A road less traveled — by Bruce Bates

Bruce Bates, a regular Bearskin guest, began writing this while staying in Cabin 10 a few weeks ago. Join him on the journey up to Bearskin:

A Road Less Traveled

Cook County Highway 12 – The Gunflint Trail, a legendary, folklore pathway for hundreds of years.  It may have been an Indian trail from the lakes of beaver country to Lake Gitche Gumee.  Then a logging road from the timber rich woods to Lake Superior.  Today, a winding highway from Grand Marais to a remote vacation land in the Arrowhead region of Northeastern Minnesota on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  A winding road that unwinds our minds.

We wind our way northward from this quaint fishing village, now transformed into a tourist service community with many unique shops and restaurants.  As we smell the fresh air of the forest, we begin to feel a change from our sometimes hectic lives back in “the cities”.  We are leaving that world behind for a few days to reconnect with the quiet, pristine, peaceful world of nature, and with each other.

We head uphill from Lake Superior, past the small community hospital which specializes in sprained ankles and scraped knees of careless campers, past the community golf course and the sawmill, the lone survivor from the logging days.  As we pass the roadside sign for Superior National Forest , our new feelings of peace grow.  We are leaving the world of telemarketers who always seem to call just as we sit down to dinner.  The doorbell won’t ring for a few days with someone selling cookies or magazines.  The television and internet won’t prevent any form of meaningful conversations until bedtime.  There are no sales quotas or production  meetings this week.  No voice mail or tweets, or even cell phone disconnects.

We are entering the world of nature.  Skyscrapers and electronic towers are replaced by trees and views of distant hills across grassy valleys.  There are no manicured lawns here.  We don’t have to impress the neighbors.  The shoulders of the highway are carpeted with millions of tiny yellow wildflowers with an occasional pink or purple lupine tossed in.  Nature does give us a pretty burst of color every now and then.  We proceed up the trail with birch, aspen, poplar and pine sharing our roadside vista.  Occasionally we meet a car coming towards us – about ½ carrying at least one canoe or kayak.  We hope they have enjoyed the wilderness as much as we do.

We pass the first resort sign, Bearskin Lodge 20 miles.  The “other” world begins to peel away as skin following the summer’s first sunburn.  We begin to seriously wind down as neck muscles loosen a little and drain some of the stress from our bodies.  All the “stress” events of the “other” world don’t matter here.

Total relaxation won’t completely take over for a few days, but we can feel it start to envelop our bodies and psyche.  Our attitude begins to change from one of too many deadlines and unreasonable procedures of the business world to acceptance and cooperation in the natural world.  Control freaks don’t do well here.  We work together to finish ordinary chores and enjoy our friendship and time together – it’s fun to be here, together, in this world.

Another sign – Bearskin Lodge 12 miles.  We continue our winding  journey, uphill, downhill, left curve, right curve, a brief straightaway and then more hills and curves.  Our anticipation mounts as we break the crest of each hill.  Is it around the next bend?  We pass a small lake on the west shoulder – I make a mental note to bring the canoe back and try for a few small mouth bass.

Bearskin Lodge 6 miles – almost there.  We had hoped to see a few critters on our drive, a deer, a bear, a moose, a fox.  Not today, but there will be more drives before the week is over.  We have learned to respect their land and enjoy our brief meetings.  This is their world – they live here.  We only visit.

Finally we see the final sign – Bearskin Lodge – we made it.  It’s been a long 6 hour drive, but we are here.  Cabin 10.  It’s called cabin 10 by the resort owners.  It’s called heaven by us.  Cabin 10 is a beautiful log cabin made with 24 inch diameter, Engelmann Spruce  logs.  The quiet and serenity of this place completely surrounded by forest, 20 rods from the lake is why we drove here.  The massive logs give us a feeling of security compared to our 2 X 4 walls and aluminum siding 20 feet from another house with 2 X 4 walls and aluminum siding.  It’s good to be here.

“Here” is peace and quiet, serenity and relaxation.  There are no schedules or demands here.  When we get hungry, we eat;  tired we sleep.  When we want to fish, we fish, or hike, or swim, or paint, or read a book.  We take cameras to relive memories that nature gives us.  This also allows us to share memories of Bearskin with friends back home.

Bottom line – we are here.  The journey has become the destination.

Bruce Bates

July 2011

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