Boundary Waters — a Start

For well more than a year, the guys in the hiking group had tossed around the idea of taking a trip together to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Since Phil had experience there and it was his idea to start with, he organized a plan and started taking names.

On August 19, we began arriving in Duluth. Those of us who were there early got to check out the equipment at Gander Mountain and the books at Barnes & Noble, relax and talk, and do some birding in the parking lot behind the Days Inn. When all eight guys were assembled, we went to supper at Grandma’s Saloon and Grill. Our adventure was underway. Late night conversation with the Olympics on TV finished the evening.




Early the next morning we loaded into two vehicles and headed out along the north shore of Lake Superior. Our destination for the day would be Seagull Outfitters, near the end of the Gunflint Trail, but along the way we would stop several times to enjoy the territory, Minnesota being a new state for several in the group, myself included. We ate smoked fish from a roadside vendor and had a late lunch at Sven and Olle’s Pizza in Grand Marias.



We arrived at the outfitter after 4:00 and began the orientation. After getting reasonably settled for the night in the bunkhouse, Don Germain, a long-time friend of Phil’s, came to talk to us about his vast experience of paddling, guiding, and outfitting in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. He shared lots of helpful insight into what we would soon be facing.

After a night of rough and restless sleep (for me, at least), we woke up, finished loading our personal gear into the large packs, had a quickstart breakfast, and gathered at the Chevy Suburban with the trailer of canoes behind it. We were fitted for PFDs and paddles, endured more of the orientation guy, and finally hit the road back down the Gunflint Trail to our put-in.

Beyond the dry facts of these few paragraphs are eight personal and constantly reshaping perspectives about the moments of the week as they rose and fell, like waves beneath the hull of a ready canoe. Next, I’ll attempt to express some that were my own.

[Additional pictures of this trip are posted on my Flickr site. You can see them by clicking here.]

Published in: on August 31, 2008 at 10:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

An Update on My Oak Tree


As you can see from the photos, the beautiful white oak in my back yard is not surviving the lightning strike. (Here’s the previous post in case some readers missed it.) It looks so much smaller than it did before. Do trees shrink as the sap stops flowing and the leaves dry up?

For size comparison, this washed-out photo shows the larger white oak to the left of the dying one.

Here it is from the front yard, looking between two much smaller trees: a post oak on the right and a mockernut hickory on the left.



Of course the church will have to hire a service to remove the tree, situated as it is between the parsonage and the apartment. Faulkner will have to be temporarily relocated for all that action. I wonder if anyone cruising eBay might be interested in purchasing an entire tree that was struck by a massive bolt of lightning. Pickup only!

Published in: on August 1, 2008 at 10:15 am  Comments (1)  

Last Week’s Lightning Strike

This is a large white oak. At chest height, it measures 11′ 9″ around. It gets even thicker higher up where the limbs start branching out. This photo shows the west side.


These two photos show the east side. The gash here varies from 8 to 10 inches wide.


Much wood and bark was scattered around the yard.


East of the tree, a piece of wood landed 109′ 3″ away. Yes, I measured it. And west of the tree, a piece landed 107′ 5″ away. Everywhere the shredded wood lay, brown juices oozed out, staining the concrete. Iridescence accompanied some of the flow.



I was not home when the strike occurred, so when I heard about it from some church members who had gathered for choir practice and Disciple Bible Study, I thought Faulkner would be terrified. But when I saw him, he was fine, even normal appearing. That was good. His house sits approximately 60′ from the tree. I didn’t measure that.

When I saw the streak marks, running not only down the trunk but also along four major limbs, I thought it unlikely that the tree could survive, and it might not. As of today, though, eight days after the strike, the tree is not showing any wilting of leaves. It would be sad to lose such a wonderful tree, the second-largest in my yard.

Published in: on June 19, 2008 at 4:01 pm  Comments (7)  

The Speed at which Thought Travels


Published in: on May 26, 2008 at 8:11 am  Comments (1)  

Good Friends Walking

The February episode of Body Challenge, Spirit Challenge took the group to Forty-Acre Rock in Lancaster County, SC. Only five of us made the journey, but it was a fine day to be in the woods.


Endangered and rare plant communities inhabit the shallow pools on the rock surface.

photo by Joel Jones

photo by Joel Jones

We sat on an abandoned bridge and had lunch, wondering about original traffic on this former US highway. Viewed from the bridge, a logjam created what appeared to be an impenetrable muck on the creek.
photo by Joel Jones

Maybe it was impenetrable, and maybe it wasn’t.
photo by Joel Jones

I guess this moment of splash proves that it wasn’t.
photo by Steve McCormick

Woodpeckers left strange evidence of their recent presence, but we never saw the ones responsible for this.

photo by Steve McCormick

We didn’t walk fast, but talked as we moved among the trees, beside the creek. We explored a cave and observed many ways winter water seemed, itself, like a living soul. The wind was cold on the rock, but maples had begun their reddening crusade to raise a new banner in the name of rebirth. American Beeches clung tightly to their brown leaves, yet unfallen. (I told you before it would be this way.) After the steep hill near the end, we started thinking about food. And after the drive into town, we did more than think about it!

…A very worthwhile day, men. Thanks for the good ways we gather.

Published in: on February 27, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments (3)  

Counting Birds, December 31, 2007

Monday was a good day for being outdoors. The occasion was the 17th annual Rocky River Christmas Bird Count, held in Abbeville and Anderson Counties, South Carolina. Andy and Bryan, two great friends who previously did not know each other, joined me in my section for a ten-hour blitz of the backroads and lakeshores of the county where I was raised. Three other friends birded two other sections of the 15-mile diameter count circle, and we met up with them for lunch at Subway in Iva.

Fog and relaxed hilarity were fine elements of the morning’s beauty. There may be no better conversation than which grows across the birding hours, at its own pace, seeking no point but finding many. Had we found no birds, it would have been enough. As it happened, we three found 69 species, including some rarely located on the Rocky River count. I’m waiting to hear results from the other two field parties to arrive at the overall count total.



(For other photos from this day of birding, see this posting from Bryan and its related Flickr extras.)

Published in: on January 1, 2008 at 11:42 pm  Comments (3)  

Walking on Thanksgiving

After dinner, Daddy and I went walking in the pasture to feed the cows, and Mama got a well-deserved nap. Rain had come through in the morning while I was driving from Lancaster to Antreville, and now the afternoon was becoming clear and warm. We talked while I reunited with the trees where I was raised.





Published in: on November 25, 2007 at 8:32 pm  Comments (5)