Safe Returns – April 20th 2017

Even before I opened one bleary eye at dawn this morning, I heard him.  – “Eeee – oh-layyy! bup bup -…..Layoieeee! ….bup bup EEEoh layyy, …Leee ohieeEEE!”

Nothing means spring has arrived as much as the call of the wood thrush.  Even though every morning now brings a welcome song that means an old friend has arrived back home.  It was the excitable little eastern phoebe a few mornings ago – flicking his tail and calling repeatedly, “SqueeeGEEE!” ….causing me to regret a late night and little sleep.  The rousing dawn chorus of all the feathered ones has declined greatly in my lifetime,  but there is still a fevered pitch of sound to greet the start of the spring day.   There’s nothing you can do except give in to the clarion call and go outside to listen – and once the dogs hear you sigh and don your clothes, they are happy to reinforce your awakening, and accompany you!

The flutebird – (as I call him), and I have an uneasy relationship.  I love his ethereal song, and the fact that this plucky little bird comes back to our woods each spring, migrating along one of the longest routes of all the neo-tropical songbirds, from the central americas of Panama to the mixed deciduous forest at the far reaches of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence range.  This bird and his family seem invincible, migrating at night, all that distance, using the stars and the earths’ magnetic field to orient their flight.

But I worry about him, on several fronts.  Firstly, his species is in decline, and have been on the near-threatened list since the 1960’s. When I was a front line environmentalist, my hearts’ focus was on forests, and the need to retain large tracts of the landscape from fragmentation through road accesses and harvest.  The wood thrush is one of the first birds to suffer when their woodland habitat is altered.  Their absence from a supposed “habitat managed” forest is as strong an indicator of illness as the dead canary is in a coal mine.  They return to the same home in each region every spring and winter, where they need a canopy forest and a leafy floor to forage. Any home they have to subsist in, other than this, decreases their food supply and leaves the birds vulnerable to predators; both those that kill the adult birds, and in the case of the ubiquitous cowbird, predate their nests. As we loudly decry the fragmentation of forests in Central America,  we are as guilty of the same crime here in the north of the continent.

So even though my flutebird is a welcome spring blessing I wish I knew less of the story, which tempers hearing his song with a hint of sadness.

A more immediate anxiety I have once I hear this silly little bird each spring comes from being aware of the dangers I am directly responsible for.  I say “silly” – because if this bird has one detrimental attribute, it would be that of owning an aggressive and reckless nature – it flies as if shot from a cannon, banking around obstacles and aero-planing in top-speed and exceedingly low glides through the forest.  It delights to shortcut sharp corners and has no regard for buildings and windows. Thrush are territorial and will chase each other until totally winded and unable to fly,  and they show off to each other in reckless flight even more.

You would think after that huge journey the agenda would designate some R and R for a few days? Huh! …..no chance of that, they puff out that dual vocal chord, sing their hearts out, and terrorize the other feathered foes with some kamikaze hazing.

After a few trial and errors I have finally arrived at a seemingly effective way to keep them from knocking themselves out on one particular window, the one at the corner of the house that seems to present an attractive shortcut.  I have laced a cobweb of light twine across each section of the glass in a random pattern, and after many other options this has worked to keep the thrush family from diving into it.  I reasoned that if birds dislike to fly through cobwebs, this lacing of twine would look like a huge malevolent one, and so far my theory seems to hold.  It’s fairly invisible from the inside, but presents a no-fly zone for these little fearless featherbrains.

So of course, once that clarion call comes through the dawn, sleep has no power to hold me in thrall.  I have to go out into the dawn to listen and count all who have returned with last night’s spring wind, and check all my contrived cobwebs to keep them as safe from harm as I am able.  And those are the touchstones that let me sleep well at night, if I get to bed early enough!

It would be a shame to miss tomorrow’s dawn chorus.

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Countdown to Snowflea Telefest 2015! February 20-22

Our Winter of Contentment = A Snow Day, Everyday! 🙂

Hello Lodge-Blog!

It’s been SO long since I’ve stopped by to have a cup of tea with you, I was very happy to see you still sitting here, patiently waiting for a Bellevue update. What a loyal little blog you are!

It’s been a beautiful winter for back-country skiing – cold bluebird days, with powder conditions on top of a huge base, and every few days a few freshies to clean the slopes. Global warming seems to mean “colding” in this region – or perhaps it’s just that La Niña has switched places with her little brother for a seasonal holiday. Such a throwback to the “old” winters I keep being surprised by the fact that my knees have not reset themselves to a more bucolic time! However I am extremely lucky that once the adrenalin pumps through those cranky joints I forget I even have knees until much later in the day, when the skis are off, and more mundane tasks remind me how annoying walking can be.

So in this way, December and January just flew by, and now it’s Telefest month!

SnowFlea Poster 2015

 

 

This year will be our 19th Annual Snowflea Telefest, and like this past                  month, nineteen years have streamed by in a blurr. Back in  1996 we planned one little weekend of fun to share an activity we love, and empower people to travel winter landscapes under their own bipedal power    and gain confidence in backwoods adventure on their own.

Hurtling ourselves through the spaces between trees, experiencing pure gravity on skis, riding pillowed slopes of snow, aware of being many feet above the actual    ground was just a side benefit, but one that became the raison d’étre rather immediately! ….well, who could resist, considering adrenalin and laughter go hand in hand!

So many great times with friends over these years, and opportunities to share joyful times. I don’t think anyone in the tele-tribe will stop until we have to. Perhaps while we still have questing natures, we can work on building a senior ski binding that does the uphill step to climb automatically!

It is so much easier to learn the sport and techniques of tele-skiing now, what with the awesome equipment out there, changing with the times and responsive to different conditions. Heck, we started with wood cross-country skis! That was hard. Then cambered metal edges, super long; Oh boy, what a flail-fest! Thankfully Chris Stoppel took pity on us and brought us some old Hexel downhills.  Remember, this was before the days of short fat powder skis, even at resorts. What took us three or more years to learn, an athletic person with good gear can now conquer in a day. It has been amazing to see so many younger folks keen to strap on a new binding, even snowboards …. and EARN THEIR TURNS!

So here it comes, our annual weekend that marks the full circle of our passion for so many things that go hand in hand to make us happy. Music is a big part of that too – like skiing, another language to enjoy life with! This year we welcome Dana Whittle as our featured performer. Dana is a whirlwind of song and musicianship – we are very excited to welcome her energy and enthusiasm to Snowflea! Please drop by her band site to read about her many accolades and musicalwork – http://www.dentdelion.net/dentdelion-english/dana-english/

…and if you are planning on joining us ~ drop us a knee – oops I mean a line !! See you on a snow-day!
bellevuevalleylodge@gmail.com

Annual Fall “Lopp-It-Good” – happening November 8th 2014

Hi folks,

A lovely little nip is in the air today – you can smell snowflakes in the stratosphere. Yes, you can! 😉

All the maple and poplar leaves have been set free, swirling in huge drifts over the yard. Raking has been a chore with these huge northeasterly blows happening all week. Only the rubrous oak and citrine tamarack are stubbornly holding on to perk up the hillside views.

Enn is walking the mountain this weekend, making note of large windfalls and areas that need some saw work to keep the turns safe this winter.

mike marie conner loppet

We’ve planned the big trail clearing on November 8th and 9th … if you can join us, we would love to have you!

And ……..Snowflea Telefest is planned for February 20th – 22nd 2015.

This will be our 19th Annual! I hate to admit how many more years we have been tromping these woods, clearing deadfall and limbs to make this incredible trail network for backwoods skiing one of a kind.  Lopp it Good weekend asks for your participation in exchange for room and board … it’s a great way to get a deer’s eye view of our ski area, and become a part of the tribe, whether you love to make Telemark turns or prefer to snowshoe! Give us a call or send us an email for more information, or to reserve a bed – hope to see you soon.

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!