Monday, January 1, 2018

Voyageurs National Park: Ski to Ellsworth Rock Gardens

I decided to get 2018 off to an active start with a ski trip to Ellsworth Rock Gardens on Kabetogama Lake. It was cold as I made the drive down to start of my ski at the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center boat ramp. A bank thermometer read -19F! Still today was forecast to be the warmest day that we've had in some time, with a high of a balmy 0F. I arrived to the parking are to find I had the park all to myself. Not too many people were willing to brave the cold (and perhaps a hangover) on New Year's Day.

I strapped the skis to my boots and took off. My skis didn't seem to be gliding very well at first, perhaps due to the extreme cold. I picked out a landmark on the horizon: a distant Sugarbush Island. Eventually my skis gained a little bit of glide. I followed some wolf tracks for a short distance,
wolf track
crossed over a pressure ridge,
pressure ridge
and passed by a small, rocky island with a metal tripod mounted to the rock.
marker on small island
I guess its some kind of navigation marker or a frame to attach a marker to. I passed another small island dotted with deciduous trees
island with trees
and then I found myself in the middle of three islands: my landmark Sugarbush Island, Harris Island, and another unnamed island.

At this point I picked out another landmark to ski towards, the right side of Cutover Island. I quickly made my way past an eagle nest in a tree on the northeast side of the island
Cutover Island
and then past a point that I believe to be the site of the Nagurski Cabin.
marker and point
Pro football Hall of Famer Bronko Nagurski had a cabin on that point. It was a base from which he went on numerous hunting and fishing trips. Soon enough I could see a distant dock on the Kabetogama Peninsula, marking the site of Ellsworth Rock Gardens. I skied to the dock, took off my skis
and trudged through the snow, up some stairs to the gardens.
Ellsworth in snow

I was pretty hungry by this time, so I headed over to the picnic shelter, found a sheltered area in the sun and ate a snack of some mixed nuts.
taking break in the sun
I had filled my water bottle with warm water and was pleased to find it had not frozen. I took a drink and then set off to explore.
tree and scultpures
I think the snow on the sculptures that Jack Ellsworth had created added to the scene.
Everything looked beautiful draped in fresh, clean snow.
Ellsworth sign 2
arrowhead closeup
cattail pond
I spent about 30 minutes exploring the gardens,
snow on trees
but the cold started to set in and I decided to get moving to warm up.

I made my way back to the dock and strapped my skis on. I had one other destination in mind before I started to make my way back to my car. I noticed a place labeled Clyde Creek Falls on my map. It is just east of the rock gardens, so I made the short ski up a small bay and found a glacial erratic marking the mouth of a small creek.
boulder at creek
I took off my skis and walked up the creek a bit to a tight constriction where you could hear water flowing under the ice.
Clyde Creek Falls frozen
I assumed this was the falls, but with all the snow and ice it was difficult to tell.

After visiting the falls I put my skis back on and started the trip back to the car.
tracks looking back
For the return trip I had some wind in my face. It made for a very cold trip. About an hour later I was tired, sore and back to my car for the drive home.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Bentleyville 2017

Tonight Noelle, Sierra, Grandma and I met some friends at the Bentleyville Christmas Light display in Duluth.
Magic of Bentleyville
It was probably about the 5th visit for Noelle and I and the second for Sierra. As always the lights were beautiful!
Tree 1
Sierra visited with both Mrs. Claus
Mrs Claus
and Santa.
Sierra and Santa
We posed for some family photos.
family picture
ornament 2
And we even got to go inside the big tree!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Voyageurs National Park: Ski to Gold Portage

Today I set off under cloudy skies,
to travel across the frozen surface of Black Bay on skis
to Gold Portage. There is a stream at Gold Portage that connects Kabetogama Lake with Rainy Lake. It flows over a set of rapids, so I figured there would likely be some open water out that way. Still, I wanted to get out of the house and do some exploring.

The ice seemed pretty solid as I headed southeast. Pretty quickly I came to a fairly large pressure ridge that I had to negotiate.
pressure ridge
After that I set a course toward Skunk Island off in the distance. I passed an area with lots of wolf tracks in the snow.
wolf tracks
Soon enough I saw a snow covered sign marking the "Gold Portage Area".
Gold Portage Sign
I decided to ski upstream a bit. As I had suspected, there was open water in the middle of the channel there.
Gold Portage stream
I stayed off to the side of the stream among the cattails. There even seemed to be paths among the cattails.
trail through cattails
Eventually the strip of solid ice off to the side of the main channel began to narrow. It was time to turn around. I didn't want to risk breaking through the ice.

I made my way back to the entrance of Gold Portage. At one point my ski pole broke through the ice. Luckily the rest of my body did not. I would be skiing into the wind for the return trip. Still, it was interesting to follow my tracks back to where I had started,
ski tracks
passing a few islands here
White Pine Island
and there.
single pine on island
I made a quick stop at the campsite on Reuter Creek,
Reuter Creek campsite
and shortly thereafter I was back to the parking lot and my car. While I wasn't able to make it back to the rapids, it was a worthwhile trip!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Forest History Center: Christmas in a Logging Camp

Today Noelle, Sierra and I made the long, winding drive down to Grand Rapids, Minnesota to check out the Christmas in a Logging Camp program. Noelle and I had been to it before, back in 2009. However, we both thought it would be fun to take Sierra. So after lunch at Culver's, we headed to the center.

We purchased our ticket and then visited with Santa before heading over to the Fire Warden's Cabin
Fire tool shedfire wardens cabin
fire tower
to wait for the horse-drawn carriage ride to the logging camp.
waiting for trolley
We arrived in camp and headed over to the bunkhouse first. There was a "logger" inside playing the banjo and Sierra got a feel for a straw mattress.
Sierra sleeping in bunkhouse
Then Noelle used the restroom,
Mommy using toilet
before we headed over to the mess hall.
table is set
From there it was on to the camp store,
then the blacksmith shop (adorned with moose antlers)
moose antlers
and the stables.

Finally we caught the carriage back to the visitor center. Sierra even got to ride up front!
Sierra drives the team 2
We checked out the exhibits in the visitor center for a bit and then found a short hiking trail outside
hiking trail
which led down to a partially frozen Mississippi River.
partially frozen Mississippi
We made our way back to the car, past a weird trail shelter
trail shelter
and then drove out to Klockow Brewing Company where Noelle and I sampled beer and all 3 of us played some Uno.