All Things BWCA Newsletter – November 2018

All Things BWCA Newsletter – November 2018

What’s Going on in the North Woods

  • bwca ely MinnesotaAround The Base
  • The Fishing Corner
  • Wilderness Wisdom
  • The Scout Scene
  • Tips For the Boundary Waters Photographer
  • More Great Information

This newsletter is designed to help keep you current on the issues of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quetico Provincial Park, to give you information on Williams and Hall Outfitters, and to share some of our knowledge and love of the outdoors and the BWCA wilderness around us. We hope you enjoy these articles and share them with your friends.

Around The Base

Planning A Canoe Trip: What Matters and What Matters – Not

by Blayne, our fearless leader

bwca sunset williams and hall ely

Well things are pretty well buttoned up for the year on the shores of Moose Lake.  We have had our share of wild weather.  As we watch it, I say this is a great time NOT to be in the woods.  Well, except for those intrepid deer hunters.  Go for it guys.  We see those deer camps springing up all over and wish you success in your hunt.

Never Been on a BWCA Canoe Trip Before

But for the rest of us, this is the time to get next year’s canoe trips on the planning board.  We were reminded of this in spades this past week by an inquiry from a fellow who by his admission had never been on a canoe trip before.

He wanted a detailed, down to the finest point, route plan.  Numerous other points that just do not matter were also requested.  So, I thought this would be a great time to share a few of my observations about canoe trip plans.  This will help you spend your time on the things that matter most.

Here’s What Matters Most for a BWCA Trip – Dates

DATES for your trip are the single most important thing to determine.  Everything revolves around when you plan to start and end your trip.  Folks are out there planning an itinerary lake by lake, and they have not pinned down dates.  Fishing, lakes to visit, portages, gear, and your permit all hinge on this one critical item. While you are at it select your first, second, and third choices for dates in case you don’t get your first choice.  All trip planning should start with the dates.

Now for the Rest of the Important Stuff

PERMITS for overnight travel are the next step.  Determine whether your trip will be a US or a Canadian trip.  We have talked about the difference between the two countries in previous issues.  Call if you have questions. Each country issues permits differently, so you need to know which one you want.  This year US permits will be issued starting January 30th.   So once you have that permit you know you have a trip and you know when it is.

VACATION APPROVAL is next in line.  There are those lucky stiffs out there who can embark on vacation anytime they want,  May God bless them.  However, for the rest of us working stiffs, we need to put in for our time off and hope for the best.  The sooner the better is usually good advice, it depends on the work place.  Pity the guys that work for themselves, they have crappy bosses for sure, and never know till the last minute.  Youth groups revolve around the number of adults accompanying the kids, so it is best to nail this down as soon as you can.

GROUP  SIZE and COMPOSITION is a key component that is often hard to determine.  While it is hard to determine this exactly early on, it is certainly possible to plan a trip based on who you think will be attending. Will your trip include children?  Will it include seniors?  Are the participants frequent wilderness travelers or are they first timers?  What kind of physical shape is everyone in?  Does any member of your possible group have special needs, medical of access issues?  Answers to these questions are key to further planning.

Don’t Worry About Route Planning Until Later

ROUTE PLANNING is an item that really does NOT matter.  So many folks, especially first timers get wrapped around the axle on this one.  They want to nail down day by day itineraries compete with specific campsites, etc..  We prefer not to participate in any such planning until people arrive at our base prior to their trips.  Being flexible is the key to safe, fun and fantastic wilderness experiences.  People who attempt to lock themselves into iron clad routes are doomed.  They miss the true essence of being in the wilderness.  A direction, sure; a level of difficulty, sure; a length of route, sure!   Here’s how to do it the smart way.

First determine, how many nights you want to camp in different spots.  A simple question with significant consequences.  Second, is fishing going to be a big part of your trip?  Third, how do you feel about portaging?  To some portaging is no big deal, others would prefer a root canal to a 200 rod portage.  Finally, are there any other major objectives of this trip, e.g. waterfalls, favorite lakes, or pictographs? The answer to these four questions will allow you to secure the appropriate permit that will allow you to have a successful adventure.

Remember That Things Change in the Wilderness

Another great reason to not waste time with a detailed plan early on is that things change.  A beaver dam can drastically change a portage.  An area that has an aggressive bear should be avoided and can never be predicted. A lot of rain can make a difference in a good trip or a nightmare of mud and yuck. If you are locked into a plan, you tend to be so vested that you are not open to other ideas.   My observation is that the group leader that guides their group to the answers to the questions above, will be in a perfect position to develop an excellent detailed plan once they arrive here.

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GEAR kind of matters.   This is the perfect time to take stock of your gear and make a plan. One of our guests came back with a horror story of their leaky tent in a rain storm this past August.  I told her that Santa should be consulted re. a replacement.  Footwear, raingear, fishing tackle (especially fishing tackle), clothing all perfect for review.  Remember, the North Pole mail room is open.  Get your requests in early.  Sometimes, this is the perfect time for past due maintenance.  Fishing reels come to mind here.

PASSPORTS, REMOTE AREA BORDER CROSSING DOCUMENTS and FISHING LICENSES matter a lot.  Check expiration dates out.  Get on this early.  It is easy and we can help every step of the way if you run into problems or have questions.  Don’t put this off.  Remember, no job is over until the paperwork is done.

epic bwca williams and hall

GET STARTED These are some of the most important things to consider in getting a canoe trip up and running.  We hope that these observations will point you in the right direction and save you countless hours spinning your wheels.

Adventure On!

The Fishing Corner

One in the Hopper

by Dave, our Resident Fishing Expert (and all-around good guy)

It sure seems like fall didn’t stick around very long in the North Woods this year. For those of you who braved the elements of a late September canoe trip, consider yourselves lucky, as October was much of the same…only colder!

dave sebesta williams and hall outfitters ely

There weren’t many of those beautiful fall days we’ve become accustomed to in October. It was much colder and wetter than normal, not to mention the many days of 20+ mph wind that made the handful of “nice” days tough, if not impossible to fish with any amount of enjoyment. Three of the nicest days in a row have been the first 3 of November (after pulling the boat out for the season…4 days ago). You’d think the impending fishing void would make it a tough “row to hoe” for a while.

Keep One in the Hopper

The fact is, there is an old phrase a good friend of mine uses to help look forward to the next adventure. He encourages me to always “keep one in the hopper”. That, simply put, means to always be looking forward to the next great adventure. Now, whether that’s the next big canoeing vacation, or just the next time you can wet a line, having “one in the hopper” helps with keeping a positive attitude, and always anticipating your next shot at the big one!

dave sebesta williams and hall

There’s a lot going on in the world these days (as usual), and whether it’s our busy schedules or the news of the day, a break from the mundane or routine is good for the soul.  It helps us to maintain focus and to forge ahead. When you start to feel like you’re on the treadmill, start thinking about your next adventure.

Planning is Half the Fun

It doesn’t matter if it’s next week or next year, planning is half the fun. Pencil in some dates, target your favorite places, think of some new ones, start your checklist and share it with friends. Soon, you too, will have “One in the Hopper” and that next adventure will be just around the corner.

Fish On. Be Free.

Wilderness Wisdom

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Building a Great Campfire

by Kevin

Few things compare with sitting around a nice campfire after a day of Boundary Waters paddling.  Friends and family can share stories of the day, roast a few marshmallows, stay nice and warm, and just relax.

Preparing for a Campfire

Before you start to build your fire, some preparation is needed.  First, gather the key materials for your fire:

  • Tinder
  • Kindling
  • Larger wood

Next, have a container of water near the fire ring in case you need to extinguish the fire.  Also, make sure you have something to ignite your fire – matches, lighter or flint.

Choose Your Type of Campfire

Now your are prepared to build your fire.  There are three effective techniques for building a quality campfire, each with certain benefits. These three techniques are:

  • The Tee Pee
  • The Log Cabin
  • The Pyramid

Click on the campfire to watch this great video about how to build each of them.  Next camping trip you will impress your friends with this knowledge.

williams and hall bwca campfire

Paddle On.  Be Free.

The Scout Scene 

The Value of Merit Badges and Counselors

by Kevin

scouts williams and hall outfitters bwca

Certainly, the skills learned to earn the basic Scouting badges through First Class are great life skills.  By achieving First Class, a scout masters the basics of Scouting, as well as lessons that will be beneficial throughout life.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Merit Badges

But let’s not underestimate the value of merit badges.  Merit badges become increasingly important for rank progression after First Class.  They can be a great way to keep older boys involved in scouting.  Further, merit badges can introduce youth to a world of new things, hobbies for life, and possible future careers.

Consider Being a Merit Badge Counselor

Scout troops need merit badge counselors to be successful.  As an adult, give some thought to becoming a counselor for your troop.  It is a great to support the troop and know that your expertise is being used to develop tomorrow’s leaders.

The value of merit badges can be summed up in one sentence in each merit badge pamphlet:

“Enhancing our youths’ competitive edge through merit badges.”

Duty On. Be Your Best.

Tips For the Boundary Waters Photographer 

bwca hoar frost photos

Winter Hoar Frost Photos Can Be Stunning

By Kevin

With winter approaching, you might have an opportunity to get some great photos of hoar frost.  Hoar frost can form when the air is supersaturated with water.  The air cools and frost forms on anything that is colder than the air.  Essentially, ice crystals attach to everything.  These crystals form unlimited patterns, making every photo unique.

Try Close-ups With A Tripod

Some of the best hoar frost photos are captured using close-up techniques and a tri-pod.  Certainly, wildlife, such as a bird, amongst the frost can increase interest in your photos as well.  Finally, watch for opportunities when the sun really lights up the frost.  Sunrise might even impart some red into the photo.

Click here for some great hoar frost photo examples to inspire you.

Shoot On!

We Can Help You Secure Your 2019 Permits for Boundary Waters  and Quetico Canoe Trips

Quetico Park permits are available no sooner than 5 months, to the day, ahead of the actual start date. Boundary Waters permits became available for application on a first-come, first serve basis beginning in mid-January.  Now is the time to apply.

Remember…We are happy to secure your Canoe Country permits at no extra charge!

williams and hall outfitters ely bwca permits

williams and hall outfitters quetico ely







Purchase Williams and Hall Merchandise Online

Great For Holiday Gifts!

Need a great gift for that paddler in your life.  You can always find Williams and Hall merchandise online.  Our online store is now called Moose Lake Trading Company.  Just click the link at the top of our home page or go directly to Moose Lake Trading Company by clicking on the logo.

williams and hall ely mn

The 2018 season over! But we are ready to custom plan your 2019 BWCA canoe adventure. Just click the Gateway To Adventure sign to get started.

gateway to boundary waters canoe adventure

And thanks for a great 2018 season!

From your friends at Williams and Hall,                                                                             Charlene, Blayne, Dave and Kevin

Williams and Hall Outfitters and Canoe Adventures                                                                                        
(218) 365-5837

As Featured on Minnesota Proud.

Paddle On.  Be Free.