Wolf Reintroduction on Isle Royale

ISRO wolves MI tech

The last two resident wolves on Isle Royale National Park. Image courtesy of Michigan Technological University.

People keep asking me what I think about the latest efforts to reintroduce wolves on Isle Royale National Park. I suspect their questioning has something to do with the novel I wrote about the topic. (Do ya think?!)

Well, my novel “Eye of the Wolf” was more about the wolves saving themselves than human efforts to save them. But I wrote it because of my interest in the wolves’ real-life plight: the packs on the island were dying out due to long-term inbreeding and disease. This continued until only two wolves, a male and a female father/daughter combo were left.

My past blog posts about the wolves may have also spurred peoples’ questions. So I suppose I should share my thoughts.

I haven’t done so sooner because my interests have moved on to other endangered animals in the region. Nevertheless, I have been following the wolf reintroduction effort just for old time’s sake, and to see how the real story plays out.

Okay, enough caveats. Here we go.

I wish the National Park Service had waited to reintroduce new wolves until the two resident wolves lived out their lives. My fear is that the new, younger wolves will rip apart the old ones. It just seems disrespectful, and it could look bad for the park service. I can see the headlines now: Resident Isle Royale Wolves Slaughtered by New Wolves.

This fall the park service released four wolves on the island that were captured nearby in Minnesota. Their genetic rescue plan is to release at least 15 (and up to 25) more in the next three years. I just don’t think the old wolves stand a chance.

When this concern was voiced at one of the public meetings I attended about the reintroduction, the park biologist dismissed it, saying the resident wolves know the best hiding places because they’ve lived on the island longer than the newcomers. Somehow, that answer wasn’t comforting.

My other concern is that the new wolves, which are from the Grand Portage Ojibwe Reservation, will leave the island this winter if an ice bridge forms, thus wasting all the effort and taxpayer expense of transporting them there. Research has shown that transplanted wolves do try to find their way back home once they’re released.

I understand that the park service wanted to restock the island with wolves that are used to hunting moose, but I question whether having the first ones come from an area so close to the island is a good idea. It might have been better to get wolves from farther away, especially for these initial efforts. I fear another headline that reads something like: Reintroduced Wolves Leave Island for Home on Ice Bridge.

I also feel bad for the transplanted wolves. They are basically kidnapped from their packs and home territories, and dropped someplace strange on an island in the middle of Lake Superior. Is keeping wolves on Isle Royale worth that kind of disruption? I don’t know. It just seems kind of extreme.

Drugging wolves is also dangerous – one wolf slated for the reintroduction died in the process. [Update on November 13: one of the transplanted wolves was reported dead, cause unknown.] Is keeping wolves on Isle Royale worth that risk? The park service and the wolf researchers obviously think so.

Let me just say that although I’m supportive of reintroducing wolves to the island, I’m not optimistic things will work out as planned. Life and Mother Nature seem to find ways to mess up the best-laid human plans.

The story continues….

Isro female wolf 9-26

A female wolf — one of the first reintroduced to the island this fall. National Park Service image.

* * *

Update: In early February 2019, one of the wolves reintroduced to the island (the female pictured above) walked back home to Grand Portage, Minn., on an ice bridge that formed on Lake Superior during cold weather. I hate to say it, but one of the headlines I feared happening has come true!

Foraging for Wild Pizza

20181023_190519I took a class this week at my local Whole Foods Coop to learn how to make a pizza from foraged ingredients. The crust ingredients included wild rice flour, which is relatively easy to find and make, and acorn flour, which takes more work because you need to soak the nuts to remove the tannins.

Earlier, when I signed up for the class, I was psyched by the idea of making some acorn flour myself. However, the oak trees in my neighborhood do not seem to be cooperating this year. Last year, gobs of acorns were everywhere – so many littered the ground that walking on my neighborhood trail was hazardous — like walking on a bunch of marbles.

Our instructor, Gil Schwartz from Seasonally Sourced Foods in Washburn, Wisconsin, explained that oaks go through boom and bust cycles when it comes to producing acorns. Apparently, in my neighborhood, this year is a bust cycle, and all the trees are busting at the same time. Perhaps next fall I can indulge in my acorn-flour-making fantasy.

Anyway, I digress. While the crust cooked in the oven, we worked on the sauce and processed the other ingredients for toppings. I don’t want to hurt Gil’s business, so I’m not going to divulge his recipe. But I will say that the sauce involved simmering black nightshade berries (which are edible and taste tomatoey), sliced wild leek blubs (also known as ramps), and apple cider vinegar, with salt and dried bergamot (which tastes like oregano) for spices.

The toppings included wintercress (a spinachy-mustardy tasting plant also known as yellow rocket), cooked black trumpet and hen of the woods mushrooms, “cheese” made from the insides of young milkweed pods (boiled), and ground roasted hazelnuts.

After the crust and sauce were cooked, we assembled everything onto the pizza and cooked that for about ten minutes.

Although I only got to eat a small piece of the pizza (we had to divide the pan into twenty pieces since twenty of us were in the class), it was tasty and filling. It made me glad to know that if our society collapses and Domino’s Pizza disappears, a pizza of sorts could still be had.

My classmates joked that with all the work that went into finding and prepping the gourmet ingredients for this pizza, it would cost at least $150 to order off a menu. It made me realize that spending $20 for a class and only getting a small piece of pizza to eat wasn’t such a bad deal, after all!


End of Season Sail


Basswood Island dock, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin.

I had the privilege of another sailing trip on Lake Superior this year. The season is ending — the wind cold, the sky gray, and the leaves turning.

We sailed from a marina outside of Bayfield, Wisconsin, and went to Oak Island in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. We anchored off its shore and hiked a long loop on the island among giant hemlocks and oaks, and then spent the night offshore. The next day we traveled to Basswood Island for a hike to the quarry there before sailing back to the mainland.

The sailing season is short, but oh so worth it!


Oak Island sandspit, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore


Guess which island we found these on?


Basswood Island brownstone quarry pond.

Lean Into Your Fear: Whitewater Rafting on the St. Louis River


Me (on the left in the red helmet) leaning into my fear on the St. Louis River.

When I write a travel post, because my blog’s name has the word “meander” in it, I usually open by saying I “meandered” here and there.

Well, I can’t use that term this time. It’s more accurate to say that I reluctantly agreed to go on a whitewater rafting trip down the St. Louis River this past weekend, and promised to scream all the way!

It all started when my friend Russ, who is an experienced kayaker, won a silent auction item at a fundraiser for the St. Louis River Alliance a few months ago. He won two tickets for whitewater rafting through Minnesota Whitewater Rafting, a local company that operates out of Scanlon, Minnesota.

Upon my insistence, we agreed to wait for the trip until the water was warm, to make it a more comfortable experience. Now it was August, month of warm weather and water, and I was out of excuses not to go. We gathered everything the company’s information sheet instructed rafters to bring: a dry change of clothes, snug-fitting footwear, windbreaker, towel, etc. And off we went.

Once we arrived, I was surprised by the number of other people who wanted to fling themselves into an inflatable raft at the mercy of the river – twenty-eight of us, to be exact, of all ages and fitness levels.

We started our three-hour journey by choosing one of the seven blue-and-yellow rafts lined up on the shore. Russ and I ended up paired with a young couple from St. Paul. A guide was assigned to each raft. Ours was named Logan.

To us oldsters, all of the guides looked like they were about twelve, but we hoped they knew what they were doing or they wouldn’t have been hired. Thankfully, this proved true!

The ensuing safety talk by the operations guy, named Blu, included instruction to ignore your instincts and “lean into” whatever fearful obstacle the raft encounters. He explained that if you lean away from the rock or high wave, you are more likely to lose your seat and fall out of the raft. Not that falling out of the raft is the worst thing that can happen, but most people like to stay with their group.

The other useful instruction was to keep your feet up if you fall overboard. This is helpful in avoiding sharp rocks and logs, etc., that are on the bottom. Plus, most people aren’t strong enough to withstand the current standing up, so you might as well just go with the flow until one of the kayak patrollers (who go with every trip) retrieve you.

Blu said that in a group our size, it’s common for at least one person to fall overboard. I sure hoped it wouldn’t be me.

I thought the “lean into” rule was particularly deep. Psychologically speaking, sometimes facing your fears is the best way to overcome them. Also, it reminded me of the book “People of the Lie” by M. Scott Peck, who says that most people’s psychological problems arise from trying to avoid emotional pain instead of addressing (leaning into) it.

I decided then and there to change my attitude about the trip – to stop seeing it as something fearful, and instead see it as something to relish, and an opportunity to know the river better. I mean, I’ve lived by it most of my life. I’ve canoed on it, paddleboarded it, boated on it, but I’d never immersed myself in it.

As the company’s website and instruction sheet promised, you will “see the river, feel the river, ride the river,” and you will get wet! On this sunny warm day, I was up for that.

Blu explained we’d encounter six sets of rapids ranging from Class I to III, and two sets of riffles. Each set of rapids would get more challenging along the four-plus-mile stretch until we reached the quiet-water reservoir formed by the Thompson Dam.

Safety talk over, we set out upon the water. Our first task was to run through a “slalom” course between the pylons of the freeway bridge that goes across the river. This let us practice paddling different directions and experience what it feels like when the raft bumps into things.

Then we paddled through a set of riffles called “Warm-Up Rapids.” Everyone came through unscathed and, after stopping for an orientation, we continued to a set of surfing waves at “First Hole” rapids.

Have you ever seen standing waves that form behind an underwater rock in a river? That’s what we surfed on – if your idea of surfing involves your raft filling with water, which ours did. We surfed several times, bailing out between sessions with the handy bailers provided in each raft.


Surfing the hole and having fun!

After another group orientation session, we were onto “Two Hole” rapids. I think it was this one that had a big rock in the middle of it. Logan, our guide, thought it would be a good and fun idea to smash our raft into the rock.

On purpose.

Why he thought this was a good idea, I’ll never know! I always thought the whole idea of river rafting was to avoid the rocks. I guess I’ve been wrong all this time.

Granted, he did give us a choice, so we were complicit in the decision. I blame it on the adrenaline rush.

Paddling as hard as we could, our raft went up and over the rock, then started sliding sideways. I was on the outside side – the tippiest side – and remembered to lean into the rock to avoid falling out of the raft. I almost floated out, but managed to stay in by the skin of my teeth. Rather like dental surgery, it felt so good once it was over!

Our next stop was a canyon that featured a couple of small beaches in a slow section of the river. We grounded our rafts and had the chance to swim for a while, clothes, lifejackets and all.

Russ went all the way in. I was fine going waist deep, not because I was worried about polluted water or anything, but because the water was rather chilly to me even for a warm day.

At this point I realized I had never been this far into the river before; me—who had even worked for the St. Louis River Alliance whose sole purpose is to protect the river. I marveled at the brown water – tea stained from the many wetland plants steeping at its headwaters and along the way. The white pines and bare rock faces along the shore looked primeval, like we could have been miles into a wilderness. The beauty filled me  and gave me a new sense of appreciation for the river.

Our rest stop over, it was time for the big guns in terms of rapids. We made it through “Hidden Hole” just fine, then it was onto “Electric Ledge,” which is a Class III rapids that consists of a four-to-six-foot drop.

I had heard the name of this rapids whispered in awe among my kayaker friends for years. Now we were about to go over it! And we were about to go over it before any of the others. Logan explained that our raft had the first aid kit in it, and we needed to go first in case the other rafts needed assistance once they ran the ledge.

Not only were we in the first raft, but Russ and I were sitting in the FRONT of the first raft. Oh, lucky us.

We didn’t have much time to wonder at our luck as the ledge was approaching. I repeated all the rules: lean into your fear, keep your feet up. Then we slid over it, sideways and steep. Russ grabbed onto my arm for support.

Luckily, that steadied him and we both stayed in the boat. So did the rest of our crew, but I can’t say that for one of the other rafts, which did indeed lose one person over the ledge. The person remembered the rules, however, and they were uneventfully picked up not far downriver.

The final set of rapids, “Little Kahuna,” is more technical than terrifying. After some twists and turns, we made it through just fine. From there, a somewhat longish paddle across peaceful water (known as the Boundary Waters to the staff) took us to the end of our journey and a bus that was waiting to drive us back to our starting point.

So, in summary, I did scream as initially promised, but it was from fun, not out of fear. I think this was due to the great job the staff did at letting us know what to expect from each set of rapids. I hadn’t had that on other rafting trips.

I would totally do it again on some warm day (although they do provide wet suits if it’s cold and you want one). And I would totally bring family members on such an adventure. Don’t let a little fear stop you if you have a hankering for some whitewater!


Yee haw!

Beauteous Billings Park


People who live in Duluth are sometimes snobbish about their city parks and trails. They think they’re the best in the Twin Ports. I know, I have been guilty of such civic offenses.

Well, I had my eyes opened when I attended a recent after-work picnic in Billings Park across the bridge and the state line from Duluth in Superior, Wisconsin. In all my years of living in the area, I had never been to this gem of a park. It’s gorgeous!


The park features several picnic areas, a playground, grills, a volleyball pit, and trails along the bay. I’ve been back the the park twice more to walk Buddy and to paddleboard. With a public water access and calm bays to explore, the park is great for human-powered watersports.

20180723_191415I urge fellow Duluthians to put aside their prejudices and explore Superior. Get out there and get your Blue Mind on!


A Lake Superior Sailing Experience, Part Two of Two: In Which I Become a Winch Wench


We sailed in a 32-foot Westsail.

When our sailing captain was hoisting the genoa sail during my recent trip (see Part One), the block for it broke off the top of the mast. A block is a pulley that the line (rope) for the sail goes through. Let’s just say it’s a rather necessary piece of equipment if one wants to use a sail.

We had other sails up, however, so we were able to voyage to our desired destination without the genoa. But the issue needed to be addressed. So after we anchored off Outer Island in the Apostle Islands (the most remote of all the islands), our captain decided on a daring and strenuous plan.

DSC04744.JPGMy friend Russ was to hoist him up to the top of the mast so he could replace the block with a spare he happened to have on board. This feat would involve several ropes and climbing gear, along with the help of a winch. Russ was supposed to pull the rope by hand, which was wrapped around the body of the winch spool several times for support.

My job was to take pictures of the event and pray that our captain did not fall and hurt himself in the process. If that happened, let’s just say we would have a questionable chance of making it back home. So I felt I had a rather important job.

The captain donned his harness and got all the ropes in place. Russ started pulling, I started taking photos, and the operation commenced.

Now, you should understand that masts are tall. I’m not sure exactly how tall, but they seem even taller when you’re on a boat that’s rocking in the water, even if the rocking is gentle.


Captain on his way up the mast…

Russ was able to get Captain about a quarter of the way up the mast when his progress slowed and it became obvious that more person-power was needed. So I pocketed my camera, put the handle in the winch, and hauled away. Between my winching and Russ’s pulling, we were able to get Captain half-way up the mast where he had a different job to do, fixing something else that had broken a while ago.

We rested while he worked, but soon he was ready to go to the top. Man, we winched and pulled as hard as we could, and slowly, steadily hoisted Captain all the way up. Thankfully, the waves and winds remained calm, and he was able to do his work.

Then his legs started going numb from the pressure of his harness. And clambering up a mast is hard work, even if you’re being hoisted. And I suspect it’s a bit scary up there.


All the way to the top!

Before he had the job completed, he wanted to come down. So we lowered him, with me standing behind Russ and holding the rope as a backup in case another set of hands was needed to steady his descent.

When Captain’s feet touched the deck, we all breathed secrets sighs of relief, even if the job was incomplete. We couldn’t sail as fast without the genoa, but suddenly, that seemed all right for now.

And I gained yet another new sailing skill on this trip, that of a Winch Wench.


Outer Island sand spit, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Other things I learned as a Lake Superior sailing newbie:

-You need to be willing to take orders.

-You have to be willing to be taught everything, even how to go to the head (the boat had a compostable toilet).

-Bring your winter clothes, even in the middle of summer.

-Pay attention all the time to everything.

-The captain is the boss of the ship, but the lake and the winds are the boss of the captain.

-Bring along good food, good music, and good scotch. They can go a long way to make up for any uncomfortableness.

Anyone else out there have more to add?


Sunset in Grand Marais Harbor, Minn.

A Lake Superior Sailing Experience, Part One: Chocolate Milk and Biting Flies


I recently meandered out onto Lake Superior on my first extended sailboat trip across it with some friends. We left Duluth, Minnesota, and headed to Wisconsin’s Apostle Island National Lakeshore, and then traversed the western arm of the lake to Grand Marais Harbor in Minnesota.

Since I am writing this, you know I survived the three-day trip. If fact, I would like to think I thrived, despite turning green with seasickness once (I avoided hurling, though!) and having to wear all my winter gear, plus hand warmers, on the 4th of July.

I learned a lot about sailing, but still have more to know. And I got a firsthand look at conditions on the lake, which is useful for my job, since we fund research projects on Lake Superior.

Two things struck me and my sailing companions. The first was the color of the water. Almost all the way to the Apostles it was the hue of chocolate milk. The large extent and persistence of the coloring was unusual. There were also floating logs to watch out for.

According to a news story I read upon returning home, the condition is due to a series of recent heavy rains that have sent thousands of tons of silt into the lake. Chequamegon Bay, on the other side of the Apostles, is also experiencing heavy sedimentation.

Usually, the chocolate milk dissipates within a few days, but this round of it is lasting longer than usual because we kept having downpours every few days. Most of the sediment comes from the Nemadji River and its red clay banks, along with the St. Louis River.

We also had more than double the amount of usual rainfall for the month of June. Anglers and charter captains are having to travel farther than usual out into the lake to find clear water for fishing.


Stable flies covering jeans during a beach walk. Good thing they can’t bite through denim!

The second notable thing were the flies. Known locally by the name of “ankle-biters” or sand flies, stable flies look like a common housefly but they are meaner because they bite – usually a person’s ankles. I can attest that there are roughly a gazillion of them out on the lake and its shores this summer.

The only thing that saved us from certain insanity on a shore trip to Outer Island was the fact that we were wearing jeans, which they couldn’t bite through.

The flies congregated in seething clusters from our knees down, rarely venturing farther up our legs. Thank goodness they had no interest in our bare arms or we would have had to run screaming back to our dinghy!

According to a story on National Public Radio, researchers have figured out how and why the flies and other biting insects like mosquitos do this. They think these biting bugs target feet and ankles because we are less likely to notice (and therefore kill) them. They hone in on their target by smell, and apparently, the sweat and skin on our ankles smells different from that of the rest of our body.

Besides wearing jeans, we found it helpful to elevate our feet off the ground while we were on the boat. They didn’t seem to be able to find our ankles if they were level with the rest of our legs. Conditions on the boat never got bad enough that we needed to apply repellant, but we were glad we had some along, just in case.

Although the water wasn’t its typical crystal-clear blue, and we had many insect stowaways aboard our sailboat, Lake Superior was still magical. I greatly enjoyed spending time on it, and hope to do so again someday.



A bear got to this beach before we did.

Creativity, Motherhood and Rats: How They All Go Together

Mom rat and baby

Image by Howcast.com.

I was asked to give a short talk today on creativity and motherhood for a local organization. Here’s the result:

When I became pregnant with my first child 26 years ago, I started to panic. It wasn’t that I was afraid something would be wrong with my baby or that I was afraid of the labor process — although these are justified fears and I did think about those things.

The real issue was, I was afraid that the idea I had for a novel would be subsumed by the demands of a newborn. Having a child would strike a death-knell for my creative dreams. My story would never see the light of day. I had floundered around with writing it, and had come to the realization that I needed help. This fear was foremost in my mind when I signed up for a novel-writing correspondence course offered by Writer’s Digest Magazine soon after I found I was pregnant.

I had heard all the cultural messages that tell women that being creative and having children are incompatible, and I believed them.

The novel-writing course provided me with structure that saw me through the rest of my pregnancy and motivated me to keep working on the story once I had my baby boy. The instructor’s encouragement also helped.

Even so, it took me a long time to finally finish my novel and to get it published — as long as it takes to grow a child into adulthood.

The thing that held me back wasn’t motherhood, it was waiting for the right moment to feel creative – the moment when I wasn’t busy, stressed, or emotional. I was too much at the whim of my outside life. I hadn’t learned yet how to control my inner life and allow room for the creativity to flow no matter what was happening “outside.”

A recent article in The Atlantic Monthly magazine backs up the premise that having children does not harm creativity. In fact, it can change the biology of the mother in ways that can allow for even greater creativity.

Kelly Lambert, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at the University of Richmond, studies the maternal brains of rats. Yes, on Mother’s Day, I am going to talk to you about rats, and their brains, no less. Lambert found that when rats become mothers, their brains, which are closer in structure to a human’s than even those of mice or dogs, start reprogramming themselves.

Their sensory and motor systems sharpen. Their circuitry becomes more efficient. Maternal rats are more direct and lethal hunters, catching their prey four times faster than non-mom rats.

Even after having their babies, the changes persist. Lambert found that the mother rats experience less memory decline in old age and have quicker navigation skills than non-mothers, outsmarting them in mazes.

Although neuroscientists do not yet understand what direct impact pregnancy and childbirth have on the human maternal brain and creativity, I am here to testify that, yes, it is possible to be a mother and be creative, too. And I’m sure plenty of other women can testify to this. It’s just that sometimes when you’re a parent, you have to find more creative ways to allow for that creativity.

If you have a partner, have them take care of the kids for a while so that you can go on a writing retreat. Don’t allow your creativity to take a back seat to the other demands of life. Try different things until you find something that works for you.

I learned how to make this inner creative space while I wrote my second novel. Even though I had a second child by this time, after reading a story about right-brain, left-brain thinking and how to make both sides of your brain work together to foster creativity, I learned how to put myself in that elusive creative mind zone, instead of waiting for the zone to come to me. Thanks to this, it only took me two years to write and publish the second one.

You don’t need to be superhuman to have children and to be creative. Mothers have been doing it forever. As the magazine article said, creativity takes time and periods of reflection, and a willingness to let go of ideas that don’t work and move on to better ones.

Learning to look at the world through the eyes of your children, be they yours biologically or children of your heart, is not a bad way to make your own thinking more flexible.

Communing with Vultures on Ely’s Peak


One of the views from Ely’s Peak.

Last weekend, a friend and I meandered up 200-300 feet in elevation to the top of Ely’s Peak near Gary-New Duluth. I don’t have a more specific elevation to give you because the different trail guides that I consulted are inconsistent on that point. But I can say that for my 50-something-year-old legs, it felt more like 300 feet. Also, some of the guides say it’s a 1.5-mile round-trip hike. Others that it’s 1.8 miles. I vote for the latter.

20180428_181031We chose the trail to see a new place and because the crisp and sunny spring air seemed to demand it. We didn’t go seeking a vision quest like Native Americans are said to have done on the peak, nor to seek our spirit animals, but we just might have had a dose of both of those things along the way, too.

The trailhead is off of Becks Road. On this particular day, the trailhead parking area was easy to find from the many other cars gathered there.

I followed the directions given on this website, although I would argue that the “beginner” level trail classification is not accurate. I would rate it as “moderately hard” because near the peak, I found myself thinking it would have been helpful to be part mountain goat. And a young mountain goat at that.

(I would say that this trail is not for 80-year-old mountain goats, but for all others it should work as long as you are reasonably fit and coordinated.)

At the start, a boardwalk invites you into a spindly birch forest. The boardwalk gives way to a muddy climb up an incline to an old railroad bed for the Duluth, Winnipeg and Pacific Railway.


Inside the railroad tunnel.

Follow the railroad bed to the right until you come to a rocky tunnel. The tunnel was built for the railway in 1911. There are trails on the other side of it, but we did not attempt to go through the tunnel because of the sheet of ice layering the way. You may run into some rock climbers, who practice on the craggy basalt in the tunnel.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, from the tunnel, you should follow the main trail, which goes down the hill to the right. Don’t take the spur that goes up along the side of the tunnel, unless you really are a mountain goat and want to test your mettle.

Don’t be impatient, you will come to an incline soon enough. You are now on the Superior Hiking Trail, which is marked by blue blazes on the trees and rocks. Keep to the left and follow the blazes up the blazing &!*()%$ hill.

Soon enough, wide vistas will offer views of the St. Louis River and the Gary-New Duluth neighborhood.


Dogs like the Ely’s Peak Trail, too.

No leaves were out on the trees yet – everything looked stark and clean.

The peak offers breath-taking 360-degree views. It was named after Edmund Ely, a Presbyterian missionary from Massachusetts who began teaching the Fond Du Lac Native American community in 1834. Local lore says that this was one of his favorite spots.

As we sat, resting, we noticed several turkey vultures lazily circling the thermals below us. The more we watched, the more vultures seemed to appear from nowhere. Eerily quiet and patient, they circled and circled. We joked that they were probably looking for hapless hikers who fell down the trail.

There’s a school of thought that says if you sit out in nature long enough, an animal will appear that has a lesson to impart. Were the vultures trying to tell us something?

Once back home (and safely out of a vulture’s gullet), I looked up what vultures symbolize. Here’s what I found: the vulture is considered a symbol of cleansing, renewal, and transformation. Vultures are viewed as fearless of death – they stare it in the face and eat death for breakfast (literally)!

I did feel cleansed after that hike. It was like the sunshine and clear air burned off all the old gunk. Perhaps it’s only to make way for more new gunk (ha ha), but I’d like to think I’ll have some time before I get clogged up again.


A Visit to the Tallest Waterfall in Minnesota


The High Falls in Grand Portage State Park, Minnesota.

My traveling companion and I meandered north along Lake Superior with migrating bald eagles toward the Canadian Border last weekend. Although temps are still freezing, the long spans of daylight and slackening snows have a feel of spring about them.

We decided to cover some new territory by visiting the High Falls at Grand Portage State Park along the border. The 120-foot falls are the highest in Minnesota, so, in order to be proper Minnesota residents, we figured it was about time we saw them.

A short and slippery hike (wear your Yak Trax!) brought us to a giant white-frosted wedding cake of a waterfall. Most of the falls were encased in ice, but underneath, the Pigeon River flowed with unstoppable abandon. A large crack across the middle foretold of the eventual cutting of the cake once temperatures rise.

Once done with this quest, we drove back south to our resort (the Naniboujou Lodge, which I will write about separately). We vowed to stop at the intriguing and picturesque harbors we had seen on our way up, but were too goal-oriented to explore.

20180324_160746VignetteWe stopped several times along the highway, but the best place was one without a ready-made scenic parking lot. We glimpsed a bay that whispered of Norway and ice and stillness. We drove back and forth, looking for the best access road. There were no roads, only private driveways.

Finally, we chose one that looked the closest to the bay. As we pulled in, we could see from the untrammeled whiteness of the driveway that no one had driven on it for most of the winter. However, there was a foot trail through the snow that we could follow. So, after some hemming and hawing, and getting out of the car, we did.

A short crash through the underbrush brought us out to the view, which now SHOUTED of Norway and ice and stillness. Oh, it was gorgeous and well-worth a little harmless trespassing! Please enjoy these images of our “Secret Cove.”