Tuesday, February 22, 2011

She Devil

Shelby came in from skiing the other night, just as it was getting dark, alarmed by the cries she'd been hearing.

We went out on the porch. I was expecting a weird owl, or a dying rabbit squeal, or possibly a suffering deer.

But then, I heard the scream. Somebody was in serious anguish out there. We called Andy and Daniel out, and we all heard the tormented scream again. It was a wide eyed prickly moment.
Surely some woman had just severed her leg, a snowmobile accident maybe....or she was being murdered over by the landing, or...crawling through the snow being chased by Jack Nicholson.

The four of us went into emergency mode. I considered 9-1-1 briefly, but no......it seemed so unlikely yet urgent and ............we wanted to hear her again first. We hurried into winter gear and grabbed the radio and satelite phone, came up with a plan. I thought about our friend Michael on Missing Link--did he crawl back? Bloody....? There were folks in the woods, some trucks at the access road. The agony came from that direction, but maybe closer--by the lodge?

We went out yelling to the victim---Hellloooooooo....Hoooty hoot.
Andy and Daniel took the snowmobile to the access road (where they ran out of gas)...Shelby and I walked around together in the darkness, feeling isolated and vulnerable. We couldn't hear her anymore. Except maybe----far off in the distance. Maybe. It's dark and deep in the woods, and from the few horror movies that I've seen, we probably shouldn't have been wandering around without even a baseball bat, but...let me tell you, without the scary background music, the winter night was undeniably calm and peaceful. Even though our hackles had been up, we weren't hearing torment sounds anymore.

We sat on the steps of the lodge and listened...strained....The stars were out, it was really quite beautiful. We started to joke about the She-Devil.
I was secretly thinking cougar She-Devil, Shelby was leaning toward the supernatural. Even though we weren't alarmed anymore, we certainly were NOT going to fall for the horror movie trick and go out looking for Andy and Daniel, nosiree. They finally made it back, we sat down to our cold pizza, we never heard her again.

Yesterday I did find the sound on Youtube--it's unanimous:
Our She-Devil is our local fox. She's been hanging around for months, and apparently mid-late winter is mating season for the red fox. Just listen to Fox Scream, but please turn the volume way way up, and close your eyes...and think....MORE human sounding. No kidding, she fooled us all. Maybe she's small...but she can make a louder movie scream than I can. (photocredit Tiffany Follett)

I'm relieved not to be looking for a big cat or a severed body, or someone haunting Cabin 6. I was a little worried that our hesitation could have cost a life.

But, once again, it turns out that philosopher William of Occam was right when he articulated the principle of Occam's razor, " The most simple solution is most likely the answer."

However---early the next morning, Shelby and I were loading up our downhill skis, from the Lodge, talking about the She-Devil, before our mystery was solved. We looked at the tails of my skis. We have never noticed "She Devil" written back there before. How would Sir William have explained THAT little Twilight Zone moment?

Or.. when I did a google image search for "red fox Minnesota winter", how come a photo from The Shining came up?" How did Sir Google know that woman had the exact same scream as the red fox?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Skinny Ski

The Pursuit Race:
Part 1: Freestyle (skate)
Starting one by one, the skiers race against the clock. The skier with the fastest time wins this part-but we can only tell at the end when they post the times.

Part 2 Classic (parallel, traditional course that is tracked with grooves for the skis)
2 hours later, the skate winner starts out of the gate with classic skis. The other skiers leave the starting gate according to the time they finished-behind the first skier. In the case of the state meet, 120 skiers leave within 5 minutes, sometimes as many as 10 at a time. All skiers "pursue" the winner , and when they finish, the crowd now knows who is the first place finisher, in real time. In the State Championship race, all Minnesota skiers compete against each other (there are no AA or AAA designations), and Duluth East won both boys and girls events. The Cook county skiers compete in the same section as Duluth East, so it gets pretty exciting to see all of those kids we know skiing so well.
Shelby and Kieran both qualified for the state meet this year. They're longtime friends-from 11 year old Tuscarora pirates to the state ski meet. How cool is that?

When they warmed up at Giants Ridge on Wednesday--it was 59 degrees. A pleasant shock from their qualifying race a week earlier (at -28 for Section warm-ups- that would be 87 degrees colder...in one week)

Why Do It?

We live on the Gunflint Trail--home of the best ski trail system in the state. It's what people do in the winter. So--we do it too. Only Shelby took to it a little more quickly than the rest of us. Her friends from the running team were also skiing competitively. The community of skiers promote it. Grand Marais volunteers teach the kids to ski -with programs starting for the 5 year olds.

Because the movements involved in cross-country skiing are fluid and rhythmic, there is very little overuse or high impact damage to joints and muscles. It is one of the few activities that uses almost all of the body's major muscle groups, so a skier receives a complete workout, benefiting the heart and lungs as well. Cross-country skiers are regarded as some of the fittest athletes in the world.

On race day, it was a little drizzly, but lucky for us, the background coaching/waxing guys, Cory and Mark, really know what they're doing. The kick wax is apparently a tricky thing for a day that is 42 degrees and drizzling. Incidentally, they do happen to also have full time jobs.

Shelby says "Nobody else knows what this competition is like." --except the other skiers. Leslyn from Ely is an athlete Shelby keeps in her sights. If Shelby can catch her-- racing Leslyn seems to pull the best classic times that Shelby's ever had. Mata (in yellow), from Wayzata--is a close friend whose family spent the summer of 2004 at Tuscarora.

Why We Like It

As parents, we're just glad she gets outside. We're glad for the crowd of hard-working, talented peers, the solid friendships she's built on this team, the community support. We're happy to drive around the state to support her for these few short years. And we're fortunate for the Gunflint trail system in our back yard.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Becoming a Boundary Waters Family---Winter style!

One of our favorite families stayed with us on Friday night, and headed into Tuscarora Lake to camp this weekend.

Ingrid and Chris are longtime friends.
I first got to know Ingrid on our guide/training trip at Wilderness Canoe Base. (Mostly I'm including this photo for Daryl-the one in the mustard colored shorts and the ketchup colored shirt). This is the way I will always think of him, even though he is now a very official looking principal. Daryl is a worth a separate entry all his own.

Ingrid and I are on the left side of the photo--she's the one with the perm.
The summer of this photo, Ingrid had a little crush on the naturalist (who was Chris). He had a voyageur/naturalist spiel for every camper group that came through, and at the end he would sing The Garden Song, by Arlo Guthrie or Pete Seeger- the folk song that goes--"Inch by inch...row by row". It's no wonder she fell for him, the way he sang that song made everybody swoon. At the time I was falling for the pontoonist (who was Andy).

Who would have thought, as we chatted about those men in the tent, that almost 25 years later we would be sitting on the couch talking about the resulting five people (her children and mine)?

Lucky thing I got to hang out with them on Friday night--it reminded me how much I like them, and when I get to talk to them, it's never enough. I especially have always admired the way that they dig into life.
Ingrid gardens (inspired by the song? ..maybe). She keeps bees, and turkeys and chickens; she paddles with the Wikki Wikki Dragon Boat Team. That boat flies, and those intense paddlers win things, like the National Championships. Before kids we used to take interesting trips together--kayaking and hiking, paddling. I believe the onions I packed contributed to her hernia on Isle Royale. They are the kind of people that are always collecting stories. She harvests fish and deer and wild rice and blueberries and apples and honey ...one July she allowed herself to only eat the food she had personally harvested....just a little experiment. I have to admire that, and maybe I could try it one day if only I could figure out how to harvest coffee---and chocolate.

Chris is a teacher too, and founded Black River Sleds (note the spiffy sleds they all have--he makes them). He also harvests, and paddles and creates adventures for his children. I'm pretty sure he can still sing the Garden Song, although I haven't heard that one in 25 years or so.
They brought their friend Charlie, who has some stories of his own. Do you think he looks a little like Peter Pan? Because he is somehow related to Mia Farrow.
He just completed the Arrowhead 135--from I Falls to Tower MN. I'd never really heard about the winter bike racing, that sounds a little chilly to me. Some of those racers are now in Alaska, doing an Iditerod bike race. Charlie's daughter Sophie is already a biathlon competitor.

I like the way these people raise their kids. We're just coming on the best time to winter camp, in my opinion. And there are a few people out there this weekend, including Glen Sorenson, who stayed in a cabin with his group before they headed out with their Yurt to Missing Link. Glen does a BWCAW winter guiding business: Wilderness Snow Journeys.
Sam Cook also went out with Glen and maybe he'll write a little about it. People are very happy in the woods.
It's warming up beautifully. I have to say, it's a great way to venture out to create your own family stories..

Monday, February 7, 2011

Pre Game Activites

Want to know what we were doing before the SuperBowl?
When Andy used to be in the commercial construction business, they used PSF codes for roofs. In Minnesota, they constructed roofs to hold approximately 40 lbs PSF (per square foot).

It started snowing in November---light fluffy, it's been a wonderful winter. And every day since then it seems we get a little more light...fluffy.lovely.
We have 30+ structures at Tuscarora, and we'd prefer not to test the PSF limits of all this light fluffiness on the trusses. So---we're shoveling.

Last week my Dad cleared almost all the bunkhouses.

Yesterday we tackled our own house. For the lake side--I could still use one of our handy scoopy things to push the snow to the edges of the roof--and let it fall. While this push- shovel works on some sides of some buildings, we've begun to borrow other local methods for the driftier places. The snow block method is just dandy. It's really a fun trick. But....get a load of the size of these blocks. How much they weigh? We're only guessing, but I can testify that they're definitely not fluffy. It's very satisfying to drop all that weight--for the first 20 minutes or so.

You can also guess what Andy is doing right now while I type.