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Home for the summer: Visitors

From Jan Kent

A short while back, our kids and grandkids came to visit us up here on the North Shore. We were really happy to see them, and amazed at what happened while they were here. The weather got better and black fly season ended, though they didn't seem able to cancel out the mosquitoes. Birdsfoot trefoil burst into bloom everywhere. The sky was bluer, the lake more beautiful and the birds more interesting and varied. As I said, we were really happy to see them.

The road construction on Highway 61 went on, but we were inspired to strike out and do things anyway. One fine day, we braved the road situation and went up to Grand Marais. Only three roadwork stints going up and the same three on the way back. Grand Marais was great -- we visited our favorite stores, yielded to or resisted the urge to buy all sorts of souvenirs, braved the chilly wind and ate outdoors at the Angry Trout (we had a dog with us who was not welcomed in restaurants) and had ice cream cones but vetoed the notion of eating them on the windy upper deck, stopped at the donut shop. We checked out the art galleries, the resale shops, the bookstore and the bait store.

Back at the cabin we ate most of our meals together, with a special emphasis on dessert. The kids were great about cleaning up and doing dishes. We had beach fires, roasted marshmallows and made s'mores, along with a unique variation on the sticky treats, brought back from New Zealand by our oldest daughter, which uses ice cream cones instead of graham crackers. Another roasted treat was a bacon-wrapped pickle. Some of us avoided that.

Les led two fishing expeditions – one with one grandson in our canoe and one with 3 grandsons on the shore of a lake, each wearing a pair of our hip boots or other boots. One trip yielded seven small-mouth bass, and the other six small throw-backs and a large bass that was the one that got away.

The grandkids (ranging in age from 22 to 14) sat on the floor and played noisy card games. We all rambled on the beach and collected agates, or any other stones that caught our fancy. This was the year we acquired the equipment necessary to drill holes in rocks, and wow, that was a popular past-time. The drilling produced earrings, necklaces, key chains and lots of assorted rocks with holes in them.

A highlight of the visit was a trip to Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center where Erin gave us the lowdown on ravens. We met Korppi, the resident raven, and learned a lot about her intelligence and capacity to learn. We watched her strut her stuff and follow commands and give us sharp-eyed raven stares. Then we tried our hands at tucking bits of food into tubes, boxes, wiffle balls and other various vessels and wrapping or boxing the items to make them a little harder to get into. We watched as Korppi made short work of some of our inventions and ignored others. We never did get to see her discover the carefully packaged dead mouse.

Then, our family time began to run out. Five of our gang of 11 headed to Duluth and caught a plane for home. A day later, two more hit the road for the 500-mile drive back. Two days later, our last visitors – two daughters – along with the small black visiting dog, drove up our little road to the highway. We watched the back of the van until it disappeared. Then we went back into the cabin to miss the family -- and to do some vacuuming.