Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Northwoods Wikipedia

Shelby and I snowshoed, the trail behind the canoe yard--- up toward the spruce bog. We discovered all these these beautifully little feathery snowstructures-new to us. After dinner (with former staff Noah and Anna), we developed our own little wikipedia thesaurus for the formations. One of the definitions is correct, one partially correct, the rest are fiction.

Featherification: The residue of the ice particles within snowflakes creating a pattern also found in feathers. Cause of featherification is currently unknown.

Fleecite: Formations formed when the ice melts and the cold air comes descends from above forcing water droplets up and they freeze immediately

Flarcicle: Phenomenon occuring in the cold water in shallow areas of the lake where certain fish like to swarm, the crystallization forms from fish flatulence.

Hoarfrost formations: When the humidity is high, the morning cool weather causes the moisture to stick to everything and form ice crystals when it is damp out.

Advection frost refers to tiny ice spikes forming when there is a very cold wind blowing over surfaces. It looks like rimming the edge of flowers and leaves and usually it forms against the direction of the wind. It can occur at any hour of day and night.

Crystalized Feathercicles: The temperature of the water and the temperature of the air are in inverse relationship to each other, and on sunny winter days they reach the moisture in the air forms a conductor and freezes at the freezing point defined by that relationship. Open water is most common to the formation of crystal feathers.

Frostfeathers: The reverse process of honeycombed ice in which the water freezes slowly in hexoganal patterns. Happens when the air above is exactly the same temperature as the water below

Frice (Frosty ice): Heating and cooling of frost that covers the snow on top of ice. Creates a feather like crystal that “grows” when the sun is out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Tragedy

Tonight we grieved for Steve Posniak, the only human casualty of the Ham Lake Fire

Man accused of starting BWCA fire has killed himself

Associated Press
Last update: December 16, 2008 - 10:16 PM
An attorney for a Washington, D.C., man accused of starting a wildfire that charred 118 square miles in Minnesota and Canada last year said Tuesday that his client had committed suicide.
Mark Larsen said Tuesday that a relative of Stephen Posniak's told him Posniak, 64, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Posniak was charged with allowing his campfire to burn out of control in May 2007. The fire spread in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Superior National Forest in Minnesota and into Ontario, destroying nearly 150 buildings worth more than $10 million.
Larsen says they felt Posniak, who pleaded not guilty last month, was overcharged in the case. The Minneapolis attorney said that he spoke to Posniak on Monday and that he was "acute in his thinking and quite pleasant over the phone."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snow on snow on snow

Daniel and Denali can't get has been snowing all day, still going strong. I don't know how much---12 inches...and more. Maybe Andy loves it too....I'll have to ask him if he ever comes out of the plow truck.

School has already been cancelled for tomorrow.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Commuting on the Gunflint Trail

When families come to visit us, it must be their natural instinct to imagine themselves in our lives. The first question often is "Do your kids take the bus ALL THE WAY to Grand Marais for school?
I also have to admit, it was the first thing I worried about when we moved here---still I worry sometimes. The kids have taken their commute in stride---it's their normal. They ease on the bus, turn flashlights on their books (this time of year), enjoy their friends, watch the sun come up, observe the wildlife....
It took me longer to take it in stride, but when I'm alone, it's where I get my most thinking done. My car goes on autopilot. ( I've actually been making an effort to get off autopilot; my current truck really WANTS to go too fast, and once when I was chatting with a friend this fall on a a straight away, my speed inched up to 63 and I got a ticket. Ouch, there went Andy's Christmas present...)
This fall, Daniel has pulled our family into the hockey circus, every couple of weeks it is my turn to carpool the boys to Silver Bay (another 50 miles from Grand Marais ). We do have a place to crash in town those nights, but this new commute has given me an entirely new perspective of the Trail. Once to Grand Marais--I'm already almost home--just one long long driveway yet to go.
I have a lot of memories of the Gunflint Trail--as a family tourist kid, later a seasonal employee. My friend Katey drove me up after college. It made me sick to drive further and further away from home, to a place where I knew nobody. Why, I wondered, did I keep throwing myself into new situations with strangers? That time it felt like she was driving me into a huge sucking wilderness hole, and if I had been braver and less conscientious, I would have had Katey turn the car around and skip out on my summer job commitment.
It turned out I that met several life-long friends that summer, hugely disproportionate to the 3 months I spent here. And the Gunflint Trail began to feel like a 2nd home--I certainly could imagine living here.
Probably also because I met Andy that summer---and our first dates were dominated by driving the Gunflint Trail in his junky old Honda. It was easier to spill my guts driving down the road in the dark. Ironically, driving down the Gunflint Trail in the dark is also where my kids are most likely to confide in me.
It can be a tricky road. One of my friends fell asleep driving the Trail and woke up in the hospital. We were heartbroken when another friend was tragically killed on her bike. My brother and sister-in-law took a moose through their windshield on their honeymoon here.
On slippery dark winter nights we proceed cautiously especially when we see the fresh tracks-moose activty evidence on the sides of the road. Often we sneak up on the moose on the curvy slippery parts, where the salt attracts them to lick the road--sometimes on their knees.
I recall my previous Minneapolis commute-6 years ago --from the western metro,east on 394 to the University of MN. I usually couldn't use the carpool lane, so the congestion started at Ridgedale....seemed to bottleneck at Hwy 100....the trick was getting in the 94 only lane, not too early, not too late...over the 35W bridge that hadn't collapsed yet. It was a little stressful only because I always always seemed to be a late, but I didn't mind it terribly. I figure, either you get used to it, or you live a crabby commuting life. That makes for too many cranky hours.
But this drive---it was so breathtakingly beautiful yesterday when I took these photos. I'm not only used to it, I almost always enjoy it. Especially when I get to the Cross River....




I'm looking out at the frozen sunshine over Round Lake. I'm so happy to have the afternoon and my hot chocolate mug, and the sappy continuous light rock Christmas songs. Who ever would listen to Dan Fogelberg any other time of the year?
We visited Chicago for Thanksgiving, to connect with Andy's folks and sister’s family. We took the kids downtown on Saturday, marveled at the skyline and the convenience of the streets, the hot dog stands, balmy weather, museums, no snow. We had a great time, and sure appreciate the appeal of a big city. So much that Andy and I looked at each other and said---"Why again did we move up to the tundra?"

Since we've been back, I can't seem to stop smiling. There is no place like home...I was thinking as I drove the Gunflint Trail this morning. How come the view of the Cross River still takes my breath away when I'm running our road? We really are held in the spell of this setting, even during the coldest darkest season. I like a lot of places that I've visited, but have found no place yet on earth that I like quite this much. Lucky us that we get to live here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Weekend of Perfect Skating

Ah, Saturday and Sunday were perfect...the ice on the lake was thick and black. It seemed we could skate backwards forever without hitting a crack. Since Sunday, it has snowed a couple of inches. We'll clear a rink for hockey and broomball, but can't ever quite capture the feeling that open ice gives..

Andy and I can't begin to keep up with our kids when we play hockey. They're very zippy when they cut turns---That, and trying not to skate over our tongues (because we were so out of shape) made us feel very old at times. Friends came to share it with was a black ice weekend!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Skating on the Pond

Yay for the ice on the pond!---we could skate all over, even with the dusting of snow. Since Daniel wanted to shoot pucks---he shoveled a spot by the goal.

Friday, November 21, 2008

2 Degrees

2 degrees this morning---Round Lake is frozen, but not in the clear-skate-all over-the-bay ice that we've had the past few years. The Gunflint Trail is pretty much frozen...larger lakes like Gunflint and Loon are still open, but not for long ( I predict). Just a dusting of snow in our neck of the woods so far, but we're good and ready.

Andy and Daniel skated on the Moose pond after school yesterday. In the car on the way to the bus stop this morning, Daniel asked "if Dad doesn't have anything else to do today, could you ask him if he would set up the hockey goals on the pond?" Not much light this time of year, but we squeeze in a little afterschool activity when we can...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fe Fi Fo Fum

At the end of October Andy made his annual fall Quetico trip with Hungry Jack Outfitter Dave. They put in at the far Northwest Corner---Beaverhouse Lake, traveled through every lake they could, and ended up back at Saganaga--6 days and many miles later.

On their traverse across the Quetico, they passed through lakes unfamiliar to me--- like Cutty, Sark, Sunday....
In the very middle of the park they came upon huge old growth pines---this is where the kids and I want to go.
We think Andy looks like Jack---who managed to cut down the beanstalk just in the nick of time....and foiled the giant.
Andy said it was very humbling to be in the presence of these giant trees--he said it took the swagger out of him, and he couldn't imagine ever cutting them down.

I chose this photo to exemplify the camping part of the trip. Apparently they had so many miles in their plan that they were getting up at 5am in the blackness, and usually setting up camp in the near blackness. Granted, the days are short in October, but I had to laugh when he came home---and a few of the following mornings we'd wake up at 5am (in our warm bed in our warm house---and still feeling mighty chilly to me)---I would joke---"OK, time to get up---who is in charge of starting the fire and making the coffee?" It sounded a little hellish to me, not a vacation. And I do like to travel a fair amount, but still-
All summer long, Andy looks forward to his turn in the woods, and I don't think he wanted to miss a minute (or a mile) of this experience. I think they got a big kick out of testing their limits, watching the sunrises and sunsets from the boat, and getting the full experience of the northwoods.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Morning Coffee

Andy lost all bets-no ice on the lake this morning. But the hoarfrost on the surrounding trees sure made for a nice view while we drank our morning coffee.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Here's Winter

We got about 4 inches of snow last night, and it feels like it is here for the long haul. The sun made for a bright winter afternoon.

Andy has a bet with us all that Round Lake will freeze tonight. It is dead still outside, about 10 degrees (at 9pm), full moon.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

November Sun

Our drive to the mailbox (busstop) this morning was lovely.

Can you see the cow moose in the pond? I wonder if she's too warm today? It's awfully late in the season for her to be knee deep in the water.

We (humans) are soaking up the warm sun!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Update on the Trees

In May, 2007--the first official Gunflint Green Up transpired on the Gunflint Trail---volunteers came to private properties (including Tuscarora) and planted trees.

In May 2008, more people came, and planted like crazy in the Superior National Forest during the 2008 Gunflint Green Up Event
This week I went and checked on the little guys. The growing season this year was amazing, so that when I went in with a tree expert in July, it was really hard to find the pines among all of the ferns, poplars and wildflowers.
They were easy to find in October---and they looked pretty good!

In 2009, we'll have another event filled weekend on the Gunflint Trail. My friend the tree guy says that these little ones need tending.....their survival depends upon the sun----there is talk of "releasing the trees," or cutting away all the growth around them so that they have a chance to compete for sunlight.

Denali is sitting by one of the 2007 trees planted in the sun---same batch, but already-been-released. This is one happy tree! Consider a visit to the Gunflint Trail during the first weekend in May. You can help us release the trees, plant a few more---and you could also join us for the 2nd annual Ham Lake Half Marathon. May 2,3,4, 2009. Don't miss it!!!

Washington man indicted for starting the Ham Lake fire

From the news today--- 17 months after the Ham Lake Fire started so close to us.
You'll notice that Tuscarora Lodge appears in this report. This is what we know; and we are still very sad about that day...

Monday, October 21, 2008. A 64-year-old man from Washington D.C. has been indicted in federal court for allegedly starting the 2007 Ham Lake fire that burned for more than a week, destroyed more than 75,000 acres of forest land and cost approximately $11 million to extinguish.Stephen George Posniak was charged October 20 in Minneapolis with one count of setting timber afire, one count of leaving a fire unattended and unextinguished, and one count of giving false information to a United States Forest Service officer.Posniak’s indictment alleges that on May 5, 2007, he did willfully and without authority set on fire timber, underbrush, grass and other inflammable material upon lands owned by the U.S. within the Superior National Forest. Specifically, Posniak allegedly burned paper trash and other items that ignited a fire in the forest that burned approximately 75,000 acres in the U.S. and Canada and resulted in fire suppression costs of approximately $11 million.The indictment also alleges that on May 5 Posniak started a fire within the forest that he left without totally extinguishing, and allowed the fire to burn and spread beyond his control and burn unattended.It also alleges that on May 5 Posniak knowingly gave false, fictitious and fraudulent information to U.S. Forest Service officers by stating that he camped overnight on Cross Bay Lake, not Ham Lake, on the evening of May 4, 2007. Posniak allegedly told officers that he encountered an out-of-control fire already burning at a Ham Lake campsite on the morning of May 5 while paddling back through Ham Lake to Tuscarora Lodge.If convicted, Posniak faces a potential maximum penalty of five years in prison on the setting timber afire count, and six months each on the other two counts. All sentences are determined by a federal district court judge.An indictment is a determination by a grand jury that there is probable cause to believe that offenses have been committed by a defendant. A defendant, of course, is presumed innocent until he or she pleads guilty or is proven guilty at trial.This case is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Otteson.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Moose Hunt

It is moose hunting season on the Gunflint Trail. This fall the DNR has only issued permits for the bulls—in theory there are plenty of bulls around for mating… I’m always glad when the moose season is over, and I don’t have to risk the scene in the Buck’s parking lot where people bring their moose to get tagged---which reminds me of the horsehead scene in the Godfather movies.

This year we have some moose hunter guests—a couple of Charlies and their friend Dan—they’ve secured 3 permits. It’s a “once in a life time “ deal for these guys—a person is only eligible for MN Moose permit once, whether or not you shoot a moose.
Personally I don’t have a moral problem with hunting. If I were to decide to go vegetarian, I should be first taking a hard look at my chicken sandwich—I like to buy the happy chickens, but I don’t always do that. I’ll wager the moose that Dan and the Charlies shot in the BWCA was a lot happier than my chickens. (He also had apparently lived a very long time).
I’m all for the deer hunters thinning out the herd of “invasive species” deer rodents around here…
So why do my eyes get sad whenever I talk to the Charlies about the moose? (I know they sense it, not by my words---because their stories become much softer.)
Well first off, I just like the huge animals. A friend of mine might suggest that I find them appealing only because they are becoming rarer. Maybe, but I don’t think so. Once I hiked Isle Royale, and was pretty excited by the lucky moose sighting right off of the ferry---and then quit counting 2 hours later after spotting 28 more. Just because the population was booming at that time in that place didn’t seem to hinder their charm.

However, the underdog status always gets to me. They are like immense nearsighted dairy cattle, and it seems like an unfair fight. Charlie told me that all you do is walk up and shoot them, one bullet, and they don’t even run, they just drop in their tracks. The trick is finding them in the first place—and hauling them out.
These men also talked about the decline of the moose population, how the DNR seems to be a little stumped, how hunters take blood samples to help with the mystery….how they hope that the moose stick around. They convince me that hunting is secondary to their time in the woods---and how they had to portage and hike 20 miles with 400 pounds of moose meat (they happen to be butchers by trade, so they didn’t bring out any bones).
When I see the bulls on the Gunflint Trail these days, I give them the telekinetic message---“Run for the Hills---Run for your Life!”
I’ll always have a tender spot for their big heavy Bullwinkle goofy presence. I’m worried about them, our own little polar bear species down here-- and I don’t like to see them disappear, for any reason.
I like the Charlies, but I’ll still be glad when moose hunting season is over.

Check out participant number 309
National Moose Day Petition
Susan was my roommate in college, and she really really doesn't like the moose heads in the parking lot!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Peter Lake

Last week we took a little canoe trip. Only 2 nights, but we paddled a long long way, and that is my favorite way to keep warm on a fall trip. We left from our dock, which I also like because it reminds me that we have access to a really big backyard. Really big.
We camped on the south shore of Little Sag, and then took a day trip down to through Makwa, Pan, through the Kawishiwi River area (haven’t been there in 20 years…glad to see that it is still wonderful) and up through Adams, Boulder, and back through Makwa. It was a full scenery day The forecast called for 20% chance of rain 100% of the time which turned out to be an accurate prediction, because it seemed to rain about 12 minutes out of every hour. Perfect, because we couldn’t have been in the tent yard cleaning tents even if we had wanted to be.
We took the Bell Northshore canoe---the one my friend Kelly Dupre calls “the party barge”, which is sort of accurate and sort of misleading because really it is sleek and fast, 55 pounds only 19 feet long. We completed our marathon daytrip and arrived back at our campsite just at total nightfall—on the last portage we didn’t actually need a headlamp until the very end. Ideal timing, if you've ever taken a fall trip with Jim Wiinanen . However, some people I know think that we were pushing the daylight envelope just a little too far.
The next day we paddled home through my favorite Peter Lake area—the only recovering forest part of our trip-those (above-the-tree line) alpine lakes touched deepest by the Cavity Fire in 2007. I can't quite get over how cool it is up there. It isn’t just me, others throughout the summer have loved it in there too. Something magical about the tundra feel to that area.. We saw a moose on the hill, like a big horned ship on a mountainside, and if you look very closely you can see the cow down below him.
When I visited French, Peter, and Virgin in 2007 (a full year after the Cavity Fire) these rocky portages looked as if the vegetation may not recover. Apparently 2007 had an impressive growing season---especially the poplar trees took off. Even if the parent poplar trees burn, fires stimulate production of suckers from the massive shallow root systems of these trees. Poplar trees (along with birch) seed readily, even the fallen branches can sucker into new trees. Once Shelby got an ominous voice as she looked at the rapid regrowth and said: “Mom, we couldn’t stop those Ppoplars if we wanted to.” She’s probably right---Look at this hearty guy, and you can see just how determined they are.

I f you look closely at these photos, you can see that they are taken of the same hill---one in 2007 (1 year after the Cavity Fire) and one in 2008. It was just a lucky coincidence that I took them on the same spot!!! But they do illustrate what is happening in there---and it certainly won’t be a group of tundra lakes for long. I’m loving it while it lasts! There’s something about that Peter Lake.