Storm Approaches
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An unofficial source of Eagle Harbor, Michigan news, views and information.

A Harbor Journal

Winter Storm Approaches

"...when we don't live with birds or weather or waves we lose the opportunity to think hard about ourselves, to discover from nature important facts about human nature."
(excerpted from Nancy Lord's, Fishcamp)

February & March, 2003

Thoughts On A Spring Day (3/26/03) Sunday, was such a beautiful day. Balmy, bright sunshine reflecting off the brilliant white lake ice flows, and gorgeous stretches of deep blue big lake open water just off shore. Lots of Sunday drivers travelling slowly along the lakeshore roads – folks from the copper towns seeking relief from camp fever imposed by our recent bout with sub-zero temperatures. I hiked down to Great Sand Bay, shedding my light jacket to absorb the wonderful warmth of this early spring day. Recently returned gulls were noisily contesting for squatters rights on offshore reef tops emerging from their months of solitude beneath the ice pack. All seemed at peace – the refreshing normalcy of winter yielding to the arrival of spring. But my thoughts were preoccupied by the events in Iraq.

Nearing home I found a bevy of kids enjoying themselves in the now flowing Eliza Creek as it snakes across the harbor swimming beach. Kids doing what we have all done when life was blessed with the innocence and simple joys of youth – tossing rocks and logs into the flowing spring run-off hoping to divert its flow and building little bridges we can scurry across as a mark of our mastery over the forces of nature. Kids just being kids – blissfully unaware of the troubles of the world, and their future involvement in similar events.

I thought of my self at that age, completely unaware that during my lifetime there would be at least five wars claiming lives and creating trauma for the generations my life would embrace. First WW II, my involvement limited to scrap drives and the fright of knocking on doors to collect a newspaper fee at homes where blue star window banners suddenly turned to gold; then Korea (my generation’s war), and the loss of many friends and leaving emotional scars that I only now know have never healed; next the “Cold War” when my kids were drilled in the traumatic exercise of diving under their school desks to escape nuclear disaster; Vietnam, the senseless waste and psychological ravaging of a generation of young men and women; and now, Gulf I and Gulf II – still unknowns as to personal and economic cost and outcome.

I wondered – will these young children now playing happily in Eliza Creek, and my grandchildren of their age, also be witness to and be participants in such a lifetime of wars? Please God, let that not be so!

Lets move on. I’m sure my war dirge is a digression from the expectations of most whom patiently follow these journals of my life at Eagle Harbor. The deer that strolled into our very quiet little hamlet and then along our harbor swimming beach early last evening, and the two eagles now perched on the dark harbor ice waiting patiently for the feeding frenzy sure to occur when the thin ice dissolves, are the usual, and expected, reporting fare of this glimpse of Harbor life. Indeed, yesterday’s hike up to the Central Road and back was a pleasant diversion from Iraq reports. Roadside ditches along the Harbor cut-off road are now gurgling softly as they carry snow melt to a swiftly flowing and bulging Eliza Creek. The creek, cascading down the hill to the awaiting Lake Eliza, is still shouldered in ice, but in mid-stream, a noisy tumble of water churning its way around tree fall and the large rocks that litter its course. The flow is not as great as in most snow melt times. It seems that much of our now almost depleted two or three feet of bush lake effect snow pack simply evaporated – carried away in the great fog banks that moved back out over the lake in last week’s warm spell. Either route is OK with me, just as long as it returns to the lake – now almost ten inches below normal and unless it rises a sure source of Peregrine shoal bouncing in the coming summer.

There are suddenly lots of birds, not just the squabbling gulls along the shore, but what seems like an invasion of crows and ravens. They seem ravenous, attacking our bird feeders with a vengeance. They are also very noisy, filling the bush with their craws and croaks as their black shapes wheel about over the treetops. About the only thing that seems to settle them down is our expanding population of eagles. When the pair I believe to be nested on or near Silver Island, make their at least twice daily swoops around the harbor, the crows cower quietly in thick tree cover. Crows, as you can sense, are not my favorite birds, second only to the harbor’s summer population of pesky geese on my “birds I can do without” listing. Now I see a flock of what I assume are birds migrating back to the artic sitting on the harbor ice. Not sure what they are, they are dark colored, about the size of gulls and fly like gulls. When the ice opens we will witness many more such migrators - stopping briefly here for a rest before winging across the big lake on their many thousand mile journey back to breeding grounds. It's a reassuring sight in these uncertain times.

As I end this journal entry at mid-day on Wednesday, we are witness to an unusual phenomenon of a sparse offering of large snowflakes slowly zigzagging down through mid forties still air. The obviously much cooler clouds lying just overhead occasionally separate to allow some muted sunshine through, turning our fluttering snowflakes into colorful prisms. Quite beautiful – the kind of thing that makes you forget about the war – almost.

Escape (3/22/03) It’s a few degrees above freezing in the darkness of this early morning, a light rain, actually a mist, filters through the glow of the street light down the road, and the nearly full moon, so much in evidence during the last few nights, is obscured by low hanging clouds and heavy fog.. It’s gloomy, befitting the mood of many of us tuned into the reports filtering in from correspondents covering the war with Iraq. Not that there is any doubt about the immediate outcome – the worlds mightiest ever military power stacked up against the beleaguered and repressed people of a tin horn dictator in a country just two-thirds the size of our president’s home state, is sure to end successfully and quickly. But what then?

I’ve been following events as reported by BBC America and Deutschland World (DW TV), both brought to us by Bill Jackson’s terrific Eagle Harbor Cable, and each refreshingly straight forward in their reporting – devoid of the domestic TV parade of retired four stars earning a few bucks as commentators and “color” providers, endless reruns, and the fancy high tech studio sets. At times, it appears that the sports program producers of our networks are orchestrating the war news coverage. (DW, intermixing German with English, also gives me a chance to brush up on my all but forgotten German.) I’ve also been attempting to establish some perspective by re-reading some middle east histories, most notably Bernard Lewis’s, What Went Wrong, and James Reston, JR’s, Warriors of God, the latter an uncomfortably similar account of the Richard the Lionheart led Third Crusade against the forces of Saladin. As now, France was then an unwilling ally, but the Pope, now a leader of the anti-war movement, was the principal war provocateur in those earlier attempts to impose Western ideas and ideals on the Middle East.

But mostly I’ve just tuned out, forsaking the unfolding events for the joy of tromping about in the bush. We have lost much of our snow cover in exposed areas, but there is still a lot back in the woods. Cooler mid-thirties temperatures and persistent cloud cover have slowed the melt down. The evaporating snow is producing lots of fog, and with practically no wind, it lies lazily across our little hamlet. There is surprisingly little flow in the creeks – Eliza has yet to begin its spring run to the harbor and the roadside ditches are dry, devoid of the delightful gurgle that often accompanies my springtime walks. The beach still has traces of snow but is mostly a dirty brown. The harbor ice, while still covering its entire surface, has turned a gray dishwater, almost black color. If we get a stiff wind off the lake and accompanying wave action, the ice will likely quickly break up. We may yet get some big early spring snows, but there is little doubt that our winter is now past. I’ve put my skies away.

It’s very quiet in town. None of our many “snow-birds” have migrated home, the sledders seem to have given up, and some of the remaining winter stalwarts have decided that the arrival of the ugly season is a good time to visit family and friends in far away places. Breakfast at the Shoreline is on hold until school is out, and the Inn is in its weekend only semi-hibernation until May sunshine begins to stir some camp openings. It’s a good time to putt about our camps: pursuing those too long delayed “getting organized” projects; making our annual homage to tax collectors; and, catching up with our favorite indoor pastimes, in my case reading – currently continuing my new found addiction to the works of Kenneth Roberts, dabbling a bit with the philosophy of William James, and, today, deep into a beautifully written story of the Agassiz family, Adventurous Alliance, by Louise Hall Tharp. What a family – Louis Agassiz, the 19th century’s most renowned naturalist, wife Elizabeth, founder and first president of Radcliffe College, and son Alex, also a world class naturalist, and the business savvy man who, along with brother-in-law Quincy Shaw, turned a floundering C&H into the world’s most profitable copper mining venture, creating great wealth for many Boston families, including the Agassizs.

I’ve been keeping an eye out for a couple of fisherman who set up a fishing tent out on the ice near the harbor entry cribs. They ventured out yesterday afternoon, leaving their van behind the swimming beach. The van’s still there this early morning, but the fog is so thick that even after crawling out on the rocks beyond the Lakebreeze, I can not see the cribs or the tent. They are often out there, so I’m sure they know what they are doing, and are safe, but I’ll maintain my watch nonetheless. The fishing must be pretty good!

So as you can tell from this report, while much of the world suffers from war jitters, our little remote outpost on the rocky shore of the big lake seems, to me at least, as peaceful as a feather floating on a still pond. I suppose it’s escapism, but I like it.

A Day At Central(2/27/03) I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. About a mile deep in the bush above Central I suddenly found myself up to my armpits in deep snow with ski poles desperately probing what seemed like a bottomless pit. I’d been following deer prints as I searched for a route down from the ridge above Central to the old post road that would lead me back to that historic location. Deer seem to sense well packed snow, but I grew impatient with their meandering and struck off on a path that I thought would get me down the hill more quickly. A big mistake.

I’ve described my skiing at Central as “awesome.” It was that for sure – about three hours of breaking trail in two to three feet of soft snow. I’d parked my van in front of Edo’s camp, trekked up the hill along the old Central road to the beginning of a trail that climbs up a gully to the site of the lamentably destroyed Central school. The trail winds across the high ridge, down to Meadow Lake and ultimately over to the Harbor Cut-off Road, about a mile-and-a-half to the west. The sun was bright and warm and I soon shed hat and gloves and opened my coat. A snowmobile had been on the trail a couple of snows earlier, but it had apparently labored in the soft snow, leaving a mess of deep and uneven ruts that caused several spills as I stumbled along. The downgrades, some of them steep, were mostly accomplished by sitting down on my skies and plowing through the drifts. Not very athletic, but fun.

At Meadow Lake, really just a meadow, less than a quarter mile along the trail, the sledder apparently had enough and after a zip around the open space, did a U-turn and headed back up the trail. I was on my own. I thought about following his/her example, but the prospect of climbing back up the trail persuaded me to push ahead. There was no apparent trail, but I thought if I kept the afternoon sun over my left shoulder I would eventually arrive at the cut-off road. I latched onto the deer trials, but soon realized they were leading me too far north, over toward Jacob’s Creek, so angled southwesterly through the thicker bush, weaving among the pine and climbing over deeply buried tree fall. . My poles kept catching in the low bush, but it was a pleasant trek through pristine snow. Cross-country skiing at it’s best. I was relieved, however, when I finally encountered the cut-off road, near its intersection with the Garden City Road, much further north than I had planned.

Now to get back to Central. There are two options – ski south along the top of the roadside bank to an old logging road about a half-mile north of US 41 that leads east to the top of the high ridge that overlooks Central and then down the ridge to Central, or ski further south along the cutoff road to Popeye Rock, then follow the old post road along the bottom of the ridge east to Central. I wanted to avoid having to get down from the high ridge, it’s a real adrenaline trip, but I opted for the logging road, figuring I’d turn south and down to the post road before the logging road climbed to the top of the ridge. That decision led to my encounter with the bottomless snow pit.

As I wallowed in the pit, wondering if I’d fallen into one of the many old mine shafts that litter this area, my skis several feet down in the snow, and seemingly nothing to brace against for a push out, I thought how ironic it would be that after years of tempting the big lake, I’d come a cropper in a snow bank just a few miles from camp. I had my cell phone, a couple feet down in the snow, but was sure it would not link to the tower on the other side of the ridge, especially considering I was down in a hole. As I leaned back in the fluffy snow and looked up through the trees to the blue sky above I chuckled, not solely at the dilemma caused by my stupidity, but also in the realization that my little snow nest was really quite comfortable. Snuggy warm, soft to lie upon, and wonderfully surrounded by beautiful snow laden forest. I pulled an apple out of a pocket and enjoyed its sweet juices as I watched a couple of crows wheel above the treetops (or were they buzzards?) I’d been breaking trail for over two hours and was tired. If the lengthening tree shadows had not cautioned against staying too long, I believe I would have yielded to the urge to take a little late afternoon nap. Almost reluctantly, I began to consider what I had to do to get out of my snow trap.

Clearly I had to get my skies off; they were acting like anchors as I squirmed about. It was a bit like diving in water as I bent forward and pushed my upper body down through the fortunately feathery snow until my hands could grasp and release the bindings. Now stretching back with a hand on each ski I pulled them to the snow surface and pushed them over the edge of my roost. I did sort of a backstroke as I searched beneath me for the poles, and once located, yanked them out and gave them a toss up on the surrounding bank. Pleased with my success with the backstroking, I began to “swim” my way towards what appeared to be firmer snow, and once there, rolled sideways down a little incline to a tree. I grabbed the tree’s trunk and pulled myself upright. Eureka! I was pretty proud of myself, forgetting, of course, how I got myself in such a situation. The crows were crowing away, I’m sure in admiration of my snow swimming skills.

Using a downed tree limb, I cautiously retrieved my skies and poles, gathered them under my arms, and bottom skied the rest of the way down to the post road. I rested for awhile on a tree stump, then strapped on the skis and began the long trek up the old road to beautiful downtown Central. I climbed wearily into my van, consumed another apple, and headed for camp.

The next time I’ll defer to the better judgement of the more bush savvy deer.

Ice Walking(2/22/03) Gosh, this feels good! I’m back in camp after another two plus hour trek around the Harbor ski trail, refreshed by a warm shower, sipping a good chardonnay, and luxuriating in the physical and psychological cleansing one feels after strenuous exercise. I didn’t expect to be out on the trail today as early morning temperatures dipped below zero, but as the day entered mid-afternoon and my weather instruments reported a few degrees above ten above and abating wind, the lure of the ski trail proved irresistible. So I bundled up, stuffed the hand warmers in my mittens, wrapped a scarf across my face, motored over to trail head, strapped on my skis, and began the slow climb up the trail to Eliza. The cold and crusty snow squeaked in protest as my skis and poles interfered with its rest, but afforded a fast, at times too slippery, icy passage. Lake effect snow showers were interspersed among bursts of open blue sky and bright sunlight, creating a dazzling array of color. It was magic, and I wondered why I seemed to be the only skier on the trail. Perhaps the season is waning and my fellow skiers are back in camp pursuing the boating and planting catalogues recently stuffed in our mailboxes.

It may be that the forecasted double digit below zero temperatures in this evening’s forecast are spooking potential skiers. Can this truly be the “banana belt” we often brag about to our summer visitors? What’s happened to the warming affect of the big lake on the cold Canadian clippers that slide down from the arctic? Well, it seems we are about to experience a once in a generation event – the big lake completely frozen over! Tonight’ satellite Ice Coverage Report shows ice covering all but a small area in the east central part of the lake. I expect much of it is just slush, but that’s enough to shut down the lake effect snow system that has dominated our weather pattern since early January. No evaporation means we are in store for no snow, no warmed air off the lake, probably clear blue skies, and as long as the wind is from the north, as it is now, very cold temperatures. Our friend Heikki Lunta heads for balmy beaches when these circumstances prevail – as do many die hard Keweenaw winter regulars.

As I look out across ice stretching to the horizon, I think of the either brave or foolhardy souls who in the days of Isle Royale’s copper mining and timbering boomlet, reportedly walked from the island across the frozen lake to the Keweenaw. One of these men of lore was Eagle Harbor’s Richard Harvey, the great granddaddy of Susan Adams and Becky Markee and founder of The Harvey Boarding House, the beautifully maintained old home that sits kiddy-corner from the Shoreline Resort. Richard's’ s obituary tells of his youthful trek across the ice, with three other lads and two horses, from Isle Royale to Copper Harbor - a distance of over 50 miles! I doubt if they were riding the horses, and given the rough ice they must have encountered, it’s not likely they traveled more than two, perhaps three, miles per hour – meaning they were out on the lake for 17 to 25 hours. In mid winter, all but about nine of those hours in winter darkness. And no satellite photos to assure them the ice was solid. Incredible!

Despite my propensity for adventuresome risk, I’ll pass on this one. Ice walking, especially over deep waters, is not my thing – at least now. If I were younger, say in my late teens or early twenties, it’s likely something I’d do. At that time in my life I was heady with the Antarctic exploits of Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen, so a short trip to Isle Royale would have been too tempting to resist. Fortunately, my country compelled my service, so I missed my opportunity. Summer sails will have to suffice.

With those icy thoughts off my mind, I’ll move over close to the fire to warm and rest my pleasantly tired body, and rejoin Steven Nason, a soldier in the Continental Army, and his commander, Colonel Benedict Arnold, in their 1775 quest to capture Quebec from the English. (Kenneth Robert’s 1930 Arundel, perhaps the best historical novel I’ve encountered. Recently republished in paperback.)

Moon Struck(2/18/03) My plan seemed impeccable, but implementation proved to be more of a challenge than I anticipated. The idea was to strap on my cross-country skis at trail head about fifteen minutes after sunset, ski about five miles in the twilight, then complete the last four or so miles of my late evening trek around the Harbor ski trail in the glow of a brilliant rising full February moon. The sky was clear, as it has been for the last couple of days, the temperature near twenty, and practically no wind. Perfect, or so I thought!

The night before, after a dinner of fried pasties (which I’m beginning to appreciate, despite the pasty blasphemy involved) with Bill and Chuck, the Durham Duo, we engaged in what I believe to be the most rare and exquisite of our many wintertime activities – cross country skiing through the snow draped and shadow laced bush in the light of a full moon. It’s a seldom offered treat as we don't often experience the happy coincidence of a full winter moon, a cloudless night sky, and good snow pack on our ski trail. But Sunday night, the night of February’s full moon, was such an occasion. I have seized upon every such opportunity for night skiing in my several Keweenaw winters, most often solo, but for my Carolina visitors, this was a first.

As we paused at our turnaround point, a little clearing behind Cat Harbor, and looked out across the gleaming moonlit snow covering the marsh below the crumbling remains of the Copper Falls stamp mill, mesmerized by the play of shadow, the stillness, and the beauty of the night sky, I mentioned to my companions that only a few of my skiing friends had shared such an experience – most suggesting that I was a bit crazy to be out on the trails at night, especially alone. I’ve never met another skier on my night treks. Bill said they were probably right about skiing alone, but the real crazies were any who had this dazzling experience so accessible and didn’t take advantage of it.

So last evening, just a night past the full moon and once again clear, I returned to the trail. My plan of taking advantage of twilight until the big rising moon began to provide the light I need, seemed to be going well for the first couple of miles. I was skiing the trail clockwise, the reverse of our normal course, to get some tricky hills, including Calamity Gully, behind me before the twilight began to fade. The western sky was red, streaked in yellow, with its resulting tarnished gold hue reflecting off the wind smoothed snow pack. The overhead sky was a dark blue, like that of the big lake at sunset, and planets and major stars, including the brilliant white Rigel in my friend Orion’s left foot, began to appear. Distracted by this colorful snow scene and the celestial show above, and beginning to lose my depth perception in the fading light, I began to stumble a bit, but the track was deep and for the most part my skis stayed where they belonged. It was obvious, however, that in the shadow of the tree canopy, twilight was fading more rapidly than I had anticipated – and moonrise was still nearly an hour away.

I paused at the top of the knoll above Calamity Gully, about two miles into my jaunt, peered down the snaking trail into the darkness at the bottom, and realized twilight had quickly become dusk – with just a dimly perceptible tunnel of gray boarded by looming dark shapes defining my intended course. I lifted my skis from the track, assumed the classic bunny-hill snow plow stance and shoved off, but quickly lost my nerve as the dark shapes rushed at me and fell back onto my butt – arriving at the bottom of the gully in a tangle of skis and ski poles, my face buried in the trailside snow drift. Not a pretty sight I’m sure, but all the necessary body parts, my brain perhaps the exception, seemed intact so I struggled back up on my skis and sized up the task of getting out of the dark abyss.

The trick was to herringbone up the far slope, but after a few futile attempts I soon realized that without light I couldn’t properly set my skis. So I crawled up the slope on my belly, feeling a bit foolish and glad no one was present to witness my squirming. How, I thought, could I, a frequent nighttime visitor to the bush, have so misjudged the affect of tree canopy on twilight. Maybe too much moon beam on the night before. Moon struck!

Once out of the gully, the trail becomes a long, fairly flat and straight run down to the horseshoe turn at the bottom of Long Lake, about a mile away. I couldn’t see much, but my skis set firmly in the track, guiding me along the path. So I pushed on – regaining my self-confidence as I strode quickly along, and comforted by the pleasing swish of skis caressing the crusty snow underfoot, and the steady rhythm of poles biting into the squeaky rippled snow alongside the track. I looked to the east, hoping to soon see the brightening sky announcing a rising moon. No such luck. Even though moonrise was now only a half-hour away, the canopy that so quickly dissolved the twilight of the departed sun, was now holding tightly onto the gathered darkness.

I worked my way around the horseshoe turn, once again having to crawl up the hill that sets the trail onto the top of the adjoining ridge, and then embarked on a trail segment that twists its way for about a mile across some softly rolling hills. Lots of stumbling now as my skies frequently left the guiding track and I slid them about seeking the unseen track. A couple more hill crawls and frequent adrenaline charged swoops down through the darkness on the downside of hills that in daylight are just pleasant respites. I arrived at junction with the Olson trail at the appointed hour of moonrise, but as I looked to the east I realized that it would be at least another half-hour before the big moon would clear the tree line. I turned to the west and began the nearly two mile run down to Sand Bay, knowing that the easterly trip back from there to trail head would be in brilliant moonlight.

The just over three and half mile round trip trail to Sand Bay is, I believe, the most beautiful segment of the nearly ten miles of Harbor ski trail. The upper portion down to the marshes behind Cat Harbor is an easy to ski meander through a softly rolling forest of low pine and spruce, all now heavily laden with snow. It skirts the edge of the Copper Falls stamp sands, occasionally offering marvelous vitas across the frozen and snow covered marshes and up into the hills of the Keweenaw ridge. As I moved along this segment, I began to see the faint outline of the track as the sky at my back began to evidence the first light of the rising moon. I picked up my pace; arriving in about a quarter hour at the place where the trail enters the property the Clark family owns and so graciously allows the trail to traverse on to Sand Bay. This segment winds a lot, has several challenging hill segments, and lies beneath a wonderful canopy of old pine. I dove once again into the darkness and resumed the tumbling, crawling and adrenaline swoops that marked my earlier travel.

Another quarter hour and I reached Sand Bay, a bit bruised and exhausted, but intact. As I turned east for the three mile, about one hour, trek back to trail head I was delighted to see a big, very beautiful moon rise above the tree line. Gosh it was gorgeous, and oh so welcomed. It was not yet high enough to have its glow filter down onto the trail, but its mere presence offered encouragement, and with a happy, but by now tired, heart I scampered back up the trail – swooping along seemingly without a care in the world. Like the moon, there was a big grin on my face.

When I left the big pine canopy and embarked on the segment through the low pine, the moon light began to spread its magic across the more open snowscape, the long shadows of trailside trees casting wonderful shadow patterns across the now brightly lit and wind sculpted snow surface. Crusty snow crystals atop the snow blanket formed by the cold night’s freezing of the day’s warm sun melting, sparkled like a sea of diamonds in the slanting moonbeams. I paused often along this segment, allowing the beauty of the experience to soak into my soul. My celestial friend Orion, now brilliantly sparkling in the black sky beyond the moon, looked down at this mere mortal, wondering I’m sure why a scene he’s witnessed for eons, should so captivate me. Ah, my starry friend, if you were closer and not so jaded by your immortality, you would realize just how beautiful and precious this is. Given the paucity of clear skies during winter full moons, I may never again witness such a sight. It was not easy to resume my journey home.

The last mile runs almost due east, now directly into the path of the rising moon. The moon appeared like the big headlight of a train engine bearing down on me, at times so bright and blinding that I once again began to wander out of the track. Now, my spirit restored, I just chuckled at my ineptness, and happily scooted back into the track and continued on. The last long swoop from the knoll alongside the Eliza dam down to my waiting van was delightful, generating a loud whoop as I swept alongside Rick and Elaine’s near trailhead camp. I’m sure they thought some wandering and tipsy wayfarer was on the loose. Sure enough!

I slept well last night, relishing the memory of my ill conceived but ultimately rewarding nighttime adventure as I tucked my tired body under my cozy comforter. The clouds have moved back in this morning and light snow showers blanket the top of the Keweenaw ridge. A good day to stay by the fire and rest my still weary muscles. Weariness resulting from not only the two moon trips, another twenty or so miles of trail trekking over the last week, but also from a delightful jaunt to and around Grand Marais in the bright and warm sun of yesterday. There was just a whiff of breeze on that midday trip, and out on the gleaming surface of that beautiful bay the sun was warming, so much so that I shed first my coat, then sweatshirt, and finally t-shirt as I scooted across the snow blanketed ice. A bit crazy I suppose, probably causing wonderment, perhaps amusement, to any motorist looking down into the bay from the segment of M-26 perched atop the ridge that borders the bay, but I found it exhilarating. I even have a little sun burn to remind me of the experience.

I’ll likely be a bit more cautious the next time I venture into the winter bush at twilight, but as is often the case when challenge is rewarded, my unanticipated and at times worrisome stumbling around on the dark trail, ultimately added to the joy I felt as Mr. Moon finally held me and my snow blanketed nighttime environment in his beaming grasp. If you have any doubts about mesmerizing this experience can be, check with Bill and Chuck. They, too, are moon struck.

Riding It Out(2/9/03) "Oh, what a beautiful morning." No, the snow is not "as high as an elephant's eye", but would you accept a wolf's eye, and in the drifts, that of the moose? Yes, this is indeed a beautiful Sunday morning - a golden sun just poked its upper rim over the Keweenaw Ridge and into rarely seen blue sky, casting its cheery good morning radiance across the ice bound harbor and into my camp. The westerly wind is brisk, gathering up the loose inch or two of lake effect snow that fell overnight, blowing it towards the east beach in a helter-skelter parade of swiftly moving copper tinged giant snow swirls. It’s cold, about six degrees, and my wind chill meter is reporting 25 to 30 below. I bundled up for the photo op, but when I climbed to the top of the six foot drift just out my door, I discovered the camera is broke, apparently not surviving a drop from my coat pocket onto the hard grocery floor as I was loading up with bananas a few days ago. Alas, you’ll need to close your eyes and conjure up an image of gold sun, dark forested hills, blue sky, piles of brilliant white fresh snow, and the dazzling dance of swirling snow clouds as they move across the crusty, shadow streaked, and snow blanketed harbor. To complete the scene, add a cold so intense that it’s radiating through the walls sheltering your space, sending a numbing chill into your very soul. Welcome to Eagle Harbor in mid-winter!

It surely does look, at last, like a proper Keweenaw winter. We have had a least a trace of snow on all but just a few days since Heikki Lunta began his dance in early January. And even though our sky has cleared for this beautiful morning, the weather folks are warning us that lots of additional snow, big winds, and bone chilling wind chills will be at our door before nightfall and last through the coming week. Roadside windrows are about three to four feet high, with over two feet of snow cover back in the bush. With each day bringing a fresh dusting of lake effect, the snow blanketing our little town is pristine – just gorgeous. The yooper scoopers and snow blowers are getting a good workout, and the big orange snow plow is a daily visitor, often stopping out front for a friendly wave (I think they are still looking for Abby) two or three times a day. Thanks to the big winds, the windiest fall and winter most of us have experienced, the snow burden on our roofs is manageable without resorting to dangerous roof dancing. Pretty nice!

I’ve been camp bound the last three or four days, still feeling the affects of pushing the envelope a bit too much earlier this week. There are the necessary trips to the woodpile and mailbox, but I’ve resisted the temptation to play in our wonderful snow. Maybe today, although the extreme wind chill is a deterrent - probably a good thing. I’ll get checked out in a few days, so will take it easy until we figure out what’s going on. Maybe it’s just camp fever, although nitro, which gives relief, usually doesn’t do much for that common Keweenaw deep winter ailment. (I hope no one sets off a spark near me – I’d probably explode.) The town’s happiest snow pusher, Jim Boggio, clears the snow away from my front stoop each morning with his truck plow, and waits for my “I’m OK” wave before heading off to the next of his several stops on his good neighbor snow clearing tour. A good friend!

I’m not doing much writing, as I’m sure you have noticed, and our Harbor Web is languishing a bit (although being viewed by 600 to 900 folks each day), but I’m making good progress in digging through my cache of winter season books. Like many avid readers with short attention spans, I usually have two or three books going at once. (It does get confusing at times.) At the moment I’m sharing Thomas Merton’s, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Merton was the Trappist monk, whose spiritual writings were suggested to me by a Harbor Web journal reader); Blizzard, a wonderful collection of short stories by local writer, satellite system purveyor, former flower child, and philosopher, Peter Oikarinen; and, Kenneth Robert's, Arundel, an historical novel telling a rousing tale of Benedict Arnold’s doomed march on Quebec in 1775. Certainly an eclectic collection, but each is wonderful diversion from the gloom of the Wall Street Journal, and the scary world scenario.

It’s now about an hour since the sun rose into the clear blue sky, and already the promised lake effect snow clouds have pounced on us, the wind has increased to about twenty knots, and the snow is flying about in great clusters of white – creating momentary white-out conditions. The bright red and blue of the US flag snapping atop the swaying flagpole alongside my camp is the only touch of color in an otherwise eye smarting scene of bright white. The temperature has crept above ten, but with the stronger wind, the wind-chills are still unfriendly, if not deadly. My barometer is in a nosedive, and my polar wall, the lightly insulated and porous west and wind facing side of my camp, is getting darn uncomfortable to sit by. Time to end this pecking, move across the room, toss a couple more logs on the fire, pop a nitro, grab my covey of books, and ride it out.

Exhaustion(2/5/03) I’m totally exhausted tonight, in a contemplative state of mind – but a very happy camper. This morning’s fast nine mile trek around an absolutely gorgeous and beautifully tracked harbor ski trail, coupled with long hikes up to the Central road and down to Sand Bay in the last couple of days have nourished my soul, but reminded me that I’m not the spring chicken I once was. It’s good that I scampered up to the copper city yesterday to restock my nitro supply (along with the other essentials of life – bread, milk, green bananas and peanut butter.) I surely need them this evening as I rest alongside a roaring fire. Tomorrow should be a day for some of Lissa’s scrumptious Shoreline blueberry pancakes – and more rest. But if skiing conditions are as good as they were today, I’ll likely once again succumb to the lure of the trail. Keweenaw cross-country skiing is like summer sailing on the big lake – when conditions are good, you go!

Yesterday’s eight inches of blizzard driven fresh snow drifted in the ski trail and draped every bough of trailside pine and cedar with a beautiful blanket of feathery white. Our morning was blessed with large gaps in the parade of lake effect snow clouds moving in from the lake, allowing bright sunlight flowing down from an intense blue sky to bring to life the brilliance of the new snow and the beautiful greens of the bush. Today’s groomers, Dick Lantz on his point snowmobile breaking down the drifts, and Jim Wachowski following with the groomer and tracker, produced what I’m certain is the best conditioned ski trail in all of Keweenaw. (Bruce Olson, our primary groomer, Jim, Dick, and Rich Probst are all to be thanked for their volunteer commitment to keeping our trail in such wonderful condition. Be sure to thank them – and add a buck or two to the ski trail maintenance kitty at the Inn.) Thanks to the great grooming and my type A approach to recreation, I toured the trail this morning in record time, about two hours – adding, of course, to the discomfort I’m experiencing tonight.

Last Monday evening was a bit more relaxed. Our Tuesday storm was just developing as I returned from a late evening gathering in Eagle River (in Bessie Phillip’s historic lodging, a special treat), driving through swirling snow and dodging the deer along the shoreline drive. Once home, and after a hike up to the lighthouse and around our little town, I sat in my darkened camp watching lake effect snow swirl through the copper tinged light cast by the phosphorus street lamp down the road. The snow was coming down with increasing density, and with a temperature near thirty, its wetness streaked my windows. One or two inches accumulated as I watched, and the track of footprints I left on my walk were already being obscured. I was tempted to go out again. My earlier trek, absent hat or gloves, was a sensory delight – the stillness of softly falling snow broken only by the pleasing crunch of my boots; cool snow, like a spring shower, falling on my bare head and face, trickling its melted sweetness across my lips; and, the beauty of our nighttime townscape - a snow shower diffused scene of dark camps tucked amidst the gray shadows of drifted snow. As I savored this experience and the view outside my window, I thought of the weekend's tragic event, the loss of the good ship Columbia and its gallant crew.

I have a lifetime fascination with explorers and adventurers – the likes of Columbia’s crew and the many who assisted them in their perilous journey. One of my most cherished possessions is the first book I ever owned, Jules Verne’s, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, given to me before I was ten, and, I believe, the incubator of my life long insatiable appetite for exploratory adventure. I suppose in every young life there is a spark of discovery that sets one’s life path – Verne was certainly that for me. I consumed his writings, Voyage to the Moon, Voyage to the Center of the Earth, later leading me to the stories of real life adventurers and explorers like Columbus, Drake, Cook, Lewis and Clark, Shackleton, Stanley, Livingstone, Brule, Slocum, and in our time, the men and women who probe the frontiers of space.

I know there are those, perhaps with good reason, who argue that in this heady time of exotic technology, man should resist the age old lure of risky personal exploration, and utilize instead the chips and hardware that can perhaps provide equivalent return. But for me, and for others drawn to the marvels of man's unique, perhaps God given, powers of imagination, inventiveness, curiosity, intuitiveness, adaptability, and above all passion and courage – none of which our wonderful technologies can offer – the thought of hardware as a substitute for man in the world of exploration is unsatisfactory. I’m sorry, I’m still enamored with the lessons and examples of Verne. Nautilus was a delighful invention of the mind, but it took Captain Nemo's savy to shepherd it into the wonders of the deep sea.

As I sat alone by my fire in my darkened camp contemplating the tragic event of the weekend, and my thoughts about it’s significance in the long history of man’s exploration of the unknown, I realized how much I miss the opportunity to engage in dialog with others about such matters. My life, generally content with the splendor and solitude of this blessed place, so evident today as I skied around our beautiful and seldom visited ski trail, is nonetheless incomplete without substantive dialog with kindred souls. Yes, we have the special joy of out wintertime Friday evening comradery at the Inn, and other chance encounters to share stories of family and topical events, but the opportunity to sit by a fire with a provocative inquisitor, perhaps with the stimulus of a bottle of good wine, and explore for hours the nuances of human existence, is a rare treat - mostly because I'm out having too much fun. However, as the winter lengthens, I sometimes feel I’m losing the art of substantative conversation – perhaps a necessary trade-off for the unique, and possibly more valuable, opportunity for solitary introspection I enjoy. I can always resort to the written word.

Exhaustion, especially when it prompts contemplation, has merit. It’s part of my Eagle Harbor winter journey. A joy!

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