Saturday, August 25, 2007

The things we notice

Hello -

Mom and Dad are still on their canoe trip for a couple more days. Overall the weather they have had has been really nice. There were two days where we had white caps on Gunflint Lake, hopefully Mom and Dad were going with the wind and not against it.

Like many other parts of the state we are in a severe drought. When guests ask me about the water level and if it is "normal" or not, I usually look at the cribbing of the dock before responding. The cribbing is the frame of the dock that has not moved in since it was built. So it gives me a reference point to look at and compare against the water level. Right now the water level is pretty low on the cribbing and we do need more rain. Recently I noticed another interesting permanent marker telling me about the water level in the woods.

The creek between cabins 3 and 1 has been a fixture on the property since the beginning of time (before my earliest memories). This year is the first year that I can ever remember the creek being dried up. There isn't any water going down the creek. If you look closely you can see the soil and rocks are still moist in the center of the dried of creek but you won't see any moving water.

With us in a drought this severe I noticed there is a cedar tree right in front of the lodge that isn't looking very good. It really could use some more rain otherwise we may need to cut it down when it dies in a couple of years. Seeing the cedar tree and intuitively knowing that the tree isn't getting enough water made me think back to a canoe trip I took with my dad.

Back in the summer of 1994 my dad and I went on a canoe trip. The purpose of our trip was a training trip for me as I was going to be guiding guests on canoe trips in the upcoming season. Well after going 8 or 9 portages we realized we had forgotten the map. At that point my dad took it as a challenge to get us through the trip relying on his memory, as he had no intention of turning around to get the map. We made it through the whole trip with only 1 diversion from our original route. During this trip we talked about many things like how to spot portages (portages tend to be at low points on ridges, which would lead to a high likelihood of a stream or creek near by, which would lead us to look for trees that require lots of water, cedar trees require lots of water). Of course there are other visual markers to look for, the most obvious being a brown path leading away from the water, but trees are easier to identify from long distances and sometimes the portages are hidden from your view.

So yesterday I am look at the cedar tree on the edge of our beach and see it isn't doing very well. As I am looking at the tree the trip with my father comes back to me and I remember how much water cedar trees require. The current tree is just far enough from the lake that the roots might not go deep enough to get all of the water it needs and I realized that if we don't start watering the cedar tree we might need to cut it down in a couple of years. It is a sad thought that between the drought and the changing forest we might some day not have cedar trees up here. Slowly they are disapearing.

On that canoe trip with my dad he told me the tribe of Ojibwa Indians across the lake used the cedar tree for many different things. Dad told me that cedar branches, when broken off, are not sticky from the sap or pitch. When the Ojibwa would go check a trap line and would camp in the woods they would break off cedar branches to be used as padding beneath their blankets. The padding was great because it wouldn't stick to their blankets, and the needles on a cedar tree are flat so the needles wouldn't poke through the blanket and into them. My dad also told me that the Native Americans would also use the cedar bough as a type of broom because it smelled good and didn't leave sap behind.

Seeing the cedar tree die is a sign of change because like the Native Americans living across the lake that slowly left the area until they were all gone, the cedar are doing the same slow disapearing act. Now we miss our Indian friends and we try to remember the Ojibwa lessons taught to us. Hopefully my parents saw lots of healthy cedar trees on their canoe trip.


1 comment:

RickO said...

It is funny how things will take us back to a time or place. Lee, when you looked at the distressed cedar it brought you back to a specific canoe trip. When my wife and I stopped in at the Gunflint lodge about a month ago we were instantly taken back to our honeymoon in 1980! We have only been back one other time around 1995 or so, we put our canoe in the water at the public landing and paddled down the shore to have our customary wine, cheese and crackers. What a special place!
We have been fortunate to have spent quite a bit of time in the North Country since then, enough to know this is the area we need to spend more time.
Growing up around Sandstone there just wasn't the time or money to spend either up North. Now that we have built a little more finacial security one would think that we should go to far away and exotic places, no, we are coming north to enjoy the things that mean the most to us. Long evening walks, sunrise, sunset, loons calling, beaver tail slapping, birds twittering, stop to eat wid berries,watch baby ducks look like bobbers,,.. You know, the free stuff!
You also mentioned your sadness concerning the cedar trees and how someday they might be gone from the north country. Change is hard to accept sometimes, My wife spent a lot of time at Split Rock Lighthouse when she was growing up. Her Aunt and Uncle managed it for many years and she would go every summer to spend a week or two with them. Now when we drive by it she is sad that it has had to change so much.