Saturday, November 29, 2008

Desperate times...

...require desperate measures.

Like, when there's no snow to ski, running down one of Hartley ski trail's two big hills, pretending I'm on skis.

Watch for the poodle...when I run her instinct is to chase, bite and tackle, so it's amazing I made it all they way to the bottom

Monday, November 24, 2008

We are so ready.

I walked the ski trails at Hartley Park today, entering off Hartley Road, off of Arrowhead Road, and this sight of maple leaves frozen into the ground and dusted with snow caught my eye.

We are so ready for winter. The ground is so ready. I am so ready. The light snow falling today says the weather is ready.

Walking a ski trail without the snow, especially one as familiar to me as Hartley, is bizarre and fun. The hills aren't as steep, the trail harder to follow. Everything is slower. The inner loop at Hartley takes me 15 minutes to ski, but 30 minutes to walk. I want the fast version.

The faded cross country ski sign still sticks out from the gray and brown forest. It is so ready.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Whose woods these were

The second most famous line in one of the most famous English language poems, Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening, runs:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow

These lines came to my mind as I hiked around Scarp Lake on the Hogback Lake trail a week or two ago (on Election Day, actually).

As far as I could tell, it was an old surveyor's post, marking a section or township corner perhaps. An odd feeling hit me, when I saw that it might be a property line. Whose woods these are? Whose woods these were? Well, they're Superior National Forest now, but back then maybe it was a timber company, marking the edge of its property before clearing it, leaving the white pine stumps I'd seen all around. Maybe a homesteader paced off his 40 acres from this post, dreaming of a potato harvest next year.

I've hiked through a lot of forest, on public and private land, but had never seen a post like this.

Here is the post a bit closer up:

I am so glad for open wild places, where property lines disappear in the magnitude of forest, where I can imagine rolling on across esker and swamp near forever.

Frost's poem goes on a bit about horses and farmhouses, then ends with the poem's most famous lines:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Can't wrap it up any better than that!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The dog says go. Now.

It's reached a new low. Chloe the psycho poodle will now march into our home office and grab the sleeve of my jacket. Right when I'm trying to use the mouse for something very important, like a database or a file format change. Then she barks and stares. It's time to go. You will take me for a walk now. That piddly stroll to the bus stop was not enough. Go. Now.

Chloe does not respond to reason. She does not understand it when I say, "Give me five minutes." It is now or never; there is no "later" or "soon". Bark. Stare. Jacket grab. Time to go.

So we went. Sure, I thought, I should go to the store anyway, I'll combine the errands. My poodle is really not bossing me, I'm the boss of her.

Check out the expression. Doesn't that just say, "Got what I wanted!"

And isn't it nice to live in Duluth, the urban wilderness, where there are trails and creeks and waterfalls with bridges over them? We did the first loop at Chester Creek, from Fourth Street by 14th Ave. E. There are foot bridges over the creek just above Fourth Street, and another about 6 "blocks" up, past the big arching Eighth/Ninth Street bridge. So we went up one side and came back the other.

Guess who was pulling whom the whole way? Bark. Stare. Grab. Time to go. Now.

First snow

A week or so ago, we had the first snow of the season. Hans took to our backyard and found a treasure trove of snow on the trampoline. Little brother Noah was his first target, of course.

As an adult, my standards are a bit higher. And I'm getting just a bit itchy.

Bring it on! More snow, now! This little coating is pretty and makes decent snowballs, but I want inches. Many inches. A foot or two, especially on the ski trails.

I've gotten the skis out of the attic, we've gone to the ski swap, we're almost fully outfitted. It's nearly Thanksgiving, and I want to be thankful for all the snow we've received by then.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Seeking the light

We are all seeking beauty, and many of us seek to capture beauty in a photo's frame, to understand, to remember. Our photos become our memories. And when there are no photos to be our memories, we may make do with symbols.

It was a busy day at Split Rock Lighthouse last week for the annual Fitzgerald memorial ceremony. I attended the somber gathering at the lighthouse itself. Hearing the bells and the names brought that tragedy home.

Right after the ceremony, I booked down the hill not only to try my own camera out on this, but also to see the scene.

Perhaps 100 photographers lined the shoreline west of the lighthouse, ready for their once-a-year chance to shoot the North Shore landmark with its lights on. This year had a little extra challenge for the lenses and f-stops: a waxing, near full moon up above the lighthouse.

In the low light, a tripod was critical. I didn't have a tripod. But I got a shot or two by resting the camera on a beach rock. As the Fresnel lens spun slowly around and the light turned toward me, I gently pressed the shutter release and held my breath for an exposure of at least a second.

In these beautiful places, I leave the beautiful photography to those people who know what they're doing (like they bring tripods, for example). These people with tripods are honoring the mariners of the Fitz too, just like the people at the bell-ringing ceremony. The lighthouse represents the hope for the sailors. Photographers and sailors' souls are all seeking the light.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The light at Split Rock

It was a beautiful evening at Split Rock Lighthouse this Monday. The lake was calm, glowing and smooth. The moon rose stealthfully in the eastern sky. People were smiling, telling stories, faces lit. The fact that it had been 33 years to the day since the Edmund Fitzgerald had passed by a dark Split Rock Light on its way to its destiny seemed novel, out of place.

A ship passed by in the distant shipping lane, under the waxing moon.

Then they began to read the names and toll the bell. 29 times. Plus one with no name, for all the other mariners who have perished on Lake Superior.

Lake Superior has claimed her dead and tucked them into dark places for eternity. Tonight, however, we were alight and alive.

Wow...The Kek by The Man

Martin Kubik founder of the Kekekabic Trail Club, hikes the 41 mile wilderness trail in three days.

Check it out. He's got great photos and a great story.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hogback, Hump Back, Ba-Rack

A good day in the woods, a great day for the country.

My weeks on injured reserve are done, and my apparently mild case of plantar fasciitis has healed. Plus I just couldn't stand to hang out in town all day waiting for election results. So in this very narrow window before deer season and the first snows, I got out on two trails I'd been meaning to hike all fall.

Both trails were up the Cramer Road out of Finland. It had been so foggy next to Lake Superior I wanted to get away from the big cold water and into the clear.

First up was the trail at Hogback Lake.

This is a Superior National Forest trail system about 25 miles inland from Finland. Total drive time from Highway 61 is about 45 minutes.

It's a sweet hike, though it was shorter than I expected. It's called the Hogback Lake trail, though it only starts at that lake; most of the trail is a loop around Scarp Lake. There's an extra loop to Lupus Lake I did not take. Grand total distance for the loop around Scarp Lake was 2.8 miles.

The dog and I took a break in the sun at Scarp Lake. Scarp has a big escarpment on its south side, probably the source of the name.

Next it was back down the Cramer Road (aka Lake County Road 7) back toward Finland but turning off to Crosby-Manitou State Park.

Crosby-Manitou has a well-deserved reputation as a remote hikers' park. They take their hiking seriously.

Whoever took the time to peck out that bottom sign must have issues with hikers taking the wrong trail.

The Hiking Club Trail makes a loop out of three park trails, the Hump Back Trail, part of the River Trail, and the Middle Trail. The River Trail is etched into my childhood memories as the location for repeated family machismo hiking the length of the Manitou on unofficial trails from the Cramer Road through to Highway 61. It was a rough trail back when I was 9 and 10 and 12, and it's even rougher now.

I stopped at the Cascades and remembered my last time there, in the winter with my father on his 60th birthday in January, on skis and breaking trail all the way down the river.

Yard-for-yard, this was the hardest Hiking Club trail on the North Shore. Only 2.3 miles, it was a lot of up and down and rough trails.

The drive back to Duluth was a long one, but it was so cleansing. I had shed my heel problems, kept the car stereo OFF of news radio, and made it back home in one piece. I was tired, the dog was exhausted, but I stayed up to watch the election returns. A nice day hiking for me, and I emerged from the woods into a great day for Barack Obama and our country.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Prewinter Piedmont Poodle

Now is the time to get out on those favorite ski trails...for a hike. I hit our local neighborhood Piedmont ski trails yesterday with Chloe, our psychotic standard poodle. It was great to be out on a familiar trail. But things are a bit different when there's no snow on the ground. Or when you have a dog along.

Yes I let the dog off the leash. She loves running off leash, but right away she's breaking the rules, going the wrong way on a one-way trail!

Turns out the benches are a lot higher when there's no snow on the ground:

And when you get to the end of the trail, it's really hard to take off your boots:

It's hard to believe that in a month, we might be skiing on this trail. But it will be so very nice to have it back the way I'm used to it.