I've heard about Ely, Minnesota for years, and it lived up to its reputation for small-town, quirky charm. Tasty restaurants, good beer, chatty people. And we really enjoyed our motel, which was straight out of Schitt's Creek. We had a long chat with the owner (who's never watched the show). She and her husband started running the business only a year and a half ago, moving there after deciding they wanted a different kind of life. They said they created the retro quirky charm of the place on their own, independent of the TV show, though everyone points out the similarities to them.
We arrived last Thursday night in Ely and went first to Piragi's, our outfitters, for them to go over our paperwork, give us our permit, and then look over all the equipment. This would save time in the morning, when we could just pull up and load all the packed stuff. The guy who assisted us was super helpful and even threw in a few extra things he thought we might want, at no extra charge.
That night we wanted fresh fish, but learned that you can't eat fresh local fish in any of the restaurants, sadly, but they told us where to go for Canadian Walleye. And we had yummy Walleye that night.
Then up early the next morning, we had a full breakfast. We didn't eat half the food the cafe served us. The waitress said, "We like to serve a lot of food."
With our full stomachs and coffee, we went back to Piragis, grabbed our portage packs, and they loaded the canoe on top of the car. A last minute conversation looking at the map about best campsites and things to see and do along our route, and then we drove the ten miles out of town to Fall Lake and our in-take point, number 24, where only 14 permits are allowed every day.
The boating inspector, with a heavy Minnesota accent, came over to check-out the canoe for any invasive species, but said, "Oh, a Piragi's boat. They treat there's well. No problem." He also told Robyn that we basically had to round the point of the island in front of us and then we'd see the first portage.
We loaded the canoe and were off, with two parties (four canoes) up ahead of us, which was helpful in determining the route for much of that day.