August began with me feeling over-worked and stung out. After seven shows in eight weeks I needed a vacation. I was also in need of some new subject matter--I had in mind to do a black bear, but I didn't have many black bear images to work from. So we decided to take a quick trip up to the U.P. and visit Oswald's Bear Ranch.
Oswald's opened when the dumps shut down. Back in the day, folks who wanted to see bears would drive up to the U.P. and park at a town dump. There would invariably be bears, often sows with cubs, digging up the trash. This was not good for the bears, and ultimately not good for folks who lived up there who had to deal with bears that had become used to an easy meal out of a trash can.
So I got online and found a State Forest Campground about 15 minutes north of Oswald's called Pretty Lake. What sold me was mention of portages to other surrounding lakes. We would have an extra day to relax so I wanted a place with good paddling. I assumed since it was a rustic campground and we were going up midweek that we would have our pick of spots. Boy was I wrong! We were lucky to find one with direct access to the water where we could leave our kayaks! However, the area and scenery didn't disappoint.
We got camp set up and had a quick dinner, with just enough time for some exploring before dark. The girls took out their 'yaks while I walked the perimeter. The sun was setting and the moon was rising as a pair of loons, with two good sized chicks, yodeled across the lake. It was a perfect up north moment.
The following morning we packed lunches, fishing and camera gear and headed across Pretty Lake for the first portage.
The first portage took us to Brush Lake, a small, deep body of water. The portage was short, only 100 feet or so. We paddled to the next portage, also short, which took us to Camp 8 Lake. Around a good portion of Camp 8 Lake were rustic campsites, accessible only by foot or boat. What is nice about these is they are rustic, not back country--there are vault toilets, hand pumps for water, picnic tables and fire rings. We could see another trip in our future!
We paddled around Camp 8 Lake for a while, then decided to portage over to Beaver House Lake. This was a longer portage so we left the kayaks on the shore of Camp 8 while we explored the area. There were more campsites out here, which really felt like the middle of nowhere. The trail that cut through the area was wide and well-kept, and then I saw a blaze for the North Country Pathway. That explained it! This is a 4,600 mile trail that passes through seven states, from North Dakota to New York.
I fell in love with this spot instantly. There was not a soul, not a sound, nothing but the wind and the twittering birds. We collapsed on a picnic table and ate lunch in paradise.
We dragged our kayaks over to Beaver House Lake and the girls went fishing while I stayed behind and wrote and relaxed, and took pictures of red skimmers cavorting in the sweet gale.
When they got back we went blueberry picking. Never have I seen so many wild blueberries in one place. We barely made a dent.
By 4:30 we were getting hungry again, and a bit tired. Knowing we had several lakes and portages to tackle to get back to camp we reluctantly left. When we got back to Pretty Lake, the loon family was right there by the portage, having their own supper.
It was an absolutely perfect up north day.