Monday, November 29, 2010

Paddling on Burntside Lake

Steve Piragis took the new Canak out again and put in at the public landing on Burntside Lake near Camp Van Vac.  The West side of Burntside Lake was frozen over with skim ice.  As he paddled the lake he captured some fantastic photos of Cabin 11 and the ice covered shoreline.  The water is cold, but not cold enough to walk on yet!

It really is refreshing to be out in late November and get a look at the snow on the trees from the water's perspective.  It is a late season chance to paddle that one shouldn't pass up, providing, you wear a life jacket and warm clothing and tell people where you are headed.

Enjoy the pictures and remember that through Tuesday, we're offering Free Standard Shipping Online.  Code CYBER10 will get your order to you with the shipping on us!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Free Shipping Online at the Boundary Waters Catalog

Free Standard Shipping at and the Boundary Waters Catalog.  Here at Piragis Northwoods Company, we're happy to offer our customers free shipping when they shop online from November 26 through November 30th.  Oversized item charges of $5 will still apply.  Please spread this around and tell your friends, because on December 1st this offer will have ended.

Happy Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend.  Remember that Saturday is Support Small Business Saturday and look for the personal service that comes with attention to detail that only small businesses have time to deliver.  We are here for you!

USE CODE CYBER10 to get free shipping through November 30th.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


We would like to thank all of you, our most valued and welcome customers, for another great year here on the edge of the Boundary Waters.  We hope you all have a fantastically Happy Thanksgiving and as our way of saying Thanks to You, we're discounting everything online during the 24 hours of Thanksgiving by 10%.  Just shop during those 24 hours and your prices will be 10% off regular prices.  You don't need to worry about going crazy on Black Friday, shop from the comfort of your home after you've had a great meal with family and friends and SAVE on all your favorite canoe camping items and more from Your Friends in the Great Northwoods!

Use promo code:  TURKEY10

Go ahead, tell your friends about  TURKEY10, they can shop and save at home, too.  But don't forget, this Gobblin Good deal is for one day only and after midnight on the 25th, Turkey Day, it will be too late.  Thanks again for shopping with Your Friends in the Great Northwoods, Piragis Northwoods Company.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winter Visitants Arrive in Ely, the Piragis Northwoods Birding Chronicles

Lots of critters leave Ely for the winter and head “south”. These include summer home residents, snow birds, tourists, paddlers and plenty of real birds.  Believe it or not some birds come south to spend the winter in Ely!
Photo by Steve Schon
During October some of the first winter visitants to arrive are the beautiful Bohemian Waxwings.  They replace their smaller cousins the Cedar Waxwings who spend their summers here and then head south to warmer climes during the winter months.  They feed on the mountain ash trees both ornamental and native as well as crab apples trees planted in Ely.
Photo by Steve Piragis
By November we start to hear the quiet call notes of Pine Grosbeaks.  They have nested north of us in Canada and arrive in Ely to feast on the seeds of pine and deciduous trees.
Photo by Steve Piragis
They also visit bird feeders in our area gorging themselves on black oil sunflower seeds and along with the Evening Grosbeaks that can be found anytime in Ely make for a colorful addition to the snowy background.
Photo by Steve Piragis
One of our smallest visitors are the Common Redpoll and their rare cousin the Hoary Redpoll.  They can be seen eating catkins in our deciduous trees as well as gleaning seeds from shrubs.  The also visit bird feeders and dive right in among the bigger Grosbeaks.  The common Redpoll has been shown to be one of the hardiest species as far as withstanding cold temperatures and they manage to survive Ely winters that often reach -40 degrees.

Lucky birders may also get a glimpse of either the Red or White-winged Crossbill.  Although these species are nomadic and may be seen almost any month, they are much more likely in the winter.  Their specialized bills are adapted to efficiently extracting seeds from pine and spruce cones.  Add to these visitors our permanent residents such as Ruffed Grouse, Common Ravens, Blue and Gray Jays, Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches, and several Woodpeckers to name a few and you can see that Ely is far from bird poor in the winter.

What we lack in numbers we make up for with interesting, beautiful, and hardy species.

What is your favorite winter bird?  What is the rarest bird to visit your hometown this time of year?  Let us know!

Steve Schon

Get FREE STANDARD SHIPPING now until December 21 and SAVE on Piragis Clothing at the Boundary Waters Catalog






Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Help the North American Bear Center

Are you aware of Give To The Max Day today? Right now the North American Bear Center is in #1 but they need to maintain our lead until midnight when it ends. It will mean an extra $20,000 and donations can be as small as $10. So if you know anyone that you can send this link to please do.
Thanks, here’s the link:

Update, looks like they TOOK SECOND PLACE, $10,000, thanx to everyone who helped!!!!!

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Gear?

Hi fellow paddlers,

At the end of every canoe trip that Diane and I take there are certain conversations that always take place. We talk about how we wish the trip could have been longer. Even if we are out for two weeks, we always wish for longer trips. We talk about how we will take those longer trips once we are retired and do not have the constraints of a job. We talk about the fact that we are glad that we live in Ely and do not have to drive for a day or two to get back home. And invariably, we ask the question...How can we take less stuff next time?

Now don't get me wrong, we have done this for a while and we have refined our gear needs pretty well, but we still wonder if we take too much. I suppose this conversation comes up because we are both getting older and the portages are a bit tougher on us than they were 15 years ago. I used to carry a canoe and pack on the portage, now it is just the canoe and a waist pack. It takes us a bit longer than it used to as well. Now, for lots of reasons, this is all OK; but we still find ourselves wanting to trim down on what we take.

I once heard the advice that after every trip one should make three piles of gear. Pile one has all the stuff you used all the time. Pile two has stuff that you used maybe once or twice. Pile three has stuff that you never used at all. The admonition concludes...on your next trip take only the stuff you had in pile one.

This seems a bit severe and certainly even though the need for a first aid kit never arose does not mean that you should not bring one. A very important part of any wilderness trip is anticipating all sorts of contingencies and being prepared for them. This means that you may bring some things that you never need, but if the need arose, you sure would be glad you had them.

So...let's get some discussion going. What do you feel is absolutely necessary for a canoe trip in the BWCAW or Quetico? What are some of the things you would never leave behind? What are some of the things that are borderline? And if you were ruthless...what kinds of things could you do without?

I will start the ball rolling with this one. There is one thing that I would never consider leaving behind...a TARP. I have often told my clients that if I had to choose between taking a tent and tarp, the tent would stay at home. You can sleep under a tarp and stay dry. You can sit under a tarp and huddle by a fire for warmth and comfort. You can function under a tarp in all kinds of weather and stay dry and comfortable. You can cook and eat your meals under a tarp no matter the weather.

What do you think? I look forward to hearing some responses. Maybe you will have some ideas that Diane and I can put into practice on our next trip.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

First Snow in Ely

Good Morning Everyone!

Well, Ely got its first significant snow last night. The biggest part of the storm went south and east of us, which seems to be a continuing pattern for the past several years. We always get excited when the weather people start talking about a big storm coming our way, but so often it bypasses us on the way to Duluth and beyond. It seems like a long time ago since we have had a genuine winter blizzard where everything just shuts down for a few days. Maybe this winter.

It certainly seems different to look out and see the blanket of white, knowing that it will be with us until sometime next April. The change of seasons! Most of us who live here in Ely love it for just that reason. We had a wonderful and extended fall, but we are ready for winter. The wood is piled up, the garden hose is disconnected and rolled up, the gardens are all harvested, the leaves are all down, and white tail deer hunters are in the woods, and the canoes are put away for another season. So...we will break out the snowshoes, the cross country skis and get ready for exercise winter style.

I told Diane last night that I am sort of happy that we did not get a lot of snow yet. I am not quite ready to get the snowplow and snowblower out just yet.

Here a few photos I took this morning from the roof of our store to show you Ely as it is on Sunday, November 14th.
Have a good day wherever you are

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Incredible Video of the Boundary Waters in Fall

Just discovered a fantastic video from Alex Horner.  Great shots of Autumnal Boundary Waters Days.  You'll want to show it to friends.  Hey, if you like this, I mean if it really pulls something inside of you North, why not call Drew Brockett today and talk about a canoe trip for next year.  We can outfit you with everything from a permit to a canoe, paddles and packs to all the food, gear and maps you need for a week or more in the Boundary Waters or Quetico.  All you've got to do is get to Ely. 1-800-223-6565

P.S. it really is this beautiful!!

Hey, we want to here from you!  What do you like to have for your first nights meal in the wilderness and why?  Thanks for your comments!

Boundary Waters Part 2 from Alex Horner on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Beautiful Autumn Days bring Warmth to Ely, Minnesota

Monday, Tuesday and this morning have been wonderful days to be outside here in Ely.  Indeed, last weekend, while probably too warm for deer hunter's taste, was fabulous as well.  It feels good to be out in your shirt sleeves or a light jacket, to have the sun feel warm on your back and neck as you walk.  Over Shagawa Lake and Miner's Lake it hangs this morning like an oversized ornament, dripping sparkles and splashing our town with welcome warmth.
It is a great day for a paddle and to troll a line behind for walleyes as it looks to maybe cloud over later.  The outlook for next week seems to be suggesting days that will have highs in the 30s -- sigh! That's 30 degrees below and more from what we've just happily sat in our lawn chairs enjoying the past week.
Outfitting clients keep sending in pictures of fish caught and fun had on trips they took this year and I'm finding it hard to not think about wetting a line.  I think I've missed the window for one last taste of summer on a camping trip.  (Yesterday we rented a Wenonah Champlain for two days -- hard to believe -- but that's what sunshine will do for you!)  I'm beginning to plan my first winter camping trip of the season.  We'll see how fast the snow comes and if the turn around in temperatures really does come quickly.
Ely's changes are special and they make living here interesting and unique.  The fact that they are unpredictable and untimely only make it more interesting.  In a matter of weeks, the blue in the water behind the Shagawa Lake sign below will have turned clear and hard with a blanket of white over the top.  Instead of paddles, we'll be walking, skiing and snowshoeing on it, not to mention driving.  :)
Just another gorgeous day in Ely, Minnesota.  Glad I could share it!

Campfire - yes or no?

A lot of us are able to get into the woods for canoe trips each summer and we are grateful. It's fun to talk about, look at photos, and share the journey with co-workers when we return to the office. One of the things that I'm guessing a majority of the people do is have a campfire. I know some think that camping is not camping without the evening fire. You may use it for cooking and that probably means that you have to have one. But, have you spent an evening without one?

My uncle and I rarely have a campfire on our trips. Is it wrong? Of course not. It's our decision in the way we enjoy the passing of the evening. We are now accustomed to it and it's part of the routine on our trips. A campfire is now an "extra" if we decide to have one. Try just sitting on your Crazy Creek chair sometime and watch the sunset and be a part of the quiet. Without the firelight in your eyes, you can see beyond the fire ring. Watch darkness arrive and perhaps hear the last of the birds as they settle down. Then all of the sudden, you get to see and hear the neighborhood beaver slapping its tail as it makes its evening rounds. Sitting still, softly talking, and relaxing has given us many memories. Otters swim by, loons and mergansers float along the shore, and then you have that friendly red squirrel from the campsite checking you out. The northwoods is something special, indeed.
Some of you may say that this kind of stuff happens to you with a campfire and I'm sure it does. But try it without sometime. It's a different feeling. Use your stove for at least one meal and try this out.
What about all of you trippers that read the Piragis Blog. Fire or no fire? Any reasons why? There is no wrong answer, but it will be interesting to find out how people feel from both sides of the fire grate.
Drew (Iceman)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Out and about Ely in November

Today on the way to work I noticed a flock of Bohemian Waxwings busily feasting in the top of a Mountain Ash tree.

They eat together and fly off together.  Returning from lunch they were in a taller tree above the Ely Public Library and the flew off over the Post Office, no doubt looking for some more berries or a crab apple tree.  Often I'll see large groups of them de-fruiting a tree later in Winter when snow and ice blankets the trees.

It is a shirt sleeve day here in Ely with the untimely high temperature near 60 degrees.  Yes, that is sixty above zero, thank you.  The birds are out and loving the balmy temperatures and so are the people.  We are making lots of energy here today at Piragis Northwoods Company.  Our solar panels are running the few lights we need on in the store and most of our computers.  We definitely don't need the heat on.

For any of you who traveled up North and visited Ely this Summer, you'll remember that Central Avenue was torn up for all of the season causing detours and such around town.  Today it looks like the project is getting its final touches as they pave the edges and clean up.  New and improved drain tile underneath and nice new black top, new curbs and beautiful sidewalks on top.  No more road blocks and detour signs.  Hope the weather is as nice where you are!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hiking the Northcountry (Steve Schon finally has time to leave his busy desk)

On a beautiful fall day last week a few of us decided to get in one last long day hike before the snow started to fly.  Nancy Piragis, Tobi Mackey, Sharon Svatos, 3 dogs and I headed out for the trailhead of the Snowbank/Kekekabic trail system off the Snowbank Lake road some 20 miles east of Ely.

Although not as warm as the week before and with a few light drizzles in the afternoon, it was still great hiking weather.  We started off through mixed woods and soon crossed a clear cut with great views of moss covered cliffs.  We also passed a huge beaver lodge with what looked to be lots of recent activity.

After about 4 miles we entered the Boundary Waters and headed south on the loop to Becoosin and Benezie Lakes.  There were folks at the first campsite on Becoosin and shortly after that we came upon a dead Bald eagle.  All that was left were some feathers and bones a few of which were sampled by our canine companions.

On the way back we checked out the short trail north to Pickerel Bay on Snowbank and came upon a fire ring that had either gotten away from someone or been left unattended with a large circle of charred ground cover and many burned trees.  It was a graphic reminder of what can happen to any of us when we are careless with fire.

While backtracking to our vehicle we again came across the large beaver lodge only this time there was a large beaver on top of it!  Of course I couldn’t get my camera ready in time to capture it before it ambled back into the water but did catch a shot of Buddy returning from his failed retrieval after getting away from Tobi and pursuing his quarry in the pond.  It was quite exciting for all of us on land and even more so for those participants in the water.

After 7 hours and aprox. 13 miles (at least twice as far for the dogs) we were treated to Nancy’s homemade pumpkin bars back at the vehicles.  Yes it was a tough job hiking on a beautiful day with 3 lovely women but someone had to do it.

Steve Schon

Monday, November 1, 2010

More Books Online at the Boundary Waters Catalog

Our Bookstore at Piragis Northwoods Company has some of the best reads you'll find.  Many of you might not know that for the last decade we've operated an independent full-service bookstore on the second floor of our retail store.  Piragis Second-Floor Bookstore is well known for the best of the best material on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provencial Park.  Our local interest selection is unmatched.  Our best-sellers are cutting edge.  Our Adventure Literature is not only well-travelled, but many of the titles are books you just cannot put down once you've started reading.  We've also got strong titles and a great variety of selection in the following categories:  Adventure, Audio and Video, Book Accessories, Boundary Waters/Quetico, Canoeing and Kayaking, Children's, Cookbooks, Fiction, Home and Garden, Local Interest, Miscellaneous, Native American, Natural History, Outdoor Skills, Renewable Energy, Survival, Young Adult/Avid Reader and more.

In short, we've got fantastic books to satisfy the taste of each and every one of you.  If you don't find something you've been longing for you can even contact Anna in the Bookstore and she'll help you out.  Call 1-800-223-6565 to place an order or click the picture links to shop online.

This Wednesday if you listen to WELY online or in town, you'll be able to catch our new weekly Radio Show entitled "LET'S TALK BOOKS"  with Anna Shallman.  We'll go over best-seller lists, share our favorites and even have a few surprises and offers for listeners.  It is a weekly 10 minute show that will involve bookstore customers and their favorite books as well.  Most of all it will promote reading and good books.  With all the snow we're supposed to get this winter it'll be a welcome diversion.  Tune in, Wednesday mornings at 7:30 a.m. central time.

Outfitting Staff In The Off Season

Hi folks...

A good Monday morning to you. November 1st...can you believe it? It seems just like yesterday that we were getting geared up for a new paddling season. Now we are in full blown "fall mode".

Some of the small creeks, rivers, and shallow bays have some skim ice in the morning but by noon it is gone. It won't be long, however, until that skim stays on all day and starts to get thicker and thicker. Today should be a nice the 50's and sunny. Umm...maybe I should skip work and go paddle somewhere. I could always say I wanted to go scout out a new route, that is work related right?

Often folks ask if Drew and I live year round in Ely. The answer is a resounding YES. We are among the fortunate ones. It definitely gets quite and the pace is slower, but after our busy summers that is ok.

We do manage to find plenty to do during the off season. We do some writing for marketing purposes. Actually, we also do a lot of phone and email work with folks who are already planning next years trip. We can start submitting permit applications for BW trips starting December 1st and Quetico permits as well. We start working on ordering gear and canoes for the next season as well.

We also manage to get in a few extra zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz's after a busy season.

A quick look at the rest of our staff.

Wade is back at the Vermilion Community College teaching. Brad is back in Hackensack, MN doing whatever one does in Hackensack during the winter. Adam is back in La Crosse, WI finishing up his Master's program, Vidmar lives in Chisholm, MN and does a variety of things to stay out of trouble, most of the time. Max is out in Colorado being a "ski-bum". Christina is working for Wintergreen Dogsledding for the winter. I will try and do a "Up close and Personal" blog on each of this winter and let you know how they are faring and tell you a little bit more about their lives.

Oh...before I forget. Just a reminder that tomorrow is Election Day, so make sure you get out to vote for the candidate of your choice. We need to exercise our right to vote to make sure we are a part of what is going on. I am sure that all of us can find something or someone to criticize with regard to politics, but we have no right to do so if we don't vote. Good luck.

Well, I really do have work to do, so I will sign off for now. Talk to you soon.