Thursday, April 29, 2010

It is raining, It is raining, It is raining

Yeah!  Raindrops falling fast in Ely.  This morning we got a taste of what April showers can be like, and this afternoon it has begun to come down in earnest.

All I can say is it is about time!

In hopes of getting more, I'm posting this picture from July 2006, when it actually rained so much we took a canoe out back behind the outfitting barn and paddled through the streets.

Bring it ON!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Journal your Trip

Check out Drew's story below in journal form of his canoe trip last fall. It is great to take a journal along on your trips and note the details both little and big. If you enjoy sketching and or painting, it is fun to take a mini watercolor kit or watercolor pencils and colored pencils and create a beautiful journal with detailed notes that you can treasure for years to come!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Drew Brockett's Fall Trip 2010

From time to time we like to post stories of our staff trips for both general knowledge about the wilderness and how we travel, camp, fish, cook, etc. and just to get you in the mood to paddle (like it takes much!?)

Drew's story from last fall follows in his own words and pictures.  I wish I had some of those Atomic Hashbrowns right now!

Drew’s Fall Trip – 2009
As some of you may know, I take a yearly trip with my uncle, Kerth, from Santa Fe.  It’s always a highlight of the year for him to come up from the high desert to the forests of northern Minnesota.  Here is our latest trip journal in my own “list” form.  Enjoy, grab a cup of hot chocolate, and follow along on a map.  I hope this gets you excited to set up your own trip and enjoy this precious wilderness that we have.

Very early start as we arrive at entry point #16 Moose River North in total darkness.
We decide to start portaging in the dark with headlamps.  Since this portage is pretty smooth, it’s not a problem at all.  Once we get all of our stuff to the river, we sit and wait a few minutes for a little more light.  We love starting at dawn on our trips and this is no exception.

Moose River to Nina Moose Lake to Nina Moose River to Agnes to Boulder River to La Croix to Bottle Portage to Iron to campsite on far east side.

This was a long day and it was sunny and quite warm.
After setting up camp at a great site, we took a swim in Iron Lake.  That felt so good after a tough, hot day.
Heard wolves howling on Iron Lake.  Saw an otter, beaver and bald eagles during the day.
Water is a bit low, but expected at the end of the season.  Had to get knee-deep in muck getting into the Boulder River, since the water was out from the portage.

Iron Lake to Curtain Falls to Crooked Lake to Gardner Bay to a couple no-name lakes to Elk Lake.

Another good day.  It was a warm and cloudy day as well as hardly any wind.  Wonderful travelling weather especially since Crooked Lake was like glass.  Curtain Falls is beautiful.
Saw two moose in Gardner Bay.  We had an otter swim in front of our campsite on Elk as we relaxed in the evening.  These are some of the best animals to see in the wilderness if you ask me.
Now that we are in Quetico, we “feel” more remote.
For dinner, my uncle’s famous Atomic Hashbrowns.  Mmm mmm!!

Basecamp on Elk Lake.  Windbound!!!  It was extremely windy and rainy all day.  We were able to have breakfast under the tarp and then the weather turned in a hurry.  Into the tent we went and we were there all day.  The wind howled all day and all night.

Unexpected basecamp on Elk.  Very windy again with some off and on rain.  No paddling today.  Unbelievable.  The day is spent in the tent and we make the best of being stranded with naps, chats, games, etc.  Our plan was to get to Williams Lake, but I will now adjust the trip a bit due to the weather.  Much cooler temperatures with the front.

Finally we can move!  The wind speed has lowered, but there is still a good push from the north.
Elk to no-name to Cone to Brent to Darky River to Darky Lake.

Now the plan is to spend a few nights on Darky, one of our favorite lakes.  We pick a great spot on the NE side and decide that will be home.  My uncle and I enjoy layover days on trips so that’s one reason for the Darky stay.

This particular day was great.  The skies cleared and the sun was out, but the temps were cooler and the wind from the north was something we had to paddle against in a few spots.  As we paddled through the little no-name lake, we saw a very nice white-tailed buck with a handsome rack.
The fall colors had started along the Darky River and we had a superb view of the lake and sunset from camp.
After setting up camp, we tried fishing a bit and had some luck.  Kerth caught a nice northern pike and I caught a few smallies, but dinner was more Atomic Hashbrowns.

Layover on Darky Lake
It was a wonderful day - sunny, cool, slight breeze.  We woke up to a beautiful fog over the lake.
Today we paddled northeast and took a few portages in the direction of William Lake.  What a wild area that is between Darky and William.
Lunch was at camp, and on the way we had Sandhill Cranes fly overhead.  The afternoon was spent relaxing in camp.
Later in the afternoon, we fished Darky and had some good luck.  Smallies and northern found Kerth’s line and I was aiming for a walleye and caught a nice one.  Finally, a Darky walleye for dinner.  It was a perfect evening on the lake with a fine meal and good weather.

Darky to the Darky River to Minn to McAree

It was tough to leave such an awesome lake, but it had to be done.  There was a strong wind from the E/SE so we would be ok for most of the day.  This part of the Darky River is one of my favorite places to paddle.  You are “out there” and it’s just wonderful.  Kerth caught a smallmouth at one section.  We spotted a very cool deer antler rub on a tree, and very fresh wolf scat on one of the portages.  Some of the black spruce areas along the river are spectacular.

Arrived to a campsite on McAree at about 1:30pm and had a lazy afternoon.  The wind was strong, but the site we located was tucked into some cedars so that helped.  Another fine day in the wilderness.

McAree to Black Robe Portage to La Croix to Bass Lake (wanted to check it out) – back to La Croix to Boulder Bay

The wind was strong from the E/NE.  As we paddled near the Hilly Island area, the waves were a little larger that we would have liked coming from behind us.  Once we started heading toward the pictographs things got better.  It’s always nice to see this incredible wall of Ojibwe drawings.

We wanted to see Bass Lake north of Bottle Portage and add another lake to our travels.  We had to paddle hard to get there (directly into the wind) and once we portaged to the lake, it was very difficult to even paddle on that lake.  We worked our way along some shoreline, fished a few minutes and turned back.  Too bad we couldn’t explore Bass Lake a little more.

Paddling downwind to Boulder Bay was no problem at all.  We found a great site for our last evening.  One more dinner of Atomic Hashbrowns (hey, when you like a meal this much, you might as well have it more than once), a campfire, and then a full moon lit up the entire forest.  Not bad at all.

Boulder Bay to Boulder River to Agnes Lake to Nina Moose River to Nina Moose Lake to Moose River

Light rain all day.  Otters along the river.  Plenty of beaver dams to pull up and over.  Fall colors are beautiful.  Light wind from the north helped us today.
Good, solid day, with no breaks until we got to the car.
Echo Trail drive back to Ely was full of Fall colors.

What an incredible trip!!  I want to mention some things to go along with what I have “listed” above.  We went 6 ½ days without seeing anyone!!  It doesn’t get any better than that.  It was from the evening of the first day 9/25 until we got back to La Croix on 10/2 that we didn’t see a soul.

I saw some old and new places.  That’s what I try to do when I’m out there so I can talk with all you trippers about the different areas.

Some of you might wonder how I could go into Quetico like that.  Well, we had done everything the correct way for a time when the La Croix Ranger Station was closed for the season.  We had RABC permits, passports, paid overnight camping fees, had a self-issue Quetico permit, fishing licenses, BWCA permit, etc.  Bert and I can always help you with off-season trips.

Anytime you want to send us a trip story, we’d love to have it and put it into our e-newsletter for others to read.  It’s always fun to follow along with your own BWCA or Quetico adventure.

Let’s get you set for your own journey through this wilderness.  Call 1-800-223-6565 or email Bert Heep or me and we can take of anything you need.  A trip starts with reserving a permit and you don’t want to wait too long to get the process started.  There are so many places to paddle up here so whether this is your first time or tenth time, you will never be disappointed. 

The wilderness is calling!

Happy Earth Day 2010

Have a wonderful day. Think of some way to cut back and give back. We're planning our installation of Solar Panels on our new white metal roof. This summer we'll all be able to watch a monitor in the store that will display the amount of energy our panels are producing on their own. It is a big retail store, but we hope to offset much of our lighting and air conditioning usage. Think of small and big things we can all do. Recycling old cell phones, turning the water off while we brush our teeth, unplugging charging devices when not in use, and making sure lights are turned off when we leave rooms. Happy Earth Day!

Friday, April 16, 2010

We've still got lots of great Paddles on Sale

Excellent paddles from Bending Branches! These are all 30% off and are "cosmetic blems" -- meaning they have small blemishes somewhere that may be a knot or a chip filled with wood putty and epoxy or a laminant variation. Some of them we literally can't find the blemish. All those things are moot, though as they just add up to savings, big savings for you.

The real point is that these paddles out-perform other paddles just like all top shelf Bending Branches Paddles do. They are excellent canoe paddles and can be your work horses for many years to come. Let's face it the first time you fillet your walleyes on your brand-new wood paddle, it is going to become a blem, too. Save yourself 30% and get the paddle you've always wanted today!

Have a great day, Sun is shining and the Wind is UP! here in Ely, Minnesota. Oh, and GO TWINS!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Early Ice Out Camping Trip Knife Lake, Boundary Waters April 9, 2010

Outdoors blog: We make an early, early canoe-country trip | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

Outdoors blog: We make an early, early canoe-country trip | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

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Time to Paddle in Ely, Minnesota

Come on up to Ely. It is time to paddle a canoe!

We have something special going on here in Ely. The ice is out earlier than ever before and there are NO BUGS. So, what are you all waiting for? Bugs??? Come on up to Ely and get in an early season paddle. It is so beautiful out there. It is quite. The birds are starting to make their presence known and I heard loons for the first time yesterday on Everett Lake, but for the most part it is wonderfully quiet. The catkins are popping out and the buds on the aspen are starting.

On another about them Twins? They played their home opener against the Boston Red Sox yesterday and won. In case you don't know, our boss, Steve Piragis is from Athol, MA and is an avid Boston fan. In fact a few of us are heading down to the Twin Cities on Thursday to take in a game and check out the new baseball park, called Target Field. It has been getting rave reviews. The Twins have not played outside baseball since 1981, so this is pretty sweet.

Hope to see you in Ely soon.

Remember, nobody ever drowned on a Portage!!!


Monday, April 12, 2010


Hi Everyone...You may have heard by now, but starting tomorrow (April 12.2010) the Forest Service is initiating a FIRE BAN for the Boundary Waters. No fires will be allowed anywhere in the BW. You may still use stoves, but no open fires. It has been a very dry spring, and with the early run off from the snowmelt the conditions are ripe for fires. Here is hoping that we get some moisture soon so the ban can be lifted. Having and evening fire is a big part of camping the BW; and for those of us who do most of our cooking by over a fire, this is important. If you have any questions, give me a call. 800-223-6565 Bert

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Friday, April 9, 2010

What to look for in a Used Canoe

When you're buying a used canoe there are a few things to think about.  I'll call them a short checklist and you should literally write each down and draw a box next to it.  When you see a canoe you may be interested in, go to your checklist and faithfully check off each box (if you can).  When you're finished, if all your boxes have been checked... this is likely the canoe for you.

Why?  Well, we all love a deal, but... and there's always a BUT!  If a person is selling off a canoe, they're either unhappy with it (usually they've already got the canoe they really want in mind) or they've had a change of circumstances and need money.  If they love paddling at all (even if they need money) they'll be unlikely to give up a favorite canoe.  So, it can't all be about the deal, all about the low price.  If you wouldn't buy the canoe if it wasn't such a good price, you probably shouldn't take the deal.

So, PRICE shouldn't be at the top of your list.  It should be on the list, but not at the top.  What makes up the list?  Condition, weight, age, history, price, manufacturer, materials and will this canoe do what you want?  These are all good questions.

Condition:  Does the boat have stress fractures or repaired patches or visible damage?  If so, were the repairs done professionally?  Do the repairs impair the performance of the boat in any way?
Weight:  Just because it is cheap doesn't make it any lighter.  Kevlar canoes don't get heavier as you age.
Age:  How old is the canoe, how was it stored?  Was it protected from U.V. rays or left out in the sun for year after year?
History:  How was the canoe used and on what type of water.  Did it ever run rapids?  Does it have experience in the Boundary Waters?
Price:  Are you getting a substantial amount off the normal retail price?  Is this a canoe you would be happy to pay full retail for if you could?
Manufacturer:  Who made this canoe?  Do they have a good name in the business?  Do they stand behind their products?  Can you get replacement parts if necessary?  Do you have a good source or relationship with a retailer/distributor of this type canoe?
Materials:  Is the canoe aluminum, plastic, wood canvas, fiberglass, royalex, carbon or kevlar?
Will this Canoe Do what you want?:  Where are you going to use it the most on rivers, on lakes, on trips or mostly for fishing?  Does the design of the canoe match your needs?

At Piragis we sell our complete rental fleet (over 120 canoes) at the end of each season.  We maintain them throughout the year and professionally do any repairs necessary.  At the end of the season, we go over each canoe with a fine tooth comb and recondition each one.  These have all experienced the wilderness travel of the Boundary Waters and Quetico.  They have many, many more years of life in them.  They are lightweight kevlar (we rent a few royalex canoes, too) and only used one season.  We've got many different models of canoe so that we can match them to your paddling needs.

When we take trade-ins we hold them to our high standards as well and if they need to be re-conditioned or repaired, we do that here ourselves.  We find out from the previous owners the "canoe-facts" so we can share them with you.

Here at Piragis Northwoods Company we've sold more used canoes and kayaks than anyone in the business since 1979.  We are top shelf dealers for Wenonah Canoe, Bell Canoe Works, Perception Kayaks, Current Design Kayaks and Wilderness System Kayaks as well as PacCanoes and Folding Kayaks.  Our sales staff and outfitting staff have the same high attention to detail and commitment to used craft as we do to brand new handmade canoes and kayaks!

Call Steve Schon at 1-800-223-6565 Today to talk used or new canoes and kayaks and we will get you the boat that best fits your needs!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Early Spring Paddlin'

Usually at this time of year I like to paddle some local rivers because the lakes are still frozen. That's not the case this year but I'm still gonna paddle some rivers. Some of my early season favorites are the Burntside and Shagawa (flowing into and out of Shagawa Lake here in Ely), the Embarrass (south of Babbitt) and the Little Indian Sioux north and south from the Echo Trail in the BWCAW. I hope to get out this weekend and will report next week on my adventure. Anyone been paddlin' any rivers up here yet?

April cools down for a couple of days, but will warm by the WEEKEND!

Today the bright sun is still out here in Ely.  That wonderful, life giving orb is giving us hope as we've gotten used to our untimely warm weather and are chilled today.  Today and tomorrow we're looking at high temperatures in the mid 40s with lows about 19 degrees.  Brrr.  :)

The weekend, though will return us to a glorious 60.  Let me tell you, this is the perfect time to hit the water for an early Spring canoe trip.  Crisp mornings, cool nights, warm sunny days with no snow, very little mud and nothing but potential for fun!

Call Drew Brockett or Bert Heep today to rent canoes and gear.  1-800-223-6565.  Beat the bugs, beat the traffic, discover the Wilderness in early April, you may never get this chance again.  Ice just doesn't go out this early!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Break Out The Canoe Gear...Ice is OUT in Ely

Hey everybody...We are a month ahead of time up here in Ely. Ice is out and the Boundary Waters Wilderness is calling. So, pack up the gear and head north. If you need a canoe, let us know, our fleet is ready to go. You do not need permits unitl May 1st. Best of all...the bugs are not out yet. It probably won't be long, but for now it is pretty sweet.

I will be at the Midwest Mountaineering Spring Outdoor Adventure Expo, April 23-24, so make sure you stop by the Piragis booth and say hello.

My grandkids were visiting for the Easter break and I had a great time hiking and being outside with them. We even built a fort in the woods in back of our cabin.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hundreds of kids hunt for 4000 eggs in Whiteside Park

Ely's Easter rabbits were busy early this morning hiding 4000 eggs in Whiteside park.  I'm estimating about 200 kids or more showed up and had found them all in under 5 minutes.  It was poetry in motion and boy was it cold out there compared to the nice warm days in the sixties we've been used to.

Ice is Out... Happened sometime in the night/early morning April 3

Ice is officially out here in Ely.  Shagawa lake is completely clear.  You won't be able to see in the pictures, but I even spotted black and white ducks diving and swimming.  They were marked like merganzers or buffleheads.  The wind was raging all night long and I'm sure that took out the skim of ice that was left from yesterday.

It rained a little this morning, snowed a little and sleet came down for a while.

Cold and wet here now, more like the April we're used to.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Ice Out Record Early

I was out yesterday looking at the ice on Burntside. It's black and rotten but still covering the whole lake while other small lakes are totally open on April 1. That's at least 3 weeks ahead of normal and as far as anyone can remember. I'm thinking paddling the BW or Quetico the week after Easter. Lake trout season never closes in the spring in Quetico and right after ice out is the best fishing of the year on border lakes. If you want to do it you need a current RABC from the the Canadian Gov't, an Ontario fishing license and a Quetico permit that you fill out yourself in a self service drop box at Prairie Portage. I'll check the Moose L. chain later today to see if it's open yet. Rain is predicted today but so far it's looking bright out there. We need rain badly and it would drive off the remaining ice quickly. Think Rain for Ely! Steve

Got a favorite product or book review you'd like to share?

Since 1979 here at Piragis Northwoods, we've enjoyed the relationships we build with fellow paddlers and canoe trippers.  These relationships were an integral part of our business growth over the years and as we expanded and grew within the canoeing community, we made more friends.  We value our customers and have always treasured both their devotion to the sport and to Ely and the Boundary Waters.  Thank you for your comments.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Remembering our Friend, Henry

Two months ago my friend Henry Held went for an early evening swim in the ocean, off the coast of Mexico.  It was his last swim, as the current turned on him and he tragically lost his life.  Today I shot a couple of pictures of a memorial stone that currently sits outside his Shoe Repair Shop.  This is just the kind of day that I would've enjoyed a few minutes chatting with him in the sun - outside his shop.  He'd probably be at his favorite crappie hole, though or out for an early Spring ride on his Harley, so I most likely would have missed him.

Just like I'm missing him today.  Happy trails, my friend!

Ice retreats even more. Near Record Ice Out coming.

More pics from Shagawa Lake on April 1st, 2010. Not an April Fool's Joke, the ice is almost gone. Here's some shots from Sandy Point and also some from Semer's Park Beach where we hold our Sunsplash Canoe and Kayak Sale and Tryout Days every year. (This year it will be over Memorial Day Weekend).

It really looks like April is the month to get some early canoe trips in. If paddling is your passion and you want to beat the bugs and the rush, or you're just itching for open water, call us today to rent canoes and plan an early trip in April. We don't expect the ice to make it through the Easter weekend. Some of the smaller lakes are already open. The Kawishiwi River has been free for a while. Drew, Bert or Steve Piragis can help you. 1-800-223-6565

A good book is hard to put down

If any of you are into mysteries, WKK or William Kent Krueger writes a page turner and a half. He began of course, with a great title, "Boundary Waters". Intrigue and wilderness pull a Northwoods Sheriff after a missing woman and a pack of killers who stalk her every move. This book is the first in a series that now culminates in Krueger's newest title, "Heaven's Keep". I count 9 in the series and as Krueger's pen get's sharper, so do the mysteries themselves.

If you're looking for a good book and you enjoy great series, I suggest you give Krueger's books a read. His research is smart, his style is engaging and his popularity is growing.

of Heaven's Keep, "When a charter plane carrying Cork O'Connors wife goes missing in Wyoming, Cork must accept the terrible truth that his wife is dead. Months afterwards two women present evidence that the pilot was not the man he claimed to be. To investigate Cork travels to Wyoming where he battles the interference of locallaw enforcement, open hostility of the Northern Arapaho who have much at risk if the truth is discovered, and continuing attempts on his life. It's possible his wife is alive after all."

If you've got a favorite book from our bookstore, share a review here on our blog, just post it as a comment to this post below. Thank you for your interest in the Boundary Waters Catalog and Piragis Northwoods Company.

From the end of the road, Tim Stouffer, Ely, Minnesota