Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Shades of Pink

Sorry it's Tuesday already.  And why did I miss Monday this time?  I had to go to town.  The following excerpt describes how a Copper Harbor resident feels during and after one of these excursions.  This was originally published in the Fall 2012 edition of the Copper UP.  I particularly enjoy this humorous piece.

Going To Town
By Amanda Wais

Living at the “end of the road” in Copper Harbor certainly has its perks.  You get to stare at Lake Superior.  You don’t have to see anyone except your neighbors four months out of the year.  Nature supplies you with yearlong beauty in wildlife, vegetation and scenery.
            But then you run out of milk.  Whew, the Gas Lite general store sells it.  Then your exotic muffin recipe calls for fenugreek (what the heck is fenugreek anyway?).  Luckily, your wacky neighbor has some.  Soon you realize you need to stock up on toilet paper, vegetables and that herbal smelling shampoo you like so much.  Oh, crap.  Now you have to go to town.
            Going to town.  It most often involves traveling to Calumet or all the way to Houghton.  It’s the dreaded phrase for most Harborites because it sucks two hours of your day just driving there and back.  It turns your hair gray maneuvering through cars and traffic lights.  And the fluorescent lights in the stores soon start a dull buzzing in your brain.
            If you are going to town, you usually ask other residents if they need anything because they don’t want to go either.  Often their first response is, “Well, how far are you going?”  Then they’ll name a couple items they need.  Otherwise you might get, “Nope, I have to go on Friday anyway.” 
“Good,” you think to yourself.  “One less stop for me.”
       Going to town should be fun.  We should think, “Oh, wow.  I am going to experience a beautiful drive.  I am going to see a different part of society and the world I live in.  Perhaps I can go out to lunch or take a walk along the Portage Canal.  Maybe I will even hit a few gift shops.”  No, no you won’t.  You will be so exhausted that by the time you get home it’s hard to enjoy the rest of your day.  “Oh, cripes.  Now I have to put all these groceries away before I go to work, and I just want to take a nap!  Whimper whimper.”
            Why is going to town so difficult?  So stressful?  So draining?  My guess is that we are not used to the hustle.  Sure the summers are busy up here, and we become programmed to run around in a frenzy, but it’s a different kind of frenzy.  Town is a lot of driving in traffic.  Copper Harbor doesn’t have traffic with lights and lane changes and police officers.  You drive this way or that way and watch out for pedestrians and people on bikes (I suppose that is good practice for us).
            Town also involves a lot of planning.  “Okay, I need to get groceries in Calumet, but my appointment is in Houghton, and I have to stop in Dollar Bay on the way back, so I’ll take this route, or I’ll back track.”  You don’t want to back track in town.  You want to make a nice easy loop.  Most people make detailed lists that they follow, or they’ll go crazy.  “Shoot!  I forgot to get dog food at the top of the hill!  Now I have to go back through Houghton, and downtown is a one-way street, and the bridge might go up soon, so I might not make it back in time for work  Oh man, I need a drink!!!”
            See what I mean?  Town is stressful.
Most people in the USA live in a city.  They drive through traffic lights without a second thought.  They know short cuts around one-way streets.  They go out to eat and enjoy a beer because they don’t have to drive 50 miles to get home.  Their heads are already buzzing with fluorescent lights, so fresh air gives them a headache. 
What do they do when they come up to Copper Harbor?  They hold out their phone, and look for reception.   It takes them a while to adapt to our pace, just like it takes us a while to adapt to theirs.
            Going to town.  Some Harborites love it.  They get to go some place different.  They get to listen to their music on the drive.  They get some retail therapy.  Once in a while I remember to appreciate these silver linings.  But usually, going to town is a chore, and I simply don’t want to do it.
            If you see your Copper Harbor friends in town, just give them a little shoulder rub and say, “You can do it, buddy.  It’s all going to be okay.”  And you know what?  It just might be… until you have to go next month.

Fair enough?  Okay, then.

The weekend wore me out too.  I worked Friday, Saturday and Sunday taking photos and notes at Ladies Weekend's Copper Harbor Bike Clinic.  It was awesome.  Those women were so stoked to learn how to shred on their bikes with confidence and new skills.  Over 80 women participated and 16 coaches taught.  It seems like they preferred the coolness and sometimes rain over hot humid weather.  Here is the group shot.

Copper Harbor Ladies Weekend!

My goal is to publish some articles about that.  It was inspiring, energizing and just plain amazing to see these girls learning and having fun on their mountain bikes.

Know what else is awesome?  The berries!  I've picked just about 2 gallons of bilberries, and I'm not done yet.  Thimbles and rasps are just popping enough where you could start to pick.  Blueberries need a little more time to quanitify, but they are available to nibble along the trails.  The cherries are starting too, but I may have to skip them this year.  I'm sure people will yell at the pregnant lady on a ladder picking cherries.  More for you!

We may get a sweltering afternoon here and there, but for the most part, summer has been pretty cool lately.  Especially during the night time and early mornings.  But, quite honestly, we all complain when it gets really hot and humid, so it's probably better this way!

I found some friends who like that weather.

More pink water lilies!

So lovely.  And as I wander the edge of this pond, I always see frogs dunking under to avoid the human and her curious dog.

Upcoming Events
This weekend, on Saturday August 2nd is the annual Copperman Triathlon.  No I will not be riding in it this year.  It's getting harder to get my knees up to pedal a bike!

The following weekend is Eagle Harbor's Art in the Park.  Does it need an explanation?  I have never been able to attend myself, and this year, I am leading the kid's Creative Writing tour in nature (if I get any takers) that I posted about earlier.  The latter is Saturday, August 9th from 1-4 pm.

Also that weekend (it's going to be nuts), Copper Harbor is hosting Single Speed USA.  This is a traveling race for crazy people who will pedal over 40 miles on the CH trails with only one gear on their bikes and wear goofy outfits while they do it.  To each their own!  We are honored that they chose our town for their annual event.  I will take pictures and volunteer at a trail crossing... maybe in a goofy outfit too.

Oh, and Sunday August 10th, if it's not raining and cold, the Harbor Haus will be cooking Breakfast on the Flow!  It goes from 8-9 am that morning at the picnic tables on The Flow trail.  All for a donation to the CHTC.

Now let me leave you with this picture of a beetle I saw the other day.  I'm sure the features on its face are not really its face, but what a neat looking creature!

The buck-tooth beetle
(That's just what I call it)

Ooh.  I've also got news and photos of a rare plant species, but that will have to wait for next time.  See you then!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A List of Firsts

I keep realizing how stubborn I am.

Early last week I went on a hike to a spot I haven't been to in a while.  Nothing far or strenuous, just neglected.  Boy am I glad I went when I did because look who was in prime season!

A blooming wood nymph

Now I have seen the wood nymph for years in my wildflower guides, but this was the first time I saw it in real life!  I knew what it was instantly, and I'm so glad I actually had my camera on me.  When I knelt down to capture it, the aroma stunned me.  Its fragrance for a tiny flower is at least as potent as arbutus is.  And quite similar in smell.  I will return each year to see my little wood nymph friend.

So here's where I got stubborn.  This route that I took didn't really have a cut trail through to let me out.  I didn't want to backtrack and I didn't want to take the road, so I took the power line which consisted of a deer trail.

I don't even know why the deer take that way.  The ground was mud and the grass was over my head.  It was like I was swimming in thick grass and mud with no end in sight.  Plus the mosquitoes chewed up every part of me that wasn't covered.  AND, I thought I was walking through poison ivy!  The latter has yet to be determined, but I did not get a rash.  Thank goodness.

Why didn't I just take the road??? I kicked myself as I wondered when the heck I was going to get to a trail again.  I had been this way before, but never drowning in grass and mosquitoes topped with the fear of poison ivy.

Well, I was glad to get out of there.  And I guess it taught me a lesson.  I always need those, you know.

On a tamer walk through Clyde's Field, I finally got to see the pink water lily when I had my camera, so you can see it too!  That's it in the bottom right corner.

A lily among the pads

And the morning that my friend Hannah and I went out to clean up our stretch of Highway 41 for the Copper Harbor Trails Club, I found two more species new to me!  I saw sidebells, and also knew instantly what they were from pictures.  But the next took me a bit longer.

It looked so much like a raspberry, but there was only one berry atop each set of leaves.  They were mixed in with the wild strawberries that we were already eating.  It was kind of odd when I thought to myself, I don't know what this berry is, and then I ate it.  Not good practice, people, but I must have had a good inclination.  

A few yards down the road, the name dewberry came to mind.  That must be it!  Dewberry!  I looked it up when I got home, and sure enough.  Dewberries are edible, so don't worry.

Later that night, our band, Power of Air, debuted at Open Mic at Zik's.  The funny part was that it was nearing my bed-time and past our keyboard player's.  Plus it was past snooze time for many of the people in the audience who came just to see us!  (Can I admit it wasn't even dark yet?)

We had that place pretty packed.  All the chairs and stools were taken, and the audience was quite captivated.  They all had high compliments when we were done.  Well, I guess now we are rockstars!  Just kidding.  I prefer to be a writer, but that was pretty fun too.

Yesterday was Lake Superior Day.  It was the first celebration I was able to attend, but I guess it was only the second annual in Copper Harbor.  Lots of people came to check it out!  I came to take pictures, and I stayed for the food and entertainment.

Here are some highlights.

An educational boat ride on the Agassiz

Canoe race rounding the buoy

Hot dogs and corn... yes, please!

Speakers in costume

As I hung out, a strange feeling crept over me.  Kind of like guilt.  I realized that it was the first event I attended in Copper Harbor that I had nothing to do with besides dropping my donation in the bucket and enjoying myself.  I didn't bake anything, collect prizes, volunteer for a shift -- nothing.

So I thoroughly thanked those people who did help out.  And they thanked me for coming.  Well, I guess I had an important part anyway!  The festivities, speeches, food, live music and activities were all well done.  I think I'll go again next year!

And here are a couple shirts that represented the topic of celebration.

T-shirt #1

T-shirt #2

Thanks again to those folks who let me take an anonymous picture of their chest.  Go Lake Superior!

And then we make it to today.

This morning I suited up to pick some bilberries.  I was hoping to find enough to fill a gallon bag.  When I got to my spot, I was overwhelmed.

They were all over, big, juicy and ripe.  I picked for some time just over an hour to get my gallon.  Then I stopped.  I stopped even though I was still surrounded by those succulent jewels.  I was hot and hungry, and my big black dog was hot and thirsty.  I was grateful for my loot.  It was glorious.

I got to eat another of my first berry of the year today too: thimbles!  I found three ripe ones in the sunshine.  Delicious.  Oh, and I had my first cherries of the year too.  What a berry berry day!

It was berry hot, too.  Oh, man.  I thought my dog and I were both going to overheat, so we went swimming in Lake Fanny Hooe.  My first time fully swimming for the year too!  Except for the biting sand flies that latched onto us at the shore, it was quite enjoyable.  Much needed to bring the body temp down a notch.

Well, no telling what life will bring this next week, but here's to the best!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Just Around the Block

Let me start with my most notable adventure: kayaking for the first time this summer!  As I sat on 6th Street dock on a warm, sunny, breezeless day, I looked out and saw kayakers by The Gap.  What a perfect day to go kayaking!  So I got my gear together, made sure my life vest still zipped over my belly, and headed out to Lake Fanny Hooe.

It really was perfect out there.  I saw small fishing boats hugging the southern shore, other kayakers, campers on the beaches and ducklings.  I paddled east all the way to the end -- well, almost the end because the sandy shore was too shallow for my rudder by that point.

As the blisters formed on the base of my thumbs, I thank goodness that I was out on a peaceful, sunshiney lake paddling until I wore myself out.  I really was excited to see the launch area when I finally got back.  My strength and stamina aren't quite what is used to be, but now I know where I stand in the paddling department.

The only camera I trusted to take with me on the water was out of battery, so no pictures.  But it was probably good that I had one less thing to futz with on my maiden voyage out.

One thing I haven't mentioned in this blog is the meticulous work of the dude across the street.  Duce knows him as Uncle Pete, and he invented and landscaped "North Park."  He is out there all the time with a weed-whacker, rake or brute strength rearranging his rock piles.  Here's a quick shot.

Side view of North Park

He has a collection of rocks from many mines in the area.  They are labeled and displayed around the trees.  It's a nice free place to visit, rest and learn in da Harbor.

Close-up of some interesting rock colors

For some reason, I have pictures from a few different angles on my block.  Shows how adventurous I have become, hey?

The Copper Harbor Trails Club is once again raffling off this awesome TCTeardrop Trailer.  Tickets are available in town.  Click their link on the sidebar above for more information and a list of other prizes.  Their site wasn't working for me earlier, so I couldn't embed a link.  They are probably doing maintenance or additions.  Anyway, here's a picture of it at the Gas Lite General Store.

Grand Prize Teardrop trailer from the CHTC

Pretty slick.  There's even a new mattress inside.

And right across the street, the Brickside Brewery shares their list of current brews.

Brickside Brewery flavors change weekly

Boy, I do miss sipping that Stone Ship Stout, but my liver is probably grateful for the nine month break. 

Last night I went to Project 49918's The Beginning of the Road Exhibit.  It was well attended, as North One Gallery was bursting at the seams for a while.  The display was really well done, and it had a new feeling when all the pictures were up together.  They are still selling 2015 calendars in town which highlight 12 local business owners on Highway 41 in the winter.  Your's truly is featured the month of April.  I recommend getting one for your house.  I'm getting one for mine!

Okay, on to future events.

Local Events

This Wednesday, the new classic rock band in town, Power of Air, is debuting during Open Mic at Zik's Bar sometime after 9pm.  Usually I wouldn't know something like this, but it's my band!  We will be performing 4-5 songs.  This will probably be our first of a couple other open mics this summer.  We need to practice our stage presence and performance, and this is a low key way to do it.  Maybe we'll see you there!

July 26, 27 is Ladies' Bike Weekend!  This event filled up beyond maximum capacity in 14 hours, so no spots are open, but it's a really cool event.  Professional mountain bike instructor and awesome person, Lindsey Voreis, is the main coach for the skill sessions.  Since I am unable to ride stunts and such, I will be there with camera, notebook and pen!  More info on this at the CHTC link above.

That's all I know for now!  See you next week.

Monday, July 7, 2014

... Is Making Me Hungry

Whew.  Made it through another Independence Day.  The festivities were merry and well-attended.  Town was crawling with visitors.  It was kind of like a zoo after somebody opened all the cages. 

I really only got one patriotic holiday picture, and it was taken before the zoo.  It just made me laugh.

Uncle Sam wishes you a safe holiday!

I hope the celebration was enjoyable by you as well.  For me, it was a treat to see friends, meet new ones and actually have the time to enjoy their company.  I am truly grateful for this new life.

Know what else I am grateful for?  Jamsen's Fish Market and Bakery.  Mostly the bakery part, although I think they're selling cheese curds too.  I know I vouch for them a lot, but I am just a bit addicted.  I actually went there twice on Friday.  But I could not get this case full of goodies out of my head!

The good stuff at Jamsen's Bakery

The thimbleberry frosted donuts on the middle shelf are one of my weaknesses.  Try one for yourself, and tell them I sent you!

Great.  Now I am hungry again.  But this little one in my belly sure makes me eat often.  Help me make it through this post.  Feeding rhymes with weeding, so let's move on to my garden plot.  

Since I was gone last weekend, it became overgrown with plants that I did not sow.  They had to be removed.  I spent two hours on this labor of love.  Check out the time-lapse.  A photo was taken every minute.

After that project, I treated myself to a succulent cucumber from the garden.  Sometimes there's just nothing better, you know?  Our bell peppers are one inch long, and we have green tomatoes on most of the plants!  Good thing we started those seeds in May!  

Now were talking about food again.  Guess what I ate today.  A BILberry!!!  Actually, I ate three, but only one was truly ripe.  They are still 99% green on the bushes, but those few caught my eye.  I'd say there's still a couple weeks before any fulfilling picking can take place.

I found those on a hike that I haven't taken in a while.  It's the Ma Maki hike in my adventure guide, if you have that handy: page 98.  And guess what.  I was also able to i.d. three types of ground cover that I couldn't before.  Well, now all their flowers are up, so I just followed the stems right to the blossoms.  For a wildflower nerd like me, that was way exciting.  Always something new to learn!

I better keep you updated on events.

This weekend, July 12th and 13th is the Run the Keweenaw.  I always volunteer to watch a road crossing or an aid station, and I think those people are crazy.  I would never be able to run 25 Km on the Copper Harbor trails without dying.  Kudos to those sweaty, hardcore people!

July 13th at 7 pm at the North One Gallery, local artist, Donica Dravillas opens her traveling Project 49918 exhibit on The Beginning of the Road.  I plan to be there!  It's really a cool project, and it will tour all the way down U.S. 41 to Miami, Florida!

Sunday, July 20th is Lake Superior Day.  Donny Kilpela usually has fun events planned for the day.  Check it out from 1-4 pm!

I better save some for next time.  Until then, I hope you think this scene is as ironic as I did.  Can you tell what those stairs are for?

Stairway to... um... the Lake?

Oh, I am such a goon sometimes.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A New Kind of July

Happy July!  Perhaps this is the first summer living up here that I actually mean that.  The Fourth is a huge weekend up here, of course, and because I have rearranged my life, I'm not dreading it.  I'll probably spend the fireworks hour at home comforting my drooling, shivering puppy.  But who knows.  I may get more adventurous...

If you are up, join us in the newly landscaped park on Friday at 9 pm where the Street Sweepers will play on the band stage.  Then, of course, fireworks at dark from Porter's Island.  The parade that morning starts at 10 am, I believe.  It's a big to-do, you know.

So the work in the park is finished.  It's quite lovely.  I hear that from locals and visitors.

Da new park, eh.

View from the trailhead

Speaking of the trailhead, it sure is busy these days!  The mountain bikers are out in droves.  I always feel a sense of pride when I see them all because my husband built and designed much of that system, and I helped promote it.  Man, I can't wait to ride those trails again myself.  I'll just have to wait until I'm riding for one, as they can be unforgiving.

One day I was out in Clyde's Field, and I was drawn to take a different way around.  I followed the sounds of the bull frogs in the little pond.  There, I actually got to see them making their sound that I can think of no onomatopoeia for.  But I could describe it as an upside down milk jug as the air fills it up after much liquid has come out.  Similar to the blubs on the frozen lake that made me a little skiddish this winter.

So the frogs were neat (alas, I had no camera on me), but then I saw a snake too!  It was harmless -- black with the two light green stripes running down its back.  Probably no longer then two feet long.  But when it saw me, it poised its head like it was on guard.  Then, of course, Duce came trouncing by, and it retreated to the water.  Cool stuff.

Did you know there is a new organization in town?  It's called Copper Harbor Art (CHA).  Yes, we artists finally organized ourselves to promote art in the area.  The last Friday of each month, we do a Gallery Tour/Art Crawl.  Here's the brochure of all participating galleries.  Pick one up when you visit!

Back of the CHA rack card

That's exciting for us.  We are also hosting an Art in Nature workshop for kids.  Here's the flyer for that. Guess who's leading the Creative Writing workshop!

Flyer for the kids' workshops

If you are on facebook, like our page to stay tuned for more Copper Harbor Art events!  And if you are an artist in the area, let me know, so you can join the group and promote your work!

For another art update, yes, my new book is out!  Click on the book on the sidebar above to find out how to get your autographed copy.  I sold nearly 100 copies in the first week already!  Guess that one is in demand.  That really is wonderful to me because the goal was to take the guess work out of exploring this magical area.

Oh heck.  One more writing update.  If you were not aware, I have traded bartending full-time to  prioritizing my writing career.  I am currently working with 3 editors, so you can see my published work pretty much monthly at:

Pretty exciting, huh?  Let that be a lesson in never giving up on your dreams!  I'll leave you with that thought.  See you after the busy weekend!