Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Purple Fingers

It's official. I now have to carry a plastic bag with me whenever I venture along a trail or into the woods. No, I don't have Dysentery, it's berry season. IT'S BERRY SEASON! Hooray, hooray!

Those words echo excitement and anxiety through my skull. The former is obvious. The latter is so because I just wonder how I'm going to be able to pick all those berries already! It's not even July! But, like I mentioned last year, I am a berry addict, and I will find a way to get my daily fix. You can always tell an addict by their purple fingers.

Otherwise, the weather has been lovely here in da Harbor. Sunny and cool (with a few overcast mornings) -- just how I like it. I'm able to still get out in the woods for a bike ride or a run. However, those activities come to a halt when I see a bush of glistening purple balls of splendor.

It does seem odd to me. I can't just pedal or run past a berry bush and think, "Well, isn't that nice. A bilberry bush full of ripe berries." No. In fact, I don't think at all. I slam on the brakes and bust out my berry bag, kneel on the ground and go at it with both hands, picking every ripe one on the bush. I am addicted. My fingers are purple. But at least I can admit it.

So far this summer, I have eaten bilberries, blueberries, wild strawberries and one ripe raspberry. I have my eye on a few cherry trees and many thimbleberry patches. Oh, boy. Here we go again!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Puddle Pedaling

I usually don't chose to go mountain biking in the rain. In fact, if I'm supposed to go biking, and it looks like it's going to rain, I'll make up an excuse why I'm not going. "It's going to rain," usually works.

But today I was on my way for a ride on two track and single track trails in Hancock. Craig, a buddy from my last Isle Royale trip, told me we had a 60% chance of getting rained on. We both shrugged in apathy and embarked in the heavy air.

Over sand piles, bridges, rock beds and smooth trails we pedaled. "Good thing the sun is behind the clouds, or we'd be sweating even more!" After a few miles Northwest, we came to a destination (which I was unaware we had) at a wooden tower in a meadow. We climbed up it for a view of the South side of the Portage Canal. Not bad. Tiny sprinkles began to descend. They felt wonderful.

On we rode, as I was hungry for more single track. Those little sprinkles brought friends and relatives, and soon the sky let loose on us. We became invigorated by the cool water, the fresh smell of the woods, the puddles and each other's giddiness (don't tell Craig I called him giddy). We were two kids splashing in the rain, having a grand time.

I didn't even realize how much much of a high it was until the sky started to clear. "It stopped raining," I sighed, though it was actually still sprinkling. We noticed how ridiculous each other looked and laughed -- soaked to the bone and ready for more. Even Duce thought it was fun.

So maybe, just maybe next time the sky looks like it will bring rain, I'll have to go for a bike ride. Or... maybe not.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Somewhere Over the Mountain

I just had another "first" today. My friend Jo (who walked the walk from Calumet) wanted to walk from da Harbor to Eagle Harbor over Brockway Mountain. We set a date and walked that 15.5 mile walk today. Overcast, cool and foggy, the weather couldn't have been better.

Our soles pounded pavement for 5 1/2 hours. The part that required the most physical energy was that first hill up, though walking is easier than biking it. At the first lookout, the fog hung above Lake Fanny Hooe. That fog also dangled in Brockway Valley and misted us during the beginning of our walk. So refreshing!

The rest of the walk wasn't all that physically demanding. Duce, the flora, the rock formations and our jolly conversation kept us entertained. We ate our first bilberries of the year on the way up too! Yeah, I know... pretty early for those.

And the most mentally challenging part for me was the stretch from the Silver River (where Brockway Mountain Drive meets M-26) to Eagle Harbor. The speed limit is 55 there, and not everyone likes to make way for pedestrians. Good thing Duce listens well, so he stayed out of harm's way. But we all made it alive.

Then for the moment I was waiting for since the Brockway descent -- dinner at the Eagle Harbor Inn. Two local lady friends met us there as well, and we ate and drank merrily until getting off the chair was a feat (I think it would have been regardless).

So now I can say I walked over the mountain to Eagle Harbor, and people can say, "Oh, my, I don't think I could do that." I bet you could. We plan to do it again next year if you want to join!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Color Purple

So I'm on a run today, right? Running along in some territory I haven't been to in a couple weeks. You'll never guess what I found amongst the green foliage. Purple. No. Is that really purple? Not just lavendery purple, but dark, glowing blueberry purple! Sweet peaches! A blueberry ready for my mouth! It was a bit tart. I jumped the gun on that one.

Never fear, however. I found another ready-looking ball of luciousness in a neighboring bush. Mmm, that one was just right. Those berries, on a different elevation from which I previously scouted, will be ready within the week or two. They look quite plentiful too!

And, I saw some pink tops on the beads of the thimbleberry heads. Oh, man, those will be sooner than I thought on that elevation too. I would tell you where they are, but, you know... I won't. Come visit during the season and we can go picking together.

Other than that, it's another beautiful foggy day in da Harbor!

Monday, June 21, 2010

West Side

Four days ago I went on a bike ride in Copper Harbor. During that ride, I paid special attention to the berry status. It turns out they will not be as early as I projected. The thimbleberries will be a good two to three weeks yet, and they’ll probably be the earliest. The blueberries aren't far behind them, if not sooner. As for my precious bils, they might have a month before I can taste their heavenly juice.

The night before this bike ride day, I dreamt that I was scouting bilberry progress and found a berry the size of an overgrown Washington Apple! I showed it to everyone I could find and had them take a bite. I tried not to be disappointed when the berry scouting turned out to be behind my schedule.

Friday I mountain biked at Churning Rapids and the Maasto Hiihto Trails in Hancock. I’ve been there once before, and I’ll definitely go again. It was a relief to ride a trail system that doesn’t require a long climb after each decent. I also think I could improve some turning skills on these Southern trails since a missed corner there is much more forgiving. The maps at each intersection were helpful too, as we tried to find our way without much of a clue. Nice job on those trails, if you help with them!

Later that night I got to camp on the west side of the Keweenaw Peninsula. I haven’t really been that way except to travel through the canal on the way to Isle Royale. One of my friends has a family camp at Cedar Bay. What a cool place -- almost Isle Royalesque with the oceanic view. We watched the sun set into the lake directly in front of us. I’ve never had that view before. And to make it more exciting, we also watched the storm clouds of lightning and thunder cross over before us. The rain sent us to shelter before the sunken sun’s colors could spread across the sky.

And I got to sleep under the stars. Oh, what a way to sleep! The waves of Lake Superior crashed beyond my head and the wind brustled the leaves above me. It was a mini-vacation for a day, and I’m glad I took it.

But now, back to the grind! I’ll write again when I get a chance.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gone South

You know I love da Harbor. But not only do I love it for myself, I've become quite the spokesperson for it. This weekend I had my 10 year class reunion back in Clintonville, WI, and I got to gush about my town. "Oh, it's just so beautiful and peaceful! I get to mountain bike, hike, paddle, snowshoe, snowboard, cross country ski" etc. etc. People were really interested, and I bet a few of them just might come up to visit.

Of course, one of the hardest parts about describing Copper Harbor (besides truly expressing how wonderful it really is) is explaining where it is. Lucky for them, I brought a stack of my black market pamphlets which include a map with surrounding states. When I showed them this picture, I could tell that their nod was one of true comprehension, not just concession.

So it was all fine and dandy. We didn't even get rained on during our cook out. But back in da Harbor, the clouds are still crying. I haven't had a chance to tell you that it has rained almost half the days since I last posted. Of course, in the beginning of the summer we always need the rain, but now it's just excessive. Some people's yards have even turned into ponds!

And what else happens when gray clouds block the sun from reaching our faces? Our smiles flat line and eventually go south. We need some sunshine to boost the vitality back up. Some businesses rely on nice weather to run, and that's rough enough in itself. But Mr. Sunshine, we need our vitamin D!

I shall say no more about that, and hope for the best. It won't be long before the berries are ready, and that keeps my smile carved in stone. Mmmmmmm, berries!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Epic Memorial Weekend

This has been the most enchanting spring I have seen up here yet. The weather has been warmer and more pleasant than it was all summer last year. The blackflies are pretty much done for (unless another round hatches), and they weren't even that bad! All the berries have blossoms, so I'm expecting to pick them within the month. That will be an early crop for sure.

We've even been getting just enough rain to sustain all the vegetation. It's simply flourishing! My commutes to work have been beautifully filled with pink roses, purple hairy vetch and yellow hawkweed. I count my lucky stars every time I pedal past.

This Memorial Weekend was the best da Harbor has seen in a while (if not ever!). The Trails Club hosted an Epic Ride-In event that brought over 100 mountain bikers up for rides, food, music and fun. What a great time! It's great to see this town become such a biking destination. I know I love to bike here!

On Sunday I rode the Epic Ride of 12.7 miles with boys. Bike riding/bike mechanic boys. I was leery to go with them at first, but they were going for a "leisurely" ride, so I figured I could keep up. And the way up sure was leisurely! I even had to brake, so I didn't run into the guy in front of me's back tire on the up hills. I have never had to brake on the up hills before, but 11 miles later, when we were on our fourth climb of the ride, I was grateful we kept a slow pace ascending.

The descents were another story. Good grief, those boys almost gave me a heart attack with how fast they bomb down the hills. I realized how much of a sally I am as they all quickly shot out of sight like they didn't have brakes. Looks like I have another thing to work on. Oy.

But that's good. I want to be prodded and shown what's possible. After a few more adjustments to my bike, I might be able to ride down that fast... once I let go of the fear of crashing and dying going those speeds. Hmm. Maybe I'll start slow with that one.

I hope you are well. Please forgive me if I can't find you everyday. I think of you often! Cheers to summer!