Northwoods Journal 5/5/2013

Sunday, May 05, 2013

The half-century mark

Blue jays calling, “Where’s the peanuts” was my alarm clock this morning.  So happy to see a hairy woodpecker on the suet when I glanced out the kitchen window.  Mark had one of the electric heaters going, as it was about 50 degrees in the trailer when he got up.  I did get a tad cold last night and wished for the electric blanket!  I keep a cabin quilt that my sister Beth made me folded at the foot of our bed, so once I pulled that over me, I was cozy.

Mark fired up the Coleman stove to fry bacon for our breakfast.  He loves to do it outside on the Coleman, in a cast iron skillet that’s about 30 years old.  It always turns out delish!  I made pancakes and topped mine with banana to pretend I was eating something healthy.

Since we have no hot running water, showering is a bit of a chore.  I heat water in a huge stainless steel pot on the stovetop then use a pitcher and funnel to fill a 5 gallon camp shower bag, trying to adjust the temperature so I don’t freeze or scald myself. (I’ve done both.)  Then Mark hangs the bag in the tub and I pretty much have to sit to wash my hair.  Hot running water is the one thing I have been begging for over the past few years.  I have found out it isn’t as easy as just going to Home Depot and purchasing a hot water tank.  Mark was willing to improvise but his idea included a galvanized bucket, a sump pump and a water trough de-icer.  I politely (read that any way you want to) said, “No, thank you”.  Squatting under the shower bag seems a whole lot safer.

Our neighbors across the road have a sizeable piece of property and have established walking trails all over it, which we have permission to use.  This morning that’s where we took the dogs.  Even though it wasn’t a very long walk, it can be strenuous as the trails go up and down the side of the ridge.  Mark is a bit sore from all his physical activity yesterday and wasn’t up to a long hike first thing this morning.  I think the dogs are getting worn out, too.  They spent a good deal of the afternoon plopped over in the sun.

Today marks my 50th year of living, so I believe that gives me the right to do a little bit of reminiscing.  It seems so fitting that my first memory is of up north.  I was around 5 years old and we were camping at Lake 15, which is on the south side of town.  I was playing in the dusty dirt with my little Matchbox trucks.  (I always was a tomboy.)   Some of my happiest memories from my childhood are of times spent up north.  My grandfather was forever sending us girls off on our ponies to find “Billy Goat Mountain”, which we were naïve enough to believe really existed.  My mother, who spent so much of my life in bed because of her depression, was never depressed when we were up north.  Perhaps that’s why I love it so much.  It’s been almost 20 years since I brought Mark and the kids up here for the first time, camping in a tent with 3 small children, one who was barely potty trained and was scared to death of the pit toilets at Jackson Lake.  I was 38 when we bought our place here.  Wow, from the half-century mark, 38 sounds so young!!  Someday when I am gone, my family has instructions to spread my ashes over Lookout Ridge, one of my favorite up north spots.  (Lookout Ridge is my name for it, I have no idea what the locals call it.)

Mark asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday so I decided on hiking the Sinkhole Trails up by Shoepac Lake.  We haven’t done that it years and never hiked the long trail.  We waited until mid-afternoon and since the dogs appeared exhausted, we left them behind.  It was very weird hiking without the dogs!  As we drove up Stevens Spring we saw three deer and then I got my birthday gift – a bull elk standing alongside the road!  I was able to hang out the window, sitting on the edge of the door taking pictures as Mark slowly crept the truck forward.  We could just see his fuzzy antlers that are starting to form.

Bull elk

Bull elk

We pretty much had the sinkholes to ourselves.  The trail was a mess.  They had a bad windstorm recently and there were trees down everywhere.  That area is so interesting, very sandy and arid with lots of Jack Pine.  Because of the heat of the day, we decided not to take the two hundred steps down to the bottom of the first sinkhole.

Steps down to the bottom of the sinkhole

Steps down to the bottom of the sinkhole

There were lots of birds.  Unfortunately the sun was shining so brightly and the birds so high up that we could barely identify any of them.  Well, I should say I wasn’t able to with my lousy eyesight.  Mark could see them just fine!  I was able to zoom in on a couple of them, totally unsure if I was actually getting a good picture or not due to the sun shining on my camera screen.  Surprisingly a couple of them turned out okay, one of a yellow-rumped myrtle warbler and the other of what we think is a pine warbler.  After consulting two different bird identification guides, we still aren’t positive.  Also several thrushes, including a hermit thrush.  Shoepac Lake is an excellent spot for fossil hunting but the lake was up so high, the beach and the trail around the lake were completely under water.  So, no fossil hunting today.

Pine warbler

Pine warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Still wanting more adventure, Mark thought we should take the scenic route back to the cabin.  Somehow we managed to make a wrong turn and found ourselves on a trail that got narrower and narrower and soon our way was blocked by a downed tree.  I had to get out and guide Mark as he backed up to turn around.  We went back to see where we went amiss and took another trail, only to have a repeat of our previous experience, our way blocked by more downed trees.  So much for that adventure!  We gave up and came home by the traditional, boring road!

My birthday dinner was hamburgers Mark cooked on his cast iron grill pan on the Coleman stove along with sliced potatoes from a can and green beans from a can.  Not much gourmet cooking goes on up here in the northwoods.  But hey, they were feta-stuffed hamburgers!  During dinner, Daisy, who was lying at Mark’s feet, raised her head up and started to bark.  In a flash she was up and tearing down the driveway – after a turkey!  Thankfully it flew up, so the chase was fairly short.  (Our yard here is not fenced so the other two are kept on tie-outs, but Daisy is pretty good about staying right with us and coming when called.)  After dishes we loaded up the dogs and headed toward Hillman and the Dairy Queen to get my birthday ice cream.  We stopped and walked the dogs for a bit and they were rewarded with their own cup of ice cream at the DQ.  We saw about 8 deer on our drive over there and 2 porcupines.  I tried to get a picture of one but he scurried up a nearby pine tree so fast I couldn’t even focus on him.  I got one pic of his prickly rump and that was it!

Birds we have seen today:  goldfinch, chipping sparrow, red-winged blackbird, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatch, red-breasted nuthatch, blue jays, dark-eyed junco, hairy woodpecker, downy woodpecker, rose-breasted grosbeaks (including a female this time), purple finch, wild turkey, hermit thrush, yellow-rumped warbler, pine warbler.

Our perfect northwoods day had to come to an end.  As it did, a billion twinkling stars shone in the vast night sky.  The spring peepers peeped away and the barred owl called across the woods, ending the day on the perfect note.

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2 Responses to Northwoods Journal 5/5/2013

  1. You know, it’s a little strange reading a blog about an area that I’m familiar with, written by some one else and experiencing it through their eyes.

    Like

  2. I hope I’m encouraging you to get back there and hike those woods again! 🙂

    Like

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