleep off the Gunflint until 8:00 a.m. In fact Rockwood Outfitters were the only ones we could find that opened at 7:00 a.m. We were used to outfitters (specifically VNO) opening at 5:30 a.m.  and staying open until 10 p.m.in the busy season. Here everything closed down at 6:00 p.m.

We pulled in and the owners greeted us. We unloaded everything right there after they announced we could park with them vs. the public landing down the road for a flat rate of $10. We were in. They also had some leeches, so we grabbed about two dozen of them as well. We unloaded our vehicle as other folks started waking up to put in. We worked quickly after learning they were headed to the very location we were.

They provided us clear, and easy directions to the Lizz portage, and even helped us push off and get Basecamp Kid in her seat. Talk about full service! I’d recommend this helpful bunch if you’re looking for an outfitter on Poplar Lake.

The directions couldn’t have been easier, so we found the portage to Lizz without any problems. Basecamp Kid was happy to see that it was simple land mass that separated the lakes vs. rapids and a water fall requiring a portage. We got everything unloaded and took a look back without any sign of our “same entry permit day” comrades.

The portage to Lizz was easy as could be! Husband and kiddo saw an oversized deer hoof track in the mud (which was pretty solidified) and determined it must be a moose hoof. At the end of the portage we met a group of young canoeists who looked to be about college age. In fact we learned they were entering freshman at St. Scolastica who offers incoming freshmen the opportunity to go on a BWCA trip to meet new friends, and form bonds. I thought that was pretty darn awesome.

Lizz was a super easy paddle, and the other portage to Caribou couldn’t have been easier to find. The muck on this end was a little more legit, but still wasn’t as bad as my recent hike on the SHT after Silver Bay received 6″ of rain… but I digress.

This was a little more of a “hike” but the 65-70 rods (depending on which map you consult)¬†with¬†little log “bridges” on them in the lower areas that looked more prone to being muddy, but everything was hard packed when we walked through. It was very easy, and Basecamp Kid¬†took it like a champ without even a peep. She was very pro-portaging this time, and I didn’t even have to bribe her with candy or Girl Scout Cookies!

Caribou was a beautiful lake. We “parallel parked” the canoe and hopped in. My feet got a bit wet, but I didn’t mind since I had new hiking sandals, so most of the time I just walked into the water up to my knees which was much easier than teeter-tottering on a rock trying not to get wet. This is definitely the way to go!

That first site on Caribou was open, but we decided to head to Hoseshoe instead. That 20 rod portage was the easiest one we’d encounter on our entire trip, and very soon we arrived on Horseshoe. The first two sites were open, but we were really hoping for sites 675, or 674 as it was primo moose viewing areas… but they were both taken, along with 673! We paddled down one of the arms, and that site was open!

We all got out and walked around, but the firepit was secluded from the water, and the path to the toilet was very rocky. It didn’t have that magical feel to it, so we paddled back north to one of the (hopefully still open) sites. On our way back towards site 675 we noticed a flotilla of four canoes (the ones we saw at Rockwood) with loaded gear also looking for a site. The race was on!

We mentioned to them the site we just left was open, and paddled north while they pondered their next move. From this angle site 672 looked awesome. One walk around and it was going to be home sweet home for us for the next few days. We threw everything up on shore, and cracked open some wine (and Koolaid) to celebrate!

Later that evening we tried our hand at fishing (success but small), and had bratz for dinner which were amazing! This is the way to go for meal #1 of the night. Basecamp Dad missed his steak, but I still loved the simplicity of the bratz, and lower risk of blood all over everything else!

After we got camp cleaned up (in the dark) we came back out towards the fire pit, and noticed a gorgeous display of northern lights, stars and the visible milky way! I was so glad to have my good camera with, though I am still a novice at nighttime photography.

We all popped a melatonin and fell fast asleep.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Friday we slept in a tad Рwell by our wilderness standards of 6:30 a.m. Рwe all slept in until 8:00 a.m. or later. We had a good rest, but our tent was pitched on a slight slope so we all kind of rolled at night.  Basecamp JRT demanded to sleep in my sleeping bag each night, so we rolled together depending on how she wanted to sleep.

Once emerging from the tent, we lazily walked back to get our food bag, and had an amazing breakfast of oatmeal and coffee! (ha!) (The kiddo got hot cocoa though). In the future we might try to bring our farm fresh eggs with us since they don’t require refrigeration. We’re also planning to invest in a bear vault or hope to get one for Christmas (wink wink).

After breakfast was cleaned up thanks to Basecamp Kid, and promises of extra snickers bars at night, we were off for Vista lake, which Basecamp Kid wanted to visit after seeing this video.

The paddle past site 675 on horseshoe was amazing, and very moosey feeling. Loads of lily pads and vegetation. The paddle was very enjoyable, and the portage to Vista was very easy to find.

The portage itself was a rocky mess though. The take out of horseshoe wasn’t too bad, but lots and lots of rocks to contend with towards Vista. It reminded me of the first portage from Mudro into Fourtown but on a lighter scale.

Soon we arrived to Vista and the entry in was much trickier with all of the rocks.

We paddled down to the 5 star campsite towards Misqua lake to have lunch. That was the cats meow of all sites! The views were awesome, the tent pads close to the pit and level, and the path to the potty closer than at our site. It was very enjoyable to relax and borrow another site for an hour or so. We didn’t see anyone else on Vista until we were nearly finished with lunch when we saw our Rockwood friends fishing nearby.

All, but one of our leeches got out of our leech locker (we’ll need a more sophisticated one in the future), so we fished with fake bait, and lures. We decided to fish the eastern bays and I got an eater smallie on the north-eastern bay on a Fliker Shad¬†lure!

Finally – we were going to eat a bona-fide fish from the BWCA!

We let the wind, which had picked up by now,  blow us back to the portage to horseshoe.

Anchors down, we fished the lower part o Horseshoe, and then made a right hand turn to the far eastern arm of Horseshoe where Basecamp Dad accidentally hooked his other pole and threw it out into the lake!!!!

Luckily for us/him the water was pretty shallow and it was resting about 3 feet on some vegetation. Phew! We paddled down towards that other campsite, but it was taken, so we turned around before we got there.

On our way back to the main section of the lake we noticed two otters grunting at us, and played peak-a-boo as we paddled by.

Once we came back towards camp we realized we had some new neighbors directly across from us. They had three canoes and from what we could surmise, a truck load of kids with them.

We pan fried the fish in some ghee and lemon juice and made mac and cheese to go with it. It was absolutely wonderful!

After we got dinner all cleaned up we were back in the canoe for an evening paddle and fishing until dark. We could hear our new neighbors hooting and hollering, and making all kinds of noise. We thought maybe they were a Boy Scout troop and hoped that they had a curfew.

We made a decent campfire that evening, drank wine, and played Yahtzee. ¬†Our kiddo fell asleep mid-Yahtzee while Basecamp Dad and I stayed up to plan future trips. He challenged me to reserve our days off from work,but NOT reserve a permit until the day before we leave, and leave it up to chance where we go…. At first I thought he was nuts, but then the idea started to really grow on me…So – that is my 2018 goal since I already have two spots in mind for the 2017 season! (Somebody stop me!)

We carried little miss to our tent, and we all fell fast asleep.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

This morning we slept in even further! Even Basecamp JRT wanted to sleep in, which is another reason why she gets to come with us on our trips. Today we hoped to go up to Caribou Lake to fish some spots I learned about on bwca.com.

The portage back over to Caribou was like going to the State Fair. So many people on this portage that we gave each other the: “this is crazy” look. Perhaps in the future we’ll skip the Labor Day weekend trip and plan a mid-October trip instead when Basecamp Kid is out of school again. We crave our solitude that we’ve gotten on our previous pre-Memorial Weekend trips, and loved them!

It probably took us 30 minutes to get through that portage,but finally we made it. We worked our way along the¬†lake, cast, nothing, cast, nothing, cast nothing…..

This continued for the whole day which was overcast, and very very windy. Basecamp Kid fell asleep in the canoe after complaining that her ear hurt. I was worried she was going to have a full blown ear infection and was planning on how we were going to get through the night, or pull out if it turned into such. I encouraged her to nap, so she did for about 2 hours while me and Basecamp Dad fished. That was awesome, because Basecamp Dog was sleeping too, so we got some REAL quiet as we saw nobody on Caribou for the day.

After we had enough of cast, and….. reeling back in empty handed we paddled back towards the Horseshoe portage with whitecaps and wind in our face. That was a workout, but thankfully everyone else was still asleep so nobody rocked the boat.

Upon return to Horseshoe the wind was still whipped up pretty bad, so we decided to gather some firewood, and just relax on the rocks and read, finish our Yahtzee game from the night before and relax.

We noticed our neighbors, which now no longer appeared to be scouts, but rather two dads and about 6 kids between them were in groups of kids in the canoes and fishing. They’d yell across the lake, “Got one….” “What?”, “So and So got a fish”, “What kind?”, “A northern, its huge… probably… 6 inches!”…. It was kind of cute… but mostly annoying.

After listening to these kids reel in fish after fish in front of our campsite we decided to head back out on the lake once our fire had subsided and extinguished. We paddled the northwestern arm of Horseshoe all the way down past the narrows which were really rocky paddling until we were completely secluded. Peace…..

With that came loads of lily pads however,and fishing was no longer feasible, so we turned back for dinner. The thing about Horseshoe is that each little arm of it, and section of it is wildly different from the next. The northwest arm reminded me of Ely Lakes, while the southeastern arm was almost swampy looking.

Dinner was Teriyaki rice and chicken, and some Snickers. We organized everything for our departure the next day and relaxed by the fire to play some cards. The sky was cloudy so we did not see much in the way of stars. It would be an early bedtime for us, as we heard our neighbors STILL shouting across the lake at dark.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

We didn’t set any alarms to set out, but I woke up around 7:00 a.m. to the light of day, and picked up my book to read a bit while I waited for Basecamp Kid¬†and Basecamp Dad to wake up.

Around 8:30 a.m. or so everyone else woke up and we began the process of tearing down camp.

Our neighbors to the east seemed pretty quiet, which is probable since I swear they were making noise past 11:00 p.m.!

The paddle out was pleasant, and we only saw two groups on the portages, which was very nice compared to our day trip to Caribou the day before.  We compared notes with one couple who had paddled through Horseshoe, Gaskin, Winchell, Jump and Allen, and every site they had passed was taken!

Caribou lake was of course windy again, but this time, no white caps to contend with. On our way out of Caribou I looked back to that first site (which was taken now) and was really glad we didn’t stop there. The whole site looks really exposed, and who wants people looking in on you all day? That’s what William O’Brien State Park is for right?

Little miss nearly got whiny on the 65-70 rod portage from Caribou to Lizz, and tried to drop her pack and “quit” mid-portage, but daddy got her re-situated with a canoe on his shoulders, and she was back in business.

We met a group of three older ladies coming out of Lizz who were on their annual girls only trip. They had loads of gear, but looked like professionals! (I guess this was their 20th year or so).

The paddle on Lizz was uneventful. I wonder what the fishing would be like on this lake. I wonder if it ever gets any action with people just passing it through. We did see a couple perched up on an island on the northern end with a cooler, and sunbathing. ¬†Perhaps “cabin-ers” or locals from Poplar.

The kiddo was pro-portage since it was the last one, and fairly easy. Right once we got to Poplar she dropped her pack and announced, “Last portage of the year!”.

For the size of Poplar lake, it was rather calm paddling, which was nice. We looked for the green cabin with the flat roof, took a right, and were headed back for Rockwood Outfitters where our car awaited. Once we got close the owners came out and greeted us, and helped us unload! Talk about full service!

We mentioned to them how busy it was, and they told us about a group that had put in the day prior, couldn’t find anywhere to stay, so they had to camp overnight on a portage, and then paddled back out the next morning since there was “no room at the inn”. I’m starting to think mid-October is sounding better and better!

We got loaded up in a jiffy, and were headed for Trail Center!

I pulled in, and noticed a firm sign on the door that insinuated that pets were not welcome… We’ve had bad experiences leaving Basecamp JRT put, and the deck to eat out back wasn’t accessible from outside like the Chocolate Moose was in Ely. So I walked in to have a look around, and came back out with a hungry belly. We’ll be back in Mid-October – dogless… so we’ll have to check it out more thoroughly then!

Instead we opted for Dairy Queen in downtown Grand Marais, and ate out on the rocks near the breakwater. The kiddo earned a blizzard which she was really pumped about and I earned an iced mocha from Java Moose for the drive home!

We had a blast on this trip, but I don’t think we’ll visit this particular area again at this time of year. Just too busy! I used to think I didn’t mind seeing people, but that’s when we only saw one or two people per day, verses one or ten per hour.

All in all, we liked the Gunflint side, and I’m sure we’ll be back again, but we did miss the nostalgic canoeing town of Ely with all of its shops right there, and their overly pro-BOUNDARY WATERS feel versus outfitters scattered along the Gunflint Trail. They are definitely different, and for now, we are team Ely!