Category Archives: Trip Planning

Join Sam Cook as he share three whitewater rivers

Outdoor Adventure Series: Whitewater Paddling with Sam Cook

Join Sam Cook as he shares three whitewater rivers

Join Duluth News Tribune outdoors writer Sam Cook as he shares photos and stories from his travels on three “close to home” whitewater paddling destinations — the Bloodvein, Steel and White rivers of Ontario and Manitoba.

Sam has been covering hunting, fishing, camping and all things outdoors for 31 years. He has paddled twice to Hudson Bay as well as numerous other adventures on the whitewater of Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, and Alaska.

Sam has also traveled by dog team on Canada’s Great Slave Lake and Baffin Island.

He is the author of six books and has won numerous journalism awards.

You can follow him on Twitter at: samcookoutdoors.

7:00 PM • Tuesday, January 24th • FREE • Duluth Pack Store • 365 Canal Park Drive

Great Grey Owl in the Sax-Zim Bog

Wilderness Adventure Series: Sparky Stensaas and “Owls to Orchids”

Great Gray Owl in the Sax-Zim Bog

Everyone in America knows the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, but few people are aware of the other great wilderness areas within a stone’s throw of Lake Superior. This winter’s Wilderness Adventure Series will highlight “Wilderness Adventure Areas within a Day’s Drive of Duluth. Through these free seminars the guest speakers and the experts at the Duluth Pack store will introduce you to wildlife, whitewater, and more.

Kicking off the Wilderness Adventure Series on January 17th will be Mark “Sparky” Stensaas with his presentation Owls to Orchids: Magic in the Sax-Zim Bog. Maybe you heard the mention of the Sax-Zim Bog in the recent Steve Martin/Owen Wilson movie, “The Big Year”  Well guess what, this amazing bog is right in our backyard, only 45 minutes from Duluth. Long known to birders and photographers from around the world and across the country as THE place to find some of our most secretive boreal birds including the mythic Great Gray Owl.

Through Sparky’s HD video and still images we’ll explore these Black Spruce and Tamarack Bogs…without getting our feet wet or frozen! Meet the bird that grows snowshoes, the devious orchid that outsmarts bumblebees, and the death-defying frog. And of course, the stars’ of the show will be some cooperative Great Gray Owls and Northern Hawk Owl families caught on HD video.

Sparky Stensaas is an author, naturalist, photographer, publisher, and writer (i.e. ‘no full-time real job’) based in Wrenshall, Minnesota (over by Jay Cooke State Park). He is a former “Duluth Packer” and the inspiration behind the Sparky Bag. Sparky’s latest venture is Friends of Sax-Zim Bog, a non-profit aimed at educating the public about the natural history of bogs and dedicated to creating a Sax-Zim Birder/Photographer Welcome Center. When not chasing after his two young sons, he may be out taking photos, blogging at or watching All My Children (not in that order!).

Please come to the Duluth Pack store at 365 Canal Park Drive on Tuesday, January 17th at 7:00 PM to enjoy this wonderful story of a wilderness area right in our own backyard. Also add to your calendars Sam Cook’s whitewater adventures on January 24th, and “Hiking the Sioux Hustler Trail” with Martin Kubik on January 31st.

See you then!


Outdoor Adventure Expo in Minneapolis

Midwest Mountaineering will be hosting their 53rd bi-annual Outdoor Adventure Expo this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, November 18th through the 20th . Come to the west bank and wander the giant expo tent. Here you will get the chance to meet and speak with more than 60 exhibitors, including two learned experts from Duluth Pack, all dedicated to helping create the next great outdoor adventure.

In an effort to help adventurers learn more about the opportunities this great big world has to offer, there will be presentations from experts throughout the weekend. Dozens of presentations are scheduled with subjects as close to home as Minnesota State Parks, and as far flung as the summit of Everest. Head on over to Hanson Hall on Sunday afternoon and listen to yours truly ramble on and on about adventure blogging.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival held in Alberta, Canada accepts over 300 outdoor adventure films from around the world. During the festival the top 50 were chosen and screened from October 29, to November 6th, 2011. The films range in theme and style and  include climbing, skiing, kayaking, biking and more. When the festival is over they take it on the road to hold mini film festivals in North American cities. This year’s tour includes the Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Expo. Check out screenings on Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. Or check out both nights because a different line up of films will be seen each night.

There’s a lot going on during the Outdoor Adventure Expo November 18th to the 20th. Exhibitors, presentations, a film festival, and special events are all worth a trip to the west bank. As always the admission is free. Oops, the film festival will be $15.00, but the entertainment value is worth twice that. And don’t forget to visit us in the Duluth Pack booth or take advantage of your chance to pepper me with questions and/or rotten tomatoes on Sunday afternoon in Hanson Hall.

Brule River Steelhead

Fishing the Bois Brule River

The Bois Brule River in northern Wisconsin, just east of Duluth, MN, is one of the premier fly fishing rivers in the upper midwest.
Known for resident brook, brown, and rainbow trout the river will also see runs of lake brown trout and steelhead as well as coho and chinook salmon. I was lucky enough to wrangle an invitation to fish the Brule last week, and what a beautiful river to fish.

In search of steelhead running up the river we donned our waders, grabbed our packs and rods, and fished several different spots throughout the day. Our starting point was well upstream away from the big lake, we were just south of Box Car Hole and had the river to ourselves as we worked it hard for a couple of hours.  At the present time the water is low and crystal clear, making it tough to fool a fish with even the most alluring fly.

Next it was on to Big Tree Hole and then downstream to what we call Big Rock Hole, where just weeks earlier we spotted a big fish heading upstream. Here we ran into quite a few other fisherman, and one young angler who managed to hook into a 26-inch brown trout. Further on down the river we ran into a fly fisherman who spent a good amount of time trying to convince my fishing partner to ditch his spinning rig for a fly fishing rig like his. Unfortunately, neither set up brought in anything to capture in a photo.

The afternoon took us to the mouth of the river and a beautiful sand beach on the south shore of Lake Superior. For the next few hours we were casting, wading and moving upstream looking for fish. Along the way we encountered very few fisherman and some really spectacular scenery. The setting sun forced us to put the fishing rods away and quench our thirst, but I have taken the pledge to return and chase the steelhead in the very near future.

Many thanks to my guide who owns a cabin on the river. We will get them again next time. Maybe by canoe?

Get out on the water! There is a lot of great fishing to be had before winter arrives.