Salvaging Disaster and Making Memories

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Here’s my latest column for the paper. While the particulars are local, the principles are universal methinks….

This evening my family and I returned from a disastrous hiking trip to the Lake County Demonstration Forest, which ultimately was salvaged in the end by ice cream and Lake Superior (our two aces in the hole in such circumstances).

The experience in the forest was predictable in some ways. You’re pretty much asking for problems with bugs when you pick a trail in July that is not only well inland from Lake Superior, but comes in no contact with another body of water. That’s a big “Duh!” on my part.

Adding to the troubles was that the maps for the self-guided interpretive tour at the trailhead were all gone. Later we’d have trouble finding the trail that supposedly takes one past the old Pepperlin homestead, and after the kids and wife dodged kamikaze mosquitoes, horse flies, deer flies, and other flies with some form of elephantitis, we decided to cut bait and take a short loop back to the car. It becomes difficult to think through options when a spouse and kids are antsy about hundreds of flying and biting insects.

We had hoped to pick a few wild berries and even search for frogs on a badly needed family outing, but alas it was not meant to be. Things would pick up quickly for us though. First, driving home with 50+ mosquitoes in the car is actually kind of fun with all the windows open on a gravel road as you drive up and down small hills at 45 miles per hour. But wait, it gets better kids!

Next we hauled out the big guns, and made the obvious choice of dropping by the Two Harbors’ Dairy Queen. Anyone who doesn’t make that choice, given the situation, is either lactose intolerant or completely anti-American. Kids will do anything for ice cream, but the real redeemer of the day was the marvelous Two Harbors waterfront.

I had forgotten how magical the ore docks, breakwater, harbor, and lighthouse area (all within sight and an easy walking distance of each other) really are. We were only there for an hour, but the experience absolutely made our day one for the scrap book.

It started with an enormous laker cautiously jockeying into position to sidle up to the ore docks. The viewer is very close to the action in Two Harbors, and the gritty industrial side of humanity is juxtaposed naturally (almost organically) with the beautiful and wild natural environment to be seen all around. Stunning doesn’t begin to describe it.

Also, the breakwater and ledge rock on the point beyond the lighthouse are reminiscent of Grand Marais, but it’s only a half hour away! The view south toward Duluth is surprisingly wild feeling, which is both enchanting and surprising. Our kids played endlessly in the various pools of water chiseled out of the rock, and the huge smiles melted away any antipathy for the day that still existed.

Returning home for a late supper, we enjoyed a camp fire in the back yard as the grill fired up, and I even pulled out our hillbilly trampoline (an old baby crib mattress). That evening I reminded the kids to never give up on hiking and the outdoors. Some experiences turn out this way, but we must never give up and quit. Push through, and you will inevitably reap the rewards of not giving up (even if that means cutting bait and moving in another direction). At least we were all together enjoying a gorgeous summer day together. These days won’t last forever.

My kids are eight years old. If I could count up the available nice summer weekend days between now and their 18th year, I think I would be shocked at the relative smallness of the number. Lets take Saturdays for example. I have approximately 500 of them left. Only about 125 of these will be summer days. Now remove half for various commitments or bad weather, and I’m left with maybe 60 of them. Put 60 marbles in a jar and remove a marble after each one of these gems. Hopefully too many of these marbles aren’t wasted.ImageHere’s a bonus feature for my few blog readers!

We ended the evening with some jumping on our hillbilly trampoline (an old crib mattress), and a backyard fire….

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