The Boundary Waters: Everything Plus the Kitchen Sink

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One of the best things about canoe camping as opposed to backpacking is the ability to get away from it all in relative style. When backpacking, you hike with everything strapped to your back, so every single ounce counts—you don’t want to carry anything more than you absolutely have to. But when you can float your gear in a canoe for the majority of the time, you would be amazed at all the cool things you can take to make your backcountry camp feel just like you are living in the lap of luxury. (more…)

The Boundary Waters: Exploring Ely, MN

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Ely is a tiny town in Northern Minnesota that is perhaps best known to fans of the Boundary Waters as the gateway to canoe country. Pronounced EE-lee, this pleasant hamlet with a population of 3,460 is our last glimpse of “civilization” before heading into the wilderness and our first taste of it again upon exiting. Although there are several other entry points to the BWCA and Canada’s Quetico just north of the border, we always find ourselves attracted to this charming little town that comes alive in the summertime with canoe enthusiasts heading into the backcountry. (more…)

The Boundary Waters: Our Canoe Safari

Whenever Matt and I are traveling by canoe, we act like we are in a safari jeep. We are constantly scanning the tops of trees for bald eagles and ospreys, hoping we’ll stumble across a moose feeding in a marsh or searching for beavers around their impressive lodges. While the birds and mammals of the great north woods are far more elusive than their African counterparts, the thrill of spotting something from a canoe is every bit as enjoyable, and we had some memorable moments on this year’s trip. (more…)

The Boundary Waters: An Unexpected Change

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At the beginning of our trip, I remember remarking to Matt about how little had changed in the Boundary Waters since we started going there almost ten years ago now (20 for Matt). The water might be a little higher or lower, the animal sightings might be a bit more frequent or far between, the weather might be pleasant or dicey, but we pretty much know exactly what to expect when we head into canoe country. That is part of the joy of returning to familiar territory.

So, imagine our surprise when we headed into Insula, a lake that we know quite well from previous experience, to discover that the entire southern portion of it had been ravaged by fire. And it wasn’t just Insula either. In fact, almost the entire stretch from Insula out to Lake One had been incinerated and was almost unrecognizable to us.  (more…)

The Boundary Waters: A Taste of the Good Life

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One of the great pleasures after a long day of paddling, portaging and getting all the camp chores done is to string a hammock from a pair of trees close to the water’s edge, grab a book and perhaps a glass of wine, and relax for a while. We were doing just that one day at our beach camp on Lake Alice and thinking it couldn’t get any better, when it absolutely did.

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The Boundary Waters: Choose Your Own Adventure

HDR Sunset on Lake Two

Choose Your Own Adventure
What’s the first thing you do when you get on an airplane? I don’t know about you, but I am one of those people who immediately opens up the in-flight magazine to study the world map and check out all the cool places I hope to travel to in the not-too-distant future. This slight obsession with maps is one of the things that makes traveling in the Boundary Waters right up my alley.

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The Boundary Waters: Love at First Paddle

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This summer marks the eighth time that Matt and I have spent a week of our summer canoe camping in the Boundary Waters. Tucked in a remote corner of Minnesota’s great north woods, it’s one of our favorite places to travel when we want to get away from it all and one of the Midwest’s best-kept secrets. Matt was introduced to this area almost twenty years ago when a college friend of his organized a ten-day trip for him and their buddies. As you might have guessed, it was love at first paddle for Matt, and what’s not to love? (more…)

Beast of the Southern Wild

Over the holidays, Matt and I headed down to Burnsville, North Carolina, to spend a little time visiting my parents. They have a beautiful house high in the mountains there, and the views of the Blue Ridge mountains from their living room alone are worth the eleven hour drive from Chicago. We always enjoy the opportunity for some deep rest and relaxation whenever we visit.

There is also a lot to photograph in the western mountains of North Carolina. This area is frequented by black bears in the spring, summer and fall, and there are loads of birds—nuthatches, Carolina wrens, chickadees, yellow-bellied sapsuckers—right out the back door. Colorful butterflies can be found in droves in the summer, and there are waterfalls a plenty throughout the western portion of the state. It is a pleasure to have so many fantastic nature subjects so close at hand.

Another big perk of visiting this area of western North Carolina is the chance to hike with some decent elevation gains and losses. Since Matt and I are going to do some high-altitude hiking again this summer (this time in the Indian Himalaya), we were intent on getting some training in. So when my mother announced she had to run an errand into town, we jumped on the opportunity and hitched a ride with her down to the bottom of the mountain with the goal of hiking the three miles back up to the top. We set out with exercise firmly on the brain, so we left our cameras behind, practically guaranteeing that we were going to see something exciting.

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