Sunday, December 12, 2010
Set ablaze by the late September sun, its evergreen shore warms to gold. The small island barely visible beyond misted morning water, by evening, has found itself in the spotlight.
Taking a direct path from the sand beach just beyond our cabin’s doorstep across this narrow band of water, skirting the gilt edge of Echo Island, we found the rocky bay, entered and pulled the canoe up onto a sequestered 20-ft beach.
Once privately owned, as was the case with many islands which over the years have become part of Voyageurs National Park, remnants of its previous life remain. From within a tumbled pile of what must have been, years ago, a meticulously built rock wall entry, a mink watches our slow progression onto land, and then disappears into the depths of the woods. There is a park campsite here, complete with one-seater and bear-locker, available to anyone at any time.
On this day we find it empty, inhabited only by a most irritated red squirrel whose duties of the collection and disposal of pine cones evidently our mere presence has interrupted.
In the change of ownership, this small resident has risen in stature.
Into it reach the roots of delicate wildflowers.
Lichens cover bark and branch.
Nose to the ground in this well-appointed space, I can see Pixie Cups and Fairy Thimbles, Witches’ Beard above me, and British soldiers below--
named for the shapes they resemble, to be sure.
in the places where one might find them.
For I thought I caught a glimpse of something magical there.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I woke to a leaden sky, and a cold, damp dawn that in every way spoke of winter’s return.
I love this season more than do most--its character of change, its constant contrast from the delicate vulnerability of a single snowflake to the strength and fury of a stinging blizzard. But, given a shorter day, one bound by a hesitant sunrise and hasty sunset, I am left with little time to be in the outdoors.
It’s just as well.
This is the space between the holidays.
To that, introduce deer hunting season with its dangers to off-trail pursuits, and it's likely that a trip to the store or a jaunt along a tamer trail will, in this time, replace my walk in the woods.
I wander through my summer memories.
This is Lake Kabetogama (Ka-buh-toh'-guh-muh), an expanse of cool, clear northern Minnesota water that, linked with Rainy Lake, Sand Point Lake, and Lake Namakan, makes up Voyageurs National Park.
With walleye, northern pike, muskellunge, small mouth bass, and crappie abundant in these large lakes, fishing is by far its greatest draw. Try to find just one poster promoting the area that does not boast a boatful of broadly smiling fishermen or a toothless child proudly displaying his record-breaking catch.
But the attraction for me was its wilderness.
Accessible to any who wishes to hike the miles of backcountry trails or step out of canoe or kayak onto the land once walked by the Chippewa, the morning air rings with the call of the loon.
A wolf print is left in the soft mud along the trail.
And the still water is parted by a beaver swimming at dusk to his lodge at the edge of this small island.
Rough Waters, Lake Kabetogama at 25,000-acres in size can in one moment become a small craft’s captain’s nightmare. Wind raging its length piles 5-ft waves on top of its 80-ft depths. Islands become the only refuge in a storm.
But, each morning it lay again invitingly still—shrouded in a heavy fog that obscured both boat and bird.
And begged to be discovered.