In our own backyard....Savor the silence of the wilderness

While many folks are flinging themselves into their summer vacations by traveling around the country, jet skiing at the lake, or living it up with old friends at family get-togethers and class reunions, I spent mine watching the water lilies wake up.


While many folks are flinging themselves into their summer vacations by traveling around the country, jet skiing at the lake, or living it up with old friends at family get-togethers and class reunions, I spent mine watching the water lilies wake up....

Our decision to spend a "quiet" vacation this summer was designed with maximum relaxation in mind, which meant less than a half day's drive to get there, no telephone or television and absolutely no time tables of any sort. We found the answer to our dream in a small rental cabin on an equally small lake located a short way off Highway 1 between the North Shore and Ely.

We slept as late as we wanted, read books, fished right off the front deck, hiked amidst giant white pines, ate whenever the spirit moved us, and kayaked over nearly every square foot of the lake.

As each day went by, we felt ourselves becoming more and more relaxed, and the peacefulness was uninterrupted - except for the fighting beavers, the shrieking osprey, the wailing loons, the baying hound, and oh, yes - did I mention the gunshots?

It makes me chuckle to look back on it now, but we soon learned there is no such thing as absolute silence - especially in the wilderness!


One of my daily junkets was a kayak paddle to a small bay in the far end of the lake that was virtually filled with water lilies. Each morning when I first arrived, the water lilies were closed up tight, but I found if I lingered long enough, the sun began to warm them and they opened up into their full splendor.

The bay was also home to a pair of osprey who were tending a giant nest made of sticks and balanced on the very top of a tall dead tree. When we first spotted them, the parents were off foraging for food for the "babies," which were nearly as big as their parents and the two young birds shrieked incessantly for their parents to bring them something to eat.

My second day out, I grew excited as I paddled into the bay and saw the young birds teetering perilously on the edge of the nest, flexing their wings as though getting ready to fly. Once again, however, they kept up their incessant shrieking and squawking in the excitement of the moment.

The following day I was excited to get back there to see how the young osprey were doing. The first thing I saw was an empty nest! The babies, it seemed, had "flown the coop" and I felt sad to think I had missed it. I was getting ready to head back when I spotted four furry heads swimming across the bay. I discovered it was a family of beavers headed back to their lodge along the shoreline. As they arrived and the larger beaver headed out once again, I heard a fierce uproar as the babies got into what sounded like a tremendous fight! I had to laugh as I noticed the adult beaver make a sudden U-turn and head back towards the lodge, no doubt to put an end to the sibling rivalry!

Once the beavers quieted down once again, I became aware of another sound - the distant shrieking of the baby osprey. And then, one of them soared far above my head, wheeling closer and closer until it landed amateurishly in the top of a nearby tree.

I was still savoring the excitement of seeing the young birds fly as I paddled back toward our cabin and then, a series of shots rang out. As I picked up speed, I heard a bullet skip off the water not far behind me! I launched into "warp speed," paddling as fast as I could go until I arrived safely back at our dock. Though shaken, I was certain the shots came from someone who had followed a remote logging road and thought he was out in the middle of the wilderness when he decided to do some target shooting, not realizing just how close he was to the lake.

And so it went. Most days, the loon family went into full cry whenever a fishing boat came remotely close to their baby, and one of the unique qualities of the little lake was that it sits in kind of a bowl that creates a perfect echo of any loud sound - including the loons - that bounces back from all directions!

Another day, I was sitting on the front deck, and I was startled by the nearby howl of a hound. Suddenly, a brown dog appeared out of nowhere, leaped into the lake, and swam all the way across to the lot where his owner was building a cabin!


By the end of the week, the sounds of the wilderness proved to be pure magic to our ears, however (well, maybe not the gunshots!), and we loved every minute of it. By the time we returned home, we were feeling rested and rejuvenated without a care in the world - until we discovered the cat was shut in the closet and we were attacked by a nest of hornets while putting our kayaks away. But that's another story....

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