First Impressions

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First Impressions

A revisitation of two early blogs by Taylor Ham

Friday, May 11, 2018 “Portage to my first paddle of 2018”

On May 6th I woke up early before work and knew it was going to be a good day on the water. I went to work knowing that I would have to leave early so I could take advantage of the weather.  With zero resistance my manager told my co-worker Joe and myself to have fun and be safe. 

We left town at around 3:30 PM and had a nice drive up the Echo Trail to entry point 23 Moose River North.  Its about a 45 minute drive from town.  It was my first time portaging or paddling of the season.  The first portage into Moose River North is about a half mile long, it is a beautiful portage that is relatively flat.  It is always interesting how your body will react to the first portage of the season.  Carrying a boat isn’t always the most pleasant feeling but it is something over the years that I have grown to be very comfortable with.  

When we got to the water I was a little relived to get the canoe off of my shoulders.  As we began to paddle I started to regain skills that come with every summer I spend here in Ely.  There are three portages until you get to Nina Moose.  Joe and I finished our second portage and we paddled for just a few minutes until we spotted something unusual in the water ahead.  It looked like small rapids, or like water was running over a stick in the water.  As we got closer the movement in the water got further away and we realized that it was three small otters.  We followed them up the river for about half a mile before they realized we were behind them.  They swam to the shore and scurried away to the woods. 

The reason I chose to go to Moose River North is because there is a high peak that you can easily climb to the top of and see all the rest of the river and Nina Moose Lake.  I had been there a few times before in previous years and I wanted to see it in the spring time.  Its not marked on a map anywhere but when you arrive you can see where people in the past have gotten off of the river.  We climbed to the top of the hill and the wind picked up as we got out in the open.  The sun came out from behind the clouds and we sat up there for a while and talked about our grand paddling plans for the season.  After a while we climbed back down to our boat and paddled to Nina Moose. 

Paddling rivers is very different than paddling lakes, although the rivers in the Boundary Waters don’t flow very strong it is still important to read the water as it flows over rocks and other things in the water.  Its a good idea to have good communication between yourself and your paddling partner to avoid the things that can damage your canoe.  I would draw from the right or left from the bow seat to quickly change the direction of the boat.  The person in the stern cant always see the incoming rocks so its important for the person in the bow to always be watching to protect the canoe.

We paddled to Nina Moose and the wind completely died.  We spent some time there to write down our thoughts and to capture some of the science.  Two swans landed in the lake and we also shared the lake with a loon.  It was the first time since getting back to Ely that I had heard the call of a loon.  The sun was hinting to us that it was time to start heading back.  The sun was behind the trees on our way back so the temperature lowered considerably.  The water was clear as glass and in the reflection you could see the shore line.  We ran into a beaver that swam about 15 feet away from us before diving under us and popping back up 15 feet behind us.  We also saw our otter friends again and it seemed as if two of them were fighting but they disappeared to the woods again.  

Spring time is such a wonderful time to go into the Boundary Waters, even if it is just for a day trip.  It’s as if you get to watch the world wake up right in front of you.  I’m excited for another season of padding in the most beautiful country!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 “Solo Canoeing — at peace with yourself”

I cannot decide if I prefer to paddle in a group or if Id rather just go alone.  The thing that I love most about solo paddling is that whether it’s just a day trip or a multi-day trip there is no outside pressure to do anything.  No schedule in a sense, unless YOU make one.  You have to be disciplined enough to accomplish your goals and you are the only one responsible to push yourself.  When you are alone it’s all up to you.

For my first solo paddle I took it easy and went to entry point #14 Little Indian Sioux North.  I have been there once before during last season, but it was at the end of a very long day so I didn’t have the energy to explore. It made for an easy decision to go back.  Unfortunately, due to a small wrist injury, I was not able to make it to my planned destination which was Devils Cascade. I will leave that for another day, I suppose.




I took a Northstar Magic on my trip.  The Magic is my favorite solo boat to paddle. It handles better and portages better than any boat that I have tried yet.  I also prefer to use a kayak paddle, that way, I feel like I am able to cover more ground.

The weather on the river was absolutely gorgeous and the wind was very mild, not a cloud in the sky.  I paddled slowly down the river, stopping often to listen to the earth singing.  I didn’t see a single person out there even though the parking lot was packed for fishing opener.

When I first arrived at the portage I jumped out of the boat into the chilled water, I could hear water rushing.  I walked back and forth along the portage until I found a good spot to sit down and read for a while.  The portage is 60 rods and it leads to another segment of the river.  I sat there for a good while to gather my thoughts and enjoy the sound of runningwater .



When I got back on the river I searched for a nice sunny spot on the shore where I could have some lunch.  As I ate, a small family of turtles joined me on a log.  They stayed there until I got up to leave.

My first solo paddle of the year wasn’t very eventful but not every paddle into the Boundary Waters has to be about what you saw, how far you went or what you did. A vital part of every experience should be about how your body is feeling and most importantly how your mind is feeling when you’re finished.

Luckily with the Boundary Waters so close, I never really feel like we are finished — there’s always another day and another lake to explore.  Maybe I’ll see you out there.

Taylor Ham, Piragis Northwoods Outfitting

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