Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ely, MN

To catch up, on Monday the WINs left Grand Marais for our next stop in Ely, Minnesota, a town that knows the value of tourists. When our intended National Forest campground was booked up, Linda and Bill contacted the Ely Chamber of Commerce who found us a free spot in town to stay. Of course we will give a donation to show our appreciation.

I don't know about you, but when I think of Minnesota, I naturally think of polka! On Tuesday night, a polka group played outside of the local department store. It consisted of two friends who played the accordion and tuba and two grandsons of the accordion player who played drums and bass. Here are Diana, Ron, Billy, and a local lady who was probably surprised when Billy asked her to dance. But that's the WIN way.

However, Ely is also known for being on the edge of the Boundary Waters - a wilderness area of lakes connected by portages in northern Minnesota and southern Ontario. I found this mural in town that celebrates this fact.

So yesterday off we went to explore the famous area. Marvin researched various put-ins and routes and found two for us to try. One had the put-in at the parking area and the other had a quarter mile portage to the put-in. I was with the latter group.

For the quarter mile portage, we formed a train where each person carried the back of the kayak in front and the front of the one in the rear. Luckily I was at the end so I only had one. Judy was not so lucky.

In order to keep the wilderness area a wilderness experience, there is a rule that only four boats can travel together in a group. When we reached the put-in spot, four of the kayaks took off first and the rest of us waited 15 minutes until they got out of sight. Here are Billy and Peggy doing their pre-float check. You can see the weather was a bit threatening.

When I first heard about the 'four boat' rule, I thought, "How silly. What difference does it make if we have two sets of four or one set of eight." But soon after we started paddling, I realized they were absolutely right! It was so peaceful with our little group. I'm thinking we should do this all the time.

After the first group left, we took off. Our four boats consisted of Judy,



and Carol, who graciously shared her canoe with Jim and me. Here I'm doing my 'Queen of the Nile' routine.

I was lucky to have Max in my group and several of these pictures are his. I try to use my own pictures for the blog since it seems like cheating not to, but this gorgeous shot is Phil's. It's not easy to take pictures in a kayak with the wave action.

When we stopped for lunch, Max and Carol checked our location on the map. Are we in trouble?

So I wouldn't feel left out, Carol did allow me to paddle for awhile. I don't have her technique, but we seemed to move along alright.

With the help of the map, we found these pictographs along the way. These artists were much more talented than most I've seen. Just look at that moose!

We also had a short portage between the two lakes we kayaked/canoed. I think Phil took this hoping I would slip off those rocks I was on.

Back in town, I liked the whimsy of this storefront. However, I still haven't seen a moose.


  1. Great post! Love the kayaking story, and all the pictures.

  2. Great photos. My sister tried to get me to go stay in Ely one winter at a friend's house. I declined! It gets VERY cold.

  3. WOW, what a great kayak experience. makes me wish I still had a kayak (sort of).

  4. What a great kayak experience. Thanks for keeping me posted.