*A new location for past due news!
When I got out here, I made a few mental notes of things unique to the Superior/Duluth area that I wanted to do over the year. The mental notes huddled together in my mind like a herd of sheep that I could count before falling asleep:
To start off, watching the sunrise seems like it wouldn’t be that hard, but it also wasn’t that easy simply because clear skies are not the norm out here. I was also usually too tired to wake up on time or too busy with work to watch it, but I still managed to catch a few over the course of the year. Thankfully so because there is just nothing that quite compares to drinking warm coffee in a hoodie while watching the sun break the horizon and beam across the great open water. I can hear the waves kiss the beach and watch the seagulls fly carelessly through the new day’s light. Sometimes you can even hear a ship honking as it leaves the harbor. I also discovered this year that holding someone’s hand while watching the sunrise is kind of like the cherry on top of a sundae; it’s a real good addition to the experience, but even without it you still have a whole bowl of ice cream to enjoy!
The best sunsets this year were the ones that I enjoyed alongside my kid cousin, Lex, who always kept things interesting. (I’ll share more about our time together with you someday!) To watch the actual sunset in the Twin Ports, you know where you can actually see the sun setting over the horizon, you have to get far away from the Duluth hillside but also not be in the middle of a bunch of trees. The best place to go is the south shore of Lake Superior! The South Shore is on the Wisconsin side of the Lake has sandy beaches with not a whole lot of people. At sunset, the sun glows across the water just before it tucks itself behind the earth. In a way it’s almost like being back in the Great Plains.
The sunrise and sunset in the Twin Ports area only last about four minutes each, which is only slightly longer than the amount of time I lasted on a pair of cross-country skis. One of my coworkers told me that she had a pair of skis and boots that I could borrow if I “really wanted to try it out”. I picked up her gear and went to the gas station to get a ski pass. A cross-country ski pass in Minnesota is kind of like a fishing license in the sense that you can get a day pass, three-day pass, or an annual pass that allows you to use the ski trails that are maintained by the state (or whoever maintains them, I don’t really now). I assumed at the time that since I love to downhill ski and had her cross-country gear at my disposal free of charge, I would probably need to purchase an annual pass.
When I got to the trail head, I realized that I didn’t even know how to attach the skis to my boots. Admitting that it was my first time out seemed like a weird thing to do, so when some guys skied by and saw me struggling, I told them that I was borrowing my friend’s gear while mine was getting fixed up. Thankfully they helped me get squared away without asking too many questions or calling my bluff. They skied off, and I waited until there was a good deal of distance between us before I decided to try to ski myself. When I finally went for it, I found out that cross-country skiing is a lot like walking through the forest with two long sticks and a pair of big, skinny shoes. Not that impressive, really. I sort of figured out how to glide, but overall it was just a lot of walking strangely. The trail even goes uphill in some places, if you can believe that! I don’t know, maybe I was doing it wrong; but nonetheless, I definitely didn’t need to buy the annual pass.
Ice skating on the other hand was a hit! I mean literally hitting the ice and getting back up only to hit the ice again. I bought a fifteen-dollar pair of ice skates at the secondhand sports store, and after brushing the dust off my childhood skating skills, I decided that I wanted to do a twirl. More specifically a jumping twirl. Thanks to YouTube videos I learned that I needed to be able to skate backwards in order to enter the jump required for a successful jumping twirl. So, I dedicated about a week to learning how to skate backwards before I let the idea of doing a jumping twirl hit the ice.
Part of the reason I gave up the idea was because I was tired of falling on my face, but even more so I had other adventures that needed pursuing! In Douglas County Wisconsin a license to kill only costs five dollars. Just as long as your intended target is a Christmas tree located on State Forest Service Land! I bought my Christmas tree permit and waited patiently for the perfect day to bring my very own wild tree home. On a particularly sunny Sunday I picked up a peppermint mocha and some peanut butter cookies to snack on as I searched. I turned up the cheesiest Christmas carols and unfolded a Forest Service map that allocated different places across the county that I could harvest a tree from. When I finally landed in an area that I’m pretty sure was Forest Service land I grabbed the hacksaw from my trunk and put the last cookie in my pocket.
I started walking through the woods looking at all the trees. If Jingle Bells hadn’t been playing so loudly, I probably could have heard the birds singing and the wind whistling, but nothing could have drowned out the deafening reality that finding a suitable Christmas tree in the wilderness was going to be a lot harder than I thought! There were plenty of trees full of thick branches, but they also tended to be a lot taller than my eight-foot ceilings would allow. There were also plenty of trees that would have fit within the constraints of my apartment, but they tended to have only a few thin branches. I kept looking.
I had planned to save my cookie until I found “the one”, but rather I stress ate it as the discouraging thought of not finding a tree settled in. I foraged through the forest for an hour and with just a few remaining sips of my mocha left, I found him! The tree of my dreams! He stood tall, but it didn’t look like he stood taller than my ceiling. He stood full, but not so full that I wouldn’t be able to carry him out of the forest. He was beautiful, and I admired the beauty while finishing the last little bit of my coffee before I tore into his trunk with my hacksaw.
I hoisted him over my shoulder and began the trek back to my car. I was then faced with another unexpected challenge: how was I going to get the tree back to my apartment? I opened my trunk, which was too small to put the tree in, and took a look at what I had to work with: sleeping bags and a blanket, tennis rackets, a tent, ice skates, and hammocks. I unpacked one of the hammocks and wrapped it around the tree like I was wrapping a mini hot-dog in bacon. I tied it together with one of the straps, and used the left over straps to secure it to my roof! I had to tie knots in the straps and close them inside the doors because I didn’t have any tie downs, but it worked!
When I got back to town, I unwrapped my treasure and carried him up to my apartment. I put the tree in a stand that I was lucky enough to snag from Walmart; it just so happened to be the very last one that they had for the season. I started screwing it into the stand with one hand while supporting the weight of the tree with my other hand. As I finished tightening the last screw I slid out from under the tree and beheld the fruit of my labor. My tree just barely, literally by millimeters, cleared the ceiling. When I had set out to cut down a Christmas tree, I really didn’t expect it to turn out well, but there I was on my living room floor in awe of what had become. It was perfect!
After adding some lights, it was as if my living room came to life! I tried to resist it, but after two days I drug my mattress from the bedroom to the living room so that I could sleep in the glow of all its glory. The tree casually stayed up through the end of March and I’m already looking forward to finding this year’s Christmas tree!