Mindful Paddling & Hiking Guide Services

Offered Only to our Guest Suite Guests

Mindful Paddling and Hiking Guide Services
For all abilities

What are “Mindful” Paddling and Hiking Tours? Not paddling hard or fast, or slinging the heaviest pack on your back, but being present to the experience; taking time in nature to see, hear, smell, taste and feel along the way. Slow things down; bring your camera, and be willing to be dazzled.


Bog Entry



General Information

All of the tours and trips that Points Unknown offers are educational in nature. You do not need to know how to paddle to participate in the canoe trips and will learn what you need to know for a fun, safe and successful trip. Learning the flora and fauna in our unique area is just one of the highlights of any experience we provide. You may even spot some wildlife!


Loon             Moose


Vast View of John Lake             Bog View



Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness: John Lake Trip

Just half an hour's drive from Points Unknown, we'll put into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness at Little John Lake, which is one of the most underutilized BWCA entry points, and paddle into John Lake. John is a lovely lake with steep cliffs (on top of which the Border Trail winds.) We'll paddle up a secluded inlet past beaver lodges and through an amazing sphagnum bog to a hidden lake. Moose have been seen along this route. Then--if folks feel like a hike--we'll leave the canoe(s) and hike over the portage (2/3 mile each way) to East Pike Lake. We’ll snack or picnic on a sunny rock, and swim in the lovely clear water of this wilderness lake. We'll then make our way back. (If the hike sounds like too much, we can always pull up to a campsite on John and picnic and/or swim there.) Trip will last between approximately four and six hours, door to door, depending upon your preferences while out. No paddling experience necessary. If it is very windy, we may alter our route and paddle on the Swamp River.

Cost: For up to two people, $275.00. Each additional person, up to 6 is $50.00.

More Paddling Trips: There are numerous inland lakes near Points Unknown and we are happy to create a customized paddling experience on many of them with pricing similar to our BWCA John Lake Trip and based upon the experience desired.

What to bring: a lunch and snacks; bug repellent, sunscreen, small towel, swim suit (or wear it), long sleeved light shirt or jacket, sun hat, waterproof shoes. Canoes, PFD's and paddles are provided.



June 24, 2017

"I’m still marveling at how time lost its sway over me when I participated in Points Unknown’s Mindful Paddling & Hiking Tour. I found the experience beautiful, profound, and a pure delight. I’ve lived in Minnesota for 30 years, kayaked on many lakes, rivers, and creeks, and played in snow-covered forests. But taking a guided trip into the Boundary Waters via canoe was brand new for me, and I loved every minute of it. I learned the fine art of paddling as a team; saw whimsical tamarack trees and “starter-home” beaver lodges, floated quietly along a sphagnum moss bog teeming with flora I’d never seen before, and enjoyed moments of silence (my own) so I could truly listen to what life sounds like in an unspoiled wilderness area and what it means to me: peace. As with any of Points Unknown’s offerings (including dog-sledding adventures, which I’ve enjoyed there many times), this one was perfectly tuned to my skill level, ensured everyone's comfort and safety, and cultivated reflection. The opportunity to spend the night in the pristine Guest Suite with its comfy beds and serene Northwoods decor extended the beauty of the trip. Kudos to Points Unknown for such a unique opportunity!"

Kathleen from Minneapolis


Portagge Hike      Portage Bridge      Portage Steps


Hiking Trips: The Superior Hiking Trail is within a few short miles of Points Unknown. Grand Portage has a number of beautiful trail options. Other various hiking experiences can be found right out the front door of the Points Unknown Guest Suite. We are happy to point you in the direction of a self-guided hike or provide you with a full guide service for a fee based upon the number of people and the experience desired.

Base Hiking Guide Fee - $60/person

Canicross Hiking (that includes one of the Points Unknown Sled Pets and all instruction learning the art of Canicross hiking) - $129/Person



Secret Waterfall             270 Overlook


End of Superior Hiking Trail             270 Overlook


The Ponds – Mary Oliver

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them —

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided —
and that one wears an orange blight —
and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away —
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled —
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing —
that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.


Mary Ellen Bio                


Mary Ellen Ashcroft has been guiding groups into the Boundary Waters for twenty five years: she knows the plants, birds and other creatures of the north woods, and will eagerly share them with you.




Linda Bio Photo


Linda Newman has been a dog trainer for nearly 25 years. Starting Points Unknown in 2005 was her passion realized. She is a dog sledding educator/guide and canicross hiking guide. Currently, she is under the careful tutelage of Mary Ellen Ashcroft, a canoe guide for over 25 years, and her husband Neil Slaughter who is an expert kayaker, as she aspires to add "canoe guide" to her adventure skill set.