Hiking with the Super Moon

When the sun shines, you just gotta get out there and enjoy it.  And when the temps are far warmer than they should be in November, there is no excuse for staying inside.  So although I have not been out hiking around Duluth for ages, I’ve logged four straight days of blissful rambles through our local woods.  I have to credit the weather for that.

My first foray was down Congdon Creek and back with my sister, Susie.  This was our backyard growing up.  We’d play in the woods and follow the creek on a regular basis.  I walked over the huge pipe every day going to Ordean Jr. High.  (You could never do that now!)  And yet, we were amazed by the beauty and extreme scenery that day as we meandered along the creek.  It was flowing faster than could be expected for late fall, and the high rock canyons and waterfalls left us in awe as we crossed and recrossed the river on the new bridges.

I followed that with the trails just below Hawk Ridge, with their outstanding views of Lakeside.  I still can’t quite work out which streets are which from that height, but it doesn’t matter. The lake stretched out in the distance, and the sun brilliantly illuminated the entire scene.  Even closer to home, I walked the Lester-Amity ski trails, delighting in seeing them now free of trees and ready for that first snowfall that signals the start of cross-country ski season.

Superior Hiking Trail mapThose were just warm-ups compared with yesterday’s hike on the Superior Hiking Trail with friend, Beth.  She took me on her favorite hike across West Duluth, which she calls the “greatest hits” for its wide array of natural scenery.  Starting from Highland and Skyline Parkway, we made our way on the Superior Hiking Trail across the ridges high above the St. Louis Bay to Lincoln Park.  For six miles, we walked through beautiful woods, kicked up leaves, scrambled over rocks and embraced the fall scene surrounding us.  Nature had retreated to its pre-winter state, brown and brittle with dry wispy remembrances of blooms past their glory days.  Beautiful in its own way.

Once up on the ridge line, there was more.  Each opening of the trees brought stunning views of the city and shipping lanes below.  It wasn’t hard to marvel over the beauty of the city where we live, and our good fortune in choosing it.City View from SHT 1We started late enough in the afternoon that sunset crept up on us mid-hike.  The blue sky began to pale and the city glowed in the low angle of the sun.City View from SHT 2I was anxious to see the rise of the Super Moon, which is one of the reasons we chose this hike.  We began searching for its debut, peering out over the lake at every opportunity.  It was Beth who first spotted it, low and pink, still reflecting the colors of the sunset in the opposite direction.Super Moon 1That part of the hike was magical.  Every view of the moon was different.  Framed by new scenery.  Taking on more vivid colors.  Peering out at us from its perch in the sky.  I didn’t even care that my good camera and tripod were in the car.  I preferred to see it all live, and snap the occasional haphazard picture with my pocket camera.Super Moon 2All were great hikes.  Restorative and soul enhancing.  But that last bit was extra special.  It’s not every day that you can hike with the Super Moon.

Farewell Towering Pine

It's been almost four weeks since the storm raged through Duluth. Waking in the early morning hours to blinding lightning, constant thunder and howling winds did little to prepare us for the devastation that we would find when dawn came. And even then, we couldn't even imagine the true extent of the damage.

Trees down across driveway

We were among the fortunate. With just three moderate sized trees down in our yard, only our driveway was temporarily blocked. But heartbreak was only a short distance away. Our neighbors lost several venerable old trees, including our very favorite pine tree that dominated the skyline and was perfectly framed in our window. In its place we saw only jagged shards where the trunk had snapped, sending the majestic tree down into the woods below.

Our favorite pine tree

A bike ride around the neighborhood revealed further ruins. Everywhere I looked there were downed trees – in yards, on houses, clobbering fences, blocking streets, dragging down power lines. The strangest site was a tree that had been launched 50 feet across a yard to pierce the roof of the house and exit through the end wall. And yet, the apples on the tree below had its produce blown to the ground in the opposite direction.

That tour was early in the morning, and already people were out working. Neighbors helping neighbors, city crews acting quickly to reopen roads, strangers swapping stories. The camaraderie would continue throughout the lengthy power outage that ensued, as we all learned to cope with being off the grid and generous offers of help came from friends outside the “war zone.”

By now, many of us have returned to life as usual. But the landscape is forever changed, and the massive clean-up effort continues. Sometimes that comes in unusual forms. And I shouldn't have been surprised when our neighbors topped that list. Enterprising, outdoorsy, optimists and just plain good folk, they turned their misfortune into opportunity. She calls it “making lemonade.” He calls it building a sauna.

The big red portable lumber mill appeared on the lawn early in the morning. And so did a couple of operators. Soon the trunk that was once that big old pine tree made it onto the bed of the mill, and the cab passed back and forth turning it into planks and posts. It made for marvelous entertainment as I sipped my morning coffee on our deck.

Next door lumber mill

One of these days, when the sauna heats up and steam releases the pine smell, that giant of a tree will be immortalized. It seems very fitting. For in the process of cutting it into logs, they managed to count its rings. 240. It started growing the very year our country began. I am in awe.

I always knew it was a special tree. I just didn't realize how special. It took a mighty storm with winds over 100 mph to bring it down. I will miss its dominating presence in our window. But I'm glad to live next door to folk who are engineering a way for it to live on. Farewell old towering pine.

 

A Child’s view of the Harbor

Molly and Ben and Vista StarWe all have too many things.  Kids especially do.  So for our grandson’s 6th birthday we chose to give him an experience instead.  Leaving his siblings behind, we took just Ben on the Vista Star tour of the lake and harbor.  For days, he looked forward to it.  And I have to admit, so did I.  There is something special about one-on-one time with a grandchild.

I’d done the tour before.  I’d heard most of the facts, figures and stories from the narrator before as well.  But I saw and heard it all through fresh eyes that day.  Everything becomes new when seen from a child’s point of view.

As always, the tour started with a jaunt out into Lake Superior.  Before we could sail under the bridge we had to wait for a 1000-footer to enter the harbor.  It felt like forever between the time we first saw the bow emerge until its stern finally passed by.  That was one long ore boat.

Molly and Ben on Vista StarBen loves the Aerial Bridge.  So we were mystified that he was anxious about going under it.  The hands firmly planted over his ears and the fear in his eyes soon told us why.  He knew exactly what was coming.  The boat’s loud horn and answering blast from the bridge were indeed ear numbing.  But once we cleared the bridge, Ben could relax and enjoy the ride.

There was plenty of shipping activity that morning, from a ship offloading wind turbine parts to tug boats awaiting a call for help and a classic ore boat taking on its cargo below the ore dock.  All of it of great interest.Tug boatsOre Boat LoadingThe Vista Star itself proved to be fascinating to Ben.  There were so many places to explore, from the top deck to the bow and the “restaurant” inside.  And the best part about grandparents is that they succumb to requests for treats.

Photo Jun 20, 10 49 28 AMBlatnik and Interstate BridgesOne never knows just what a little mind is taking in.  Some of it we gleaned from Ben’s parents later.  Apparently he regaled them with tales of his boat ride all the way home, proving that he did indeed listen to the narration and our explanations!  One highlight was going under the Blatnik Bridge because “it was so cool to look up at it underneath.”  I didn’t even think to look up.  But I may have yet another chance.  I hear that his little sister wants a turn next.

Good Morning, Lakewalk

It’s early but all the regulars are out there.  My morning running ritual takes me down the Lakewalk day after day.   There I enter my world of the familiar.  I know I should vary my routine, and I do work in some hills or head up the shore periodically.  But my feet just naturally lead me to the Lakewalk.

The route is always the same, but the experience never is.  On the grim, cloudy and windy days, I nod to my fellow runners as we pass.  We exchange knowing glances, acknowledging the brutal headwind, the chill of the air.  We share the same rugged determination.  We are out there, no matter what.

Lakewalk Lief Erikson ParkWhen the sun shines and the lake sparkles, our faces reflect the joy of our surroundings.  Our “good morning” exchanges ring out merrily.  Those are the days when the Aerial Bridge beckons irresistibly, drawing me further down the Lakewalk to its terminus in Canal Park.  Ten miles turn into 13.  But it’s worth it.

My trusty companions on the Lakewalk punctuate the miles yet loosen my brain from focusing on the rigors of my run.  Cyclists pass on their way to work, warning me with the sound of their tires or a cheery ring of a bell.  Dog walkers are always good for a “hello” and seem to have only beautiful and well mannered pooches on the end of their leashes.  Fellow runners whiz by in both directions, but usually with a wave of encouragement.

And then there’s Arley.  A fixture on the Lakewalk, his presence brightens anyone’s journey.  I first see him walking, coffee cup in hand striding purposefully at an early hour.  Next, he passes me on his bike, destined for the end of Park Point and back.  White hair flying out from under his cap, always with a chipper greeting for me.  At times he accompanies me on his bike, spinning away the miles with conversation as I run.  When the snow flies, I can count on his having cleared the portion of the Lakewalk adjacent to his house.

Molly and ArleneIt was the Lakewalk that introduced me to a kindred spirit and running friend, Arlene.  Perched on opposite sides of an ice encrusted street, we traded encouragement as we approached.  Our steps slowed to a walk, one greeting led to another and soon we were trading phone numbers to meet up for our next run.  Where else might I meet another passionate running enthusiast and heart-felt friend?  Barely a day goes by that does not find one or the other or both of us treading the Lakewalk.

Admittedly not all Lakewalk encounters are friendly.  Passing through the wooded area just past East High recently, a dark form materialized just ahead.  A tall figure wedged between the fence and a tree turned out to be an upright bear, attempting to scale the fence with his hind claws.  I’m guessing it was the inhabitant of the 36th Avenue culvert, having wandered away from his den.  Passing in a hurry, a quick glace back led me to believe he was perched atop the fence.  I wished I had a camera with me, but perhaps it was better that I didn’t linger.

It was very thoughtful of the City to extend the Lakewalk to our neighborhood just as we moved in.  And the subsequent addition of the tunnel under the highway was equally welcome.  Every morning is a good morning on the Lakewalk.

Winter Resurgence

It seems a strange scene.  I stand in my bare feet and swim suit, peering out into the darkness at 6:15am.  The outside floodlights are on, and they illuminate a world blanketed in white.  I expected the snow.  In fact, it’s the reason for my one-piece lycra apparel.  Assuming it would be too deep for running, I had decided on an alternate workout this morning.  But I hadn’t counted on the landscape now in my field of vision.

Every branch is outlined in white.  The thin boughs are magnified by a fluffy coating of snow much thicker than their own sinewy skeletons.  The woods surrounding our house are no longer a transparent winter veil but a lacy wall enclosing our abode.  I can already picture the Lakewalk rimmed by more ghostly shapes.  It is much too good to miss.

March Snowfall 1Despite the dim predawn light, many have preceded me down the trail.  Footsteps are plentiful, crisscrossed by bicycle tracks and the wide treads of fat tire bikes.  The snow is not as deep as I feared, but the wet fluff lies over a layer of slush.  Messy but not slippery, it makes for slow and arduous progress but poses little danger of falling.March Snowfall 2

The world is silenced by the snowfall.  Footfalls and tire rotations are muted, but faces are glowing.  “Isn’t this beautiful?” seems to be on the lips of all I pass.

I don’t normally take the small bypass in front of the town homes at The Ledges.  But the chance to get closer to the lake draws me down the indistinct path.  My impulse is rewarded, seeing the dry stalks of fall flocked with snow silhouetted against the gray-blue of Lake Superior, and framing the iconic Aerial Bridge.

March Snowfall 3 March Snowfall 4While just yesterday the Lakewalk was perfectly clear for easy running, I have no complaints about this resurgence of winter.  It taught me to seize the moment, change my plans, stop and take pictures.  And best of all, enjoy my surroundings.

March Snowfall 5March Snowfall 6

Seasonal Mix-up

Amity Creek bridgeIs this really November?  Just across the street Amity Creek is roaring, filled to the brim with fast moving water rushing over the rocks on its trip down to Lake Superior.

I love the sound of the waterfall, the natural white noise of nature that I can Trail along Amity Creekhear from our house.  And despite the Amity CreekAmity waterfalls into The Deepsspitting rain, it seems a fine afternoon to walk the trails along Amity Creek following the swollen waters.  Every turn brings a renewed appreciation for the beauty of our neighborhood.  The amazing outdoor wonders that are just outside our door.  The sound of the water fills my ears, drowning out any possible infiltration of human or automobile sounds.  It’s just me and the riverbanks.

And yet, something is amiss here.  This is the time of year the creek should be barely more than a trickle.  I should be looking for ice crystals on the placid thinly coated waters.  Watching my step to avoid slippery patches.  Better yet, gliding over the snow on newly groomed ski trails.

The creek is a pretty good barometer.  There seems to be some kind of confusion in the seasons.  Last spring, the usual daredevil kayakers were stymied by the lack of snow and non-existent run-off.  The creek was so low, none of them dared shoot the falls to plunge into The Deeps. They would love today’s tumultuous waters.

Last I checked, Thanksgiving was still on the calendar for next week.  I just hope I don’t find swimmers at The Deeps when I go for my post-turkey stroll.

Shooting the Moon

There has been a lot of hype about tonight’s supermoon and the lunar eclipse.  Even I was intrigued.  So when Rich headed down to Canal Park to photograph the rising moon, I decided to accompany him.  The decision wasn’t difficult.  It was a beautiful mild evening, very calm and inviting.  Even if I didn’t get any great photos, it would be a pleasant outing.

As soon as we arrived, we noticed another photographer heading for the Lakewalk.  He had a fancy camera atop his high-end tripod that he carried over his shoulder in a rather cavalier manner.  In the other hand, he held a case that could only hold a huge long lens.  It looked like we were in the right spot.

We set up shop near the corner of the Lakewalk and awaited the moon’s arrival.  With two foreign freighters anchored in the lake, we tried to position ourselves so that the moon would rise near one of them.  But we wouldn’t know until it came up.  As we waited, an aura of expectation developed along the Lakewalk.  Nearly everyone sported a camera around the neck.  And the population of tripods rapidly increased along the shoreline.

It was a couple of walkers who ultimately clued us in to the rising moon when I overheard them pointing it out.  It was so faint on the horizon Super Moon 2that we could hardly see it – a light blue orb blending in with the murky distant sky.  And it was in the wrong spot.  Or more accurately, we were.  Hefting our tripods, we rapidly headed closer to the bridge where we could get a better angle.  By the time we moved far enough to capture the moon with one of the ships, the moon was far more distinguishable and took on an orange glow.  Now it was getting more interesting.

Schlepping our gear closer yet to the pier, we found an even better view.  We could combine the moon, the freighter and the lighthouse.  Soon we were synchronizing our snapshots with the flash of the lighthouse’s beacon.Super Moon 3The higher the moon rose, the better its reflection.  By this time we were surrounded by other photography enthusiasts, all enjoying the spectacle.  The camaraderie was infectious, and rather than being competitive there was common rejoicing whenever someone captured an exceptional image.

Super Moon 4Indeed, it was a beautiful night to be shooting the moon.