Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ancient Stone

Andy found a rock. 4 years ago. He and Daniel thought it might be an arrowhead or a spear, but it seemed big for that. They were imagining some big archaeological find I'm sorry to say that I was skeptical and made fun of it......because it was not so sharp, not such a good specimen of an arrowhead.

Centennial Trail creator Tom Kaffine was visiting a few times this spring. Because he was adding some trail markers and a spiffy Centennial Trail historical guide. It is a very cool place.
Tom doesn't exactly visit. He zips in and talks fast, and then he's gone. Sometimes he chats with Andy a little longer, but then he paces. As he was pacing he noticed the rock on the top of the map case...and it caught his interest.
Tom spends his winters in the USFS archaeology office in Duluth. He's sort of enthusiastic about that, so he snapped some photos, took a bearing on that particular spot (called the Denali site, according to Tom) before he rushed off smiling. It turns out that Andy found a a trihedral adz, tentatively dated somewhere between 5000-8000 years old.

The kids and I were chatting about that. How many years does 8000 feel like? Time and magnitude are sort of hard mathematical concepts when you get right down to it. We used to read a childrens' book "How Much Is A Million?". Do you realize it takes at least 23 days to count to a million? Most of the time, I'm too tired to think about that.

Shelby and Daniel were attempting to wrap our heads around that to conceptualize the peoples living here 5000-10,000 years ago, who must have been chiseling the adz. Or scooping out boats. Or just dropping a tool. Well, let's see. The United States is almost 240 years old.....and Jesus was born a little over 2000 years ago. That's really as far back we could sort of personalize. But we were giving it a good shot.

This is what these guys do. Tom and his archaeologist guru colleague Lee Johnson came and did a mini-treasure hunt--a test dig in the area around Andy's first find....which may be an ancient tool making site? Who knows. At any rate, I had no idea I'd be so interested, but it is really fun to hear these guys' enthusiasm about it, that I start going with them 8000 year ago-- to people on a river bank maybe? With stone from Knife Lake...

Today is the Boundary Waters Family weekly seminar (Every Thursday, 3pm at Chikwauk, 7pm in Grand Marais).
Lee Johnson is leading it today--and he is goooood. Andy's going...and Andy almost never leaves the office even for an hour this time of year....if you can make it there, you 'd like it I think.

Lee Johnson Seminar:
Mookomaan Zaaga'igan: Knife Lake Silstone

The areas surrounding Knife Lake in the BWCAW were an important location for the quarrying and manufacture of stone tools. Recent evidence may suggest that people were traveling to Knife Lake as far back as 10,000 years ago. Learn about the geology, archaeology, and importance of this lithic resource to the First People who called the Boundary Waters home. The presentation will include a flintknapping demonstration.

Presented by Superior National Forest Archeologist Lee Johnson.

Thursday, July 29 Naturalist Seminar, 3 PM Chik-Wauk Museum & Nature Center; 7 PM, Grand Marais RV Park & Campground

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ant Eaters

The Mohan Family took advantage of our Boundary Waters Family package—and they sure spiced up last week here at Tuscarora. On Tuesday, Maggie took them paddling, Jen took them blueberry picking, Cass took them to Chik Wauk, Lindsay taught them campfire building and cuisine over lunch at Blankenberg beach, , Kelley took them hiking on the Centennial Trail where they stumbled upon a moose—or actually she nearly stumbled over them.

On Wednesday Daniel and I paddled out with them for their first night in the woods. It was great fun. We started out in a downpour, buckets of rain--- yet they were very good sports about it. We had a tarp, we hunkered under at the end of the portage with some jerky, some fruit snacks, some good conversation. It’s such a conquering feeling to navigate such rain. I was hiking back for another load thinking---I LOVE this. I love it here. You can see that Matt never lost his smile.

Daniel shared some fishing tips, and I had a chance to share some of the finer points of wilderness snacking with TJ and Malachy. They were so game for anything. Funny boys, reminded me of Bob Snodgrass who introduced me to formic acid (in ants) 25 years ago. Do they use formic acid in lime sweet tarts? I don’t really know, but they taste surprisingly similar. If you can’t see this video full screen---you might miss TJ’s hands describing the taste explosion (and he is right on!) ---or karate-kid-Malachy, who couldn't seem to hold back his shimmies.

The next morning after breakfast, with memories of a good evening of hide-and-go-seek sardines, swimming, fishing, s'mores,,, Daniel and I reluctantly headed back to Tuscarora and left the Mohans to find their own ants to eat. On the trail, they crossed paths with another Boundary Waters Family-sponsored group. On these work trips, family teams take the opportunity to join some US Forest Service Rangers to camp and volunteer with work projects. The outfitters on the Gunflint Trail partner with the US Forest Service and we’re really excited about all of the things happening in the program this summer. And upon return, that group had a weekend full of stories to tell.

The big idea, the cool truth is---time in the woods strengthens families. And we’re lucky we get to facilitate some of that. We get to meet some great people that way too. And the kids are like the formic acid in the ants—they always surprise us with the taste explosions. Oh Yeah!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wolf Pack

Tuscarora guests--the Mickelsons visited a local road this morning--and they were greeted by an entire wolf pack. They watched---then came back to get their kids, and drove back to observe the puppy antics some more.

If we can figure out how to hook up the video camera to my computer, I can later include a video of the puppies learning to howl. It gives me goose bumps every time!

Thanks to Greg Mickelson for sharing these great photos with us.

They wondered about so many pups---seeming like two different litters (4 littler guys, 3 bigger ones---???) Obviously together...but my understanding is that the pack allows only one female to mate with the Alpha male--and they all take care of the pups.

This group was a little different. Perhaps they came from a polygamous belief system? Or maybe--some just grew faster than others.

Could she be the only mother?

This smaller male was a baby-sitter of sorts.

They didn't get the photo of the large beautiful male they were guessing was the alpha--but apparently he was bi--ig.

I just read about the pups--and Greg said that they were beginning to pounce on little critters and hunt a little---
  • 4 weeks - Weigh 5-6 lbs.; growth of adult hair around nose and eyes; bodies begin to take on conformation of adults with disproportionately large feet and head; high-pitched howls are gaining strength; mother may go off for hours on end to hunt; dominance and play fighting begin.
  • 5 weeks - Gradual process of weaning begins. Can follow adults up to one mile from den.
  • 8 weeks -Disproportionately large feet and head.
  • 8-10 weeks - Adults abandon den and move pups to rendezvous site; weaning complete, pups can feed on food provided by adults; adult hair becomes apparent on body.

  • Maybe they were somewhere between 6-10 weeks old? You can bet I'll be on the lookout for this big family!