Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

The Glow of Autumn in Northern Minnesota

The magical glow of autumn colors in Northern Minnesota is one of the most beautiful displays of color I have ever seen. Given the fact that we have over 12,000 lakes to choose from in the state, there are plenty of beautiful places to see Minnesota’s fall colors. One of my favorite places to go is about a five-hour drive north of Minneapolis to Ely, one of the launching off points to the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Canoe Area (BWWCA) that borders Canada.

The BWWCA is one of the largest federally protected wilderness areas in the United States with an area of 1.1 million acres of untouched lakes, streams and forests, and is also one of the most pristine wilderness areas I have ever visited. If you are lucky, you may see a bear, wolf or even a moose in the wild and you will always hear the melodic song of the loon, Minnesota’s state bird.

Fall is one of the best times to visit Ely as the light graces the changing colors of the leaves and the deep blue sky is vibrant and pure. The fresh scent of the air or even the smoke of a campfire fills me with warmth and happiness. There is no place I’d rather be than outside hiking in the wilderness taking in the beauty of the changing leaves.

Unfortunately this fall we did not make it up north and instead opted for a visit out east to North Carolina and Virginia. Although we had a fantastic trip with gorgeous weather, we missed the peak colors this year (the leaves peaked about two weeks later than normal given our warm September). It is still beautiful here in Minneapolis yet I am sad to have missed our annual trip up north this fall. To ensure we make it back next fall, we have already reserved our accommodations. In the meantime, I will settle with remembering these lovely photos from our trip last October to Ely.

Ely, Minnesota

Ely, Minnesota

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Northernair Lodge, Ely Minnesota

The Sunset Skies of Ely, Minnesota

“Go not abroad for happiness. For see! It is a flower that blossoms by thy door”. – Minot J. Savage

We just returned from a week’s summer vacation “up north” in Minnesota near the Canadian border. We began our trip in Ely, a small town that is known as one of the jumping off points for one of the largest federally protected wilderness areas in the United States, the 1.1 million acre Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area (BWCWA). The BWCWA is one of the most pristine wilderness areas I have ever visited and its extraordinary beauty and tranquility is unequal to any place I’ve been except the far reaches of Patagonia. Its 1,000 untouched lakes and streams, and 1,500 miles of canoe routes are like no other place on earth.

It was our third visit to Ely at the tiny Northernair Lodge that sits upon Mitchell Lake. As always, our stay was a peaceful, beautiful break away from the stress of everyday life. After a day of hiking around the different wilderness trails, we would grill dinner and then watch the sunset. Every night was magical. Here are a few of my favorites.

Northernair Lodge, Ely Minnesota

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour”. – Walt Whitman

Northernair Lodge, Ely Minnesota

Northernair Lodge, Ely Minnesota

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Ely, Minnesota

The Shine of Fall

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” –  George Eliot

This morning I took a run around my favorite urban lake and was amazed to see how fast the leaves were falling. We had just returned from a week away in the heat and sun of Florida and in that week it feels as if autumn has come and gone. Despite the warm weather, the leaves are past their prime and falling like rain throughout the air. Swirling colors or red, orange and yellow fly through the sky like birds and land piled up on the sidewalk.

The shine of fall is on its way out and there are only a few more weeks left until we reach the barren browns of November. Fall is always one of my favorite seasons in Minnesota as the light is so intense and the colors are truly a testament of the magic of Mother Nature. The air is pure and I feel so alive with energy. I try to take as much of it as I can possibly can, and store it inside me to help get me through the cold, colorless days of winter that lie ahead.

Sometimes it works. But usually I have to fly south at least once during the winter months for a break. I am lucky I can otherwise I would find it very difficult to survive a long Minnesota winter without walking barefoot in the sand or feeling the wind against my legs.

As for now, I reflect on the gorgeous colors of the shine of fall and what remains. Here are some of my favorite photos from fall in Minnesota.

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”. –  Albert Camus

 

Minnesota Fall Leaves

“Now Autumn’s fire burns slowly along the woods and day by day the dead leaves fall and melt”. –  William Allingham

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Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

Have Water Dog, Will Travel

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water”. – Rabindranath Tagore

All of my life I have lived near water. Except for a nine month stint in Paris, I have never been more than a couple blocks away from a lake. Water is a part of who I am. The smell of fresh lake water fills me with warmth and nostalgia of a childhood growing up in Minnesota, the land of over 10,000 lakes. It also reminds me of my college years spent living near Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin and my blissful twenties living near Lake Michigan in Chicago. For the past sixteen years living in Southwest Minneapolis, I have continued to live very close to a lake and it is no coincidence given my love for the water that when we finally decided to get a family dog, he would be a true water dog.

Our seven-month old puppy, Winter, is half golden retriever half lab and gravitates towards the water every time he is near it. He first jumped into Lake Harriet when he was four months old and we haven’t been able to keep him out of it since. Summer was easy for entertaining him as long as we let him go in the water. However, when it came time to plan our first family vacation with a dog, we found that our options were a bit limited. First, we couldn’t go too far away from home because we would have to drive and our dog gets carsick. Second, we needed to find a place that would actually take dogs and would be fun for the entire family.

Fortuitously a timely article came out in the travel section of our local newspaper listing resources for finding pet-friendly resorts in Minnesota. We did a search and found the perfect place called the Northernair Lodge in Ely, about a five-hour drive north of Minneapolis and near the Canadian border. Better yet, it was right on a lake! We tried it out this past July and had such an amazing time that we decided to go again for the fall colors. We went this past weekend at the peak of fall colors, and Winter was in puppy paradise.

Bass Lake Trail, Ely, MN

Winter swimming in the pool of water

Our mornings were spent leisurely at the beach where Winter dug in the sand and retrieved sticks in the lake. He also enjoyed watching the ducks in the distance. Our afternoons were spent hiking on nearby trails and our evenings were spent once again at the lake.

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

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Bass Lake Trail, Ely, MN

Superior National Forest: Hike to Bass and Dry Lake

“Hiking is a bit like life: The journey only requires you to put one foot in front of the other….again, and again, and again. And if you allow yourself the opportunity to be present throughout the entirety of the trek, you will witness beauty every step of the way, not just at the summit.” – unknown 

There is something truly magical about taking a hike in the heart of fall. The light is so intense, the colors are so brilliant and the air is so pure and fresh, that your lungs are filled with an amazing feeling of abundance and joy. In my opinion, fall is the best time of year to hike and unfortunately the season does not last very long in northern Minnesota. Only a mere two months if lucky.

There are several magnificent places to hike near the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Canoe area in Ely, Minnesota, and one of my favorites by far is along the Superior National Forest trail to Bass and Dry Lake. We discovered this little treasure last summer when we went to Ely for vacation and instantly fell in love with its magical pristine blue lakes, dramatic views, waterfalls and forests.

We rose to a glorious fall day at our cabin on Mitchell Lake outside of Ely. There was not a cloud in the sky and the lake was so smooth it looked like glass. We knew it would be a fabulous day for our hike to Bass and Dry Lake.

Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

Morning on the stunning Mitchell Lake at the Northernair Lodge

Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

The leaves were magnificent

We spent the morning taking a kayak ride over to the beaver dam at the edge of the lake. What I love so much about staying at the Northernair Lodge is that it is the only resort on the entire lake and the cabins are small, secluded and tucked away inside the woods. The shoreline of Lake Mitchell is pristine and much of the forest around the lake is protected and undeveloped. It is also only a five minute drive into nearby Ely where there are shops, restaurants and canoe outfitters.

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Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

Nostalgic for Fall

The colors have come alive with magic this weekend in Northern Minnesota reminding me of all the fall weekend trips I did as a child up north. It was a family tradition that was so special that I’ve continued it with my own children.

This weekend we drove about five hours north of Minneapolis to Ely, one of the launching off points to the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Canoe Area. The pristine air, lakes and forests is breathtaking and reminds me so much of my youth growing up in Minnesota.

Fall is the time of year I feel so alive with energy as the light graces the changing colors of the leaves and the deep blue sky is vibrant and pure. The fresh scent of the air or even the smoke of a campfire fills me with warmth and nostalgia.

Here are a few photos from our weekend up north. Many more will come soon. It is way too beautiful here not to share.


“Autumn is a second Spring when every leaf is a flower” -Albert Camus

My daughter and I went paddling to the beaver dam at the end of the lake. It was so incredibly serene. All we heard was the sound of the birds. 




And the sunsets were mesmerizing. 



This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic.

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Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

Ely: The Start of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean”. –  John Muir

About five hours north of Minneapolis and 14 miles short of the Canadian border lies Ely, Minnesota, population 3,460. Despite being near the notoriously named Embarrass, Minnesota which often wins the award as the coldest place in the US during winter, Ely is a magical place. Laying on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and the Superior National forest, Ely is one of a handful of launching off points into the some of America’s great outdoors.

Named by National Geographic as one of the 50 places to see in a lifetime, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is blessed with some of the most pure and raw nature you will ever see. Stretching over one million acres of pristine wilderness and graced with over 1,000 untouched lakes and streams, the BWCAW offers over 1,500 miles of canoe routes where you will likely not see a soul except the lone moose, wolf or black bear. The BWCAW has been a rite of passage for many adventurous souls who search for both challenge and peace as they set off portaging through the various pristine lakes and natural beauty of this amazing place.

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

Sunrise

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