I had an amazing time in Ely, Minnesota last weekend. I was there as a vendor in the Blueberry Arts Festival but I found some time to explore as well and I fell completely in love with the area. I'm excited to share some photos and stories with you!
Ely is definitely Up North, and is located at the head of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. As I drove there, the roadsides became filled with trees until I was driving through a path of evergreens and thick trees that blocked the horizon. A good chunk of the drive runs through Superior National Forest.
As I was arriving in the area the sun was setting and it looked like it would be a beauty. My challenge was to find a public access road that would allow me to see the sunset, which was being blocked by the trees. I finally spotted a random public access sign and followed the road, hoping to get a decent view at the end of the trail. Little did I know I'd find this:
I felt like I'd walked into a painting as the sun gently set and the canoe paddled by a wooded island.
The next day the Blueberry Arts Festival began, which lasted for three days. The park in Ely was filled with about 300 vendors and thousands of shoppers. My friend, Jodi Gravning, and my brother, Grant Johnson, came up to help and they were amazing. We met many people and made new friends there, too.
I debuted some of Grant's beautiful photography at the show and people stopped in their tracks to check it out. Watch for his designs to be featured on my website in upcoming weeks!
The show ended on Sunday, but I stayed through Monday to do a little sightseeing. I didn't have a plan for the day, but figured I'd start by visiting Northern Expressions, a store in Ely that carries my designs. I had so much fun there and it was the beginning of an incredible day of discovery.
The store is filled with northwoods gifts and home decor and includes an ice cream parlor. They make their own waffle cones, which were cooking when I was there and smelled irresistible! I visited with the owner, Sarah, for quite a while and she's the one who started me on my grand adventure.
She suggested a couple places to take photographs, including one public access nearby on Shagawa Lake. It was beautiful there, with a rocky shore and picturesque view.
While I was there, I visited with a woman who was throwing sticks into the lake for her two chocolate labs to retrieve. She surprised me by telling me she was the manager of the Dorothy Molter Museum and gave me a free admission ticket! I headed there next and was so glad I did.
Dorothy Molter, also known as "The Root Beer Lady" and "Nightingale of the Wilderness," was a registered nurse who lived in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. She was the last non-indigenous resident of the wilderness, where she ran the Isle of Pines Resort from 1948 until her death in 1986. Hers is a powerful story of strength, kindness and dedication. I highly recommend visiting the museum and learning more about this incredible woman.
The Ely Chamber of Commerce was nearby, so next I asked them where I could go to take some photos. They recommended a couple more public access landings so I headed in their direction next.
I explored for a while but my time was nearly up. As I drove away I thought it would be nice to take some photos of the tall trees in the area and looked for photo opportunity for that. Soon I saw a sign pointing to a hiking trail, so I pulled over and grabbed my camera. As I entered the hiking trail, I couldn't believe my luck. According to the trail map, the hike would take me out to a waterfall! I couldn't wait to head into the woods!
The trail through the woods was magical. Throughout were trees who had grown despite the rocky terrain, their roots wrapping around boulders and spreading across the forest floor. I explored the forest, the sounds of the waterfall growing closer with each step.
After an enjoyable hike I reached Kawishiwi Falls. Kawishiwi is an Ojibwe name that means "river full of beaver or muskrat houses."
The falls can be viewed from many angles so it is a joy to photograph. I even saw several people swimming in the water under the falls.
The waterfall is just one segment of the South Kawishiwi River, and after the falls it flows into a peaceful fishing and canoeing area. You can even portage around the falls to travel more the of the river by canoe.
I entered the woods thinking I'd take a short hike and emerged three hours later! At that point I had to hit the road, but I promised myself I'd come back soon with my family for more sightseeing and adventure seeking. If you are looking for an outdoor adventure, I highly recommend the Ely area. Just give yourself more than one day to explore!