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HomeEditorialMinnesota Author Releases Gunflint Falling: Blowdown in the Boundary Waters

Minnesota Author Releases Gunflint Falling: Blowdown in the Boundary Waters

The first time Cary Griffith visited Northern Minnesota he was in 9th grade, and a friend’s parents had purchased a remote cabin on Lake Vermillion. The outdoor enthusiast, who had grown up in rural Iowa, fell in love at first sight.

“I just had never seen any country like that, that lake country up there. It was just so beautiful,” he said.

Since that time, the scenery of Northern Minnesota has been the backdrop for his three mystery series novels, featuring Sam Rivers, a fictional special agent for the US and Wildlife Service who investigates crimes that include local flora and fauna. (His 4th Sam Rivers Mys­tery book, Dead Catch, about walleye poaching on Lake Vermillion is out in June 2024.) (I hope Sam catches them. Stay away from our wall­eye!)

Though Griffith, who has earned both a Minne­sota Book Award and a Midwest Book Award, found a setting for his fiction work in the re­gion, he also found that the setting offered its own stories that were widely known in our area but not widely told.

Gunflint Falling: Blowdown in the Boundary Waters, which officially releases on January 30th, is a sort of prequel to his 2018 non-fiction book Gunflint Burning: Fire in the Boundary Waters, which told the story of the Ham Lake Fire that occurred in 2007. The fire proved to be one of the most destructive wildfires in Minne­sota history.

“The reason I wrote this book is because a lot of the people I interviewed for Gunflint Burning, told me these dramatic stories about the blow­down,” he said. “They said that the reason the Ham Lake fire, in part, burned so intensely was because of the fuel in the forest from the blow­down in 1999.”

The blowdown occurred in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area on July 4th, 1999. The midsummer windstorm formed in the high heat and humidi­ty and took down over 48 million trees. Many were injured during the storm and rescue efforts proved to be difficult.

According to the book’s description on carygriffith.com, “Gunflint Falling tells the story of this devastating storm from the perspectives of those who were on the ground before, during, and after the catastrophic event—from first-time visitors to the north woods to returning paddlers to For­est Service Rangers.”

The book follows some key characters, such as Lisa Naas who was injured while camping with friends at Lake Polly and Wildlife Ranger Pete Weckman, who was on patrol on Moose Lake.

Griffith has spent a lot of time immersed in the wilderness of our wilds. He has hiked most of the Gunflint Trail and visits the area frequently. His whole family, including his four grandkids, come up to Lutsen from the Twin Cities area to vacation in both the fall and the spring. “It’s kind of a tradition that we established,” he said.

The author is working on another Sam Rivers book, Rattlesnake Bluff, about an extremely rare snake called the Eastern Massasauga that may or may not be used in the story for nefarious pur­poses. He’s also thinking about doing a third Gunflint book, Gunflint Rising, about the recov­ery and rebuilding of the area after the disasters.

He expressed gratitude for those who helped him with Gunflint Falling saying, “I’m very thank­ful. I interviewed more than 100 people for this book. Everybody was really helpful and infor­mative. It’s a great experience being able to talk to these people.”

In February, Griffith will be out and about for readings and discussions around the book.

  • February 16th, Drury Lane in Grand Marais, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
  • February 17th, Fitgers Books in Duluth, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
  • February 20th, Boundary Waters Connect in Ely, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
  • February 22nd, Zenith Books in Duluth, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

The full schedule and more information about Griffith and his books, can be found at carygriffith.com.

In reading an advanced copy of Gunflint Fall­ing, I have found that it is a good balance of history, science, meteorology, and storytelling. Griffith excels in his descriptions of the event. I could picture the color of the stormy sky and felt the suspense building up as the derecho moved into the Boundary Waters. I could almost feel the earth move under my feet. I could hear the cracking and snapping of old-growth trees, falling like dominoes. I worried for those on the ground and cheered on the heroes that emerged to move heaven and earth to rescue those trapped and injured in the blowdown.

I was so immersed in reading while I sat in a waiting room that I didn’t realize two hours had gone by. I was actually disappointed when my wait was over because I had to put it down.

Congratulations to Cary Griffith on his upcom­ing release! I highly recommend picking up any of his books online or at local bookstores. I have already ordered Lost in the Wild, a story of survival out in our neck of the woods and will soon be getting to know Sam Rivers, too!

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