Tuesday, March 28, 2017

An Early Spring Rainy River Roadtrip

It was a beautiful early spring day in the Borderland and I took advantage with a quick roadtrip along the Rainy River from International Falls to Baudette. I headed out of town around 9 am and drove Minnesota Highway 11 through the mostly snow-free agricultural lands to the west. My first stop was the Manitou Rapids Wayside on the Rainy River. I walked down to the riverside
carry in access
and made my way to some wonderful views of the Rainy River. 
Manitou Rapids
Rainy River
I had read that there are some petroglyphs on the rocks at the rapids, but after a pretty thorough search I concluded that they are either non-existent, or covered by snow right now. I was, however, treated to a flyover by some Canada geese.
geese flying

Soon enough I moved further west, stopping at Basshenge.
Basshenge 2
I took a few photos at the sculpture,
Basshenge 3
watched a gray jay for a few minutes, and then made the short drive to Franz Jevne State Park.
Rainy River from boat ramp
Here I saw the first of many fishermen out in their boats on the water.
fishermen on Rainy River
It was thrilling to hike for a short distance on a trail that was snow-free.
snow free trail
Most of the trail was, however, snow and ice covered.

When I had finished my hike, I got back in the car and headed west towards Baudette. I made a detour in Clementson to check out the very interesting section of the aptly named Rapid River there.
Rapid River
looking downstream on Rapid River
Then I headed into Baudette, past Willie Walleye,
Willie Walleye
for lunch. I ate at a wayside near the international bridge.
bridge to Canada
After lunch I pointed the car east for the return trip back to International Falls. I noticed the interesting old, abandoned Border School
Border School
and stopped for a quick look. I saw 7 bald eagles as I drove back to the Big Fork River.
I stopped again, this time at the closed Grand Mound historic site. There weren't any "No Trespassing" signs and so I made the short walk back to the large burial mound,
eagle flies over Grand Mound
which sat right next to a bald eagle nest. I returned to the car and drove the rest of the way home. Today's short trip has me itching for a summer full of road trip adventures!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Voyageurs National Park: Sphunge Island Sledding Hill and the Kabetogama Lake Ice Road

Today was forecast to be a beautiful, warm winter day, so Noelle, Sierra, Mom T and I took advantage of it and headed out for some adventure on Kabetogama Lake. We stopped at the visitor center to use the restroom and then headed out on the ice road to the Sphunge Island Sledding Hill.
Sphunge Island Sledding Hill
We immediately hit the slopes. Sierra insisted on sledding down the steepest, highest part of the hill, but Noelle and I did not allow her to, for fear of her safety. She shed a few tears and then finally got on a sled and started to have an awesome time.
Sierra mommy and grandma
there she goes
The hill is fairly steep, but not so steep that we felt injury was likely to happen. The most difficult part of the sledding was hiking back up to the top of the hill.
hiking up
Grandma came along, but mostly she was a spectator.
grandma watching

We made several runs (probably about 20) before stopping for a snack and then moving east on the ice road to Ash River. At Ash River we decided to go for a short snowshoe to the Beaver Pond Overlook. It's only .15 miles, but with untracked snow, it was pretty more difficult for Sierra, especially since she insisted on breaking trail.
snowshoeing ladies
We passed some interesting looking ice formations that had frozen to the rock cliff off to the side of the trail.
When we arrived at the overlook, we relaxed a bit
BP Overlook 2
and Noelle built a "snow beaver"
snow beaver
Sierra and snow beaver
since there was no way we would be seeing a real beaver this time of the year.

Eventually, we started to make our way back to the car
and said goodbye to Grandma, who headed back to Wisconsin. It was a slightly sad ending to a wonderful day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Voyageurs National Park: Black Bay Beaver Pond Snowshoe

This afternoon, Mom watched Sierra and so Noelle and I had a chance to get out and go for a snowshoe without a four year old who likes to flail around in the snow. We headed over to the Black Bay Beaver Pond Trail.
snowshoer Noelle
What we both remarked, was how different this hike was compared to our last time together on it. No Sierra or ripe blueberries to slow us down. The only thing slowing us down this time was the deep, mostly un-tracked snow.
Eric at hiker sign
Noelle again

Noelle hikes through snow covered trees

It was a quick walk to the beaver pond overlook.
Noelle at frozen beaver pond
We admired the view from there for a short time and then retraced our snowshoe tracks back to the waiting car.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Voyageurs National Park: Bushyhead Island Snowshoe Circumnavigation

It was snowing pretty steadily when we woke up this morning, but eventually we were able to get going and head out for some adventure. There was about 3 inches of new snow on the ground when we made the drive out to the Rainy Lake Ice Road and headed over to its current end, near Bushyhead Island. We strapped the snowshoes on our feet
Sierra and Grandma
and set off in pursuit of adventure!
Sierra snowshoes to Bushyhead
snowshoeing on lake
Our first stop was the mine adit.
Bushyhead entrance

This time I went as far inside as I could before it started to get too warm to form ice.
Noelle and Sierra in adit
I didn't want to break through and get my feet wet and so at the point the ice started to make cracking sounds, I turned around. I did spy a hibernating bat at the turnaround point. There were also some really cool icicle stalagmites.
We headed out of the adit
Sierra and Noelle outside entrance
and  and started to make our way around Bushyhead Island in a clockwise direction.
3 snowshoers
Sierra and her tree
There were some cool cliffs on the northern side of the island.

Sierra and Noelle

Sierra and cliff 2
Daddy Sierra and cliff
At the east side of the island we found a gently sloping hill
hiking up Bushyhead
that I followed to a great view from the summit of the hill there.
View from Bushyhead summit
Sierra followed me partway up
and even enjoyed rolling down a short portion of the hill. Then we started to make our way back to the car. Sierra got in her obligatory snow angel
snow angel
before we made it back to the Subaru.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Voyageurs National Park: Black Bay Ski Trails

After a few weeks of warm weather, and even a bit of rain, I finally got out for a ski in lightly falling snow. I headed out on the ice road to the Black Bay Ski Trail system. Two weeks ago I had skied the easy Birch Trail Loop under beautiful blue sky. The best thing about the Birch Loop are the open areas that the trail travels through, offering some nice views.
Black Bay Ski Trail
ski trail through wetland
Today, however, I would set out on the more difficult Pine Trail, a figure-8 trail.

The Pine Trail leaves the Birch Loop after a short distance and quickly makes its way to a large beaver pond. This is the same beaver pond that the Black Bay Beaver Pond Trail ends at. I saw two beaver lodges on the pond and skied off trail to have a look. The one at the further end of the pond is quite large.
snow covered beaver lodge
There is also a large white pine that has been recently felled by the resident beavers.
chewed white pine
I continued on back into the woods
skiing Eric
and stopped for a water break at a nice trail shelter.
resting in shelter
Then I headed out on the back part of the figure-8.
pine loop
This section of trail had a few difficult sections. The recent warmth exposed a few rocks and underneath the day's thin layer of new snow was an icy surface.

There were more beaver ponds on the back section,
sun trying to peek out
and again I skied off trail to have a look around. Besides at least 6 beaver lodges,
two beaver lodges
there was a large nest
eagle nest
(I'm guessing an eagle nest) and a woodpecker home at one of the ponds.
woodpecker snag
I skied past one final beaver pond
another beaver pond
before reconnecting with the Birch Trail for the short ski back to the parking area.


Update of January 31, 2017: 

Today I headed back to the Black Bay Trails. This time I would ski the Ridge Loop, which is rated as difficult. I started off on the easy Birch Loop
trail through the woods
in some really pretty, snow-covered scenery. Pretty quickly I made my way to the intersection with the Ridge Trail.
Ridge Trail
Like the trail's name suggests, it largely follows a ridge. There were plenty of hills
the trail down
(the trail actually seemed to be constantly either ascending or descending). Most of the hills were well marked with warning signs. Not all of them were though. This warning sign marked a couple of deep holes right off to the side of the trail.

One of the most interesting parts of the Ridge Trail was a large beaver pond that it traversed.
beaver pond 2
There were lots of beaver lodges like the ponds I had skied through yesterday. Then the trail climbed up a ridge above the pond and headed into a cathedral-like copse of pine trees.
in the pines
After a while in the forest the Ridge Trail intersected with the Pine Trail,
snow covered boulder
which I had skied yesterday. I enjoyed the views from the Pine Trail again, especially the beaver ponds the trail circumvented. 
another pond