Thursday, 25 August 2005

August Mist and Loons

The mornings of late have been cool enough for steam to form on the lake and in the lower wet pockets of the woods. It lays and shifts and rises, revealing the darker hills behind. The view is softened and as the sun rises the mist melts away like ice cream on the tongue.
This summer, it seems as though we've heard more loons calling than in years past. Most of them will stay around for another six weeks or so. Some hang on longer. I remember one very cold November morning a couple years ago. As the moon was setting and the sun wasn't even close to rising, Paul and I were sitting in the woods on opening day of deer season. The lonely wail of a loon had no trouble penetrating the leafless understory and reaching us. It is the latest I've ever heard a loon.

Summer fawns

The recent cold snap has moved on, and in its wake, we have been enjoying some warm and wonderful sunshine. The last two days we saw temps in the seventies. As I sat out on the porch in the sun yesterday, I was reminded of last year, when September turned out to be a nicer month than August. I wonder if we will be treated to some more of that warm weather in this next month?

On Monday, I turned on to our side road from the Gunflint Trail, and a little fawn dashed across the road. It still had the reddish brown coat that I have come to recognize as their summer color. The spots were almost faded on it. It reminded me of another fawn that we had seen earlier this summer. Greg and I were on our way up the North Loon Lake road, and we spotted a doe and a fawn in the road. As we approached, the mama took off in a flash, and the baby dropped to the ground just like a pancake! It dropped with its hips splayed apart, and seemed to be trying to get as flat and as invisible as it possibly could. We got out to look at the little guy (gal?), and we decided that it must have been very very new to this world. I had always heard from the DNR that if you encounter a fawn all alone in the woods to just leave it. It is not unusual for the does to leave the little ones for short periods of time. In this case, we were able to get pictures of the fawn, and observe it for some time, before going on our way. When we passed by a little while later, I looked to make sure that it had moved on, and sure enough, there was no sign of it. It feels odd to "interrupt" nature sometimes, as we had inadvertantly done, and I can only hope that it all had a happy outcome and the little one got back together with its mama.

The birch trees have begun to change some, flashing yellow, and even dropping some leaves. This doesn't seem to be widespread, but it is noticeable in some spots. It feels strange to see leaves on the ground in August! The maple trees on Maple Hill just outside of Grand Marais are beginning to turn also. They are showing the first hints of orange and red. This seems to be right about on the schedule that I remember in years past. Ready or not, here it comes......the seasons keep on changing, whether I am ready to move on and be done with them or not.

Wednesday, 17 August 2005

Stars and butterflies

The reports coming in say that the meteor showers are not quite as good as we first anticipated. Those able to stay awake long enough have seen a few, mostly small ones. Here and there, a good tail has been spotted. Our friend Dan said he saw some reflected in the calm lake the other night. He has been experimenting with astrophotography. He used both 400 and 800 speed film to photograph a number of constellations last night. We look forward to seeing the results once they are developed.
Robert camped out on North Lake last night with friends. He slept outside, just ten feet from shore. There were a few mosquitoes at dusk, but otherwise not bad at all. He said that the moon was quite bright for a while. When he looked up at the trees, he could see the reflected light from the moonbeams on the lake dancing through the leaves. He was up earlier than his camp mates this morning, so he went hiking through the woods. He came upon the old bones of a long-dead moose, but no other unusual discoveries.
The fire on Alpine Lake is about 46% contained, and they feel they will reach 100% containment by Saturday, August 20. The fire is holding at 1335 acres. The cooler weather, and a quarter-inch of rain on Monday night assisted with the fire-fighting efforts. Our hats are off to the many crews working so hard to keep this under control.
Our friend Judith has brought to the lodge a cage that contains two chrysalises of monarch butterflies. It originally contained five, but three have come out from their cocoons and flown away. One of the remaining is turning from green to black, so this means that it, too, will soon be released to fly away. Such an exciting thing to see! I saw a monarch butterfly in our yard a week ago. It isn't often that I get to see these, so it was a treat. We mostly see the yellow and black swallowtails.
There is a beautiful little moose maple tree up near our mailbox that is currently sporting a bright red coat! It is common for these stunted maples to turn early, so it seems to be right on schedule.

Friday, 12 August 2005

Cooler days and donkey camps

The weather is taking a turn towards the upcoming season. The nights are comfortable with lows in the low sixties and upper fifties. Quite a difference from the nights in the seventies. The wind came up strong today from the northwest. Each year, I start to feel a note of fall in the wind sometime in August. I think that it happened today. Last year it came at the end of July. The wind makes things more challenging for the fire fighters working on the Alpine fire. We are thinking of them today, hopeful that it isn't too difficult given the conditions.

The Perseid meteor showers have begun in the night sky. Last night was cloudy, so we didn't get to see any activity. But we are clear today, so we might have some excellent viewing---provided that I can stay awake long enough! It sounds as though the display might be more spectacular this year, given the moonset around eleven-thirty. We are always fortunate to have a clear view of the sky, without the lights of a city. But sometimes the moon is so bright that we can't see the stars all that well anyway.

We have had a bit of rain in the last few days, but not enough to make a difference in the state of the forest. The Forest Service has put on a level two fire ban, so that campfires are not allowed in the blowdown area. If you are headed into the forest to camp, be sure to bring a gas or propane cookstove. Temperatures for the next week are predicted in the sixties, and a little rain to go with that would be very welcome.

The berry crop is declining, but for the tenacious, it is still possible to find some blueberries and a few raspberries. I saw some thimbleberries still on the bushes today, too. The goldenrod is blooming, as is the tansy. I need to go up to our Observatory to see what is blooming there. We usually see asters in purple and white coming out about now.

Speaking of the Observatory, our two donkeys, Moses and Jethro, have set up a camp up there. They have been busy mowing down the grass and keeping the deer away from all of the white pines that are growing in there. I think the donkeys are a bit lonely to be so far away from all of us down here at the bottom of the hill. But we do appreciate their diligence in keeping the grass cut. Greg reports that the white pine are up to ten and twelve feet in that area. Amazing! This growth has all happened since the Blowdown in 1999. It is wonderful to see this new forest coming up.

Tuesday, 9 August 2005

Alpine Lake fire

As many of you know, a forest fire was detected on Saturday, near Alpine and Seagull Lakes at the end of the Trail. The Forest Service and various other agencies have been agressively working on it since then, with both air support and ground crew. Here at Heston's, we see and smell smoke at times, depending on the wind direction. As the crow flies, we are about eight miles away from the fire. This morning, it is raining softly. This is a very good thing, as every bit of moisture helps when there is a fire burning. We feel confident in the work that the USFS is doing, and our thoughts and prayers go out to them and all of our friends and neighbors at the end of the Gunflint.

Thursday, 4 August 2005

Hot days of August

The hot weather returned for the first few days of August. Though the temperatures did not go all the way up into the nineties, like a few weeks ago, the humidity rose. Once again, the lake was the very best place to be. Last night, Greg invited me to take our new-to-us kevlar canoe on a short ride to the Canadian shore. It was calm, and the sun had just set. What a wonderful canoe to paddle! I enjoyed the quiet way that it slipped through the water. I was also fascinated watching the sky as we went. Recently, I have painted fabric to represent sky and water. Observing cloud shapes and colors in the dusky sky gave me some new ideas to try the next time I take out the paints.
The blueberry crop continues to produce. Someone told me that she thought that if all of the residents and all of the visitors on the Trail went out to pick the berries, there would still be plenty leftover. Sounds like a great year! I hope to get a day next week in the patch myself. I'm sure the bears must be satisfied as well.
While driving to Loon Lake a day or so ago, I noticed that we have begun to see some color change in the foliage. This is not unusual for this time of year, but I find it startling nonetheless. Hasn't summer been here for just barely over a month? How can we be seeing the early signs of fall? It is usually in the underbrush that I first detect the yellow leaves. The raspberry bushes, too, are showing signs of color change. The fireweed is standing tall with beautiful purple flowers, but it hasn't switched yet to its fuzzy stage. Good! That means that we still have some summer yet to enjoy.
August is such a wonderful month. Already I notice that the mosquito crop is on the decline. Today the heat broke, and we had mid-seventies, as well as a strong northwest wind. The night temps are predicted to be in the 50's--perfect.