East of Ely – Not a question of if, but when…

Padilla Creek Fire area from old fire tower site on Lookout Road, Oct., 2017


East of Ely – On the Trail to a Remote Mountain

Rookie Overlook on the Fernberg Trail. Photo by David Krikorian


East of Ely – Happy Anniversary BWCA – “W”

Last week in Ely, I saw a young girl wearing a T-shirt that read “BWCA 1964.” That was the year congress passed the Wilderness Act, which was eventually enforced with the passing of the Bill 81-ICA or the BWCAW Act signed by President Carter on October 21, 1978. Funny how the maneuvering that led to the bill’s signing that year foreshadowed today’s congressional freak show.
Some say the late State Rep. Willard Munger drew first blood in 1977 when he stated, “The BWCA lands belongs to all of the people of the United States. In the end, national interests must supersede local concerns.” I admit that I was one of those superseding outsiders back then, as I had no understanding of what had caused some folks from Ely to hang environmentalist effigies off the back of a pickup truck.


Column: Friendship According to Facebook

Friendship According to Facebook
Oh look! I’m having a friendversary today. How thoughtful of Facebook to remember that special day three years ago when “Blanche” and I officially became friends on their site. Now…who’s Blanche again?
You understand. The average Facebook user has 338 friends, and many have far more than that. How can we possibly know them all? Facebook brings to mind that old adage, “There are no strangers here, only friends you have not met yet.”
The saying is credited to the poet William Butler Yeats, who, as you know, was a big fan of Facebook. Unfortunately, he died in 1939, just as it was really taking off.


East of Ely – Just where is Ely, Minnesota?

The Prime Meridian is a line of latitude on the world map determined by a British aristocrat in 1851, which placed his empire at ground zero in relationship to a worldwide economy at the forefront of the Industrial Age. One quarter of the Earth’s circumference to the west sits the City of Ely, Minnesota, located a degree or so left of the fourth principal meridian at -91º plus on your iPhone’s GPS locater. And for those of you who haven’t died of boredom at this point, here are a few notes to ponder.
For starters, the straight-line polar miles from Ely to Moscow, Russia are significantly closer than the distance from Moscow to Washington, D.C. – a trivial fact in today’s terms, but something that may have weight in the not-to-distant future as nations rush to develop newly exposed natural resources in the Arctic.


From the miscellaneous drawer - Different perspective

My good friend Carol Brude would have been 73 this week. I miss her and my piano misses her playing and her talent.
Have you ever seen the Wyeth painting titled “Christina’s World”? In it a young woman, debilitated by polio is seen on a hillside, reaching out helplessly toward the farmhouse where the family lived.
There’s a sorrow about the painting even though her face cannot be seen.
I saw something similar to this recently in real life. Under the portico of a nursing home entrance, a woman in a motorized wheelchair was avoiding entering, her face turned away when assistance was offered.


East of Ely – How our grandkids enable us to see

Our grandson is with us this week, so this column will be shorter than usual. He is nine years old and loves to swim, fish, collect bugs and does pretty much everything that kids do in summer at that age.
We did many of these things yesterday on a day trip to a small crystal-clear lake, fishing for trout, picnicking on a grassy campsite with a long sandy beach that compelled us to stay in the water, where we swatted away deer flies under a sunny eighty-degree sky.
I tried to show him how to catch minnows by burying a hand under the sand as a trap. He was more interested in catching crawfish, so I swam out to take a few casts as he gathered the courage to pick up larger and larger-clawed crawdads, until I swam up to him holding my fishing pole with a nice rainbow on the end of my line.
We waded deeper and took turns casting into the dark water beyond the beach until his grandmother decided to swim across the straight to another campsite.


Hook and Bullet Club by Nick wognum - Storm damage

My wife Mary and I were looking out our front windows Friday morning and watching 60+ mile an hour winds hammer the birch trees across the street.
A loud noise from our back yard caught our attention. A massive Norway pine came crashing down, missing our house and taking out a fence.
Like many who faced more challenges than us, we were faced with a major clean-up effort that would last two days.
This storm knocked out power for up to four days for people around the Ely area. Power poles were snapped off and trees were the main culprits to being able to turn the lights back on.
With or without power, gas chainsaws are the main tool for taking care of downed timber.
But the most important tool for us was people. Thanks to a lot of helping hands we were able to get our (and our neighbors’) backyards cleaned up in record time.


From the miscellaneous drawer - Loggers needed

Oh, to awaken to the sweet sounds of generators on a warm June morning.
To wonder if there will be enough water to flush the toilet, enough trash bags to empty the molding refrigerator.
Oh, the joy of arriving at the office on a Saturday morning only to discover that I have no three-pronged cane at my side, my morning pattern interrupted in a home with no lights.
The joy to look out into my yard, my two and a half acres and see that removing 60-70 trees by logging and another 9-11 trees in storms hasn’t saved me from the one across Van Vac Road which brought down the power line to my house.
My home is alongside Van Vac Road and does not have access to the high-price property adjacent to Burntside Lake.
I have a proposal to make to all the folks who live along Van Vac Road:
I’ll start with a pledge of $100.


East of Ely - The Dame of the Lake

The Native American depiction of North America as a “turtle island” has always struck me as eerily accurate, but in my vision that creature has to be a snapping turtle. After all, what kind of creature has a shell strong enough to carry the weight of our land? Or tough enough to a grow a Rocky Mountain rage of nasty spikes like its alligator-snapper cousin to the south?
Naturally, the human mind has no choice but to imagine how creatures that tiptoed between the feet of dinosaurs a hundred million years ago had no choice but to develop a mean disposition in order to survive. No wonder snapper lore decries their ability to bite off such things as the head of an axe, the blade of a canoe paddle, or a human arm.
In truth I was raised believing that once a snapping turtle gets ahold of your big toe, they won’t let go until it thunders.


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