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Grateful for Head Nets in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota

Greetings from Grand Marais, MN on the western shore of Lake Superior,

I hope this finds you well and smiling.  Thanks to those of you who commented or sent a reply or text.  I love hearing what you are doing and keeping in touch.

I need to warn you, there will be a lot of pictures here, so skim if you want, pause if you are curious.  

It is beautiful here near the Canadian border.  There are remnants of very old mountains, lots of waterfalls, and parts of the coast of Lake Superior look like the Northeastern coast of the U.S.

We traveled north from Duluth to Grand Marais, some of the road runs along the coast with grand vistas.  We saw there is a paved bicycle trail in places.  The Gitchi Gami.  We parked and walked up it a way to get a better look at the lake and one of the car tunnels.

At the top of the hill we saw a young woman learning to rock climb.  There are existing clips all up the side of that rock over the tunnel.

There we also found a selfie station we couldn't pass up.

We stopped at Gooseberry Falls.  There was lots of water still tumbling from the high amount of rain in the area.  The place had been under dangerous drought conditions with hardly any snow this past winter.  But between April and the end of June, they got 16 inches of rain. Way over average.  A kiosk told us the water looks like root beer normally due to tannins from plants up stream.  But in high water times it looks like chocolate milk from run-off.

Below one falls we could see how the water had been much higher and pushed big trees over the falls.  A person there said he was there after the seven inches of rain they got the week before and it was well over the rock islands.

Our destination was the city campground in Grand Marais.  It is right in town with the bay on one side and a smooth-stone "beach" on Lake Superior.  When we checked in, they had free stickers at the front desk.  Steve had started putting stickers in his journal from the different locations we have been.  So I started that too.  That's a fun little thing to do that makes me smile.

We arrived here on a Saturday.  There was a mountain bike race going on.  The trails were very muddy.  Bikes and participants were covered in mud.

Grand Marais is where the Gunflint Trail road begins and heads into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  We could tell this was an area of cold and outdoor sports.  After setting up camp we walked through the downtown where the Ben Franklin Store carries Redwing and Teva Shoes and boots, and plaid wool jackets and rain and camping gear.

The bay has a natural breakwater made from an ancient lava flow.  It's surface is covered in scratches from when the glaciers scraped heavy rocks over it's surface.

The kiosk told us it is one of the only places on Earth where you can stand on the surface of the 1.1 billion year old rock.

That evening after dinner we walked back into town and were able to listen to music at the Gun Flint Trail Tavern.  The music and bar were on a second floor deck with lovely views of the bay.

Our first full day in Grand Marais we started to get ready to head into the Boundary Waters.  We pulled out all our tent camping gear.  Steve is good at thinking things through to avoid too much chaos.  I was glad the weather cooperated so we could use the picnic table for a staging area.  I am good at thinking of how we will use things and what should be packed together. "Put the food and kitchen stuff over here," I said.

But of course as you are packing one bag gets full and the rest of the kitchen stuff had to be stuffed elsewhere.   Lol.

It is good to go wilderness camping with Steve.  He has lots of good drybags, and a cookpot package that packs up small and efficient.

Steve and Margaret had these great little very light weight folding camp chairs.  The rustic campsites won't have picnic tables, just logs to sit on... if we are lucky.

Steve has different sizes of dry bags for packing stuff.  Two bags fit our sleeping bags, mattresses, and pillows.  The suitcase is where we stored a lot of this stuff under the bed in the trailer.

Since we left Rhinelander I have been carrying around a box full of Grit paper I had told my sister I would help her find a good home for.

Next to our campground is a Folk Art School.  There they do wood work and have a sailboat which is used to give tours. They said they would make good use of the gritcloth.   Yay!

The night before we went into the boundary waters, Steve wanted to take me out to dinner for my birthday.  I chose a local restaurant called The Angry Trout.   

It was a great choice!  They do things right.

There was a line of hungry folks waiting to give the host their name to secure a table. But outside right on the lake Superior beach were groups of adirondac style chairs.  The clerk took our name and then asked if we wanted to sip on a beverage from the bar while we waited.  Heck ya!  We ordered it right from him, paid, stepped out of the line and just a very short wait our drinks were delivered.  We went out and sat by the lake watching families skip rocks and couples lean into each other.

The folk art sail boat makes an impression as it glides by.

The meal was fantastic.  I had pasta with beyond meat balls.

We strolled back to camp and took a look at the bay from a different angle.  Lovely.  Thanks for a fun birthday celebration,  Steve.

The next day I turned 71 and we packed up the rest of our needs and headed to Rockwood Lodge and Outfitters on the Gunflint Trail to start our backwater canoe adventure.

The flowers along the Gunflint road were amazing.

We were grateful to Carl at the Rockwood Outfitters for providing a vinyl map on which he showed us the best places to go.  He pointed out a few good campsites.  He said he has three top priorities for a good campsite.

1) Is the privy in good shape?
2) Is there a flat place to p ut the tent?
3) Is there a place to view the night sky?

When we had called him last December, we didn't know where we wanted to go other than to stay on smaller lakes (less waves).  He said he would show us where to go.  He also would take care of our permits.  We were to call back in mid to late January, that is when the permits are released.

In January we called back, he ordered the permits for us, and said we should  come in the night before and stay in his bunkhouse so we would get an early start.

We had our own room and private bath.  $20 each!

The next morning we unloaded all our gear from the truck.  We rented from him big backpacks to put our stuff in.  This would make it possible for us to do each carry with two trips.  I am guessing my pack weighed about 35 lbs?  We got better at putting them on over time.  One trick is to take off your life jacket and attach it to the outside of the pack.

I learned a lot on this adventure!

The morning was drizzly and a breeze kicked up waves on the lake. It was our first time canoeing tandem!  I was nervous we would tip before we crossed the first lake which was bigger and had bigger waves.

But we made it to the first carry.

We had heard some of the portage trails were flooded the week before when they had seven or more inches of rain.  So, we were just happy they were passable.

I was very grateful for the mosquito nets that Steve purchased for us.  As we approached a portage, the nets went down over our faces, and we rolled up our pants for the step into the water.  We were luck that most the black flies were gone.  We only had mosquito bites to avoid.

The pen on the map below is pointing to where we launched from.  The bigger lake might have been a two mile paddle, but each of the smaller lakes were about one mile each or less.  

We did four carries the first day and lucked out.  The first campsite that Carl recommended was open and perfect on Horseshoe Lake.

That map is only one of 10 different maps of the Boundary Waters.   The area is huge and there are so many small lakes with easy portages!

The map folded and fit into a carrying case that Carl provided.  A window to it faces the guy in back who is steering.  I steered the first day.  We zig zagged a lot.

This was our toilet.

The first time I used it, I got sooo many mosquito bites on my thighs and butt.  From then on I always grabbed a bottle of bug repellant along with the TP to take with me.  At the toilet I would quickly pull down my pants and spray myself and the toilet before sitting down. 🙃 

That first day was damp and cool all day. I got cold to the bone but I refused to break out my down jacket.  It rained during the night.  We went to bed when it was still light out and woke up at five when it was already light. We both slept well, our backs a little achy. 

I only got one leech and that was off our "driveway".

Instead of hauling mucho water, we used Steve's water filter.  He has been using these on his adventures since the 80s he assured me.  It has a ceramic filter that filters down to four microns.

One night we had a nature show at dinner.  A turtle came up to lay her eggs.  She walked in circles.  Went over to our tent and stared at it quite a while.  Poor thing!

By the time we were doing dishes she was walking back down the hill, giving up until the next day when she would return.

I had packed us some chocolate treats.  But on our way we had stopped at a museum and left the food in the warm car.  We now had a camper's version of chocolate covered raisins. 

This picture is looking down our driveway to the lake.

Previously turtles had laid their eggs here.

Some of the contents of my cosmetic bag.

The second day we paddled a loop.  Without the heavy load, Steve warned me the boat would be easier to flip, and more unsteady.

It got windy while we were out. Steve told me to clip my back pack to the boat in case we tip over.   I had already started doing it.  Great minds...  smiles.

One lake we had to paddle like heck into the waves and find a place behind an island to rest.  If we got sideways to the wind, the light canoe would easily get pushed over.

But we got through it without tipping.  I cheered.

The next day the wind calmed down, the water like glass.  We went for an early morning paddle.

Then we came back, had breakfast and relaxed with our books by the water.

Each night and while we were out on the water, we would hang our food and garbage high and away from our tent.

There was a long narrow path to the bathroom.

We  saw a moose! We were lucky to see the moose.  We learned there are only about 350 moose in Northern MN! This one stood watching us float by, it's back haunches tensed ready to dash away.  

Steve saw it one more time from our driveway as it clomped and splashed out of the woods to return to its grazing pond.

We went back out in the evening and saw a family of otter fishing.  We scared a beaver that slapped it's tail, then swam under us and when it resurfaced it slapped again and went back down.

We had a hard time identifying these ducks.  The bird book told us they might be ring neck ducks.

I tossed my life jacket on a small tree along our "driveway" and saw this baby bird shivering there.  We didn't do anything other than take pictures.

Later it was gone.  Hope mama was feeding it.

The morning we were to leave our site we were up in time to watch the sun rise.   

We had lovely calm waters for our journey back to the outfitters.

As we were traversing at our last portage we passed a family going in.  No mosquito nets, exposed legs and arms.  Slapping themselves.

The man said to Steve as he fanned the bugs from his face, "There are a lot of mosquitos today."

We both shook our heads and wondered if they would last more than one night. 

Steve asked the outfitter about them.  He had told them about the bugs, offered them nets, but they refused.

After loading up the truck we went to dinner.  It was lovely and delicious.

The waitress stood cross legged while taking people's order.

We just finished eating and it started to rain.  No problem,  we moved inside.

The next day back at our camper, that stayed at the Grand Marais Campground while we were gone, we enjoyed a warm sunny day to dry the gear and pack it up for next time.  I spent part of the morning doing exercise and PT.  

A vintage car with a vintage trailer parked near us.  Steve says he saw the guy in the restroom.  He has implanted devil horns.  What is that about???

It's been a lovely time in this part of the country.  We will return if we live long enough.  There are more lakes to paddle.  

We now head south and west a bit to ride the Paul Bunyon Trail with our friends Ann and Fred.  


  1. What an adventure. You both seem so well prepared - Obviously, less hectic. I remember Gooseberry Falls when we biked a trail in Minnesota. How comfortable where the small mini chairs?

    1. They were great for when we were eating. We used anlog or our laps for a table. And they were very comfortable for sitting in while reading. We must have sat an hour.

      They are low ro the ground though, you have to be able to squat and get back up.

  2. Wow. Wonderful summary. Can wait to hear about the details over a Hen House breakfast!!

    1. We will enjoy telling stories at the Hen House. The people we dine with I miss while in the road. Stay well and we will see you in November I hope.

  3. Yes, Minnesota has mosquitoes! They help keep lots of pesky tourists away (ha!). See you soon.

  4. Miss you both. You both are a delight.

  5. Looking forward to seeing you both

    1. Big hugs to you and Zip. Stay well and enjoy your August trip to Iowa.

  6. Love this and all your pictures. Bill and I have these chairs. Bought them when we were on two wheels. Great for concerts picnics.

    1. Good to hear from you. The trikes are great camp and concert chairs too. As always it is good to hear from you. It looks like you had some Withlacoochee Riders visiting your area. Fun!

  7. Lol. The campground was full, but the Boundary Waters has a limit of 150,000 camping permits a year. That is good, we want to keep the area pristine and for the water and animals.

  8. Your lake paddling looked beautiful and even saw a moose, wow!😮
    You two are getting quite adventurous with your lake camping. Glad you are having a good time. We start heading your way tomorrow via Michigan and Wisconsin and should be in Minnesota in 6 weeks. Thanks for the updates and keep them coming! Cheers

  9. The food...the food! What was on your menu for the wilderness portion of your adventure? And, Ruth has a good story to tell on me and my north country mosquito bites and their consequences.

    1. We ate from freeze dried packets. You boill water, pour it into the packet, let it sit according to the directions. Some as short as 6 minutes one as long as 20 minutes. Presto! A gourmet meal.

      Peanut shrimp pad Tai, pasta mariners, coconut curry something, eggs with veggie sausage. All very good and topped off with nuts and dried fruit.

    2. Bill, I heard about your elephant titus... I thought that was Northern Wisconsin.


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