Astounding Bushcraft/Paddling Seminar this Year

The sixth annual Bushcraft and Paddling BWCA Seminar/Trip is over and it was a great experience. You never know what you are going to get from the northern sky in October. This year the first six days were August-like: warm, calm, bugless and clear. We even went swimming a couple days. A wee bit of snow and wind came the final day so we set up the “hot” tent and fired up the wood stove, but more for fun than necessity. The crew also had the opportunity to safely practice paddling in wind and waves.

I have never seen the water so high in the BWCA in October which enabled us to dodge a couple portages with some whitewater paddling and to view robust waterfalls framed in peak autumn colors.

No moose this time, but great views of five mink, an otter and a couple dozen swans.

There was one … Continue reading

Guide Service Anywhere

Over the last 12 months, I have swum in the Arctic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean and, with just 48 hours to spare, the Atlantic Ocean. That’s right. All five of them! So when I say, Guide Service Anywhere, I mean it. if there is someplace you want to go. Some experience you want to do — Eyeball to eyeball with a grizzly bear, look down the barrel of an AK-47 at the bottom of the Copper Canyon, AKA the Butcher Shop, land a float plane on the North Pole, whatever you want — It can be arranged. And I can help you do it.  Just name it, and sign the check. Always with my implicit guarantee, DOA you don’t pay!

2016 Bushcraft and Paddling Trips in the BWCA

Registration is now open for the 2016 Bushcraft and Paddling Skills Trips.

This is the sixth consecutive year Dan and I have been leading these trips and they are always fun learning experiences. We cannot guarantee great weather, although that was the case last year, when we enjoyed clear skies and warm daytime temperatures. Maybe it started a trend because for several years the trip has been characterized by snow and wind. Either way, it’s a trip that works. If it’s cold we will have a “hot” tent heated with a wood stove.

Usually, it’s a small group and we can accommodate solo or tandem paddlers. We work on the skills you want to work on. If you just want to travel we can do that too. Led by me and … Continue reading

2016 Noatak Expedition – a Big Success

Writing this blog in the Seattle airport after a red-eye flight from Anchorage. The first darkness at night in over a month seems as if it is the closing curtain of a great Broadway play. Curtain drawn tight, the applause already fading. It’s all over now.

We successfully completed an 18-day, 400-mile canoe expedition down the Noatak River in arctic Alaska. It was a strong crew of ten with excellent weather and perfect water levels. Wildlife count included 14 grizzly bears, six muskoxen, two wolves (playful pups), six foxes, numerous sic sic, raptors, loons, ptarmigan,and three moose and three Dall sheep seen from the air. Fishing was also excellent for Salmon, Grayling and Dollies – yum. It is a spectacular river with different challenges and rewards around every bend.

Those familiar with my tripping style, especially on far north expeditions, know that I prefer an expeditionary regimen. I meticulously plan … Continue reading


Making final preparations for the 2016 Arctic Noatak Canoe Expedition. 400 miles, all north of the Arctic Circle. You can follow my crew’s progress at

We leave Fairbanks on Saturday, July 16 and fly on two, twin engine, planes to Bettles on the south slope of the Brooks Range. That afternoon or the following morning we shall board a float equipped, DeHavilland Otter and a float equipped, DeHavilland Beaver (both these venerable planes were built in the 1950’s) and make a long bush flight across the Arctic Circle, and to the headwaters of the Noatak River. This flight passes over one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the world. If the weather is clear we will view hanging glaciers and granite spires just off the wingtips. My niece, Karen Kelley, exclaimed four years ago that this flight alone was worth the price of admission…..but that is … Continue reading


Back today from eight days in Quetico Provincial Park. What an extraordinary canoeing destination. It’s not my first trip to Quetico, but my first in several years. I had forgotten some of the nuances that distinguish it from the BWCA. The abundant groves of mature Red Pines, the towering White Pine Giants, powerful rivers with some runnable rapids, thundering waterfalls, long sandy beaches,  lakes that you paddled all day long.  Despite everything seemingly like the Boundary Waters on a larger scale, Quetico receives far fewer visitors than its next-door-neighbor the BWCA to the south, and empty five-star campsites were the norm.

My route was a loop of well over 130 miles, and some blog readers may be interested in the details: Beaverhouse Lake – Quetico River – Quetico Lake – Conk Lake – Jean Lake – Burntside Lake – Rouge Lake – Jean Creek – Sturgeon Lake – Maligne River … Continue reading

Keep it Wild, Keep it Free

How fortunate we are in North America to have vast, wild public lands where we can camp, travel, and be part of wild nature. We might imagine that these areas are wild because they were set aside in a pristine condition for future generations to enjoy. Restored and rescued is really closer to the truth and usually not without a fight. As demand for resources and land increases, continued political vigilance will be necessary to maintain the special protections these areas enjoy.

But we need something else. Preservation of the wilderness depends on knowledge and experience, You’ve got to know it and you’ve got to live it!  The more you can learn about the natural and human history of these wild places the better.  More important than knowledge is experience. It is the juice, the energy, that will guarantee these lands remain preserved. After experiencing the freedom, the wonder and … Continue reading

BWCA Expo, Iceland, and the Rio Grande

A shout-out and props to friends and past trip crews, and to fans of my writing that stopped by to see me, and say “hi” at the Boundary Waters Canoe Expo at Seagull Landing, near the end of the Gunflint Trail. Also, thanks to Quinn and the Gunflint Trail Association for including me.  It was a fun show. Cliff Jacobson was at his best, mesmerizing crowds with his stories and know-how. There were many canoes to test, free beer, me baking bannock. Best of all, next to the tents was the edge of the BWCA to play in.  Wildlife? Two moose, two cross fox, a beaver, and a Mourning Warbler.

I should have blogged something about the event before the show, but as I was still in Iceland on Thursday and had to fly to Minneapolis and drive the seven hours to the show Friday, I ran out of time.

Continue reading

The 2016 Bird Ecology BWCA Tour

RedBreastedGrosbeakWe had an excellent crew and witnessed 57 species of birds during our four-day adventure. Owing to the early spring, the season was more advanced than the birding seminars in earlier years. Leaves were emerging, as were black flies, but birds were still visible and bugs? never more than a friendly nuisance. Showers for the most part held back until we were snug in our sleeping bags.

A Black-throated Blue Warbler, and once again, Barred Owls right in our camp were just two of the highlights. We saw a lot of evidence of Moose this year, but alas, none of the big brutes showed themselves. There were great moments with Merlins, Bald Eagles, and Gnat  Catchers.

If you are like I was a decade ago, you might visit the BWCA in search of … Continue reading


One spot left on 2016 Noatak Expedition.

Lower half, 200 miles. This is the stretch of the river with grizzlies (a dozen last year) Musk Oxen (a couple dozen last year) salmon (incredible fishing last year) we pass through 2 canyons and you finish on the Arctic Ocean.

Gotta fill this spot and soon, forget the list price, first reasonable offer will be accepted. Amazing opportunity!