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
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.
sculpture
Everything looked beautiful draped in fresh, clean snow.
Ellsworth sign 2
arrowhead
arrowhead closeup
teepee
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.

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