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.

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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 … 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!

Summertime Fun in Canoe Country

I am up in the Boundary Waters working on this blog post and the predicted high temperature, despite early May on the calendar, is mid-eighties! It reminds that the peak canoeing season coincides with the heat of the summer. So how do you beat the heat?

The First rule is: reframe the situation. Instead of focusing on avoiding being sweaty and hot, embrace the warmth. I lived in the Arctic for nine years, where for ten months it was cold. I promised myself never to complain about a half-dozen hot summer days. That is also good advice in the BWCAW, where for nine months it is cold. However, I must confess that my promise was tested on a singular July day on Lake Insula. I was camping with my daughter and the afternoon was sweltering. We had traveled early in the day to avoid the worst of the heat. Our … Continue reading

Dates Set for 2017 Rio Grande Lower Canyon Expeditions

In 2016 four Rio Grande Uncommon Seminars Crews experienced terrific journeys down the Rio Grande’s Lower Canyons. The weather was absolutely spectacular. Cobalt blue skies warm days cool (a few cold) nights. Great campfires. stargazing the zodiacal cloud for some groups, a brilliant full moon for another. A gamut of wildlife, including some of the best views ever of desert bighorn sheep, desert mule deer, javelinas, wild burros and of course the corriente. Some good birds including a Black Hawk and an amazing kettle of over 90 Turkey Vultures. The water was low all season which was contrary to the El Nino forecast, but we always had enough water. The low water did provide some new lining opportunities. We lined the big drop at Hot Springs rapids for the first time. I think many of the paddlers learned how fun technical lining can be and that opened a new dimension … Continue reading

Copper Canyon, Mexico

CopperCanyon040816-2After completing four consecutive and very successful expeditions through the Rio Grande’s Lower Canyons, I decided to venture even further south in quest of more wild rivers and canyon walls. For decades, I have had my heart set on experiencing Mexico’s Copper Canyon (Barranca del Cobre). Allegedly it is deeper than Arizona’s Grand Canyon and four times bigger in size. Reading Edward Abbey’s chronicles by the light of a campfire on the Rio Grande and listening to Larry Rice’s stories further piqued my interest. Plus, with the Nahanni, Grand, and RG Lower Canyons under my belt I thought this would complete the big four of North American canyons. There was also a strong commercial interest. Could I lead guided canoe trips in March down the Urique … Continue reading

Four Crews Experience Success in 2016 on the Rio Grande

BlogPost033116_6With the completion of the 4th Rio Grande Expedition, my 2016 Lower Canyon season has come to an end. The last trip was my biggest (total crew of 10), latest (March 11-18), the lowest water level (44 cfs at Rio Grande Village). My conclusions: I enjoyed the big crew size, maybe partially because they were already an established group that had done kayak outings together in the past and they were bonded and confident wilderness campers and all that made my job easy. I enjoyed the longer days and the heat (and daily swimming) of mid-March and the greening of the desert. But, mid-March is Spring Break time in Texas. In 14 previous Lower Canyon expeditions I had not seen another canoe party. This time we passed a small … Continue reading

My 13th Rio Grande Voyage

Returned from 2016 Expedition #3 down the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande. We had superb weather for this journey — calm, cloudless days with highs around 90 and warm starry nights. Arctic paddling legend, Mel Baughman was part of this week’s crew, and it was great to paddle together and swap stories. Sally, Paul and Mike also shared amazing stories of Tanzania. The only glitch was water levels. It was the lowest water I have ever seen on the Rio Grande. So much for El Nino “big water year”. Low flow (44cfs at RG Village) made all the rapids technical and also made for some scratchy dragging in some of the braided sections. But we did have some excitement lining Hot Springs rapid over the main drop for the first time ever, and some challenges when almost the entire river got swallowed by the cane. Wildlife was not abundant … Continue reading