In honor of our founders Charlie & Petra Boostrom and their legacy, we’ll be sharing stories about the Boostrom’s and the early days of Clearwater Historic Lodge and the Gunflint Trail. Many of the stories — including the passage below — come from the delightful book, Gunflint Trailblazers – The Story of Charlie & Petra Boostrom by Beatrice Flaaten Ogren published in 1977.
Photo of the BWCA courtesy of the Forest Service.
Living off the land
“This day was especially interesting because we traveled the Granite River Route and it was our first experience with river travel. This river seems to be hewn out of solid granite with many turns and bends, each one opening up a perfect picture which Helmer was trying to capture with his camera and still keep up his paddling. We shot rapids three times under charlie’s careful guidance and if we’d had the time we would have wanted to portage back and do it all over again. The more rapid falls had to be portaged – portages with such names as Wooden Horse, Blueberry (where we picked blueberries for the next morning’s pancakes) Pine, Devil’s Elbow (where Charlie had once met a stranded party whose canoe had been snapped in two trying to lead it through the rushing water and sharp turns), Swamp and Saganaga Falls and so into Maraboef Lake.
“That night’s campsite was on a high pine-covered hill overlooking the lake. We enjoyed a swim before dinner and a chat around the campfire after dinner during which it was revealed that these two youngsters (who were outdoing us at every turn) were 69 and 75 years old. We were given the statistics to prove it. Chris was born in Norway in 1881, and Charlie on December 18, 1887 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Age has little meaning to those who live by and with nature. Another old timer, Dyer Reynolds, was the sole maintenance man on the Gunflint Trail in the early days and at the age of 75 was doing his maintaining with a wheelbarrow. He claimed there was a cure in the woods for every ailment that befalls man and only a broken hip at last laid him low.
“We talked about the medicinal plants in the woods and had very personal experience with his tea made from the inner bark of the birch tree to cure diarrhea. His white pine tea is a sure cough remedy as many will testify. charlie told us not only of cures but of good food to be had in the woods. Food that sustained him during long trips away from any supply source – Labrador tea made from a small plant found in lowlands, roots of water lilies, muskrat and beaver meat (which has a flavor similar to duck), young bear caught before going into hibernation (pork flavor), lynx (similar to rabbit), woodchuck, and the pitchy tasting porcupine — the protected animal which can be clubbed when aman is in danger of starvation. Wolf and bear, he told us, have a very objectionable odor. all these, in addition to game animals and fish commonly known, were available by courtesy of Mother Nature.
“The conversation had to end, for the sun went to bed and so did we — a nice arrangement we were beginning to think.”