Can you feel it? Warmer weather, relaxed schedules, fewer hours spent laboring over homework. Summer’s almost here. And there is no better time for a family vacation.
We all know how fast summer goes. When you look back on the summer of 2012, what do you want your family to remember? Whether it’s relaxation or exciting adventure activities that are more your speed, your family vacation can and should be enjoyable for everyone.
After all, reconnecting has many benefits in any relationship. When you’re away from the home environment and not distracted by to-do lists and work-related obligations, it’s much easier to reconnect. Whether your children are young, or grown adults with their own children, memories created on a family vacation will last a lifetime and enhance your relationships significantly.
Jim Sanders, Forest Supervisor for the Superior National Forest has decided to implement changes to the lottery and reservation system for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).
- The lottery will be retained for Fall Lake entry points D (Fall Lake & Beyond) and 24 (Fall Lake) and Moose Lake entry points F (Moose-Newfound-Sucker), G (Moose-Prairie-Basswood) and 25 (Moose Lake).
- People wanting day use motor, overnight motor, and overnight paddle permits for these entry points can continue to use the lottery to make their reservations as they have in the past.
- All other entry point reservations will be made on a first-come, first-served basis shortly after the lottery is run.
Lottery applications can be made starting from 12:01 am CT on December 19, 2011 to 11:59 pm CT on January 19, 2012. The lottery will run on January 20th. Reservations for all entry points can be made on a first-come, first-served basis starting January 25th at 9:00 am central time. Reservations can be made at www.recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777.
The wonderful rain had frozen overnight and all the buds were encased in ice. That’s spring in northern Minnesota.
As we piled into the van (all hatted and gloved again!), Bill told us we were headed out to scratch trees. Scratch trees? Well, if you scratch at the base of a tree having cavities in which birds are nesting, the birds will pop their heads out. Our target was Pileated Woodpeckers. We drove out to the area around the Kawishiwi Campground (Highway #1, just after the second bridge) and parked in the driveway of the Forest Service Research station. There were lots of tall, aging aspen with multiple cavities along the road (holey trees?).
Bill scratched away.
It was a crisp 26 degrees when I pulled into the parking lot to meet the “birding” van. The sun had been up for an hour, rising over an hour earlier than at our first session. We headed out for one of the few open areas in our town – the cemetery. It is apparently a Mecca for birds.
We checked four Bluebird boxes and found “reservations” in three of them. It seems that Eastern Bluebirds are very careful about the placement of even the earliest pieces of grass for their nests. Even if there were only a few pieces of grass, they were tucked neatly around the edges and curved to create the “cup” that would eventually be a nest. The male bluebird sang brightly from a power line while the female played peek-a-boo in a nearby tree. Their melodic song was wonderful to hear. Bill took us through the old part of the cemetery pointing out newly arrived Chipping Sparrows and Tree Swallows.
I was distracted looking at the old grave stones. The oldest date of death I spotted was 1891; Ely had just been founded. Then over to the newest portion of the cemetery where a large area of native, e.g. undesirable, shrubs had been cleared away last fall and replaced by a lovely landscaped planting of – shrubs. The old plants had been safe haven for migrating sparrows, pipits and longspurs so much so that Bill had nicknamed them the “sparrow shrubs.” I was distracted by Forsythia in bloom! In Ely! In April!
We met again before the rest of the world was stirring – interesting to note that the sun was already up – what a difference a week makes. Also not as cold.
Bill took us to Winton to begin the morning. He reminded us that it is always good birding in Winton. Between the twisting of the Shagawa River and the meandering shoreline of Fall Lake, one can always see something in motion. But be aware that most of the areas are private land.
Bill set up his marvelous scope at a cleared area along the river right off “Main Street.” It was posted no-hunting and used to be the railroad right-of-way along the river. A cluster of Canada Geese honked their good mornings. There were beautiful Wood Ducks cruising near by as were some Common Golden Eye. Also saw Song Sparrows, a Bald Eagle and the Red-Winged Black Birds. We learned that all the Red Winged we were hearing were male birds that come first in the migration to claim their territory. The females will come later and get busy with nesting.
Where did the winter go?
I took my last fishing trip up to Basswood three weeks ago, the morning of February 25. The temperature was 24 degrees below zero when we arrived at the Fall Lake landing at 8:00 AM. It was a perfect day for the teams. We had three teams, a total of eighteen dogs. All were in prime end-of-the-year condition and ready to roll.
Many teams had gone out ahead of us, and the landing was full of excited, barking, howling, dog teams. We unboxed and harnessed the dogs and waited our turn, helping others get dogs hooked up and ready to go.
Orion is spanglier than the rhinestone cowboy tonight as he jumps up into the eastern sky and the crescent moon lends a little illumination to what would be a lovely snowshoe stroll.
But I am not strolling.
I am being pulled along lickety-split behind Mantis the recreational skijoring dog. Neither one of us has a headlamp, and she sometimes switches tracks which I find only by feel and luck beneath my skis.
After an evening with friends, made lively by a tumble of dogs and kids in a small house, one of them says, “Want to go for a ski sometime this week?”
So I clip an hour off the end of a workday, and we slide around the Trezona Trail.
Our pace varies with our conversation, and at times we come to a full stop so that we can face each other. The warmth of the sun is helping balsam and pines release snow loads from branches. We hear the occasional shoosh, plop of a clump of snow tumbling to the ground. Sometimes we catch sight of a spray of snow crystals as the branch springs up, bouncing gently with relief.
I am dogsitting Nacho, a former Iditarod dog, this weekend, so when I found a friend willing to try skijoring we set out from Fall Lake. The friend hadn’t skijored before. I thought of Nacho as a steady puller so she hooked up to him while I harnessed myself to my dog, Mantis.
There were several trucks already in the lot with dog boxes, meaning there were at least two teams already out on the trail. Another truck with a team pulled in just as we were filling out our BWCAW permit. This was a big ice-fishing weekend.
I think all of the sled dog activity reminded Nacho of his former life, and he was ready to pull. Sue scooted along behind him at a fast clip, trying to slow him down by holding a snowplow position, but the track was well worn and solid, not giving her much purchase. Once Mantis realized she wasn’t going to get the lead, she trotted along behind, happy to be out for an adventure.
I am sliding along behind my dog, Psycho Mantis. She’s trotting through 3 inches of powder and my weight’s drag on the skijoring rope is slowing her down while I work each mitten through the straps on my ski poles. Finally, I yank my hat down more firmly over my ears and pull my neck warmer up over my chin. “Thanks, Mantis. Now we can go.” I alternate between classic strides and double poling behind her. This is our first venture out onto Burntside Lake this season. Snowmobilers, snowshoers, and skiers have been braving the ice for several weeks now, giving me confidence that we won’t break through today.
Tracks lace the ice along the shoreline and I have to pay attention as Mantis chooses first a snowshoe track, then a snowmobile track, then back to snowshoe track as her trail. Sometimes she ignores them all and blazes her own way through the powder again. When she drops her nose to a set of deer prints that jump up into a jumble of boulders, I slide forward quickly to call her attention to a new direction. There is no quick release on my skijoring set up and I don’t want to do an uphill slalom on this shoreline.
The wind is sharp. I pull my hand out of my mitten to warm my cheeks a couple of times. Still, this is a good place to be. There are only a few hours left to this short winter day. Sunlight leaps off of the snow out in the channel and casts red light under the red pines at the end of an island. Small bays are blue with shadow but when we scoot out into a larger bay we find light glinting off of windblown ice. Without Mantis’ power, skiing this distance would have been a good work out for me and turning around an easy decision. Now I must gauge whether to turn back on other commitments.