Shooting The Deeps

Timing is everything.  We had just returned home from a trip to the Cities, and before we even finished unpacking we decided to go over to The Deeps on Amity Creek.  We could hear the roar of the water rushing over the falls and rapids due to the spring run-off, and wanted to see it for ourselves.  So we grabbed our cameras and headed over to the creek.

As we got to the end of our driveway, several vehicles passed us carrying multiple kayaks each.  Since the road is closed just above the first bridge of Seven Bridges Road, it could only mean one thing – they were going to kayak on the creek at The Deeps.  Really?  Are they actually planning to go over the falls?  Amazing!  Our pace quickened and we hastened over to the falls.  We passed a number of kayakers walking down from the parking lot. They were checking out the lay of the creek and the volume of the water before committing to kayaking on it.  But in short order, they’d made their decision and were unpacking their gear.  Wow – we couldn’t wait to witness this spectacle!

Sure enough, one at a time they put in just above the footbridge by The Deeps.  They knew what they were doing, sporting helmets and other protective gear, and there were spotters positioned all along the route for safety purposes.  Still, you could never have talked us into doing it!  Shortly after scooting the kayak into the water, they were paddling through the rushing water and heading for the bridge.  They expertly navigated through the boulder-strewn waters and then whoosh!  Over the falls they went!



We each positioned ourselves at spots across from the falls where we tried taking pictures – a tricky proposition in itself.  (Yet nothing in comparison to what those kayakers were doing!)  But eventually the desire to see the action up close drew both Rich and me back to the bridge where we could see it all take place from beginning to heart-stopping end.

IMG_0690After a number of guys had gone down, one of the women worked up her courage and followed suit.  She’s the one in the blue kayak with an orange jacket.  After successfully making it to the bottom, her kayak flipped, and it took several tries to right it.  I just couldn’t imagine being submerged in those icy waters.  Her finish drew cheers from all her IMG_0693comrades, particularly the other women.

Rich took videos of the action. Here is the best one: Kayaking Video

What a thrill to watch!  It was such a surprise adventure.  We had no idea when we set out to shoot pictures of the falls that it was kayakers who would be doing the shooting at The Deeps.

Ice on the way out

Lake ice. It’s been with us so long, far longer than any normal winter. It felt as though it was never going to retreat. But this week I finally saw signs of a thaw, thanks to a trip to the Twin Cities. There the weather is undeniably milder than the Northland. And I admit to being thoroughly enchanted with the rising temperatures, sun that penetrated my exposed skin with its warmth, and the mild breezes. Well, breezes that did not cross lake ice, that is. The latter still felt distinctly polar.

IMG_0634On a bike ride that included circling Medicine Lake, the beginnings of ice-out were distinctly visible. Perhaps it was the long wait that seemed to make it special, but I found the resulting patterns charming. A river developed in the middle of the lake, as the shrinking ice separated and created a channel across the lake. The blue water in contrast with the surrounding ice was a pleasing sight.

IMG_0639Other sections offered open water against the shore. Migrating birds were drawn to the available water making it a great place to watch for species not normally seen in that lake. I’m certain I saw a loon, and numerous ducks paddled the waters.

At the far end of the lake I came to a sudden stop. A mound of snow crossed the bike path, blocking my way. But what was more impressive were the huge piles of snow, ice and boulders that lined the shore. They were not there the day before, and I learned from someone who witnessed it that they were created in 30 seconds flat! Strong winds had been blowing the free lake ice from one side of the lake to the other all day, when all at once something gave way, and it all piled up on shore creating the ice mountains I saw before me. How I wish I’d seen it happen!

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With the warm weather, the lake ice is quickly turning to black ice as it thins out. It’s not nearly as pretty, but I approve of the trend. I’ll sacrifice some photo opps for open water. Now let’s see about that ice Up North – is it on its way out yet?

Happy Trails

Happy trails to you, at Honeywell you’re through,
Happy trails to you, bid Honeywell adieu.
Who cares about the work if you’re retired?
No more will you get calls that keep you wired!
Happy trails to you, Honeywell adieu!

Picture about a dozen folks gatheredDSCN8155 trimmed in D’Amico and Sons, our favorite restaurant, singing lustily to the old Roy Rogers tune. My husband, Rich, is the one riding off into the sunset. It was the evening of his last day of work, heading into retirement after over 28 years with the company. Surrounded by family and a few close friends, he had a broad grin on his face.

DSCN8171 trimmedIt was a fitting celebration, with old memories, silly gifts, roasts and toasts. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to write a “little poem,” my favorite way to deliver a tribute. Okay, so it was 132 lines long. But there was a lot to cover in 28 years. Rich trotted out some memorabilia of his own, including his performance appraisals from 12 years ago. The kids got a kick out of reading the sections on “where you can improve.”

DSCN8184 trimmedOur daughter, Karen, came through with her cake-decorating prowess. This time it was literally a “trail” cake, with a winding path around the outside of the cake, and a toy bike for Rich to ride away. Not only was it pretty, but it tasted delicious – spice cake with raspberry filling. Mmmm. After much admiration, it was rapidly consumed. I was so glad I had delegated that job to her!

With the festivities over, we are now entering a new era – retirement together. For now that will include plenty of time on the trails. With two long distance bike trips totaling 2,500 total miles, we have plenty to keep us occupied. One is our Upper Mississippi River Tour, coming up in just over two weeks. The other is the what Rich is calling his “long belated college graduation trip” in the Maritime provinces of Canada. That’s the biggie, at about 2,000 miles over two months later in the summer. Happy Trails indeed!IMG_9884 trimmed

Never Say Never

I said I was done skiing for the season.  I even put my boots away.  But when I went out for a walk to take pictures of the deep new snow early this morning, and found myself shoveling the sidewalk just to prolong my time outside, I knew I was going to renege on that statement.

My inspiration was Rich’s “epic ski” last week.  Taking advantage of the road closings for building the Lakewalk tunnel, he was able to ski from home down to Brighton Beach and on up the Scenic Highway to the pumping station.  I was so envious!  So I set out to recreate his journey.

My timing was perfect – the sun began to emerge just as I set out, which greatly enhanced the scenery.  The snow was still firm and not yet slushy, and few cars had ventured down the unplowed roads on my route.  Lake Superior picked up the blue hues of the clearing sky, and big rollers brought waves splashing up onto the rocks on the shoreline.  The views were glorious.

My revery was abruptly interrupted upon reaching the Scenic Highway to find it neatly plowed down to the pavement.  The detours had been changed, and so were my plans.  But it wasn’t the kind of day for disappointment.  Brighton Beach was every bit as entrancing on my return trip.

By then I was on a roll.  So I stretched my return trip to take in the Lester-Amity ski trails.  The city has long since stopped grooming the ski trails, but earlier skiers had generously left good classic tracks for me to follow.  When those ended, I did my share by tracking the next loop of the system.  The trees were heavily laden with snow, bending deeply over the trail and occasionally snapping under the weight.  Even at this late stage of spring, I had to admit it was a winter wonderland.

I’m glad my resolve didn’t hold.  Just see what I would have missed!

[Click on any photo to view as a slideshow.]

Upper Mississippi River Cycing Tour – one month countdown

It didn’t seem like a stretch at all.  Planning a cycling tour for mid-May left plenty of time for training beforehand.  Or so we thought.  After all, by this time last year I had already logged over 500 miles on my bike, and I was a novice to boot.  But we didn’t figure in the fickle behavior of Mother Nature.  Last year was an incredibly early spring.  This year is the winter that won’t quit.  Indeed, as I write, snow is steadily falling outside and is likely to accumulate enough to make this the snowiest April in Duluth.  Ever.

It’s not like we can delay the trip.  The timing of this Tour was very deliberate.  It was intended to commemorate our 30th wedding anniversary.   Most people might plan a romantic getaway for the occasion.  But we’ve never exactly been mainstream…  we’ll be spending the night of our anniversary in a tent!  We will have other nights to spend in comparative splendor, as we sprinkled in a few modest motels along the route.  And we have a proper celebration awaiting us at the finish.  Our tour ends at the home of our daughter and son-in-law, who will be hosting a family BBQ in honor of our anniversary upon our arrival.

There is little chance that the purpose of our trip will escape any casual observers who happen to see us cycling by.  Rich takes great pride in designing eye-catching custom jerseys for our trips.  The shirts speak for themselves.

So exactly one month from today we will push off and start cycling.  We may be training en route, if this winter keeps up. But I’m not worried.  With a winter of steady cross-country skiing to keep us fit and our previous Trans-Superior Cycling Tour under our belts for experience, I’m confident that we will manage just fine.  After all, we’ve weathered 30 years together.  What’s another week on bicycles?

Hungry Deer

I’m not the only one wishing spring would arrive.  I’m sure the deer share my sentiments.

We didn’t see much of them in the thick of the snow season.  The deep snow in our yard deterred them from following their usual paths past our house.  But now that the snow is compacting with the warmer temperatures, they have begun frequenting this territory again.

Last summer a doe and her two fawns were regular visitors in our yard.  It was a delight to watch the youngsters with their white spots, and see them grow throughout the year.  The highlight came when we saw the mother deer nursing the two fawns, just down the hill a few feet away from where we were sitting on the deck.  It was Mother Nature at its best.

IMG_0609 trimmed 2Today they returned.  Or we’re pretty sure it’s them.  And they are hungry.  We’ve noticed that the woody plants sticking up through the snow in our garden have been decapitated.  And today they came to investigate the bird feeders.

Early on, we learned that deer could empty a bird feeder overnight.  WeIMG_0617 trimmed went through several varieties and models – and a lot of birdseed – in the process of trying to outsmart them.  My husband, Rich, takes this task very seriously.  Having developed a fairly deer-proof system, he is now tackling the squirrel challenge.  But that’s another story.IMG_0618 trimmed

This afternoon, while Mom was on the lookout (staring right at me, through the window), the fawns tried their best with the bird feeders.  I don’t think they gained more than a few sunflower seeds, but it was entertaining to watch.

I’m sure the deer are just waiting for the tasty treats to emerge from the ground in our garden.  Normally, I’d be upset just thinking about the damage they can wreak.  But right now I’m right there with them, willing the snow to disappear.

Minnesota Spring

No cherry blossoms here.  The only things blooming are the plants on my kitchen island.  Including the poinsettia that still retains its brilliant red leaves.  Perhaps it’s a sign.  Winter has not given up her grip on Minnesota yet.

IMG_9819I can now claim have been cross-country skiing in April.  It’s a distinction I do not need to make for May.  This morning I traded my skis for snowshoes – they seemed better suited to the deep, wet snow.  Another first.  Tramping through the soft, unblemished snow in the woods along Amity Creek was peaceful, but had lost some of its appeal.  Something about the calendar…

IMG_9823We had such high hopes for spring just a few weeks ago.  Sitting in the Adirondack chairs on the deck in the sun it was easy to believe in warmth and a thaw.  I was sure it was the start of a good trend.  We even discussed what wildflowers we wanted to sow in our yard.  I won’t be rushing out to buy seeds any time soon.

IMG_9818Amity Creek broke through its icy prison a little while back.  We welcomed the return of the water’s roar as it flowed over the rocks with renewed gusto – white noise that we enjoy hearing from our open windows.  Today I could barely distinguish the waterfall at The Deeps through the frosty trees in the foreground.

Minnesota has its own unique flavor of spring.  Just this once, I wouldn’t mind being a bit more mainstream.

Visiting Daloof

As we neared the top of Thompson Hill, my daughter, Karen, announced to her children, “We’re almost to Duluth!”  Even at the tender age of almost-three, Ben knew what that meant.  He looked out the window of the car as the harbor came into view, and said, “Oh, Daloof!  There is the big bridge!”  I have no idea which bridge he was looking at – Bong, Blatnick or Aerial.  It didn’t matter, his perspective brought them all into focus for me, as I enjoyed each of them with new appreciation.  And over the next few days during their visit, I would see all the sights through his eyes.

IMG_9786No visit is complete without a trip to Brighton Beach.  Most kids probably think a beach means sand.  Not Ben.  He loves the rocks there, and rearranges them each time we go.  This trip, the ice prevent us from throwing the rocks into the water.  No matter, throwing them onto ice worked just as well.

Lake Superior was never far from our sight.  Like any good Duluthian, Ben could appreciate the Big Lake.  When asked what lake that was, his response was “Blue.”  Ben and I definitely agree on that one.

Hard as we tried, we could not make it to Canal Park when a boat was coming through the bridge.  Such is the reality of life with toddlers.  Someone was always napping or eating when the boats were due to arrive.  But we went anyway.   We walked along the pier under the bridge, thinking Ben would enjoy seeing the cars go overhead.  He was less amused than we were, but the puddles were to his liking.


Karen and I slipped out for a run along the Lakewalk one morning, leaving Grandpa in charge of the kids.  We happened to catch the now-famous black bear sleepily meandering beyondIMG_9791 his hibernation spot in the culvert.  We brought the kids back later in the day to see Mr. Bear.  He was lazily resting in the sun, but even that was a bit threatening to Ben.  He was right – that was a wild animal there, just beyond a meager fence.  He had a healthier attitude toward the bear than most of the gawking adults gathered there.

I’m looking forward to Ben’s next visit to Daloof.  I can think of lots more sights I’d like him to show me.

Capital Delights

Washington DC.  I’ve lived there for a summer as a young intern, visited as a tourist multiple times, and traveled there on business trips.  It’s a place that never ceases to be fun and interesting.  This visit orchestrated by my son, Carl, who now lives and works there, was no exception.

The calendar said it was springtime, the brilliant sunshine was very convincing and became increasingly warm over the weekend.  It just wasn’t quite enough to entice the cherry blossoms into full bloom.  But we still circled the Tidal Basin with the other blossom seekers, enjoying the spectacle and snapping photos of the same few trees with the most blooms.  Since we hadn’t counted on catching them at their peak, seeing any at all was gravy.  And there were plenty of other flowerPhoto Apr 06, 8 46 10 AMing trees and flowers around town to feed our yearning for spring color.

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I love how DC is so walkable.  On our circuit around the Tidal Basin we took in the surrounding memorials, including the new Martin Luther King Memorial.  From there it was a natural to continue on to the reflecting pool and the sights that surround it.  It was a day on which it was easy to linger and savor the flavor of the monuments.Photo Apr 06, 11 11 20 AMPhoto Apr 06, 11 04 20 AM

It was inevitable that we would eventually end up on the Mall.  Who can resist visiting a few of the Smithsonian Museums, wandering through the sculpture gardens, and just taking in all the activity?  And I’ll even admit to lying on the grass in the warm afternoon sun, resting after a long day of walking.  It felt sooo good.

IPhoto Apr 07, 4 10 27 PM thoroughly enjoyed seeing Carl’s personal piece of DC.  Visiting his workplace, walking his daily commute together, eating at a few of his regular spots, staying at his apartment and getting to know the eclectic neighborhood where he lives was a treat for this Mom.  I even began to recognize the telltale colorful buildings when we approached his street.

From there it was only a short distance to the National Zoological Park, which we easily covered on bicycle and spent a relaxed afternoon meandering outside among the zoo’s exhibits, enjoying the animals and laughing at their antics.

Our final day was actually an escape from DC.  We drove up to Shenandoah National Park and followed Skyline Drive.  By nature, it is a leisurely drive on the twisty, winding road with abundant overlooks.  We stopped frequently to admire the view, and went on two hikes.  The best part was reaching the rocky outcroppings that afforded sweeping views of the valleys below and distant ridgelines.  Despite the fact that spring was far behind and we crossed patches of snow on the trail, we relished being outdoors and active.  Oh yes, and the sunshine.  It was the perfect finale to our weekend together.

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I can’t imagine a more delightful way to do DC.  Thank you, Carl!

One-on-One Time

IMG_9523 trimmedThere was nothing special about the Christmas gift.  Sitting under the tree wrapped in holiday paper, it bore no clue to its contents.  Even when opened, the true nature of the gift was not immediately apparent – what would I want with a model airplane?  It was only when I read the enclosed note that its true nature was revealed – I was going to Washington DC!

This was my Christmas and birthday gift from our middle child, Carl.  I was to spend a weekend with him in DC where he now lives and works, all planned, arranged and paid by Carl.  Suddenly, that little airplane meant a whole lot to me – I could not imagine a more thoughtful and personal gift.

Fast forward three months.  Tickets have been purchased, instructions issued for taking the train into DC, and weather forecasts consulted.  We chose early April hoping that spring would have arrived, and on the outside chance that we would catch the cherry blossoms at their peak.  In contrast to Minnesota’s prolonged winter, the 60-degree temperatures in DC look springy to me, and the current Official National Park Service Prediction for peak cherry blossoms is April 3-6.  Since I’m due to be there April 5-7, I’d say we nailed it!

But beyond the sights, the museums, the monuments and the cherry blossoms is the opportunity to spend a weekend with my son.  What a blessing, to have adult children that I enjoy spending time with, and visa versa.  That one-on-one time is priceless.

See you tomorrow, Carl!