Who is Sue and what is Suelandia?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Moar Nort Shore

Hey people.  We spent more time at the north shore on this trip than any other, and still felt like we needed another week to see everything and do everything we wanted.  On our last morning we optimistically flagged 5 river trails to check out, and thought we'd get a little trail riding in too-- ha!  We got to 2 hiking trails.

First up-- the Caribou.  We've hiked this before, but the trail veers away from the rather tame looking river almost right away.  On past trips we've messed around in the river a bit and decided it was boring and moved on--- but now we had a guidebook that assured us a super cool waterfall was further up the river.  In the end we couldn't resist the lure of the river and diverted off the trail as we have in the past, wondering why on earth the builders didn't just make the trail go where everyone would obviously want to hike--- near the river!  (Here's how I found Dan when I turned around after telling him to pose however he wanted -- ~freak~  lol)  

A bit further up we spotted a huge boulder right in the middle of the river that had to be checked out.  I had to actually jump over the little waterfall deal on the right to make it over there, which felt pretty darey to me.  

We soon found out why the trail had been put where it was.  We came to a bend where the deer trail we were navigating disappeared into the river itself.  The bank became a nearly vertical, spring riddled, muddy embankment probably 50 feet tall.  Without even talking about it we began climbing straight up.  You had to just look for the next hand or foot hold, and the next, progressing steadily before wherever you were grabbing or had dug your toe in gave way because it was all soft, a wall of mud basically.  You couldn't count on roots you grabbed supporting your full weight, so you had to distribute it between several limbs at once, and most importantly-- keep moving.

By the time we reached the top I was pretty maxed-out, and my calves were on fire.  Far below we could see the giant boulder.  We just made a huge climb!  It was one of those "We kind of screwed-up, but getting out of it was pretty fun too" moments.   

We found the actual trail again right on top of the bluff, and stuck to it until we got to a huge set of stairs disappearing down the cliff again.  At the bottom the steps went right to the water, where your only option was to pick your way on rocks if you wanted to explore.  Caribou falls was def worth the journey.

In summer this would be an awesome spot to wade around.  The pool was only about knee deep.  Dan was braver about hopping rock to rock.   I didn't feel so sure footed, and didn't want to spend the rest of the day with cold wet feet (or more).

He added a stone to a tower someone had started, then we moved on to our next trail.

Next up was the Split Rock River, which our book said was the most waterfall-packed section of river anywhere on the north shore.  It was a bit of a let-down because most of the river views were blocked by forest, and a lot of the trail ran along cliffs high above the water.  The trail was extremely rough-- slippery washed-out areas, rock slides, and off-camber wood plank walkways with no railings that were slicker than just walking in the mud-- all on the precipice of a high, stony bluff.  There was a bridge replacement operation going on in the beginning where they were choppering in materials.  That was pretty interesting to see in action.

Eventually we made it in far enough to a spot where the trail descended to river level, but it was a surprisingly tough hike.  The river was gorgeous though once we got down there, and there was tons of cool rocks and moss. 

I have kind of a thing for moss, and the rocks here were so cool-- how they fractured and were encrusted with varieties of lichen.  I had Dan take this not very good picture of me to commemorate my lichen love.  Two seconds later, mere feet away... We spotted----  


Those who know me can well imagine the spaz-fest this spawned.  After I danced around ooging-out for a few minutes swearing rampantly, I HAD to get a better look-- to make sure it was real, and if so, determine if it was alive or dead.  I just have to know these things.  So I poked it with a stick and it wiggled a few inches away as I leapt about squealing spouting more profanity.  Finally Dan coaxed me away.  Now progress was somewhat slower as every foot of trail had to be scanned for more snakes.  At random intervals for the remainder of our trip I'd utter things like, "God, that snake was SO disgusting!", and, "The whole north shore is RUINED now!"

Seriously you guys--- it was right near me!!!

Anyway, we did manage to keep hiking and enjoy ourselves, even at this very trail.  There were about 3 spots to get to the river itself, and although this trail really made you work hard for it, they were pretty cool. 

Here's where we ate lunch, after, of course, searching thoroughly for snakes.

Here is the ~split rock~ for which the river is named.  It looks really cool in person, and not at all pervy right?  Nuff said there.

This bridge looked rather sketchy but was our only option aside from retracing our steps over miles of very rough, and possibly snake infested trail.  I supposed it was possible snakes couldn't make it across the river and only lived on the one side, and dashed across.  (Snakes don't cross wooden bridges.)  (I'm pretty sure, anyway.)

 After hiking, no joke- for about 4 hours (!), I was feeling pretty *done*.  I was now hungry, thirsty, and my legs were actually sore (and as you know a main hobby of mine is running around in a pretty hilly woods, so....)  Anyway, we began climbing again (the whole thing was a climb either up or down really) and eventually emerged above the treeline.  If you look above the second pine on Dan's left, you can just see the chopper delivering more building materials to the work site.  (You probably have to click on the pic to actually see this.)  (It's basically a dot, so, not a huge thrill anyway.)  Surely we must be getting near the end of this trail by NOW...

I scanned the panorama laid out below us.  If you look at the end of my finger, you can probably make out a small whitish smudge, which is the parking lot where our car was parked.  I laughed, I cried, I kept frigging hiking.

This was actually pretty fun if I reminded myself I do enjoy walking in the woods, and if someone asked, "Hey, want to just hike around all day long and climb up and down muddy embankments and rock slides?"  I'd probably shrug and go, "Okay, what the heck."  But this trail was a little disappointing because we were hoping to see waterfalls, not just hear them, and it was a fucking haul!  There was beauty, lots of it, but we both agreed the DNR does a horrible job of signing their trails.  The ones with cool stuff just down the trail don't really let you in on that, don't promote the amazing feature the trail leads to, and don't tell you much about how long or hard the hike will be.  It's like they need someone from a marketing or customer service background to help with their communications.

All in all though--- my god this state has a lot of super cool stuff you can go look at and enjoy for absolutely free.  Holy balls are we lucky someone had the foresight to set aside so many natural areas.  I don't think I'll ever tire of being in nature, or hanging out with Dan.  :) 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Da nort shore

Hey people.  It's been a long time (~since I've seen your smiling face~) -- Sorry-- That *Cake* song just leaped into my mind.  Dan and I were trying to remember the last time we took a trip to the north shore that wasn't an up-and-back-in-one-day art drop.  Probably at least 5 years--- before moving to the enchanted forest, before our last two cats, before mountain biking...  Long time.  Happy to report it is still awesome.

We've always both liked hiking around and checking stuff out.  Dan, like most guys, is fascinated by sheer rock faces with drops of 20, 30, 1000 feet that would kill you dead if you happened to slip on the edge of them.  He HAS to stand on the very edge of these and peer over into the abyss while I chew my lip and take puffy breaths and try not to suck all the fun out of it for him.  "Cool," he says.

Occasionally we get to a ledge I'm brave enough to scale down too where I proclaim, "If you can do it SO CAN I!"

 I always make him take a couple in case the first one turns out like the one above-- heh heh.

But mostly we hike, and hike and hike, and see cool stuff and say stuff like, "Isn't this cool?  Isn't this awesome?  Aren't you super glad we both like doing stuff like this???"

Hiking is different from normal walking (for me anyway).  At the north shore a lot of the trails are laced with large roots, because there is about 6" of topsoil sitting on solid bedrock in most areas, and large rocks, so you have to look where you're going, but also don't want to miss anything so there's this rhythm you get into where you'll scan about 10 feet in front of you, and look up and around as you go, and stop when you really want to see something so you don't trip and go flying into a rocky gorge.

In addition to the terrain being rough, when it rains (as it did our first couple days on and off), the solid surfaces you do find to step on become slippery.  You can never be sure the foot you plant will stay cooperatively put.

So (if you're me) you adopt this very light footed method of never quite putting all your weight heavily on one foot, but sort of plotting your next footfall one move ahead so you can be stepping to your next *spot* practically before your foot touches the last *spot*.  It's a little like dancing, a little like trail running, but slower.  The other option, often necessary along narrow ledges etc, is to just go really slow and be super careful.

Here's Dan in a rare moment of actually carrying the pack.  He said it wasn't his color, but when my shoulders got tired he gallantly offered to take it, saying, (it had begun raining quite heavily at the time) "That's okay, because if I slip off the trail, people will think I'm a girl when they see this Hello Kitty backpack and come save me."

We hiked the upper Gooseberry (most people don't even know about this and just check out the admittedly impressive lower and middle falls-- but if you go, hike the upper-- worth it!), the Cascade of course-- one of our fav's (but this time we went ALL the way-- more in a minute on that), what our hiking guidebook calls "the rowdy Onion", and the upper Temperance.  Dan found dangerous precipices to peer over and rushing torrents to stand too close to at all of these.

By going farther up, and exploring more vigorously, we found cool stuff most people miss-- like a bunch of little odd caves.  I told Dan to go pretend he was a caveman for this shot.

Also amazing tumbles of mossy boulders, and hidden streams, secret pools.

We hiked the Cascade ALL the way to the end this time.  We couldn't even tell, at the end, where the trail had gone-- it disappeared.  By process of elimination we decided it did not go into the raging river itself, now bordered by vertical rock cliffs at least 30 feet tall-- impossible to even consider scaling.  We started climbing across a stream on scattered boulders, and climbed over a fallen pine, and scrambled along what looked like nothing more than a muddy skidding deer trail along the lower edge of a rocky bluff turning back into the woods away from the river.  That's where we found-- the secret waterfall!  

It was a little private canyon bordered on all sides by tall cliffs.  The stream running from these falls was the only access in or out, unless you were up for climbing up the falls, which we weren't.  But it was super cool, just because we were pretty sure 99% of people never make it this far.  We were pretty psyched to find it.

This photo doesn't capture the maddening height of this cliff, nor was it possible to catch a pic of Dan tottering around the edge before finally getting down on the ground, because I was also laying in my own death defying spot, having a giant heart-attack and hyperventilating.  He tried to snap me being all daring, but, as usual, I just look like I'm pooping my pants.  It was seriously HIGH!

The Onion was a fun trail just because it was not even really a trail.  There is a parking lot in front of a giant cliff with no trail access.  On one end is a big rock slide.  I joked that "that must be the trail head because it is closest to the handicapped spot."  Bing-fricking-go.  It was a mad scramble up and down.  We were sure we were going to get taken out by giant falling rocks.  Once we found "the trail", which they seem to be in the process of building it was cool.  I LOVED the moss.  

 The ~trail~, such as it was, turned into nothing more than a deer trail skirting dizzyingly high cliffs-- over grown with small pines and brush, strewn with fallen trees.  You couldn't ever even get a very good look at the river we could hear roaring somewhere miles below us (it seemed), but was still fun because of the adventuring factor.

Gah-- this is L-O-N-G.  Sorry guys!  We hit the upper Temperance still wet from our rainy Onion adventure-- just before dark.  It was a short hike from a Superior Hiking Trail trailhead we found off an access road, and was def worth checking out--- tons of cool potholes next to respectably terrifying roaring falls through a rocky gorge.

Some potholes were bigger than others.  Some would be AWESOME to dip into on a hot day I bet.

Dan, as is his custom, had to perch dangerously at the edge of a roaring chasm (while I took shallow, puffy breaths, and shuffled tentatively too close to my own rocky outcropping's edge, to take his picture.  The things you do for love.  

Oh, who am I kidding?  We both love all this stuff!  Tomorrow?--- more hiking!  AND-- mountain biking on some cross-country ski trails we found today.  :)

Friday, September 9, 2011


Hey people.  This is going to be one of those posts.  There is a ton going on, leading me to conclusions and things I'm learning.  I'm trying to do that-- learn, & adapt as I go.

Here's a shot of a new plant we stuck in this year that finally bloomed.  It's kind of out of the box for me, but Dan liked it and I have to say it's pretty cool looking-- almost impossibly bright.  I love how nature puts colors together.  I'd never have put eggplant with orange and red, but there ya go.  Stunning.  Good lesson-- stay open.

Here's a pretty accurate one of me right now--- the little tag hanging down says "take risks".  The stones in the wrap bracelet are called "adventurine", which sounds adventurOUS.  The clock is ticking always.  How are you going to spend your time?  I'm married (the rings), and kind of old.  My hands, like other parts, might look kind of gnarly, but are good and strong and mostly work okay.  All in all-- not doing too bad.  But all that is a choice for me, since I have no disease or disability.  How I choose to see things, and how I choose to live-- aware and alive and committed.

Committed.  It's very strange, given my personality, and I feel lucky that the universe plunked Dan down in front of me and I caught on that this was the right thing for me.  I'm *all in*, come hell or high water.  And as you can see by my googley eyes of love it's genuine.

 This will make him mad, ~oversharing~, but it's pertinent and been on my mind.  Not long ago we had a HUGE fight, probably one of the biggest of our whole marriage.  Now that it's resolved it all seems really small and dumb, but at the time it seemed colossal, like, I knew we'd stay married, because that is the deal, but I honestly didn't know how we'd fix things.  So much had been said, out loud.

I remember thinking, "Now I guess we'll become one of those couples, who have a marriage held together by grim determination," and it made me so sad, because of the impending loneliness.  Because when you are married there is a specific place in your life reserved for that one person, and if there gets to be an empty space there, for whatever reason, and you are still married, (as I always will be), it is inappropriate to try to fill that spot with anything or anyone else.  It stays empty until that person comes back to occupy it.  That leaves a rather noticeable, ragged hole in your life.

Lucky for us, we figured everything out in about a day, and went back to being ourselves, maybe a little more appreciative even, than we were before the fight.  All this is hard, and not always fun, but it's what we signed-up for.  I can look at him and project into the far future-- one of us will die in the other's presence probably.  One of us may have to take care physically of the other, to watch and wait.  It's part of it all--- that commitment.  That's the deal.  And I'm fine with it.  It's worth it.

Life can be a heartbreaker.  I know people who are so afraid of everything that could go wrong they only live half a life, one foot on the brake at all times, and see things through a veil of their own making.  I feel bad for all they miss.  I make a concentrated effort to stay plugged-in.  You have to let yourself feel a lot of things and trust it will all be worth it. You have to do the work.  It's not effortless.  It's a choice though.

Lately I've sucked at mountain biking because of not being able to do it very often.  Some people I know have been at it so long and are so good at it it's pretty natural for them I think.  I, on the other hand, have to work really hard to just be *okay* at it, but to me it's worth it, because of moments like this---

 That make me do this---

 These pics are all from last year because it's not something where there's usually a camera around or anyone watching even.  I do it alone quite a bit.  Something changed this year where I decided I for sure don't want to get horribly mangled, like paralyzed or in adult diapers or whatever for this hobby.  I've pulled back from a couple things I used to ride last year even though I was terrified every single time.  White knuckling it was an adrenaline rush, but not a fun one for me, and I decided the fun was the most important part.

Here's the thing though--- it's still hard work.  Right now I'm having to go back, maybe not to square one, but probably to square two or three, and sort of force myself to ride some stuff I do know I can ride--- that I've always tackled with no real issue.  I lost my confidence, and some of my skills got rusty.

Today I went over determined to ride the entire trail no matter how long it took or how much I sucked.  It took me longer than it had been before my hiatus, and I didn't *make* everything, but then again I did make some challenging stuff, and it was fun.  I had to change my approach---- I can't ride for a best lap time right now-- it's just not practical and will only make me feel like a failure.  I had to allow myself to go into some wuss gears in order to make some climbs--- get over it-- this ain't the Olympics.

I made a choice I still want this activity in my life, and I'll do it in whatever capacity I'm able.  I made a choice to push a little, put in the work needed to regain some of the ground I've lost, but also to be okay with maybe never being a total all-star at this.  I can be good enough at it to have fun at it though.  Choices.

What are some choices you guys have made lately?  Even if things are hard, or involve some pain, would you make the same choice?  Do you even look at your life in this way--- full of choices you make?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

I wanna

Hey people.  The show opened last night.  It's my first day off in a couple of months, and it is weird.  I wandered out to my shop this morning, which is a disaster, and although my head is still full of ideas, for the first time in recent memory, I have nothing underway, or pressing.

There is something comforting in purpose.  A rightness.  I'm a bit surprised, but I'm actually anxious to get back to work, although maybe at a slightly less frantic pace.  There are other itches surfacing too, from other parts of my life, like that feeling that it is time for some thrills, and to reconnect with people.

Here's what I want:

I want to go for long runs in the woods, and to listen to this song a bunch of times.

I want to make unlikely things, improbable things.

I want to take what I've learned and explore ideas that aren't fully formed yet.

I have an idea about that-- about things we can't quite make out, and how that sense of mystery draws us in.  I have ideas of how to visually express that.

I want to ride my bike, and go kayaking, and shopping.  Yes, even shopping with friends, something as sort of mundane as that, is something I'm looking forward to.  I haven't seen my family in a long time.  I owe my grandma some dates.

I want to get back to having adventures.  I want my friends to play hooky and do some fun stuff with me. I want the perfect balance of not feeling that crazy pressure that sort of wrecks me physically now, but always having something in the pipeline, and managing to have fun and stay connected too.