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)

Fall Winter 2004-2005

Light Box Time? (1/28/05)
Yesterday's photo speaks volumes about why all but a few of my neighbors have fled to sunnier climes. Actually the photo is a file photo – a January day of a few years ago. It matters little, all late January Keweenaw days are the same - lifeless gray clouds hugging the hills, murky lake effect snow showers drifting in from the frozen lake, a damp cold that penetrates body, camp and mind, and lethargic snow piled deep on all we hold dear - vehicles, woodpiles, escape routes. We eagerly await the daily arrival of the big snowplow, as much for the joy of its burst of bright orange color as its assurance that we have not been abandoned. This is, as my friend Susan reminds me every late January, time to haul out the light box.

But wait – over the years I’ve developed some Keweenaw late January survival skills. No, not wine, women and song, although if you substitute books for women, a poor substitute, you might be close. Of greatest import, however, is getting out of camp – lacing up the boots, donning thermal under garments, wool scarves and full head caps, and hitting the road and bush trails. If the grandscape, as seen and felt from the confines of camp seems bland and depressing, then get out and search for the wonder of detail – the comforting crunch of boot in soft snow, the beauty of snow laden pine bough, the fascinating tracks of critters, the wonder of sculpted drift, the mesmerizing silence or exhilarating bluster of a winter day. It’s all there, even on a dull late January day – healthy and satisfying soul food for all who seek it.

Yesterday was a day of such rich rewards. A morning of soft southerly wind brought a rare offering of big feathery snow, a welcomed relief from the small hard crystals of our dominant northerly lake effect. At mid day the wind paused, waiting for the arrival of yet another northerly gale. I ventured out, destined for the marina – a bit of stretch for my recovering constitution but oh so tempting. The plows were apparently busy digging out the copper towns, so the roadway was blanketed with about three inches of the soft new snow – not surprisingly unmarked as there is little traffic on our roads in mid-winter.

The crunch and occasional squeak of my boots in the soft snow was sensory music – heightened by the stillness of the absent wind and resting lake. I walked by harbor camps and cottages long since abandoned by their summer occupants, their dark and shuttered shapes adding to the sense of separation from all but the lure of our natural environment. The new snow hung tenuously on the boughs of roadside evergreens, seemingly sensing that the pending gale would soon dislodge it to join the growing blanket of snow covering the decay of fall and summer brightness.

I paused at Cedar beach, peering through the thick blanket of water hugging gray lake effect snow clouds in search of the white flash of the lighthouse perched on the unseen rocky shore across the bay. The scene was exactly as in yesterday's photo, and, as in the photo, the flash was visible, albeit faintly – offering its never-ending assurance of safe harbor. Slush ice just off the ice and snow covered beach murmured softly as it wallowed in waters freed of ice cover by the morning southerly breeze. Cedar Creek, hibernating but still offering a token of flow from the warmer marsh waters behind the beach, added it’s own comforting gurgle to the symphony of sounds always present along our shore – even in mid-winter.

Refreshed by this pause and sensory experience, I ambled on, soon skirting along the east beach and bay, both covered by a thick blanket of ice and snow. No sounds here, just the deafening silence of winter locked landscape unruffled by normally present winter winds. I wondered if my now even more pronounced boot crunching could be detected across the nearly mile wide bay.

Rounding the bend at Grand Marais Road, a road now deeply clogged with drifts and apparently not yet traversed by our intrepid band of Harbor cross-country skiers, I entered upon the most beautiful segment of a winter trek around the harbor – the pine canopied stretch of Marina Road leading to the old life saving station, now our marina. The canopy was heavy with snow, boughs bent down enough to allow a refreshing shower of snow as I poked them with my walking stick. The plow pushes down to the marina for unfathomable reason since there are no winter residents along this way, but its path is welcomed in the absence of skis or snowshoes.

And then the marina promenade, as solitary and as beautiful a place as one is likely to encounter in mid-winter. It’s all there – the big snow draped pines, the ice laced cobblestone beach, the churn of ice and waves battling for dominance atop the near shore reefs, the wind swept snow drifts piled along the shore, the awesome sense of infinite offshore space, even if unseen in the murky snow clouds, and yes, the ghostly presence of the remnants of the old life saving station. I crawled down to the cobblestone, found a perch on a big drift log, and sat for a spell to absorb this wonder and watch the lighthouse send its white, and now visible red, beams sweeping across the harbor entry. Our little town, barely visible across the bay, seemed asleep, as indeed it is. A chill finally invaded my watch, so with reluctance I began the two-mile trek back to camp.

I stopped for a needed respite at the always-welcoming Marina Road home of Charlotte and Tottie Catoni, Eagle Harbor’s sole east bay winter residents. Their winter existence is truly a life of splendid isolation, and their so obvious joy of it is remarkable and refreshing. Charlotte, in her nineties, saddled with infirmities that would beguile even decade’s younger, bubbles with enthusiasm about the wonder of winter and the joys of her passion for all that makes this place alongside the big lake so special. We share a glass of sherry and homemade goodies, pass what little news there is of Harbor happenings, engage in a bit of book clubbing (we’re all avid readers), and delight each other with colorful accounts of present and past adventures in our active lives. As the evening dusk begins to mask what little daylight manages to creep through the low hanging clouds and misty snowfall, I bid farewell to this happy and so energizing encounter and once more resume my trip home.

The trek home was uneventful, just a steady crunch – crunch in still unfettered snow (didn’t meet a vehicle on the entire trip), enjoying the spectacle of long familiar landmarks being absorbed in the gathering winter darkness. A light in my window beckoned this tired traveler home, and after gathering a few logs from the rapidly diminishing woodpile, I eagerly sought the old camp’s cozy comfort – delighted to find a fireplace fire still waiting for my return.

I slept peacefully. The light box remains in storage.

Splendid Isolation(1/18/05)
WOW! This is a blizzard in reverse. Strong gusty winds from off the hills at the harbor’s backside seem bent on returning all the snow accumulated since the pumpkin caper to the place of its birth, the big lake. The sky is a brilliant blue as massive swirls of sun sparkled snow blast down from the hills, race across the frozen harbor, picking up its snow blanket en route, jump over the rocky outcrop I share with the lighthouse, and disappear into the dimensionless white haze shrouding the ice rapidly building out from the Keweenaw shore. The old camp groans as its timbers, set in a southerly tilt by this past weekend’s northerly gale, sway past upright into a northerly pitch. Wind driven snow exploits the imperfect sill of my entry and spreads across the camp floor. Will this never end!

The weather pros at Marquette say yes. The rapidly moving front that is generating these big winds heralds an arriving big cell of high pressure, its leading edge of lighter northerly winds promising some relief – albeit once again unleashing Heikki Lunta’s favorite toy, the lake effect machine. But joy of joys, absent from this promising scenario will be the wayward mass of cold artic air that so devastated our otherwise wonderful past weekend of bountiful snow and exciting wind. Indeed, temperatures are once again expected to return to the high teens and even the twenties, bolstering our reputation as the frigid upper Midwest’s banana belt. At last, a chance to escape the confines of camp.

Perhaps I have become a wimp, but for over a week I’ve stuck close to my cozy fireplace – not daring to venture out into the double digit below zero wind chills. The necessary daily trip to the mailbox and woodpile was more than enough fresh air – each such excursion fostering thoughts of my childhood heroes Scott and Shackleton defying death (Scott unsuccessfully) on the ice fields of Antarctica. Or how about the mesmerizing accounts of starving and isolated Dakota families huddling in their sod huts for weeks on end as sure death if you step outside blizzards roamed the prairie. Overly dramatic comparisons for sure, but a true sense of my state of mind as I contemplated stepping outside into the wrath of our weekend storm.

The woodpile venture is the most challenging. It toppled over in the big wind, its beautifully stacked and tarp protected logs now a tangle of snow buried and frozen together retrieval challenges. I dig them out, knocking them apart with the blunt edge of the splitting axe, and haul them through the deepening snow and up the icy steps into the fireside wood box. In deference to my weakening heart and generally frail aftermath of recent medical adventures, I haul only there or four at a time, needing about three trips for a day’s supply. Small potatoes compared to the challenges faced by my Antarctic heroes and the sod hut refugees, but more than enough for me.

Blizzards add to the sense of isolation always present at Eagle Harbor in mid-winter, especially for those of us who live alone in this snow bound outpost. At the height of such storms there is practically no observable movement about town and the twenty-five or so miles of wilderness trek that separate us from the sources of provision seem foolhardy if not impossible to contemplate. The awful prospect of lost power is haunting. Precious neighbors are scarce - the last of departing snowbirds left or leaving and the few remaining diehards hunkered in as tightly as I am. The blackness of night lingers seemingly forever and clouds or blowing snow squelch what little daylight is available from the retreated southern hemisphere sun. Debilitating cold penetrates into all but the mostly stoutly built of our homes – most of us living in homes constructed as summer cottages and, like mine, often imperfectly converted for winter occupancy. And one is constantly surrounded by the awesome sounds of a wrathful storm – the creak of camps buffeted by the wind, the eerie howl of wind as it is bent around naked tree limbs, and the crashing of waves accosting the shore and ice shelf of the nearby big lake. This is not everyone’s cup of tea.

And yet, for me, it’s wonderful. Sure I complain about the cold, fret about lost power, struggle with my woodpile, and miss happy exchanges with folks wandering about our little town. But I relish the quiet time, the opportunity for introspection, the challenges of self-sufficiency, and the close proximity of the wonders of our natural world, especially the excitement and adventure of its storms. In many ways these are the same qualities that so endear me to sailing about the big lake for much of our summers, most of it single-handed. Yes, there is truly a sense of isolation here in mid-winter’s storms, but it’s splendid isolation – a continuing source of nourishment for my soul.

But enough of this. More tolerable temps are on the way. I’ll be out of here – perhaps up to the copper towns to replenish my diminished provisions and a chance to hobnob a bit with fellow Copper County winter refugees.

Powering Up (1/13/05)
If you’re into praying, please join me in asking the Good Lord to keep the power on.

What a storm we are experiencing! It’s Thursday late afternoon, the first of an expected three day good old-fashioned Copper Country blizzard. Old snow and massive clusters of arriving lake effect is swirling about out my window, obscuring even the harbor waters just fifty or so feet away. The timbers of this old camp are shaking and groaning - buffeted by the gale force winds blasting in from the big lake. Temperatures, a balmy high twenties at this day’s dawn, are now in the single digits, and dropping about two degrees an hour as they head to the forecasted beastly sub-zeros. My furnace and fireplace are both in winter storm mode, but the little thermometer alongside my computer says 60, no doubt reacting to the cold air being pushed through my all too porous camp door and window frames. I’m wrapped in a big comforter, with double socks and a wool cap. Exciting, but not much fun.

I worry about the power. The scanner is reporting outages at Copper Harbor, but except for a few pauses earlier this afternoon, the Eagle Harbor community is still blessed. I can do without the lights (I have a score of kerosene lamps), and even cooking (Cheerios and peanut butter will keep me happy for a few days), but if my power hungry furnace goes down, I’m in trouble, especially in sub-zero temperatures combined with big winds. I’ll be able to huddle by the fireplace for a couple hours, the outside time it usually takes our first class power crews to get service restored, but after that I’ll have to abandon ship - first to the van and its heater, and then, if need be, off to unsuspecting friends with still warm abodes.

I suspect my heightened paranoia about comfort (heat) is a product of my still fragile constitution – adjusting as it is to a failing heart pump and recovering from a wayward spinal disk that decided to raise a little havoc with some leg nerves. That last event keeping me on crutches or cane and hopped up on heavy dose painkillers for several weeks. Several readers of these journals, noticing my laxity in keeping the Harbor Web current and the absence of additional accounts of my Harbor adventures and miss-adventures, have queried as to my whereabouts or infirmity. Suffice to say that I just haven’t had the physical and mental energy to do my duty. Frankly, I’m exhausted – not the best of circumstances for web site editing and writing.

The good news is that the little disk has apparently tired of its rampage, at least for now, and my strength is returning - and with that, my disposition is improving. Hence this brief return to the journal with an explanation for my inattentiveness and some sharing of a blizzard experience. I’ve even ventured out a couple of times this past week, albeit just short hikes over to the range lights - my first such excursions since the hike to the Copper Falls stamps late last October. The ski trail beckons, but even I recognize the foolhardiness of yielding to that temptation, at least for now. My focus now is the happy prospect of summer sailing.

So, hunkering in camp as the blizzard rages outside affords good opportunity for healing and deters suppressed, but still powerful, instincts for venturing out along the icy shore and into the deepening snow of the bush – the kind of stuff that has been the gist of much of my journalizing, but has often led to challenges that are now best avoided. Fortunately, my library is well stocked with new arrivals and cherished old chestnuts that still delight and inspire. (Now revisiting the work of Steinbeck and James Fenimore Cooper.) Reading, like I’m sure is evident in this writing, is a bit labored given my all too limited concentration prowess, but, heck, I’m blessed with time.

Now, as the very raucous wind seems to be building, pushing even more of the bitterly cold artic air through the cracks alongside the window behind this computer, and the awesome blackness of a Keweenaw winter night creeps into my space, it’s time for me to abort this inauspicious return to my journal of harbor life and retreat to the cozy comfort of the fire blazing noisily across the room. I think I’ll toss a pasty in the oven for a bit of a fireside treat. Better stock up those good Cornish carbs –who knows what’s in store over the next couple of blizzard days. And then - well, I’ll crawl under the deliciously warm electric blanket for what will hopefully be a snug snooze as the blizzard rages outside.

Just keep those power lines up Lord.

Unseasonable (11/17/04) The weather gurus say it will be “unseasonably warm” today. Unseasonably warm? Where have these jokesters been for the last several years – surely not basking in what has become truly the banana belt of Superior’s south shore. My goodness, as anyone not burdened with genes that cause one to tune-up the snow blower as the last leaf falls knows, mid-forties to mid-fifties temperatures in November and early December have become the norm around here, and the envy of even our friends in the Carolinas - where, according to the Durham classical radio station I’m satellite connected to, an almost daily frost warnings seems to be the norm. (Probably, like here, a “higher terrain” thing.) Albeit, our Harbor bathing beaches are a bit bare, but not because it’s too cold (the water is actually still warmer than the air), but mostly because we have simply lost interest in such seasonal pursuits. (Some say it’s because all young enough to brave our summertime water temps has already followed the pesky geese south.) I, for one, burdened only with the short memory of our last few Keweenaw “early winters”, now keep my lawnmower tuned up, expecting to once again assert my mastery over the dandelions and other weedy nuisances that pass for a lawn and still persist around my camp.

Of course I have no hard evidence to offer to support my lament about what has become of our legendary winter. It’s just a perception, probably a product of the boredom and the embarrassment of having to daily post the big fat goose eggs on our snow scoreboard. My hunch is that we are once again paying the piper for allowing our seemingly overrated snow god, Heikki Lunta, a few years furlough to romance a bit with the seductive babe of the warm southern seas, El Nino.

My guess is that if we look at my journals of Harbor life for the past few Novembers, we will find the author in similar funks. Hey, it’s just part of life for us snow junkies – something we all get over when the snow begins to fly. Actually, these comfortable days are great for tromping about the bush. No bugs, easy going through the undergrowth, and great vistas. Old mining ruins are easy to find and explore. Animal tracking, a new obsession for me, is abetted by the rain-softened soil. And I savor the quiet that descends upon Harbor and its environs as the many summer tourists, cottage folks and, regrettably, good neighbors are called away by the responsibilities of family or work, or simply prefer to be in a place where neither storm coats nor snowshoes are needed.

Alas, for me, this time of good trekking has been cut short. Something has invaded my left leg; we are not sure what yet, but even the short trip to the woodpile has become almost impossible. I found a crutch used during my days with the broken ankle (ski trail mishap) a few years ago, so can stumble about the camp, but bush treks are on hold for a while. The pain is incredible – it just totally overwhelms me. Reading and writing, my indoor passions, are difficult. (A journal entry is something I can crank out in an hour or two, when I’m in the mood – this is taking the better part of a day, but it’s great therapy!) I’m in good hands; both my heart docs and the Copper Country’s best personal doc, Tom McConnon, are on the case, so we’ll get it fixed. I’ve got a cozy fire blazing in the fireplace – yes in this November heat wave – it’s good for my soul. And my as usual attentive neighbors are helping out. All will be well.

I wouldn’t be out in the bush now anyway. It’s deer season – the annual ritual of hunting for the elusive and perhaps now nonexistent, certainly rare, 12 plus pointer. Even in camp I can hear the occasional retort of a rifle up in the bush behind the harbor. Not much such noise, and the early chatter on my scanner suggests the wary deer are once again outfoxing the frustrated hunter. It’s certainly not for the lack of tempting goodies set about the hunters’ deer stands – including the wonderful pumpkins that just a short time ago graced the Halloween display on the Harbor Store steps. I once thought the lack of snow cover was a downer for deer hunters, hindering their ability to track, but it now seems most are “sitters”, ensconced in their sometimes elaborate deer blinds (yes, even TV), rather than the trackers of lore. Oh’ well, I suppose the family food larders need to be refilled before the advent of another hard winter. In any event it’s not a good time for me to be stumbling about in the bush. A good friend tells me he is even hesitant to pull a white handkerchief out of pocket – certain that some frustrated hunter will mistake it for the telltale mark of the whitetail and blaze away.

We have lost another good Harbor neighbor this week – Anne Bach, killed in a vehicle crash downstate on Monday. The word that I quickly associate with Anne, the former keeper, with husband Clarence, of our time-honored general store, and by far the town’s best vegetable gardener, is spunk. I’d meet and chat with her often on her morning walk and never fail to be lifted from whatever morass my mind might be in by her enormous good spirit. I admired her toughness as well as her grace. I’m sure if I hobbled up to her now, bemoaning yet another encounter with the frailties of an aging body, or the lack of snow, the example of her presence and her encouraging word, would have me depart our encounter in a more hopeful mood, sans crutch and lousy attitude. Her spunk was contagious. I’ll miss her, as will all of us lucky enough to have had this wonderful spirit in our sphere.

Just thinking about Anne Bach has lifted my mood. I’ll end this journal entry on that hopeful note – and quit harping about unseasonable weather and unseasonable events in the adventure of life.

A walk In The Bush 10/20/04)(Click images to enlarge.) Few things so entice me as an opportunity to hike into the Keweenaw bush on a crisp late autumn day. Monday, the day following our first winter storm, was cool, with the dampness of depleted snow squalls still lingering in the air, but bursts of sunlight flowing around the scattering big cumulus clouds offered the prospect of warmth and once again set the still present fall foliage ablaze. The wind, so fierce the day before, paused as it searched for its new purpose in the far lee of the departing big low. The big lake, its noisy fury calmed by the now only whispering wind, simply murmured as it too impatiently waited for its next marching orders. And me? Well, there are limits to the appeal of cozy camp, especially when the bush so delightfully beckons. So, with the Bean hoofers tightly laced up, cell phone and candy bar in pocket and a note on my camp door as to my whereabouts (I am trying to be a bit more cautious), I set forth on what I thought would simply be a leisurely short hike about the town’s gorgeous ski trail.

It’s about a mile down M-26 towards Eagle River to a trail access; just a nice warm-up trek along the rolling now traffic deserted road and a chance to test whether or not limbs, lungs and heart were ready for an outing. All systems sent signals of go, in fact seemed energized by the prospect, so the trek along the sandy trail began. The footing was a bit mushy as newly fallen leaves soaked by the squalls littered the ground, their sweet smell of decay adding to the sensory allure. It’s mostly fir and pine along this section of the trail so the greens dominated the eye, with occasional clusters of yellow leafed poplar and the few axe spared red hued hardwoods offering a delightful diversion. Except for sumac in its fiery red fall attire, the trailside colors were subdued in the shadow of the canopy, but periodic bursts of sunlight set the treetops ablaze – causing the eye to wander skyward, often resulting in a stumble across the many exposed roots that litter the trail.

Except for plentiful deer track, the trail was mostly unmarked, showing little evidence of recent wanderings by the likes of me, or travels by the ATVs that are becoming increasingly evident in the Keweenaw bush. My animal tracks book was in my pocket in the hope that I would encounter and be able to recognize the track of larger and furrier bush neighbors, say a wolf, bobcat, fisher, or, who knows, perhaps even one of the mountain lions allegedly spotted recently in the Copper Country. (Such a find would have sent me back to camp in a hurry.) But alas, my Captain Rogers fantasies were limited to the likes of the unmistakable straight line track of a trotting curious red fox, the mark of some bounding snowshoe hares, and near Long Lake evidence of busy beaver and playful otter. As the trail moved onto harder ground and the greater presence of hardwood, the tracks of smaller critter preparing for winter, like squirrel, chipmunk and mouse were much in evidence. Of greatest interest was the track of a very large buck, its big and deep impressions and long stride suggesting it might be a prize trophy for some lucky hunter in the current bow or the impending gun season. A buck that big, however, must be pretty hunting season savvy, so my hunch, and hope, is that I might encounter his track on another tracking adventure.

I yielded to tempting side trails, like the little hike through the Michigan Nature Association’s Red Pines sanctuary up to the Round Lake overlook and a climb up the hill to the deer blinds that line the ridge along the west side of Long Lake. As I rested atop these overlooks, wrapped in the serenity of the quiet bush, tasting the fresh fragrance of a gorgeous fall day, and admiring the beauty of the simmering lakes below, I thought how fortunate we are, and future generations of Eagle Harbor bush treckers will be, that the MNA and as importantly, our township leaders, have been sufficiently foresighted to acquire and preserve these precious lands.

The last of these temping trails, the old logging road that runs down to the east edge of the Copper Falls stamp sands, proved to be my undoing – a leisurely hike around the ski trail became an adventure, albeit a pleasant one.

Encountering the vast Copper Falls Mine stamps is akin to stepping upon a vast moonscape. Like most Harbor visitors and residents, I’ve often viewed the expanse of stamp mill residue from the surrounding hills, but it’s been several years since I’ve explored its surface by foot. It’s awesome. The stamp mill, which stood on the south ridge at the base of the Padberg trail (now the snowmobile trail down from the Cutoff Road), was the Copper Country’s first such mill and served the mines at Copper Falls along Owl Creek and the Arnold Mine by Jacob’s Creek – the latter connected to the mill by a two plus mile railroad that ran along the base of the ridge. (The Arnold and Eagle Harbor Railroad Company.) Gosh knows how much rock was stamped at this mill during its fifty some years of operation (from the late 1840s to the early 1890s), but the amount of stamp sand deposited in what was originally a vast marsh seems enormous – especially when one is down in it’s bowels. The mine and mill workings have almost all disappeared, but the stamp sands, as resistant as they are to anything that grows, will probably be part of our visible landscape for hundreds of years. Unless, of course, someone comes up with a viable scheme to convert the sands to a usable product, or, heaven forbid, road maintenance folks mine it to spread on our now mostly pristine winter roads.

The stamps are now heavily tracked by ATVs, probably better there than through the fragile lands that surround it, but I’m sure much to the dismay of its private owners. Both Owl Creek and the little stream that flows down alongside the old mill, as well as water still flowing out of the nearly mile long adit that was used to transport ore to the mill from deep within the Copper Falls mine workings, now traverse the stamp sand mounds – creating surprising little oasis like environments in the midst of this otherwise barren wasteland. I decided to crawl down into the little valley formed by the small stream flowing down from the old mill and adit opening, and follow it up to its source.

It wasn’t far, but the valley quickly narrowed as I encountered the base of the ridge and the poor rock piles surrounding the old mill site. The steam nourished its bed and banks, producing an amazing quantity of tree growth in the adjacent jumbled mostly poor rock piles, and abundant and very slippery moss on the water smoothed rocks in its course. Tough going, with several slips into the cold water, but getting out, either up the steep banks or backtracking seemed less appealing than pressing on.

My perseverance (stubbornness) was finally rewarded as I reached the base of the ridge upon which the mill had been built and encountered a beautiful little waterfall tumbling down a narrow and steep little crevice tightly lined with colorful fall foliage and thick masses of shiny green moss. Newly fallen golden leaves lay scattered on the piles of smooth rock at the base of the falls. Rays of sunlight filtering down through the overreaching tree canopy played across this collage of color and shape, and combined with the pleasing gurgle of the gently falling water, created a mesmerizing effect, holding me spellbound as I contemplated my good fortune.

I departed this experience reluctantly, but both the day and my energy level were waning. I still wanted to explore the mill site itself, and I was now more than a couple miles from home. I climbed up alongside the little falls, encountering the even smaller steam flowing out of the old adit. At the top, the site of the former mill, I was surprised to find openings in the logs covering the adit entry, openings big enough to permit entry. As I youngster I would crawl into the adit, at that time not covered, and explore back a hundred feet or so. But I suspect you are glad, and perhaps surprised, that no such foolhardy exploit entered my mind on this little jaunt. I did poke a long stick into the opening, encountering rock a few feet back, so perhaps the adit is indeed closed.

As I stood at the old mill site and looked out across the massive sea of old stamps to the big sand dunes at Sand Bay, I thought of the men who worked at this mill and its mines for so many decades, and of their families living further up the hill at the old Copper Falls location. More than 500 souls in the heyday of this mine, including surnames like Vivian, Jacka, Kingston and others whose descendants are among our Harbor neighbors. We are blessed with a rich heritage folks – we need to do everything we can to celebrate it and assure that the stories and places of our history as a community are conveyed to the future generations lucky enough to share our love of this special place. (Sorry for the soapbox oratory - hilltop overlooks get me going.)

Refreshed by this hilltop respite, I embarked on what was to be a joyful but relatively uneventful hike back to the harbor via the snowmobile and ski trails. In route I noticed the several new snowmobile trail signs along the Eagles trail and several other improvements to that trail that suggesting that the Tourism Council and others responsible for these trails are beefing up their resources and commitments to this growing wintertime pastime. The same can be said for support of cross-country ski facilities, with the area already boasting some of the best such facilities in the Midwest. Our own Eagle Harbor trail, now almost all in the public domain or on lands of cooperating owners, is one of the area’s finest. As I passed by the south shore of Long Lake a beaver was busy felling trees across the ski trail, but except for this protester, most outdoor types seem to be looking forward to the coming winter of skiing – I certainly am.

As I neared home and passed the beautiful new sign marking the entry to the township’s now almost 1200-acre recreation area and wildlife preserve, I marveled once again at the tremendous gift we of this generation of Eagle Harbor families are leaving for all who follow. (The sign, by the way, is the work of Eagle River neighbor Mark McEvers. You will have to look carefully for it since it’s tucked away in the trees across from Lake Eliza – some thought it might be vandalized if placed where people could see it! Makes no sense to me.)

Admittedly a bit weary as I stumbled back into camp after my extended trek (perhaps no more than you after wading through this long account), I nevertheless felt richly rewarded by my late fall walk in the bush. Yes, the opportunity to convert a simple short stroll along a ski trail into an almost day-long journey of exploration is probably only possible for those of us blessed with unrestricted time and an insatiable curiosity - and, in my circumstance, perhaps a bit short of common sense. At least I avoided getting into trouble – hopefully a good omen for the travels to come.

A Happy Camper 10/16/04) You know I’m a happy camper! A wonderful big storm is brewing on the lake, the season’s first brush of snow is in the offering (albeit, only in the “higher terrain” – but that’s where our snow measuring stick is), and the mist shrouded hills shouldering our little outpost on the greatest of the Great Lakes are ablaze with color. The cold damp air creeping under the doors and around the windows of this old house chills the feet and stirs the blood a bit, but is quickly subdued by the warmth of the blazing fire happily crackling in my beautiful Keweenaw stone fireplace. Darn, this is cozy – what a terrific beginning for another season of sharing impressions and adventures (and likely some misadventures) with all who stumble upon these journals of my winter life in Eagle Harbor.

A few chores still remain on my winter preparation checklist (snow tires, closing the guest cottage, removing potential flying projectiles from the camp grounds, etc.), but our early winters have been tame of late so I expect there will be plenty of opportunity to complete my tasks. If not, I’ll have some adventures to share. I do have two full cords of nicely quartered firewood stacked just out the door – mostly dry maple, perfect for colorful and long lasting hot fires. In an all too rare deference to my fragile heart the wood stack is this year not of my own doing, but the work of my friend Jesse from Mohawk, whose skill at firewood gathering, cutting, splitting and stacking is impressive. Sure, I’ll miss the joyful sound of the sharp c-r-a-c-k as I swing the big wood splitting axe down on a frozen log, but I'll still be able to relish crawling out to the woodpile through deep snow and the task of wrestling wood from the frozen pile and hauling it indoors. Yes, trips to the woodpile are a joyful diversion on long winter days and I’m confident my heart will do well as long as I stay away from the axe and am smart about how much I haul.

Peregrine, my summer sailing home, is safely tucked away on her winter roost; I’m sure enjoying her rest after a summer of hard sailing. Lots of miles under her keel again this summer, just over 2100, and many a wonderful night in remote anchorages, often in the company of boats manned by some of my many Superior cruising friends. We visited almost every quarter of the big lake, from Grand Marais, MN and the Apostles to the west, the rocky Ontario shores to the east and north, all along the soft Michigan shores to the south, and, of course, several trips to the splendor of Isle Royale. Thanks more to the higher water level of this year than to my navigation prowess, and despite the thick fog that seemed to follow us about the lake, Peregrine’s keel kept off the shoals that have been her nemesis in recent years. But her rigging and sails took a beating in the big winds – the fiercest winds and biggest waves to test us in many a year. The big winds did produce some memorable sails - some white-knuckle affairs that are more pleasurable to think back upon than they were to experience. They will the source of good wintertime story telling with fellow sailors around the yacht club bar. But in total, a great summer of sailing, including a couple of full moon all nighters, under brilliant star canopies with northern lights dancing on the horizon.

Our little town is also getting tucked away for the winter. The grand old Eagle Harbor Store, which Colleen and Richard have so lovingly restored, closes today, and the historical folks locked up the lighthouse yesterday. (A big thanks is due our lighthouse volunteer hosts for their good service over the summer in welcoming the thousands of Harbor visitors and sharing the rich history of our town.) Our big social event, meeting friends at the dump on dump days, is now restricted to once a week as the winter schedule arrives. The caravans of color gawkers crowding our roads of late have dwindled as this first winter storm arrives, and each night I notice a few less of the brightly lit cottages along the harbor shore as winter shutters go up and camp closers depart for warmer climes. The roadside snow sticks are not installed yet, but I expect they will be within a week or two. The wonderful quiet time is here, at least until the holidays and the arrival of the winter sports folks.

Snow squalls are now racing across the increasingly restless harbor waters as the expected big winds begin to build. Golden leaves are dancing in the wind, torn from the grasp of the big oaks and maples nestling our harbor cottages and homes. Big white crested waves are beginning to charge into the harbor, rolling high upon the deserted beaches after crashing furiously on and rebounding off the harbor’s rocky south shore. The scanner is alive with the excited chatter of the plow and sanding crews and reports of vehicles sliding off highway 41’s big hills. Ah, winter’s first storm – it’s wonderful!

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