Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fishing with Mike Vogt

Mike and Dennis were happy with their catches.....

Darrin thought he spotted some spawning rainbow trout....but then....he was oh-so-disappointed

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Weekend Memories

The woods were hopping this weekend! I couldn't begin to capture every trip story that came through. The weather was lovely, the bugs were minimal, most everybody was smiling.

Ron and Krista traveled from Virginia for a canoe trip-- Krista's graduation present from her dad.

The word on lake trout: the fishing is really hot on the lakes that burned a few years back---I haven't seen or heard of any research related to the Cavity Fire and fish productivity, but if I were to make a conjecture, based on this year......something about "the lake trout were absolutely goofy" might lead me.

We had activity in Tuscarora cabins as seems as though we're developing a traditional Memorial Weekend crowd.

Sweet little Daisy, the English Springer Spaniel just joined Stan and Sophie's household a week ago. She's spunky enough to keep up with Stan, the marathon runner. I'm sad to say you can't see his 70-something legs, because then you could tell he is one fit guy.

My brother Mike and sister-in-law Diane headed into Edith on Sunday afternoon, with TallySue the cheerful powderpuff dog. (And, yes, she did get her middle name from me-and I try not to take it personally that they only use the middle name when she is in trouble). You can't see that Mike is wearing Bog-walker boots, but he is now their greatest advocate. He trekked into Tuscarora Lake, solo, trout fishing on Saturday morning, and realized that in the spring, warm-when-wet feet are not a luxury, but a necessity.

If you ask them, these boys were "pulling them in all weekend." My godson/nephew Joe, took a breather on the dock before he went back home to the daily grind of school work, hockey, soccer, and especially "managing the LAdies."

About 15 minutes ago, Megan and Kaylee were little girls with dance recitals. And now, Megan is finishing dental school and Kaylee is working in advertising. How? When???
We like Mike and Brandon a lot. They look like big tough guys, but they both picked Hannah Montana for the Name Game. Independently. What are the odds of that? Same round.

Les and Pauline from Iowa, did the entire Brant-Gillis-Tuscarora-Missing Link loop on Sunday. That's a 3-5 day trip. But for them, a daytrip. Because they're tough Old Farts (OF). Pauline says she has many degrees, MA, MD, OF. Yep, she's a physician, a grandma, and a powerful sterns-woman. Also wife to Les---who randomly shows up on his motorcycle during the summer. Just so he and Andy can figure out what kind of motorcycle he should get, and discuss whether or not God really exists. Two most crucial questions.

Alan (center) has been coming to Tuscarora FOREVER. This time he brought his brother Jerry, and his brother-in-law Nate (who also knows the place quite well). You can see that they caught their Memorial Day breakfast.

And...5 dogs joined Denali for the weekend too. When the beach cleared out of people, the dogs took over. Denali looks like the rest of us feel on this cloudy day-after Memorial Day. It was a good one!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Resilience and a Ham Run

On May 3, 150 runners followed the Gunflint Trail from Gunflint Pines to Way of the Wilderness, and completed the 2nd Annual Ham Run Half Marathon. The runners wound through Superior National Forest, witnessing recovering forest on the anniversary of the Ham Lake Fire.

Boy, two years ago in that war zone, I would never have dreamed that we would be celebrating an anniversary, with both the Gunflint Green Up and the Ham Lake Run.

We sure did.

I’ve heard people talk about “resilient"communities during times of stress. I’ve been thinking about that word.

A (casual) physics definition of resilience, if I have it right, is the measure of a matter's ability to store energy elastically, and then release it. Different materials have different measures of resilience, different maximum abilities to absorb energy and then unload it.
If I think about an elastic rubber ball---I apply force as I throw it on the ground, and it bounces back-with equal force if it is perfectly elastic. There's an equation for that...but let's skip that part.

So I’m thinking about the overwhelming power of the Ham Lake Fire. Destructive, hot, massive, wow. Unstoppable, death, blackened ground. At the time, really sad. However, when the smoke cleared, the fire didn't burn everything. Just patches and clumps, and then it would jump. And almost immediately, (partly because it was spring), we witnessed the resiliency of the earth. All of that energy was released again. A subtle reoccurring kind of energy, that most powerful resurrection-type energy, the green, the blueberries, the wildflowers, the new sprouting life. Quieter, kinder, peaceful, yet still powerful.
The fire specialist on the Gunflint district keeps telling us with gentle persistence and a variety of graphs that a boreal forest NEEDS fire for survival. Our instinct is to say...yeah, yeah, yeah...but not in OUR slice of the forest. The truth is, these woods are strengthened by fire. Never did that quite sink in until I saw that energy released, until I witnessed the elasticity of nature.

Then it shouldn’t surprise me that people in this community follow the model that the earth has set. At first, I thought the fire might zap everybody’s resources, their vigor. But check out Mike and Sue, the catalysts of the run event. They transferred all that momentum into the annual Ham Run Half Marathon. This circle of volunteers, many who supported the fire fighting efforts, rallied once again. That's some powerful elasticity: remarkable actually to see what has come back.
Lucky me, that I’ve had a chance to soak up some of these experiences. Experiences like that rubber ball--it's OK to roll it around, but that's not nearly as fun as the big bounce. Some of the greatest joys come out of the rebounds, after the stressers have passed by. It’s the stuff of life.

And the runners? Resilient with every step!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Mother's Day Gift

For Mother’s Day Shelby gave me an afternoon whitewater trip down the Cross River. She knows me well: an adventure that we’ve never done, that scared us both a little bit: perfect!

She’s been yearning to follow the rapids around the corner to where she can’t see them. With a map we planned a strategy, identified bail-out points, shuttled a couple of bikes around. Though this route was a mystery to us, I could easily have called Bob Baker, a neighbor-in-the-know. I had some vague recollection of hearing of “pretty good rapids” in there somewhere between us and Gunflint Lake. But—we wanted to venture into the unknown. So, we chose to be original explorers. Yikes!

I’ve had a little experience. I remember the Wisconsin Brule, with Class-Something rapids. Yep, just enough whitewater info to make me dangerous.

It was beautiful on the river. Our collective adrenaline was pumping, the water was high, we were a team. We’d zip along, find a place to catch our breath, rest, pull over a log, laugh. We were learning handy techniques. It was great.

I watched her and I reflected on this whole motherhood adventure. I’m a fourteen year veteran, but sometimes it still feels like I’m following rapids around the corner to where I can’t see them. I’m wise enough to realize that our children aren’t an extension of us, they are entirely themselves. As she navigated the rapids, I thought about what a good sense she has about her, physically and mentally. I fully trust her in my canoe. She’s adventuresome and funny. I suppose it is maternal instinct that I have always loved her, but the lucky thing is that I also really LIKE her. I remember when I was pregnant, wondering what happened if you were stuck with a kid you didn’t like? Does that happen often? It occurred to me parenting would be a long haul, if you didn’t actual enjoy hanging out with your offspring.

We left Round Lake Road, we crossed under the Gunflint Trail at Warrens Road, then past Dude Man campsite, and then calm waters. Still moving fast, but it was quiet. Wonderful. We saw a bunch of water birds we didn’t recognize. Then we came around the bend, heard loud water, and saw a big cliff next to some really fast water, some big rocks, and big drops. Bob Baker would have warned us about this, I’m sure it was Class Something-dicey. Could we do it? We got out to investigate. I’ll bet we could have. There were ways, ….yet we agreed that it was not a good bet. Since we didn’t know exactly how far into the woods we were. The whole safety-factor, the whole- be-smart-about-life idea. The whole…helmets-would-also-be-nice-part.

I had a flash image of the Fire and Rescue pager on my desk, and I so didn’t want to be the subject of one of those. So we hauled the big green boat, lined the rapids. We learned how easily it could get hung up and fill with water, we stepped in a little over our rubber boots. As we tugged and struggled, we also felt the enormous force of that much water. We learned that it was futile to fight that force, but it was fine to work with it, as long as we kept our eyes on the rocks and guided the canoe. Pretty awesome life lessons, if we take the time to think about them.

Eventually, we decided, that we could handle the rapids ahead. All was good, we were flying, one organism, problem solving, strong and on top of the current (and the big rocks were behind us anyway). Splendid!

Then…around the bend, and ….darn that last windfall. I thought we could make it under the log if we hung left. Shelby thought we should pull over to the right. Oops, there went our synergy.

Next thing I knew, we’re snagged half way under. I was trying to keep the wedged canoe straight with the current, and Shelby a ways away, had her chin above the log, and most of her body in the current, struggling to hang on. She was hollering AHHHHHH! And I was telling her she looked just like Laura Ingalls Wilder, hanging onto the bridge in Plum Creek. As my niece would say…”kinda scarwey”

Then I was telling her—“Shelby, if the hollering hhelped, I’d say—go ahead and do that, but we really have to get this canoe out from under this log. Want to get in?” The truth was, I felt a little forlorn too. But what were we going to do? So we pulled ourselves together, and were oh-so-close to getting that boat under the log and on our way down the current. As we slipped free, we just had too much water in the boat, and pretty soon I was floating with the up-side-down boat, Shelby was making her way through the current without her boots. Seemed like we bounced around for a long way, or maybe not. But eventually, we did manage to empty out the canoe. Though she didn’t want to get in the boat I had to say…REMEMBER, WE ARE STRONG PADDLERS. COMPETENT PEOPLE. And she said “Oh yeah.” And then quietly, “But I don’t have a paddle anymore.”

Two more bends, and we reached our destination --Gunflint Lake, and a bike, and still sunshine. We were a little banged up, sore today, but just fine. We probably learned more BECAUSE we tipped, and we certainly have a healthy respect for the power of the river.

Still, it was a perfect gift. Andy also gets credit for sanctioning it. He knew that there was a good chance he’d be in there with me, after hours, retrieving a canoe. Shelby had to laugh at the grimace on his face when he looked at our soaking wet selves and asked…”So where’s the boat?”

And motherhood? This grand adventure is my finest gift. I’m grateful for the honor to navigate these waters. With kids that I like. Two for two. Those are great odds.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fishing Opener

Daniel was so funny this week. Approaching fishing opener was like approaching Christmas. Every night a dinner the "high point" of the day was that we were getting a little closer to Saturday. His friends Lars and Jammer came to do the fishing opener sleepover on Friday night, and Shelby and I left them to get to sleep before 9pm...they set their alarms for 5am.

We've had some gorgeous weather this week--and sent some early fishermen out to scout out the camping spots on Long Island, Cross Bay, Gillis, and Tuscarora. They were delighted that the parking lots were empty, it seems a little quiet out there. A couple of them were planning to fly fish for the lake trout again this season.However, this snowy morning, Zack Kotnik and his friends were lingering over their coffee a little longer...bundled in parkas.

Yet, a little snow didn't discourage our three 12 year olds. They were out at 6am, in the back door of the dining hall kitchin for french toast at 7:30, and heading back out to catch lunch.
The 2009 angling season has begun!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gunflint Green Up-One Family's Story

Mitchell will celebrate his Bar Mitzvah in a couple of weeks, and since Superior National Forest has been a part of his life since before birth—he was looking for a social action project and found a perfect match in the Gunflint Green Up.

Mitch joined approximately 350 people who planted 25000 seedlings this weekend in the upper Gunflint Trail area. (Hooray!) He brought his family--including his grandparents to plant trees. Incidentally, Mitch is also pretty good at chanting in Hebrew, which is handy for a guy heading into a Bar Mitzvah.

Mitchell’s mom, Christine, has been coming to Tuscarora all of her life. His grandma Sandy first visited over 40 years ago, but I believe this was their first time to witness ice-out on Round Lake.

Lily- (Gnome Story) is still finding fairies in the woods here. And…they left a little note for her in one of their houses, while she was planting trees! Note the hollow "fairy house" in the bottom of this tree. Apparently, they are invisibly swarming her head at all times. Lily named all of the trees she planted “Bessie.” She says some day, she’ll be bringing her grandchildren here and she’ll show them a tree and say “And here’s ol’ Bessie, I planted her back in 2009”

When I first moved to Tuscarora, 2 year old Harry would find me and give me hugs. How did he know I was a little homesick? He is a sweet boy who was adept at monitoring the alternation of red pines and white pines during the planting---only he and Aidan referred to the tree species as Fuzzies and Tall-ies.

Someday you may recognize Aidan in the major leagues. He could hit a baseball almost before he could walk. Really remarkable. He has all kinds of enthusiasm for planting trees…and for life!

Here’s Sid, who married into the Tuscarora family tradition. He and Christine keep the charm of the woods alive for these children. Incidentally, they’re parents who are particularly good at cherishing their children’s different personalities. That’s part of why it feels good to hang out with them.

This place has been part of this family’s history for 3 generations. Maybe they will never live here, but who knows what they will grow up to do and be? These are the kids who will eventually be the policy makers, the stake holders, the care-givers of this land. This is part of the magic opportunity of Gunflint Green Up.

Over 100 years ago, another boy named Teddy (far left, I think), had parents who must have also valued his individuality. They took him into the Adirondacks every summer, even though he had severe asthma. According to Seth Shteir, they allowed him to keep a snapping turtle tied to the household laundry tub, they let him feed baby squirrels with an eye dropper, and keep a tree frog in the parlor. And when Theodore Roosevelt grew up, he established Superior National Forest in 1909. This is what an individual can do.

Kudos to the Gunflint Green up committee (especially Nancy Seaton) and to the USDA Forest Service for making it all possible.

Kudos to Sid and Christine, for facilitating the experiences for their kids in the woods. Not only did the white and red pines get a jump start, but many kids also got a jump start. Here’s to the next 100 years of the Superior National Forest.