Ely: A great escape

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Ely: A great escape

Postby PaddlerJimmy » Tue Jun 24, 2008 4:51 pm

Ely: A great escape
Jun 23, 2008 - 12:14:09 CDT
by Tim Filiowich, PressPubs

Every once in a while the stars align and I am able to get out of town and relax. Last week, I had three days to disappear and I chose to head up to Ely and get a taste of the Boundary Waters. I only had three short days, but it was three days well spent.

Oddly enough I had never been to Ely. After my recent visit, I have no idea why. Now, I want to focus on trying to get there once a year as long as I can.

Ely is one of the gateways into the Boundary Waters and it is a route traveled by many in Minnesota each summer. That was apparent at our first stop in Ely. As you enter town on U.S. Hwy. 169, one of the first stops you have to make is Babe’s Bait, Tackle and Canoe Rental. We stopped there to pick up a canoe, bait and other tackle. As I walked through the shop I came across a guest book that customers sign. I couldn’t help but notice that people from everywhere find their way through town, as the list of places included Colorado, Indiana, Florida, California, Japan and London, England to name a few. The list was long — and was just from this year.

From my front door it took me a little more than four hours to get to Ely. That is nothing compared to the lengths that others have traveled. I think it is starting to add up. For 30 years, I have taken for granted the Boundary Waters Canoe Area — a worldwide destination that is basically in my backyard.

I imagine that the next thought going through your head is the same thought I was having — "But gas is four bucks a gallon!" Yes that’s true but we took a car which gets 33 miles to the gallon and left our trucks at home. I also left the boat at home and picked up a canoe at Babe’s. We camped at Fall Lake Campground for only $25 per night and bought all our food at the grocery store in town. The trip cost less than a typical weekend on Mille Lacs for me, and was more than twice the distance.
It was a short trip but it was enough time to relax and spend some time on the water and in the wilderness. We did manage to catch walleye, crappies, smallmouth bass, northern pike, largemouth bass and trout, but we were told fishing was slow by Ely standards.

Besides the fishing it was just great to be outdoors. As we canoed off into Fall Lake from the campground, the possibilities were endless. The wilderness out there is so big that one could literally disappear and never be seen again. There are places that no man or woman has ever gone. As we were limited by time we only made one portage into the next lake, which was Newton Lake. Along the way we met others who were coming out of the BWCA after being in there for a week. One group we encountered was from Colorado. It was their yearly trip to the BWCA, with 16 guys and eight boats packed in every year for a week to get lost in the wilderness. No showers, no phones, and no electricity — just the essentials to survive.

As we discovered, the Boundary Waters and the town of Ely are diamonds in the rough and are right here at home. The people are friendly, the scenery is beautiful and the fishing can be fantastic. Take the drive and you’ll understand what I mean.

For more information on Babe’s Bait, Tackle and Canoe Rental, check out its Web site at www.babesbait.com.
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