Monday, May 14, 2012

Notes From the Field -- On the Road

You’re right, this isn’t Thursday.

But by then I’ll be hard by the lake in territory that’s as remote as any along the south shore, made famous in literature first by Ernest Hemingway and later by Jim Harrison. Better by Harrison I think, as Hemingway was too concerned with making himself the World’s Greatest Living Writer, as he explicitly was with his ‘Nick Adams’ stories. Anyway, this writer’s ability to access the Great Grid while traveling this storied region remains an open question, especially as services there aren’t quite “Open for the Season”.

The past winter on the basin never was what it’s supposed to be, though perversely it managed to hold tough until May, which is about right for most years.

There wasn’t a single day with ice on the big lake sufficient for a trek out to the ice caves of Cornucopia, which was planned as the cornerstone for my winter’s fieldwork. That’s a desultory thing, but any lack of opportunity on my part is insignificant when compared to the wholesale cost of a mild Northwoods winter. When a lake doesn’t freeze, it evaporates all year long. Superior is meant to be sheathed in ice for months on end and it hasn't been that, not for some years now.

I’ve been on the Range for three days. I like to start on home turf, to get my bearings. It’s amazing just how drastically things have changed over the three weeks since I turned tail and ran home in the face of recalcitrant winter. The rumor of apple blossoms that brought me in April remains a rumor, only this time they’ve come and mostly gone in the blink of a seasonal eye. The woods that in April were still asleep aren’t only now wide awake, they’re quickly gathering the green veil of summer to obscure what’s held within.

I turned my back for but a moment and spring exploded.

It’s a good year for Marsh Marigolds:

And the best year I’ve seen for Trillium:

Early this morning I drove up County 519 to visit with my river and do a little fishing, all work and no play and all that. The river was low but heavy. In good shape, I thought.

Yeah, we’ve seen this before, but not in spring

While there I kept company with an immature eagle, who hadn’t quite earned his white feathers. The bird hunted the same water with the same results as I, which was nada, zilch, nothing and so it goes. For a little while he sat perched atop a tree across the river and struggled mightily to keep his grip on a slender branch waving in a freshening breeze out from the west. I let him go unmolested. Sometimes, you have to just look and not work; else you see things only through the lens of your ambition and that ain’t the real world. A notion Hemingway might have profited from...

Eventually the eagle flew off in search of breakfast. I took the clue and did the same.

Imagine my surprise when I got back to the South Boundary Road and found a barrier erected in the interim. “Road Closed 2.5 mi” it read. I drove around it and sure enough, in 2.5 there was an impassible barrier and down a piece from that, heavy equipment completely blocked the way.

I’d noticed that trees along 519 had been marked for cutting, step one in widening a road. It was also plain that work crews had been pickin’ around the culverts that run beneath it, but there was no signage when I drove in. If there’d been any hint I’d have demurred, as what ought to have been an easy jaunt of 17 miles to breakfast turned into a 70 mile drive back home in time for lunch.

Funny sort of business, all this work for a mine whose permits aren’t yet let. Sure hope the State got Orvana to pony up their minority split of that heralded “public private partnership” in advance. And if the “bonus” to the ruination of a splendidly scenic drive is gonna be a spiffy new road for the convenience of future travelers, then you’d like to think Orvana’s lackeys in the Gogebic County Road commission would pay better mind to said convenience of travelers today with a little handy signage strategically mounted in advance.

And so it goes. We’ll see a whole lot more of this sort of thing along the way, past & present. It didn’t ruin the day, as it was along the South Boundary road that I found the most robust field of Trillium I’ve ever seen.

Which tells us the season of darkness is well & truly over. Winter is gone now even from our rear view mirror and (with the exception of 519) we can hope the road ahead is clear.

So let’s get back on it. Seatbelts strictly optional for everyone but me.

See ‘ya again on Thursday. Or maybe not…

1 comment:

  1. Oh, thanks, Frank! I needed to hear that river this morning. xxoononnie