Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Don't forget that our End of the Year, Customer Appreciation Sale is still going.  There are a few more days left in 2010.  Although, they are short and packed full of Holiday Fun, we hope you can take a few minutes to check out the Boundary Waters Catalog online.

Now through New Years Eve we have discounted everything online by 20 percent.  These savings are in celebration of you, our friends and family in the paddling community.  It is great time to suppliment your gear or use some of that cash you got for Christmas to get yourself something you really enjoy.

If it fits into your online shopping cart and we have it in stock, it will cost you only 80 percent of the the normal price.  Thanks for shopping with us!

This is a short, week-long savings event that runs through Friday, the 31st. Use Code 20XMAST.

Forward to your friends and family.  Valid 12/25/2010 through 12/31/2010. Applies to online, in-stock items only. Not valid with any other offer. Sale items not included.

Thanks again for a wonderful 2010 and a very Happy NEW YEAR to all of you!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas from all of us at Piragis Northwoods Company

Another year has come and gone.  Here in Ely, we are surrounded by snow and friends and family.  We hope that this holiday season finds you healthy and happy with a paddling gift or two in your stockings.  It has been a wonderful year on and off the water.  A year that gave us new glimpses of the wilderness we love, from early ice out to unexpected late season paddling.  It was a year filled with solar power and many innovations here at the shop.  As we use more and more technology to help ourselves become more efficient and green we are reminded on a daily basis of the simplicity of why we do all of this.

That always puts a smile on our face, because, as we hope you know by now, we do it simply, for you, our loyal customers.  It warms our hearts to see new paddlers discovering the sport and adventure as much as it does to see old friends heading out into the wilderness we love.

Supplying canoeing and camping gear and top shelf clothing to canoeists (and kayakers) is a fantastic job.  Planning trips and outfitting our friends for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness continues to be rewarding and special as we travel through our clients on adventure after adventure.

As we continue to grow our bookstore online, our retail and online gear offerings, our excellent Northwoods gifts, our canoes and kayaks and introduce new products from the testing grounds of wilderness camping we welcome your feedback and ideas.

Thanks again for a wonderful 2010 and a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!

Call us with questions or concerns:  1-800-223-6565.

From the end of the road,

Piragis Northwoods Company

Monday, December 20, 2010

Diary of a Fall Trip with Karen and Hazel

I had been asking my daughter for weeks if she would do a trip over MEA weekend. I had a hunch the weather would be good. She hesitated to commit, but finally did. She didn't regret her decision.

Thurs, Oct 21: We arrived in Ely around 2pm and went straight to Piragis. I had been emailing back and forth with Drew -- and he had some canoe options for us, and some ideas for a route. Drew is a gem -- enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and fun to work with. We decided on a graphite Escape -- a fitting name -- with "innie" wood gunnels, a foot rest for me in the stern, and sliding seat options for Hazel in the bow.

Then we looked at the BIG map. Mudro was one option, but when we traced a loop from South Kiwishiwi through Eskwanaga, to Clear (night one) and back to South Kiwishiwi (night two) I knew that would be the best route. Smaller water, and wind at our backs if the weather predictors were right. They were.

Spent the night at the Super 8, right across from Pamida where Hazel did last minute shopping (duct tape, peanut butter) We had already hit the Coop in Mpls on the drive up, where we bought fresh food to complement the freeze dried meals I'd purchased the night before. We didn't even try to plan meals, but relied on a good combination of ingredients, including chocolate, coffee, and cocoa.

After packing and repacking while watching Project Runway in the motel room, we went out for dinner.

Friday, Oct 22: We both slept well, had mini donuts and OJ from the motel, and left Ely around 8am, which was my target time. The raven -- first hovering and then flying over my car -- I felt was a good sign.

The portage into South Kawishiwi is 147 rods. I flushed two grouse whose vertical panic made my own belly flutter, as startled by them as they were by me. We double portaged -- as we did all subsequent portages. First the packs, then the canoe, taking turns, though I have to admit, Hazel carried the canoe more rods than I did in total.

We were paddling by 9:45, the sun already bright. The wind picked up too. We passed a couple of guys when they stopped at the second site on the west side of the river. The wind was pretty strong now, but at our backs. We were getting used to the canoe which tracked really nicely, and went really fast. It made the Spirit II we were used to seem like a bathtub; the Escape feels more like a bullet.

Drew helped us pick a route that required virtually no navigational skills, but I was still concerned we had inadvertently passed the bottleneck just before SK turned east. Turns out my daughter has good map skills. She says, "Mom, we are going the right way; yelling over the rush of the wind, she convinced me she was right. We made it to the first portage, a tiny walk around some tiny rapids and then it was a short paddle to the pretty, grassy 85 rods into Eskwagama. It was around noon, I think. We had lunch of peanut butter, jelly, apples, and crackers before resuming.

After refueling, we paddled the length of Eskwagama lake to the portage into Clear lake. The map said 100 rods, but it seemed a lot less than that. Once on Clear, it was a fast paddle to the island site we had previously staked as our destination.

Hazel set up the Northface, and I gathered wood. But first, I made a nice cup of java with my Pocket Rocket and a cup of cocoa for Hazel. We sipped and snacked on smoked oysters and crackers, while we worked. I got hot enough foraging for wood to consider taking a dip, which I did attempt, but the water was ice cold. So I poured it over my head and splashed about in it a bit, while Hazel called me crazy.

Birds and Bugs: I was gathering wood when a flock of Chicadees flew at once through the low canopy; their collective fluttering of wings was as loud as a low flying plane. I was surprised at the roar they made. Such little birds.

I saw flocks of birds with white underbellies. I don't know what they are, but they fly fast, land all at once on rocks and then collectively take off again. They seem a nervous breed. I saw them at our second site too, though not so many.

I also saw a lot of ducks, but they never came too close to shore. Perhaps they are wisely human-wary.
A lady bug landed on me too. And a fly buzzed briefly about my head.

Dinner was tortillas with onion, avocado, and cheese, apples, carrots, and chocolate for dessert. The moon provided the ambiance, pink and full, beyond beautiful. We ate and read, talked, and took it in, as much as it we could, but at times it was so lovely, it almost hurt.

I was awakened sometime in the middle of the night by wolves howling. It was perhaps the most beautiful sound I have ever heard -- a sparse chorus -- then a silence -- rest notes -- full measures of pause, and then more howls. The round of howls went on ten or twelve times and then stopped or I fell asleep, only to wake an hour or so later by gusts of wind.

I lay in the tent listening the wind rush through trees, lap up the waves, send twigs, and leaves swirling, and worried about the next day's paddle. I convinced myself there would be whitecaps, we would be wind bound, I would miss work, risk my new job, we would have to wait out the wind on this Clear lake island.

Sat, Oct 23: I fell asleep worrying, but woke up to an overcast, but not terribly windy day. The wind, just as had been predicted was from the north east, and would once again be at our backs. I felt dumb for being such a worry wart.

We had breakfast of coffee for me, hot chocolate for hazel and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for both of us. After striking the site, getting gear packed, we paddled the short way to the portage across the lake, a 70 rod stroll into the arm of SK that goes west to east.

On that portage we met a couple. They took our pic and we took theirs. He looked a lot older than she did and we wondered about their relationship. Older husband, younger wife? father daughter? Secret BW romance rendezvous?

We paddled to the tiny portage that circumvents the tiny rapids, and ran across two women and two dogs day tripping with two guys fishing in another canoe.

We didn't have a particular site in mind, which is a good thing because the first three sites south of the rapids were taken. But we were happy with the site just past the portage into Bruin Lake on the east side of Kawishiwi. It was my turn to set up the tent and Hazel's turn to gather wood, but wouldn't ya know it, someone had done all the wood gathering for her.

One of the best features of the site was the lone loon that came with it. I was very surprised to see a loon. I think it was a juvenile as it didn't have the bright loon coloring of a mature loon. It hung out in our "front yard" the entire length of our stay, diving and from time to time yodeling. I wonder if it will be okay, why it stayed, and what will happen to it?

Dinner was freeze dried Beef Stroganoff, raw herb salad, and cooked carrots. Surprisingly good.

We had chocolate for dessert of course. The day and evening were overcast, but not too terribly cold; the fire felt fine, and we sat and read for a long time, not wanting the day to end, wishing we could stretch out the evening, but in the end, the paddling and portaging took its toll. Before retiring to the tent, Hazel wrote a note for future campers:

Sunday, Oct 24: We woke up around 8:30. It was grayer and cloudier than the day before. When I took down the tent, a spider creeped out -- a big one.

Rain seemed likely, but we completed the portage back to the car before it came.

Before driving away, I made one last nature call, and what do you know-- a pile of girlie magazines, not hidden under leaves at all, but lying fully exposed on the ground. Clearly no one took these vixens on a wilderness canoe trip, I thought, looking at the cover girls. Had they been, they would know that their real power and beauty comes not from exposed skin, but from confidence within. Sigh.

Reflections: Three days wasn't enough, but it was better than no time, and one of the best times I have had for a while; for this, I am thankful.

I am thankful too, for South Kawishiwi, Clear Lake, the full moon, the offering of wood from the forest floor, the Chicadees, the white-bellied birds, that singular loon, the grouse, the ducks, the wolves, the fly, the lady bug, and even the spider. I am grateful to the raven who safe-guarded the start of our trip, and the wind at our backs that brought us home.

And, most of all, I am grateful to my amazing daughter and her beautiful spirit.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Remembering Joe Seliga

Last Paddle of the Year in a Seliga -- We miss ya Joe!
It is hard to believe, but five years ago, tomorrow, Joe Seliga of Ely, master canoe builder and our good friend passed away.  His passing left a void in our everyday lives, because, at least once a day, he would show up here at Piragis Northwoods Company.  Sun, rain or snow.  We'd talk, have lunch, or just exchange a handshake or hug if it was busy.

On the 6th of December Steve Piragis and Steve Schon went for the last paddle of the year on Burntside Lake in the red Seliga Canoe that you may have seen hanging in our store during the past decade.  The next day the lake was frozen over.

No one knows what tomorrow may bring.  24 Hours later, this water was ice.

5 years goes fast.  I remember going over to Joe's house the day before he passed away.  His family was there and there was a lot of activity.  The small house was full and I didn't press them to let me see him, just asked them to let him know that I had come.  I didn't know that he was at the end of his last paddle.  December 18th, 2005 dawned chilly and cold.  Joe's lake had frozen over.  It was a sad day.  Only in part because his hands would craft no more beautiful canoes.  Mostly because, as I said, we were used to seeing our friend nearly every day.

Here's a couple of things we wrote back then:

Yesterday, our dear friend, Joe Seliga passed away at the age of 94.
Joe will be greatly missed by friends and family and those of us here at Piragis who got so used to seeing his face in our store. From the summer evenings when he would sit at the front counter and greet people, to the times when he would pop in for lunch or one of the great birthday get-togethers we shared with him, he was an integral and important part of our lives. His smile was contagious, his talent immense and his heart seemed to grow lighter every day.

Last Thanksgiving Night, Joe was here at the store to sign books, and he pulled me aside to tell me again, as he had so often before, You'll never believe how many good people I've met because of this book. I can't tell you how much my life has changed. I'd never thought it would be like this. Joe was a humble man, through and through, and even with his master craftsman reputation, he still just couldn't believe that so many folks could have a deep love and respect for him. To us he will always be simply, Joe. Our friend. There's a void in our lives now, that cannot be filled but can be honored with memories.  Tim Stouffer

It's our first work day in Ely without hope of Joe showing at work to keep an eye on the troops. We miss ya Joe. The sun is out in Ely today and Joe is the sun in our hearts. Steve Piragis

I first met Joe about half a dozen years ago when I was teaching a seminar at the Piragis store. I was espousing about navigation when I saw a stranger with a huge smile in the audience. He was just sitting there and smiling, taking it all in. Seconds later, Steve P. came in and said hey, don't you know Joe Seliga? Why you could have bowled me over with a marble. So THIS was the famous Seliga-the guy who builds those beautiful wood canvas canoes. I had just met one of my life long idols. Right after the event I took Joe home to see one of his canoes being built. He gave me quite a tour. Joe told me he had orders for dozens of boats-boats that at his advanced age, he'd never have time to build. Said that if you wanted to get at the head of his list you had to be a really nice person, and that he was only going to make canoe for folks he liked. That really made me smile. Shortly thereafter I pleaded with Bell Canoe Works to build his famous canoe in composite construction. Joe thought that was a great idea; he was really proud of that boat.

My biggest smile was when I got to paddle a genuine wood-canvas Seliga canoe with Joe himself. (That's the red canoe that currently hangs in the Piragis store) This was when Joe was 92 years young. And he could still paddle! I cherish the memory of canoeing with Joe and of giving him a great big bear hug afterwards.

Goodbye old friend. We'll miss you. But we'll never forget your love of life, your cheery smile, and the wonderful canoes you built.  Cliff Jacobson

Thinking of you Joe!

Steve, Nancy and Joe Seliga in his workshop

From the end of the road,

Tim Stouffer

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Growing Old...with Attitude.

Here is the thought for today folks...

You never stop paddling becasue your grow old,
You grow old because you stop paddling.

When you are 28 years old, you don't think too much about growing old. You are in the prime of your life and you feel like you will live forever, right? There is energy and excitement about all that life has to offer and you are ready to jump right in.

Well, I am 66 years old and I have been thinking about growing old a fair amount lately. Of course, the expected comment, "Where did all the years go?", is not far from our lips. I look at my kids and realize that having two daughters that are 38 and 34 years old says something about how quickly time flies.

Applying for Social Security benefits, getting flooded with mail about Medicare supplements, and looking in the mirror all add to the awareness that we are entering a different stage of life.

I have concluded that attitude is going to be critical in the years ahead. We all talk about the fact that we don't feel any older in our minds, even though our bodies say otherwise. So, let's take that mental attitude and let it affect how we live.

The temptation is to pull back and slow down. Our dreams and goals have either been reached or else forgotten and given up on. Think about it...we are living longer than any previous generation and many of us will live into our 80's and 90.s. For me that is a possible 20 years.
You can accomplish a lot in 20 years. Granted, at a bit of a slower pace, but remember the "Tortise and the Hare"...steady as she goes.

So...break out that paddle, or those snow shoes. Get up and get out. We will all grow old, we can't stop that; but how we do it is up to us.

Thus ends my thoughts for the day...

Bert Heep

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Brand New Chota Breathable Water Socks are the perfect companion to Quetico Trekker Portage Shoes. Turn your Trekkers into a Knee High Boot!

What's good in the summer even on hot days and is the perfect complement to our world famous Quetico Trekker Portage Shoe?

Chota's New Caney Fork Breathable Knee High Wading Sock!

It is the perfect companion for our Chota Quetico Trekker and the Chota Caney Fork boot. It turns portage and wading boots into a whole different animal! 100% Waterproof, it keeps you warm and dry up to the knee. Skin-out neoprene gasket coupled with a nylon cinch strap keeps the top in place just below the knee and retards flooding. Waterproof neoprene sock foot for warmth plus a wader style "gravel guard" that keeps sand and grit out of your boots.


Saturday, December 4, 2010



Thursday, December 2, 2010

Favorite Lures

It's cold up in Ely today. I'll bet that not many people are thinking about fishing right now, so let's get something started to keep our minds on that fine subject.

If you could just bring three lures on your canoe trip in the BWCA or Quetico, which ones would they be? We all probably bring way too many so let's see how you do when you have to cut your quantity down to your top three.

My Uncle Kerth from Santa Fe that I always trip with (in the photo and the creator of Atomic Hashbrowns!!), would bring these three: Mepps, Wally Diver, and a Tiny Torpedo. Not bad choices at all and I know from experience that he knows how to use them.

How about you? Hey, we are getting frozen up here, but fishermen and women still love to talk about the big one they caught or the incredible walleye meal from their summer canoe adventure. Let's see what your favorite lures are.

Open up that tackle box..............