Thursday, April 29, 2010

Trash Walkin

Yesterday I got to take a walk down U.S. 41 from the Keweenaw Mt. Lodge. It was quite peaceful. I think only five cars passed me on that two mile stretch.

As I walked down the left side of the road, I noticed the unique landscape. Much of it was a steep slope down from the guard rail. So steep in spots, that I wondered if I could get back up from the ditch! After quite a while, the land leveled off, then actually jutted up above me! All in a 30 yard span, then it dipped back down below. For the bottom half, I even got to listen to the babbling Garden Brook.

I was realizing how much I never look around me when I am driving on a road I usually just go as fast as I can on. It reminded me of the walk Donica, Jo, Kurt and I did from Calumet last May -- except it was one thirteenth the distance and not as painful. (That walk will be in October this year, since October is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month.)

The other thing that was quite different from that walk was that I was wearing a neon yellow vest and plastic gloves and carrying a trash bag. Yes. It was Spring trash pick up day for the Copper Harbor Trails Club's section of "Adopt a Highway."

If you have driven that stretch in the last six months, I salute you. Mike, Rachel, Tammy and I were amazed at how little trash there was to pick up (compared to the last couple times). If we had to, we could have combined all our findings into one 30 gallon trash bag. For three miles of highway (Rachel and Tammy did the top mile and some), that's pretty good.

Even cigarette butts were at an all time low. We were hoping that people are just getting more conscientious about throwing trash out the window of their vehicles. It will not explode if it stays in their car until they reach a garbage can, right?

So kudos to you! Thanks for not littering! And if you have, please realize that not every stretch of road has a heroic group to clean it up. We need to keep the place we live clean ourselves!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Three's Delight

I have three delightful things to tell you.

Friday night, just after midnight (okay, so it was Saturday morning then), I saw something large and black bulldoze into the woods after my headlights scared it. A black bear! It looked to be almost a 300 pounder. It was the first bear I've seen this year. I was pumped. But after talking to the teacher at the schoolhouse today, I learned they tackled the bird and deer feeders this morning. So they're not always graceful....

Today, on my walk to the lighthouse, I heard an eagle reek-reeking from the sky, so I looked up to find it. I didn't see the eagle right away, but I sure did see a big mess of sticks in a pine tree. Is that really an eagle nest? As I stared, down fluttered a huge bald eagle. Guess so! In respect of the eagle's privacy, I will not publicly announce where this nest is located. However, if you ever walk with me to the lighthouse, I'll point it out to you.

I saved the best news for last. (It's the best to me at least.) One week from this moment I will be in a place dear to my heart. A place that has no internet, no phone service, no automobiles, no sewer system, no bicycles, no bears and, best of all, no worries. I will be on a giant rock north of the Keweenaw. My favorite vacation spot: Isle Royale.

That's why I've been kayaking -- to practice for this two week trip. We (Brian, Rachel, Craig, Dan and I) are getting dropped off at Windigo Harbor (West end) via the Ranger III, and are padding East to Rock Harbor. Two weeks! I'm so pumped. This is the vacation I will meditate on to stay sane during the Summer.

I do regret, for your sake, that I will be unable to communicate with you during that two week duration. However, I have this handy dandy set up called a notebook and pen to ensure that my adventures are documented. I will share them with you when I return after May 18th.

Trust me, I will be thinking about you, as I do on every adventure I embark on -- mulling over in my brain what would be of most interest to you. I'll be in touch before I leave, but in the mean time, I sure have a lot of packing to do!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunny Daze

I can tell that Summer is coming. Every weekend, progressively more and more unrecognizable vehicles drive through da Harbor. Mountain bikers, day trippers, fishermen and a variety pack of others are coming to town. I can't help but get that knot in my stomach. When Summer is here, my life, as I now enjoy it, comes to an end.

No need to go into detail why. I think I have tastefully ranted enough in the past. But when people ask me what my favorite time of year is here, I can never decide. The thing I know for sure, is that I certainly don't love Summer, and yesterday's mountain bike ride reminded me why.

Rachel and I took a ride up the hills we call the trail system. At first we couldn't figure out why we were feeling miserable. Then we noticed we were sweating in minimal amounts of biking attire. That's when it hit me that Summer is hot. It is too freakin hot! Since when did 65 degrees become too hot for me? Since I started sweating in it.

During those busy Summer days, I am so grateful to get time to go out and enjoy the wilderness. Biking is usually my first choice. But biking up the mountain in 70 - 80 degree weather? No thanks. So while making that miserable climb yesterday, I realized how lucky I am to work in an air conditioned restaurant and stare out the giant windows at the sun on the Lake. I don't have to be out sweating in that sun with everyone else.

Maybe I've just gotten accustomed to the cool weather from my wonderful friend Lake Superior. And when Mr. Sun puts the kibosh on her refreshingness, I get agitated. Don't get me wrong, I do love the sunshine for the same reasons you do. But after 15 minutes in its stickiness, I like a little relief from the bombarding rays.

So I have found another reason why I am the luckiest girl I know: when the weather is not conducive to me wanting to be out enjoying the weather (which all the visitors seem to like), I get to stay inside, where it is cool and comfortable, and make hay. This really is my favorite place to live in the whole wide world.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Opposites in a Day

Duce and I took a little walk today up Woodland Road. The funniest part, right away, was that three cars passed us before we even got through the creek area (which is next to my house)!

On the way, I ate some delicious dandelion greens. I could tell my body was craving it since we are all out of spinach and kale here. That is one drawback from being so far from civilization, so good thing it's Spring, and I can eat what's growing!

As I've said before, many types of flora are blooming. But a few of my favorites are coming out of their winter shells: roses, bilberries and thimbleberries! I have seen the greeny-goldness of them all and jumped for joy! It should be an early berry season this year!

On the other hand, my last three excursions on water crafts on the Harbor (note: in my little slice, "the" Harbor is the body of water itself, and "da" Harbor is the town and surrounding area) have shown me snow on North-facing shores. These shores don't get much sun, of course, so the snow can linger. But still!?

So today, on our walk to look at my sanity savior, Lake Superior, I saw some of that snow within walking distance. I also saw what looked like a long Chrysocolla vein stretching from the shore into the lake. Now, silly me for even thinking that's what it was, but that line under water was definitely turquoise!

Duce and I waded through the beach rocks (on land) to this large rock with snow and a mystery vein. It shouldn't have been a mystery vein because this large rock it covered in quartz! Standing at the top of that rock, I noted, yes, that was quartz in the bluest-greenest water I have ever seen. It turned that whole white stripe turquoise. Why else would I have been that curious?

Pretty cool. As I turned around to head back, I grabbed a couple handfuls of snow (to make sure that wasn't quartz too) and threw it in the air for Duce. Snow. Cold and beady snow. Probably the last handful of snow I will grab until next winter. Knock on wood!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Small Community, Big Hearts

I have to tell you how awesome this community is. I say "community" instead of "town" because people make a community.

However, I regret to tell you that a well-loved member of this community, Mr. Tom O'Callaghan, passed away two weekends ago. It was sudden, but peaceful. He was still an active member in local politics and owned the Harbor Lights Inn. He also played the best Santa Clause because his hair and beard were so naturally white. He is remembered with a smile.

Yesterday the Pines Resort hosted a benefit dinner (donating time, food and space for the cause) to raise money to help his family pay for necessary costs. This town doesn't even have 100 people living in it now, but at least 100 people came to support it. Ten people (me included) volunteered that evening to help serve, bus, cook, do dishes, etc. At one point in time, we were all running our butts off!

We had to get some food items from The Mariner because the patronage was over double what we had planned for. As we were all running around frantically, we couldn't help but smile and think, "Great! This is really great!" Because it was for such a good cause.

Dinner, including a non-alcoholic beverage, salad, spaghetti and dessert, was provided strictly for donations. No price was set.

I feel honored to have been a part of this. When we were finished and cleaned up for the night, we counted the donations. A small community, along with a hard-working group of volunteers raised over $2,000 for his family in one night. One night! By donations only!

We were shocked and elated. I could feel a sense of oneness among our group of volunteers while we agreed that it was worth every minute. We had a new perspective of just how much this town can band together for a good cause. It warmed our hearts, and despite any differences we may have had in the past, at that moment we were all proud to be a part of that small community.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Over the Rainbow

I'm so glad it's raining outside. We need the rain (you probably do too), but all the sudden, it turned from 70's and sunshine yesterday to 40's and wind and rain today. So thank you rain, for making this crappy day worth while for the flora.

Yesterday I had a unique experience. I got to ride in an actual motorboat around the Harbor. It was pretty neat getting to be a back seat rider instead of an attention-paying paddler. Plus, I really don't get that wind-in-my-hair-sensation when I'm in a kayak. Not without the sweat, at least.

But man, was Copper Harbor beautiful! Black clouds loomed in the distance, and sunshine shone upon the shore. Up on Brockway, we could see the golden-green of buds in the trees. To the Southeast, we watched it rain and rain. Luckily, we stayed dry the whole time -- except from the splashing of the boat waves. Oy, did I sit in the wrong spot!

As we were tooling around, enjoying the view of the land and endless sea, we noticed something so charming to the Southeast. Can you guess? The sun was in the West. A rainbow! We all stared and smiled at it -- so bright in the sky! I mean, I was enchanted enough with the landscape and all, but that rainbow was the cherry on top.

I realized something while I was on this joy ride: it's good to change your perspective. Even if you live in the most exciting place in the world, life can get boring if you get too settled. Hang out in the next neighborhood. Climb that ridge you're looking at to see what's on the other side. You don't have to go across the world (though that is helpful too) to have your reality checked.

Not to sermonize, but I really think people (me too) get caught up in their daily life so easily (and daily life these days encourages staying in your box), that we need to expand our view points just a little every once in a while. Especially when we are feeling complacent or bored. There is always something new to discover under that rock by your front porch or in that rainbow up in the sky.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Butt-Kicking Run

I've mentioned before that I don't like to run (jog, whatever). So why do I feel the need to try to be a runner? Every time I go out for a jog, I chant, in between breaths: "I, hate, running. This, hurts, so, bad." But still I do it.

I have gotten better at it. I've been pushing myself. But today, oh, today, I ran with Hannah.

Hannah is a runner. She can run up mountain tops, and I envy her for that. I am not Hannah, but today I tried to be. She wanted to run the one mile up Manganese Road, the two miles up the Red Trail and the three miles back down the Garden Brook trail. I knew I was in for a beating.

I was ready to quit half way up Manganese Road. For one, it's a road, which is tough on the joints. For two, it is up. But despite my heaving breath and the ability to only chime in, "yeah," "uh huh," "I know" to answer her unimpeded speech between gasps, I made it up part one.

Then it was time for the real killer. The Red Trail. If you are on a mountain bike, the Red Trails is a one-way pass: down. I actually rode up it once just to say I did it, and ended up walking my bike almost half way. I won't even repeat the words I said that day.

I hiked up the Red Trail the other day, and wanted to crawl in a hole under a tree in hopes some one would come to rescue me. And that was walking! I knew the "run" up it today would have me swearing at least as often as I did when I biked it.

I was right. In my defense, let me say that I don't believe in running up hills. All my life I tell myself to take big strides up steep slopes and hills in general. It wastes less energy than taking more tiny steps, as one does in running. Did I run all the way up the Red Trail? Hell, no.

I needed a couple breaks. I had to stride up the steep parts. I tried to twist my ankle so I didn't have to keep going. But I was fine, relatively speaking. And there was Hannah, way up among the bushes, proving it could be done. That little gazelle.

And before I knew it, we were at the top of the stinkin Red Trail. The top! We made it! The worst was over! But I still had to run at least three miles. I wanted my bike sooooooo bad. Biking feels nice. Yes, nice and smooth.

After more huffing and puffing and cursing, we finally made it close enough to town so we could walk and cool down. My knees, ankles and vitals rejoiced. But I actually did it. I ran six miles with Hannah, up a mountain and back down. The biggest lesson I learned was that I am a biker, not a runner. Whew! Lesson learned!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Back in Action

Woah, sorry. I didn't realize Aaron was going to take the computer away for five days or I would have warned you. Don't worry! I'm alive! (Okay, maybe only my mom worried.)

Have you done that lately, in this cyberspace world? Have you had your computer in the shop or lost or gone somehow so that you couldn't look at it for five days... even three? It's so crazy. I rekindled my love for meditation, cooking and feng shui during this recess. You should try it sometime. It's a good way to connect back to the "real world." (But then, I guess you can't read my blog...)

But anyway, back to da Harbor. All the inland lakes are clear of ice. Trees are budding generously. Birds are tweetle-deet-deeting. Are you getting bored with my springtime talk yet? Sorry if you are, but I (and everyone else in town) is just so amazed that all this is happening in April. Every spring I have been here, we've had snow til May. This year is was gone in March. Craziness, man. Craziness.

Rachel, Duce and I took a walk up Brockway Mountain yesterday in the sunshine. I tell ya, the "Road Closed" sign at the foot of the hill didn't stop the umpteen cars that passed us! So much for our nice quiet walks up the road. Oh well. Who needs the road? It's mountain biking season, baby!

The singletrack trails are officially open for the summer. In fact, last week was home to the first "Thursday Night Group Ride." Want to check out the trails? Meet every Thursday at the Keweenaw Adventure Co. at 6:00pm! I'll be there this week!

Sorry, but it's getting late for me, so I shall leave more for another day!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wet Lesson

I probably shouldn't tell you this. In fact, I held off all yesterday writing about it because some people were scared, and some were angered by this ordeal. For that reason I am leaving names out. But quite frankly, I think it's a great story, and I was happy it happened how it did. Everyone is fine, so it really couldn't be that bad, right?

Life shows us many common sense guidelines: Don't put your wet finger in a light socket. Look both ways before you cross the road. Wear your hat and coat on a cold day. Don't take a small boat onto a large body of water when the wind is gusting whitecaps.

I don't learn well from guidelines. I learn best from mistakes. I make many mistakes in order to keep learning. Yesterday's mistake taught me many things I believe I was meant to learn.

A friend and I were going to go kayaking Sunday, but remember how it rained? We didn't go. So our plan was for Monday. Monday the sun was shining, and the temp was in the 50's. It was a glorious day... just a little windy.

"Just a little windy," I told my friend. I really wanted to paddle out of the arms of the Harbor on to the big lake toward Devil's Washtub. "It will be hard paddling there, but the wind will push us back home." I'm such a genius.

On our paddle to the Gap, where, mind you, we have to shimmy and push off the rocks we skid across, we saw two fishermen. We told these fishermen what we were planning, and one said, "You're not going on the big lake." "Yes we are," I corrected. "I've been on bigger waves on Isle Royale." The fishermen rolled their eyes, and probably worried about us as we shimmied our way through the gap.

So there we were. In the hands of Lake Superior when the wind must have been at least 20 mph from the West. The strength and frequency of the waves surprised me. I started to power ahead toward our destination, realizing that puny strokes would be useless in these waves. When I saw my friend was just getting out of the gap, I decided to wait for a moment. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

I was instantly pushed into the giant rocks we call the shoreline. My kayak was parallel to the shore. I knew the only way I could make it out of that position would be to re-angle my boat perpendicular to the shore. I was no match for her majesty. The waves were coming too quickly.

Next thing I knew, my boat was flipped like the Jack of Spades, and in the water went Amanda. Luckily, (I thought it was lucky) I was right on the shore, so I just stood up, grabbed my paddle and boat, and dragged it up the rock. Wet? Yes. Wounded emotionally or physically? No.

I honestly thought that was a great experience for me (nobody else I mentioned on the journey would agree, but they were not the one in the water, now were they?) I learned a lot about wave frequency and height. I've been in some five foot rollers before, but those are not as dangerous as the continuous, wind-enforced ones. The latter are not to be messed with. Lesson learned.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Best Feeling in the World

So the weather went from paradise to regular old April-showers-spring in da Keweenaw. No problem. We sure needed the rain. Smokey Bear has been saying the fire danger is "Very High" for quite some time now. And what a better day to rain on than Easter? I think that has been a trend for most of my lifetime.

The big lake is soooooo calm today. I was supposed to go kayaking, but the rain deterred that. Oh well. One of the waterway shipping industries must have thought it looked like a good day to be on the lake because I saw the first freighter of the spring this afternoon. It was traveling West. At least it was the first one I saw, so that's the only one I can tell you about.

I did also get to witness seven Common Mergansers splashing around in front of the house today. Six male and one female. I don't really know how to feel for her, but I think those men were trying to court her. They would kick with their feet to go fast, dart around her and the other males and splash with their wings. I'm assuming that was showing off. Six men to one women... so goes the Keweenaw.

Did I tell you how empty town is lately? If you turn right at the blinking light from 41 after 9 pm, you will see no signs of life. No businesses open (Zik's is closed for Easter, General Store closes at 7 pm on weekdays and the Mariner doesn't stay open if no one is around). No cars driving around. Nothing. I could have a picnic in the middle of the highway, and anyone I saw would probably just join me. What else is there to do?

And that question, my friend, is the question that feels so good to ask. I rarely, rarely have nothing to do. Well, I always have something, but right now, I have nothing pressing. This is the first time I've felt that since last winter. When I get to take a deep breath of fresh air and know that everything is in place, that is the best feeling in the world. And it's right here in da Harbor. Ahhhhhh.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Gettng Warmer...

Life is good in da Harbor! No blood-hungry bugs. No people. Plenty of sunshine! It seems too good to be true, so I think we are all wondering when three feet of snow is going to fall!

In the mean time, I saw a few more signs of spring. Two types of butterflies, geese, mallards, eagles, all sorts of non- biting bugs, crocuses, raging springs and waterfalls, and, best of all, melted snow in the woods! I can live surreally for a while.

I hope it's lovely by you too!