Monday, August 29, 2011

Update on Pagami Creek BWCAW Fire Near Ely

Reprinted from the Forest Service:
Pagami Creek Fire

August 28, 2011

DATE OF DETECTION: August 18, 2011

CAUSE: Lightning

CURRENT SIZE: Approximately 200 acres within fire perimeter (estimated 130 acres actually burned)

LOCATION: Township 63 N, Range 9 W, Sections 30, 31, 32: approximately 14 miles east of Ely (within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness) in the Pagami Creek area between the South Kawishiwi River, Clearwater Lake, and Lake One.

AGENCY: Superior National Forest, Kawishiwi Ranger District

STATUS: The fire made a rapid run to the South East on Friday, August 26th when relative humidity dropped to 18% and 15-20 mph NW winds continued for several hours. Fire continues to be active.

SMOKE CONDITIONS: Depending on wind directions, visitors may see and smell smoke.

RESOURCES: Public safety crews are in place. There are currently about twenty local firefighters assigned on the ground. In addition, CL215, water-scooping aircraft, are available for water drops and a helicopter has been ordered for tactical and logistical missions. A Minnesota Interagency Incident Management Team has been ordered and will be assigned to the fire on Monday, August 29th. The team will develop and implement contingency plans to meet the management objectives.

TODAY’S MESSAGES: Public and Firefighter safety is always the top priority. Other management objectives include:

Insure that the fire stays south of the Kawishiwi River corridor and within the Wilderness.

Limit disruptions to public use of the BWCAW by keeping Lakes 1, 2, and 3 open to use as much as poss

Keep the public informed of the Pagami Fire location, activity, and any threats to human safety and private property.

There are no imminent threats to public safety or private properties. There are no closures in place at this time. However, visitors are to stay off Pagami Creek and to stay clear of the fire area.
SPECIAL NOTE: The high visibility of smoke from this fire is generating a lot of inquiries therefore an Open House is scheduled for Sunday, August 28 from 4:00 – 5:00 at the Kawishiwi Ranger District office located at 1393 Highway 169 (1/4 mile east of Ely across from the International Wolf Center.) Maps and other information will be available and staff will be on hand for questions.
Outlook: Weather and fire behavior forecasts for the next several days indicate that the fire will not likely spread more than a few hundred yards, on any given day, in any direction. Longer term forecasts indicate conditions will be favorable for preventing fire spread to the north and limiting spread to the east and south. Very little spread is expected to the west. However, it is unlikely that substantial rain can be counted on to extinguish the fire within the next week to ten days.

FIRE INFORMATION: (218) 365-2093 Becca Manlove
(218) 365-7619 Tracy Richards

Monday, August 8, 2011

A letter to Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Scout Leaders from Steve Piragis

Always a Scout

I often get asked what got me interested in the outdoors.  I always answer: My Dad and Boy Scouts.  I grew up in the hills of central Massachusetts, a part of the East where progress was slow to take over the land.  My dad took me trout fishing the streams in the deep woods when no trespassing signs were rarely seen.  Good old Troop 18 met in the basement of the Catholic Church but the big fun was on camp outs and at summer camp on the lake.  Scouting was about all the good things in the Scout Oath but the fun was out in nature.  Hikes, campouts and paddling around Sandy Lake or up on the wild part of the Connecticut River. 

Scouts in the 1960’s didn’t have the best of equipment.  In fact it was really pretty primitive; canvas tents, no sleeping pads, heavy aluminum canoes and splintered wooden paddles.  I’m still amazed that any of us made it to middle age without major back issues and crooked spines.  The Scouts of today have all the gear available to make even better memories.  They should be safer in their outdoor adventures and a whole lot more comfortable.  We forgot long ago the misery of sleeping on cold ground and the weight of the portage packs but there is no need to make any trek or paddling trip a endurance test for young bodies.

I’m proud today to be able to outfit the Scout groups that come through Piragis Northwoods Company for their Boundary Waters/Quetico canoe trips with the lightest gear and canoes available.  Boy and Girl Scouts of the 21st Century of course don’t know how really good they have it but we can smile and know they will grow up to know and love the outdoors perhaps even more than we did. 

Eagle Scout: Steve Piragis

Steve Piragis
Piragis Northwoods Company
105 N. Central Ave
Ely, Mn 55731

1 800 223-6565
1 218 365-6745

"Our trip to the Boundary Waters was the highlight of the year for many of our scouts and we are already discussing a return trip. The 2009 trip was my fifth trip to Ely and the fifth time using Piragis Northwoods. This is not a coincidence, but a tribute to you and your staff for the excellent service and gear you provide time and time again. It is with much gratitude that I tip my hat to everyone at Piragis."

Dave Herbster, Sabetha, KS

"I can't tell you how much we enjoyed our High Adventure in the Boundary Waters, and how smooth and easy you guys made it for us. Also, let Bert know we appreciate all of his work on our trip, too. The packs, canoes, paddles and vests were all top-notch and the price was right on. Your facility is great, especially the showers! Rest assured I will ABSOLUTELY recommend you in the future, and when (not if) we return to the BWCA you will be our first and, most likely, only call."

Tony Anaya – Cincinnati, OH

Dear Scout Leader:

I'd like to introduce myself and my company with the hope that what follows will be of mutual benefit and enjoyment to both the Boy Scout council and the scouts as they continue to explore the outdoors.  I'm writing to you from beautiful Ely, Minnesota on the edge of over 2000 wilderness lakes that are only accessible by canoe.

My name is Steve Piragis, owner and co-founder of Piragis Northwoods Company and the Boundary Waters Catalog.  My wife, Nancy and I began our business in Ely, Minnesota in 1979.  Our commitment to preserving wilderness for canoeists and campers alike has remained steadfast.  Our backyard is home to the world's greatest canoeing area.  New adventures are launched from Ely everyday.

Our knowledge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and our northern neighbor, Ontario's Quetico Park is based on our extensive travel experience and dedication to the sport of canoeing.  Simply put, our canoe outfitting staff knows the routes because we paddle them.  We know the gear because we use it.  Before it ever makes it into our rental fleet onto the retail store floor or pages of the catalog, it experiences real use in the great outdoors.

As canoe trip outfitters we specialize in lightweight canoes and gear that are durable enough for wilderness conditions but light enough to take the strain off of backs both young and old.  Forty-four pound kevlar canoes and 15.5 oz kevlar paddles are standard equipment here and they really make a difference.  We offer full-outfitting packages including all the gear and food needed for a canoe trip and we also have partial canoe trip outfitting that allows paddlers to rent a single canoe or piece of gear by the day.

You can find us online at and reach us by phone at 1-800-223-6565.  Ely, Minnesota is the destination for canoe campers.  With our extensive experience and clients who return year after year to rent from us, we know that should your leaders and scouts desire to travel to the Boundary Waters, we can plan the trip of a lifetime for them to enjoy.

Thank you for your time,

Steve Piragis, President
Piragis Northwoods Company
105 North Central Avenue
Ely, MN  55731

Stuff that works: Cliff Jacobson's Susie Bug Net

Well, thankfully, every once in a while we get examples of unique uses (and everyday uses) of our gear mailed to us in the form of pictures, emails, written letters, prints, etc. We love to hear from you guys, so anytime you've got feedback on our canoes, gear or customer service feel free to pass it on.

Cooke Custom Sewing makes a popular product that we've carried in our catalog for years. Since it is really a big bag of netting, I struggled with a way to picture its versatility and functionality in the catalog. Of course I wanted to get a picture in use outdoors, with lots of bugs swarming, but where to get the volunteers? And what about the poor guy behind the camera... and then how to get the netting to show up in the catalog on the page? That was the real goal.

So we set up this picture in the studio long ago. Boy my kids were little then :)
Susie Bug Net
And hey, this IS ONE use for the net.  Reading in your camp chair.  Provides the relief.  People drape it over the latrine, it is true.  Folks take it out into the lake when the bathe, true too.  The point is it works.  Click Here for the Susie Bug Net in our Catalog.

One customer sent us a short explanation of his use and a picture.  Then we understood something else as well.  It REALLY WORKS WELL.  In some settings it could keep a person sane -- like way up in the Yukon where the bugs were nasty bad!

"I've been looking at that happy family picture of the Bug Net for years.

Attached is a "real" picture of the Suzie Bag Bug Net in use.

The picture was self-timed in the Yukon Flats in 2003.  For my 60th year, I paddled solo in an open canoe from Whitehorse to the Pipeline crossing, about 1100 miles, loafing along and taking 60 days to do it.

I had a bunch of your stuff, including Boat Tape, D-ring kit, Kevlar repair kit, Blue Barrels, Bilge Sponge,  a map case and Mukluk Lights, but the Suzie Bag was the thing that I could not have done without.

The picture is yours.  Enjoy or use it anyway you want.

Tommy T."

Reading in the Susie Bug Net on the Yukon River.  Click for larger view.
Click Here for the Susie Bug Net in our Catalog.

Send us your pictures of Stuff That Works from Piragis!  You can contact us here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Smoke in the Ely YESTERDAY August 3rd Area NOT FROM BWCAW

Remember those Ontario fires we posted about back on July 19? Well they're apparantly still burning. Yesterday the wind was low and the humidity was high. Ely smelled like we were on the edge of something big and red. It was just the combination of conditions, though. From the Forest Service:

Smoke Reports from August 3, 2011

CAUSE: Smoke is rolling south from large wildfires in Ontario, Canada.

AGENCY: Superior National Forest, Kawishiwi Ranger District

STATUS: We have a fire patrol over our area now and the pilot can see the smoke moving down across the international border. Winds are calm and the humidity is high, keeping the smoke low and heavy.

SMOKE CONDITIONS: Smoke is very widespread across northeastern Minnesota.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What is the Boundary Waters all About?

We get asked this question all the time.  Do you have a coffee table book that you'd recommend?  We want to see pictures of this place, you know typical shots, camping, canoeing wildlife, etc.  Well, as for typical, yes, and no.  Many of these are typical, some of them are fantastic.  Did you know how Santa travels in the BWCA for instance?  Watch and see.  Compiled from great shots that Steve Piragis has taken over the years and the best of the best that our outfitting clients and friends have submitted.

Enjoy and tell a friend who's interested in the Boundary Waters.  This is it.  A little over five minutes of your time and you'll be hooked.  Wilderness is calling!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Lifting Boundary Waters Canoes for Women

Women can easily lift Boundary Waters Canoes. Nancy Piragis illustrates just how easy it is for women and those with bad backs to lift a Wenonah Minnesota II up on your shoulders. Start with the canoe on your quads and using both hands on opposite sides of the canoe, flip it/roll it up onto your shoulders resting the horseshoe yoke around your neck. Kevlar canoes commonly weigh 44 - 48 lbs and there is no reason that women in average physical shape shouldn't be able to lift a one with this technique.