Browsing Tag


The Lowdown, Trip Planning

Forest Fires and the Sunset

July 25, 2011
A Bombardier fire plane lifts off the surface of the lake.

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!

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Trip Planning

Guide Or No Guide On Your Wilderness Trip?

April 12, 2011

What entry point are we going to use? Where is the portage? Which campsite is going to be the best for wind and sunsets?

Plotting and planning a Boundary Waters or Quetico canoe trip can be an overwhelming process the first time. The map briefing alone can leave first time adventurers rethinking their decision to head into the woods. Don’t fear there are lots of people out there to help you.

Let me suggest that you might want to consider the option of hiring an experienced and professional guide to head up your trip. Guides can be an invaluable resource to canoe trippers, especially those who might be a little bit green on the trail.

Guides provide expertise and knowledge that they have gathered over all their years of paddling, fishing, and camping. A good guide will show you how to load the boat, the most efficient paddling stroke, and choreograph the portaging process. I have told canoe clients that it takes even experienced trippers three or four portages to get into a rhythm after the bow touches the beach.

And the fishing, for the majority of groups this is most important question once they are on the water. Where are the fish? You might spend days hunting the sunken islands and rock structures of a given lake and come back empty-handed. A guide who fishes the water regularly can put you on fish, and a lot of them.

Maybe you are an experienced traveler and have been taking trips for years. Well no, a guide is not going to be advantageous for you. All that hard fought knowledge and expertise resides somewhere in the dark recesses of your grey matter already. But, if a friend came to you and inquired about a guide, shouldn’t you remember how enjoyable it was to huddle around the fire in the rain? If someone in the group would have known to bring a lightweight tarp, right? It was a learning experience. It was fun!

Before you get too convinced, let me share a couple of things a guide is not. This is the Boundary Waters, not an African safari, Bwana. Don’t expect your guide to do all the paddling, all the portaging, set up the entire camp, and do all the cooking. You will be expected to help out on the trip, grab your pack and away you go. Your guide is happy to teach you and show you the way. But by day two or three you should be up to speed helping out and doing dishes.

Finally, when your trip is over, and your group owes the guide some gratitude, please show them your appreciation. This is their job

See you on the water.

If you have more questions or would like a guide recommendation, please contact me at the email address included below.

“Captain” Brad Putney considers himself an inland waters guru after spending 40 years on the lakes of Minnesota. The Captain likes to say he has been at the helm of everything from a ten-foot inflatable to an America’s Cup yacht. Mr. Putney spends time in Ely, MN working as an outfitter to the BWCA. He has degrees from Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota. Please contact at:
Techniques & Advice

Winter Camping How To’s: Pictorial Pointers and Helpful Hints

January 26, 2010

DSC00726When I mention winter campingto folks I get a myriad of responses from “that’s crazy” to “sounds like an adventure!’ I will try to cover the basics so you, too, can have a winter wonderland adventure!

First thing you need to do is find a buddy or two to go with you! (Preferably one with gear!) Then map and plan a route and buy the appropriate maps. Also, call up to folks in the area to check out ice conditions.


Here is a basic list of items to pack.  DSC00742CLOTHING - A complete change of clothes including extra wool pants and ice breaker long underwear. Extra smartwool socks. Waterproof shell. Balaclava (to keep condensation off your face while sleeping).

GEAR – Sled, which is easier than a backpack, (and a dog to pull it!) X-C skis or snowshoes. Ground cloth (to create waterproof barrier to sleep on). Wool Blanket. Closed cell sleeping padice chisel for water(self inflating ones tend to lose air). Mittens are warmer then gloves. A cooler (to keep items from freezing, sits well in a sled). Bees wax candles  for light.  Thermos. Head lamp. Ice chisel or auger for water (see photo). Cold weather camping stove.

FOOD – Pack a lot of  high calorie food for all the energy you will be exerting. Pre-made or just add water meals. Almond butter (doesn’t freeze like peanut butter). No alcohol or caffeine, they will only dehydrate you.

SAFETY – Ice picks. Throw rope. Sunglass or goggles. Emergency Blanket. Lotion and Suntan Lotion. Matches, firestarter (lighters don’t like the cold weather).

When you are ready to set up camp, find a level spot and stomp down the area where your tent Set upwill go with your skis or snowshoes. Allow time (average 1-3 hrs) for the snow to settle and pack down before putting up your tent. While the area is settling you can gather downed firewood and chip an ice hole for water.  Set up tent (usually a twoStove area person job).  Nearest to the door, dig out a section for the stove and cooking area. This will create a nice higher platform to sleep on and a cold air sink near the door.  Next assemble the stove while the Sleeping platform and kitchen areaother folks gather more firewood. Next set-up your sleeping platform. Lay down your ground cloth first, then a wool blanket, your closed cell foam sleeping pad, and sleeping bag. (We offen lay another wool blanket on top of our sleeping bags for the dogs to lay on and wrap them up in). Another night time tip is to fill your water bottle with hot water before you go to sleep to have unfrozen water in the morning. If you turn your water bottle upside down the water will make the cap easier to unscrew.

So now that you know some of the winter camping basics, get out there and enjoy winter! Winter camp