Saturday, June 26, 2010

Learn North Shore Dragonflies from a local

One of the coolest things about the North Shore is how the hills are full of interesting people who are supersmart about unusual topics. One of Minnesota's top citizen experts in dragonflies lives right off the shore in rural Finland. And you can spend some quality time with him and his dragonfly net next weekend.

Go to Sugarloaf Cove, at milepost 73.3 in Schroeder, next Saturday for the program "Dragonflies of the North Shore." It's July 3 at 10 am. Kurt Mead is the author of Dragonflies of the North Woods, will lead the program that should include some indoor discussion and some outdoor field work. It's all free.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's cooler by the lake: The poem

Today's 57 degrees in Grand Marais and 87 degrees in Minneapolis make your mind turn to poetry. This old ditty deserves to get back into circulation:

It's Cooler by the Lake
Steve Stark

The weatherman on TV News
Said "It's a nifty day
For golfers with their polished clubs
To get outside and play.
Or if you have a mind to work
You might go outside and rake.
Two Harborites can stay inside --
It's cooler by the lake."

The Minneapolis temps are up
It's lush and warm and green.
In Brimson, well, the skies are clear
Ten miles can be seen.
All over Minnesota
The citizens will bake,
For us the caveat is out --
"It's cooler by the lake."

Bermuda shorts are seldom seen
Short sleeves are seldom "in."
With sandals, well, your feet will freeze.
It seems we cannot win.
'Cause when you know the summer sun
On you will soon forsake,
Take heed because you know by now --
"It's cooler by the lake."

Oh, somewhere in this northern land
The sun is shining bright
And children dance and romp and sing
At morning, noon and night
The warmth abounds, the birds all sing
It's good to be awake
There is no joy by Agate Bay --
"It's cooler by the lake."

Copied, without permission but with sincere admiration, from Minnesota Sea Grant's 1980 Superior Advisory Notes. Original credit to Steve Stark, Lake County News-Chronicle. Order your free copy here!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hiding from Grandmas

We're prepared for the storm. Two bottles of milk. Lunch meats and cheese. A DVD from Blockbuster. It's not a blizzard, not even this crazy year. It's Grandma's Marathon weekend. But like when a blizzard hits, we're not going ANYWHERE for the next two days.

Duluth gets so locked up by Grandma' the car traffic arriving, by the runners in THREE different races...that you have to plan far ahead.

Our friends in Grand Marais are even suggesting skipping Duluth entirely on your way to their fair harbor town, heading nearly to the Iron Range and then taking Superior National Forest Scenic Byway across to Silver Bay.

Since we live out on Minnesota Point and the only way to reach us is through Canal Park, the marathon foot and car traffic essentially cuts us off from the rest of the world. Which is fine with me. Maybe we'll have a picnic in the middle of Lake Avenue. All those gardeners who don't like showing their rear end to the world can work in their front yards all day long on Saturday.

Maybe, just maybe, the Lake Superior water will be warm enough for a swim.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Detour to Lester Park

Starting June 21 (a few days after Grandmas Marathon; no coincidence), virtually all traffic headed to the North Shore will be detoured at the eastern edge of Duluth. This is not the Megaproject (aka Armageddon) on Duluth's stretch of I-35, but the repair of the historic bridge over the Lester River.

The bridge really is historic: it's on the National Register. The opportunity the detour provides is historic as well.

If you're like 95% of the travelers to the North Shore, you have driven right past Lester Park without knowing it's there. Now's your chance to change that.

Lester Park is the first real North Shore park. It's got the churning waterfalls, it's got the tall white pine trees, it's got lovely trails.

The detour will take you off London Road and on to Superior Street. Follow the detour for about two blocks on Superior Street, and turn left on Lester River Road. The main parking lot for Lester Park is on your left after about 200 yards. Park there and head across the stone foot bridge, which gives you your first view of the Lester River.

Let the kids play at the big playground for a bit and get your bearings. Lester River and Amity Creek join right below the playground. After playing off some steam, take off and explore Amity Creek. A lovely trail goes up one side and back down the other, past some of the largest and most beautiful white pines on the North Shore. Crazy local high school boys might be jumping off the waterfall into what they call "The Deeps."

It's a great bit of Duluth you've driven by a hundred times. This summer is your explore Lester Park.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lupines, as predicted

Back in early April, Edwin Way Teale and I predicted that the North Shore lupine would bloom in early June. That was based on the lupines I saw blooming then in Arizona and the way that spring "moves" north.

All the flowers have been off this year, two or three weeks early in some cases due to the warm early spring. So I was only a little surprised to find the lupine in full glory along Highway 61 a few days ago. Between Two Harbors and Gooseberry there are some fine patches of this flower. It's like a bonus fall color season, only in the early summer.

They are definitely blooming earlier than normal. The last week of June is pretty common for the lupine bloom, as I've noted in this blog here and here (for 2009 and 2008). I know this especially because we had lots of fresh North Shore lupines as table decorations at our June 29 wedding.

Way to go, Edwin Way Teale!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cheaper gas in Two Harbors: A geopolitical plot?

Here's a way to save (literally) a buck or two on your next trip to the North Shore: Buy your gas in Two Harbors. Week after week, the gas in Two Harbors is about seven cents cheaper per gallon than in Duluth. On Monday, gas was $2.58 in Two Harbors and $2.65 in Duluth.

Fill up a big, empty tank and save enough money to put some ice cream on your pie.

Apparently the Krist station sets the low price, and the other stores match it.

Here's where this gets interesting. The word is that Krist is actually owned by Citgo, which is largely owned by Venezuela. Is the populist leader Hugo Chavez behind this all? Is there a plot to hook us all on cheaper gas? This is the same country/"dictator" who offered super-cheap heating fuel to Native American communities, including our own Grand Portage.

Personally, I'm a total addict of the North Shore's Holiday Stores. I know them all and what kind of cheap cappuccino they serve. I make a point of filling up in Two Harbors on my way back home, partly for the tiny savings and partly for one last bit of caffeine for the final miles. Geopolitics? Nah, just a sweet tooth.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A North Shore deck for everyone

There's a deck with a view waiting for you at Gooseberry.

On most lakes, the best part of your own private estate is the dock down by the water. Docks are useless on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Unless they are made of tons of concrete and are in a protected bay, the big lake will take them away.

Instead of a dock, the best part of your own private North Shore estate is your deck. Many a fancy gathering has been on a North Shore deck, many an inspirational journal entry written.

There are three terrific, gorgeous, brand new North Shore decks available to anyone willing to hike a mile or so at Gooseberry Falls State Park.

Gather three or four of your best friends. Pack up your favorite hors d'oeuvres and beverages. Take the two-mile Gitchi Gummi trail to the secluded southeastern corner of the park, across the river from the main visitor center area. Less than a mile in you'll find the first of two new platforms perched over dramatic Lake Superior views. This one is alright. It's built right in front of the historic stone CCC shelter.

Hike just a bit further to the second and third decks. Claim the lower one. Pull out your journal or your canapes. Toast the lake and each other and the good fortune of hiking on the North Shore.

The platforms were built in the name of erosion protection and interpretation. You can claim them for yourself, for an hour or so, in the name of pleasure and celebration. It's your own personal North Shore deck. Just be sure to clean up when you leave.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bloggus borealis

How "north" is the North Shore? One clue might be the flowers you see along the trail.

The scientific names of flowers show their genus first, and then their species name. Like the trillium I saw the other day, Trillium grandiflora. It was a trillium, that's the genus. Grandiflora means "big leaves." That's the species.

Here in the North Woods, we have lots of plants that have their species name sounding like something from the north. And one of my favorite species name is borealis, meaning "of the North."

Hiking yesterday, it was one borealis after another. The starflower above is Trientalis borealis, roughly translated as "4-inch flower of the North."

Bluebead lily is Clintonia borealis. Roughly translated as "bead lily of the North."

And twinflower is Linnaea borealis. Roughly translated as "Carl's favorite flower of the North."

There's a great story about this flower. It was so loved by the famous botanist Carl Linnaeus that when he had his wedding portrait painted, he held a twinflower. Even though he really liked the twinflower, his fiancee Sara Elisabeth Moræa got her own, separate portrait.

Here it is close up:

Linnaeus didn't have to get to the North Shore to find his beloved's actually a circumpolar species, found all around the northern latitudes.

So when you hike these trails and see these flowers, remember that you...and the flowers....are "of the North."