Winter locks away so much of life, with the air feeling cold and crisp and remote, the water retreating to ice and an unwelcome green-blue-black churning, and the land hiding, waiting. We hide and wait, too. But now that warmth has come back to us, these all mix together again, forming this kind of stew of being alive.
Last week it was finally warm enough to get the boats in the water. The way upchickadee and I wound up here was from a kayaking vacation, so despite all the other things we do, paddling holds a special place. The air temperature was only around 60, and we were the only ones around, oddly enough. I thought by noon on a Sunday the beach would be more crowded.
Water temperature in Great Sand Bay was somewhere in the high 40’s; facing north the way it does means a north wind traps this water near shore, and the shallow bay means it heats up relatively quickly. Keep in mind Lake Superior is between 35 and 37 degrees right now. A bit chilly.
We could feel that difference, too, sneaking out of the bay, around the corner, and into the lake proper. It was cold, and there was quite a current as well. That part was a short jaunt. Great Sand Bay itself encompasses several miles, so there’s plenty to do in its shelter.
After a couple of hours, upchickadee was up for some rock-hounding, hunting for agates (her) and interesting quartz formations (me, for the fish tank I want to buy). The sun was high in the sky by now, and it felt good, though cold to people used to a warmer climate, I’m sure.
The late afternoon was spent in Copper Harbor, enjoying the company of dozens of friends and seeing what was new in town this year. With just 65 year-round residents, things don’t change too quickly in Copper Harbor. But, we’ve made a lot of friends there, and businesses are opening again for the summer season. The microbrewery in town is doing amazingly well, which everyone is happy to see. Jason and Jessie have worked very hard to get that going.
Though I did kind of crush the owner of the general store. I cut my hair. She was not pleased. Kelly is kind of like my anti-Mom: she would encourage me to do all the things my real mother wouldn’t. A good friend.
There was also an early season mountain bike festival going on, which was excellent, though we passed on the evening fundraiser. The donation level was a bit high, and I wanted to go watch the sunset further down the peninsula.
So down to McLain we went. There were a lot of people out enjoying the park area, playing soccer and throwing frisbees. Many of them were international students from Tech, finally getting to see what non-winter weather here is like.
We made it down to the beach, a great third stop on an amazing day. Here, like earlier, the water and the air and the earth all come together. It’s warm, welcoming to see the world come alive like this. Out in the water a few loons are calling back and forth. The ducks are flying away for evening refuge. The waves pick up when the sun falls behind some clouds, and also when the sun sets.
You feel part of something, something big. Something bigger than the buildings we make or the technology we develop. Something much grander, ancient. A reminder that all of us are fundamentally a part of something.
Words and photos by Kevin Hodur. Previously calling suburban Chicago and Portland home, Kevin now lives and works as a writer on Upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Catch more editions of The Road Rarely Traveled with next month’s Festivalia, a browse through the summer celebrations that add a kick of spice to the amazing weather and community.