Mike's Meanderings State Park Stories

Happy “Gunflint” Trails To You … How NOT To Compose a “Huge” Hit

The allure of a three-day songwriting seminar hidden at a camp 25 miles up the Gunflint Trail near Grand Marais, MN, was just too good to pass up. I love the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), and this trip would put me right on the edge of it. So, I packed my stuff and headed north on a Friday morning in late May. Five hours later I found myself as one of the first campers from NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International (Minnesota Chapter) to arrive at Bearskin Lake.

I boarded a pontoon and was ferried out to an island that contained a YMCA Camp named Camp Menogyn.  Once my feet were solidly back on land I was shown to the bunkhouse. After claiming my bed for the weekend and stashing away my gear, I was free to roam the island property until dinnertime, which was still a few hours away.

Line Up the Excitement!
Being a fishing fanatic, I decided to set up my rod and reel and try my luck from the densely wooded shoreline of this pristine lake. After contorting my body in numerous positions to avoid hooking the low-lying tree branches, I did manage to drop a cast a decent distance out from shore. Upon the retrieve I felt the familiar “whack” of what I figured was a hungry northern pike or smallmouth bass.

Instinctively I jerked my rod upward; vigorously setting the hook into what I soon learned was a monstrous rock pile. I jiggled, jaggled, wiggled and waggled my line every which way I could, but I was hopelessly stuck. Slowly walking backwards along the shoreline, I had hopes of finding an angle that would release the shiny new Rapala that seemed permanently trapped in the lakebed. I picked my way about 20 yards down the water’s edge, tugging and snapping my line every few feet to no avail.

An Even BIGGER Problem!
Suddenly, a startlingly loud snort from directly behind my right ear caused me to stumble over a protruding boulder. As I regained my balance I swiveled my head 180 degrees over my shoulder and the breath was sucked from my lungs.

Closeup of Gunflint Trail moose
Just like me, who didn’t long to be, close to you!

A large female moose was peering through the trees directly at a pair of knees shaking uncontrollably. I froze as she stomped her foot and snorted another warning. Scrambling into retreat mode I quickly backed up in the direction I had just come from, while simultaneously keeping my eyes locked on the huge cow moose just 30 yards or so away.

End of the Line?
Within a few seconds I hit a log with the back of my shoe and tumbled head-over-heels backwards. I immediately bounced back to my feet, but in the process, I had forgotten about the stuck fishing lure and the accompanying exposed fishing line. It didn’t take long, a few more steps and a few more quick stumbles, for the fishing line to become haphazardly woven over, under, around and through numerous shrubs and tree branches.

A third successive snort shot a sense of panic through my body and I yanked as hard as I could on the fishing rod in one last gasp effort to free the line and lure. It didn’t work. I realized then and there that my life was probably a little more valuable than the five-dollar lure at the end of my fishing rod.

The monofilament was so hopelessly tangled in the brush that my survival instincts kicked in. Grabbing the line near the tip of the rod I quickly gave it one quick “chomp”, biting through with my front teeth. The rod was immediately freed. (Note: 4 out of 5 dentists surveyed DO NOT recommend biting fishing line with your teeth, but I bet those 4 dentists have never had an angry moose staring them down from a stone’s throw away!)

Gunflint trail tree covered mother moose and babies
Knock 3 times on the tree trunk if you see them.

Hoofing It Out of There
Once the rod was released from its snag, the scramble was on. I successfully clawed my way out of the trees and up a nearby hill, swearing under my breath while praying that the huge animal didn’t take off in hot pursuit. As I reached the top of the slope I was nearly out of breath. I turned around and glanced back down to see that the moose was still standing near the water’s edge. It hadn’t moved at all. But I did see two other smaller blobs located close to her legs. Out of curiosity I circled around atop the hill to get a better perspective and found a clearing that looked down directly upon the cow moose and two small babies.

Momma moose and babies standing
Momma, don’t let your babies grow up to chase fishermen.

Three’s A Crowd
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Those snorts were direct warnings to keep my distance from her newborns, who could barely stand on their wobbly little legs. After a quick check of my shorts (which, fortunately, didn’t require an immediate change) I regained some composure. Awestruck by the scene, I ran back to the cabin as fast as I could to grab my camera.

Back at the bunkhouse a few new campers had trickled in. They weren’t quite sure if they could believe my story. A couple of my fellow songwriters followed me back to the hilltop to witness the miracle of nature themselves. They were a bit nervous as I crept nearer to the shoreline in an attempt to get closer to my subjects. Eventually I was able to find a few comfortable shooting lanes that got me in range to capture some wonderful pictures of the trio without upsetting them any further.

Mother moose and moose babies, the end
That’s the circle, the circle of moose life along the Gunflint Trail

Final Chorus
That incredible start to the weekend may not have inspired any hit songs, but it did create some memories and photographs that will be cherished for a lifetime! If you love remote wilderness and you’ve never been up the Gunflint Trail, north of Grand Marais, Minnesota, start planning your trip now. It’s a magical place with the highest moose population in all of Minnesota in addition to tons of other wildlife.

Speaking of wildlife, have you ever faced off with a brawny bear, wily coyote (or wolf), mischievous mouse, belligerent badger or some other form of antagonistic animal? Do you have any photos to commemorate the moment? Park Yourself Outdoors would LOVE to hear about your closest encounter of the critter kind! Go ahead. Tell us your story or show us your photos in the comments box below!

Wondering where Meandering Mike and Parker Flatly are going to park themselves next? Find out as soon as their latest post hits the Web by signing up for email notifications here!

9 Comment

    1. Jerry, You are correct! That was such a fun songwriting weekend with you and Jon Vezner! Great group of people and I really learned a lot about the songwriting craft. But those Moose were definitely a highlight! Wasn’t it you that got a chance to paddle out and see them from the canoe?

        1. Gunflint Moose & Babies on Shoreline
          Thank You Jerry! I hope you don’t mind me sharing that photo with my readers. It’s such an awesome shot that I’m sure people will love it! If you’re ever up in Minnesota again, please let me know. I’d love to talk songwriting and BWCAW country with you!!! (P.S. — I believe you know Chip and Carrie (a couple of my brother’s really good friends) from up here, as well! It’s such a small world!)

    1. Billy, I’ve seen three in the wild now. Two from a canoe seat, and this one while on land. This was by far the most heart-pounding of the encounters. It was also the only one that stuck around long enough for me to snap any photos. I was glad that most of the shots turned out … what with my trembling hands and all!! Thanks for reading!

  1. Very cool! And very scary! I’m glad you had such a wonderful nature experience, for the small fee of a 5 buck lure and some fishing line. 😊

    1. Thanks for reading, Terri! But when calculating that small fee paid for the nature experience, don’t forget to add in the invoice from the Dentist’s Office. Actually, it doesn’t really matter how much it costs to repair those monofilament-chomping front teeth, this experience was priceless!

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