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Picture of kayak guides getting safety training

Safety is our primary concern.

By Jack Stone

In an earlier post I mentioned our staff’s training in terms of first aid. You might ask what we require of our guides. Let’s start with our kayak guides. All guides go through an inhouse training program every spring. We bring in an American Canoe Association (ACA) instructor to review and train anyone who is taking guests out on the water. This is a three-day course. On the last day, we also cover Stand Up Paddleboards. The instructor reviews everything from basic strokes to self-rescues to rescues of other paddlers.

Safety is our primary concern. And just to make things interesting, on the last day our guides are expected to tip their kayaks into the cold Lake Superior waters. We want our guides to know how cold and uncomfortable the lake can be and why the speed at which they get a paddler out of the water is crucial. Less than 60 seconds is the goal.

But if the water is that cold, what else do we do to ensure our guests’ safety? Each participant is fitted with a wet suit and PFD (life jacket). This gives a person a greater margin of error if one were to fall into the lake. Of course, this is where our training kicks in to get you out of the water fast. But we use stable kayaks and the incidence of people going in for an unwanted swim is low.

We give our paddlers instruction on land before we go out, so they can have a pleasant experience. We also use solo kayaks instead of tandems. We feel it gives each person an opportunity to learn and enjoy the sport as an individual, without having to worry about their boat-mate. If someone is insistent on going in a tandem, we can provide that service, but we really like to see everyone be on their own.

Our risk management plan contains strict guidelines as to wave height, wind direction and velocity and visibility. If the Big Lake doesn’t cooperate, we go inland to a lake where it is safe. Or we cancel for the day. We want you to enjoy your trip and fighting the elements doesn’t always make for a fun vacation.

What about our guides? Our guides are all experienced anywhere from a couple of years to 10 to 15 years. Our more experienced guides take the more experienced paddlers to more challenging routes.

When booking your trip, know that if you want a challenge we can give it to you, within reason, and we assign a guide who is comfortable with your wishes. Our trips to Lake Saganaga and Isle Royale utilize our most experienced people. Any concerns or questions can be addressed directly to me and I will do my best to put your mind at ease.

Picture of Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply store in winter at night

The store in Grand Marais is still open!

By Jack Stone

After much internal debate about how to increase our business and take care of our customers better, we dipped our toe into the fascinating world of e-commerce about two years ago. We set up a separate department, added the software to our “backroom” and we were off to the races. Or so we thought. What we did not take into consideration is that even our very best customers cannot resist the lure of the large online retailers and Amazon.

Our prices are dictated to us by our manufacturers and we sign agreements that prevent us from discounting new items on our e-commerce site. Some manufacturers tell us we can’t even put their items online at all. We have struggled with how to best take care of you, our valued customer, but our sales on that front just don’t justify that we continue with an online presence. Because of this, effective February 1, we are taking our e-commerce site down. Our regular web site, www.stoneharborws.com is still up and of course our store in Grand Marais is still open.

What does this mean to our business model? First, we will continue to put unique products up on our website. You will be able order these items from us either by phone or email. We will ask that you not give us your credit card numbers in email. If you place orders by email, we will call and get your credit card info over the phone.

Secondly, we will continue with our eBay store and still put discontinued products there. Many of you have already become familiar with our site. Those who are not, check it out here.

Also, many of you know what we sell in the store and you are always welcome to give us a call at (218) 387-3136 and talk to us about anything you have seen in the store and we will gladly send it out.

One last thing I feel we need to mention. If you look up some of our reviews, you can see some folks saying our prices are understandably high because we are in a resort area. That is just not the case. Most all of our prices are set by our manufacturers. We cannot advertise specific items at a lower price without risking losing those lines. When we have sales, you do not see us naming specific items because of that restriction. However, when we have a storewide sale, it includes everything in the store, unless noted. We could raise our prices over the MSRP and I am sure there are stores somewhere that do that. In my mind that is not an ethical way of doing business and we refrain from it. If something were to be mismarked, please bring it to our attention and we will adjust accordingly.

So that is our story. In some ways I like it this way because I think mail order is impersonal and we like the direct contact with you, our valued customer

P.S., If you want to buy something from our e-commerce store one last time, here’s the site: shop.stoneharborws.com

Fishing is always on James’ mind

By James Jay Egan

You can gift family members – any age or experience level – with a complete, ready-to-go Fly-Fishing Outfit. Kids’ and learners’ rods and reels from Ross and Scientific Anglers, rod and reel combos from St. Croix and Redington. All including fly line and leaders and carry cases. Plus, stuff the stockings with flies and fly boxes and accessories.
 

Picture of Claire and Natalie standing by a Christmas tree decorated with socks

All in one stop!

by Colleen Kleve

Happy holidays! They sneak up on us it seems, faster every year. With the pace we all keep these days, a true “one stop shop” for those holiday gifts is invaluable. At Stone Harbor, we can help you check all the boxes on your shopping list.

For the men on your list, we have a few fan favorites. Fjällräven has several stylish, as well highly technical pieces, to keep your guy warm and dry while looking good. Outdoor Research is your go-to for jackets of all styles and weights. Our Kuhl line provides a large selection of pants, a customer favorite, as well as canvas jackets, sweaters and more. Stone Harbor carries many clothing lines covering all the men on your list, young and old.

Outerwear jackets come in every length, weight, style and color for the women on your list. Coordinating accessories such hats, scarves, mittens and gloves are the perfect finishing touch or that “little something” gift. The Lolë line has plenty of choices for the active woman on your list. Kuhl, prAna and several others provide a beautiful selection of sweaters, pants, dresses and more for the ladies on your list.

The Stone Harbor footwear department is proud to provide you with a large selection of men’s and women’s footwear suited for the winter weather months. Our vendors provide many choices of boots and hikers for both our female and male toes. Our sock department is rivaled by none and is a great addition to any gift.

If you are looking for that special something and need help, our staff is happy to help. A Stone Harbor gift card is one size and fits all. Happy shopping, wishing you and yours a safe and blessed holiday season.

Picture of sunrise on Isle Royale

 

The Isle Royale Adventure Continues

by Mike Ostroushko

We awoke Sunday (day 2 on Isle Royal) to pack up and get on the trail no later than 7:00 a.m. I had backpacked this trail section between Hatchet Lake and Todd Harbor in years past and knew that our chances of running into a moose would be quite high along the planks we had to walk to keep our feet dry from the swampy muck below.  For this reason, and to increase our chances of sleeping in one of the limited shelters at McCargoe Cove, we opted to wait until we reached Todd Harbor to eat and I’m glad we did.

It wasn’t too many miles of majestic tall ferns, birch, and black spruce forests before we reached the swamp I had been eagerly waiting for. I heard some sticks breaking in the trees far to our right as we approached the wooden plank path. Danny was ahead of me by a short distance when I heard a crash and then watched as a large female (cow) moose trampled trees a mere 20-30 feet from us to get her and her calf as far away from us as she could. I knew this was just the beginning of a grand day on the trail.

The thick Sunday morning dew soaked us as we trekked through tall ferns. We crossed a few small streams before we began to feel the cold fresh Lake Superior air blowing in from beautiful north-facing Todd Harbor. We sat at a picnic table beneath tall black spruce overlooking Lake Superior, Ontario shorelines, and the islands scattered throughout Todd Harbor. This was indeed a great place to enjoy some rest and relaxation before making our way onto the islands northern rocky Minong Trail.

Of all the trails I enjoyed on Isle Royal, my favorite was this small segment between Todd Harbor and McCargoe Cove. In this six mile section we hiked along grassy fields over lichen covered rocks, along cliffs overlooking the Great Lake, through black spruce forests and thimbleberry bushes, and over many Isle Royal garter snakes as they soaked in the sun on the open trail. We climbed a rocky moss-covered hill overlooking the shores of Canada’s Ontario for a much needed break. We were surprised and slightly disappointed to see no wild blueberries in this area that seemed to perfectly mimic blueberry habitat.

It wasn’t even noon when we arrived at beautiful McCargoe Cove to set up camp in our lean-to shelter near the Lake Superior dock in this over two mile long cove. Here we laid out in the sun for a while, filtered water and rehydrated, dried out the tent from the dew that soaked us the night before, soaked our sore feet in ice cold water off the dock, and gathered wood to enjoy a fire in the community fire pit by the water later that night. It was a clear night and we had some guests at our fire who arrived to camp long after us. We shared stories of moose and wolf prints and the adventure to come as we gazed upon the brightly lit starry canopy above. The stars seemed extra bright on this night as they reflected off the glassy frigid waters below.

We slept in until 9:00 a.m. on Monday (day 3). It was to be our final day on trail–an estimated 12 miles from incredible Chippewa Harbor where the Voyageur II was to meet us on Tuesday morning for our voyage back to Grand Portage. Bodies now sore, we made our way along muddy West Chickenbone Trail on the shores of Chickenbone Lake. Being that Chickenbone Lake lies at about Lake Superior elevation, and being that we had to cross the Greenstone Ridge, which is substantially higher than the lake below, we knew we had a steep ascent coming up after passing through West Chickenbone campground. A much needed break was had following the arduous climb back to the top of the Greenstone.

Monday proved the hottest of our four days on the island so we were already soaked from head to toe in sweat, mixed with morning dew. It was four to five miles of walking on boards and muddy trail through large cedar forests over swamp and through jurassic-looking growths of large bog-loving plants we simply dubbed “elephant ears.”

Danny and I dropped our packs on a beautiful flat rocky area overlooking Lake Richie’s big island. It was here where we excitedly found some of the few straggling blueberries of the island.

After Lake Richie and as we got closer and closer to Chippewa Harbor, the air thankfully began to dramatically cool. Here we trekked through more birch and black spruce forests as we moved up and down hills and along ridges toward Chippewa. We exhaustedly arrived at Chippewa by 2:00 p.m. and set up camp in a lean-to shelter that rested atop rock near the harbor shores.

Chippewa Harbor provided some of my favorite scenic views on the island, making for a perfect panoramic sunset photo of Lake Superior and the inner harbor. I had stayed here before and knew that the old cold climate apple trees down trail left behind by settlers might contain ripe fruit for the picking. Along the way to gather much-needed delicious apples, we discovered a field of thimbleberries which quickly took precedence over the apples we sought. This was a peaceful cool night, with a nice breeze blowing into the shelter from the harbor.

We awoke on Tuesday morning sad to leave so soon and packed to board the boat to continue the longer ride back. Chippewa Harbor was on the southeastern shores of the island and the Voyageur II had to pick up more adventurers on its way to Windigo on the far west end, so this boat ride ended up being four to five hours long. We both enjoyed our sun-covered seats on the bow again as we skirted the shores of the island. By the time we reached Windigo Danny was understandably inside, staying dry while trying to catch some shut-eye, whereas I was eager to ride the waves and get soaked from the frigid northern Lake Superior splash on rougher waters. I returned to the shores of Minnesota soaked and frozen with another grand adventure behind me. Isle Royal will always hold a place in my heart.

Picture of tent on the lakeshore, surrounded by moose antlers, on Isle Royale

The Big Island on the Big Lake

by Mike Ostroushko

Isle Royal National Park seemed the most fitting place to enjoy a final summer adventure for the year between myself and my friend Danny. We spent this past spring and summer working fairly close to the Big Island, at Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply in Grand Marais, Minnesota.

At first we were disappointed that, due to a full boat and our own procrastination, our trip had to be cut short a couple days. We quickly forgot our blunder, however, as we approached our departure date and read the weather was to be perfect: 60s and sunny throughout our trip. Just days before we would be backpacking the very isolated island, we read about a recent solar flare that was to trigger a strong aurora borealis (northern lights) display right above Grand Marais and Isle Royal for a number of days. I had high hopes that we might enjoy clear nights sleeping without a rain fly, leaving our tent open to the grandeur of a beautiful painted sky. Though our trip missed an incredible display of auroras by a single day, we still felt this was a grand omen for a great trip to come.

Slightly over-packed and ready, our adventure began as we awoke Saturday and set off on an early foggy morning drive north, toward Grand Portage’s Voyageur II, which was to be our vessel to Isle Royal. Naturally, Danny and I were the last to be called onto the full boat, so we immediately made our way to the most spacious area remaining–the bow. We figured that as long as we couldn’t easily nap, we might as well ride the smooth waters like a scene out of the movie Titanic. The twin-diesel Voyageur II provided us a very enjoyable ride to Washington Harbor, with many kind and like-minded adventurers to chat with.

The calm seas allowed an early arrival onto the shores of Michigan’s Isle Royal. A very informative park ranger greeted us on the dock and told us of the nearly 1,700 moose making the island their home and were already beginning their rut. She told us of the thieving foxes that roam the island, and the two remaining wolves. Our anticipation to get on trail kept growing as we listened and proceeded to Windigo to discuss our route and purchase our permits. It was now 10:00 a.m. central time (we intentionally ignored the shift to eastern time zone to avoid confusion) and we were officially on the Greenstone Ridge trail.

Picture of birch tree stand on Isle Royale

We knew that day one on the trail would be the toughest of the three trail days. We were to hike from Windigo on the far western side of the big island, to the far more remote and isolated Hatchet Lake campground, over 17 miles east. In my experience backpacking, the first few miles had always been the toughest as I would get my pack comfortably situated and as my legs, hips, and back get used to carrying an extra 35 pounds. This trip was no different.

The beginning of the Greenstone Ridge going east from Windigo began with two to three miles of constant, tiring elevation gain through beautifully open white birch forests intermingled with a few black spruce and maples. The bright fall colors in the sunnier areas were already beginning to show vibrant bright reds, oranges, and yellows.

Our first break to replenish ourselves was around the Island Mine turnoff, about four and a half miles from Windigo. One of the many downed old white pines in the area made a perfect place to drop pack, sit, and rest. This was a majestic open forested area carpeted in mosses, lichens, and fungi of extraordinary variety. I’m no mycologist but mushrooms have always greatly fascinated me, so here my inner-child took over as I began searching for and investigating the nearby rotting logs and moss for the next amazing mycological photo.

Energy now restored and bodies rested, we began our next push toward Hatchet Lake, about 13.5 miles away. As I tires on the trail and pushed myself to keep a pace in an effort to arrive to camp with some sunlight, everything became a little more monotonous and robotic-like. My legs and feet began numbing and feeling more like tools than living appendages and my mind became fixated on the trail in front of me.  Before I knew it, we were standing atop Mount Desor looking over beautiful Lake Desor.

After a short break and with seven miles to go on day one, we continued on the Greenstone toward our next resting spot, Ishpeming Point and fire tower. The Greenstone Ridge between Lake Desor and Ishpeming provided some good swampy moose habitat on our right, a couple vistas, and a surprisingly open forest most the way.

The rocky outcrop at the very beginning of Ishpeming Trail was to be our final drop-pack resting spot before our last push to Hatchet Lake. Danny and I were amazed by the forest between the fire tower and Hatchet. It was a coating of young white birch oddly intermingled with large old growth birch that seemed to joyfully energize me all the way to Hatchet.

We arrived at Hatchet Lake around 6:00 p.m., dropped our packs, took our boots off, and hastily began filtering and boiling water and making camp so we could eat a hot meal (mine was a delicious Mushroom Stroganoff, produced locally by Camp Chow). We conversed a bit and then headed into the tent for an early night’s sleep.


Webmaster’s Note: We’ll be sharing more of Mike and Danny’s Isle Royale adventure in our next blog post.

Now is your chance to make a deal

We appreciate your Minnesota niceness. You say hi to everyone. You open doors for strangers. You recycle. In fact, we don’t just appreciate your Minnesota niceness, we love it! We just don’t want it to get in the way of a little friendly dickering.

You see, we have some great paddling gear that has been used all summer long for rentals and demos. We don’t want to store it over the winter, which means we need to get rid of it now. And that means we’re ready to make some deals. We know these kayaks, canoes and SUPs might not be as pretty as when they were brand new, so make us an offer. So please forego your Minnesota niceness  for just a moment and dicker with us on this paddling gear. (And after we’re done with the dickering, we can all resume our Minnesota niceness.)

Note: The list below is changing as we are selling the inventory. We are doing our best to keep it up-to-date but please check with us to find out what we currently have in stock.

CANOES

  • Langford Langtex Prospector (17’4) – White
  • Langford Langtex Prospector (17’4) – Red
  • Langford Kevlar Northwind (17’8) – White
  • Langford Kevlar Northwind (17’8) – White
  • Langford Kevlar Nahanni (16’5) – White
  • Langford Kevlar Nahanni (16’5) – White
  • Langford Kevlar Solo (12′) – White
  • Langford Kevlar Nahanni (16’5) – Natural (needs some repair)

PADDLE BOARDS

  • Bic Dura-Tec Kids
  • Bic Dura-Tec Kids
  • Bic Ace-Tec (11’6″)
  • Bic Ace-Tec (12’6″)
  • Bic Dura-Tec (10’4″)
  • Pau Hana Lotus Air (10′)
  • Pau Hana Moon Mist (10′)
  • Slingshot (11′)
  • Slingshot (11′)

KAYAKS

  • Venture Jura MN (15’5) – Yellow
  • P&H Delphin (15’5) – Yellow
  • Wilderness Systems Ride 115 (11’6) – gray
  • Wilderness Systems Thresher (15’6) – Blue
  • Wilderness Systems* Prodigy ll 145 (14’6) – Orange yellow red
  • Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135T (13’6) – Yellow
  • Wilderness Systems* Pescador Pilot (12’0) – Blue
  • Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140 (14′) – Red
  • Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140 (14′) – Blue
  • Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 (14’6) – Red
  • Wilderness Systems Tsunami 160 (16′) – Red
  • Wilderness Systems Tsunami 160 (16′) – Blue
  • Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 (16’6) – Yellow
  • Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 (16’6) – Brown
  • Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 (17′) – Red
  • Wilderness Systems Pungo 140 (14′) – Green
  • Wilderness Systems Pungo 140 (14′) – Green
  • Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 (12′) – Green

Picture of red and yellow autumn leaves in Grand Marais

What? Say it isn’t so!

by Susan Krage

Goodbye summer and, for me, goodbye to Grand Marais and Stone Harbor.

It is a bittersweet goodbye. I LOVE fall (more on this infatuation below), so leaving summer behind is an easy one for me. Leaving Grand Marais and, thus, Stone Harbor—not so much.

The North Shore has been my refuge for as long as I can remember. My grandfather bought a cabin on Poplar Lake early in the 1950s, and our family has been using it faithfully ever since. It was such a relief to head up north to cooler temps and low humidity for our two-week summer vacations. I was so jealous of the kids who called this place home and not until later in my life did I come to realize that growing up on an island in the wilderness might not be so great to a 15 year old. For me though, it seemed like heaven.

And it has been heaven to live here for the last few years. I will miss looking out onto East Bay every day from my office, listening to rocks skip across the ice in the winter, watching to see what birds show up each spring, hearing the screams of kids as they take their first tentative dip in the (freezing cold) lake during the summer and, finally, the storms of November—the sheer power is incredible. So yes, I am fine with summer turning into fall—but I am sad to say goodbye to this wonderful small town and the abundance of beauty that is its soul.

By all these lovely tokens September days are here, with summer’s best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer. – Helen Hunt Jackson

Ah, fall, truly my favorite time of the year (and that is not because I was born on the Fall Equinox—although I’m sure it doesn’t hurt). As a child always counting down the full moons until the Harvest Moon arrived on my birthday just might have been what started this love affair. I have lived in the Middle, the South, the West, and the North of our country and fall has always been my favorite season. Growing up in southern Indiana, fall meant cooler temps, drops in humidity and the always favorite—Persimmon Festival (the only time of the year we could get persimmon pudding and my personal favorite: persimmon ice cream). In Texas, FOOTBALL! When we lived out west—it meant hunting season, What the Hay (go to the link—it’s worth it), the first snowstorm, and the Chokecherry Festival (as much fun as the Persimmon, but not quite as tasty). Here on the North Shore, fall means the disappearance of mosquitos, pulling out your favorite wool sweaters, hunting season (for my dogs) and, of course, Moose Madness and Radio Waves.

The weather, the smells (man, do I love that smell—my mother even sent me a box of fall leaves my first year of college in Texas because I missed it so), the festivals, the colors, and the food—what is there not to love about fall!

I like winter, spring is nice; let’s skip summer and do fall twice. – Rusty Fischer

As you read through all our fall adventures in this newsletter, you will see that I am not the only one on the staff who has a profound love for fall. It really is the best time of the year—no matter where you live.

Picture of the East Bay of Grand Marais on a fall day

 

Picture of dogs looking at the hills in Grand Marais in fall

 

 

Two pictures of dogs in the leaves of autumn. Oh yea, there's a human in one of them too.

 

 

 

 

Autumn in Grand Marais

by Beth Poliquin

Both of our girls were born in southwest Arizona. In Yuma, fall looked just like the rest of the year. School started at the beginning of August because was too hot to be outside anyway. Relief from the heat really didn’t come until Thanksgiving. Sure we did fall-type things: a local pumpkin patch, hay maze and trick-or-treating at Halloween. But looking outside, you really couldn’t tell: the date palms and hibiscus bushes looked the same all year.

While I grew up enjoying the changing of the seasons, we somehow had traveled to see family on the East Coast every season except fall. My kids had never seen it.

Then last summer we moved to Grand Marais. Our yard was surrounded by poplars and birches, and we had one lonely maple you didn’t really notice until October. The girls were in awe of the leaves falling. It was a fun game to try to catch leaves as they fell so you could be the first human to ever touch that leaf. Our elder daughter would patiently stand next to the tree looking up and waiting. Our younger daughter, not known for her calm spirit, would shake the tree to make it rain leaves.

And the colors! Our nine-year-old’s voice gets all dreamy as she talks about the colors. The trail around Oberg Mountain is known for spectacular Superior fall color views. They also remember the mud, but my pictures show us in a forest turned yellow and orange. This loop trail in Lutsen is a great, kid-friendly way to spend an afternoon. This year I’m looking forward to discovering new favorite hikes.

I have fond memories of my own childhood autumns but it was so fun to see everything fresh last year through their eyes. I am a little sad that it took so long for our girls to see such beauty, but how cool is it that they can remember and appreciate their first fall?

 

Picture of James and Danny standing in front of Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply and wearing the latest in fall fashions

We’re talking about fall

by Colleen Kleve

Fall and fashion, fall and flannels…some things just make sense together. Long before any sign of the leaves turning colors, the Stone Harbor buying team is hard at work researching the fall/winter apparel selections. We think we have hit this one out of park.

Fall 2017 brings you a nice variety of “comfort food” clothing as well as some new and improved-upon styles, while mixing in the technical side to keep things workable as well as stylish. Vendor lines with new weights, wicking properties, a tie here, a zipper and pocket there to be practical, make this one of the best fall showings in outdoor apparel.

Royal Robbins has been a surprising front runner for Fall 2017 clothing lines. The folks there have introduced a rich color-drenched palette this fall for both men and women. For the ladies, Ibex, the go-to for Merino wool, has a line of dresses light weight, stylish and yet warm. Lole, the active wear leader, does not disappoint with their new comfort stretch jeans and as always their women’s light and mid-weight jackets.

Be sure to make Stone Harbor a stop on your fall color drive. The store colors are at their peak, even on a rainy day. We look forward to helping you find that next great piece you cannot live without.

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