Got Milk? (Guest Post by Beth Probst, author of circletouradventures.com)

This past week I had the opportunity to share my favorite ice cream business along Lake Superior for the oober cool “Girl from the Northwoods” blog. I also did an article in the July issue of Business North about the dairy industry and Tetzner’s. I frankly don’t have the patience or desire to ever go into dairy farming, but as a true northerner who loves my cheese, milk and ice cream (not to mention top the tater but that’s a whole different post), I’m sure glad there’s still folks out there willing to put in the time and investment for dairy. Enjoy the post and be sure to check out their blog as well!

Girl from the Northwoods

dairy sign

Ask anyone, and you might be surprised to discover that I’d choose pickles over ice cream any day, even when I’m not 7.5 months pregnant. I’m the gal that used to win pickle juice drinking contests as a kid while I watched my friends gag over the salty, tangy goodness of a chilled vinegar drink. That said I’m not one to discriminate against sweets just because my taste buds prefer salty, so I can throw back a bowl of ice cream like no other.

I’m not sure if that makes me an ice cream connoisseur. But, it does mean I have an opinion about the best ice cream around Lake Superior and that’s Tetzner’s.

Tetzner’s Dairy Farm is located just outside of Washburn, Wisconsin.  The family farm dates back decades—in fact 82-year old owner Philip Tetzner has been in-charge of the family affair for 64-years. He took over the farm…

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Adventures on the Lake Superior Scenic Byway

The past month has been a whirlwind of various freelance writing assignments—many of them highlighting why I live where I do. I’ve enjoyed learning about why South Shore Brewery in Ashland is expanding, the business model behind my favorite ice cream (Tetzner’s if you’re wondering) and talking to industry experts about the economic impact local parks and tourism have in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In case you’re wondering, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (mere minutes from our land in Herbster) brings in $20.9 million per year to our local economy. Copper Falls State Park, which happens to be a nearby favorite of mine, brings in $8.8. You can read more in the June issue of Business North.

I hope to post more about some of my most recent adventures, including a guest blog post I’m working on for Girls from the Northwoods. In the meantime, I’m excited to see signs going up along Highway 13 featuring the state’s newest Scenic Byway. Before you hit the snooze button, this is an important designation for my stomping grounds. People often question why I live where I do. The answer is simple—northwest Wisconsin rocks. Each year, hundreds of thousands of folks vacation in a place I call home. They come to see the big lake and escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But, they often don’t take a moment to venture off their itinerary to see all this area has to offer.

Sections of Highway 13 are a big part of that. It is just off Highway 13 that I wander some of the best (and emptiest) Lake Superior beaches around. It is here I buy my favorite ice cream, coffee and fish (when I’m not pregnant). It is where I hike and pick wild apples in the fall, blueberries in the summer (and no I won’t tell you my hidden spots) and photograph wild rivers and flowers in the spring. It is where I hike the Sea Caves in the dead of winter and watch ice formations crush up along the bay creating an intricate art display you have to see to believe.

The dedication of the new Lake Superior Scenic Byway was just last month. I did a quick update for last month’s Business North. That said, it doesn’t capture the heart of why it is the state’s latest and most likely last scenic designation. Today, I needed to make a quick trip to Bayfield which meant an opportunity to snap a few shots along the way. I hope to post more next time I’m out and about (and it isn’t raining). Enjoy!

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Ice Melt in Bayfield County

This past Saturday I was supposed to be lacing up my tennis shoes and running a half-marathon in Nisswa, Minnesota. But, Baby Boy Probst had different plans for me. (Yes, I may in fact slip a mention of baby from here on forward). In early March I retired my running shoes for walking shoes. At first I was disappointed about this—especially on the morning of race day. My hubby was traveling and I was scheduled to photograph a volunteer luncheon for work. I suppose in some respects, it was a pity party.

But, once out of bed I discovered spring had finally arrived in Bayfield County. The air was warm, ice was receding from Moon Lake and the sun was beaming down. Plans came together to have coffee with a new found acquaintance who loves coffee and photography even more than I at my favorite local coffee shop Big Water. And, as I packed up my gear for the event, I threw in my personal camera to check out at least one spring waterfall on my way home.

Since I was traveling solo and the recent chain of weather events meant the woods were still packed with deep snow, I went for an often overlooked but easy to access waterfall in Port Wing.

The snow was still knee deep and the parking lot wasn’t plowed. I parked on the road and made the short trek along the river. As I approached Twin Falls, the sound of rushing water grew exponentially louder. What is normally a graceful stream of sparkling waters was instead a gushing brown rapid river making its way to Lake Superior. I am certainly not disappointed. The rushing water and slippery conditions meant I didn’t hike down the trail that takes you to the river’s edge but instead snapped some shots from the river’s ridge. Soaking in the sun’s rays and admiring the canopy of trees overhead I realize life sometimes takes us on a different journey. Driving home from Port Wing, I couldn’t help but feel great about how the day’s events unfolded. Sure, I would have loved to have crossed the finish life of my 4th Half-Marathon. But, if the concession prize is enjoying a luncheon with amazing volunteers, sharing coffee and stories at Big Water Coffee in Bayfield and photographing yet another hidden gem in the place I call home, than losing isn’t so bad.

Enjoy these shots from Twin Falls in Port Wing, Wisconsin.

To get there: Twin Falls is located on Highway 13 just outside of Port Wing, Wisconsin. You’ll find the trailhead within the city park just 2 blocks from the intersection of Highway 13 and County A.

Spring Thaw – Lost Creek Falls

Courtesy: Cornucopia.net
Courtesy: Cornucopiawisconsin.net

I remember it like yesterday. It was spring, 2005 and I had just met this odd duck online named Steve. After dining over Chinese food and cheap beer we determined we liked each other enough to hang out again. Since it was spring thaw and Steve claimed to be an outdoorsman/forester, he suggested we hike to this remote waterfall that is off the beaten path but particularly spectacular this time of year.

An avid hiker and even backpacker at the time, I was delighted by the prospects of heading out on this adventure to something I had never even heard of. On a Saturday morning in April, we made the drive in his ’98 Honda Civic to a remote parking lot next to a cemetery near Cornucopia. It seemed a bit odd to me at the time and I started to wonder just how much do I know about this strange man that’s taking me to this remote location. It turns out that perhaps Steve didn’t exactly know where said place was either.

A snow covered ground and brown and green canopy of trees engulf us. The further we go into the woods, the more my feet squish and break through piles of snow leaving my feet damp and my leg muscles aching. Soon, my visions of murder are replaced with the calm that can only be discovered in the North Woods while one focuses on putting one foot in front of the other. As time progresses, I notice Steve looking around more than usual. I immediately become suspect because while I respect a man who takes in the outdoors, I can also immediately point out a man who is lost. We soon hit a clearing where Steve casually pulls out a satellite map and his compass and looks left and right… and then left and right again. “Hm,” he says.

I begin to panic. I, of course, have been paying absolutely no attention to where I was going. And, since I didn’t drive and was new to the area, I had no clue if we were next to civilization regardless of what way we walked or would spend the rest of our weekend wandering around hoping to find some snippet of life.

Since this was only our second date, I didn’t want to be rude so I refrained from going Erickson on him demanding answers. Instead, I casually question if he knows where we are. The repeated looks around the clearing are answer enough. After what seemed like eternity, he simply folds up the map and heads back into the woods. “I think I know where we are.”

My options are limited. I can either wander the woods in hopes a different random stranger finds me. Or, I can take a leap of faith and follow this stranger to this hidden gem in Bayfield County. I follow my gut, or in this case Steve, back into the dark forest. Soon we hear the trickle of water followed by a deep ravine filled with water, also known as Lost Creek Number 1. As we follow the water that has left its mark in this County Forest upstream the promise of a waterfall grows louder.

The waterfall itself is not that large, maybe 15 feet or so. But, in the height of spring thaw, the water volume is quite amazing. There is also something serene about how quiet the world is around the rushing of these falls. Unlike other falls, this one is out of the way, often overlooked and not easily accessible, allowing you to experience it alone. With no nearby roads, the sounds of traffic and city life disappear.

As soon as we arrive, Steve is ready to move on. Frankly, my wet and sore legs are as well. We make our way back to the car, this time not needing the map. But, something in me said there was something special about this day. I’m not saying I fell in love. But, similar to the river cutting its way into the ravine, Steve made an impression on my heart that day. Now, eight years later, that’s a spring Saturday I’ll never forget.

Unfortunately, I was playing it too cool at the time to snap photos of our first daylong adventure. I hope to return this spring, should it ever arrive in northern Wisconsin. I’ve also been told the fall colors are spectacular in this mix of hardwood and evergreen forest. Stay tuned for photos or find time next time you are in Bayfield County to venture out on this hike where perhaps magic can happen for you, too.

To get there: The route to Lost Creek Falls has changed since I first ventured there in 2005. Today, you can take Highway C south of Cornucopia 1.5 miles and turn right on Trail Drive. There, you will find a marked trail head parking lot. The falls is a solid 25-minute walk over uneven terrain.

The Hike

(I first wrote this a year ago while hiking near Bean and Bear Lake near Silver Bay, MN. But, on this blustery fall day, I cannot help but share again.)

The anticipation was killing me. For months, I had patiently watched the calendar waiting for that brief moment in northern Minnesota where fall comes to life in a vivid, rainbow of colors. As the calendar ticked down to my day off, the gobs of storm clouds grew larger than life. Soon, warnings were out, communities in southern Minnesota were flooding, and the sky was black. For most, this would not be the ideal hiking conditions. Add to this, my husband’s stern warning that should I destroy my new Canon 5D by hauling it through the rain I was not getting a new one. Together, this should have been enough to hold me back. But, the stubborn Fin in me refused to back down. Mother Nature doesn’t wait for the skies to clear. Plus, a gray, rainy day means solitude, right?

The morning goes smoothly. A gorgeous drive along Heartbreak Ridge, accompanied with a perfectly brewed latte and Blueberry Scone from the Coho Café. And then, a quick glance at the map in the trailhead parking lot.

My hike starts out simple enough. Up and down, round the colored bend. Within minutes my underused hiking boots are covered in mud. I look up only to be blinded by needlelike mist piercing my face. Soon, the up and down just become up. Having glanced at the topography map prior to jumping on the trail to Bean and Bear Lake near Silver Bay, Minnesota, I knew what I was in store for. But, the lines always seem a lot less intimidating from the comforts of my car.

One hour, two hours, mist evolving into a steady rainfall, muddy trails transitioning into trails underwater… I’m starting to have second thoughts. Seriously Mother Nature, logic says as you climb higher, the drier the trail should be, right? Soon, the only break in the squishing of my boots is me cursing under my breath as the wind whistles by my face. Having chosen to do this hike solo, I have nobody to blame but myself. What am I thinking?

And, just as the gas in my tank was running out I have one of those moments. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones where you are huffing and puffing, trying to catch your breath, and then you look up and for just a moment, the entire world stands still. Suddenly, everything is put in perspective. Suddenly, I realize how small I am in the grand scheme of things. And, looking out over the vast, untouched countryside, I can’t help but be in awe of how fortunate I am to experience this beauty—even if it is just for a moment. The moment isn’t perfect. The sky is far from blue and the fog removes the crisp color I had planned on seeing. But, in this haze everything in life seems clearer. One foot in front of the other, and eventually you reach your summit. Is it exactly what I had expected? Absolutely not. It is better. The hike down doesn’t seem nearly as bad.

I am 99.9999% sure I will not climb Mount Everest, hike the Poles, or save Polar Bears. It is unlikely my experience on this day will have any impact on anything other than my knees and my poor husband listening to my pathetic whining when the Ibuprofen wore off. But at this moment, nobody can take this beauty away from me.

Fall is an extremely busy time of year. The commitments are endless. But, we live in this place for a reason. Find time to take advantage of it. The past few years, I’ve stumbled across multiple reports about a decline in young people connecting with the outdoors. A Minnesota State Park survey shows the median age of users is on the rise faster than the median age of the state. The Department of Natural Resource conducted focus groups only to find that young people have their lives just too planned out to find time for visiting State Parks. Hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers are aging. And, some speculate that there is some correlation that this decline is loosely connected to the growing popularity and reliance on technology.

Today, I challenge you to prove “some” wrong and get outside. It doesn’t have to be a four-hour hike in the rain. It can be as simple as turning off your Blackberry, lacing up your tennis shoes and taking a stroll through the park. At the end of the day, life’s commitments will still be there, but perhaps you’ll be able to tackle the day-to-day with a clarity that can only be found in a hazy fall day where heaven and earth intersect in a grandiose view of what matters in life.

Final Reflections

25,000 mornings, give or take, is all we humans get. We spend them on treadmills. We spend them in traffic. And if we get lucky.. really lucky it dawns on us to go spend them in a world where a simple sunrise can still be magic.

I understand this is a commercial promoting a place I already love, but frankly it’s true. 25,000 seems like such a large number until one starts to think of how many mornings one’s wasted. How many mornings I’ve wasted unable to be present with the moment.

My jaunt around Lake Superior wasn’t magical. It didn’t change my life. As my husband put it, it wasn’t even a journey but rather a trip—a simple 8-day trip around a large lake.

Despite this, it managed to remind me of some life lessons. That in fact, people, especially those closest to you, are what matter. The most spectacular sunsets, sunrises, gushing waterfalls, and grandiose overlooks evolve into something much grander when you are with the ones you love.

As an amateur photographer, I often find myself enjoying the solitude of the Big Lake while attempting to freeze a picture perfect moment with the simple click of a shutter. This trip, I found myself almost too busy immersing myself into the experience that I almost forgot to capture the beauty surrounding me. Instead, I was living it. This is after all how memories are made.

The trip reminded me that the unexpected surprises in life are at times the best gift of all. The turquoise toilet, unguided tours, camping on Lake Superior’s shoreline, and sipping the suds off a cold brew along a sandy beach—these moments are the one’s I’ll take with me wherever I go in life.

So perhaps this journey was just a trip. An 8-day pause in a somewhat overextended, desensitized thing we call life. Regardless, it was a trip worth taking. Would I do it again? Absolutely not. Some things in life cannot be recreated… and I think that in itself is what made this trip so worthwhile.

Homeward Bound

A room next to the highway makes for an unpleasant sleeping experience. On the flip side, it does mean we’re up and moving at an early hour. I’m feeling mixed about our final day. On the one hand, I’m anxious to see our pets and dive into my gardening that is getting a late start due to our vacation. On the other, the thought of returning to the daily grind and all that comes with it seems jarring compared the quiet days of reflection, contemplation and enjoyment we’re experiencing.

Our final day involves driving from Thunder Bay to Iron River. Along the way, three stops. The first is Kakabeka Falls. Steve rolls his eyes at the thought of another waterfall. This one does not disappoint, though. The falls drops about 130 feet, giving it the nickname “the Niagara of the North.”

 

We follow-up this stop with a very Wisconsinite thing—we visit Ontario’s only gouda farm. Thunder Oak Farm features more than a dozen types of gouda; many of which we taste test after watching a brief video and seeing some of the cheese making in action. The cheese curds are particularly delish. At less than 24 hours old, the expected squeak in our mouth is refreshing and fun. We do not leave Thunder Oak Farm empty handed. From here, we make our way to the border. Once again, we experience an unexpectedly and welcomingly easy crossing of the border.

Within minutes, we are parking at Grand Portage State Park. Steve and I have traveled the North Shore countless times. But, none of our journeys “up north” have made it to the high falls at Grand Portage State Park. The high falls, which are located on the Pigeon River and plummet about 120 feet, are the largest in Minnesota. We spend a few minutes watching the river cascade over the rocky canyon and make its way towards Lake Superior. As a kid, I spent a lot of time in school learning about the countless streams that have carved their way through layers of rock to find their way home to Gitchee Gummee. Today, watching the river in action, it helps me realize why I’m so strongly drawn to this region and why I’ll always consider the Lake Superior Basin my home. The clock is ticking. Steve is getting anxious. It is time. Stealing a kiss by the falls and snapping some final waterfall shots, I realize this is the perfect high note to end our trip around the big lake.

Site 23

The sun says it is early afternoon but our bodies are exhausted. The drive tired us and now we sit at a vast empty site with a lot of gear to set-up. “At least the weather is cooperating,” I explain to my husband. Looking at the bright blue lake and clear blue skies, even he can’t be grumpy right now. “I guess this won’t be so bad,” he says. Perhaps he spoke too soon.

It turns out my backpacking tent is smaller than I remember. This is itself is not an issue, unless of course you’ve packed a queen size air mattress to sleep on. My husband glances at the brand new box and says, “um, did you notice you need a plug-in to blow this mattress up?” Oops. This is going to be a problem. Before panic sets in I realize we’re at a campground with electrical sites, so somehow we’ll figure that part out. This still doesn’t solve the issue of the mattress being about 4-6 inches too wide for our tent, though. We resolve to the fact that we’ll be sleeping with our tent doors open.

After pondering our conundrum of electricity for a few minutes, we also come to realize that we’ll never fit the mattress through the door, either. We crack a beer and sit on the picnic table. It is then we discover two things. The first is we have a converter in the car to make our cigarette lighter an outlet. And two, our tent (especially given its size) is very mobile. Within minutes we have our mattress in the tent and our tent next to the car. Life is good.

Once our tent is set-up we begin the long-drawn out process of making dinner. On the menu, fresh asparagus we picked up at a farmer’s market in Michigan, hot dogs, beans and of course, plenty of s’mores. One problem—we’re missing some vital utensils to make this meal possible. In particular, spoons, something to remove the beans from the grate and something to cook the asparagus with. We improvise. What we lose in flavor and convenience we make up for in volume. The asparagus is amazing. The beans manage to get off the grate (thanks to Steve’s Gerber) and Joey enjoys plenty of burned hot dog ends.

After dinner we sit around the fire not saying much. After all, we’ve spent the last 100+ hours together. Instead, we watch the fire and listen to the waves lap against the rocky shores. It is in this moment I realize two things—this is what makes Lake Superior so great and two, I am one of the luckiest women alive. We soon decide to turn-in. Things quickly get interesting for several reasons. The first is, a two person backpacking tent does not actually sleep two adults and a dog comfortably. Two, Joey doesn’t like the tent. I think she thinks we’re crazy. We soon persuade her in only to discover that the open doors present a problem. Within seconds she’s jumped out the other side. This game goes on for a while until we finally leash her until she passes out at our feet. The only problem, no matter where she lays, she’s laying on us. This is going to be a long night. We pop some sleeping pills and soon exhaustion wins out. We awake the next morning, early but refreshed and ready to continue our journey… sans any more camping.

Our plan for Day 7 is quite simple. We’re rounding the most northern part of the lake and making our way towards Thunder Bay. Along the way, we’re stopping by Canada’s longest suspension bridge. We also plan to shop in Thunder Bay and do some sightseeing. By early morning we’ve made our way to Eagle Canyon Adventures where Canada’s longest suspension bridge awaits to be crossed. It is $20 per person to walk across the bridge. I’m skeptical of the fee but we pay it anyway. It turns out the bridge is in fact long… 600 feet long to be exact. And, there are not one but two bridges for us to cross. I’m not a huge fan of heights. I’m less of a fan of feeling suspended in air, hundreds of feet above a canyon. But, I grin and bear it. The sun beats down on us as we make our way across.

As we approach the other side, we see the zipline. This is a new attraction to the park. The zipline extends down the canyon, over the river and ends hundreds of feet below. It looks absolutely terrifying. We watch several people make the plunge, including two women who are driving to Alaska. Again, our journey seems to short compared to those we’ve encountered on the trip. After much debate we opt not to do the zipline. Having done one in Mexico, it seems excessive. And frankly, a little to heart stopping for me on this hot, humid, sunny day.

By lunchtime we arrive in Thunder Bay. Here, we head to Bay Street which caters to Finlanders. It turns out that Thunder Bay has the largest population of Fins outside of Finland. We enjoy a lunch of Finnish pancakes at The Hoito. Hoito, which means care in Finnish, has been operating since 1918 and is one of Canada’s oldest cooperatively owned restaurants. Plus, the food is amazing and reasonably priced to boot.

We spend the afternoon perusing Thunder Bay’s shopping areas and eventually check-in at an overpriced Super 8. To compensate for our lackluster accommodations, we decide to end our last full day on the Circle Tour with a celebratory dinner at the Keg Steakhouse and Bar. OMG. It was some of the best food I’ve had in a while. In particular—the tempura asparagus and sweet peas in sweet, fried goodness that melts in your mouth. The meal seems like a perfect end to our final full day of travels.

A Goose, A Moose and Pooh, Oh my!

Today was a mixed bag of touristy gimmicks and authentic beauty. Our morning starts in Wawa, Ontario with a snapshot of the world’s largest fiberglass goose. Steve refuses to act like a goose so I have no choice but to step up to the challenge. Up close, it is obvious Mr. Goose has had better days. A sign on our way out of town confirms our suspicion—a mere $50 gets you a commemorative goose feather towards the new goose. We do not linger long.

From here, the road takes us away from Lake Superior around Pukaskwa Provincial Park. The drive is quite desolate. However, it is in this stretch of bog and swamp we experience our first moose sighting. I slam on the brakes. Luckily, this stretch of Trans Canada 17 has no traffic in sight. I jump out of the car and snap away, while Joey stares (and barks) in awe of the largest dog she’s ever seen. The moose lazily looks at me, almost seeming to accept its role of posing for yet another tourist photo. After posing for 30 seconds or so, it lazily makes its way back into the woods.

Next up is tourist stop number 2—White River, Ontario. I was particularly psyched for this stop, given it is home to the real Winnie the Pooh. Needless to say, I was less than enthralled. The Pooh on display in downtown White River makes the fiberglass goose seem new. The bright yellow fur is faded. The downtown is destitute. The one open “souvenir” shop has overpriced Pooh items you can get at Wal-Mart. A tourism brochure boasts about a saw mill you can tour. Steve asks the store clerk where the mill is and she looks at him like he’s crazy—“that’s been closed for about 5-years. I don’t know why you’d think you could tour that” she says. “It was in a tourism brochure,” Steve says. She laughs, commenting on how we must have had an old brochure. We had picked the brochure up in the tourism information place in White River just moments before. I think I’ve said enough about White River…

Back in the car we continue on our lackluster scenic drive of the Canadian woods. The road eventually makes its way back towards the lake. Here, we can see swaths of Lake Superior and in the distance the Slate Islands. Initially we had hoped to charter a boat to the islands and camp, hoping to catch a glimpse of the caribou. It ended up not fitting in our itinerary, which is good given there is a 40-50 mile per hour wind blowing off the lake. The rain comes and goes, coming more so when we are out of the car.

We stop by Pebble Beach in Schreiber. Similar to Whitefish, the beach is littered with driftwood. Large lake stones dot the shore with a pinkish tint that is different from the slate blue we are used to seeing on the southern end of the lake.  Still hoping to find the perfect souvenir in this stretch of the trip, we seek out downtown. We leave empty handed.

A few miles down the road, we arrive in Terrace Bay. Again, we leave empty handed. We do stop and stretch our legs at Aguasaban Falls, though, which is an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

Still searching for the perfect souvenir, we make our way towards the campground. Our plan is to camp near Lake Superior at the campground in Rainbow Provincial Falls. By now the skies have cleared and we’re anxious to get our site set-up. But first, we make our way into Rossport for some ice and firewood. It turns out Rossport is not equipped to cater to tourists/poor planners.

The fishing village is quite quaint. And, more importantly than ice and firewood, it has the cutest pottery shop overlooking Lake Superior called Island Pottery. Better yet, it is open! We drive out to the pottery studio, which is located at the Tim Alexander’s (the artists) home. The pottery is well crafted and functional. I find the perfect, oversized coffee mug in a sandstone brown with a kayaker engraved in the clay. I can already see my morning joy poured in the cup as I pay for the purchase. Tim asks us if we’re making our way around the lake. Steve nods while saying, “it is a big lake.” Tim smiles and says, “yeah, massive.” No matter what the adjective, nothing really seems to describe this endless blue vat of water we’re driving around.

With the souvenir hunt out of our way, it is time to buckle down to business. We spend the next 45 minutes or so tracking down beer and ice. We appear to keep striking out on firewood. The problem is finally resolved when we discover you can buy firewood at the campground… for $6 a bundle.

We pull up to our campsite—number 23. The park attendant had told us it was the best spot in the campground. As an avid camper around Lake Superior (in a previous life), I’d go as far as saying it is the best campsite on the entire lake. This is good given my husband is not into camping and a series of mishaps over the next 24 hours, could have spelled disaster had it not been for the calming effect of the big lake….