lydamorehouse: (ichigo freaked)
 We got our annual invite to spend a weekend up a our friends' cabin in Wisconsin's northwoods.  It's soooooo relaxing up here.  The water was a bit cold, but we managed.

mason floating on an inner tube, reading

Also, there were hummingbirds:

hummingbirds in the monardia

lydamorehouse: (more renji art)
While at Bearskin, we woke up one morning feeling adventurous, so we decided to take an actual honest-to-goodness hike into the BWCA. We asked at the front desk and Bob, bless his soul, took a look at us and said, "FOR YOU, I suggest Caribou Rock...."

For us, it turned out because there were spectacular views within a mile or so of the trailhead. We could go as far as we liked (the whole of the trail apparently takes you to the border and can be done as a 4 day hiking trip,) but there was a very fast (if moderately challenging in terms of steepness) reward for people LIKE US who were amateur hikers who just wanted to see some woodsy stuff.

Here's the view:

We also attempted a camera-timer "selfie":


I should take a moment to discuss the mosquito situation. The mosquitos were out in full-force nearly the entire time we were there (on the dock and in the canoe, however, we'd often get a reprieve because of the wind.) Some days were buggier than others, though. The day right before the one day of rain we got was, by far, the worst.

What I found interesting about the mosquitos is that they clearly favored Mason. There may be a couple of reasons for this. First, he's always been very warm-bodied. We often call him our hot-tot, because if you snuggle up to him, he seems to radiate heat. So the mosquitos probably could sense that and made a... well, not a bee-line, but a mosquito-line for him.

They seemed equally attracted to Shawn, however, and she is one of those people who sometimes, when you hold their hand, you think, "Wow, your skin is so chilly!"

Mosquitos mostly avoided me. We wondered aloud about this phenomenon a lot during our vacation. (Mostly because it made Mason mad. "Why don't they go after YOU, Ima?!??") We eventually concluded that the reason the mosquitos liked me the least was because of my sushi habit. I east sushi fairly regularly for lunch and I know for a fact that consumption of raw fish changes your body odor. So, it very well could have been that the mosquitos just didn't register me as tasty. Or at least a second choice to the more strictly carnivores in my family (because I also have a tendency to eat a lot more veggies than either Shawn or Mason.)

This time Bearskin also offered a number of kids' activities. Normally, we're not joiners, but Mason saw the list and wanted to try out slack lining, so we went to the demo. The demo was led by Andrea. We kept running into Andrea though out our stay. She seemed to be the children's events coordinator, but she was also the only one to introduce herself to us when we went to the wine and cheese mixer. (At which we tried Gunflint Trail wine and had... Colby and cheddar cheese. Not a fancy do, but very... erm, authentically "Fargo" if you know what I mean.)

At any rate, here's Mason on the slack line with Andrea and I spotting:

IMG_9105 copy

I even tried it, but you know, with me on the line, it dipped pretty close to the ground....

And this was the day that the mosquitos were at their absolute WORST. So we stayed long enough to enjoy it, but were eventually driven away and back out into the canoe to escape the bloodthirsty hoards.

The mosquitos also chased us away from our beloved "Moose Viewing Trail," where last time we were up we actually saw several moose. This time not only did the mosquitos dog us the whole way to the marsh and back, but there was really nothing to see there once we got there. Except, of course, the mysterious buried car...

This year, apparently, we didn't take a photo of the weird car in the woods, but it is there. It's very mysterious, being several miles off the road, and, well, having a boulder in the trunk. But you can clearly see the roof, the engine block and actually pull on the door handle which is fully-buried in the ground. (Which is also odd, because it kind of seems.., off, like maybe somehow the car was dropped with enough force to have bent the doors so that they lay parallel to the ground.... as if dropped by... aliens???)

Very mysterious.

We probably didn't get a picture because all you would have seen was the massive swarm of mosquitos....

In other news, my Loft class has ended and I'm reading no.6 a new manga I discovered on Saturday, when I worked at the Maplewood Library. I've written a review which I'll probably link back here once I get it up.

And.... here's the review:
lydamorehouse: (more renji art)
(WARNING: spider picture follows!)

Bearskin Lodge is conscientious because they only charge you for the things you use. We decided ahead of time that we wanted to have a canoe every day. Our family is, for the most part, dock-sitters, but occasionally, as I said, I get antsy and want to do All The Things. So it's nice for me to be able to hop into a canoe and tool around the Lodge end of East Bearskin Lake.

I'm not an expert canoer by any stretch of imagination.

I've been in a canoe plenty, but in the world of self-propelled watercraft, I'm probably best at a kayak. It was particularly noticeable this time how much I kind of suck at canoe. This time we had some days when the wind really pushed me around. Even with Mason sitting in the front, we'd get pushed so hard that the canoe would just go in a circle or slam up against the shore. Probably this had a lot to do with the fact that I'm crap at steering (we discovered on the last day, of course, that Mason is a natural!) but, regardless, it was both upsetting and hilarious.

As a bonus, we're pretty sure that the Bearskin web cam caught some of our antics.

Here's the view from the canoe:


We pulled off on a little island to tromp around a bit. Here's the wild explorer, Mason:


The views of the lake were spectacular:


Here's us heading off:


Plus, it turns out? If you sit on the dock all day, you might encounter one of these:


This is what Andy called a 'dock spider' which he gleefully announced, gets bigger--much bigger. The size of dinner plates by August, he said. To which Shawn replied, "That's why we come in May."

Apparently they're a a type of dolomites, a fishing spider. That's right... they can sometimes catch and eat small fish. Mostly they eat water skaters, though, which I saw plenty of, which is, I suppose, how our dock could support TWO of these beasts.

We kept seeing a snake around near our dock too, and according to Wikipedia, snakes and birds are dock spiders' main predators.

Ah, nature!

The Lake

Aug. 28th, 2012 09:18 am
lydamorehouse: (Default)
It's Tuesday already, and I leave for WorldCON on Thursday.  I can feel the panic-mode beginning to rev up.  At least we had a lovely, relaxing weekend up at our friends' cabin.

the lake and belt 039
You can't tell from this picture, but the water was actually very cold.  Even so, we braved it nearly every day, except Saturday when it was so cloudy that the entire family (including Mason!) crashed out for a long afternoon nap.  We stayed Monday, an extra day, which was nice, as it was very sunny.  In fact, I managed to get a bit of a sunburn on my face. 

We chased some leopard frogs around, but never caught any. 

Mason and I went kiyaking twice, both times he insisted on bringing along a book:

the lake and belt 050
I don't care what you say, I think this means we're raising him RIGHT.  :-)

Okay, now I'm off to the kitty food store because my poor babies gobbled up everything in sight and Mother Hubbard's cupboards are bare.  I think if I don't go soon, my toes will be omnommed. (Hmm, never considered if nom verbized would have two "m"s or just one.  Is there a standard out there?)
lydamorehouse: (Default)
I thought I'd post a few pictures from our weekend get-away. Mason LOVES the water. Even before he could swim, Mason would spend hours splashing around and generally playing in the water. Here he's found a new way to combine two of his favorite things: reading and swimming:

We also played a lot with tree frogs/garden toads. Here's one of our captives (who lept to freedom shortly after peeing on us.)

Up North

Aug. 9th, 2011 09:50 am
lydamorehouse: (Default)
We're headed home later today, but I thought I'd say "hello" from the shores of Crooked Lake in Wisconsin. The weather (a chilly 66 degrees F) actually pushed me back indoors momentarily, but earlier today I sat outside listening to the loons call out over the water.

It's been the kind of vacation my family and I have needed. It's been really nice not to have anything to do, but float in the lake on a noodle. Mason and I discovered that you can blow a lot of water out the noodles and played noodle water wars for two days until he actually developed chapped lips from all the blowing. After that, we had to switch to underwater kung-fu, which is pretty much what it sounds like. Before each fight we'd say, "The only rule is that there are no rules! (Oh, except no kicking the snorkle and no drowning.)" Or sometimes we'd quote a home/art movie that our head instructor made in college, ie, "What does a man do when he's been humiliated by a pipe cleaner? He. Gets. EVEN!"

So we've had much fun. Plus, Crooked Lake has never been higher thanks to all the rain. We've seen frogs and fish and toads (in the garden) in numbers never spotted before. When the weather was roastier we managed to get quite sunburned.

It's been ideal.

Wish you were here.

Up North!

Aug. 16th, 2010 09:22 am
lydamorehouse: (Default)
I had a busy weekend. I had a talk at Midwest Fiction Writers (the local chapter of the Romance Writers of America) about ALMOST TO DIE FOR's "journey." I ended up babbling about a bunch of vaguely unrelated stuff, including telling the story of how weird it is to be on TV. I was only disappointed that I couldn't hang around for the regular meeting because their guest speaker was none other than Lois McMaster Bujold.

BUT, I had to pick up my cat, Inky, at the vet. Turns out my vet and the MFW meeting are about two minutes from each other, as opposed to the twenty it takes for me to get home and back again. So I dropped off poor, yowling Inky at 9:00 am, went off to my meeting, and back again for the 11:30 am appointment.

I didn't get home until nearly 1:00 pm, and I hadn't eatten all day. So I took Mason off to a park and we had Subway sandwiches and buried our feet in the sand. The rest of the day was much more mellow.

On Sunday, we went up to our friend's cabin in Siren, Wisconsin. It was downright CHILLY, but that didn't stop our little water baby!

And that's pretty much how we spent the day: doing cannonballs off the dock and intermittently running back inside to warming up and reading more of the HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. (We're at Slughorn's Christmas Party.)

Must go!
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Just as we had on the way up, we made the trip home an adventure all its own. I was in full-on lavender-dad mode* -- including making us make a few u-turns when we missed our turn-offs. However, with one exception all our side trips were worth it.

The first stop was a short jaunt up Highway 1 off 61 to see Illgen Falls, made slightly longer by the fact that our guide book 61 GEMS ON HIGHWAY 61 noted we were to turn left just after the sign that read “Devil’s Rock,” but neglected to mention that the sign was _tiny_ and really easy to miss. We sailed right by it, but luckily the book also said we were to have seen it after only 1.5 miles. Even though I hadn’t watched my odometer, it was clear we’d gone much further since we entered Finland (the town, not the country, but cue jokes about being REALLY lost right about now.)

Shawn “Eagle Eye” Rounds spotted the tiny marker the second time we passed it and another set of u-turns got us into the pull-off. We had a brief argument about whether or not we could actually park in the no parking spot by the locked fence marked “State Park.” But Shawn suggested, and I think rightly so, that the pull-out was a better spot. It was clearly the right choice when we noticed the trail right next to where we finally parked.

The guide book promised that the trail was narrow and steep, but short. Turns out they weren’t kidding about the steep part. If we hadn’t come to a set of man-made stairs, I would have believed that the whole thing was just a deer trail that people had used on occasion. The trail got us out at the top of the falls.

A bit of scrambling, and we got the money shot. The best part was that the guide book was right. It was impressive as hell. The picture they shot was during a drought, so I wasn’t prepared for this:

Satisfied that the little spat of arguing and getting lost was totally worth it, we all climbed back into the car and set off for our next destination, Iona’s Beach. The reason I wanted to see this beach is because the book said that if, conditions were right, the sound of the waves hitting this unique shoreline of flat, shingle-like “pink rhyolite and felsite bedrock” makes a tinkling, bell-like sound. It’s also designated a scientific research area, which just added a whole extra level of potential awesome, I thought.

Here, the guide book out and out LIED. It said that turn off to the beach was clearly marked near mile marker 42. We zoomed past mile marker 42 because all that was well marked was a sign saying “public water access” which is a dime a dozen along the North Shore Drive. We made yet another u-turn and pulled into the lot, where more confusion set in. We parked. We looked over at a beach and a breakwall. The beach was clearly marked, “Private Property, Enter at Your Own Risk.” Hmmm, not the friendly, inviting beach the guide book suggested we’d see. Plus, it was decidedly not pink, which was supposed to be one of the more striking features of Iona’s Beach.

We looked around. There was a path leading north, and Shawn remembered reading something about a short hike to the beach. Okay, what the hell, we thought. After all, Illgen Falls seemed hard to find, but had panned out as well worth the hassle.

A short walk revealed a rather stunning beach. There was a rock formation that looked, well, fake, and Shawn suggested that it might be lava flow (which we knew from our other reading was a definite possibility along the North Shore.) This, however, still didn’t seem right. Could this be Iona’s Beach? Where were the pink rocks? The magical sound of the waves hitting rock? This was a seriously awesome beach, but I wasn’t convinced this was Iona’s.

Shawn and Mason were quite content to explore. I was, as previously mentioned, in Adventure Mode, and so was on a quest to find THE BEACH (fill in “lavender farm” or other ridiculous sounding destination.) I noticed that the path continued, and that there appeared to be a sign post at the top of the nearby cliff. I yelled that I was off to investigate. Sure enough, here, quite a distance from the pull off was the “well marked” sign indicating that just beyond was the famed Iona’s Beach.

It’s definitely weird. I’ve never seen a beach quite like it, what with gigantic dunes of perfectly flat blue, green and pink stones. But, was it worth the hassle of discovery? Iffy. When Shawn and Mason joined me, Mason enjoyed tossing the rocks back into the water, but the lake couldn’t have been more glassy and still, so there was no tinkling or magical bell-like sound to hear. But, we also explored a nearby cavern carved by the waves, which, when we tossed rocks down it, made a FANTASTIC splooshing sound. In the end, as Shawn noted later in the car, the first beach was way more interesting. Iona’s Beach seemed desolate and alien in comparison.

Our next big destination was food. When we finally stopped at a fast food joint and filled up the car at the gas station, I remarked that we’d gone approximately 100 miles in four hours. And, we skipped stopping at Flood Bay again, though very regretfully. We’re going to make that part of our annual trip, however. Unsuccessful agate hunting is much more fun for us, and, really, a bit more Mai Tai,* as it’s very relaxing.

With all the driving and side-trips, I was exhausted by the time we got home. I’ve been slowly recovering ever since. The time at the lake was very relaxing, but I need a vacation from the drive back! I don’t regret making the stops along the way, but I think it was more fun on the way up because once we got to the cabin, it was relaxation time. On the way home, we came back to unpacking, unopened mail, etc., etc.

I can’t wait to do it all again next year. We already booked our cabin for next season.

*see earlier post (part 2) for explanation.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Do you ever watch the show “Modern Family”? We love it. It features three families, all very different, connected by blood relation. One of the families is two gay men and their adopted daughter, Lily. It’s weird, actually, how much we have in common with the gay guys. There was one episode where they were trying the “cry out” method, which Shawn and I attempted with Mason for about as long and with as much success. One of the dads kept bursting into tears, while the other complained about not wanting to always be the “teach-y dad.” That was so us – with me and Shawn being clown dad or teach-y dad at some point or another.

One of the last episodes we saw before heading up was about the entire extended family’s trip to Hawaii. The gay guys bit was about how people vacation. One of the dads was all about events and doing and Adventure, with the capital “A.” The other just wanted to sip Mai Tais by the beach and relax. This all came to a head when the adventure-loving one, Mitchell, had it in his mind to go to a lavender farm. “The biggest in the world! Five different varieties of lavender!” The other dad finally broke and said, “No. I’m not doing it. Lily and I will be at the beach.” This trip I’m kind of in lavender farm mode; Shawn is all about the Mai Tais.

So we’ve been doing a bit of both. Moose View Trail satisfied a lot of my lavender-dad-ness, as does the occasional canoe/kayak around the lake. Mason is perfectly in-between, spending a lot of his time making his own fun on the main lodge’s tiny beach front/boat landing. I’ve also spent some time sitting on the dock and reading. In fact, I finished Scott Westerfeld’s UGLIES while up at Bearskin Lodge, not knowing it was a cliffhanger ending! Argh! Worse, the other books I brought I’m not entirely in the mood for, though I think I will finish up Laura Resnick’s DOPPLEGANGSTER.

While in Mai Tai mode, we saw this hen duck nosing around in the weeds by the shore very close to our dock. At first, we were very quiet, trying not to spook her. But after a while it became clear, she was totally playing us. When I brought out a bit of trail mix bar to coax her with, she came zooming up and even took it out of my hand. At one point it apparently took me too long to tear off the next bit, because she flapped her waddle-ly self up onto the dock and just grabbed it. We were quite amused by her antics and even fetched her more bread from our cabin. Shawn and I dubbed her “tourist duck” because the lodge couldn’t have entertained us more, if they’d arranged the whole experience.

I saw her trying it on with the folks down the trail earlier today. She’s got quite the racket.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Even though I’ve lived in Minnesota for twenty-odd years now, I’ve never been “up north” past the Iron Range. Well, I guess I went somewhere close to the BWCA once before with a friend from high school, because I have a very strong memory of flocks of seagulls in Grand Marais. But, like a lot of high school, that memory is utterly wiped from my mind. (Side note: if I knew you in high school, even if we were BFFs, I wouldn’t recognize you now if my life depended on it. Apparently, to make room for other things deemed more important like episodes of “Firefly,” my brain dumped high school in its entirety. Thank goodness I kept a daily diary. Of course, looking back on it is like trying to read code. Who? What? Wait, I dated _boys!?_)

Eh-hem, back to the story at hand.

As most of you already know, I will not be going to WisCON this year. Instead, we came here. Here is the Bearskin Lodge off the Gunflint Trail as you head into the BWCA. Not in the BWCA, but close. We could canoe there if we had to, but we don’t have to. You see, Shawn is not fond of the kind of camping that involves tents or bugs or sleeping bags or pooping in the woods. I will admit that while I enjoy the occasional waking-up-with-frost-on-your-hair kind of trips, there is something to be said for a hot shower and a flush toilet.

Because I don’t remember my last trip this far north, we decided to take it easy and sort of spend the day meandering toward the lodge. Shawn picked up a book called 61 GEMS ON HIGHWAY 61 by Kathryn & William Mayo at the History Center, and read to me on the long drive up 35. From it, we picked a couple of destinations. The first was Two Harbor’s Breakwall. It’s just what it purports to be – a big, old wall into the harbor that protects the docks from the waves of Lake Superior. You can walk out to the point, where there is a small, electric lighthouse. Mason was a little nervous because there’s only a railing on one side, and the lake looks like the ocean. You can only see blue-black water to the horizon line, and the day we were there it was overcast and windy. It was easy to pretend we were old sea hands coming to shore from one of the big ocean-going vessels we saw unloading at the huge docks.

The second place we stopped at was a favorite and has been earmarked for a second visit on the return home, Flood Bay. Flood Bay is supposed to be good agate hunting, but we didn’t find any -- at least not that we could easily identify. I did find the lake version of sea glass, which THE ROCK PICKER’S GUIDE TO LAKE SUPERIOR’S NORTH SHORE (by Mark Sparky Stensaas) calls fairy tears. I couldn’t really tell you what was so awesome about Flood Bay, but we spent a good hour there hanging out and combing the beach. Mason splashed about in the ice cold water of Lake Superior and chased the waves back and forth. I found a magical rock that had a hole all the way through, worn away naturally by time and water.

We got to the lodge at 5:00 pm, just in time to pack, check out the place, and make hot dogs for dinner. Staying here is less expensive per night than in the Governor’s Suite at the Concord, and we have our own private dock, a full kitchen, two bedrooms, and a fireplace (not to mention that indoor plumbing!) Because we came up at the end of the cheap season, we also got a free canoe rental with the lodge.

Bearskin Lake is huge. The lodge is at one corner of it, but Mason and I kayaked today for a good hour and didn’t even make very far on the map. What’s cool is that unlike most of the lakes we frequent, you get out for a bit and suddenly there’s no sign of human habitation. AT ALL. In fact, on our big trip today (Sunday), I accidentally freaked Mason out by noting how easy it would be to get lost and end up in Canada (you couldn’t really, not without an intentional portage or two, I believe.) At any rate, I suspect the reason he actually got worried is because landmarks are hard to come by up here. It’s just woods and more woods.

Anyway, on the drive in that first night, we saw a sign that said “Moose View Trail.” We noted that we should come back in the morning and look for moose. So, on Saturday morning, after waking up at dawn --(damn birds! I thought they were an alarm going off! Seriously!)-- and checking out the frost on the dock, we headed out. I know we’re city slickers, but we didn’t actually expect to see moose on Moose View Trail. But we thought it would be a fun short hike out to a lake. The Bearskin Lodge brochure said it also featured a “mysterious car.”

The mysterious car was cool, actually. It looks like it’s from the thirties or maybe forties, and it’s been there so long trees have grown up out of the trunk and what not. The mysterious part is that is has a rather large boulder on top of it. We thought long and hard about this, Mason postulated that perhaps the car was dumped from an airplane and a second airplane dropped the boulder. I thought it might have gone way off road, though I couldn’t come up with an even half-way plausible explanation for the boulder (space aliens?) Shawn thought the whole thing was a Rune Stone-esque prank and that a bunch of frat boys/girls carried in car parts and staged them and then dropped a big boulder on the car just to confuse and mystify people.

At the lake there was an observation platform and several moose/deer trails that lead to a swampy (or, as our lodge guy called it “moosey”) lake. Mason and I checked out the lake front, while Shawn settled in at the observation deck with her purse book (meaning, of course, the book she always has with her, in her purse.) Mason, as I have mentioned on this blog before, is easily amused in the woods. He will, as he did on Saturday, spend HOURS collecting rocks to sploosh into the lake. At one point we tossed in a bit of birch branch and used it as target practice. We left quite happy, though moose-less, sometime just before lunch. Shawn teased us though that if any moose had wanted to come along we scared them with all of our loud shouting and carrying on. We started laughing about how all the moose must be stampeding toward our cabin, freaked out by all the crazy noise those city folks made at Moose View Trail.

We were still laughing about this in the car on the drive back to the lodge when a moose came up out of the ditch. Luckily, I was not driving anywhere near speed limit; (I’m that driver you get stuck behind on all the scenic roads going ten miles under.) And, I spotted it’s massiveness in time. We stopped. It got half way into the road and stopped. We stared. S/he squinted. (Moose have notoriously bad eye-sight.) Shawn spent the entire time trying to find her camera, I kept talking nervously about how sometimes moose mistake cars for mates, and eventually the moose got bored with us and hoofed off into the underbrush. (Before, of course, Shawn could get its picture.)

We figured that was our moose view at Moose View Trail, though we decided it was fun enough just throwing rocks that we’d go back again today (Sunday). Shawn suggested that maybe if we were a bit more quiet we might actually spot moose (ho, ho.)

Except, we did. Two of them.

We came back to Moose View Trail a bit earlier today. Mason and I brought three gallon baggies full of rocks we collected around the lodge. Shawn had her book. We were ready to settle in for another morning of rock tossing and hiking. We got to the main spot, past the mysterious car again, and were half way through our second bag of rocks when I heard a splash. It was much bigger than the sound of the rocks Mason was tossing, so I looked up. Across the small lake, I saw two moose going into the water for a swim.

As the guy at the lodge said, “Moose on Moose View Trail. No way.”

lydamorehouse: (Default)
I'm writing to you from the Bearskin Lodge just off the Gunflint Trail, not far from the start of the BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area, for those non-Minnesotans who might be reading.) We've decided to extend our stay here another day, so I won't be back to blog about life, the universe, and everything until Wednesday.

Despite what you see before you, internet does not come easily here. It's a short hike to the main lodge, but I'm not planning on sitting here when I could be out there with the pristine lake, moose, and more.

See you when we get back!

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