Thursday, May 29, 2008

How it all happens

I am currently rocking the big road trip, only instead of taking weeks to do it, I am doing it in two days. Yesterday I logged 900 miles, today another 300 or so. Luckily gas is covered on this one but man time on the road is not and certainly it starts to wear on you. Today though I had an interesting inter-action. I was in a small cafe this morning, crowded with farmers and small towners, a place I like to eat at. The table next to me was an 8 top with a bunch of older locals. I could not help but overhear the conversations. First it started with the weather, moved to crop prices and finally to politics. One of the more boisterous members of the delegation stated that he had just been to a meeting of his Republican local the night before. He stated that various 'big whigs" from the state party had been there and that there were discussions of the "energy stuff" and also about the new farm bill. I was braced for serious Democrat bashing but it never came, actually what followed was a really solid conversation between farmers, and not everybody agreed with the Republican. In fact he even conceded some points. In any case it all came home to me, the trail of information, from the party meeting to the coffee house and thus onto a thousand more from there..........maybe we need to be spreadin the word through more converations at the rural greasy spoons?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hailstones the size of baseballs??##!!!

I was listening the coverage on NPR of the Hugo Tornado this morning and I had a flashback to last years rash of severe weather. Of course that had me thinking of the disaster at Bear Paw Adventures. Well I am happy to report that Bear Paw Adventure is alive and well. They have a slight change of ownership, all for the positive and have re-built the store and the cafe and have already started paddling events and classes. So I have to say to the poor people of Hugo that there is a future and that Bear Paw proves it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Support your local fly shop

So this weekend the Smallmouth Season kicks in here in our part of the state. If you are a fisherperson and you fish Smallies you know what a crazy fun time it can be. Well we have huge Smallies here and we mostly fish them on flies. Thinking that I realized that I had not bee in my local fly shop the Great Lakes Fly Company in awhile and I need to so I can buy up a bunch of John's awesome Smallie fly's, I am sure that after a long winter he has piles of them......

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Paddling with my pal Chris Godsey on the St. Louis River

It was one of those unreal days in Northern Minnesota. Sunny 60, total clear blue sky. The kind of sky that seems to shimmer in its deep blueness when you are wearing polarized sunglasses. It was also a work day so with that in mind I knew that I was going to go outside somewhere, it would just need to be close to home. Great minds think alike and sometime in the afternoon my phone rang and Chris Godsey was on the line asking me what I was going to do that afternoon, after all it was perfect day.

One similarity that Chris Godsey and I have is that we both own Wenonah Canoe's Advantage. The Advantage is a very fast light touring canoe, it is solo, and it loves to eat up river miles like no other touring canoe on the market. With that in mind it all clicked, I had yet to paddle most of the St.Louis River above Cloquet or Brookston. In my interaction with the DNR over the years I had met several Trails and Waterways managers who were instrumental in buying up land parcels along the St.Louis River Waterway, adding to that the Fond Du Lac Tribe owns protected land on both sides of the river, this creates a scenic corridor nearly the length of the river. This of course was a huge coup. The "Louie" as we call it is the biggest watershed in the whole Lake Superior basin, it is also one the most challenged and is an EPA "Area of Concern".

The section of river we ended up paddling was from Brookston to Cloquet. It was rougly 19 miles and the Flow on the river was about 5.5 feet or about 4,500 CFS. Pretty high for this section of river. But that was good as the river map showed several sections of class one, class two rapids, features that slight, fast and tender canoes like Advantages generally dont like. With higher water the speed would be quick but also the rapids would be buried so we could hopefully glide over them. Well, the river turned out to be just what it had been touted, in 19 miles of paddling we saw two small and tasteful cabins and that was it, the shoreline was gorgeous and the flow just what we had hoped for in speed, the level however was not enough and we encountered a bunch of pretty solid rapids, yet our skill and our caution delivered us unharmed in Cloquet and eating at Mexico Lindo in about three and a half hours. I was shocked at how preserved and how beautiful that section of river is, and it is right out our door. I think the next step for me will be to join the St.Louis River Citizens Action Committee and see what Margaret and I can do to help keep this river as clean in the future.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Frank Loyd Wright Gas Station

I was just checking out some of the upcoming events that are going on at the Carlton County Historical Society of which I am a very loy key, if not negligent member of the board. Anyway, one of the coolest events of the season is coming up in June and it is a party at the currenlty being renovated Frank Loyd Wright gas station a really awesome piece of architecture and history in our small town. I cant help but look at this picture and think about what gas meant to people then, and what it means to people today. Obviously at one point in our history buying gas was an elegant ordeal, we have long taken that for granted but I see a day coming where we understand its value once again.........that day might be tomorrow!

New Vermillion State Park Confirmed by State Legislature

Imagine waking up at your cabin on Lake Vermillion yesterday and hearing that 10 miles of the shoreline next to your place was slated to be a State Park! Certainly this is a victory for Minnesota's outdoor loving citizens. I wonder however, what sort of political wrangling was going on at the capitol, after all now we have a new state park, but at the same time we have at least 10 new mines that are looking to be permitted without much public input or media exposure.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Minnesota Folk Art

Another great Winona thing is Leo Smith. I have seen some form of Leo's art around our home or a friends since I was a little kid. Recently however his full collection was purchased by the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona and is worth a visit. Coincidently, Jon Swanson, a former Duluthian (we miss him up here) is the Curator of Collections and Exhibitions.
This pic is of one of Leo's pieces, actually it is the place where my wife Margaret and I were married, if you were there you might be able to recognize it, it is Trempealeau Mountain a significant site for the indigenous population, and also sight of some of the best Cycling in the midwest, if not the country. Certainly this is one of Leo's tamer works, I am more apt to like the super hallucinagenic versions!

Shroom time in Southern Minnesota

Sorry for my touch and go blogging. Believe me, if I could do this for a living it would be better than the endless miles I am logging in my truck, doing kayak demos and spreading the gospel of the good living you can do on Minnesota and Wisconsin's waterways. But alas I can not. I had a killer tour this past week, Madison, Milwaukee, Eau Claire, Winona. For me all roads south go through Winona. That is where Wenonah Canoe is, but it also happens to be where my parents and my extended family on my mothers side all live. So it is a good thing. When I return to Winona I am always returning to my childhood and also to my heritage. Traditions that have spanned generations are hard to ignore. I end up getting up at the crack of dawn and hitting th trout stream, or skiing the old logging roads, or paddling on the flood swollen Mississippi River. This time however, I was too busy for much but I did hear that the Morels were in and that people were finding them by the garbage bag, now that makes jealous, really jeolous, if you have not had this delicate morsel then you need to, because you are missing one of lifes more simple pleasures.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The new mining boom in Northern Minnesota

I went to my first Izaak Walton League meeting last Wednesday. It was a sobering event. The talk was on a new Copper Sulfide Mine that was going up in Northern Minnesota. I had thought that it might be a more social event, meet some people maybe have a beer, tell some tall tales about fish long as your arm etc. That however was not the case. Instead I was put through a two hour horror fest of learning about the future plans of Minnesota Mining. It would seem that our insatiable societies need for more copper, more minerals for electronics has restored a mining industry that had left the building a few decades ago. I had heard about the mines near Birch Lake but certainly the press has not reported that it is not just one isolated mine near the BWCA that is in the permit process but nearer to the number of 20! On four or five major watersheds, some like the Mississippi, St.Louis, Kawishiwi, Root and Nemadji.
The project that was specifically spoken about was the Polymet Project on the shores of the Partridge River. This really perked my interest as the Partridge drains directly into the St.Louis River , on the banks of which I live. So after an hour and a half of all the respective parties concerned about the project speaking about the possible ramifications of the project the Ikes had a representative of PolyMet stand up and take questions.
At this point in the meeting we had not yet met the representative. I thought to myself about how hard this was going to be for that person, a room full of angry citizens, anglers and otherwise old men. I was however, expecting a pro, a slick polished "Thank you For Smoking type person. Well you can imagine my shock when a shy, demure and otherwise unremarkable person walked to the front of the room. I cant recall the womans name, and I would not post it anyway but suffice to say she was perhaps the worst spokesperson I have ever seen in public. After hearing time after time by the mines press and sound bites on NPR it looked like Polymet had grabbed the last person at the office that night and sent her down to the Ikes meeting. She could not answer questions, would not even look at the questioner and was just barely able to string together a coherent sentence. All I could think was that I was now more scared than I had been when I entered the building. They want us to trust the system, they want us to trust the science, they want us to have faith in the staff, in the people and they send us the strongest voice they have and it is a whisper. I am not sure and I hope I am wrong but I have a feeling that MN is about to enter into an extremely ugly period in its environmental history.

Congrats to my mother on Mothers Day

My Mom just recently retired after being a County Judge for 21 years. Her retirement party was one of the most moving events I have attended.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Nothing heals like a night on the Brookie Stream

I used my "Human Powered" ATV to access my favorite Brook Trout Stream. The water was up but just enough to fill the better holes and sure enough the brookies were there, voracious as ever! After the death of Blaine a few weeks ago, it was nice to have some slow time on the stream, no noise but the bubbling of the brook and the swish of the rod.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Duluth Izaak Walton League

So the Duluth Chapter of the Izaak Walton League has joined several other groups including Trout Unlimited to sue the US Coast Guard, Department of Agriculture and several other government agencies to stop the practice of discharging ballast water in Lake Superior. Story Also a local story in the DNT
It makes me happy to think that our local chapter of this storied conservation organization has stepped up and made a stand against a practice that has long tainted our most valuable resource.

Friday, May 02, 2008

C.O.G.G.S Agenda

So the new energy at the local mountain bike club(COGGS) here in Duluth is at 11 and it is very refreshing. The Cyclists of Gitchee Gummi have had some changes in personal and thus some fresh vigor. The qoutes at the bottom of the post refer to two ways you can give back to Duluth Mountain biking this weekend. Also keep in mind that the clean up of Chester Creek is this Saturday. More info at Chester Creek Sweep

"Two options for all you do-gooders out there.

8 am the Arrowhead Bowhunter's Alliance is going to clean up all of Skyline Parkway between 40th Ave W and Beck's Road. Meet at 8 am at Wheeler Field to get bags and be assigned your section. We want to demonstrate to these fine gentlemen that we are willing to cooperate and work with them and this is a good way to spread some good will between outdoor enthusiasts.

Opportunity #2 - Team Fraboni and company are going to do the Munger clean-up at 9 am on Saturday as well. Meet at the intersection of the Munger and Riverside drive. COGGS sponsors this section of the Munger so it's our job to keep it clean.

So pick one of these two projects and help out on saturday. Bring your kids, make it fun. Laugh in face of inclement weather. See you out there.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Weekend Festivities

This is a great weekend to be a Duluthian. First there is the Homegrown festivus.
Homegrown Music festival Secondly there is a great Whitewater Festival going on just south of us on the Kettle River.
Kettle River Whitewater Festival
So grab your paddles, grab your kayaks rip it up while the water is kicking and then head ot D-town for some howling.