- With the last of the winter ice only gone in late May, White Iron Lake was still plenty cold.
- Minnesota is known as the “land of sky blue waters.” The brown, tannin-stained lake says otherwise but a flat calm day and blue skies keep up the illusion.
- View off the bow. Early French voyageurs first explored this land in the same way the Native Americans did—by canoe. Nowadays, it is still the best way to get around quickly.
- Ample firewood for the woodstove and sauna.
- Big Pine Cabin is open year-round. With propane lamps, refrigerator and cooktop but a woodstove for heat and no plumbing, it provides just the right mix of rustic and comfortable.
- Spent propane tanks. The hiss and gurgle of the lamps and orange glow were comforting but we still don’t know how a propane-powered refrigerator works.
- This is timber wolf country and though these elusive predators are numerous, they’re rarely seen. But evidence abounds, from scat and massive paw prints to their chilling howls at night.
- Flying insects, while a bane to the hiker and paddler, are welcome by the countless spiders in these woods.
- After a seven-month winter, the forest explodes with verdant plant life almost overnight.
- The mouth of the Kawishiwi River, which connects Birch and White Iron lakes.
- The forest is a mix of birch, aspen, oak and pine, the latter of which perfumes the hiking trails with its sublime fragrance and carpets the ground with soft needles.
- Despite a persistent drizzle, we were able to get a fire going outside, its smoke keeping Minnesota’s state bird, the mosquito, at bay.
Photo Essay: Up North
Come June, those of us in the northern latitudes leave the hearth behind and burst into the sunlight to savor a precious few months of warmth, pressed for time before the days grow short again. This often entails going yet farther north, where the daylight lasts until 10 o’clock and the nights still require a sweater and fires feel good. In Minnesota, “up north” often means the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a one-million-acre swath of primeval forest peppered by thousands of lakes. Shouldering a canoe for a portage on a muddy, mosquito-infested trail between lakes is almost a rite of passage for men in this state. But after you’ve done it a few times, you might seek out slightly more civilized ways to spend a few days.
We spent a long weekend in a cabin outside of Ely (“Ee-lee”), a gateway town to the BWCA. Accessible only by boat (or skis in winter), it was the perfect blend of rustic and civilized, with propane lamps, a wood-burning stove and a sauna but no electricity or running water. The cabin provided a base camp for excursions by boat and boots into the surrounding wilderness, where we spooked a fawn, watched crows harass an eagle and walked in the fresh tracks of a wolf. Between outings, there was ample time to stoke the stove, nap and read. Check out the photo essay of our trip above and see for yourself that there really is nothing better than going up north.