This would be a great weekend to be back up at Sweet Lake. So let’s go back.
I have already shared news about the coyotes. It’s time to move down the food chain to the grouse. (They are more common along the north shore of Lake Superior where some people still have enough immigrant Scandinavian accent to pronounce grouse so it rhymes with “moose.” )
When I first drove the driveway and opened the door of my old Explorer, I spooked a large grouse that when flying through a tight maze of poplar saplings that have grown in the blown down that a storm cleared several years ago. The bird had no problem moving through the thick branches.
The next day, however, I was walking toward the lake on our lot when I scared up the grouse again. This time the grouse was in an area of mature trees and a lot of clear flying. Unfortunately, the grouse flew right into the side of the neighbor’s cabin. I heard a loud whack and saw a stunned ball of feathers tumble down the bank toward the lake. I’m not sure if the bird recovered. I really didn’t want to go find out.
Perhaps the bird was fed up with things.
We have a nice stretch of lake frontage, but most of the land is back off the water. Unfortunately most of the trees back there got blown down about 12 years ago when large storms rolled in from as far away as Minnesota’s Arrowhead and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. These were big storms. Eventually all the blow down in the BWCA fueled fires several years ago; fires like the Ham Lake Fire up along the Gunflint Trail in Minnesota. We avoided fire and only lost a lot of trees which have been replaced by the poplar that Grouse like so much.
I cut through a corner of our back lot onto Sweet Lake Road which seems to have been reconfigured at least twice over the years. It doesn’t run down near the lake like it once did, for example…or maybe we were driving down private roads back in the days when we thought the road did go near the lake. But it doesn’t look open any more. Just a few old cabins at the end of the road. A few nice walk.
Even some wildlife. I saw a few deer and all sorts of birds. My lack of skill at photographing wildlife continues. I took a picture of two deer crossing the road…and take a look.
The problem isn’t as much mine as it is my camera. It does this “click-buzz-click” thing before it actually snaps a picture, just enough time for the deer to bound into the woods and miss the photo. Still…a rather nice shot of the road, don’t you agree?
Just to the west of this spot two trails work into the woods. One of them cuts the back edge of our off-lake property. We acquired this land recently in addition to the lake land we have had for years. The previous owner had placed a sign prohibiting four-wheelers from using the trail. I’m sure the effort was a futile one. Four-wheelers tend to go where they want to go. Not all of them, but enough of them to make enemies with some people. I put up the sign again because I hated seeing the effort to make such a nice sign go wasted.
Down this trail are some nice groves of white and red pine maturing. I am not good at aging trees, but I’ll take a stab at it. I’ll say they are in the 50 year range. Clusters of shrubs that look like alder and hazelnut along with large mats of blueberry and ferns grow here and there. I do need to get my tree book out though and really identify these trees and plants. I knew so much more about these things when I was a kid. Spending too much time in the city can be harmful to your knowledge of the world.
What I might like best about these walks is the scent of the air, especially in the fall. Sweet, woody, earthy and unmistakably fresh. It is a tonic. And near the pines the smell is even sweeter. It is the perfect northwoods scent.
My tour moves back toward the lake and the cabins and homes that are there. An ubiquitous feature you will discover if you spend any time poking around homes in the north country is the back yard tire pile. I’m not sure what it is, but it does seem to be de rigueur that you have a pile of old tires on your property if you live in the rural north. Our neighbors are no exception. In fact they have a deluxe pile. It includes old stuff like an old boat. I don’t feel deprived or jealous, however. When I feel the need, I simply go back and enjoy their pile.
(Here is a tip for you. If you want to know what north country living is like, tune into the Red Green Show on PBS. From what I can tell, they have it covered pretty well. Unless you’re a drinker, which covers a lot of people…they live a more specialized lifestyle. But all like to collect things and toss them in the backyard, some prefer lawn art, others prefer broken machinery…but I swear all have old tires in the mix somewhere.)
My time is up. I gave myself only until noon to complete a post. I do have more photos I want to share so come back later. If necessary I will post with little comment.
- Grouse Stew (notecook.com)