Picture of sea kayakers paddling through the mist at Isle Royale

How a week at Isle Royale made this ocean kayaker feel at home

By Beth Poliquin

Selfie of Beth in her sea kayaking gearAs a kid in Virginia, I loved watching Atlantic dolphins jump and certainly loved living in Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I don’t recall ever giving the Great Lakes much thought. But I had no idea. While Superior may not be salty, the “Big Lake” has captured my attention and my delight, nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong; I like lakes in general. And being on the water has always been my favorite activity, whether on rivers, lakes, or seas. But there’s an excitement and freedom in the openness of not seeing surrounding coastlines.

My week at Isle Royale included a couple big water experiences that made this ocean kayaker feel at home. The island itself, being the most remote national park, has an aura of mystery to it. One day on the open southern coast, we paddled into fog so thick that we had to stay within about ten feet of shore just to be able to see it. Talk about mystique! With a map and compass on deck and whistles on our PFDs, we stayed close together and weren’t too concerned about losing our way. Upon entering Chippewa Harbor, we regained some visibility as the wall of fog stood guard just outside. We began the next day with reports of strong winds and whitecaps. I gave a safety briefing to our clients on dealing with the waves we expected and taught them the basics of bracing. What we found, though, were a favorable tailwind and almost three-foot swells, but no whitecaps. Once it looked like my companions were comfortable with the conditions, I offered some tips for catching waves, and soon we were all riding the gentle swells. Speed is my favorite part about surfing waves, and we made great time that day, our longest travel leg.

Not only was the trip fun for me, but I got to share this special place and the water we affectionately and simply call “The Big Lake” with people who wouldn’t have felt comfortable exploring big water on their own. Although cold water is still intimidating to me (as it should be!), I see so much value in guided trips to stay safe and to make the most of adventure travel.

Yes, sometimes I catch myself scanning the water for sea turtles, my silent companions for years, but then I shift my gaze slightly up as I look for loons and up further still as I search for bald eagles. Someone asked me yesterday if I miss guiding in Hawaii, and while there are things I miss, rather than wishing I could go back, I am grateful for the variety of my big water experiences.

Picture of kayakers paddling by Light House on Isle Royale

Picture of two hikers standing on a rock and taking a look at the trees and the water

Want to take a trip to Isle Royale yourself? We don’t blame you. Get all of the Isle Royale Sea Kayaking Adventure details here and then give us a call at (218) 387-3136 to book the tour.

Picture of sign at the end of the Superior Hiking Trail

By Jack Stone

Picture of the back of Jack as he is hiking to the end of the SHTI hiked to the end of the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) last weekend and took some pictures at the 270 degree overlook. If you have not been there, it is a hike of about 1.1 miles to where the SHT meets the Border Route Trail. Then you head up a slope about 300 yards to the top, where there is a 270 overlook towards Canada.

It is one of the best views in the area–you can see forever! Bugs were not that bad–annoying mosquitoes but the black flies seem to be dying off. The trail for the most
part was dry, except for a couple of muddy spots.

The trail is not well marked on maps but you get to it by heading up the Arrowhead Trail to Otter Lake Road. Go east on Otter Lake Road a couple of miles and you see the trailhead for the Border Route Trail on the left.

It’s a great hike for anyone who feels they can go for 2-1/2 miles. The climb is gradual all the way until the last 300 yards, which is a little more rugged. The trip back to the car is quite easy, since the gradual incline going up is a gradual decline going down. And if that doesn’t sound like a good trail for you, just stop by the store and ask us for some other Cook County suggestions–we have all sorts of great hiking trails here.

Picture of the view from the 270 Outlook at the end of the Superior Hiking Trail

Picture of three people in a canoe. The person in the middle is fishing

When it comes to canoeing, a little of both

By Ann Papenfuss

I come from a long line of crazy or courageous people (the appropriate adjective of course, depends on your opinion). Aunt Genny and Uncle Jim definitely fall into both of these categories. Among their very craziest adventures, year ago, was a trip to the Boundary Waters with me and three of my cousins. That was two adults and four pre-teens and teenagers. If you do the math, you can quickly realize they were outnumbered. And believe it or not, it was their idea. No electricity. No phones. Four kids. One great big wilderness and only canoes for traveling. What could go wrong?

picture of portage sign from Caribou Lake in the BWCAThank goodness they didn’t focus on what could go wrong because that gave them the space to create an amazing family trip. From the tranquility of the remote wilderness, to the duffer’s duty of reading a book aloud to the paddlers or catching fish for dinner, to the chipmunk and ducks who befriended us, everything was magical. It felt like we were transported right into a Mark Twain adventure!

With the many water sports available to us here in Minnesota, canoeing holds a special place in my heart because it is perfectly designed for families. Unlike hiking, you can transport big packs with relative ease in a canoe. And the duffer option is great for anyone who needs a break from paddling.

As I get older, I know Aunt Genny and Uncle Jim won’t be around forever but the joy of that trip will always be in my heart. And that is the true gift of a canoe trip.

If you want to introduce your family to the outdoors, canoeing is a great way to start and Stone Harbor can help with BWCA Canoe Day Trips and canoe rentals.

Picture of a stand up paddle boarder with the schooner Hjordis in the background

A sense of freedom and peace

By Beth Poliquin

Picture of a dog standing on a paddle board and looking at the Grand Marais harborMy love for the water goes back to my earliest days growing up in Virginia Beach. Later, when I started canoeing and whitewater kayaking in college, something clicked in my soul. Then, living in Hawaii for three years solidified my connection with being on the water. It is on the water where I experience a sense of freedom and peace, even if the conditions are less than peaceful.

Several people have asked me about Stand Up Paddling (SUP) and want to know what the big deal is. The sport has exploded in recent years; people from all over the world are enjoying the activity on their respective lakes, rivers, or seas. It’s a more recent addition to my water-based repertoire and one I’m happy to tell you about.

People have been paddling out to catch waves for at least hundreds, possibly thousands, of years. Stand Up Paddling as we know it likely has its roots on Waikiki Beach. Although Hawaiians weren’t the first to paddle standing up, they were the ones to popularize it on a board. Surf boards in Hawaii are much bigger than standard ones you’ll see on the mainland US, making them more stable and allowing the user to stand up even when not being propelled by a wave. Most adult SUP boards are between 10 and 12½ feet long and around 5 or 6 inches thick. The bigger the board, the more stable it is and the more weight it can hold. This takes the romantic but challenging surfing and makes it accessible to most people.

Stand Up Paddling is a fun way to enjoy being active outside. It offers a better view than sitting close to the water and can also provide a great workout. Proper paddling technique involves keeping your knees bent slightly and keeping your leg muscles engaged. Being on the water challenges your balance, giving your core a much better workout than doing any number of crunches. Talk about functional strength! It doesn’t get more functional than having good balance. Of course your arms also get in on the action, and by paddling on both sides, they get worked evenly. Strength and fitness excite me because they let me enjoy the great outdoors more fully. When I’m feeling especially ambitious, I can step up the challenge with some yoga practice on my board.

Fun is great, but safety is paramount. US Coast Guard regulations mandate that paddlers have a life jacket with them, and paddlers under 13 years of age must wear one at all times outside of surf, swimming and bathing areas. When it comes to cold water, don’t mess around–wear your PFD. Have a signal whistle attached to your person and carry a light if you’ll be paddling in low light or the dark. A leash to keep your buoyant board close to you is recommended. Another great safety measure is company, so bring a friend with you!

Regarding people’s question about why SUP is so popular, my answer is that it is simply another way to be on the water. Some days, that’s really all I need.

If you would like to try stand up paddle boarding for yourself, you can book a tour online or give us a call at (218) 387-3136. Or rent one from us and paddle on your own.

Paddle boards lined up on a North Shore beach

Collage of pictures from the Superior Hiking Trail

The kind of adventure I can get behind at anytime

By Jackson Nickolay

When it comes to wilderness experiences, I tend to appreciate two things: accessibility and variety.

“Wait!” you say. “Wilderness and accessibility? Those sound mutually exclusive…” Make no mistake, I love a good week long adventure into the depths of the BWCA as much as the next paddler. But the reality is, for most of us a week-long excursion can be really hard to put together. Schedules conflict, jobs eat up time, and in lieu of all the stars aligning, we wind up unable to embark on all the epic adventures that we would like to.

Because of this, I often find myself searching for a more attainable goal; a three to five hour journey; one that still brings the relief that comes from being out in the wilderness but that gets me home by Dark:30.

This accessibility is what makes the Superior Hiking Trail my hands down favorite system of hiking trails. There are access points littered every 10-20 miles along the beautiful shore of Lake Superior. It’s simply a matter of picking what type of adventure I feel like having on a given day and I know that within about an hour of wherever I am on the North Shore, I can be well on my way to another wilderness experience.

Which brings me to my second criterion: variety. In this aspect I am completely spoiled, as the North Shore offers some of the widest variety in landscape. Within the space of one hike, I can travel over a prairie filled with wild flowers, through an old pine forest, down into a rushing river canyon and then back up to a glorious overlook of the Superior National Forest and Lake Superior, and all in enough time to get back for a pint at the brewery.

That is exactly the kind of adventure I can get behind at anytime. But hey, don’t take my word for it. Get up here and try it for yourself! Pick your adventure and enjoy all the beauty the North Shore has to offer. Or book a hiking tour with us and we’ll take guide you on this or one of the other beautiful hiking trails right here in Cook County.

Beth is sitting in a chair, wearing a brightly colored top and white leggings

The latest trends in summer fashions

by Colleen Kleve

Summer evokes a wide variety of images. For many of us in the northern climate, who maneuver the elements a good portion of the year, the ease of daily mechanics is top of mind. To be able to throw on a simple single layer of clothing for a summer day is a welcomed treat!

Summer 2017 brings with it a touch of vintage patterning, paired with a very clean and simple white color palette. This combination is light and easy feeling. While white has not been a seasonally restricted color for some time now, we are seeing much more white apparel this summer than we have in many years. The clean, simplistic powers of white never go out of style. From yoga wear to wedding attire, white dominates fashion this summer. Florals in large print and muted hues are also prevalent. The patterns are soft and sweeping, rather than hard line driven. And we are seeing pattern-on-pattern for a fun, vintage look, as well as white solo for an easy monochromatic look that never goes out of style.

Stone Harbor has a large selection of summer apparel for both men and women. We carry several quality clothing lines that are specific to your outdoor activities, as well as lifestyle pieces that you can’t easily find in your standard mall retailers. So, stop in and check out our summer collections.

A picture of various flies laying on a wooden dock

A Minnesota Moveable Feast

By James Jay Egan

A wise man once said: “What if I die and get to heaven, and it’s not as nice as August in Minnesota?” To be sure, the wise man was my father. And to be clear, he probably did not believe in a heaven other that our immanent one. To be more clear, he was referring to Wisconsin.

But August, as our bard might have said, is A Moveable Feast. For us, it has always meant time on the clear, cool lakes of Minnesota’s Arrowhead. When we needed an active respite from stalking wild brook trout in overgrown creeks, in the times of the day when the walleyes were hiding from the sun, we fished smallmouth bass. And we made our own heaven here, on earth.

We find smallmouth in fun numbers on medium- to larger-sized lakes, in cooler water rather than warmer (as opposed to the temperate largemouth), in lakes populated more by rocks and less by weeds or sand or silt. Start with the premise that by August the sun is traveling in a lower arc already. Know that the smallmouth’s favorite prey is the crayfish, and that crayfish are light sensitive. This leads you to the southern shore of a lake, heavily forested, or with a height of land coming down to the water. In this shaded water between the horizon and high sky the smallmouth roam, or, if my theory is correct, stake out territories.

Picture of James holding a smallmouth bassFrom a boat or canoe a cast’s-length from shore, we hammer the shoreline, “fancasting,” or covering the water in an arc in front of us between the boat and shore, casting first here, then there, then over there. Look for rocks or boulders. Look for cabbage weeds. Better yet, find a bottom with both structures.

I still use my closed-face spincaster that I’ve had since I was a kid. And for 30 years, my favorite lure has been a Rebel® Crawdad™, a lipped crankbait that when reeled in mimics a crayfish. Other crayfish-patterned crankbaits like a Rapala® Shad Rap® work well too. Rapala crankbaits in lifelike perch or orange and gold are good options. Either way, don’t hesitate to cast as close to shore as you can without getting hung up. I tell my clients to actually bounce the crankbait off the shoreline rocks or rock faces.

With a more delicate presentation, I might use an open-faced spinning reel and rod. I might use a “pig-and-a-jig” – a jighead with some sort of body – plastic or old-school pork rind – attached and together bounced along the bottom. For beginners or anyone just learning the open-faced reel, I recommend floating surface lure like a Jitterbug® or Hula Popper® retrieved just fast enough to make a bubbly, noisy wake. Having a smallie pounce on one of those on the glassy surface of the water might be as fun as watching your first bobber go down. Another surface favorite is the topwater spinner, maybe used with a baitcasting outfit, retrieved with the rod tip high and with enough pace to keep it gurgling on top.

Our pure experience, where challenging meets easy-to-learn, is smallies with a fly rod and reel. The term “flies” is too limiting, as you’re casting big cork or deer hair poppers that can be made to look like bees, moths, frogs or even mice. For these large flies, a heavier rod – at least a 6-weight – is important. Grasshoppers or stimulators will work. There are even heavily-weighted subsurface crayfish patterns.

I took my buddy out on a local lake last August, and from the bow of the canoe he used, variously, a spinning rod and reel, a baitcasting setup, and a fly rod. He hooked, in a couple of hours, by my count, 60 fish, and landed 30. I hooked just eight. But I landed them all (by my count). Anyway, I was just enjoying his catching fish, the smallmouths, and August. In Minnesota.

As you may have guessed, James is our fishing guide here at Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply. Want to book a fishing tour with him? You can book your tour online or give us a call at (218) 387-3136.

A variety of fishing lures laying on the rocks

Collage of canoeing and kayaking pictures

Kayak or canoe?

By Jack Stone

As we head into the summer and our visitors and seasonal residents return to visit us on the North Shore, I start hearing that age old question: Should I use a kayak or should I stick to a canoe? Let me give you my very unscientific, completely biased answer. That answer is, I have no idea. You see, it all depends on what you intend to do.

As a general rule, a kayak gives you more speed and maneuverability than a canoe. Most are made to be paddled solo. You ride lower in the water and if you are in a properly fitted boat, you are one with the boat (it’s a zen thing).

A canoe does not have those qualities. What it has is a larger load capability and ease of portaging. That ease of portaging is due to its lighter weight and the fact that it is usually outfitted with a comfortable yoke. In some ways it is a more social way to travel, since it is built for two paddlers, gear and possibly a third person in the duffer position. If you are going to the BWCAW, you can take as many as nine people and four canoes, as opposed to four people and four kayaks. Yes, you can take tandem kayaks for a total of eight people but tandem kayaks, in a word, are beasts (meaning heavy–in the range of 70 to 90+ pounds).

So as you are planning this summer’s adventures, come on in and try some different boats out. Talk to us about your needs and we will be happy to assist. Most importantly, be safe and have fun.

Can’t decide which is better for you? Try them both with our guided tours. Book online here.

Alas, Hal Borland is right

by Susan Krage

I love winter–you have to when you choose to live in the Great North Woods. So I am always a tad melancholic when the weather starts to warm up. I’m not ready; never am. I want that one last skijor with my dogs; one last snowshoe hike up the hill; one last trout caught through the ice.

But alas, “No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” – Hal Borland.

Learning to love spring has taken some time in recent years, but the shoulder season is how I am doing just that. I still have the snow up the hill and in the shade–so there are plenty of snowshoe hikes to take. As for the fishing–I look forward to the steelhead run, when I can dust off the fly rod and my hippies and see that flash of silver. The skijoring–well, that one is a little tougher. The last of the good cross-country skiing is usually awesome for people who like to skate ski because the ice under the most recent dusting of snow is fast. But I like to strap two bird dogs to me while I ski–and now I am entering the danger zone. It is fun, don’t get me wrong–but I am also riding that thin line of being in or out of control. So I usually leave that to the pros and just visit my favorite snowshoeing spots one last time. And then start dreaming of summer.

Those beautiful models at the top of the page belong to Susan Krage, as does the photo.

Protecting yourself from the sun’s damaging rays

by Colleen Kleve

Sun protection has become much more of a routine than ever before. Protecting yourself from the sun’s damaging rays is getting easier as clothing manufacturers are now building an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) into their garments. UPF is to clothing what SPF is to sunscreen lotions.

The amount of UV rays a garment can shield depends largely on the tightness of the fabric’s weave. The tighter the weave, the higher the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) and the less UV light passing through. Other factors such as dyes, fiber types or topical treatments also play into it. Polyester offers better protection than cotton or nylon. The higher the rating, the greater the protection. A rating of UPF 50 allows 1/50 of the sun’s UV radiation to pass through.

Outdoor activities clearly expose you to the sun’s rays but these days with SPF lotions and technical apparel manufacturer’s building in a UPF protection, you can feel better about your activities outdoors, while still looking good and being comfortable. It goes without saying, the more skin you can cover, the better your protection. Using a combination of SPF lotions and purchasing your outdoor wear with higher UPF ratings is always a good idea.

Stone Harbor has many lines of clothing with UPF ratings for your next hiking, climbing or canoeing adventure. Stop in and schedule an activity with one of our experienced guides and pick up a fun new piece of clothing to wear with UPF protection.

Don’t let the simplicity of the picture at the top of the page fool you–it took a lot of work for Beth Poliquin to create it. Ask her about it next time you see her.

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