Bayfield County Staycation

IMG_1734If rocks could smell fear, I’d be in trouble. I was never one blessed with agility, balance or sense of adventure. Yet, I always seem to find myself at river intersections that involve rushing water, a series of unstable rocks unreasonably spaced out before me and at least one expensive piece of camera gear around my neck. And, I’m generally alone with my irrational thoughts contemplating how many ways a simple slip could send me plunging to my death. Today was no exception.

But, today also marked a sense of wonder I haven’t had in a while. Today was a time out. It was an opportunity to wander in the woods and get lost in my thoughts. To remember why I choose to live here. I put on my tourism pants, loaded up my camera gear, filled my traveling coffee mug to the brim and set out on a day-long adventure in northern Bayfield County. I had exactly 8.5 hours from daycare drop-off to pick-up for just me.

My first stop may or may not have involved some doughnut holes from B’s Busy Bakery in Iron River. Listening to the Growth Show and snacking on sugary sweets, I drove the windy and scenic county highway to Port Wing. It was a perfect summer day. Once in Port Wing, I did a quick leg stretcher at Twin Falls. In the past, I’ve generally stayed up top but today I opted for the lower falls trail. Recent rain had the river higher than normal for summer, but certainly not the powerful rage spring often brings. It also meant repeated river crossings, to my final resting spot of a gentle waterfall. It was a great warm-up to the day.

IMG_1735From there, I headed to Herbster beach to enjoy a few more sips of coffee and catch my first real glimpse of the lake. I never tire of seeing or listening to her music. The rippling of waves washing up along Lake Superior stones far surpasses any meditation tape. I leave, ready for a power walk thru the woods.

IMG_1737Next up is a 3-mile hike at Lost Creek Falls. Thanks to the Bayfield County Forestry department, the trail is much improved from my infamous first date with the hubby (you can read more about that here). In fact, it even has a trailhead with parking, signage and a pathway patched with gravel and crafty boardwalks. It is quite impressive. But, the trail is just a prequel to this out-of-the-way waterfall.

I have yet to meet someone on this trail. Of course, a river walk wouldn’t be complete with a series of rock crossings, but I’m feeling extra dangerous today. (It helps that the water is only 5-6 inches deep). This sense of adventure ends with me getting my feet wet but saving my d-slr. Success comes in many shapes and sizes.

morganfalls

Someone has left an Inukshuk directly in front of the falls. This Inukshuk, which is a signal of one being on the right path, resonates with me today. While much of today is about having fun, one can’t help but contemplate life while immersed in nature. This symbol seems all to appropriate for the questions I’m trying to answer in my head.

Harbor House SweetsI glance at my watch. It is approaching lunch time and decisions must be made. I opt to skip lunch and instead, consume my weight (and then some) in calories at Harbor House Sweets. This is a somewhat new candy and sweet shop in Washburn. I plan for just a few small chocolates and some almond bark but out of the corner of my eye, I cannot help but notice the luscious chocolate cupcakes staring me down. I casually ask about them. As the words, infused with caramel come out of the owner’s mouth, I’m immediately sold. I know mood can affect one’s taste buds and perhaps that had something to do with this experience, but honestly, it was the best cupcake I’ve ever consumed. And, I have consumed quite a few cupcakes in my day. I would have shot an interior shot of this gem but I was driving. By the time I reached Houghton Falls outside of Washburn, the only thing left to photograph was an empty wrapper.

I haven’t been to Houghton Falls for a few years. I must admit, I was a bit taken aback by the intense signage in the parking lot. Lots of lines through things, warnings about surveillance cameras, and even an automatic gate that will lock you in the parking lot if you are there after 8 pm in the summer. If you happen to get stuck, plan on paying a fine. I’m sure all of this is being driven by a few nimrods who can’t respect public land and a community that wasn’t expecting usage of this trail to be quite so high, but still, I’m having a few moments of Gooseberry Falls PTSD and the time I had to take a bus into the park during fall peak season. Pretty sure there were more people in nature that day then in my entire town. That said, my car is the only one in the parking lot on this beautiful day.

Round trip, I’ll only clock about 1.6 miles on this trek. It is a short, yet interesting walk. The massive rock gorges, multiple waterfalls, and ultimate view of the rocky ridges of Lake Superior reminds me slightly of the North Shore, but without the crowds. It is peaceful here. Once at Lake Superior, I take a few moments to take in the views. A single bird floats birdpast me, basking in the sunlight.

I jump in my car and head north to Bayfield. It is the first time I’m seeing crowds of any sorts. Main Street is full so I park on a side street next to Silver Waves Jewelry. I pop in, hoping to purchase a bracelet I had seen at a holiday sale last December. It has already sold. My heart dips a little until I learn she’ll remake a similar one for me. A custom bracelet—seems like the perfect trinket to wear as a reminder of today.

roadclosedNext up, one last power walk above the well-known Sea Caves. My husband mentions a shortcut that may or may not involve parking illegally on a road named after his favorite home improvement store. Accurate directions including, just go to the end, are my guide. Turns out the town road is closed before I get to the end, but given my poor sense of direction, I figure I have to be closer to the caves than if I drive to the trail head. Turns out that my poor sense of direction is still strong. Pretty sure I clocked more miles on that town road than if I had just hiked the trail. But, before long I’m hearing the deep bass of frigid Lake Superior water pushing up against the sandstone caves before succumbing to the wall of stone and heading back out to sea. seacavesStanding above the caves, I can’t help but question when the caves might finally accept defeat and collapse under the power of this majestic beauty. Lucky for me, it isn’t today.

 

I hop back in the Subaru determined to make one final stop before the day is done. As I approach Cornucopia, I see the ship graveyard next to the green shed. I turn right into the parking lot and head into Halvorson Fisheries for some smoked fish. Within minutes, I’m leaving, armed with Lake Superior Trout for dinner, poor man’s lobster and the most beautiful piece of Brown Sugar Smoked Lake Superior Trout. I fill up my water bottle at the artesian well and plop on the sandy beach. I remove my shoes and run my feet through the white washed sand. Sitting hear alone on the beach, I can’t help but fill mom in on all that’s happened to me this past year. In this moment of quiet reflection, I know she’s listening.

IMG_1760Once done refueling on my savory and salt-infused snack, I make my way back to the car feeling more relaxed than I have in ages. I know some people have judges me for living a simpler life. They don’t understand why I’m not more aggressive in my professional life or pursuing life in the big city. The pressure to do more is always there. And I admit, I’m human. At times, I find myself equating my worth with job titles, mortgages and zip codes. But, today I’m reminded of all of the reasons I’ve chosen to live a simpler life. Simpler doesn’t mean less fulfilling, less meaningful, or less important. It isn’t for everyone. But, it certainly suits me. Any lingering doubts are quickly smacked down when I arrive home.

MothersonMy son grabs my hand and pulls me down the trail to throw sticks in our lake. Afterwards, we head up to collect eggs and grill supper. We top off the evening with a game of baseball, biking up and down country road and a single two-handed hug that makes me feel like the richest woman on the planet.

Some people travel the world to find what matters. For me, a simple day in the woods in a place I’m lucky enough to call home is enough.

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Early Morning Resolution

Happy New Year! How are those resolutions treating you? I’d just like to go on record right now saying mine are slowly killing my will to live. Fourteen days ago, I started on a quest to factor me-time into everyday of my life to focus on wellness. My solution—wake up by 5:30 am everyday so that it wouldn’t cut into family, mommy, wife, friend or work time. On the flip side, the time once known as end of the day veg in front of Bravo time would go if needed due to being tired.

Let me backtrack one second and preface this resolution by telling you I am NOT a morning person. I cherish my sleep. I do best during regular business hours. The idea that I’d get up an hour early just to ensure I had enough time to hit the treadmill, lift weights, stretch or journal seemed a bit preposterous. But, last fall I started reading a lot by Brene Brown and this notion of creating habits to the point where the norm or your daily habit just is something you do versus something you think about. This theory resonated with me. After all, given how much I value sleep, I question whether I’d really get up early enough everyday to shower if it wasn’t something that had become part of my daily grooming routine.

In the past two weeks, I’ve hit the treadmill 8 times, completed yoga and cardio twice, completed a journal post and what I’m calling meditating once. To others, it may have appeared to seem like me staring at the wall in a zombie like stupor because I had stayed up too late the night before watching the Bachelorette but that’s neither here nor there. This mindful staring took place at 5:40 am. Today was the first time I missed my wellness time because I had an early morning work meeting. Surprisingly, I felt out of whack all day. And this excites me for a variety of reasons. If after a mere 12 days, not working on me in the morning seems unusual, imagine what will happen if I make it another week. Or, better yet, another month? I’m quite excited about the new found potential of this New Year’s Resolution.

Ultimately, I’d love for several things to happen with this experiment. First off, in 15 weeks from tomorrow, I’d love to finish the Journey’s Half-Marathon in Eagle River in under 3-hours. Second, in coming months I’d love to utilize some of this time to have a garden that doesn’t look like a Black Thumb Bomb was initiated within it. Finally, I’d love to write my way into closure on some lingering issues I need to just document on paper for my well-being and ability to live a more present and grateful life. Note, the goal here is to not lose weight. Obviously, this is another issue I come face-to-face with on a daily basis. But, I’m hoping that this experiment will help me understand how to form better habits when it comes to food. In other words, running my fastest half-marathon and creating a beautiful garden out of a pile of sand seemed easier in my mind than practicing portion control.

I share all of this with you just because I know by sharing this, I’ll likely continue on this journey. Or, at least that’s been the case with announcing blindly 5-years ago that I was going to run a half-marathon. If it hadn’t been for my very naïve public statement that I would do that, well I’m sure I wouldn’t have finished my first race and therefore never had the next five. So there you have it. A new year, a different me. We’ll see how that goes.

One last note…if you have 30-seconds, watch this ad. Then resume reading this post. (dramatic pause here).

In the grand scheme of things, this ad is a large online booking company trying to differentiate itself. I’m generally not a sucker for this type of marketing. But this ad, well it played on my first morning on my first day of getting up early. Before the tiger even came out, I was bawling on the treadmill. This might have been because of the early hour. But, I’d also like to believe that maybe, just maybe, this stupid commercial hit a heart string that many of my friends can relate too—the overwhelming love, sense of responsibility and desire to be an amazing mother. It sort of accompanies the bucket list of must do vacations with Jake before he’s too old and doesn’t think his mother is cool. This is a serious concern of mine. He already gives dad preferential treatment over me because I wipe his boogers and attempt to give him weekly baths. Anyways, at the end of the day, I think the underlining goal of this year’s resolution is that by finding me time and ways to improve the things that get me down, I can be a better mom. Now that’s something, I can get up at 5:30 am for daily.

 

Dear Jake

Dear Jake,

I don’t scrapbook. I’ve discovered, despite my love for writing, I’m horrible at keeping up your baby book. But, like any new mom I managed to take lots of photos. I slapped them together in this video just in time for your birthday. I hope someday you can watch this and know you had an amazing first year surrounded by lots of people who love you.

It is crazy to think it has already been one-year. If I’ve learned anything this past year it is that I have no idea how to be a mother and that you have given me a new perspective on life. This past year you have taught me more than I could ever teach you.

A friend on Facebook (a social media tool that will be so old school by the time you can read this) recently posted a poem that came through on my feed this week that really hit home:

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

― William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

By all definitions, your dad and I strive to live an ordinary, grounded life. But, there is no doubt in my mind that we live in an extraordinary place surrounded by extraordinary people. You are one of those people.

I have no idea what the next year will hold for us. What I do know is that the first time you grabbed my finger, I truly understood the sheer force of unconditional love. I look forward to many, many more birthdays with you my little munchkin.

Love,

Mom

 

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.