Friday, July 29, 2016

Voyageurs National Park: Paddling to Moxie Island

The forecast called for another beautiful summer day in northern Minnesota. Wanting to do paddle somewhere a little bit different, Noelle, Sierra and I loaded the canoe on the roof of the Subaru and made the drive down to Kabetogama for a paddle out to Moxie Island. We stopped at the visitor center first to use the restroom and stamp our passport books. We then put in on the nearly glassy waters of Kabetogama at the boat ramp and headed east, following the south side of Sphunge Island.
As we paddled through Duck Bay we spied
some of the bay's namesake ducks: some Mallards and soon thereafter we were approaching the beach at the Moxie Island day use site.
We ate lunch at the picnic table there.
I finished quickly and so I explored the island a bit as Sierra and Noelle finished up. I found a nice overlook from a rocky outcrop on the north side of the island.
When I rejoined Noelle and Sierra it was time for some swimming.
And swim we did!
The water temperature was just about perfect. In addition there were wonderful views out across Kabetogama Lake
and not too many leeches.

After a few hours swimming and lounging on the island, we decided we better move on back to the car. We decided to paddle back via the north side of Sphunge Island.
On the way back we saw an old chimney standing on the rocky shore.
We got out of the boat to investigate a bit
and I found a metal sign that labeled it as Bill Van Lynn's Chimney.
Shortly after we got back in the boat for our paddle back to the boat ramp, we passed a group of ducks swimming along the rocky shoreline of Spunge Island.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Fishing, Swimming, and Eating Ice Cream on a Summer's Day in Northern Minnesota

Noelle and Sierra are finally back from their trip to northern Wisconsin and just in time for my weekend. Today we headed out for some adventure fishing the Rod Smith Memorial Kid's Fishing Pond.
Sierra was the only one of the three of us to catch anything. She caught 3 or 4 little fish and was proud of each one!
After fishing we had a picnic lunch in one of the shelters at the pond and then headed over to City Beach for some swimming in the surprisingly warm waters of Rainy Lake.
Then it was on to Tara's Wharf for ice cream
(and posing for some silly pictures),
before heading home.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Cooling off at the Beach at Park Point

My weekend has not gone at all like I had planned. I had grand plans of hiking a few sections of the Superior Hiking Trail that had not yet been completed when Noelle and I left Duluth about 5 years ago. On Wednesday night I attended the evening program of a colleague and camped at the Woodenfrog State Forest Campground for the night. In the middle of the night a nasty storm rolled through. There was lots of wind and some rain and lightning, but altogether not too bad. I had survived.

I packed up camp in the morning and started to make the drive south to Duluth. By the time I reached Hermantown I started to notice a lot of trees downed along the side of the highway. Traffic lights were out all along Highway 53 in Hermantown. It was starting to look like a change of plans was in the cards. Rather than drive to the trailhead in the far northeast part of Duluth, (which seemed to be one of the areas that the storm had hit hardest) I opted to head to Brighton Beach.
At the east entrance to Brighton Beach a pair of trees blocked the way and so I headed over to the west entrance. I parked in some shade and got the bike off the back of my car.

I decided to ride the Lakewalk, which had been extended to Brighton Beach since we left Duluth, down to Canal Park. The ride was warm, and mostly uneventful. There were a few sections of trail blocked by fallen trees,
but overall the trail was remarkably passable. I did notice some new construction going on that was very visible from the trail.
When I arrived in Canal Park I opted to try the Canal Park Brewing Company for lunch. The food was okay, not great but not terrible; and the beer was unremarkable.

After lunch I walked around for a bit and then got back on the bike for the ride back to the car at Brighton Beach. On the way I got to race the North Shore Scenic Railway!
I then headed to Jay Cooke State Park where I would spend the night.

This morning I decided to give the Superior Hiking Trail a try. I somehow navigated through Duluth like I had never left and found downed trees at the trailhead parking area and a large aspen tree blocking the first 10 feet of trail. Things were not looking good for a hike on the SHT and so I headed out to Park Point to cool off at the beach. Once I had arrived I opted to hike the trail that leads through the pines and the Minnesota Point State Natural Area.
There were some nice views across Allouez Bay to the docks at Superior.
There were a few wildflowers blooming, notably milkweed
and harebells.
I made my way through the dunes
to the ruins of the old Minnesota Point Lighthouse.
I then continued on to more ruins, this time ruins of an old boathouse
and another small building,
perhaps an outhouse. Both were covered in graffiti.

I had made this hike about 5 years before with Noelle, her mom and her Aunt Lisa. There's a bit more graffiti on the walls of the boathouse now.  Soon I found myself at the end of Minnesota Point and my turnaround for the hike. I opted to hike the beach back to the car.
However, that meant that I had to wade through some muddy water and bash through some brush. All that work had made me hot and so I cooled off in the refreshing waters of Lake Superior. I also saw some birds on the way back to the car: 3 bald eagles (2 immature,
one adult), a great blue heron and a belted kingfisher.

When I had finally arrived back at the car I was hungry for lunch. I decided to go to the Brewhouse at Fitger's for a wild rice burger and a beer. Then it was a long drive back to International Falls.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Photos of the Day: Fishing Rainy Lake

After dinner we decided to head to the next-door neighbors' dock and try a little bit of fishing. We did not manage to catch any fish, but it was enjoyable to be outside on a fine evening nonetheless.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Voyageurs National Park: Black Bay Beaver Pond Trail and Rainy Lake City

We had another great family adventure today. We headed out on Black Bay and crossed the water
over to the Kabetogama Peninsula to hike the Black Bay Beaver Pond Trail.
Along the way we saw a huge snapping turtle swimming in the water just feet from the canoe. We pulled up to the dock at the trailhead
and hit the trail with some water, an empty plastic container, our Hike to Health book and a crayon.

The trail started off in thick woods
and quickly crossed over a portion of the Black Bay Ski Trail system. Then the trail climbed to some exposed rock outcrops where there was plenty of sunlight and lots of blueberries!
We started to fill our container.
Besides the blueberries there were some harebells in bloom.
After picking berries in certain areas for a while we would move on
and then find more berries and stop to pick. At the end of the trail we found a nice overlook of a large beaver pond,
but the lodge did not look to be in use anymore.

We turned around and started to make our way back to the trailhead, stopping every now and then to pick more blueberries.
By the time we had finished our berry picking, we had quite the haul!

We got back into the canoe and paddled further away from the boat ramp to the site of Rainy Lake City. In the 1890s Rainy Lake City boasted a population of over 500 residents. Today, all that remains is a log structure,

reputed to be the site of a saloon during the prohibition era. We went inside to investigate a little
and then headed back to the canoe to start to make our way back to the boat ramp.

On the way back we stopped at a small sand beach to get out and stick our feet in the water. There were some leeches swimming here and there, but they were not too bothersome. We used Sierra's net to try and catch some aquatic life,

but all we managed to catch were leeches
and a minnow. Looking in the sand
we found a few interesting items: a metal part, a small piece of porcelain,
and some fragments of brick. There was also a piece of pipe sticking out of the vegetation nearby.
Could these items be vestiges of Rainy Lake City?