Monday, September 8, 2014

Back to Camp

I wasn't sure if I'd be able to take my annual fall camping getaway after this summer's "extended" trip. Thankfully I have a wonderful boss who said "sure, go ahead!"

My annual trip to the far northeast corner of Minnesota's Arrowhead is a much-needed recharge after a traditionally crazy spring/summer work schedule. All these photos are from my trip earlier this summer. This is a view of the west side of "my" campsite, looking west over the lake and my favorite reading spot.

In my last post I mentioned that my trip with my mom had several days added to it due to overly ambitious beavers. There is a single gravel road going in and out of the campground (and that's a very generous term, there are only three no-service sites on the lake) and beavers have apparently moved into the slough on the south side of the road, approximately 4 miles before you get to camp, building a new dam across the slough's main outlet.

Days of rain led to a swamped road that was impassable for my XC70 Volvo. The water was mid-thigh (yes, we made the trek out to the "Big Muddy" daily to wade it in hopes that the level was dropping). Since the campground's off-grid no one knew we were stuck until we miracuously picked up a data signal one day. No phone but data, go figure. I was able to text a friend who called my boss and my partner Dean to let them know why we weren't home before the signal disappeared. We never got it back.

In the meantime we enjoyed reading, playing cards, hiking, kayaking and watching the area wildlife. During one kayak a juvenile Bald Eagle plunged from a tree and opened its wings so close overhead I heard the deep "boof" of them snapping open. On another one we watched dozens of Cedar Waxwings lining the cove dive and swoop after hatching mayflies, snatching them just feet above the water, right over our heads.

This is looking west late in the day so the lighting isn't the greatest, but I love the feel of the image:

A lot of people don't realize how dense loon feathers are. And all throughout their bodies, not just on their underside. If you ever have a chance to hold a loon you'll be amazed at how much they feel like a plush toy. Here's a closer look so you can see the layers upon layers of feathers in the wings:

Birds included the Chestnut-sided Warblers that I mentioned in my earlier post and this nesting Mourning Warbler that fluttered about every time we hiked past its nest:

Mom was a trooper through it all and even gamely laughed when I suggested needing to eat tree bark if the water didn't drop. We started every morning by walking with our coffee to the huge rock outcropping that overlooks the lake, facing south for that much-needed morning warmth (nights were in the low 40s and we were tenting). Here's mom and my oldest dog, Panzer, enjoying the morning sun:

We saw beautiful wild flowers on our hikes and kayaks. The Blue Flag Irises were in bloom everywhere:

Four days later than expected, we finally made it through, white-knuckled with our foglamps underwater.  Thankfully the Volvo survived.

Once we were out of camp, we did a whirlwind tour of the sights I'd been hoping to gradually explore with mom. Portage Brook Falls is a hidden gem on the Arrowhead Trail. I've only run into other hikers there once in the seven years I've been visiting it.

On the way back we stopped off at Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior just in time to watch a massive fog bank roll in:

For the next couple weeks I'll be back up here with the dogs enjoying the area and hopefully not being stranded by beavers  (the DNR blows the beaver dams when they start undermining the roads). Poor Dean is still in his busy season but hopefully he'll be able to join me for a weekend. (hey, someone has to work!)

In the meantime I'll schedule some posts of other sights from the area so you can "vacation" with me. Looking forward to catching up with all of you when I return!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chestnut-sided Warblers at Camp

While my mom was here visiting from Florida we headed north to my favorite camping spot, way up in the tip of Minnesota's Arrowhead, just a few miles from Canada as the raven flies.

That trip, which was much longer than expected due to the single road being flooded by an overly ambitious beaver, is worthy of its own post, but for now I'll share images of a friendly Chestnut-sided Warbler that was just down the gravel road from our site.

Chestnut-sideds really are beautiful birds - they look handpainted to me.

There was a pair nesting in a clump of alders just off the road. We didn't look for the nest so as to not stress the birds, but we did enjoy watching them frantically flying back and forth as they collected bugs for their hungry youngsters.

I love their mustached face from the front:

After some time away I'm very happy to be reuniting with other bird lovers for Wild Bird Wednesday. Be sure to check out their posts, too!