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In Our Own Backyard...Leave the rest of the world behind

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Sometimes you have to disconnect from the rest of the world in order to reconnect with yourself.

After an overly long winter filled with frozen pipes, car problems, heating issues, well issues, upper respiratory infections, vet visits, doctor visits and outrageous heating bills, my husband and I need desperately to distance ourselves from all the things that had been plaguing us since the first of the year.

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Up until then, we were almost afraid to leave the house, for fear something else would go wrong in this extreme weather. We even bought one of those home alert systems that can contact you remotely if the heat goes out in your house. And wouldn’t you just know it — on the one getaway we did take, the device signaled an alert the day after we departed. Our hearts virtually stopped beating — until we discovered that we had inadvertently cut off its power source when we disconnected the power strip it was plugged into!

It seemed this winter would never end. We just needed to get away.

And so, with all of the house’s heating, water and other systems fortified to the max, and the cat sitter equipped with all of our contact numbers, we planned a trip up the North Shore for a few days. In the past, that’s always been our haven when the world simply got too much for us — when challenges at work seemed insurmountable, or a beloved pet had to be put down, or a difficult family matter had to be dealt with. We’ve always headed up the Shore, holed up in some little cabin somewhere, stared out at the big lake, gazed into the fire and simply gotten away from it all. It’s worked every time.

We could still feel the pressures of home and work weighing heavily on our shoulders as we headed out. We’d been late on an important deadline at work the night before, and I knew we would have to make some sort of radical changes in order to turn things around. I discussed it up one side and down the other while my husband jumped in with similar tales of woe from his work week as well. I suddenly realized what we were doing.

“That’s it!” I cried. “That’s my final rant about work — I’m on vacation and I’m not going to talk about it anymore.”

And we didn’t. Instead, we stared out at the lakeshore and forests as we drove, passing each of the dearly familiar landmarks and feeling a little further removed from the “real world” with each passing mile.

Frequently we came upon herds of scrawny deer munching on cedar, dried grass and jack pine, foraging for what food remained after the rugged winter. As the afternoon wore on, we saw more and more of them crossing Highway 61 toward the lake, no doubt planning to go down to the water’s edge for a drink. They never seemed to stray far from the lake and roadside — kind of like their own private bar and grille!

We knew we had left the world behind for good the first morning we woke up. Sunrise began as a salmon-colored smudge across the entire expanse of the horizon. It grew brighter and brighter until the sun suddenly slipped above the skyline and made its way to its summit with impressive and dazzling progress. The ice on the lake literally glowed with the colors of the sunrise, with an other-worldly effect that kept us mesmerized.

From then on, our time was our own. We skied, we hiked, we ate, we read, we slept. We stopped thinking about frozen pipes, sick cats, dead batteries and power outages and, above all, we got away from it all.

We began to notice the vividness of the sunsets, the surface contours of the full moon as it climbed the sky, the brilliance of Venus on the horizon just before dawn and, of course, those beautiful sunrises.

Thanks to the hard-packed trails carved out by a long winter’s worth of snowshoers, we were able to see what the winter world looks like from the top of Carlton Peak. We hiked across a frozen section of the Kadunce River and heard the water rushing below the ice. We skied the Sugarbush trails where last we hiked in the midst of the fall’s brilliant maples. We built a campfire on the beach in Grand Marais, where we were the only people anywhere in sight.

On our way home at the end of the weekend, we stopped for lunch in Beaver Bay and ran into some friends from home. They said they’d decided to slip away for the weekend, leaving kids, work and the challenges of the long winter behind.

“We just needed to get away.”

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