YOUNG BULL MOOSE, ISLE ROYALEWelcome!   You will find pictures and descriptions  of wonderful boreal wilderness places, like ANWR, Arrigetch Peaks, Alaska’s Alatna and Noatak Rivers, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  I have been on a long term odyssey to see all 63 national parks in the 50 states. I’ve visited 50 of these crown jewels of America; seeing them has been well worth it.  Young bull moose on Isle Royale above left;  Dall sheep below left; further below is Wheeler Peak in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park; to the right is a wolverine in ANWR.  Click on the links or the pictures themselves for a photobucket link to see more!!

I have taken 69 canoe trips into the Boundary Waters/Quetico since 1981;  pictures of some of the trips are included.  I’ve stopped taking pictures other than unusual wildlife or special scenery, because after a while, water is water!  The photo below is a September sunset on Lake Insula in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, before the Pagami Creek fire (2011).  I admit the oddity of my calling this Boreal Blog/Bog (that’s why there are brackets around the “l”) when I lived 37 years in Tucson.  In 2013, I followed my heart north, now living in Eugene, Oregon.   My heart  is “Up North,” ever since I was a camp counselor in Ontario in the mid-1960s, taking 25 canoe trips all over Algonquin Park, a couple of hours north of Toronto.

I’m also a freelance writer, emphasis usually on the first syllable, but honestly, I did get some of my work published, although I don’t try much any more.  My best writing is A Wise Owl, which appeared in the journal Neurology.  It’s not technical.  I even got interviewed afterwards in Neurology Today.   Code Team, which is on the same post, shows a side of a doctor you won’t believe!  I was an astronomy columnist for the Arizona Daily STAR for 20 years (1984-2004), and I have included two Focal Point columns I wrote for Sky and Telescope.  For more than nine years, I was an invited columnist for the Pima County Medical Society’s Sombrero, the writings are sorted by year under Reality Check.  As you will discover, I don’t hold back much.  A lot of my writing come from my travels, and frankly my ideas appear spontaneously, when I’m not thinking about writing.  I experience something and later say,  “there’s an article.”  Of course, when one has a wolf in his campsite, ten trail miles from the nearest other person (see Thump), the story writes itself.  When I flunked my first English paper in college (deservedly), I never thought I would write as much as I did.  I write to relax.  I’m not in the league with the best, but my experiences are often unique.

I am an addicted eclipse chaser, having taken 27 eclipse trips all over the world.  Why do I chase eclipses?  Read the post!!  See a brief video of one!  See a video of the  total eclipse 11 July 2010 from Argentina, the most special of all.  I flew the 2019 eclipse from Easter Island.

I’ve seen 18 total, 6 annular, and skunked on 3, in Iceland, clouds in South Africa and Cabo San Lucas.  I show both total and annular eclipses; for more information, see Jay Anderson’s Web page.  Jay is a retired meteorologist and does climate analysis and predictions for the events.  Eclipses are one of the most beautiful sights in nature, and contrary to what some may think, the mathematics and geometry that explain them are equally as beautiful!

I was a volunteer chemistry tutor and was a substitute math and science teacher in the Amphitheater School District in Tucson and now in my sixth year as a math tutor at Lane CC in Eugene.  I do trail work with the Scorpions Trail Crew (High Cascade Forest Volunteers.) I have worked for Literacy Volunteers, and I have occasional posts on mental arithmetic, math, and other wonderful hobbies. I work with numbers almost as easily as I breathe.  For 10 years, I have volunteered at Rowe Sanctuary in Nebraska helping people see the Sandhill Crane migration on the Platte River, one of the two great North American migrations (the other the Porcupine Caribou in Canada/Alaska).  I’ve seen both in the same year.  I’m blessed with good fortune.  Here are four shots from Nebraska:

I don’t update too much any more, maybe once a month. I’m an old guy and spend as much time as I can in places where electronic devices read “No Service” or if you tune a radio, it just keeps going ad infinitum.  Out in Sig Olson’s “back of beyond,” one doesn’t sit at a computer, rather on a rock, a log, the good earth, and take in nature.  At least I do!

Enjoy!  I hope you have the good fortune to have adventures in the wilderness that I’ve had!    The next total eclipse in the US will be 8 April 2024; here is a video of the annular eclipse that occurred 20 May 2012.  We have another annular eclipse coming to the western US in 2023.

The transit of Venus in 2012 was the last such transit until December 2117 (Venus transits are always in June or December.)  The video shows how slowly Venus moved across the Sun, but to see a planet actually moving is exceedingly rare.

Below is a total solar eclipse shot taken from Green Island, Queensland, Australia (2012).

Mike Smith

Car next to a redwood tree, Redwood NP, California.

Car next to a redwood tree, Redwood NP, California.

Moose, Basswood Lake, September 2014

Bull moose, Basswood Lake, Boundary Waters Canoe Area, September 2014

Virginia Falls, South Nahanni River, Northwest Territories. July 1985

Musk Oxen, Cape Kreusenstern, Alaska. July 2015.

Musk Oxen, Cape Kreusenstern, Alaska. July 2015.


Owyhee River, southeast Oregon, 5 miles south of Birch Creek, 19 May 2016. Picture taken 500 feet up on a ridge.

Arctic Fox, winter plumage, Churchill, Manitoba, 1992.

Arctic Fox, winter coat, Churchill, Manitoba, 1992.

48 Responses to “WELCOME TO BOREAL B[L]OG!”

  1. Kelli Garner Says:

    Really nice posts. I will be checking back here regularly.

  2. Michael Says:

    Thank you so much! I have added a section on eclipse chasing with some great shots and interesting links. If you want to read about a different side of medicine, check out A Wise Owl and Code Team. You can get them from the Neurology (non-technical) link or from the introduction.

  3. Steve Nash Says:

    Really well-done. Eclectic site that takes me to places I’ll never glimpse.

  4. Tony Docherty Says:

    Great site Mike! Lots of good reading and great photos! Keep them coming! Now I know it IS possible to teach an old dog new tricks!

  5. Gordon Gribble Says:

    Mike, I just checked out your Blog! Love the photos…hope to see you in Eugene sometime.

  6. Diane Gaechter Says:

    I am very late with my compliments, but most sincerely impressed that I have a cousin who has accomplished all the above and much more! I wish I could go to those places, do those things…perhaps in another life!

    Now I must be content with watching French deer eating my garden plants and an occasional boar galloping by..

  7. Derek Says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for sharing!

  8. Marcos Tobler Says:

    You’ll find some good hikes up at Glacier Point that would be excellent for the kids. The Taft point hike was a favorite of mine when I was a kid. One can find also some nice hikes in Toulomne meadows. By the Tioga entrance there is a trail (Gaylor lakes I think) Wonderful Higher country lakes. You possibly can also do the mist trail inside the valley for waterfall views up Yosemite falls. I’m terrible about names of trails-I’ve been hiking them all my life, but do not use the correct names!

    • Mike Says:

      Yosemite is a hiker’s paradise. I did 60 + miles and none was in the Valley or further north due to snow. It and Kings Canyon need a revisit.

  9. Keziah Gachie Says:

    This photos are amazing Mike,thank you for sharing them,am still waiting for more.

  10. Ed Rogoff Says:

    Re: Horse Sense, … I’ve enjoyed your columns in the Sombrero for years. As a retired Radiation Oncologist I appreciate the way way both physicians and patients view “data.” I tried to tell patients not only the absolute risk, but also how many people had to be treated to see one “cure.” Therefore, an absolute 10% improvement with treatment translates into one additional cure for every 10 patients treated. Then add in side effects and complications and patients can then make their decision. Not an easy conversation and, too often, it nevers occurs in the time and detail required.

    Recommended reading by Nortin Hadler, a physiciand friend from North Carolina. “Worried Sick”, ” Stabbed in the Back” and “The Last Well Person.” He’s very much into data as you are. Also, very disliked by much of mainstream medicine’s gurus.

    Keep up the good work Mike., Ed

  11. gsn6Steve Nash Says:

    Great trip and wonderful story — as usual! Congrats on learning German and for thinking there is more you can learn.

  12. Lizi. Says:

    Hi Mr. Smith, once i finished reading this stuff i thought how informative and interesting it was, that was enough on its own but you also added pictures so that doubles my interest. the sceneries you’ve been to are really amazing and breath taking. waiting for more, Lizi.

  13. LEENA Says:

    Amazing view of a solar eclipse. nice trip! and I liked the photos:)

  14. silky Says:

    hello..dear Mike ..it`s my pleasure to know about you and your lovely amazing tripe…

  15. Denise Helmkay Says:

    Greetings to YOU. You sound very busy at enjoying what you do.
    The pictures are wonderful. Wish I was there! Denise Helmkay

  16. Mike Says:

    I have had decent health and good fortune. I try to make things happen and balance dreams with reality. I’d like another trip to the Bob Marshall Gates of the Arctic and maybe one more time in ANWR. Still gotta do N. Saskatchewan and get back to Pathfinder in Algonquin Park. Damn, there are a lot of nice places out there. See Great Basin NP, if you can. It’s a jewel.

    • Denise Helmkay Says:

      Have you seen the cedar canoes built at Swan Lake, Montana by Tim Morley? I know your canoe experiences are numerous and these are really a masters work.

  17. Mike Says:

    I will take a look. The Hurleys from southern Ontario make wonderful canoes. I canoed with them 45 years ago and hope to get back up to Algonquin one more time, which would be a bonus. Can’t believe I last wore red there in ’67.

  18. Mike Says:

    Read Wearing Red.

  19. Mike Says:


    • Denise Helmkay Says:

      Thank YOU for clearing that up. Reading that was a fun reminiscence even tho it isn’t my own. Also, Thank YOU for your veteran participation.

  20. Denise Helmkay Says:

    Where are you going next??

  21. Mike Says:

    Want to see the Bob Marshall Gates, but hard to find a trip to do it. May go to ANWR and do the Colleen over the Divide to the Kongakut. May be a bit easier than I want. N. Saskatchewan’s Churchill River also needs to be done. If not this year, next, if I still can.

  22. Denise Helmkay Says:

    Happy New Year! On the less astronomical side; since you have been all over the world and many of those places have Yeti/Sasquatch folklore, have you looked at any of the sites yourself?

  23. Mike Says:

    No I haven’t. Too much else to do. Strong claims require strong evidence. Now that we have digital cameras, the evidence for such a find is going to have to be even stronger. In studying medical errors, I’ve been amazed at how our brains can fool us.

  24. Denise Helmkay Says:

    Do you have any plans for “watching” the solar flares?

  25. Mike Says:

    Nope. I will buy a solar filter for the eclipse in May and the Venus transit in June. I’ve just never been interested in watching the flares, but the eclipse is the best chance I’ve ever had to see it through a telescope….at least until the long awaited US total eclipse in 2017,

    • denisehelmkay Says:

      Where will you view the eclipse?

      • Mike Says:

        Page or southeast on the plateau. This is a near sunset one, and the WNW horizon has to be flat. With a solar filter on a scope, may be able to shoot pictures through view finder. Will set up camcorder, too, although the shots from Kenya were so-so at only 19x. It wouldn’t take higher mags well.

  26. Farnaz Says:

    u have Great site. I am very happy to see it.
    and i see it in the future.
    thank u mike.

  27. Jamison Says:

    My family and I are excited for our Boundary Waters trip next week, from your travelings, do you have any favorite boundary waters cabins or camp sites?

    • Mike Says:

      What you do in the BW depends upon what you want to do–travel, fish, base camp, solitude. Your permit will determine where and when you go in. How much and how far you want to carry are major factors. How well you can paddle, especially in wind, is important. The numbered lakes (1,2,3,4) are open but have fire damage. Fall-Basswood, Moose-Knife, Moose-Basswood, Snowbank-Ima-Thomas are all good routes in the Kawishiwi District (Ely). I have traveled in the Gunflint a few times, but it has been years ago. Basswood has many nice campsites, even in the motorized areas. Mudro-Horse-Crooked is very nice, but more work with river travel. Horse is a beautiful lake, and Crooked very nice as well. As for cabins, I haven’t stayed at any in the Ely area, but only on the lakes. There are many fine resorts, all with lake access, and that is a fine way to see the country. From those places, there are often some hiking trails. The BW has hiking trails, but the lakes are what make it special. I had just 2 days, soloed in to Lake One and visited the fire area. Lake One was quiet, unlike later on this summer. It was wonderful.

  28. source Says:

    Have you given any kind of thought at all with converting your blog in to French? I know a couple of translaters here that will would help you do it for no cost if you want to get in touch with me.

  29. Neide Says:

    Hi Mike! I loved your blog. Your pictures and video about eclipse are spectacular! Thank you for sharing it!

  30. Michaela Says:

    Mike, LOVE your blog. Was hoping to use a few of your photos as representative photos of vegetation? Hope to hear from you.

  31. Dick Riordan Says:

    We are planning a hike from
    Drain Creek over to the Aichillak and a float down to the Arctic. Had a few questions about the hiking in and over from Drain Creek. In particular am interested in when you did your trip and how brushy Drain Creek, etc., is. Coincidentally my wife and I canoed quite a bit (once for a month) in Quetico in the 70’s before moving to Alaska.

    • Mike Says:

      Don’t know if I replied. Upper Drain to about 4 or so miles to the Kongakut is not too brushy. If flooded, the south side is better, but one does a lot of side hilling. If you want to go to the airstrip you need to head south towards the Kongakut a few miles before the end, and that’s a little brushy until you cross a divide. It’s not bad and a 6 hour hike at most to a site on the Kongakut about a mile west of the airstrip. You can camp by the airstrip, too.

  32. Mindee Says:

    You have gorgeous pics, I enjoyed reading your blog

  33. Mary G Says:

    Enjoyed the lovely pictures!

  34. denisehelmkay Says:

    Happy Birthday

  35. denisehelmkay Says:


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