Friday, July 23, 2010

High Rockin' It

Today was a special treat. I got to go east. Past the beginning of Hwy. 41 to High Rock Bay.

I haven't been there in two years. That's a darn pity, so I decided to mountain bike there on my day off. A couple friends from south of da Harbor, Allan and Devin, decided that would be a good time, so they came too.

The day was overcast, making a normally hot day a little more tolerable for climbing over hills. On our pedal there, I had to stop to check out a new berry I hadn't identified yet. Choke cherries. Nice. They weren't quite ripe yet, but we tried them anyway. We also found some russet buffaloberries, which aren't necessarily worth seeking unless you're starving. I think they're pretty good -- at least they have zing!

Now I must say, that for a one and a half lane "road," it makes for pretty fun biking. Lots of ruts, puddles and fast descents kept us wide-eyed and smiling. After an hour of pedaling (which didn't even seem like an hour), we reached the open waters of Lake Superior. Oh, was she a beaut.

We wandered around, looked at rocks, ate berries, kicked in the water and discovered even more flowers and plants. I took a seat on a huge boulder (I have an eye for those), sat, pondered life and wrote in my journal. Reflection on life is much needed during the busy months. I cannot forget what my path is.

After lunch on the beach, we sauntered the other way. A couple ATVs and an SUV pulled up while we were walking the shore. They left before we returned -- maybe they were bored! Allan and Devin showed me how to skip rocks, and I did all right. I definitely need practice with that.

On the way back, we stopped at Sclatter Lake. The wind blew right through us there. But we found some of the biggest blueberries I've ever seen. Despite our tummies full of thimble and raspberries, we gorged on some blues. I know, what a horrible day.

Once we returned to my house, we hopped in the lake to rinse off the mud and sweat. But the free feeling we felt from the day, that stayed with us.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bird Food

In 2010 I've tipped out of a kayak into Lake Superior. I've rinsed my hair on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. I've ran through the waves of Great Sand Bay of Lake Superior to get Duce's flippy flopper (because he wouldn't). But I haven't actually swam in it before today. I'd guess the water temp is about 50 degrees F right now. That's just a body temp guess.

I normally will never go into her frigid waters unless I am hot and sweaty -- usually after a bike ride. Today, however, I went on a run, so I could jump into her majesty and splash around for a bit.

I'd better warn you that I am not a swimmer. I'm a flailer and a panter. But during a warm moonlight swim with Rachel one night, she gave me some pointers about how to keep my head above water. Literally.

This morning I ran to the lighthouse and ate lots of berries along the way. Mmm, mmm, mmm. Now that's the kind of run I like! The sun was beating, but the air wasn't too muggy. The run gave me the sweat I needed to make the Lake look appealing.

I kicked off my running shoes and ran into her shallow waves. Shrilling a few eeks, I made it thigh high -- the perfect height to belly flop in. It was chilly at first, but, as they say, I got used to it. And I actually swam around with the whitecaps plundering my head. It was no peaceful blue lagoon, but the rollers kept me entertained.

As my head bobbed with the waves, someone in the sky took note of my vulnerability. An eagle came sailing toward me. Oh, man! I thought. It wants to eat me! So I doggy paddled to where I could touch the sand and waved my arms to show that massive raptor that I was pretty big too. It flew away, and as it did, I watched a couple seagulls diving at it. Birds are funny sometimes.

That incident reminded me of Friday, when I was laying on the dock studying flowers and berries. Just laying in the warm, peaceful sun. I saw shadows around me and looked up to see seven turkey vultures circling around me! I threw out my arms, kicked my legs and shouted, "I'm not a carcass! Leave me alone!" After a while, they did.

Whew. Have you ever had that feeling that you were going to be eaten by a flock of birds? It's scarier than I would have thought. Guess I just have to show them who's at the top of the food chain.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I'm beginning to get a bit of a soft spot for Summer in da Harbor. I know I have complained in the past about all the people and traffic and heat and work and events to volunteer for, but hey, that's life. That's why I'm able to live here the rest of the time.

So where did this soft spot grow from? Do I suddenly love following tourists down 41 at 20 mph? Do I love answering the same questions all the time? No and no. Here is the yes: nature is alive. For one, the berries are everywhere, and if I take the time to collect them, I can eat them all year round. For two, this area is full of wild edible plants. I have been foraging for the last few weeks.

I found medicinal plants -- Healall, St. John's Wort, rose hips and Yarrow. I've found peppermint and nettle for tea. I've found burdock, sumac, Evening Primrose, cattails and wild parsnip to eat. And there's plenty more which I have not yet found or identified. I have many of the above mentioned species drying for use over the winter. For free.

This is my new addiction (we all have our vices). If I go out for an adventure, I want to be able to identify all the flowers and trees I see. If I see a new blossoming one, I have to look it up when I get home. Also, many berries in the woods are edible -- not so much for a pie, but if the world suddenly ends -- they have nutrients and won't kill me either.

I wouldn't be able to see or find any of these wonderful plants any other time of the year. Summer is when they grow. So I must make a shout out to Summer for being one of my four favorite seasons here in da Harbor. S-U-M-M-E-R! What's that spell? Summer! Summer! Yaaaaaaaaaay Summer!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

July Rain

This morning I volunteered to watch a road crossing and stop traffic for the Run the Keweenaw. It's their debut trail running fest, and they sure did a wonderful job! In the morning, the sky was a little gray, and the radar confirmed that storms were possible. I dressed appropriately for rain, leaving my raincoat in the truck at a quick running distance.

I greeted all the runners with a "Keep it up!" and "You're doing great!" Then the sky got really dark. Thunder rumbled above like the Great Harley Davidsons in the Sky. The rain was coming for sure. Any second.

The air was decently warm, so I decided to be a tough cookie and keep my rain coat in the truck. All the runners were going to get wet, why couldn't I? As lightning flashed above me, I decided to set the metal stop sign which was attached a steel rod in my hand, down on the ground. You know, just so I could remember my name after the morning was over. I would just direct traffic with big arm movements.

Then it poured. Cold, hard rain. Within the first 6 seconds, I wished I had opted for the rain coat. The rain was coming down so hard I couldn't even see as it pelted my eyes. But I was going to be tough and pull it off.

Lots of cars came in and out of the campground. Lots of cars, but no runners. Did the runners stop in the woods? No, runners don't do that. Maybe there was just a lull between groups. I hadn't seen a runner since just before it rained. Just before.... But it was my duty to serve and protect, so in the rain I waited... shivering and making big arm circles for the cars to go on.

As I stood, waving and dripping, I began to wonder what was going on. I hadn't seen a runner in over 10 minutes! But I couldn't leave until the sweep came through. So I waited. Still no runners came.

Then I saw him. A man on a bicycle. Was this my sweeper? It was! It was my sweeper! He told me they had all passed.

On my way to the truck I thought, "Wow. So I just stood in the rain for nothing. Nothing except to say that I stood in the pouring rain. I could have been warm and dry. But that doesn't build character."

To top it all off, when I turned on the truck, The Rockin' Eagle was playing Guns 'n Roses "November Rain." I laughed a crazy person laugh. What a morning.

At least I got to eat thimbleberries and collect sugar plums! And as I picked a half gallon of bilberries yesterday, I thought we could use some rain. Happy berry season!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Ahhh, the sixth of July. The last few days have been crazy. Cars. People. Kids. Dogs. Bikers. Boats. Mountain bikes. Pedestrians. Shoppers. Drunkards. Campers. More kids. The town fills up for the Independence Day celebration here in da Harbor. And now, many of them have gone back home.

The fireworks this year were, once again, better than ever. Have you ever been up here for the show? It's pretty amazing. I would imagine Washington D.C. might have a better show, but this little town is pretty top notch. Remember all those people I listed in the previous paragraph? That's why most of them came here -- to oooh and ahhh for darn near half an hour.

As I was watching the show along the shoreline, I was contemplating whether the fireworks are so great here because the firework buyers pick a lot of neat colors, shapes and sizes or because this little town, that holds multiple fundraising efforts to buy fireworks, has such a primo show. I knew the latter was the answer, and I smiled with pride between my own ooohs and ahhhs to know that I was part of what made it all possible.

So way to go Copper Harbor, for another successful Fourth of July!

Now let me bring you out of the sky and back down to earth. In the ditches along the road on my commute to work, the roses, hairy vetch, hawkweed and lupines have been replaced by St. John's wort, daisies, mallow, yarrow and buttercups. I'll will let you google any of those species that sound intriguing. I like the variety of how the ditches and fields change colors throughout the summer.

And... the cherries are ripe! All the berries are in season, except the thimbles. I haven't had a chance to get out and pick lately, but I've still gotten a fix of one type or another every day. You know how I need my fix!