Sunday, August 26, 2018

Superior National Forest: Bass Lake Trail, Dry Lake Loop

With Sierra starting kindergarten next week and me changing schedules, this was the family's last opportunity for an adventure together for the summer of 2018. Despite a forecast that called for a pretty good chance of rain, we decided to head over to Ely for some hiking. After lunch at a park in the heart of town, we drove up to Echo Trail and the Bass Lake Trail System. We donned our hiking shoes
and hit the trail!

Noelle and I had snowshoed this trail back in January of 2011, but this would be our first visit without snow. Flowers in bloom included goldenrod,
aster and spotted jewelweed.

We opted to hike the 3 mile Dry Lake Loop. The trail traversed some beautiful red pine forest
 and had more topography than we are used to hiking with lots of steep rock ridges to navigate. This meant some really nice overlooks, high above Bass Lake.

Eventually we made our way to Dry Falls,
where we relaxed for a bit and enjoyed the view.
Then it was back on the trail
with intermittent views of Dry
and Little Dry Lakes.
Altogether, we probably spent about 3 hours hiking and exploring.

After our hike we headed back into town and checked out the Dorothy Molter Museum.
Dorothy, known as the "Root Beer Lady" because she sold homemade root beer to passing canoeists,
lived a good deal of her life in what is now the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We checked out her home, buildings that had been moved from Isle of Pines,
and even enjoyed a root beer.
Then we headed downtown to explore and bit and ended up having dinner at Rockwood before heading back to International Falls.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Rushing River Provincial Park

On our way home from Kenora, we decided to stop at Rushing River Provincial Park. We had originally planned to camp here, but with temperatures forecast to be above 90 F, we opted for a hotel instead. Still, we were excited to go for a short hike and do some swimming. We purchased a four hour pass and started our visit with a picnic lunch right alongside the park's namesake Rushing River.

After lunch we started to make our way downstream along the river
to hike the Lower Rapids Trail. There is a loop that makes its way along both sides of the river. However, as we arrived at the turnaround bridge
we discovered that the trail on the west side of the river is currently closed. Still, we enjoyed our walk along the lower rapids
and past some calm areas of water.
The trail we hiked is also part of the Trans-Canada Trail.

Back at the car, we donned our swim suits and headed over to the wonderful swimming area. It is a slow section of river with sandy beaches and interesting rocks.
We swam around for about 2 hours before changing out of our swimsuits for the drive back to International Falls.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

A Day in Kenora, Ontario

Today we made the drive up to Kenora, Ontario to explore an area we have never been to before. It was a long drive, mostly through uninhabited forest to the city on the western edge of the province. Our first stop was the famous Husky the Muskie.
Besides the large statue of a muskellunge, there was the Rotary Geyser.
We just happened to arrive as it was erupting. There is also a beautiful flower garden at the park there.

After our visit with Husky, we headed into the heart of town for a delicious lunch at Lake of the Woods Brewing Company.
The food was delicious and the beer wasn't bad either.

After lunch we headed out to the Keewatin area where our room at the Brewer's Inn waited. We checked out the Keewatin Rockholes
which are large potholes carved into the rock here when glaciers melted in the area. Then it was a short walk from our room over to Keewatin Beach for some swimming in Lake of the Woods.
The lake has a much different feel to it at its northern reaches. There are a lot more islands and it feels a lot more like Rainy Lake then it does at Zippel Bay where it has the feel of a vast ocean. We swam for a few hours and then headed back to our room to relax for a bit.

Eventually we headed out for a hike on the Tunnel Island Trail System.
We hiked the Bisson Loop A with lots of great views of a bay on Lake of the Woods and the Winnipeg River.

We crossed under a railroad trestle
 and and passed some beautiful wildflowers under a power line.

Then we headed into the woods. Every now and then we would pass a large white pine tree.
We also found some weird industrial relics in the woods.

As we made our way further along, the sun began to set.
Smoky haze from distant wildfires helped paint the sky pink.

We returned to the car just before it got dark and headed to Dairy Queen for a special treat
before returning to the Brewer's Inn for the night.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Superior National Forest: Paddling the Hunting Shack River Canoe Route

Ever since we got our canoe over 2 years ago, we've been wanting to give canoe camping a try. Even Sierra has voiced her excitement to try getting to a campsite by canoe. We had considered a trip in Voyageurs National Park, but with big lakes even a breeze of 10 miles per hour can make paddling a challenge. We would need to go somewhere with smaller lakes. However, the Boundary Waters is too restrictive and our canoe is too heavy (85 lbs.) to portage. Instead, after doing some research on the Superior National Forest website, I found a PDF brochure about the Hunting Shack River Canoe Route. I checked the weather forecast for Sunday into Monday and things looked pretty good. There was a slight chance of rain and the wind looked reasonable. Last night we packed our sleeping bags and other camping gear and today we loaded everything into the car and made our way out the Echo Trail to where it crosses the Hunting Shack River on a culvert.

We loaded the canoe at the side of the road
and made sure to pack all the essentials, including Baa Baa.

There were lots of aquatic plants with clusters of purple flowers growing in the shallow stream.
We pushed off and started to make our way upstream against a gentle current.
There were lots of lilies growing in the water.

After a brief wrong turn (we headed up a tributary to a culvert where Forest Road 200 crossed the stream) we made our way further up the Hunting Shack to the pretty Astrid Lake. The campsite on the east shore that I had read was the preferred site was taken and so we made our way in a light headwind to the campsite on the south shore on an elevated rock outcropping. We pulled the gear out of the canoe and then carried the canoe away from the water to higher ground.
We set up camp and explored the site a bit. Sierra was excited to watch the sunset from the rock outcropping near the water.

After getting cap set up it was time for a swim. Noelle and Sierra found a small beach while exploring, but it led into a mucky lake bottom. Instead we opted to enter the water from the rock. We probably spent about an hour swimming around
before drying off on the rock.

Eventually the biting flies drove us into the tent for a break before dinner. At dinnertime I cooked up some noodle/rice dinners on the Whisperlite Stove. There was a nice log to sit on near the campfire ring.
Butterflies seemed to be attracted to the ash there.

After eating Noelle filtered some water.
Wildlife sightings included a loon swimming in the lake nearby, and a big, orange-colored garter snake that enjoyed basking on the rock we had enjoyed basking on earlier in the day.

Clouds rolled through and thunder rumbled in the distance. We never did get any rain though. In fact, by the time the sun set, the sky was largely clear.

This morning we awoke to cloudy skies and much chillier temperatures. I explored camp one last time before we started to pack things up. There were some Indian pipe
and bearberry in bloom.
The bunchberry flowers were gone though, replaced with bunches of berries.
There was also lots of alder growing around the site.

We packed up camp and got into the canoe for the paddle across Astrid Lake
and back into the Hunting Shack River.
We made a short side trip into Pauline Lake,
but didn't spend too much time exploring before we made our way back to Echo Trail and the drive back to International Falls. It was a successful first canoe camping trip. I enjoyed it and we didn't have too much trouble with the wind. If we had done anything different, it would have been a good idea to bring more things (books or games) to keep Sierra a little bit more occupied when we were forced into the tent by the bugs.