People come from near and far to enjoy this magical place. The outdoor activities are numerous; the terrain, scenery and wildlife are spectacular. The north shore of Lake Superior is magnetic, drawing many. Some will choose to stay and call this place home. For others it’s a special destination; a place for people to relax, recreate and unwind. A few days here allows folks to decompress, then go back to daily life refreshed; it’s like getting a clean start. Our oldest daughter, Sydney, came to visit to get some rest.
She brought her bicycle to ride the paved trails along the lakeshore. When she got back to our house, she left her bicycle outside, alongside the front porch steps. We live on a quiet dead-end road in the country with only four houses on it. Still, I questioned her. “Are you crazy? Leaving your bike out there unsecured?”
“It’s not like anyone is going to steal it out here.” She justified.
“Where do you think circus bears come from? And where do you think they get their bicycles to learn to ride?” I responded.
We had a pretty good laugh about that as I imagined a black bear coming out of the woods, straddling her bike and riding off into the city to join the circus.
All in all, we had a real good visit. Sydney returned home relaxed; able to take on the next week with a clean start.
A week later, my brother-in-law and nephew came to visit. Jeff and Andy brought their new mini-bikes. They had a blast riding around our property and on some of the trails in the area. With the recent rains, they found some of the terrain quite wet. They were gone for a couple hours, returning to the house wet and covered with mud. “We went through areas where the mud and water were halfway up to our knees. We had to push and drag the bikes through. We nearly got stuck several times.” Jeff said.
Father and son took turns out in the yard spraying each other down with the garden hose. Melissa found them standing on the front porch in their boxer shorts holding their dripping wet clothes. They had a great time together. They were able to unwind and made some lifetime memories riding those mini-bikes out in the Northwoods.
But not all time up here is devoted to R-and-R. There is work to be done.
Andy, Jeff and I fired up the chainsaws to trim some of the pine trees around our yard, removing the dead branches from the bases. When we were done, Andy hauled some of the brittle branches to the yard where we enjoyed a relaxing fire in the fire ring. When the fire died down, we retired to the house.
At the back door, Melissa put her foot down, “You’re not coming in here covered with sawdust and dirt, smelling like exhaust fumes and smoke.” (She does keep a clean house.) She brought us a laundry basket. I stripped down to my boxer shorts on the back deck, dropped my dirty clothes in the laundry basket, then headed in for the shower.
After the other boys changed out of their work clothes, Melissa put our clothes in the washer for us. About an hour later, she called me to the basement. “Where is your cell phone?”
Logically I deduced, “Since you’re standing in front of the washing machine asking about my cell phone, it would be my assumption it’s in the washer.”
“Yes,” she said while presenting me with a perfectly clean flip phone, “and this time it went through the full cycle. I hope it’s not ruined.” Numerous times, I have made a frantic dash to the basement to retrieve my phone from the washer after leaving it in my pants pocket. It’s been wet, but never went through the full wash process.
I took the phone, removed the battery and gave the device a sniff. “It smells really good. Did you use that new Tide with Downy fabric softener?” She was trying to be serious while I was making light of the situation. “It’s been submerged in water at least six or eight times. This phone owes me nothing. I’ll let it dry for a couple days and if it works – that’s great. If it doesn’t – well, I’ve been talking about getting a new phone anyway. This is not a crisis.”
Melissa looked at the deceased flip phone in my hand. With a glimmer of hope she smiled and suggested, “Maybe a smart phone?” I snarled with disapproval and took my dead soldier upstairs. Opening and closing the phone, I noted how much smoother the hinge was working after a good cleaning. I also started wondering, what important text messages and photos I would lose if my phone was indeed…well, you know…finished; done for; kaput!
Just a couple weeks before, Melissa and I took a drive to the end of the Gunflint Trail to celebrate her birthday with a picnic. Our dog June rode between us in the middle of the bench seat as we rolled up the trail in our vintage Ford truck with the Alaskan Camper in the back. “I hope we get to see some wildlife today.” Melissa said.
June stood up. After turning two full circles on the seat (for no apparent reason) she sat down again. It was her way of telling us, “I’m all the wildlife you need.” Just then June stood up again to join us looking out the windshield at a beautiful fox. Trotting down the shoulder of the road, the full, bushy fox tail remained still as she kept an eye on us. “That tail is too big for her body.” June said with a bit of canine tail envy.
A little farther up the road, we stopped to watch a moose standing in water off the west side of the road. She dipped her head in the water pulling up another mouthful of delicious green water plants, paying no attention to us as she munched away.
At the end of the trail, we climbed to the top of a rock overlooking the beautiful blue waters below. A pair of eagles flew about chattering to one another. They carried talons full of sticks, obviously building or repairing a nest in the area. Two ravens flew by several times. Dancing and playing, they put on quite an aerial display of aviator skills as they were being chased by smaller birds.
We heard the song of a loon calling in the distance. A few minutes later, the pair swam into the water before us. They would dive below the surface, probably fishing, while Melissa and I took guesses at where they would resurface. They surprised us every time.
After our picnic, we picked up our things and began the short hike back down to the truck; June took the lead. Suddenly lunging ahead at something, she flushed up two grouse; one flew away while the other took refuge, landing on a tree branch right in front of us. Safely perched high above the predator at the bottom of the hill below, I’m not sure the bird noticed she was on eye level, and within arm’s reach of two humans. Or, perhaps she sensed we meant no harm to her. She posed while Melissa took several photos of our feathered friend.
June waited for us at the base of the hill. When we caught up to her, she was keeping watch over a rodent laying on the ground. It looked like a vole and it had fresh punctures in both sides of its body, probably from the talons of a bird. I’m not sure June ever saw the two grouse; I think she was chasing whatever had caught the vole and scared it away, causing the bird to leave its lunch and escape the potential dangers posed by a charging canine.
The three of us got into the truck and started on our journey home. As we rounded the sharp s-curves of the Gunflint Trail, we came upon a mother bear with three cubs! We stopped the truck, staying back a bit. The sow kept a close watch on us while growling commands to her young. The cubs, heeding her warning, ran across the road to a tree then looked back to their mama to see if she wanted them to climb the tree. The mother bear sensed we were not a danger to her babies and the four meandered off into the woods. What a treat to see them!
Just after I commented that we hadn’t seen any deer yet, Melissa said, “Look at that!” pointing to a doe with a very large, very round belly, she said “She has to be carrying twins – or even triplets!” I must admit, it was the most pregnant doe I’d ever seen.
After taking in the serenity of the Northwoods on a beautiful spring day, we felt truly blessed to see so much wildlife in their natural habitat while driving up and down the Gunflint Trail. We both felt refreshed. We would go home to welcome the new week with a worry-free, clean start.
I wasn’t too concerned over losing images of that day that were on my phone. Only God and Verizon know how many years I’d had that old flip phone. “Oh well,” I conceded, “the flip phone doesn’t take very good photos anyway and Melissa got plenty of good shots.” The irony caused me to laugh; apparently not everything comes out in the wash and even if my phone was destroyed, at least it would be going out as clean as it started.
a broadcaster, pilot, writer, and our Guest Columnist!