Fall is Featured!

Fall maplesGosh, that summer just flew past – even though it was a difficult one to enjoy.
Global warning has made an impact on us here in the Great Lakes region, it was cool and wet, and not a warm summer season. However we did have enough rain for the gardens, and the ground water levels are high. And there is no denying that the higher water levels in Superior have made The Big Lake happier – no long walks necessary to get to a swim in the shallows of the sandy bays, and lots of great wave viewing opportunities from the rocky cliffs! No, it was the amount of biting insects that made this summer rather a hellish one.
We often host guests who cannot believe that we have so few people per square mile – and that prices for cottage land are relatively low. Those are the poor misguided souls who have never had to run screaming for their lives – from hordes of mosquitos! June and July are screen-porch months – and smoky fires during the day. The happiest way to enjoy a day out-of-doors in June is from the surface of a lake! Thank goodness for kayaks and canoes – offshore travel that keeps you out of the bug-lands.
…I have been thinking a lot this year about the effort it takes to live north of the 49th parallel – it can seem at times that the amount of effort, money and planning is not commiserate with the rewards of where we live. As I get older and become more discerning about what I put my energy towards, it becomes obvious that at least half of our resources and time goes towards staying alive in this aggressive climate! That extends not only to gathering fuel and food, but also to creating activities and arts in an underpopulated and remote region of the country, necessary to build and maintain culture and community – things that people in a more urban environment take for granted.
Missing out on the simple rewards of a good summer growing season, and weather suitable for basking in the sun can really make you feel overextended and bitter in the face of all that effort.
Viewing the sudden blaze of autumn somehow helps us reflect on our thoughts and centre our mood – akin to hearing a church organ swell with a huge note of praise, or being given a gift of worth no money could buy …. our spiritual reward for the “sow, toil and reap”  –  of collecting food, heat and habits to get us through those cold dark months. This land really comes into its own celebration in September and October – harvest season is always spectacular, with the maple forest ablaze in colour, and the clear clean air allowing for views that sparkle! Visiting a new farmers’ market venture, or taking part in organising a community festival makes you realise that the rewards are sometimes gained through the process, not the outcome.
So after a few trying months, we greet the blessing of Indian summer like an old friend – we have given up on tanning, and gardening, I hear Doris Day singing “what will be, will be”! – and we can open our hearts to the bittersweet few weeks of fall. One week of warmth and t-shirt weather in this season is worth two months of fickle summer – our northern afternoons are warm with possibilities, thick with golden light and rich in sensations. Crisp apples and carrots, the last monarchs and sandhills heading south, within the startling contrasts of the colour wheel. Nordic blue of sky and water, set against mustard yellow fields and vermillion woodlands becomes a therapy session for your soul. Driving into the Sault from Goulais River is a feast for the eyes, soothing and uplifting, a euphoric better than any mood enhancing drug. You forget all about the trials and tribulations of the summer season, and swear to one and all that you live in a paradise and feel sorry for anyone unable to share in this glory – and even wax poetic about the best yet to come, yes, SNOW! 😉
Cleaning the skis and planning some gatherings to enjoy your friends, old and new, helps out too!

HAPPY CANADA DAY!

July 1st 2014 is almost upon us … and it  is hard to believe we are already past our longest day of the year. We marked the solstice this month (….and our thirtieth anniversary of putting up with each other!)  – with a wonderful house concert by Liam Titcomb, who most definately keeps me believing in the value of live performance! Such expertise and spirit, I’m hard pressed to think of anyone who can measure up to Liams’ level, at any age. Listening to his performance, delivered so effortlessly and yet with such intricate guitar work and writing abilities, it is shocking to think he is not yet thirty years old, and has that depth of resource within. I have always felt guilty for not enjoying those shows “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice” … people tell me they get so much pleasure from them – but having been in the music business for so many years it is just so painful to see how “dumbed down” a performance or singer/musician’s message has to be to appeal to the mass population. I find most of those performances so boring and predictable, it is actually painful for me to see the accolades that are heaped on the artists. Music is one of the easiest arts to force a square peg to go in a round hole. Once that happens you aren’t hearing the performers’ voice anymore – just the “star-maker machinery” as Joni Mitchell called it. 

The summer so far has not been kind – we have a surfeit of mosquitos and yet a lack of water. Keeping the garden happy has been a struggle! It is rather discouraging to invest so much time energy and sweat to grow a great crop of lettuces and greens – and then be unable to harvest any for dinner because of attacking hordes of mosquitos! They are lasting so long this year … taking the place of the usual swarms of blackflies. Enn says when he was a child and returned home after a buggy play day, his mom called the blackfly bites his “northern Ontario necklace”! ..and yet I don’t think I have seen one blackfly here yet this year.

But these MOSQUITOS!! We have been so clothed! – this morning is supposed to be the hottest day of the summer so far, up to 30 degrees – yet at six thirty this morning when I rose to water the garden, I dressed in wool socks, undershirt, overshirt, long pants which I tucked into the socks, put on a hat, dove into my bug shirt, zipped the face screen up, nitrile gloves, tucked the sleeves of said bug shirt, …then sprayed citronella, and eau de DEET over all this concoction. Then I opened the door and stepped out into this beautiful day. You think the sight would just frighten them away! Here we are, pasty white and suffering scurvy from a lack of sunlight and fresh food! At the height of summer!  😉

I have to admit I have refused a few bookings here at the lodge, knowing that some people would not be able to enjoy their holiday with us at present. It’s a matter of assessing if people really know what you are warning them about when you say the bugs are horrendous … let’s hope the heat today will take them out, and we can cautiously get on with the short and tank top season, even if it only lasts a few days I will welcome it!

No  one seems to be talking about west nile virus this year – was all that discussion just a flash in the pan? I’m sure most of us living in theses muskeg and cedar swamplands of Ontario have been exposed to it by now. And I don’t want to appear alarmist – but there is a definate lack of warblers, forest birds and bats this year. And that is who eats most of these mosquitos. Most summer mornings at 5 am I am awoken by the beautiful dawn chorus – usually starting with wood thrush, oven birds, vireos, then the robins, warblers and other less solitary birds join in….this past week the whine of mosquitos at the windows is the prevalent song. Bats have suffered in this region from White Nose Syndrome … a fungus that infects them in their winter hibernaculae … and a bat will eat 4000 – 8000 mosquitos in one night. That is an amazing amount! I still have one old friend of a bat spending the days in the cedar shakes above the door, but other resting sites don’t seem to have been used yet this summer. If those bats were alive, they would be here, bats return to the same areas every year just as birds do. 

Mornings that I have this particular style of internal dialogue I just try to remind myself that once we make this planet uninhabitable for humans, either by bad art or bad air and water, other species will fill the niche and perhaps there will be a time when the rise and fall of hominoids will happen with a different set of defining values. 

Happy Canada Day, everyone!  ♥

 

Afterglow among the drifts and dregs….. Telefest 2014 retrospective~

Monday 12 pm.
Hard to deal with the empty space once the last car has been pushed out of the driveway.

All that remains is the warm glow in our hearts and the large drift of detritus; all that is left of this past weekend’s large bubble of friendship, fun and adrenalin!
Although that was quite the joke Mother Nature played – after this long winter of super snow and cold, (giving us not only a mild case of early cabin fever but luckily also the best snow conditions  in years), two days before Telefest we had above freezing temperatures, a bit of rain mist, and then the barometer plummeted to a whirlwind of a winter storm, with wind and snow, keeping several people from arriving here once both the Michigan Mackinaw Bridge and the highway south to Sudbury were closed. Yet not deterred, just delayed, all persevered and held fast to their plans.

Troopers! … all those who braved those odd elements and kept on the path that leads to our door!

Quite a large contingent from Canada this year, perhaps pumped on the good showing of medals and two awesome gold medals in hockey, we numbered over 50 participants by late Saturday evening. (Dear Americans, sorry for all the teasing. We do love Hockeyville here in Canada!)

Hugely missed were members of the clan Stoppel .. our thoughts were with all of you and especially your patriarch Roger as he battles his way through his own perfect storm.

Part of Saturday’s crew in the outback was happily captured on film by Marcus Quintillano – you can see many olympic-worthy aerial snow ballet maneuvers here –
https://vimeo.com/m/87455819
Many thanks, Marcus!

Safely returned from the film-shoot, more energy was expended on saunas, eating a huge home-made lasagna dinner and enjoying a musical interlude with guest performers Roger Marin and Rochelle Risling. Local musicians Rick Charbonneau, Britta Wolfert, Jeff Hinich and friends continued to entertain until the evening’s end….

Woods conditions improved mightily on Sunday, as the storm resolved into a snow-event, laying down almost two feet of fresh fluff for Sunday’s skiers. Enn said it was his best ski this year – and out of 48 epic days, that is high praise indeed!

More marathon eating took place after Sunday’s ski, as we went through the drift of leftovers and made short work of Mike’s amazing apple tart, a BBQ turkey breast, tenderloin slivers, Marie’s incredible assortment of cheeses of the world, Goulais Garden goulash et al – to power up and send folks back out into the storm to their homes in Owen Sound, Collingwood, Sudbury, Toronto, Ann Arbor, Petoskey, Traverse City, Grayling, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Detroit, Moncton NB and further afield.

My personal thanks go out to everyone above who pitched in to help, my friend Sheila Aho who gave up her Sunday last week to help me prep food, cousin Terry who schlepped gear all week, the wonderful Ms. Emily Gardiner who eschewed a dreamboat day of skiing to help me in the hospitality department – Em, you rock AND roll, Saturday would not have happened without your energy and investment of time – I sure DO owe you ONE! (but just one 🙂 )

Thanks also to our local sponsors, who provided over $800 dollars worth of great swag – everyone who participates for the day on Saturday gets to take a gift home with them due to the generosity of our local supporters and merchants ~
Velorution
Your one stop shop for everything Bike and XC Ski in Sault Ste Marie ON.
The Duke of Windsor Sport Shop
Dedicated to the sales and service of all skis, ski gear, and bicycles.
Algoma Bicycle Company
Not just bikes but skis and snowshoes, along with clothing and accessories
Searchmont Resort, Searchmont ON
All season resort with 700′ vertical, four chair lifts and condos for on mountain accoms.
and the Timberland General Store, Goulais River

Thank you to everyone who contributed to making the 18th Annual Snowflea Telefest a fabulous weekend !

Tele- stalkers, please feel free to post and comment here!

FREE HEELS OF THE WORLD, UNITE! …and we will see you on the next run!

…yers in powder,

Robinski

Mike Tefest 2014:photo by Marcus Quintillano …..this is a picture of Mike Everts tree-skiing on Saturday. Photo by Marcus Quintilliano.

18th Annual Snowflea Telefest – Feb. 21-23 /14

…just reposting my emailed letter from a few weeks ago here in the blog- in case we missed anyone! See you soon!

“Hellllooooooo!!! …..a reminder to join us for a fluffy and fun-filled weekend, our 18th Annual Snowflea Telefest, February 21st-23rd!
Hi folks! Well, you just can’t keep a good deity down, and our personal buddha, Heikki Lunta, a.k.a. good ol’ Hank Snow has been flurrying us with his attention for a few months now!

Back-country conditions are amazing at present. It started snowing in early November and it just hasn’t stopped. Super cold temperatures have kept the snow very dry and deep, and every day there’s new powder to enjoy, on top of a base of 1.2 metres (that’s 3.5 feet for you southerners!)
But then of course, most of the middle of the continent is enjoying the same awesome conditions.

A few sad under-shovelled people are groaning about too much of a good thing – but not us Snowflea- ers!
…and hey, what’s with – “Polar Vortex”? ….didn’t we just used to call it winter?

Some of the excessive effort needed to survive this” Vortex”; (not to be confused with The Vortex of Pain on our trail system) – include catching your breath after a supreme 50-turn flight down the newest pitch, Lone Pine, slogging in a fresh access trail after every nights’ snowfall of 24 cm (10 inches) … and of course deciding what type of beer to reward oneself with after a thirsty day!

Lodge attendance has escalated this year as everyone bows down to old Heikki – and once bent over past their knees I see most using their mittened hands to strap on those trusty skis and snowshoes. What can ya do – the only seasonal alternative is Hawaii, mall-walking or anti-depressants … or a radical option, like medical hibernation. (?)

So wouldn’t it be more fun to set your compass for some snorkel-skiing at The 18th Annual Snowflea Telefest 2014? Seventeen years so far – every single one of them a blast!

Check out the snowflea page on our website here:

http://www.bellevuevalleylodge.ca/shome.html

Here’s our fancy new poster courtesy of Ryan Creagh http://www.bellevuevalleylodge.ca/telefest2014.jpg

…. we would like to remind all local friends with time constraints we still offer a special rate that includes the Saturday afternoon tour on snowshoes or skis, full dinner and concert.
This year our featured performer is Roger Marin, a very talented alt-country singer-songwriter ~ www.rogermarin.com – ( you may remember seeing him playing guitar and pedal steel in Fred Eaglesmith’s band a few years back.)

Thanks to those of you who have already registered!

Anyone else? ….just drop us a line and let us know if you will be pitching a tent, staking a chair, or reserving a room ! (Yes, we are contemplating building a snow cave just for you, Mr. “Timex” Hill!)

…yers in a big white-out,
Robin

House Concert in November – Stephen Fearing

We are looking forward to a favourite artist performing here in November – musician and friend Stephen Fearing will be here on November 24th for a matinee performance. Stephen is one-third of the supergroup “Blackie and the Rodeo Kings”, former Snowflea Telefest performer, part of the duo “Fearing and White” and one of the most talented and hardest touring folk-rocksters I know of… this past summer he set up several shows live streamed on the internet that were simply amazing in the sense of intimacy and candour, and yet available for viewing by everyone who wished to participate. 

As someone who is old enough to remember how we lived before the internet became our closest companion, I am overwhelmed when I see the possibility of the technology used for performance of art; in this case gathering a crowd of people from every part of the planet all at one time to participate in the experience. The shows Stephen presented were so ambient – the audience could tweet and talk on the sidescreen, ask Stephen questions or request songs, revisit old friends, all from the (assumed) privacy of their computer screen. It was mind-blowing to experience what was effectively a “house concert ” presented in this way. 

However I still love the intimacy of a small room, warm with bodies, all with a like-minded intent to be physically present in that moment, to actually experience with more senses than just the eyes and ears, to become one with the performer, and BE the one entity that is that particular concert at that time in space. Everyone and thing becomes a key player; the sound technician, the lady who brought cake, your seatmate’s coat, the curtains that lend shape to the lighting, the road you drove to get there, the things you will say to the performer, the glass of water on the stage, the shift and creak of the audience breathing. 

It’s good to know that an alternative exists; but you can’t beat the real thing.

Stephen Fearing in Concert

November 24th

Bellevue Valley Lodge

http://www.stephenfearing.com

 

2013 Lopp-It Good @ Snowflea 2014 Date announcement!

Chickadee by D. KasunicHi folks!

I hope everyone has enjoyed a wonderful year!
Looks like the globally weirded but welcome month of Aug-tober is drawing to a close, and my favourite time of year is finally here.
I love the outside scene when the vermillion leaves of the maples are down, making way for the rusty-brown oaks, yellow tamarack and deep green of the spruce and pine; allowing those far-off dreamy hill views, anchored between golden fields and azure skies. The ilex berries and moose-maple are all ablaze along the waterways.
…however I will admit that blue not the colour of the sky today – it is actually hailing outside, and I heard the buntings and juncos tweeting about snow!  We still have a lot of outside work to attend to around here, so I have hopes that this sleeting will be fleeting – just a quick visit from the weather gods, practicing for the Lopp-It weekend.
Which reminds me to get to the point ……as well as finally remembering my blog password, and dropping by to say hello, I wanted to invite any who can join us on the weekend of November 9th and 10th for the annual Bellevue Valley Lodge “Lopp-It-Good”!  We get out in the woods on our ski runs to shift what the winds have brought down, scout new death-defying drops and clear off the brushy ankle-grabbers.
We tromp around with power tools and loppers to test our mettle, and sometimes the elements test our resolve too!
Besides, there’s nothing like a bit of pain to make you think you are having a good time!
If you would like to join in on the weekend of November 9th, we happily house and feed you in exchange for this workout for your brawny bodies….please call or email for more details.
Also, the 18th Annual Snowflea Telefest is set for February 21st – 23rd, 2014…. so mark your calendars! (18 years … can you believe it?)
Thanks for reading ~ take care, hopefully we’ll cross tips and tracks sometime soon!
Best wishes,
Robin
(and Enn, who is busy building a new garage to host ski-waxing parties)

That time of year again!!

…….announcing The 17th Annual Snowflea Telefest!

FEBRUARY 23RD & 24TH, 2013

….sorry, been too busy skiing and enjoying a REAL winter to even think about writing to all you folks. Besides, most of you have been so eager to get out on the slopes I have talked to all of you personally over the past 6 weeks – yes, it is winter in Northern Ontario once again!

Since Christmas, several heavy and prolonged snowfalls have given us a great base, and even with our two days of warm weather and rain this past week we are still enjoying great conditions in the back-country! It is snowing right now, and the forecast is calling for over 20 cm of freshies by tomorrow morning – and the long-range shows significant snowfall for the next five days – well into next week!

So all systems go for Snowflea Telefest 2013!

This past fall the “Lopp -It – Good” crew plotted and cleaned up two MAJOR extensions to the bottoms of Northwest Passage and  Undertaker runs – giving us some longer ski-able terrain closer to the lodge. A new line was cut returning skiers from The North Face – and was christened “The Lone Pine” – it circles the mountain and gives us a new choice for a sweet downhill line on the tour home. A lovely loop and very relaxed!

……so hey, if you are planning on coming for Snowflea and have not called to confirm – please do so. We are already full here at the main lodge but Bert has offered a few rooms for overnighters –  and if you are local and thinking of coming along for Saturday, you know you are very welcome, I would just like you to confirm so I can plan meals – THANKS!

Yours snowingly,
robin

Spring flings wings!

Sunday morning chorus … so many happy travelers have arrived back home this week! Flutebird (hermit thrush) got back late last night, his song overlapped with an early morning barred owl. Yesterday it was Wagtail (eastern phoebe) who stood out as newcomer. The Yakker family (northern flickers) were quiet for a few days, but are now making a huge fuss – perturbed that the rotten poplar where they have nested in for a few springs has fallen; checking out several other suitable spots. Mr. Cutthroat (rose breasted grosbeak) is high in the treetops, sounding like an oriole.

There are a pair of eastern bluebirds hanging out near the compost piles; we put up a nestbox but I think the hole is too big for their liking.

Robins, sand hill cranes, nuthatches, brown creeper, downy, hairy, and three-toed woodpeckers, a mourning dove, purple finch, chickadees, bluejay, redpolls, pine siskins, goldfinch, several wandering ducks, boat-tailed grackles, red-wing blackbirds, and a drumming partridge also featured solo in the choir this morning. Yesterday while raking the yard I was spy-hopped by a turkey vulture, kestrel, kingfisher, a marsh hawk, and my ever scrap-hopeful raven couple and their cousin, Jet the Crow. Jet doesn’t want the ravens around suddenly – his partner must be sitting on a nest somewhere close by “his” territory. The ravens nest a bit earlier, but I probably saw one of the nesting partners and a juvie “helper” …out cruising for a treat.

Have not yet heard the white-throated sparrow, brown thrasher, catbird, or vireo this spring- a few warblers in the woods but no sign of the black-throated blue, the olive, or the black and white, at least here near the house, where they like to pick bugs from the copse of hazel out in front.
Later on in May, just after the sand cherries bloom, I will watch for those far-ranging travelers – the scarlet tanager and indigo bunting. Always a relief when they make it back here from the tropical lands.

I’m sure that the hummingbirds must be back – anyone seen one yet?