Saturday, September 26, 2009

Northern Minnesota Fishing Adventure


Three years ago we purchased an older 14 ft. aluminum fishing boat & trailer that had been left with our son by a neighbor who had moved. Owning a boat has been a dream of hubby for many years. What fun to go to nearby lakes & fish anytime rather than waiting for our once-a-year to a rented MN cabin with a boat on a lake! Over the years he has been gathering all the "stuff" you need to outfit a fishing boat including a used Mercury 6 motor, a trolling motor, a fish finder, poles & a full tackle box and even a pick-up for transporting!

After checking out what works best for other fishermen he worked in his spare time to make the boat & trailer ready for the road & lake fishing. It seemed that each time something was fixed there was always one more item that needed done.

Finally, it was ready! After waiting for good weather we did a short afternoon of fishing at nearby Beed's Lake. We launched it, fished from it and retrieved it successfully. A shared smile & "high five" and ready to make final plans to go North!

September is good for us because the "recreational" boaters are off the lakes. It is cool & comfortable. Usually the leaves are starting to turn colors making a spectacular background. After checking on availability of cabin,downloading the "how to's" while staying at the cabin, making a list, packing, stopping the mail, and checking Google Earth we were headed North!

Road Trip

Actually driving the Dodge Dakota pick-up with a boat trailer was pretty simple compared with the 40 ft motor homes we deliver! Gas stops were more frequent, but checking mileage proved that we were getting 20 mpg. It was foggy & raining off & on most of the 350 miles into Duluth. At a stop at WalMart in Cloquet we purchased our Minnesota fishing license.


It was easy to drive through Duluth on I-35 and pick up Highway 6l. You drive past the harbor and commercial docks with ships loading and unloading. Past large homes on the lakeshore including the Glensheen Mansion,a 39 room Jacobean Revival built in 1908 by a business man on 7.5 acres that include formal gardens. It is open for tours. Something to think about next time. Perhaps the train museum,too! A variety of other places to visit,too.

It was raining off and on as we headed NW on a scenic highway into northern Minnesota so our view was limited to the tree-lined curves & hills of the highway. Watch for Moose signs were dotted along the way. Later on in the week we drove back for gas & groceries on a sunny day. What a beautiful view with low mountains in the background. The leaves are starting to display their fall colors!

Our log cabin is tucked into a forest area in the Minnesota north woods. Calm & quiet even when the wind blows. The tall cathedral spires of the fir trees form a frame for the blue sky and big white puffy marshmallow-like clouds that seem to form in the afternoons. Plenty of windows offer views in all directions. Comfy & home-like providing for our needs. Unusual uses of furniture and space make for lots of character in this log cabin! Fragrant phlox beside front entrance, purple asters brighten the edge of the woods and bright orange hawk weed for accents.

Laurention Divide

This is the area of the Laurention Divide, the state's major continental divide that separates streams that flow to opposite sides of the continent.

About 16,000 years ago, most of Minnesota was covers by a large sheet of ice called the Wisconsin Glacier. A great mountain range in this area was eroded when the glacier melted, leaving behind the curving range of hills called the Laurentian Divide.

On one side, the divide directs the water northward to empty into Hudson Bay to the Arctic Ocean. On the other side, water flows southward into the Mississippi River and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico. In other words, two drops of rain, each one falling to opposite sides, will end up on opposite sides of the North American continent.

Lake Gegoka has a public access, but no dock! Yes, kids, we did launch the boat & by doing a tricky "board walk" on the trailer even kept my feet dry! (I believe that rubber boots for me will be on our next packing list!) One other couple were fishing on the lake that day in a canoe making for a very quiet peaceful morning under a partly cloudy blue sky!

Our excitement was catching many small Northern, we call them "hammer handles" because that is about the same size! We'll be back when they grow up!

Also located on this lake is the National Forest Lodge. A retreat with cabins that can be used year around because they are near the Minnesota trail system.

We found the public access with a dock for Lake McDougal on an afternoon of exploring Highway 1! An Eastern Grey Wolf was jogging along the edge of the highway. St. Croix logging camps are and have been located all along this highway. Another Minnesota trail system connects with the Lake McDougal campground. In fact, everywhere you go there are trails to explore.

Blue partly cloudy sky with a little breeze made for two perfect days of fishing on this lake. Dock also helped with launching the boat! Catching was good, too! Along with the hammer handles we released to grow, we caught a few fish suppers! Spotted a bald eagle flying overhead. Along one bank of the lake was a summer campground complex for kids. Wild rice grows along the edges of the lakes.

Another warm and partly cloudy day of fishing on Dumbell Lake, yes, that is the name! We are getting better at finding lakes with docks! This lake featured deep drop-offs and huge rocks. Lots of boats fishing, but not much "catching"! The wind had changed from south to the North. Hubby said there was an old saying about catching fish and the wind, he only remembered the part that says, "Wind from the South, lure floats into the fish's mouth..." After a "boat lunch" we did a scenic tour of the lake.


One day we parked the boat & trailer and took off for a road trip to Ely. We had heard about the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center, but were pleasantly surprised with the Fall Harvest Moon Festival in the park. It was an interesting hour of so of strolling past vendors displaying and selling crafts & food items. Beautiful cabin furniture, wild life prints, fishing lures, a musical group, and many ways of using rocks! A unique lawn & yard decoration was made using a large rock for a body with wrought iron bent in the shape of legs, neck & head for water birds! (Puts pink flamingos in an entirely different class!)

One end of the park had bleachers available for watching the American Lumberjack Show. Two lumberjacks participated in chain-saw contest, ax throwing contest, chain sawing carving & of course, log rolling in a huge tank. No we did not get chosen to participate!

We passed up all the "fast food" for the local Kiwanis barbecue sandwiches & homemade blueberry pie!

Driving through the town you got the feeling that canoes were definitely "in"! To rent, to buy, and on top or behind every size & shape of vehicle!

North American Bear Center

This is a great place. There is an admission charge. It is adding displays & information as money is available. Dozens of videos replace displays with a lot of reading making it user friendly for all ages.

Three live black bears actually live behind the center. Large windows offer inside viewing and an outside overhead deck is available in good weather. The bears are hand fed during the day bringing them in close to the center. They have dens for hibernation during the winter. Rangers are on hand to answer questions and presentations.

Some interesting facts we learned:
  • Lynn Rogers has never heard a bear growl in the 34 years of black bear research, but most people say they have! If a person is afraid of bear, any utterance they make is likely to be interpreted as a growl.
  • Bears do huff, meow, gargle, click tongues, blow & clack, cry, grunt & coo.
  • Only Grizzly bears kill defending their cubs. Black & brown bears do "bluff charging."
  • How do movies makers get shots of bears roaring? They dub the sound on a bear that is trained to open its mouth for a food reward!
  • What do they feed the bears in captivity? dried cranberries, fresh fruit & veggies, low fat dog food & sunflower seed.
  • The "bear nests" in tops of trees are not for rest! They are clusters of broken branches that are made by a bear sitting in the crotch of the tree & pulling branches closer to eat catkins, buds, leaves, fruit or nuts!

We'll check out the Wolf Center next time!

As with all vacations, they do have to end. The ride back to the Prairie was sunny & clear highlighting the changing colors of the leaves, the expanse of Lake Superior and the familiar fields of corn & beans waiting for harvest.

God is indeed an awesome Creator!

Thanks for traveling with us,
Prairie Schooners

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