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In Our Own Backyard...Ah, the sun and the sand and the sea!

I closed my eyes, took a deep, cleansing breath, and just sat there, soaking in the sunshine. Even with my eyes closed, I could hear the pounding of the surf as waves crashed onto the shore of Lake Superior, gobbled up several feet of smooth stones and driftwood along the beach, and then spit them out as they drifted back from where they came.

It was a near-perfect day on the big lake, made even better by the fact that the whole day loomed ahead of me. I had absolutely nothing I had to do and nowhere I had to be.

My husband and I had driven up to Grand Marais for a long weekend getaway. He had signed up for a two-day workshop on painting moose at the Art Colony, and I had brought along my trusty camera, hoping to capture as much of the enchanting spirit of Lake Superior and its surrounding woods and wildlife as I could. After dropping Ken off at the Art Colony in the morning, I had hastened back to our hotel room to change into my bike gear, pack a lunch and head out east along Highway 61.

After several miles of pedaling, I came upon a scenic stretch of beach with a stunning view of Five Mile Rock. I pulled over to the side, hefted my bike down to the beach and left it hidden in a copse of bushes so no one from the roadway was likely to pull over and take it.

I poked around on the beach a bit before settling at a large log that had long ago been washed ashore. Its bark was completely gone and it had been polished a smooth, silvery grey by the waves. It was the perfect spot for a picnic!

I dug my sandwich, a bag of chips and my water bottle out of my pack and lined them up on the log. I grabbed a couple of chips out of the plastic sandwich bag and stared contentedly out to sea. The unaccustomed knots in my legs from the long bike ride began to loosen up, and I felt my whole body begin to relax and unwind. I started to open my sandwich, but then decided it was still too early to eat lunch. I put it back in the bag, set it on the log, grabbed my camera and headed off down the beach.

Since it was Saturday morning, there were no other people on the long stretch of wild Lake Superior shoreline and I had the whole place to myself. I walked along slowly, taking everything in and stopping every now and then to photograph the waves, or a particularly interesting grouping of rocks or a gnarled piece of driftwood.

All the while, the waves continued their lullaby, accompanied every so often by the wild cry of a gull.

At one point, I came across an empty bottle just as it washed ashore. I wondered if it had a message hidden inside of it from some foreign port — or if it was simply left over from a party on the beach the weekend before. I didn't look, because I didn't really want to know….

I kept going, caught up in the moment. A small stream burst seemingly out of nowhere and poured its meager contents into the giant lake. I stopped to photograph a cairn (a man-made pile of rocks) created at the stream's mouth by someone who had come there before me. The cry of gulls picked up its pace, adding to the wildness of the beach and the morning.

When at last I turned back, I realized that I was famished. And though I stopped every now and then to take a photo, my route back was far more direct than on the way out. Far down the shore, I could see the gulls that I'd been hearing as they swooped and dived through the sky over the beach. They were almost comical in their aerial gyrations as they scolded one another, no doubt over some small fish or other morsel of food.

As my log came into sight, I picked up my pace once again, thinking now only about lunch.

But as I grew nearer, I realized at last what the gulls were making such a fuss about. In my absence, one of them had grabbed my plastic sandwich bag full of potato chips — and was dragging it off down the shoreline!