Storm Approaches


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Winter Storm Approaches

The Week's Weather Journal.

"...when we don't live with birds or weather or waves we lose the opportunity to think hard about ourselves, to discover from nature important facts about human nature."
(excerpted from Nancy Lord's, Fishcamp)

The Week Of April 5, 1998


The colors today are those of this page. The now soft sand of the beach is the color of the brown upon which these words are written. The pines and fir are the green of the words themselves. The waters of the harbor and lake, bathed in the bright sun and reflecting the blue of a cloudless sky, are mindful of the blue Sunday that just caught my eye. It is a gorgeous Harbor day! The cool wind from the east prompts a snug jacket and justifies a sweet smelling fire in the fireplace, but the ever-higher sun warms the south face of camp. The front door is left open for the first time of the still young year. The air that enters is cool but oh so fresh! It's Early April…no snow, greening lawns, dry trails, perennials emerging from the softening and warming earth. Could this be Keweenaw? I ponder this for only a moment. Trails beckon, so the wonderdog and I muster our four good legs and head out. The Harbor is suddenly alive….lots of cars on M-26 and trucks bouncing along the snowless snowmobile trails. We hobble along the empty beach, Abby happily chasing the gulls and geese while I engage in a favorite pastime…watching waves. I feel strengthened by the experience so we move on….heading for Lake Eliza. As we enter the protection of the woods, the cooling wind disappears. It's much warmer, perhaps 60 degrees. I open my jacket. We travel along the ski trail. The ground is soft underfoot; the air carries a soft hint of warming earth and budding underbrush. The firs, especially the balsam, seem suddenly greener. The light green of early spring, like mint. We arrive at the Eliza dam. About three inches of water cascading over the spillway. It drops into the foaming downstream creek. The noise is like that of thunder. I sit upon the concrete wall, legs good and bad dangling over the churning water. An apple satisfies a tinge of hunger while the wonderdog wanders in the creek, searching for who knows what. On the way back we encounter some folks inspecting the land upon which our trail is located. They advise that a meeting Monday with Lake Superior Land Company will hopefully result in their purchase of the land. I weep at the prospect. I'm sure they are nice folks and will be good neighbors, but, my god, the land adjacent to Eliza, especially around the dam, has been a favorite hiking and picnicking site for generations of Harbor families. What a loss!!!


Another good thing about the stout Wall Street sure is good for starting fireplace fires. Much better than the flimsy Mining Gazette. Starting and keeping a fire going has become a real challenge. As I dig out the last few logs from what was a full three cord pile, I am encountering some aged, almost petrified, logs that have served as pile base logs for several years. They are defiant when exposed to fire. I reluctantly, because of the chimney fire potential, add to that the few remaining still green "road kill" pickings of last summer. These are the pieces of popular and birch left by roadside clearing crews. The combination pops and simmers a bit when exposed to the hot fire of a few end cuts gathered from the waste pile at Horner Flooring, but soon fades. I keep giving it Horner fixes to keep it going. I also give it a lot of the bellows treatment, an activity that's on my cardiologist's "don't do" list. Irksome!! I'm awaiting a new hardwood delivery from a new source, but being the Keweenaw, who knows when, or if, it will arrive. It's another of those "truck loads", size of truck and/or cordage seemingly undeterminable. I'm changing woodcutters because my long time cutter has been delivering still green wood and far too many rounds the past few years. In all fairness, the local cutters are finding it much more difficult to gather wood. Champion has greatly restricted their access to forest lands and even with access they are finding that the cutting practices of Champion supervised woodcuts leave little salvage. As a result, our firewood costs are going up dramatically. I paid $180 for four splits (one-and-one- third full cords) last summer. Demand is probably up as well as more of us spend the winters here (although, at least in Eagle Harbor, there seemed to be fewer this year.) We also have more three season big camps being built. and they each require a big fireplace woodpile. I would relish the chance to once again gather my own wood; to experience the joy of being in the woods, working up a good sweat cutting and hauling wood, and returning to camp with a sense of real accomplishment to a cooling brew. For now, at least, that's out of the question….at least the working in the woods bit!


As I write in this Journal early each morn, I sometimes wonder if anyone is looking over my shoulder to read, and perhaps ponder, the words that flow across the page. I've kept journals for years, but only with the advent of the Harbor Web have I engaged in journal writing that might encounter someone other than myself. As I activate the little "send" arrow on the FTP connection to, and watch the transfer of the daily Journal entry into the ether of the Internet, I often think, "My gosh, I've just bared my soul to anyone in the world with an internet connection." That thought often sends my finger searching for the "undo" key. My consolation is the perception, probably the reality, that few, if any, screens, or their operators, will likely be hampered by my ramblings. It is, therefore, always a surprise when an email arrives from someone who has obviously stumbled upon the Journal. This week, Elaine from Texas writes to share her distress with the Journal report of the prospect of "Private property, keep out" signs at Eliza; Mike from Iowa wants to know what bait the Marina wall fishermen are using to catch the steelheads and "how fast the action is"; and Bill from the Carolinas advises that any good Eagle Harbor type should be able to temporarily replenish a woodpile with a little dead-of-night "procurement". A few such messages arrive each week. I don't know if they are the iceberg or its tip. Marilynn from California and Nancy from the Harbor have reported that they check the Journal often, Marilynn once describing it as her Eagle Harbor "soap". Could it be that more people are looking over my shoulder than I think? It IS satisfying to know that, for whatever reason, the Journal somehow keeps Harbor people connected with the place and neighbors we cherish. Even if it didn't, I'd probably ramble on anyway….I just enjoy journal writing.


Emboldened by our jaunt to Eliza on Sunday last, Abby and I today set our sights on the Marina. Half-hearted clouds of the past few days moved to the east, leaving in their wake a pale blue sky, remindful of the light blue of tinted Easter Eggs. The air is the temperature any air would be after being carried by a brisk northeast wind across over 100 miles of 36 degree Lake Superior surface - cold! The lake horizon is sharp and downbound lakers twelve to fifteen miles distant seem close, both sure signs that the air is purged of all moisture and land sourced contaminants. I breath the air, sensing its freshness, but unable to describe the sensation. Is it taste? There is none. Is it smell? Today, even the smell is absent. No touch, nothing to see! It's pure, a purity that only those who live downwind of large, cold freshwater seas, or atop bare mountain ranges can relish. My lungs, pumping heavily as deep breathing born of recent inactivity accompanies my hobbled walk, are filled with this Superior gift. There is a slight stimulating chill deep within my chest, a satisfying sensation of inner freshness. I turn from the wind and face the warming sun. A warmth creeps across my face and down inside my jacket. The body warms but the inner air borne coolness persists. I experience for one brief, wonderful moment the essence of what prompts those of us who live downwind of the Lake on days such as this to exclaim, "God, how good the air feels today!"


The wingless "snowbirds" are beginning to return. Bob and Sue King, always among the first, arrived a week ago. A few other, as yet unconfirmed, en route sightings have been reported. The "quick flight" flock is also returning: Bob and Alice Black and Don and Barb Koop after a late winter(?) sojourn out west, John and Nancy Wakemen are returning this weekend from a couple weeks in Florida...and on and on. My email is alive with messages from Harborites reporting they will be here "soon". Yes, the juices are running….the place is awakening from its winter slumber. It's an exciting time for those of us who have been sharing the Friday evening table at the Inn these many months. Those who return ask, "What's new", and are neither surprised nor disappointed when we report, "Nothing". Actually, there is something new…the lake level is down! How's that for excitement? Indeed, the "nothing" is the charm of the place. A lifelong summer visitor, who "off season" lives, works and prospers in a culture of "change is good", recently told me, "I can only accept that because I have Eagle Harbor, which didn't ever change much from the time I was born." Of course, the people change…but slowly. A generation dies, a new generation takes its place. A new house pops up here and there, and their proud owners join our ranks, but even they seem like old friends because we soon learn that we share something unique…. love for the Harbor and its Keweenaw setting. For me, and I expect most of my winter neighbors, the spring and summer return of Harbor friends, new and old, is the best assurance that all is well, all is good…. that what truly makes the Harbor special has not changed.


This is a "hang the wash outdoors" day. I noticed several such "hangings" on my way uptown for groceries and the ritual trip to Ace Hardware. Pretty darn cool at daybreak, about 25 degrees, but by mid-afternoon a pleasant 55 or so at the Harbor. Noticeably warmer up the hill. Little wind, so a good day just to stand out in the sun and watch the sunlight sparkling on the harbor surface. My life is not too complicated. The DNR boat launch ramp is now installed at the marina and several fishertypes are trolling along the reefs that guard the harbor. Fishing reports are upbeat. My new firewood supplier calls to advise the only wood he has is green. I say "no thanks" and thank him for his honesty. Good neighbor Bruce Olson arrives with a pickup load of nice dry oak to tide me over. I see some folks strolling about, apparently the vanguard of family and friends arriving for the Easter weekend. Our El Nino early spring has also enticed some uptown folks with Harbor camps to open them up. The tap-tap of hammers and the buzz of saws repairing the usual winter storm damage, this year mostly wind damage, now join the chorus of gulls and crows. There is little evidence of winter….just a scattering of ice hanging on the north facing of shoreline rock and a few rapidly shrinking windrows of snow hiding in the shadow of woodland ridges. It seems very strange. Mid April and winter is over. I wonder if within a lifetime I will witness the likes of this again.


This is a day to stand in the lee of a building and soak in the warm sun. A brisk northwest wind reminds us that the lake may be ice-free, but its waters are pretty darn cold. The recently reinstalled NOAA weather buoys are reporting water surface temperatures in the mid thirties. What appear to be three or four carloads of Calumet high school kids are gathered together on the warm beach sand near Eliza Creek, an early spring ritual that probably goes back several generations. The marina wall is lined with down jacketed luckless fisherpersons, seemingly content with feeling the warm sun on their faces and enjoying the freshness of an early spring day. Abby joins a rag tag collection of visiting canines for a romp about the marina property. No boats yet at the Eagle Harbor Yacht Club, but several camps now have boats pulled from winter storage parked on trailers in their yards, being readied for launch. My birding skills are minimal, but I at least know the bird songs that now fill the air are not the offerings of gulls and crows. Buds are appearing on everything growing from the ground, but cold nights and probable uncertainty about whether spring is actually here, are keeping the blooming in check. The ridges stacked behind the harbor retain the musky dark green of spruce and cedar and dusky gray/brown of barren deciduous in winter, although there is now just a hint of the greening that will soon flourish. The first full moon of spring, the date setter for Easter (first Sunday after), reflects sufficient sunlight to forestall the darkness of night, yet not enough to retain the brightening colors of spring. The night landscape returns to the gray, shadowless monochrome of winter. As the evening wanes, the wind begins to back to the west and then to the south, usually a sure sign of first warmer, then unsettled weather. Lets hope that for the our many Easter weekend visitors, the unsettled part holds off until Monday.

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