26 June 2006

3968 miles and 16 days later

We're home. Pulled into the garage at 2:00. It's now almost 9:00 and I'm on my way to bed. Must get off-line and unplugged anyway, given a loud storm fast approaching. All's well here. I'll elaborate a bit tomorrow.

This photo was taken by Chickie on the dock as we departed Shining Falls last Friday morning. Tal's keeping the wing of the bobbing plane from beaning us!

24 June 2006

Falling short

This posting comes to you from Beloit WI. It's not a bad place, just not quite where we'd anticipated being for the night. Perhaps planning to make it from Grand Forks ND to Lebanon IN (NW of Indianapolis) was a bit more than I should have planned?!? On the one hand we would have made it with ease (having left Grand Forks at 6:15), but we ran into heavy traffic and even heavier rain as we crossed Minnesota and Wisconsin. Those two slight drawbacks, however, could not detract more than a tiny little bit from the glorious scenery, rivers and creeks, long views across fields of grain and corn, undulating land populated by cows, farm complexes complete with real barns (that is, red) tucked into protected hillsides, and ponds and lakes everywhere. Even if we'd not SEEN the ponds and lakes, the fact that at least two of every three vehicles we saw today towed a boat would have been dead give-away. It was truly one of the loveliest of days.

With our having fallen short of our planned destination for the day, we'll likely not arrive home Sunday night, but sometime mid-day on Monday. Making the Grand Forks/Indianapolis trek in one day would have been a memorable feat, indeed, something about which we could have boasted, perhaps. But, the better thing is to arrive home, period. No real need to prove anything ... Yup, all that's likely a justification at some level. But, the end of vacation is hard enough without making it an endurance contest. There's enough of that in life already without purposefully building it in.

The photographs accompanying this posting are from Thursday, our last full day of fishing, and yesterday, the sad morning we left Shining Falls. The air service was about an hour late, making the departure that much more difficult. A clean and quick break would have hurt less -- something my mother taught me in childhood with the band-aid! And -- ugh, we flew in the Cessna, a very bumpy 40 minutes. I'm not proud to say that I was slightly green-tinged by the time we landed in Bissett. But, I kept a stiff upper lip and didn't embarrass myself.

This is one of my favorite shots of Tal from our time at Shining Falls. We were fishing in a special spot for us, an area we call south bay. While we enjoyed exploring many parts of Family Lake, when Chickie needed fish for supper time, this is the place we headed at full throttle.

And, here 's Tal with the fruits of our morning in south bay. He looks happier with this stringer than he did in the earlier photo posted on June 20th, doesn't he?

Finally -- and at last, allow me to introduce you to Chickie and Pat Harristhal, owners of Shining Falls Lodge, here standing on the dock under the wing of the Cessna as our gear was being loaded. Tal has known them since the summer of 1988 when he and his son, Bruce, went on a canoe trip into the Boundary Waters -- a trip organized by them when they owned Canadian Border Outfitters, located northeast of Ely MN on Moose Lake. They are dear to us and getting to spend time with them is a significant part of the draw Shining Falls has for us.

22 June 2006

Shining Falls

The Shining Falls of Shining Falls Lodge are more accurately a series of steep rapids than they are the waterfall one might imagine. Family Lake on which the lodge is situated flows over the falls and the approach to the falls can be quite swift following heavy rains. This is cause for some worry on Chickie and Pat's part, but all maps carry the warning not to motor too far down the stream going to the falls. Plus, the roar in and of itself tells the wise boater to use reverse!

This morning after breakfast Pat took Tal and me to the falls in the boat he uses which has a 25HP outboard. As a novice boat operator, I was quite happy to leave the driving to someone else and to have 14.1 additional horsepower at the back of the boat.

We left the boat tied at the bank and walked a portage path along the north falls and this is one of the powerful views I was able to capture. One wonders how Family Lake could possibly have any water left in it.

Pondering quotas and limits

I've been pondering today something I've said a time or two in these postings to the VicarRidge web log having to do with fishing limits. Each person fishing in this national park is limited to keeping four fish in any given day. And, I've reported that Tal had caught our limit on the days I operated the boat.

In listening to the conversations of the party of eight who arrived on Monday I've noticed that they are talking about reaching their quotas. What interests me is that the two patriarchs of the group, the brothers, are obviously very successful men. The sons and sons-in-law who are with them are in their late 20s and early 30s and are either well-employed or are still in school. And, they're the ones talking about getting their quota of fish. One of them wondered to the group at breakfast this morning that if they didn't reach their quota of the fish they as a group were allowed to take home with them could they take any at all? What started out as a way to protect this lake, then, has turned into something quite different, hasn't it?

What I've thought about today, following that exchange, is how obvious it is that the jobs those young men hold and, indeed, the lives they are living are high-stress and competitive, and that their positions in life are less than secure. How sad it is to so immersed in such a way of life that the punitive and negative terms associated with it come along on a fishing trip to such a remote place.

Probably that conversation would not have had such an impact on me were it not somehow true for me as well. So, all my pondering will be for nothing if I don't come to understand how I am doing the very same thing, just using a different vocabulary and working toward different goals.

More to ponder ...

Morning comes in all its glory

I don't think I'll be able to think of day break in the same way after these past few mornings. Given the fact that it doesn't get completely dark all night right now, I have been waking early with ease. And, it's so worth it -- as you can see by one of this morning's photos taken at 4:45. Why would I ever want to sleep through something like that?

In these surroundings life is very focused. First, on the weather (as you've already read in earlier entries). But, I'm increasingly aware that I'm less preoccupied, lost in worry, overwhelmed by events and issues that I can't make myself care about and more appreciative of the moment in which I am existing. That's not to say there's no thought of the future. My attention, however, is on just regular things -- with a sense of profound gratitude.

21 June 2006

A two plane morning

There's a bit more excitement at SFL on mornings when a plane is expected. The arrival of two -- the Otter carrying six guests and the Cessna supplies and propane -- had the attention of everyone.

Tal and I were up early on this first day of summer and on the water before 5:00. And, it was worth it for Tal who caught our limit before breakfast. And, since we didn't have a stringer with us, we went out and did it again after breakfast! Walleye for supper ...

Today's predicted high of 66 came before breakfast. The tranquility we were told to expect has turned into the low 50s and a stiff wind out of the north. Trusting the meteorologists here is no more wise than at home!

20 June 2006

Shore lunch

Shore lunches are a wonderful tradition here at SFL. Generally, we're given a picnic lunch as we finish breakfast that we take along with us on our adventures. We can sit on the rock of our choice whenever we feel like it and enjoy lunch.

We'd not had a shore lunch yet, since those folks in camp when we arrived were all Housekeeping (cooking for themselves in their cabins) and we couldn't see having all the required work expended in order to put on a shore lunch for just the two of us. Yesterday, though, a group of eight men arrived (two brothers and their sons and sons-in-law) on the American plan. So, today we dined in style at mid-day, complete with available-worldwide white plastic chairs and an array of milk crates and overturned oil buckets topped with boat cushions. No rocks required.

While Liz (in white near the bow of the boat) -- with Tal supervising -- assists in bringing one of five boats ashore,

Noah cooks fish and potatoes.

The resulting feeding frenzy was pretty intense. Tal and I stayed out of the way! In the end no one went hungry and Liz and Noah brought food back to camp. I'm betting on walleye sandwiches in our lunch cooler tomorrow. Yum!

All smiles

Could this possibly be prettier? And, how you wonder could I have written a single word about windy conditions since our arrival on Friday?

This shot was taken from our cabin deck and it's one of the images I have in my head all the time. Ask me about vacation or Shining Falls or even Chickie and Pat and this is what I "see."

These dramatic, puffy clouds, though, require attention. Focus too long on the fishing without taking in the scenery and conditions can go from postcard to panic seemingly in the blink of an eye. Clouds with black undersides close out the blue sky, the wind picks up and we scramble for rain gear. The reverse is true, as well. We also find ourselves, buttoned and zipped into the rain suits, fishing in blinding sunlight.

Either way, it's pretty much all smiles.

A good day fishing

Finally, after two hard days (Saturday and Sunday) dealing with wind and rain, I not only have fish to report, but I have fish to show, as well. This photo was taken in a south bay of Family Lake yesterday (Monday) after Tal had finished catching "our " limit, that being four per person per day. He's happier than he looks,I promise.

This stringer is seven walleyes and one perch. (The perch is the one with the orange belly.) Fishing here is done in 14-foot v-hull boats with 9.9HP Mercury motors. And, fishing for walleye works best when the boat is moving slowly. So, the boat operater trolls backward as slowly at the motor will run. With the wind we've had since we arrived I've found that controlling the boat is about all I can manage -- although I have caught a fair number of fish. They go pretty much undocumented as I'm also the one with the camera. That might sound unfair to some people, but it protects me (and the unsuspecting BLOG reader) from photos of my hat hair!

And why, you might want to ask, am I the boat operator? When we travel long distances, the action of steering with the left hand on the tiller while facing forward aggravates Tal's repaired shoulder. Add to that the relentless bounce on choppy water and he's really miserable.

Plus, I'm learning a new skill and I don't take that lightly. Knowing how to do things ... During my adult life I've been amazed at what people just seem to know how to do -- from drive on snow and ice to firing a side arm. And the list, my list, between that "from" to the "to" is LONG. But, with last year's visit to Shining Falls and this week I can take driving a boat off the list. Just don't ask Tal quite yet how I do when attempting to "park" the boat at our dock on a windy day! Practice is in order, but how much punishment can a boat take?

18 June 2006

Morning prayer at home

I was awakened during the night by the drumming of rain on the roof of our cabin. It was a sound that put me right back to sleep, but not before thinking of the people, "my" people, back home who would gather for morning prayer at Our Saviour this morning. That Tal and I were at church, casually dressed for travel, last Sunday seems strangely long ago. It has been a good week.

Yesterday turned out to be a slow fishing day for everyone in camp -- including Chickie and Pat who took a couple hours off during the afternoon. It was Saturday, after all. That they had trouble finding fish made us feel a bit better. The wind blew hard all day. Just handling the boat and our equipment took most of the energy we had. It didn't rain on us, but traversing the wide bays of the lake left us both soaked. Luckily, we weren't dependent on our own fish in order to have supper, though by the time the supper hour rolled around, I would have been happy with PBJ!

These photos were taken yesterday evening -- before and after supper -- from the porch of the lodge which faces pretty much north. A quick and furious storm approached and passed through and we were left with low sun in the west illuminating the late evening.

This morning the clouds are low, but not solid. The sun plays on the water suddenly and briefly. A group of 8 is waiting to fly out, but the plane at the base in Bissett -- bringing in 6 barrels of diesel fuel as it comes -- headed out this morning, had to turn back and is grounded until the clouds lift a bit.

Morning prayer at Our Saviour. I'm grateful for everyone being willing to carry on in my absence. I'm also grateful to be in this place which reminds me in a pretty overwhelming way that every breath is prayer, if I'll let it be, if I'll simply be mindful of that miraculous way of breathing.

17 June 2006

SFL -- at last

Ah, the falls -- as seen through the Otter's window and an extra sheet of cloudy plexiglass (installed to protect the windows when the aircraft is being used for hauling cargo). In any case a wonderful sight. Actually, there are two falls. The second one is obscured here by the strut.

This is our third year to come to Shining Falls Lodge and my first opportunity to see the falls from the air, other years the air service running late or the weather having been bad. Yesterday Jon came in over the falls, banked hard over the camp, before turning into the east wind to land. With all that going on overhead (remember that engine), Chickie and Pat had plenty of notice of our arrival. They met us on the dock, along with their dogs, Cisco and Walker. It felt like a homecoming!

This is the scene on our deck shortly after our arrival. I'd been inside unpacking our clothing and was delighted by the sight of fishing gear ready for the boat -- which we'd not yet moved to our dock.

Before the first thunderstorm of our stay we'd caught enough fish for supper. As the storm approached -- to Pat's relief, all seven boats that were out at the time returned to camp. He says it demonstrates the good sense of the current group of guests.

9:30 on Friday evening looking south. This probably the first of many sunset photographs I'll post, but I'll try to exercise restraint.

It's 8:30 Saturday morning. Breakfast is over. Time to get out on the water.

16 June 2006

From tires to floats

Here's our transportation from Bissett to Shining Falls Lodge! An Otter, built in 1960. The plus is the 1000HP DC-3 engine installed in 2002. We did the 60 air miles in 32 minutes, becoming airborne at 7:16 and touching down here at 7:48 -- before the folks making the trip out were ready. In the photo below you see the ground crew loading our gear -- Tal and the pilot. I don't want Tal's surgeon to see what he's up to.

And, here's our co-pilot -- the pilot's almost three year-old son, Lain (lee'un). What a childhood he's having! As we drifted away from the dock in Bissett, Jon leaned over to Lain and asked, "ya ready to wake up the whole town?" Is that engine loud!

Tal's ready to go out on the water one more time before bedtime, so I'll resume the story of our adventure tomorrow.

14 June 2006

Weather on I-29

South of Fargo ND looking south

At the same location, looking north

As we attained cruising speed outside Omaha on I-29 shortly before 7AM today, Tal observed that it looked as though we might drive into some bad weather. The sky just had that look ... One hundred miles later, give or take a few miles -- with me now driving -- his prediction came true. What wind and rain! For about 50 miles. And, the easy driving that followed didn't last forever. At the rest stop where I took these photos we traded drivers. Smart girl ... Things eventually cleared and we arrived in Grand Forks in bright sun accompanied by a stiff, steady breeze.

East Grand Forks (in Minnesota -- on the east side of the Red River) provided the treat of the day, where we finally located new Gortex rain gear for me, replacing the 16-year-old (and now leaky) set at a wonderful store named Cabella's. I guess it'll be classified as my anniversary or birthday present, though I'm not sure which quite yet -- since I now understand that the new spinning reel from the Bass Sportsman's Warehouse in St Charles MO will suffice as the other. I'm not complaining; I'm now prepared to enter the wilderness well equipped.

I-29 by the way has to be one of my favorite stretches of road. Basically straight from Omaha to the US/Canada border, it traverses a landscape which I can only describe as comforting -- long views, rich growing land (corn, soy beans, sugar beets), mile-long trains, farm/home complexes surrounded on three sides by windbreaks of hardwood and evergreen, areas of cattle grazing and feed lots. For tens of miles at a time Tal and I were quiet. I could feel myself relaxing. It has to have something to do with the broadness of it all.

Then there's the speed. Don't laugh. The speed limit is 75MPH and the people don't drive much faster than that -- somewhere between 75 and 80. You're not blown off the road the way you are farther south -- and east! -- when your speed is a "mere" 10 miles over the posted limit. Even in areas of construction today (and SD/ND is totally reconstructing stretches of interstate in 12 mile lengths) the speed limit dropped to 65 in areas with four lanes reduced to two.

It has been a good day; tomorrow we'll be in Canada. And now, supper and a walk in the parks along the Red River. Could it get any better than this?

13 June 2006

It's all about the people ...

It's nearly 7PM, we've finished a memorable supper at Rick's Boatyard Cafe on Omaha's riverwalk and the sun is still ablaze high in the sky. Although our distance driving was only about 200 miles, our day in Council Bluffs and Omaha has worn us out! True, we're not as young as we used to be. But, getting off the interstate and having to navigate unfamiliar city terrain also takes a toll. Despite our end-of-the day state, though, we found everything we set out to see -- but did, in the end, have to pick and choose. Half a day can only contain so much. Lewis and Clark was in; railroads and botanical gardens were out. That decision was made while we toured the Western Historic Trails Center (the entrance pictured here). Built into the "safe" side of the levy east of the Missouri River, it features four historic trails -- Lewis & Clark, Mormon, California and Oregon -- which passed through or near Council Bluffs and an amazing amount of detail into the lives of those to walked those trails.

After several hours there, including a long walk from the levy through a grove of huge cottonwoods (which were sending fluff everywhere in a lilting, fanciful way) and a picnic lunch, we made our way to the Lewis & Clark Monument sitting on a high bluff overlooking the river and the Omaha airport. It's a spot offering the visitor both a long-range view and considerable peace, not to mention that it fairly exhudes the power of the long-ago conversations which took place on the site.

In both places the focus was on the people involved -- what they gained, what they lost. Powerful stories all.

12 June 2006

Losing the litter

We've had a terrific day. It started out grey and misty, threatening serious rain, as we approached Nashville at 6:30 (pre-rush hour), but while the day progressed and the terrain changed, so did the weather. The sunglasses through the afternoon were helpful. We've seen so much corn, emerald green, and lots of grain, not quite waving, but definitely golden. And, I'm always drawn to the rivers we cross when we travel. Today, the Cumberland in Nashville, the Ohio at Evanston Indiana, the Wabash between Indiana and Illinous, the Mississippi, and the Missouri, a couple of times since St Charles -- where we stopped in at the Bass Sportsmans' Warehouse (along the lines of an annual pilgrimage for the two of us). We're spending the night slightly north and east of Kansas City on I-435 and have Council Bluffs -- a bit of railroad history and Lewis and Clark -- in our sights for tomorrow.

So far my impressions are muddled. Having started out tired plays a part, I know, so I'm just letting the landscape flow by. The single thing that has struck me, however, may seem trivial. No roadside trash. As we approached Chattanooga yesterday, I realized I was missing something and after sleeping on what it might be, it turns out that's what it was. It seems losing the litter was almost as simple as leaving South Carolina and Georgia. Today seeing trash along the roadside has been rare and jarring. It's such a given in our day-to-day life in SC, saying something sad about what we think of ourselves.

11 June 2006

Light and shadow

This is a shot of a window in the Chapel of the Transfiguration at Kanuga. During the Eucharist before breakfast on the grey, overcast first day of the retreat I was beguiled by the way light came through the window and the way the wood frame bevel was accentuated by shadow. Getting a photograph that in some small way captured the sight became a mission for me.

Nashville by nightfall

Well, actually it's LaVergne -- a crossroads on I-24 east of Nashville. And, we arrived long before nightfall, a straight-through drive of six hours from Trinity Edgefield. Sunday traffic, though heavy, probably saved us hours. Getting from here through Nashville on a Monday morning could be interesting. I am simply overjoyed that we're on our way.

My intention with these entries is keep a diary of our time away and to offer some of the things I think about and work out during this time of leisure away from the everyday. Actually, I'd like to be intentional about such writing regularly. While it's something which crosses my mind rather often, I've not been able to make it a reality. And, I have to add, that since the marvelous experience of the Kanuga photography retreat in early May, I've run into difficulties with BellSouth dial-up. The computer times out before photos will upload. Grrr. July 27th is the big day; DSL is coming to our part of Edgefield County!

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy letting you see a few of the Kanuga photos before I start sending fish pictures ...