Monday, July 15, 2013

Day 6: Hikings and Vikings

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

After securing some good coffee in town and mailing out fragile gifts, the short drive around the bay was made to the Visitors Center at Apostle IslandsNational Lakeshore. The weather was picture perfect.

Named to honor the 12 Apostles (even though there are 20 islands – if someone can figure that one out, let me know), access to the islands was largely shut off.  The season had not really started as we were a tad early.  There were no boats heading out. 

So what. Natalie and I found ourselves poking around the old Hokenson Fishing Operation. Eskel, Leo and Roy Hokenson ran a multi-faceted operation for decades. Farming and fishing were very lucrative for them until they retired in the 1960s.  It seemed only perfect that Natalie and I would see a Kingfisher while investigating their dock.

After a quick lunch, the four-mile hike along the shoreline trail was awesome, though muddy in spots.  At the turn-around point, the view of the sea caves below was quite mesmerizing.  The scene was very much like Pictured Rocks from a few days before.  The birding was quite nice. Crippling views were had of a Canada Warbler.  Natalie secured Yellow-bellied Flycather with just about the best view one could ask for short of going Aubudon on it and shooting it dead. 

Sadly, this trail marks a huge negative on our trip and my life.  My boots.  Oh, my precious boots. 

In Arizona last June, while hiking Mount Lemmon, the heel of my boot basically peeled off like the skin of a banana.  Multiple trips to a cobbler (yes, folks, they still exist) in the last year allowed me to get everything squared away.  Both boots, in fact. It was not re-soled, but re-affixed.  Everything was a go. 

During the final stretch of the hike, the heel gave out one final time.  It just couldn’t take it anymore.  My boots, my hiking partner for the last 15+ years, could hike no more. Alaskan tundra.  Alpine tundra of Colorado.  Pacific beaches. Atlantic beaches.  The Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  Battlefields.  Breweries.  Those boots have seen the country. The entire country.   Well almost – 44 states (and four provinces of Canada).

Sure, I could have just chucked them in the garbage, but that would be disrespectful.  I could take them home and put them on a display shelf, but that would dishonor the spirit of the boot.  (Hey, my boots can have a spirit, even if I’m atheist. Come on, work with me here.  Remember, Manabezho, the spirit-god, supposedly talked to his pooper…)

Influenced by Viking tradition and sadly lacking a raft that could be set alight and sent drifting into Lake Superior, I did the next best thing. Picking giant rocks from the parking lot culvert, I secured the rocks inside each boot and tied them together with the laces.  The photo below is essentially the last known image of my boots before I tossed them into Lake Superior with a mighty heave.

I’m so gonna miss those boots.  Seriously.  This sucks….

With heavy heart, we pressed on to Solon Springs, Wisconsin for camping. A quick, camp meal and we were out looking for birds with the final minutes of daylight.

Using “Wisconsin’sFavorite Birding Haunts” as a guide, we opted for some time in Douglas County along and near the Brule River (thus the camping in Solon Springs).  The evening was, in a sense, scouting for the following day’s birding adventure. 

Towhees, Wild Turkey, and Clay-colored Sparrows seemed to be quite common.  Common Nighthawks are always cool, too.  A mostly bug free evening ended peacefully back at camp. Just out of town, a mystery owl shot in front of us as we drove. Great Horned? Barred?  We’ll never know.  (I suspect we could just lie and say what we wanted it to be. Neither Nat or I are that lame.)

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