Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wendell Berry

The other day Anna (former staff ) met Wendell Berry. Even though wasn't my experience, I was excited about that, because I think he's AWESOME, and I also thought he was dead. She wrote: no... he is very much alive. Brilliant, gracious, humble, and genuine are the words that come to mind...

Have you discovered him? He's an author/farmer. Here's one of my favorites---He just hits my nail on the head when he says stuff like "I rest in the grace of the world, and am free." Such an elegant gift to be able to put together the same simple words so uniquely, so perfectly capturing my experiences...

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
- Wendell Berry, Openings: The Peace of Wild Things

Sunday, October 18, 2009

October Fun

The kids were off school for MEA weekend--we had a little family hiking shindig....and spent an October afternoon on the trail. For awhile it snowed big beautiful heavy flakes over the yellow trees. Great moment.

We found stuff, and the Cceaster carefully replaced the artifacts, of course.

Please note that Lars isn't actually foaming at the mouth--it was a whipped cream chubby bunnies moment.

Later, during the pumpkin carving, I was feeling nostalgic about these kids growing up, lucky that they are so entertaining, glad that they let us adults in, so we can still be part of the party.

I'd just like to point out the pumpkin on the right---Kieran carved with the intentional lazy eye, maybe in honor of Abraham Lincoln or maybe some other notable lazy-eyed person, or maybe not.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Larch Trees

Before I moved to the Gunflint Trail, I'm not sure I could have even identified a Tamarack. Or known why they called Larch Creek, Larch Creek.

This time of year, I can't take my eyes off of them..especially when the October sky is so blue and they are such a unique yellow. I wish I could capture them, or better yet, I wish you could see them. I wonder if there is a crayon color called Tamarack?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Centennial Hiking Trail

Hey! We've got a splendid new hiking trail that connects our Round Lake Road to the Kekakabic trail and then back around to make a 3.3 mile loop .

A volunteer crew of former smoke jumpers helped the Forest Service with the project in early September.

Andy and I knew one of the volunteers. Retired smoke jumper Jim Cherry was once director of Wilderness Canoe Base, on Seagull Lake. He was before my time, but that Wilderness community is a far reaching clan; which means there are lots of overlapping people between Jim and me (including Andy).

Jim’s kids also went to my Mpls Washburn High (may she falter never). But really, the reason I feel so fond of Jim falls back to the story of 3 Vietnamese brothers—refugees that stayed with my family for awhile after Saigon fell.

I think I was about 12, they were young adults (high school/college) who worked for Jim that first summer in the US. Incidentally those 3 guys and their families are still part of our ‘extended’ family, and they are remarkable world citizens, but that’s another story. (And I won’t even get INTO the egg rolls)

At age 12, I couldn’t begin to appreciate the kind of grief they experienced upon leaving their beloved family and country. But after a summer at WCB, it was obvious that Jim Cherry stepped up, and was a surrogate father type. And because I love them, I was always grateful to Jim for that.

You might call this experience the Transitive Property of Families---If A is linked to B and B is linked to C, then A is linked to C. And THAT is the roundabout story of why I give bright orange Jim Cherry a hug when I see him.

There was obviously some similar type of camaraderie among this group.

These smoke jumpers share a bond. They’ve fought in different battles, but they’re on the same team. Here are 3 of them---from the left Tom (also retired DNR official), Jim Cherry(retired Lutheran minister), and Jack (retired surgeon). Definitely they’ve had powerful experiences. Tom tried to describe the connection that he feels when he meets fellow smoke jumpers--like they're old friends already--made of the same sort of mettle.

I believe they offer their volunteer services in many different venues, but this September, we were the beneficiaries. Eleven of them joined forces with the USFS---- worked hard and fast, and cleared the way.

Around here, Andy and I refer to it as Tom Kaffine’s trail. Tom is the local USFS ranger. I don’t know exactly what his current title is—but he’s the woods expert. He's paddled here forever, and he knows all of the secret places. Come to think he rarely ever TELLS his secrets. But he's been around.

If you came to his Becoming a Boundary Waters Family presentation at Tuscarora this summer, you’d have seen some 20 year old pictures of the railroad bed, old cabins and treasures, and a younger Tom Kaffine. The Ham fire in 2007, cleared the way, and made it easier for Tom to explore and flag a hiking trail. He took his idea to the Forest Service to do whatever it is that has to be done to approve of a trail like this. I suspect that was no small task. It seems to me when they are managing property that belongs to 300 million people of the United States, they have to manage at least a few conflicting opinions with every step.

At any rate—the Centennial Trail follows the Port Arthur railroad bed that once connected the Paulson Mine (on the Kekekabic Trail) to Thunder Bay. I believe the train made one run….and if you are curious about details, we’re hoping Tom Kaffine will have a chance to crystallize some of his knowledge into some sort of interpretive source, someday...soon.

Until then—come and explore this lovely trail…still a little rough in places (which is why they hesitate to call it done)—but a great hike! It starts at the beginning of the Kekakabic Trail and cuts off about 1.2 miles in, and loops around to the Round Lake Road, and back to the Kek Trail parking lot.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October BWCA Camping

With the fall colors peaking--we had to sneak in a little overnight while we could. It was wonderful!

We were glad to wake up at home this morning----this time of year you never know quite what you're going to get.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


(All photos courtesy of Mark Jirsa)

Let's just put it out here....geology is one of the last things I ever wanted to study in college. For a time Shelby was planning to grow up to be a geologist --so I tried. We bought The Rock Picker's Guide to Lake Superior, and we'd attempt to identify the rocks---but I also brought some hammers and safety glasses for Daniel..and then we'd end up trying to find geodes and really just smashing up all the rocks we could. Or we'd pull out the glue and paint and take away sculptures...I'm sad to say, we were high impact amateur geologists. But let me tell you, we sure could chug.

This summer, Geologist Mark Jirsa brought University students to travel to Bingshick and study the rock formations ---apparently it is a geologist's dream out there. He chose that lake because he said there were rocks from 3 major time periods in history--and he was looking for some specific junction, revealed by the fires of years past. I was politely curious. But that guy has a passion for this stuff, and it's fairly contagious. He identified some sort of junction this year on Bingshick--something that proved a theory that he's had for 10 years--about rocks from different time periods (and maybe this photo illustrates that, and maybe it doesn't---)... but now he has proof. Pretty soon, I was enthused right there with him--in part because it's fun to see someone so zealous about his work, and in part because he kindled my interest---in rocks.

So, when he was giving a presentation last week--on the nearby Gunflint Narrows Road, we all arranged to go.

In May of 2007, the Ham Lake Fire foiled Mark's geology field trip to Seagull Lake. The closest he was allowed to go that week was the Narrows Road. So he started exploring--and made an important discovery---evidence of a meteorite that hit the earth in Sudbury Canada. The event sent the earth into a nuclear winter---1.85 billion years ago.

We saw some braccia formations; layers rock that was broken and stirred up as a result of the shock waves. It seems there are several local fire places made of that stuff. These braccia formations were made from rock already here, but we also looked at ejecta---the lappilli formations made from rock ejected upon impact (apparently not part of the monster meteorite--which vaporized from all that energy)
The pea shaped lappilli were formed because the tremendous energy and material ejected into clouds---like hail stones are created during a thunderstorm.... "stone hail" was formed during that event, and some of them rained over the Gunflint Lake area. (Stefan came up with the term stone-hail--and we thought that was clever)

At any rate---it appears to be a significant geological discovery right here, and I've got to credit Mark for making that snippet in time, almost 2 billion years ago, come alive for me. And I'll also admit, my hike yesterday was enriched by the curiosity about the rock formations I noticed. Hoping he'll be back again, and if you have the chance to hear him, you might want to take it-even if you think you might not be interested!