Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Duluth~Fall Lake~Ely Getaway

I come from a hardy stock. Or at least, I think I do. Even if we dismiss my family - the family that adopted me, my birth family are a bunch of hard workers... doing what they have to do to get the job done and having the capability to switch gears as needed. I was raised to work hard and work harder. Play wasn't a big thing so when I thought about being outdoorsy I would have agreed I was just that. I mowed the yard, biked to my friend's house, played softball, and went to the farm (to mow the lawn, cut wood, and if I was lucky, go to the Apple river or snowmobile, depending on the season). I spent much of my youth outside.

We camped. That one time... maybe it was more, but I only remember camping at the farm, which seems strange to me because the farmhouse was usually available. It also seems strange to me that I can't recall any other camping trips, but I can remember all the super cheap 'mom and pop' type motels we stayed at. My dad seems almost too much of a penny pincher even for those, but I'm guessing it was my step mom who put her foot down on the camping front.

Fast forward many years and I found myself camping with friends a few times, but it was always at a drive up campsite. Nothing wrong with that, but there wasn't anything really rugged about it. It was about that time that I knew I should try this hiking thing that I'd heard about, but wasn't sure where to go or who I could get to go with me. I was sort of fascinated with it, but didn't always get it either. Seriously, it wasn't something we ever talked about growing up so it felt so foreign to me. I mean, if I were to ask my dad to describe hiking, he'd probably say you were just going out for a walk to nowhere, laboring through the woods and over rocks just to come back down.

For all those years that I dreamed of going hiking, I don't think I truly went hiking until I meet my husband. A couple months after we met we went hiking and camping.... as in walk two hours with a 30 lb pack on your back to your campsite. Aha, this is what hiking is. I was 33 and finally had my very own hiking shoes and a partner to hike with.

It was new and exciting and I finally felt like I found my person. Don't get me wrong, I still like a nice soft and warm bed at a hotel, and sitting on a tropical beach doing nothing, but it was clear to me that I found my person who I could go on adventures with.

I recently told Jesse that I'd never been to the Boundary Waters so he set about to fix that. We'd have the kid with us so it wouldn't be some big portaging trip that I'd always heard and dreamed about. I thought those trips sounded so hard, but was told it was worth it and thought I'd have the opportunity one day too.

Jesse booked us a camping spot at Fall Lake, just past Ely for a Saturday to Monday excursion. I'll admit that felt a little wrong. It was the Boundary Waters - we were supposed to spend a week roughing it and just being there with nature, not a short weekend.

I've camped the North Shore multiple times and have been to Ely (dog sledding - totally recommend it), but for some reason I thought there would be something really magically different once we crossed into the BWCA. There wasn't. And it wasn't because it wasn't beautiful and lush, but probably because I'd experienced the surrounding area which was very similar. Plus, we were only there for a short time... as in 24 hours. Yeah, that's right. We drove up Saturday and stopped in Duluth where we ate, and checked out the aquarium before driving down an unnecessarily curvy road to our campsite. Once there, we cooked up more food, played some games, walked down to the beach and playground, before heading to the tent to read (watch a movie for Riley) and then sleep.

These caterpillars were everywhere. Two of them snuck onto my flip flops where I proceeded to squish
them once I stood up (I also killed 2 slugs this way. Yes, it was super gross). I didn't feel too bad once
I discovered that they were the invasive Gypsy Moth. Here the caterpillar feeds off the leftover
hot dog juice that was on the knife. WAY TO GO Jesse - feeding the invasive species.

Part of the reason we picked this campsite was because it had a playground, but Riley had more
fun playing at the beach. Note to self: bring beach toys next time.

So like her dad.

The morning brought me an early walk, a canoe ride for the family, and a ride into Ely where we ate and checked out the International Wolf Center. While there we discovered that it was going to rain harder that we expected that night. It appeared that the storm front had gotten much bigger. My hardy genes always encourage me to stay the path in these situations. "We can do this", I think. "It's just a bit of rain", and perhaps my cheapness (I''ll attribute this trait to my dad) causes me to think we should stay because we already paid for the campsite, dammit. But when Jesse suggested, as he does, that we head home a day early, I folded and said yes. I've pushed him into staying multiple times before and we usually just end up miserable. Riley, being my girl, took it the hardest. Jesse is convinced that he's cursed since it rains whenever we go camping, but I don't buy it since it didn't rain when he camped in South Dakota.

New pups are introduced only every 4 years so it was exciting to visit when they were here.

We went back to the campsite and decided to hike a short trail. I'd encountered it on my early morning walk, but turned around before I got too far. I'd only told Riley I was going for a walk as Jesse was still sleeping and I imagined myself getting lost or worse with no one knowing where I went. When we finally walked the trail I had to laugh since it was so short and pretty much impossible to get lost on. Once done with our last BWCA adventure we packed up the tent and all our belongings and headed back home.

As we drove away from the lakes, and the red pines, the birches, aspens, the turtles, spiders, abundant caterpillars, eagles, cranes, loons, canoes, and the campers (and the moose and the bears and other large animals I did not encounter), I couldn't help but think about how hardy our ancestors had to be to get through these dense forests in the first place.

Before the roads... before the trails, this was just one large thicket of trees. A wall of greenery so dense it would be hard to imagine what you would encounter. Who was that first person who said "I will venture into the unknown to see what lies ahead", "I will be brave when there could be creatures far larger (and with far sharper teeth and claws) than me"?

On our drive up I was reading a National Geographic article on Yellowstone National park. It talked about a lot of things, but perhaps the stories of being mauled by a bear stood out the most to me. Late the night before, I slipped out of the tent to photograph the stars. I was perhaps far too tired and cold to do so, realizing later when I returned to the tent that the pictures didn't turn out because I had my settings wrong, but the bigger issue was that I was scared. All those birds making noises where probably alerting me that a bear or a moose was headed to camp site number 17 to maul it's inhabitants. Even after the birds calmed down, all I could hear were the tiny creatures rustling in the leaves around me. I repeated to myself that they were only chipmunks, but that part of the brain that likes to scare the bejesus out of me took over and told me something else. I gave up and headed toward the safety of the tent.

This doesn't do it remotely the justice it deserves.

The next morning Jesse informed me that he walked down to the lake in the dark with his binoculars to looks the stars while Riley and I were sleeping. He is brave in many ways that I am not.

So perhaps I'm not so hardy after all. I guess that's ok. That fear of bears is there for a reason. It should help prevent my untimely death where I'd become a gourmet dinner for some bear. And those roads have been laid, the trails packed down with enough stories to makes sure they are clear for me and for all of us to enjoy the great BWCA.

The view in front of me on the way home.

The view behind me on the way home. She slept about 95 percent of the ride home.

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