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.

It starts with a smell and then a sound.

by Jackson Nickolay

On the North Shore of Minnesota there are two Springs: Fake Spring and True Spring. Fake Spring comes to the shores of the big lake first. The independent weather system that is Lake Superior provides milder temperatures and a snowless spring, sometimes as early as March. People rejoice as they see the sun. Backpacks are pulled out, picnics are planned, and tents are aired. These aspirations, while enjoyable in their brevity, invariably are dashed. As Garrison Keillor explains, “…the April, or May, or early June blizzard comes and teaches us a lesson that we’ve all learned before but can stand to learn again I suppose…”

The wise folk of Grand Marais have learned not to get their hopes up until they can smell it. True Spring comes when the deeper snow and lake ice from the Boundary Waters and the Gunflint Trail begin to melt and come free of winter’s grip.

The snowmelt coming from the hills smells fresh and clean, and the earth reacts with smells of its own. The shedding of the death of fall and the long slow sleep of winter makes way for the new life of animals and the vibrant greens that reach out to the warming rays of the sun.

Then there’s the sound. The sound that brings with it a whole new world of exciting adventures. Of mud boots and building rock dams. Of hiking through spring showers and the first campfires of the year. The sound of rushing water. That sound heralds True Spring and all its promise.

So be patient. You’ll know it when you smell and hear it.

Thanks to Susan Krage for capturing the beautiful image of spring at the top of the page.

A powerful, magical, idyllic sight

by James Egan

Maybe on a cool spring evening you come down into a little valley of the low Sawtooths, the type of mountains that give us the idiom “older than the hills.” The woods are open, with far line of sight. No leaves on the trees. Still so chilly each day and night that the buds have yet to start opening. The dead grasses are flattened by the heavy snows; maybe there is still snow. Maybe you’re walking your dogs; maybe you’re just walking. Or maybe you’re carrying a fishing rod.

If you walk well enough or long enough or wisely enough, you come quickly on a stream, running cold but not clear. Runoff from the winter snows or spring rains lifts it and dirties it. But this rust color is from freshness and not age. Maybe there’s still ice.

You might hear a splash up or downriver. It could be a beaver or muskrat. It could be your dog. The splash comes again. And when it comes again, you better locate it. There. Something in the shallow riffles. Come upon it gently and quietly and revealed is a great fish in water so shallow that its back is naked. Then another, alongside, both steadying themselves without effort in the too–shallow fast riffles. Then they lay, each on his or her side, and flap their tails together, splashing, not fighting the fast water, not struggling in the shallowness, not fighting instinct.

These are spawning steelhead. For some, the “king of fish,” or “the fish of a thousand casts.” The great migratory rainbow trout of the Pacific Rim of the Northern Hemisphere. And this is the season they travel roaring rivers and quiet rivulets.

This particular freestone stream flows down from the Sawtooth Mountains, through shadowy canyons or meadows of brown and yellow. Down high falls or low falls and cascades to Lake Superior, the big lake they call Gichigami on Minnesota’s North Shore. Past iron and concrete bridge structures and corrugated culverts. Under Highway 61 that Robert Zimmerman from the Iron Range made world famous.

The painted picture is idyllic, but the reality for steelheaders can be challenging, if not frigid and wet and fruitless. Only the steelhead in migration can be tempted with a fly or lure. Actual spawning fish have other things—really only one thing—on their minds. The fly fisherman requires heavy terminal tackle—tungsten split shot sinkers, copper-headed nymphs, steel leaders—to get down deep quickly into dark pools and runs in fast, high water, and thus requires bigger, powerful rigs. Weather conditions can vary from steely cold with sleet or snow, to warm with a bright sun. Ice might linger on river banks. And the best water temperature is a chilling 40-some degrees.

But the sights of mating pairs of twenty-five inch fish cruising upstream in shallows or riffles, or especially, the steelhead driven by desire, challenged by gravity attempting to climb ten foot tall falls or rock faces or chutes—that’s a powerful, magical, idyllic sight.

Whenever we can, we try not to use stock photos. And honestly, where would you ever find a stock photo as good as the one at the top of this page? James can tell you all about it.

By Jack Stone

Those of us who live in Cook County have the same complaints as everyone everywhere: our weather forecasts are never right. It is even worse up near Lake Superior, in that it keeps us cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. When visitors come to town in the summer wearing shorts, it does not take long before they are looking for sweatshirts, even though it is 85 mid-trail. In the winter, there are times our visitors come to town and panic when they see little snow all the way to Cook County and into Grand Marais, even though just five miles north of town there may be lots and lots of snow with fantastic skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.

Sometimes the word is hard to get out. A few years ago the John Beargrease race was cancelled because of lack of snow. In 12 days we put in the reincarnation of the Gunflint Mail Run because we had snow. And lots of it.

This year as the Beargrease was deciding where to start their race due to snow conditions, we started hearing gloom and doom from the media. But those of us in Grand Marais looked around and saw great conditions and wondered how to get the word out that we have snow. That next day there was a meeting of the Downtown Business Coalition and the alarm was sounded. What can we do to promote our snow? And the #GrandMaraisHasSnow photo submission was started.

Within two days, we had fantastic participation from many of the Grand Marais businesses and even one for the Gunflint Trail. We collected gift cards and certificates from about 10 businesses. And the reception was not a begrudged, ok-fine-if-you-insist but an enthusiastic response–everyone asked, contributed. And once it began, other businesses questioned why weren’t they asked? They would have been excited to help out. Well the answer to them was an apology that they were missed but time was short. We will get you next time and the response to the contest was such that it should become an annual event. There will be a next time.

So next time you go into one of the many establishments who have donated to this event, thank them for their participation. But don’t forget the few that were missed. They were not holding out. They will be there next year to make it even better.

Lastly, to those who participated with your pictures, thank you. And by the way, we still have snow.

Want to see the wonderful #GrandMaraisHasSnow photo submissions? Check out the photo gallery. There were so many photos that the gallery is three pages long.

After heading out to shovel snow for the unknown number of times, our minds start thinking of warm temperatures and quiet lakes. We might even miss the low buzz of a million mosquitos as our fingers and toes thaw. Then again, maybe not that but you understand where I am coming from. Even though we enjoy the north country and all it gives us in the winter, our minds do wander to that sand beach campsite on Clove Lake. Or the island on Little Saganaga. Or the clear quiet evening on Esther Lake. Yes, summer can come none too soon.

Let’s get out that pile of maps and start planning. Most of you reading this know that you need reservations if you are entering the BWCAW between May and September. Each entry point has a quota and restrictions in terms of number of boats and number of people. Instead of listing all of the regulations and costs, here is the link to the reservation site. If you are going on a well travelled route, you should make your reservations early. In fact, you can start making them today (January 25th), at 9:00 a.m. central time.

I want to point out a few things that sometimes get confusing. First of all, you can designate where you want to pick up your permit. There are many issuing stations throughout Cook County, Stone Harbor being one. Secondly, the permits need to be picked up during business hours. (In the summer, Stone Harbor, is open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sundays.)  Also, you can designate the Forest Service office in Grand Marais or Tofte as your pick up point but then you must pick it up there. Their hours are not as attractive as many of the shops, so plan accordingly. And be aware that at all locations you need to watch a Forest Service movie that takes about 30 minutes, so give yourself time.

One last point: if your trip includes paddling into Quetico, read up on their regulations. Anglers, in particular, should know that lead tackle or barbed hooks are not allowed.

There you go with some thoughts. Meanwhile, enjoy these winter evenings and plan, plan, plan. Personally, I think that is almost as much fun as the trip. I said almost.

Here we are in January. The snows have come and the temperatures have dipped. It has gotten a little chilly, even for those of us on the North Shore. Fortunately, living near the lake has it advantages. When it is -20 in the Gunflint Trail, we still have a balmy -5. Talk about the tropics! And with that balmy weather, who can even think of snow sports? Heck, the ice will be out soon, sort of. Well in a moth or two or four, but who’s keeping track?

To get us through this cold weather our thoughts turn to…..drum roll….paddle sports.

Paddle sports? In January? Well you are correct. And why are we talking paddle sports now? I am letting you in a little secret: Now is the time to buy. We happen to have some old inventory we want to move so we can get some new models into our warehouse.

Let’s start with fishing kayaks. This is where you see lots of changes every year but unless you need the absolute latest designs, now is the time to buy at 40% off. We are running low in these but we still have some Wilderness System Rides, Threshers, Commanders and A.TA.K.s in stock.

And if you are buying a boat, you need paddles. There too, we have some great buys. We have Cannon paddles at 40% off also. Why are they discounted? Because they are older models. Do you see a pattern here?

We still have a few Bomber Gear dry and semi-dry water sportswear items left. Why are they discounted? Bet you think it is because they are older models? Well no. This was a high quality paddle accessory company that closed their doors a while back, so get the gear while you can.

We also have Bending Branches paddles at a discount for a very limited time. And why would you buy Bending Branches paddles? Well, besides the fact that they are very high quality, they are from right down the road in Osceola, Wisconsin. How cool is that?

So, while you are reading all of you paddling magazines, getting ready for the thaw, stock up at great prices. Call us at the store for specifics. You will also find some pricing on our eCommerce site…you should be watching that anyway for other great gear.

That is all I have for now. I think I will look out my office window at the wide open lake. Do you know that the East Bay seldom freezes over? Maybe with some of this great dry suit gear, I could go out and paddle around some. Or, maybe get another cup of coffee and watch the sea smoke on the horizon.

By Jack Stone

Over the past few years, Stone Harbor has been on the cutting edge in terms of
backcountry skiing with our offering of the Altai HOK ski. Over this time, I have talked to many about the skis, reciting what I heard from the company, web sites and employees who have used them.

This year as I was ordering more, Nils, the owner of Altai, asked me an embarrassing question. He asked how I like his skis myself. I sort of stuttered a bit and admitted that I have never used them.

Wow, what an admission. I knew they were very well received by customers and staff alike but I have been so involved in other stuff I had not been on them. Finally, on Christmas Eve, this changed.

Jack is a HOK convert!

The first thing I noticed was that it would have been a lot easier to adjust the length of the bindings in the comfort of my house or garage. Snow is cold on the fingers when doing this on the trail. Fortunately, they are easily adjusted and attaching the skis to your boots is a snap.

Off to the trail. It started out with a slight incline and all went well. I got to the the intersection of the forest service road and the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT for us locals) and I was off. My first impression was admittedly underwhelmed. I kind of scratched my head and asked, “is this all there is?” I then got very distracted by some wonderful scenery. A winter wonderland. Snow shrouded trees. Quiet–only the sound of the skis. Then I realized I had relaxed and I was no longer fighting the skis, the trail, the ups and downs. The longer I skied, the further I went, I found myself, to steal a cliché, one with the skis. And since I am at it, one with the trail and one with the moment.

I left the SHT and returned to the forest service road I had started on. The experience was one that I will not soon forget and one I am looking forward to repeating later this week with my grandkids. Now I know what everyone has been raving about.

If you are in the area, stop in a rent some of these. Be forewarned, many who rent these skis come back and purchase a set of their own. But have no fear, we will deduct your rental from your purchase price.

By Jack Stone

Our ski season seemed to be getting off to a slow start. We had a warm October and November. We started wondering if we put our boats away too soon. Our new Salomon skis and boots came in and we were wondering if we were ever going to see snow. Then it came, only to melt away and break our hearts once again. However, in the past couple of days the snows have come again and all indications are that it is going to continue to come down and our temps are going to continue to go down.

So you may ask, what can Stone Harbor do for you this winter. Let’s start by mentioning that we have all the base layers and ski clothing you will ever need. But you already knew that. Our clothes and accessories selection is as good as any you will find anywhere. And remember that even if you are not coming to see us soon, you can buy from our on-line store. Don’t see what you want? Give us a call. There is a good chance we can help you from our store stock.

If you are coming to town, remember we have a great selection of rental skis and snowshoes. You can reserve the equipment by going to our web site. We have skis for the groomed trails and a limited number of skis for back country. You have your own skis? We have a great selection of waxes, scrapers, irons and other accessories.

You don’t know how to get to a great ski trail? We have developed a Cook County map that shows all the ski areas, snowshoe and snowmobile trails. It even show the dog-friendly trails in case you want to try some skijoring. And we have those harnesses for rent also.

I almost forgot (well, maybe not)– we have a good selection of new ski packages for sale. Skis and boots by Salomon and Madshus. Back country skis by Altai and Sporten that are a combination ski and snowshoes. And speaking of snowshoes, we have MSR and Crescent Moon equipment for sale also.

So come on in and see us. We have you covered for your next winter adventure.

by Colleen Kleve

As yet another winter season approaches, many of us do an inventory of our clothing. We diligently label our clothing as “everyday apparel,” “workout wear” and “winter gear.” This has been the case all our lives–all the way back to the snowmobile suits and boots pulled out of storage when we were six years old. And this segregation of clothing means our desire to be fashionable has been sacrificed by the need to be warm.

skhoop-down-skirt-north-shore-mn-apparelWell, I am happy to report the trend in outdoor wear is morphing so that no such sacrifice is required! Many things have forced the big names in outdoor wear to look closer at the demands of today’s consumer. Some of the key drivers are words we didn’t carry in our daily vocabulary just a decade ago. Millennial, Athleisure, and Social Media are three major drivers for designers these days. Throw in a new generation who gravitate toward minimalistic lifestyles and environmentally consciousness, and it scores a win for all of us in outdoor apparel.

Many of our vendors now coordinate their lines in a lifestyle approach to outdoor wear. You can create ensembles from their entire lines, instilling the mix and match method to wardrobes for the outdoors. Most pieces now easily transition from a day of skiing or winter hiking into a night watching a Wild game while cozied up to the fire – the very definition of Athleisure. Athleisure is a style driven by the Millennials and adopted by nearly all of us.

Stone Harbor has a fresh new look in store for this winter season. We are very pleased with the inventory and how it adopts the new style of outdoor wear while still holding on to tradition. From our Marmot Scree pants to our Skhoop down mini-skirts and everything in between, we can fit your outdoor/lifestyle apparel needs. Let us help you find that new go-to piece you can’t live without.

Fashion Notes

In the top photo, Susan is wearing an Orange Mini Down Skhoop SkirtPrana Ashley LeggingsRoyal Robbins Essential Tencel Sun CoverKrimson Klover Top it Off SweaterPistil Jensen Hat, and Bogs Sidney Wool Women’s Lightweight Rain Boots.

In the bottom photo, Susan has on a Black Skhoop Reversible Down Skirt,  Krimson Klover TightsPrana Cedric SweaterIbex woolly Top, Pistil Channing Hat, Ahnu Sugar Peak Insulated Boot.

Web Master Note: Let’s talk about those boots in the top picture for a minute. You can’t see them and you really should see them because they rock! But hey, they didn’t fit in the picture. So if you didn’t already click on the link for the boots, use this link to get a look at them for yourself: awesome black see-them-for-yourself boots.



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