Back to the Ozarks

I leave the day after Easter for back-to-back Ozark canoe trips. First the majestic Buffalo River in Arkansas, and then the less heralded Eleven Point in Missouri. With The Rio Grande in February and now the Ozarks I guess this is my new idea of winter camping –chase the sun. Larry Rice keeps writing me about the wonders of Panama. Maybe a January canoe trip down there next year or the Everglades with Cliff Jacobson if we can pull that together?  Anyway right now I am focused on the Ozarks. Last year we hit the Dogwoods in bloom and the woods were a fairyland, this time, a focus on the waterfalls. With a late spring in Minnesota I am going to bring along my Kifaru tipi and a tiny woodstove. If we catch some cold April rain it will be nice to have a warm, dry tent to retreat into … Continue reading

Campcraft Tip

As readers likely already know, I prefer to cook over a fire while I am camping. It is true that stoves especially propane stoves, are easier, but I don’t go into the bush because it’s easier. As far as the environment goes, camping mostly in Minnesota and Ontario I also believe burning wood is the most responsible choice. Fossil fuels and the canisters that contain them are an abomination. Dead wood in the North Woods is abundant and with the elm, oak, spruce, ash, balsam and pine blights and the recent spate of wildfires and blow-downs, there is no shortage of dead wood. In fact, Minnesota has become a paradise for woodpeckers. It takes a while to learn how to build, start, and maintain a fire. It takes even longer to learn how to cook over a fire, but woodfire cooking creates a certain satisfaction and independence that cannot be replicated … Continue reading

Warming Water and Invasive Species Changing the Character of Quetico-Superior Lakes

058-DSC_02031The Lake Superior summer water temperatures are increasing more rapidly than regional air temperatures.  According to an article in the Ely Timberjay, the surface water temperatures of Lake Superior increased approximately 6 degrees F between 1979 and 2006. This is significantly greater than regional atmospheric warming. How this change will impact biodiversity and the proliferation of invasive species remains unclear, but according to scientist Dr. Euan Reavie, as quoted in the Timberjay, the impact is likely to be dramatic. Other lakes in the region are also experiencing effects of warmer summer water temperatures. These include more frequent and larger blue-green algae blooms in Lake of the Woods. On March 13-14 the tenth annual Water Quality Forum is being convened in  International … Continue reading

Rio Grande Dreams

I cannot stop thinking about the Rio Grande. It was a magical trip and I will get some photos and stories up soon. I will also talk about our trip at the Midwest Mountaineering Spring Expo. It was too late to do a program on the Rio Grande at Canoecopia but I do have a couple sessions which I am co-leading with Boundary Waters Journal publisher Stu Osthoff  about canoe camping. Despite being busy catching up with business and preparing, and being lured into the woods for some of the best Nordic skiing of the season, I often find myself back on the Rio Grande. Once again I am sprawled on the river bank listening to the swish of the sediment load and held in the grip by the spirit of the canyons….. what a privilege it was to paddle the lower canyons. What a joy to revisit the experience … Continue reading

Thanks Sue

Sue Plankis was kind enough to write a guest blog while I was off the grid and paddling the Rio Grande last week. She mentioned the bird ecology classes she is co-leading with me this spring in the Boundary Waters. Sue’s only fault is she is too modest. Spending a few days in the forest and on the lakes with her will be like drawing back a curtain on wild nature. You will see plants and animals that although you may have walked past for years, you have never really seen. But maybe even more amazing might be her insights to the sounds of the forest that you never before distinguished and the clues they will provide. Even if you have not been that interested in birdwatching before, I guarantee … Continue reading

Thanks Sue

Sue Plankis was kind enough to write a guest blog while I was off the grid and paddling the Rio Grande last week. She mentioned the bird ecology classes she is co-leading with me this spring in the Boundary Waters. Sue’s only fault is she is too modest. Spending a few days in the forest and on the lakes with her will be draw back a curtain on wild nature. You won’t believe the birds you will see and learn about. Even if you have never been that interested in birdwatching this experience will add depth to your appreciation the mazing interelationships

Spring Thoughts in Winter

Submitted by guest blogger Sue Plankis

Two winter things happened in Minnesota this week that made me think of spring. The first was the City of Lakes Loppet where one skis 25 K along park-ways and frozen lakes from Theo Wirth Park south to Uptown. These are the same lakes which I paddle with my friend Bob Brown, well-known canoe and boat builder of Apple Valley. As I skied I could envision what this place would look like in just a couple of months; soft water, green leaves and singing birds. The second happening was that a girlfriend sent me a photo of a bird which she needed some help identifying. Sitting on a snow-laden bird feeder was an American Goldfinch. Most interesting was that it was a male starting to get his yellow spring breeding plumage.
Continue reading

The Rio Grande

Off with a group of seven from all over the country to paddle the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande. The picture is from my last trip to the Rio Grande in 2011 with Larry Rice, Fran Rulon-Millen, Cliff Jacobson and Darrell Foss. My Wildfire at the beginning of Mariscal Canyon, the last of the Upper Canyons, and close to our take-out. This time it’s the Lower Canyons –  full of mystery, magic and mystique. (and hopefully enough water to float our canoes).

I have been kicking myself all week because water levels have been up on the Rio Grande and wishing we had scheduled the trip for this week. Then I just read that winds were out of the southwest Wednesday at 60 mph, higher in the canyons! … Continue reading

they were just a little later than expected

Earlier blog post to the contrary, it appears as if the winter of 2012-13 is the year of the Boreal Owl in the Quetico Superior. Over the last week, there have been several sightings of the owls all along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Several Boreal Owls have been seen in Two Harbors, Split Rock, Gooseberry Falls, Grand Marais and one was even spotted within the city limits of Duluth. Several birders, some from as far away as California, Oklahoma and Colorado, have flocked to the area to see or photograph the birds (personal communication, Jim Lind). The unpleasant part of these invasions or irruptions, as they are sometimes called, is that the birds are usually food-stressed (starving in some cases). Driven by hunger, but to a land likely … Continue reading

Boreal Owl Invasion Fails to Meet Expectations in Minnesota

Boreal owls are extremely rare resident birds in Minnesota. The first nesting pair was not recorded until 1978.  But every once in awhile, due to the boom and crash cycles of sub-arctic rodents, Boreal Owls invade northern Minnesota. Last fall citizen scientist, Susan Plankis, reported that Minnesota birders believed that the winter of 2012-13 was going to be one of those years. Birder, Jim Lind did see one January 23rd in Two Harbors, and one was spotted earlier this winter in Sax-Zim Bog by Chad Heins and just yesterday a Boreal owl was spotted at Goosberry Falls State Park, but occasional sightings are not unusual even in a typical year. There have been reports of an uptick in Boreal Owls being banded in Quebec and eastern Ontario which is evidence of an invasion but not yet as far west as the Quetico Superior.

Boreal Owls are often remarked as one … Continue reading