Saturday morning, I said goodbye to the folks and Anna, and hit the road. The drive from the cabin to Ely was long and mostly uneventful. As I drove north and east, corn and wheat fields gave way to pine forests. The thick trees caused the satellite radio to cut out annoyingly frequently. One bridge went across a small stream, the sign said “Mississippi River”.
Ely is a tourist town. It seems like every other building on the main drag (Sheridan Avenue) is a canoe outfitter. I found Voyageur North on the east side of town, and checked in. John, one of the owners, welcomed me, and walked me through the area I’d be in. The wild blueberries are in season, and it doesn’t sound like bears are an issue in the area around Crab Lake. John also showed me the food bag, and walked me through all the gear they provided. It was a lot to absorb, fortunately printed notes were included.
The rest of the afternoon, and a good chunk of the evening, was spent repacking gear, trying to get all the necessities in as small and manageable package as possible. Some things didn’t make the cut, like the inflatable air mattress and air pump, and the hiking poles. The day bag ended up being too small, so it got left behind in favor of the larger backpack. I had everything down to three bags: the backpack, the gear bag, and the food bag. Eventually, it became obvious that further consolidation wouldn’t be possible without a larger gear bag or backpack, this was as good as its going to get.
Once I had everything set to my satisfaction, I set out to explore Ely. The Boathouse Brewpub had caught my eye on the drive in. The food was good, and the beer better. They have a “Blueberry Blonde” Ale, which is a golden ale poured over fresh blueberries. Delicious! Desert was custard at Red Cabin Custard, refreshing on a hot summer evening.
The outfitter had put me up in a loft they have for customers on their way out. The last night in a bed for a while. I watched some TV, met some of the other customers, and tried to relax. I had pre-event jitters, and kept wondering what I had gotten myself into. Eventually, I managed to get to get some sleep.