Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter on the North Shore

I think one of my favorite weekend winter trips is exploring the North Shore and the creeks that run to the lake.  I've done it twice now.  The first time in Feb. 08 the weather was fierce...high wind and sub zero temps.  Not a soul out. Survival mode in the wilderness.  This year though I was hoping for stormy weather and crashing waves,  it was dead calm, sunny and warm and I shared the wilderness with others.  I headed north at 5am Saturday morning with my new camera lens already to play.

 On a whim I stopped at the mouth of the Lester River to see what the lens could do.  Walking out I looked down and immediately saw a rose in a rock. It was going to be a great day.  My destination was the Split Rock River.  When I arrived the mood was crystal still.  Absolute silence. Perfect reflections in the lake. A day that heals and feeds the soul.  I strapped on my snowshoes and loaded my telemark down hill skis on my pack along with my camera equipment and started the hike. Having never snowshoed before I got into the rhythm right away. It's easy to pick up and a good workout.  I took my time photographing as I went.  I came across a wolf killed deer to remind me I'm not the only one out here.

  When I reached the top I stopped and had a snack and pondered my idea of using my long and fast telemark skis to come back down on little snow cover. Ah well what's the worst that can happen?  The first thing I learned is your center of gravity changes dramatically when you have packed everything but the kitchen sink in your pack.  I walked a few places and was only on my butt once but the trip down went very, very fast.  I enjoyed an Extra Special Bitter in the parking lot at the bottom and planned my next move up the shore.  I didn't drive far when I turned into the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.  Again the stillness enveloped me as I walked the shoreline. Deer browsing in the woods. Not a whisper of wind. The beauty I hoped to find in a storm was replaced with the beauty of the opposite.  Two moods intensely beautiful but yet they touch you so differently. I just surrendered to the peace.

  Evening was spent with my friend Joi.  I can say Joi has become my mentor in returning me back to my artistic self.  I learn so much when I'm with her.  We ate dinner at a nice restaurant whose owner covers the walls in his own photography. He still uses 35mm film cameras and the results are incredible!!  I will definitely be trying out some of his techniques.  Of course he didn't disclose his secrets...but Joi did.

  Day two started before dawn.  Breakfast with Joi and then I was off up the Shore.  My first stop was the Onion River.  It's just a short walk to Tears for Fears drop. Winter scouting the rapids brings back memories and inspires dreams of things to come.  As I looked up the drop I am still amazed that anyone runs this drop. But they do...I was there when John and Chris ran it.  My next stop was the Cascade.  Raw beauty and incredibly drops.  Then on to my favorite hike of them all.  The Kadunce River.  I've hiked it in the summer and twice now in the winter. I hope to be able to run it this spring.  For the most part there is only one line down as the walls are narrower than your boat. I followed many footprints up the creek until the falls in the cavern.  There is more water running through right now and to get past the falls you needed tools and crampons. After I climbed that fall my footprints were the only ones...for a while. Closer to the top people were able to come down the river. Back at the truck I had lunch and just enjoyed the lake.  Thin ice pushed up like broken glass reflecting sparkling sunlight. Still blue waters out beyond the ice. For some reason I was pulled to the lake a bit more than the rivers this trip.

  I decided to head up to see the Witch Tree in Grand Portage. Joi had given me great directions as they don't have signs or any indication on how to get there.  The trail in was hardly used in the winter. As you approach the forest changes.  Hanging moss covers the pines and with the sunlight slanting through it gave the appearance of walking through an Enchanted Forest.  Unique colors blended together.  The tree was everything I expected. Perseverance on a brutal coast.  It's lived a long time in the harshest of conditions yet when you look at it you see only the beauty.

Well here I was looking at the Canadian border and I knew I had only enough time to do one more river.  I opted to do the Devil Track. I hadn't used my XC skis once yet this trip and flipped a coin to determine skis or crampons.  Crampons won and I was glad as snow was scarce and there was a lot of nice ice.  I walked to Nightfall and a bit beyond but darkness comes fast in that deep canyon. Always incredible to see. I can only imagine how incredible it is to run in the spring.  Back in my truck I made one stop at the Java Moose in Grand Marais and headed south. I drove into my driveway at 10pm.  End of another winter North Shore weekend. Click on any photo to enlarge it.


Ron said...

Great photos Nora .. I'll be making a run up the North Shore in early April. Can't wait!

Joi said...

always a pleasure to see you, next time I'll be trying to keep up with you....great pix, no go shoot the
Just Joi

Joi said...

sorry...typo...Now go shoot the moon..:)

Nora said...

Hey Ron will you be running the creeks with us :) I thought of my lonely sea kayak when I was up in Grand Portage. I'll have to make it a point to go on one long sea kayaking trip this summer.
Joi as soon as I can get a clear night out with a good moon I'll shoot it. I know of a few places that would work great for a night shot.