Dick Herfindahl: Nature made sure my first cabin visit of the season was memorable

Published 9:00 am Sunday, April 9, 2017

Woods & Water by Dick Herfindahl

This past week, I had decided to take a risk and head north to the cabin for a few days just to bring a few things for the season that lies ahead and also to see how the place had fared over the winter.

I had just purchased a different vehicle, but I was leaning towards taking my trusty old pickup because I had an uneasy feeling about what may lay ahead. My family encouraged me to take the new (to me) vehicle and I eventually decided to take it. Once I discovered the room this SUV had for all of my stuff, I was sold.

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On the trip up, the lakes and rivers were all open, but as I got to Grand Rapids the lakes were still ice-covered. The ice was dark and it looked like the lakes could open up any day. Our little lake still has ice on half of it, but will probably be open by the time I head home. Along the way, there was still snow standing on the edge of the woods where the early spring sunlight doesn’t reach.

One thing about driving north at this time of year is there are no leaves on the trees and bushes, so a person can see things that are hidden from view in the summer. Most of that, like hidden lakes and streams, is good but some things — like trash and junky cars — are better off not seen. Driving the new vehicle was even nicer than I had anticipated. I’m truly happy with it. The thought that kept running through my mind was that every scratch and dent that I have on my trusty old pickup was acquired at the cabin and for some reason I had an uneasy feeling about this trip.

The trip north was great, made good time and rode in luxury compared to the old pickup that still is a good ride for something with well over 300,000 miles. As I took the last turn into our driveway, I was greeted to what looked like a wall of fallen trees. My immediate thought was I should just turn around and head home, my back seconded the thought, but that’s not who I am. I had a glimmer of hope flash through my mind — maybe my oldest, Brian, had left the chainsaw in the shed. Of course I knew better because he did what I would have done when closing the cabin for the season — he took it home. After not seeing it anywhere, I embraced my trusty axe and large pruning saw and set out on an all too familiar adventure. It seems as if every time I have a chainsaw along, there are no trees down and when I don’t bring it there are fallen trees. When I sort through all the whining I can actually find a little upside. Wielding an axe and hand saw doing man-stuff feels good once in a while.

There were a total of six trees blocking the driveway. One huge one was still attached by the root with rest of it leaning across the drive with its top tangled in some trees on the other side. There were two other fairly large trees and three smaller ones. They all needed to be cut up so I decided to start at the end closest to the cabin and work my way to the huge one that was farthest away.

I have to admit as I chopped, sawed and sweat my way to the big tree, thoughts of leaving the mess and going home were intermittently popping up in my mind. I know if I had started with the largest one first I would not have kept going. After I chopped through the large tree, I hooked a tow rope to the bottom and to my trailer hitch and took a chance that it would go in the right direction. It did and with that, my new vehicle was officially introduced to the north woods.

I have yet to check out my boat, which can barely be seen through the three pine trees that had fallen on it and the trailer. I was in no mood to tackle that chore and my back was begging me to leave it for another time. Being, as my dad would say, the bone-headed Norwegian that I am, I will no doubt at least check it out.

I’m sure the weather service would say the damage was probably from straight line winds. They can call it anything they want, but I will just call it a lot of work and I am thankful nobody was in its path when those trees went down.

On a brighter note, the sun is out and the bird feeders have been filled as I anticipate the arrival of some little winged creatures. When I first woke up at the cabin, an eagle was soaring over the treetops. It was fairly early, because the sun was just thinking about peeking over the tops of the trees on the distant horizon.

The temperatures were in the high 20’s and low 30’s the night before, but the wood stove kept the cabin warm and cozy. This will have to be the year that we cut down a few birch trees for firewood. It’s a shame all of the trees that went down were pines and I don’t like to use pine in the stove. Pine burns too fast and makes the chimney dirty, but it makes great campfire wood. At this rate, somebody had better be spending a lot of time around the campfire.

I have heard folks have been catching some nice crappie and perch in Fountain Lake this spring. I talked to an old friend who told me that he and his brother were fishing open water and catching nice crappie and perch while there was still ice on part of the lake.

Until next time, the lakes in our area are ice free so, like they say, “the early bird gets the worm” an isim that can definitely be applied to fishing in more ways than one.

Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms we enjoy today. Also take a little extra time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops who are serving today.