Voyageurs National Park

After being stunned by my first true northern MN hiking experience, I knew I’d have the itch to go back right away. Only this time I wanted to be slightly more secluded. I wanted to escape further into the wilderness. Luckily, we came across a few campsites that were still available in Voyageurs National Park– Minnesota’s only National Park. We booked it, asked a few of our furlough friends to join us, and created a few days that were unforgettable!

Ash River Visitor Center

We made a couple pit stops on the way up to the park to break up our drive. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but it seems there’s a Dairy Queen located in every small Minnesota town, so naturally we stopped at one of these. It was at a northern DQ where we met up with our camping friends and then made the rest of the way up highway 53 to the Ash River Visitor Center. Unfortunately, the park’s visitor centers were all still closed indefinitely, but we wanted to do some hiking before getting to our campsite.

Welcome to Ash River Visitor Center!

Blind Ash Bay Trail

As you are driving in toward the Ash River Visitor Center, the Blind Ash Bay Trail is located in the 3rd parking lot on the left-hand side. None of these parking lots have good signage, so we easily missed the trailhead the first time through. This trail was probably our favorite within the park though. It was a little over 3 miles and provided a phenomenal overlook of Kabetogama Lake at the turn around point.

Crushing the Blind Ash Bay Trail!

A glimpse of Kabetogama Lake!

A great way to start our adventure!

Crushing the Blind Ash Bay Trail!

A glimpse of Kabetogama Lake!

A great way to start our adventure!

Beaver Pond Overlook Trail

Just down the road, located in the 2nd parking lot on the left-hand side, is the Beaver Pond Overlook Trail. It is maybe 0.5 miles altogether but leads you to a nice view of a pond that looks untouched by man.

Hanging out at the Beaver Pond Overlook!

Dove Island Boat Launch

Feeling satisfied with experiencing just a touch of the east side of the park, we hopped in our cars and drove the last hour to the very western portion of the park at Rainy Lake. We stopped at the Dove Island Boat Launch, located just to the left before crossing the bridge to Dove Island, to find the three canoes that would lead us to our campsite! We rented them from one of the only companies up here willing to do so- Voyageurs Outfitters Inc. It’s only $40/day per canoe as well so it’s not a bad deal. We all parked at the boat launch, threw our camping gear into each canoe to distribute the weight evenly, and said sayonara to civilization for a bit.

Preparing to launch!

Lyle Mine Island Campsite

Our first channel crossing on Rainy Lake took us to Big American Island. From there we hugged the coast as best we could to stay out of the wind and waves. Making our way north up through Tango Bay we then followed the northern border of Dryweed Island to reach the Lyle Mine Island Campsite. Yes, our very own island! It was all ours. The group even renamed it by the end of our stay to “McUrick Island.” And it was awesome. You could not see any buildings or people or traffic- but we could see Canada! It came equipped with 4 tent pad sites, 4 bear boxes, 2 picnic tables, a fire ring, and a vault toilet. The island even had its own dock, which made it very easy to get in/out of our canoes and to cannonball into the lake! If you’re going into the water, we highly recommend water shoes! All in all, this island was about 4-5 miles from our launch point, and it took us maybe 1.5 hours to complete the trip.

Off we paddle!

We finally made it out of the open channel!

The sundolphin at her finest!

Almost to our island!

McUrick Island!

Plenty of room for activities

Such as hanging out on our dock!

Hanging out at our picnic table!

And hanging out on our hammocks!

We took advantage of the total peace surrounding us.

Ending our night with a story from Pete.

Off we paddle!

We finally made it out of the open channel!

The sundolphin at her finest!

Almost to our island!

McUrick Island!

Plenty of room for activities

Such as hanging out on our dock!

Hanging out at our picnic table!

And hanging out on our hammocks!

We took advantage of the total peace surrounding us.

Ending our night with a story from Pete.

Black Bay Trail

The next morning arrived with some rain blowing sideways- but this did not deter us! We made our way back down south past Big American Island, this time staying close to the opposite coast. We landed at a dock about 1-mile northeast from the Rainy Lake Visitor Center Boat Launch which was home to the Black Bay Trail. This trail has several loops, mostly cross-country paths in nature, that can make the hike either 1 mile or 6 miles. We opted for the ~1.5 mile out and back trail that took us to a very active beaver pond, scattered with numerous dams. By the time we got back to our canoes the rain had stopped, so we decided to rope our canoes together and have lunch floating on the lake!

On our way to Black Bay Trail!

Made it to another beaver pond on the trail!

Ready for lunch!

On our way to Black Bay Trail!

Made it to another beaver pond on the trail!

Ready for lunch!

Little American Island

The afternoon then started off with a paddle to Little American Island. Little did we know this island was a gold mining spot in the late 1800’s! It has a dock to hook your boating vessels up to and a very easy 0.25-mile paved trail taking you past old mine shafts and machinery! No one else was near the island so we took our time and even had a group afternoon nap on the dock before paddling back to our island. We took a few more dips into the lake, swam around our island, and even captured a good sunset after a brief thunderstorm passed through!

We found Little American Island!

Glimpse of Rainy Lake on Little American Island!

Just chillin before our paddle back to our island.

One last dip into the lake!

Beauty after the storm.

Don’t worry… everyone made it!

We found Little American Island!

Glimpse of Rainy Lake on Little American Island!

Just chillin before our paddle back to our island.

One last dip into the lake!

Beauty after the storm.

Don’t worry… everyone made it!

Loony’s Pub

Paddling back to the Dove Island Boat Launch in the morning became bittersweet. We all wanted at least one more night on our personal island. Or to even go further into the wilderness and escape for just a bit longer. The last canoe dash put us at over 20 miles for the quick trip. In order to reward ourselves, we meandered into the quaint town of Ranier for some food and celebratory drinks! We first came across Loony’s Pub, a family brewery with an awesome outdoor patio space looking out at Rainy Lake.

Doing some yoga before sitting in the canoes again.

Loony’s Pub in Ranier!

Enjoying the Loony’s patio!

Doing some yoga before sitting in the canoes again.

Loony’s Pub in Ranier!

Enjoying the Loony’s patio!

Tara’s Wharf Ice Cream Shop

Maybe 50 feet down the road towards the boat launch our second stop was Tara’s Wharf Ice Cream Shop. They served out exactly what we were craving as we all relaxed on the main dock.

Tara’s Wharf Ice Cream Shop

The whole crew’s final pic!

Tara’s Wharf Ice Cream Shop

The whole crew’s final pic!

Cantilever Distillery and Restaurant

Directly across the street from Loony’s Pub is the newest looking building in Ranier- Cantilever Distillery and Restaurant. They also have a hotel attached to this lovely space. Cantilever dishes out their very own distilled spirits and cocktails as well as a full-blown lunch-dinner menu. We have nothing but good things to say about them! The reason why they’re here in Ranier is because this was the town that alcohol was smuggled through from the Canadian side during the Prohibition Era.

Cantilever Distilling in Ranier!

Vi’s Pizza and TNT Bar

We finally began our long drive home after lunch, but we made one last fun stop for dinner before our group parted ways! Vi’s Pizza is a tradition in Biwabik, MN and is linked to the Urick family for multiple generations over! It was very fun to see our last name and part of our heritage on some of the walls within the restaurant! We were even served by a fellow Urick. This is a classic small-town bar with solid pizzas and even better appetizers!

Vi’s in Biwabik!

There’s the Urick name!

Waiting for their pizza on the back patio!

Vi’s in Biwabik!

There’s the Urick name!

Waiting for their pizza on the back patio!

This trip continued our quest to conquer all Minnesota outdoor adventures. It was a great middle point between the North Shore and the BWCA in relation to the mix of civilization and untouched nature. If we wanted more of a party at Voyageurs National Park, we would definitely rent a houseboat next time!

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