Category Archives: Trip Planning

Railroad bridge over the St. Louis River

Northern Minnesota Bike Trails

While summer might be winding down, and you could be thinking: “hang up the canoe packs,” there is still some great bicycling weather yet to come. Riding the bike through the Minnesota woods in fall is one of my favorite activities, and a very scenic time to enjoy our state. Let me share with you five trails that I think are worth rolling over.

The Willard Munger State Trail goes from Hinckley to Duluth for a total of 63 miles. If you just like downhill let me recommend starting in Carlton just behind the Wells Fargo Bank. Take the trail through Jay Cooke State Park and then downhill all the way to Duluth.  You will peddle right through the State Forest and when you pop out of the woods a very scenic vista of the St. Louis River and Lake Superior will lie before you. Park a second car in Canal Park, hit the Duluth Pack store, grab something to eat and drink, and shuttle back to the top.

The Heartland State trail runs from Park Rapids east to Walker, 29 miles, and then north to Cass Lake for another 20 miles. The prettiest part of this trail is cut through the trees on an old railroad grade from Akeley to Walker. As you ride the Heartland check out Long Lake, Lake May, and big, old Leech Lake at the end of the trail. A stop at the Historic Chase Hotel in Walker might suit a thirsty rider as well.

The Paul Bunyan State Trail runs from Brainerd to Bemidji for a distance of 110 miles. The portion of the trail I recommend is from Backus to north of Portage Lake, for a nice ride of about 15 miles one way. The linking “C” trail to the Heartland is something to see.

The “C” Trail links the Paul Bunyan State Trail and the Heartland State Trail. The first thing you will notice about this trail is that is doesn’t follow an old railroad grade. The trail is up and down from just north of Portage Lake to just north east of Akeley, but paved for the entire 12-mile length. In my opinion this is the most scenic trail in Minnesota and really should be experienced in late September with leaves in full color.

The North Shore State Trail, also known as the C.J. Ramstad Trail runs from Duluth along the north shore of Lake Superior to Finland for a total of 146 miles. Along this trail you are going to see some of the most beautifully rugged scenery Minnesota has to offer. This ride will have you passing by or through multiple state parks including Gooseberry, Tettegouche, and Cascade River. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what has to be the most iconic landmark in the state; Splitrock Lighthouse.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list so for more information and more trails check out the link here; Minnesota Bike Trails, and enjoy.

Strap on your panniers, sling the messenger bag over your shoulder, and revel in those fall colors, which are sure to be brilliant this season.

 

Black Bear in Woods

BWCAW Bears and Canoe Packs

It has just been one of those summers in which the black bears of Minnesota have visited a lot of campsites in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Visitors to the wilderness must continue to be ever vigilant and keep the campsite clean to remove any and all temptations for curious and hungry bears.

Here is the latest I have on our furry friends in the north woods:

There is a bear or bears making the rounds on Bonnie Lake and most likely venturing into the Knife Lake area as well. Reports tell us that a large, persistent bear has been coming into camp on Bonnie Lake during daylight hours looking for a snack. This bear was so unnerving to a group that they moved camp up to Knife.

Another report from Knife Lake, involving possibly the same bear, states that a food pack was damaged and another one was taken. Advice is to keep those campsites clean, and hang those packs when possible.

Back to the west on Basswood Lake there are several reports of a bear or bears with their hungry eyes on food packs. Bears on and around Pipestone Bay have made themselves known through visible activity and raids on some campsites.

On Basswood’s Washington Island a bear tore a screen tent and stole a food pack while the group was out fishing. The report doesn’t state whether the pack was in the screen tent at the time of the pilfering. Doesn’t matter anyway because my advice is always the same: keep any and all food out of the tents. A thin layer of nylon will not stop a hungry bear.

The above report also reminds me to offer this advice: please take your food barrel or pack with you when you leave camp on a day trip. We all love our ursine friends, but let’s remove as much temptation as possible when traveling in areas known for bears with a penchant for thievery.

Still lots of summer left out there, get on the water and enjoy it!

Boundary Waters bear report for July 1, 2011

Dear Bears, keep your paws off my canoe packs

 

This large black bear would love to peek in your canoe packs

Dear Bears, keep your paws off my canoe packs

It’s Blueberry Festival weekend in Ely, Minnesota! And, being that blueberries are one of the favorite treats of our big, black friends it is time for another bear report from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Two weeks ago a bear on Disappointment Lake tore into a food pack that was hanging from a tree. Bears are determined and don’t care that Cinco de Mayo has passed; therefore they love to play piñata with a hanging canvas backpack.

Please make sure your hanging pack is well off the ground, as much as 12 feet or more. Also, keep the pack away from the tree trunk. A hungry bear will climb the tree and reach out or climb out to get your pack.

Better yet…throw your food pack in the canoe when you leave for the day.

Yogi and Boo-boo are much smarter than you think. A bear on Basswood Lake came into camp and was able to crack open a bear-resistant container. According to the North American Bear Center in Ely, a bear will make 40 attempts at a food source before giving up. More proof that there is no such thing as a “bear-proof” container.

Like humans, bears are creatures of habit, when they find a campsite, or a series of campsites that have food they will make regular rounds. One such bear is on Malberg Lake, he just keeps coming around looking for a handout. And while he may not find or take anything, he visits camp multiple times.

Many bears have just simply lost their apprehensiveness around humans. There is a bear in the Upper Basswood Falls area that has been trying to get invited to a campsite breakfast. Last week, one group of campers didn’t feel like guests early in the morning, so they left without telling the bear.

Keep your camp clean. Hang your food pack. And NEVER take food into the tent.

Have a great time on the water, and send me some photos!

Paddle me back to DuluthPack.com

 

A Bombardier fire plane lifts off the surface of the lake.

Forest Fires and the Sunset

Imagine this: your boat is full of canoe packs and pushing hard westward into the setting sun. Both the fishing rod and the camera are out as you try and grab a few walleyes and some great shots of the amazing sunset. It is almost time to find a campsite, but you just aren’t ready to leave the water yet. The sun dipping below

the horizon has captivated you and your bowman, both.

The sky is full of reds, oranges, and pinks as if it is ablaze tonight. And in some ways it is on fire tonight, or at the very least fires are contributing to the brilliant sunset. What is creating these vivid sunsets are the fires burning in Canada, specifically Ontario. As the smoke fills the air and drifts into the U.S. it creates the crimson and other colors you see as the sun goes down in the evening.

As of July 24, 2011 there were 118 fires burning in Ontario, with new ones reported each day. At the present time there are fire restrictions in the northwest portion of the province. Currently, those restrictions do not include Quetico Provincial Park, but the Ministry of Natural Resources is asking everyone to be vigilant about fire prevention.

In terms of the “Made in America” fires, not so many are burning at the present time. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) saw two small fires burning on Kekekabic Lake, but those are now winding down and should be no threat to paddlers.

Remember to keep your campfires within the fire ring, and under control. Please put your fire out completely before going to bed, or leaving the campsite for the day. And while the BWCAW has been wet this season, it doesn’t take much for a fire to get out of control and cause a lot of damage.

Enjoy those colorful sunrises and sunsets, and get out on the water!

Help me get back to the DuluthPack.com homepage.

SplitRock

Minnesota state parks set to reopen

The long national nightmare is over.

Ok, not so much, but the Minnesota government is back up and running which means the state parks will be opening for visitors again this weekend. It will take some time for all the parks to come back to full strength, so we will have to be patient in the days to come.

In the meantime, ready your Wanderer and Ramble pack for the parks that are open. Here is just a sampling of state parks near Duluth, which are beginning to reopen again.

Cascade River is open

Gooseberry Falls is partially open

Grand Portage is open

Hill Annex Mine is open

Jay Cooke is partially open

Judge C.R. Magney is open

Savanna Portage is open

Split Rock is open

Temperance River is open

Tettegouche is open

Please realize you may experience partial services and other deficiencies in areas that are not fully open just yet. If you have questions about any other state parks or campgrounds please refer to the link below for information straight from the DNR.

http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/reopen/index.html

Good news is: all the state trails are open or partially open for business. Get out there and enjoy those. Also remember, the Superior Hiking Trail never shut down, and you never need a permit, so keep using that trail up and down the north shore.

Additionally, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness never shut down. Permits to the BWCAW are continuing to be issued, including at the Duluth Pack store in Canal Park. I took just a quick peek at permit availability, and while some popular entries are booked up, you can still find other good entry points through August.

Get those canoe packs loaded into the boats and get on the water, plenty of summer left. You can never see too many sunsets while in the Boundary Waters or Quetico.