Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Noble Cause

You ask what we were doing over there all those years: what it was all about? I'll tell you pure and simple: it was a noble cause. -- Ronald Reagan

I fell asleep last night with thoughts of a shaky and scotch ridden man (M.) lingering in my mind. He comes in almost daily to the pub and, depending on the time of day, he drinks red wine, pitchers of iced tea with lemon, or watered down scotch on the rocks. He is accompanied by a large wallet and an intimidating bag of meds. Generally he is a pleasant being to encounter, calling you “buddy” and chatting about your school studies, the weather, or his time spent in Vietnam. I haven’t actually seen him in weeks; he tends to patron the business during the daylight hours in winter, I think. But last night I turned the corner into the smoking room and he was leaning over booth 55, cash in hand, expressively and emphatically talking to two twenty-somethings. I knew I needed to watch carefully as to why he was interacting with another table, money falling from his hands, and that if it was anybody else I would interfere and more than likely ask him to leave. But when he had finished talking with the table I stopped by to make sure they weren’t uncomfortable and then sat down with M., smoke from his cigarette pouring around my cheeks. I counted his money for him, all $1021 of it, and inquired as to why he was trying to give it away to customers and why they refused it. His hopes were that these guys, his age while he was in Vietnam, would take the $2 as retribution for going to the VA Hospital and talking to the veterans there.

M. found out yesterday that his compensation from the US government is increasing by $53 monthly. They have finally found research to prove that an herbicide used in the Vietnam War can cause mental and physical dysfunction. M. is 54 and takes 31 medications everyday. M. is pissed. Well, as pissed as a kind, sick, drunk, traumatized and underpowered person can be. He showed me the paperwork he received in the mail. The government is taking responsibility for about 10% of M.’s ailments, like his neurological disorders, the lack of function and feeling in his extremities, and maybe even his cancer. Why is he emotionally charged about this government, the very organization that awarded him sergeant status and placed him in leadership of 60-120 troops in 1973? Because his life is comprised of medications, a torn apart family, and a wait for death- from his own words- that has only just begun to be validated.

The herbicide that was used in Vietnam was called Agent Orange and was created and distributed by the very masterminds that currently hold the patents on most of our seeds and the chemicals that they sell with those seeds. This corporation is as powerful as ever and has been held responsible for a minuscule amount of the damages- something in millions of dollars.

US service men, who at most only served a few months tour of duty, have suffered from cancers, skin disorders and liver disorders. In an out-of-court settlement in May 1984 the manufacturers wore forced to pay $180 million in damages for exposure to Agent Orange, little more than 'nuisance value'. Monsanto as the key defendant was forced by the presiding judge to contribute 45.5% of the total pay-out.

Vietnam won’t stop seeing the damages done to their country for generations still, and M. won’t stop feeling the repercussions until he is laid in the grave. There are millions of affected people, let alone the parched Vietnam landscape, and Monsanto receives a slap on the wrist.

These Agent Orange births are normal for us ... Every now and then we have what we call a foetal catastrophe - when the number of miscarriages and deformed babies, I am afraid to say, overwhelms us. -- Dr Pham Viet Thanh, Tu Du hospital

“The Vietnamese surprisingly bear no animosity to the US aggressors and their allies who destroyed their country. The aggressors were the victims, it was the US who slunk away completely demoralised with their tails between their legs. Noam Chomsky has always taken a different view, the Vietnamese may have won the war, but their country was defeated. The Americans achieved their objectives by destroying a country that dared demonstrate a different political system than that which the US wished to impose on the world. Vietnam is now once again being destroyed by US Imperialism as the vanguard of US transnational corporations move in to mop up what little is left. All done in the name of the new imperialism, globalisation.”

I know it seems like a wayfaring concern, but everyday you are affected by those that control our food systems. Those of you that live in the great plains drive through fields of corn that are doused in the very chemicals that are driven by money, not human and environmental well-being.

It should never be forgotten that the people must have priority. -- Ho Chi Minh

And M. wanders the streets of Ann Arbor with anxious thoughts, shaky hands, and a bundle of medications. He’s not angry for himself so much as he is the others, the past victims, and the current state of affairs. The war being fought in vain and based on more lies.

Never again must the US or any other country interfere in another country's affairs. -- Len Aldis, secretary Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society

My hope is that we try- we try to know where our food comes from, what our money represents and supports, and why we are sending troops to Iraq. I don't want to be passive, to hide my head, close my ears, and hope it goes away. It is here to stay, never to be resolved in my lifetime, inflicting those that return without arms or legs, those that don’t return, those that returned years ago with ageless consequences, and those that are natives in a pillaged land. And we are afraid to admit that cause might not be so noble after all.

Credit for quotes (distinguished by italics): The Legacy of Agent Orange

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Into The Wild

Society by Eddie Vedder

Oh it's a mystery to me.
We have a greed, with which we have agreed...
and you think you have to want more than you need...
until you have it all, you won't be free.

Society, you're a crazy breed.
I hope you're not lonely, without me.

When you want more than you have, you think you need...
and when you think more then you want, your thoughts begin to bleed.
I think I need to find a bigger place...
cause when you have more than you think, you need more space.

Society, you're a crazy breed.
I hope you're not lonely, without me.
Society, crazy indeed...
I hope you're not lonely, without me.

There's those thinkin' more or less, less is more,
but if less is more, how you keepin' score?
It means for every point you make, your level drops.
Kinda like you're startin' from the top...
and you can't do that.

Society, you're a crazy breed.
I hope you're not lonely, without me.
Society, crazy indeed...
I hope you're not lonely, without me
Society, have mercy on me.
I hope you're not angry, if I disagree.
Society, crazy indeed.
I hope you're not lonely...
without me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved

A quote from a book that I'm reading:

"Seed germination is a miracle to behold. In its dry form, a seed is life in suspended animation, dormant, a bundle of potential. Once it is wet, a seed drinks in the water of life and begins to transform and become alive. A seed can remain in suspended animation for quite some time without losing its spark of life;"

Strawberry Roan Home in Vermont

We must be entertained by late night (or, as the norm might call it, "early morning") driving. We sure seem to do it, well, all the time. A week ago today, on a standard Friday evening, I was free from managing the pub at 4am. Josh pulled up to the brewpub almost right on schedule, astride the enormous Budget moving truck intended to take us east. The true purpose for our travels was to deliver cast iron sculptures by Steinunn Thorarinsdottir to Boston Harbor to be shipped home to Iceland. But we made several stops along the way.

Rebekah, in her desperation to avoid cooking, passed off to me a few years ago a book she had called "Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special". The restaurant itself specializes in vegetarian cooking, and everyday has a daily special that pairs a soup and a salad- . I've been addicted to this book for years, so much so that my mom and dad ordered another cookbook for me from the restaurant last christmas, and went so far as to have it autographed by the cooks in the kitchen. Needless to say, I am smitten. We pilgrimmaged to Ithaca, NY, to have lunch at Moosewood. We were not disappointed, only wished that there was more time to lounge and to explore Ithaca. But we had a mission to make it to Vermont for a short stay with Dave.

Which we did at 9:30 that night. After many hours on the road, me still in my work clothes, David welcomed us and I quickly slid into comfy clothes, and we relaxed in the kitchen by the woodstove. We had salmon and squash at midnight- a true feast- and then slept like babies until mid-morning. We woke to a scrumptious fire in our bedroom's cove, music by our personal morning DJ lulling us awake, and a Vermont blue sky beckoning us to come and play.

Our task for the day was to place the Strawberry Roan on Dave's property. Josh's first instinct for placement was eventually (not without deliberation) where we all agreed it should go- playfully overlooking the pond on rolling hills, white birch and golden leaves the backdrop behind. With the lift of the truck, gumption, and some homemade engineering, we successfully placed the piece with no injuries to us... always a feat.

Josh had made stakes by hand to protect the Roan from windfall. These stout stakes are beautiful, too, sharpened and shaped by his machines. The day was perfect for this almost ritual-like process. It's always thrilling to place a sculpture.

Here are pictures that we just couldn't bring ourselves to eliminate, at least not yet...

Josh's work often speaks to the color variations and changes that happen when metal rusts. Up to this point, Roan's life has been lived indoors. Trying to maintain the brilliant oranges and reds is always experimental. Josh settled on a sealer that seems to achieve the integrity of the color.

We ended up staying one night longer than expected with Dave, cutting our time in Boston next to nill. The extra day made leaving hard, but we had a deadline in Boston Harbor to keep. We headed to the industrial harbor, twisting and turning on the narrow city streets, until we finally found our destination- a building decorated in polar bears. This company ships products from Iceland to the U.S.and vice versa. It was really interesting in many ways. The harbor itself was reminiscent of a wasteland, semis passing us with layers of crushed cars on the trailer, freights being loaded with cranes, and produce companies every which way you look. I so so so badly wanted to stay and photograph, to ask questions of those working, to find out where this food was coming from and heading to. Invariably this is produce and food shipped globally. The shipping company we were working with ships in ingredients from Iceland for Campbell's soup "New England Clam Chowder" and for different McDonald's items. Ironic.

We had another deadline in Mt. Kisco, NY. There were a few pieces that needed to be dropped separately for a different gallery show. We had met the man receiving the pieces before, an accomplished artist who had visited Ann Arbor for a show Josh had helped hang previously. His home was a complete contrast to what we had just been enjoying in Vermont. Dave, also an artist, lives with found items of natural beauty, is refinishing a beautiful but old barn, and lives in an old Vermont farmhouse. This home in NY was a museum- polished artwork hung professionally with perfect furniture and the kind of kitchen where the refrigerator is the same finish as the wood on the floor and walls. It was really a beautiful home that mimics a lifestyle of art that can be so varied.

We made it home Wednesday at 7am. It was such a good trip.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Va-kay Summer 2007

We left on a Saturday morning, not too long after I had gotten home from a long night at the pub. Josh had fully prepped the car for packing. All I really had to do was throw the food in a box that I thought we would need for the ride. We already had all our directions printed out, all our calls made, our schedule set and ready to go.

Our first stop brought us to the gray skied, lapping shorelines of Lake Michigan where the groom announced his bride, and the bride her groom. Colorful fabrics and foods, all locally grown and tastefully prepared, helped cheer through the chilly temperatures and foreboding drops of rain. The groom, of Iranian heritage, helped to slaughter the lamb that was feasted on before the ceremony, and friends of the bride aided in the growing and preparation of the savory dishes- ratatouille, salads, pastas. As guests we scooped up kernels of corn that have been passed down through the generations of family farmers, and we blessed the corn that they might continue to bless this newly married couple.

That evening we drove onto Chicago to spend the night with Joel and Brenda, a fun and relaxing time, and left early the next morning for Richfield, Minnesota. We drove through sheets of rain, but eventually made it to a best friend of mine, Sarah Werner, who I hadn't seen in four years. Her and her spouse, John, just this summer bought their first house. It was a beautiful home and perfectly comfortable. We always did love walking together, so it was time well spent walking around a neighborhood lake, the sky dark and the lake bouncing light off its water. The moments were amazing and generous, allowing us to catch up on journey's taken and life lived after far too long.

The next day came quickly and we packed up and settled into the car for a long day of crossing Minnesota and North Dakota. We stopped for lunch in Fargo. Don't ever do that. It was weird. Fargo, ND is as strange as we could have imagined.

Once through most of ND, we were looking for Watford City, not too far away from the Canada or Montana border. We were sidetracked briefly by “The Enchanted Highway”, a meandering section of road with folkart metal sculpture. We started the drive, not sure how long the enchantment would last. We saw two sculptures, both enormous, both interesting, and then saw a man in a field off of a parking lot. We decided to stop and ask this man, most likely local, if he could just tell us how far the highway would take us. We turned around after passing him, pulled off the road, and creaked our bones out of the car. Interestingly enough, this wiry man had a welder in the back of his truck. Could it possibly be the creator of the Enchanted Highway? It was. He was working on a 50 foot sculpture that had been toppled by the western winds. He described the drive to us, and explained that it was a 32 mile roundtrip venture. Being that we had already been on the road 10 hours and were anxious to see Grandpa, we decided we would have to see it on our next trip out that way.

But we finally made it, and the final 100 miles of the drive was incredible. Cowboy culture started to creep in, mountains stretched their arms and yawned in the distance, and the sky crawled into itself, revealing spatterings of stars.
After a good nights rest, we got in the car again and Grandpa showed us around the Badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I couldn’t believe that we were willing to get in the car again, but the landscapes that we saw were just amazing. You can see in some of these pictures the layers upon layers of rock, color, material, years. It was amazing.

Grandpa also took us that day to the farm where he grew up. There is no longer anyone living there, but there are a few old buildings, the foundation for the house, the old outhouse, and a bunch of old farm equipment. There is still wheat growing in the fields but it increasingly is being replaced by corn. Corn that is probably subsidized by the government to be sneaked into our food and feeds the lies we are told about ethanol. But that's for another blog. The wheat we saw swaying seemed to be reminiscent of all that used to be.

It was really hard to leave North Dakota. The time was too short with Grandpa. It was the first time I had ever been on his territory, and such an experience to see the place where Josh's mom and aunt cindy were raised. The relics, from antique guns to antique tractors, remind me of a time that is gone. But it's not gone. The stories we heard from Grandpa are proof that I should try harder to learn from those who have come before and created the life that I now live. I guess it's a perspective thing.

Our drive out of Watford City and towards Wyoming took us through both the Northern and Southern North Dakota badlands. We did a little hiking and then turned up the volume on the ipod. I mostly blasted Brandi Carlile and Josh some crazy Mocean Worker music. When we crossed over the Wyoming border there was almost an immediate change. The clouds hung in the sky differently, the range rose and fell with more drama, the air was crisp and dry.

We pulled into Sheridan, WY and were greeted by Rebekah Smith and her fiance David. They took us for an amazing dinner at an old historic hotel that is recognized as being the playhouse for Buffalo Bill Cody and friends. The food was such a treat after diner food and zucchini bread we had brought along for the ride. Josh had a Buffalo ribeye, and I chose the entree that was comprised of entirely local and free range lamb. I know, it's hard to believe, but one ambition for me this trip was to avoid any chain or non-local food/entities. I think it worked primarily.... wait. I did get a cappucino at Starbucks. And Josh broke down in the middle of nothing Nebraska and had Sonic tater tots. We were starving and just not feeling the local Chinese establishment. Anyway, Sheridan was really beautiful. We saw an amazing photography show of Wyoming birds at a contemporary gallery and residency program called UCross. And then we started noticing all the amazing birds. Sheridan was really interesting and beautiful. The main street had flashing cowboy bar signs and a really quaint and cozy coffee shop.

After a day or two Josh and I drove out to the Big Horn Mountains to set up camp and a cook out that Rebekah and David were going to join us in. These mountains are amazing and I can't believe we didn't get hardly any pictures of them. There are signs on towering rocks as you drive by that date them back to different millenia. So powerful... But after a chase down the mountain to catch Bekah and David as they passed our spot, we finally set up camp along a stream and cooked a delicious dinner.

After Sheridan, our destination was Cowfish Brewery in Lander. Ma & Pa Smith met us there because they are just that crazy to drive two hours to have dinner with us. More steak was involved, I had a wasabi tuna salad- not local, of course- and microbrewed beer. It was so much fun to finally see Sue and DonRay after a week of traveling, and then to sit down and have steaks in Lander, a town that holds really great memories from our trip last summer. We made it to Rawlins that night and collapsed into a real bed. The five days we were there we were able to have delicious meals, eat Rawlins Mexican, travel to Laramie with Sue to explore and think about future possibilities, hike the highest point- Medicine Bow Peak- in the Snowy Range where we were married five years ago, and spend some much needed quality time with Josh's grandma, recording memories and stories using Cindy's computer. It's difficult to even begin to document the pictures and stories Gramma shared with us. She's always been someone who could just talk and talk as long as I've known her. I remember the first summer I came to Wyoming to meet the family in 2000 and she sunk me into the ancient brown couch to ask me questions. I think I said about 15 words that day as she entranced me with stories of this ranch, coloring each story with the history that reminded me of old western movies I've only barely seen. It's a little overwhelming to realize the life lived by this 78 year old woman. If only I were a filmmaker and could immerse myself in documenting the old west stories she and others around there tell.

Josh's dad took us to a part of the ranch he recently discovered that he thinks is work done by people who probably pre-dated the tribes we know as Native Americans. DonRay's father had told him about rocks that had been purposely arranged in a circle, but the reason they are there and when they were placed there is all a complete mystery. The ranch has always been a zone to discover arrowheads and indian artifacts, but to find see something for the first time on the very land you have always known, and to know it holds history not yet studies is very reverential. We had a tea party on this rim, overlooking the ranch. Watching the sun slowly settle within the humps of landscape, we saw a herd of elk and antelope moving silently far below, and at this distance they appeared to be moving slowly, almost as though they dragged the hills behind them. We watched the moon subtly rise in front of usand toasted to the world around us that had no idea we watched on.

After our time in Rawlins we were on the road again, headed towards Fort Collins, CO. We took a scenic route, although really, is there any unscenic route in Wyoming? Some would argue that the entire interstate 80 is a barren desert. I wouldn't argue against that, either. Anyway, we went over through Saratoga, home of some smelly hot springs, and then over the Snowy Range. We chugged over these high mountains, lightning an encore to our journey. Worries slightly shrouded our hopes of hiking to the highest point in this range, but once we reached the trailhead we knew there were no options. We were going to risk it, and take pictures on our camera phone on the way up. We pulled on those rusty old hiking boots, and layered ourselves in whatever clean clothing we could find. Unfortunately our memory card on the camera phone is malfunctioning, so we can't do more than describe the sky, land, rocks, and animals. I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to truly experience Alpine Lakes. Here we were, trucking our way a couple of miles to the top, walking alongside crystal clear and calm bodies of water. The entire atmosphere was like an under water scene, with greens and blues, lightning and clouds rolling over and ahead as though we are fish peering out below the fresh water. It wasn't the easiest hike, but definitely manageable. We were the only ones out that day on that specific trail, so between our staggered somewhat labored breathes at the higher elevation, we could just be, remembering aloud all the friends and family that joined us five years ago in these very mountains to seal our marriage. But this time we were completely alone, and once we reached the final part of the climb, jutting rocks and birds flitting in and out of the rocks crevasses, we just sat silently on top of this spectrum of colors, once again realizing the finality of time and space. We hunched down, trying not to trip on the rocks, and turned 360 degrees, looking down upon a dozen or so alpine lakes, and looking out towards the clouds rolling in. We knew we didn't have much time to get down to lower ground (a.k.a. safer ground) once the sky started spitting drips of rain on our chilled skin. The way down we saw rocks changing into brilliant colors as they got progressively wetter.

We eventually made it to Fort Collins and met some of Josh's old camp friends from Boy Scout Camp who were all gathering for a wedding reception. I had met them all at our wedding, but never got to spend time with them. So we had some drinks, talked about times past and times to come, and thoroughly enjoyed being with these guys. I even got to see the rustic camp where all they all got to know each other so well. They lived at camp and in soldier like tents for full summers, doing crazy things.

We left early on a Sunday morning for Omaha to see my folks. I got pulled over because I had created a lane that didn't actually exist while stopping at a stoplight. That was a first. It was five o'clock on a Sunday morning in a rural Colorado town of about 2000 people. I cannot figure out what he thought he would find out there at five o'clock in the morning. But he found me, and then proceeded to tell me what yellow and white lines on pavement mean in the state of Colorado, and then looked me over. He must have thought I looked like a sketchy character considering my rear bumper is falling off, we had granola in the backseat, and Josh hadn't shaved for a week. I mean, who wouldn't? He thought it necessary to ask me if I had any "knives, guns, grenades, weapons of mass destruction, or Al Qaeda pamphlets". How do you not laugh at that, especially when it's 5 o'clock in the morning? We made away with little more than a reprimand, but he had my wheels turning about where I would possibly have found a place to hide weapons of mass destruction in my car.

Omaha was cozy, pleasant, and so enjoyable. We had yet more delicious meals and were able to hike around an art exhibit at Fontanelle Forest. Josh and I spent an afternoon downtown, walking around the Old Market and checking out Bemis Art Center. We bbq'ed, played cards, went for walks and bike rides, and saw my mom's new classroom. At some point closing in on the time I was able to settle into my parents deck, thinking back on the trip, the family, the conversations. Sitting there, the smells were all reminiscent of BBQ- spittles of bone, marrow, charred veggies. Hollering air crept through the catterwauling of locusts as I sipped coffee of recycled, second use grounds. This was the tail end of our 2 week plus five day roadtrip. Looking at my feet, they showed stripes of brown, shrugging their way through my bulky blue sandals like crevasses in a canyon. These feet carried me into the hugs of college best friends, uncles and aunts, in-laws and grandfathers, cowboys and cow women, moms and dads. These generations that have made their way into my ancestry. The land I remembered as I thought on these things remain as shifting dust, grass, sage, brush, rocks, stones, sticks- all living memories.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Going Up North

We finally did it- we wandered far enough north to catch the sparkle of life in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Sprinkles of showers hit our greasy windshield as we pulled east out of our driveway in Ann Arbor. Our first destination was to be Bob's Yurt, the infamous grounds for many a sledder during Michigan's wet, northern winters. We've spent many a morning with the legendary Bob, sipping dark coffee and chowing dense, moist hotcakes made by Josh in preparation for a day of drywalling. After a week of drywalling with Bob, we jotted down a few obtuse directions and targeted ourselves onto the interstate towards this structure that we had spent hours discussing. Four hours into our drive, intermittently napping, singing, and chatting, we find ourselves crawling on the blacktop at 30 miles per hour, rain being our culprit. We are only miles from our beckoning exit, but realize that while it's pouring a couple mile hike into an unknown, slightly sketchy structure with our homes on our backs might not be an ideal beginning to our vacation.

So on to plan B. Further north is a completely different land mass, one that we've never tread upon. And it summoned us. We had heard of fudge shops and masses of water existing only 60 miles north of where we presently were, so our thoughts were to travel there, look for a weather radar, gorge on a bit of chocolate, and forge ahead. Reaching Mackinaw City we were greeted by the Mackinac Bridge, a structure that manipulates your being, immediately narrowing your physical self into a miniatured version of form. It creeps along the width of water between Michigan's two land masses, crystals of water lapping against its weighted outline. Stepping out of our moving machine, we brought ourselves to the waters edge, sandy toes chilled and degrees of awe bumping up on our skin. Not being from water, the two of us were a sight, snapping pictures, laughing, and wondering what in the world we were to do with all this wetness around. Rain slipped behind our ears, our rainjackets drooped on our icy shoulders, and our eyes were slits against the water that fell. And at our feet was a body of water dividing this state we'd been occupying for over four years yet had never known.

We crossed this bridge, found a Visitor's Center to guide our wayward journey, and saw that all around us was rain. But there was hope in the northwest. Not far out of St. Ignace, the town the bridge led us to, we were greeted by clearer skies and Lake Michigan to our south. We traveled along highway 2 with the intention of finding Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and setting up camp. A couple of hours later, night threatening to come, we found ourselves in Grand Marais, the northern tip of the National Lakeshore, buckets of rain cascading down the sides of our Little Honda. A hopeless situation with no hostels in site.

Time for Plan C (or was it D?). Onto the Buckhorn Resort, an hours trek south. This meant backtracking. We wondered why we saw few signs of human life until our route took us to washboard roads, our bums hopping up in down in our foam seats, an encore of rain slapping the exterior. A day of driving in the rain and we both knew we were lucky to still like each other. But we pulled through, found the Buckhorn Resort, and realized it was little more than a storage barn.

Plan D (possibly E): On the way to our storage unit ("resort"), we had passed a sign leading to Otter Lake Campground. Driving in the depths of the forest we found a bin of firewood for sale and stuck a damp $5 bill in the cash register coffecan. Loaded with splintering wood and fingers crossed we drove along the dirt road to the campground. Now the air hung with water, but little actually fell from the sky. Otter Lake had a cloud of steam rising from it's belly. We were thrilled. This was adequate housing. Knowing that the wetness breathing down on us could at any point spill over it's sides, we worked quickly to make a fire and set up our tent. Darkness set in all around us, thoroughly covering our faces, our belongings, and all that was familiar. Leaning into the fire, we kept ourselves awake with the delicious smell of homemade, roasting potatoes Josh had prepared. Complete gratification.

I woke to the sound of small pelts of rain on our shelter and the sounds of wood chopping. Josh made a fire in the light rain that fell and we slurped our coffee true to good form. An hour later we were drenched, dripping in 40 degree rain and huddling next to our struggling fire. We realized the desperate situation we were in. Being the only people in the entire campsite, we out loud allowed ourselves to vent our extremes- laughing and wanting to cry all at the same time. The campsite, tho, had a bathroom. Little did we know that the bathroom actually had a shower until in desperation I ran across through the grounds to the edge of the water to where the bathroom structure sat. A hot shower wearing my flipflops never felt so good. It was a lottery win of such great proportions.

The weather didn't seem to want to let up, so we folded our wet tent into the back of the car, threw in our belongings, and cranked on the heat. We drove into the town of Munisey and decided to continue our drive on Highway 2, going into Marquette, MI. The town is built on water culture, fresh fish and boats all around. We spent time in the quaint town shooting photos, walking through their food co-op, and stopping into a brewery.

The rain hid itself in the afternoon hours so with great ambition we headed back towards Munisey, curious as to where the night would take us. It led to Lake Superior. We found 12 Mile Campground, an unimaginable scape of land in forest and sand and water. The wind wailed, a sure fire way to dry a soggy tent. After setting up camp, the Lake sprawling and lapping loud waves just beyond us, we decided to take an evening hike. We were headed towards a lighthouse- the lake on our left, the woods on our right. It was phenomenal.

We slept to the sound of the water and the wind. We woke up to chilly air and our coffee pot begging to be set on a fire. And the pictures that follow here are from an amazing 10 mile hike up and down land and water. Few people braving the weather led to almost completely desolate hikes, campsites, and roads. The trip can never be repeated. It was truly gorgeous, unexpected, and amazing.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Mackinac Bridge- This bridge celebrates it's 50th anniversary this year, and is the access between Michigan's upper penninsula and lower state.

These five pictures were from our campsite the second night of our rustic stay in Pictured Rocks. We were right on Lake Superior. The wind was raging and the waves emphatically spilled onto the shore just feet below us. We had to make wind blocks for our campfire so as to slow the burning of our precious wood.

After establishing our campsite and setting up our tent to dry from the previous night's downpour, we set off on a three mile round-trip hike. We were chaperoned by unfamiliar plants and hiding moose (I really want to believe a moose was in those woods, completely enthralled by our every footstep), and serenaded by thunder. We found historical remains of shipwrecks (pics below), and this lighthouse, insinuating an aura of lake times past. This lighthouse was placed at this point as a means to slow the wreaking of ships- a tragedy that occurred far too often at that point in time- as they traveled from Whitefish Point to Munisey. The only way in is by foot now, and we were the only ones harebrained enough to brave the cold, threatening weather. That's the beauty of adventure.

And finally, a pictured rock....

Chapel Rock to Mosquito Falls

On the third day of our adventure there was a reprieve from the rain. The clouds made way for a beautiful, pastel sunrise, and the wind spurred our morning along by encouraging our fire to brew a quicker cup of coffee. We set out around noon on a 10 mile hike (which happens to be part of the North Country Trail that leads from New York to North Dakota) that would wind us around beach and forest, sand and loamy soil, waterfalls and plateaus. We caught sight of a kingfisher, an army of chipmunks, a mink, and yet again the quiet, hiding moose that we never could catch site. One of the first stops on the hike, only accessible by trail, was Chapel Rock. The site of this tree, perched on a massive form of rock, gazing out among the water with it's roots stretched across open sky is breathtaking and exhilarating. The ability of plants and trees to reach for life in adverse situations should remind us all to be extra thankful for their endurance. Without such survival techniques on the part of plant and animal life, our outlook on human existence might be even graver yet. Respect that of which we are the caretaker.

The Great Lake Superior....

These are the Pictured Rocks. We saw a sailboat glide by in the distance and it was from these rocks that many a seagull and the kingfisher floated overhead. Sitting there I wished that I, too, could fly, catching the wind on my wings and diving into the cold water for food....


Marquette is the home of Northern Michigan University and was not at all on our roadmap for the trip. We ended up there after our multiple attempts to enter Pictured Rocks were thwarted by literal downpours. And yes, we did find a local brewery that sympathized with our chilled bones and hungry bellies.

Josh was awed by this enormous concrete structure, stained rust from iron.