Today we signed the closing papers. This summer, we’re passing the Tuscarora baton. Andy and Ada (the new owners) are such a seamless match that sometimes it seems as though we’ve been holding Tuscarora for them until they were ready to take it on. As I wandered around the outfitting building last night I realized the photos of all of our people here mark some of the best memories of our lives. It’s time, I know that, yet my heart is full to the brim, and it feels like there isn’t enough room in there.
Here’s a snapshot.–Shelby and Daniel jumping rope with some of our beloved staff members. Don’t all parents have hundreds of these moments? So many times in my life I cling to the same feeling I had right then… “I love them, I love this, I would like it to stay like this forever”.
Aren’t we the lucky ones? We got to be here, we got to DO this.
Well, things change, and that’s good news too. Shelby and Daniel are on staff this summer, and if you look closely you might find Andy and me—behind the scenes, doing our best to make the transition smooth and also step away as they succeed–in the office, in the plumbing. All the while, Andy and Ada have been competent and gracious. You’ll see, why they’re perfect for this.
THANK . YOU. ALL.
We’re so very grateful. Keep in touch—we’ll see you in the woods!!
On August 8, my friends Laura, Tessa, Steph, and I set off on a wonderful, witty, wandering wilderness women’s adventure. All of us had spent summers guiding and traveling through the Boundary Waters on the US-Canada border, but this was the first time any of us had ventured north of that border on a multi-night Quetico trip. We were so excited and so ready to go (especially guide dog Avery!).
A tow from Tuscarora gave us a jumpstart on our 95-mile journey. Thanks Kyle!
After checking in with Janice at the Cache Bay Ranger Station, we paddled north toward the Falls Chain. It was so much fun to put “faces” with the names we’d heard so many times (Silver Falls, Saganagons, Kawnipi), to see the unique characters of the many waterfalls (Bald Rock, Koko, Four Falls, Little Falls, Canyon, Kennebas) around which we portaged. Turns out the sound of rushing water is very encouraging when you’re carrying a heavy pack and/or canoe!
Although we saw several other people along the Falls Chain, by the time we turned south towards Agnes it was beginning to feel like it was just us and the Canadian wilderness. We loved the still mornings and evenings (good for sunset yoga on the rocks!), streams along the Agnes River, pictographs, islands, and cliffs during this part of our journey. And we did a lot of singing of voyageur songs and oldies!
On our 4th day we stopped at Louisa Falls and were glad to be hiking up the steep, rocky, rooty trail without our canoes and gear. There the sun peaked out for the first time in a few days…it felt pretty glorious!
Our campsite on Sunday Lake that night was one of our favorites. We’d fallen into a pattern of good rock time, cooking yummy meals and taking out the map to talk through our plans for the next day. And that night we watched the sky and lake for a long time.
Over the next few days we looped south along the border and then northeast along the man chain. These lakes are very confusing to talk about… “Was that This Man or That Man? Is this This Man or That Man?” …but cliffy and island-y and calm.
In addition to large “Welcome to Canada” signs, we experienced lilypads and knee-deep mud during this part of the journey. It was all very wonderful!
The last few nights of our trip were cold and brought beautiful misty mornings. On our final morning in the Quetico we paddled through Ottertrack Lake in awe as the mist revealed perfectly still water and cliffs brightened by elegant sunburst lichen.
It was hard to leave this beautiful place experienced with beautiful friends. But Quetico, we will be back!!
If you go…
They did the route in 7 days but be warned, these girls move! Moving 15 to 20 miles a day is not unheard of for them.
Day 1: Hook Island to Saganagons
Day 2: Saganagons to Murdoch (comes right after Kawnipi)
Day 3: Murdock, Agnes River, Agnes (halfway)
Day 4: Agnes, Meadows, Sunday
Day 5: Sunday, Bayley Bay of Basswood Lake, Birch Lake, Carp Lake, Sheridan Lake, That Man, No Man, This Man
Day 6: This Man, Other Man, Bell, Fran, Saganagons, Lilypad, Jasper, Ottertrack (Canada side)
Day 7: Ottertrack, Swamp, Sag, Roy, Grandpa, Seagull
The other morning I sat on my deck and watched the mist rising to meet the clear day, and my heart started pulling hard…to hold that mist down, to stall the start of the day, the end of the summer, this point in life. It was so so beautiful, and I know it’s futile to try to hold onto something so beautiful and fleeting, but sometimes I can’t help myself.
Summer is closing. Even though it seemed so endless and fresh 20 minutes ago (12 weeks actually) when the staff were arriving….old staff and new staff—to form the crew. Now…as they start to trickle away, I want to hold them here. Each one of them. Let me introduce them to you.
Already we miss that bubbly cheerful Amy with her contagious happiness. I could always hear Amy coming and going in the outfitting building- her chatter and laughter were not so subtle. Also, I often scheduled her on late shift for those crazy busy nights, because this girl can multi-task ….from the fishing machine to the permit snafus to the phones, to the computer, to the store—simultaneously with the same bright confidence. She’s something.
Liz was hired in May–as our fill-in-for-any-position person. Lucky us, because she can do it all. She joined Amy in finding humor in everyday things. You cannot help but laugh a little at the things Liz finds funny. But honestly, you should have HEARD her play the violin with Jerry Vandiver. You cannot help but get choked up a little by the sound she gets out of that instrument, either. That’s pretty special when a person can make you laugh and cry in the same day.
Allie has been here for 3 summers, and I’m starting to feel like we cannot live without her. She was a flawless food packer this year–but more than that, she quietly takes on the pulse of the staff– and she makes sure that everyone is welcome in her adventures. My favorite moment with Allie this year is when we went blueberry picking in her jeep. Well, I was going blueberry picking, she was actually off-roading. We’re still hoping she can come back for one more summer before she heads into the real world of architecture.
Allie brought her sister Anna, who we hired without even blinking. I should have known better than to expect an Allie-clone. I mean, they both are really high quality workers, and great people. But-while Allie sits at the dinner table and I have to strain to catch her very quiet funny comments–Anna sings show-tunes. And when the two of them planned the staff adventure list for the year–complete with a system of points and grids and “must dos”…Allie planned a cooperative effort for all to achieve, and Anna planned a competition. Because Anna wins, or she’ll die trying. Or in the case of the triathlon, she might just drown trying. Style and form don’t necessarily count. Winning counts. Anna wins.
Kyle was in the fishing boat for part of every evening all summer. Somebody asked him at one of our loud…everybody-talking-at-once..dinners–“What do you DO, what do you THINK ABOUT out there? And Kyle–who always has a really good answer, but won’t give it to you unless you ask him— concisely replied “The quiet is really nice sometimes.” This guy has such common sense life intelligence, and he’s so quietly kind to everyone…I just can’t get over how lucky we are to have him.
Claire usually operates behind the scenes. The most common thing I heard her say this summer was “Sure, I can do that.” I really appreciate the way that Claire unloads the details out of my head and into hers. It makes my load lighter, and we never run out of coffee. One thing Shelby says is that people who bake are put together. I tell you what, Claire can bake.
See sweet Lucy in the bottom of the boat, navigating? She is our camp scout, and she takes her Tuscarora perimeter patrol job very seriously. She also has a hold on Rachel’s heart.The thing about Rachel–who is our year-round manager, is that she always does things well. Everything….from creating spiffy google website route pages, to repairing canoes, to cleaning corners, to training staff. All details. How lucky is that for us to have her at Tuscarora?
Kelly is our crew cook. First of all, let me tell you that having a good crew cook is an amazing thing. I just show up, with everybody else, and we line up for something really good, and hang out together. Meals are a great part of the day. I’ll bet we all have our favorites, but …whoa…her macaroni and queso, or her margarita pizza, and all the salads…to die for. We’ve had great food this summer, thanks to cute Kelly.Grant’s quirkiness amuses us all. “Geez,” he said the other night. “I don’t think I was ever funny until this summer”. After hours, you can usually find his head and snorkel somewhere in the bay—not to be mistaken for a headless loon. Sometimes he even fishes that way—with a little rod and hook he dangles right in front of his mask. Grant notices the little details that can save us from catastrophes later. He’s a good one to have around.
For the first 11 weeks of this summer Shelby pursued an adventure-internship in Colorado. Isn’t that the bittersweet part of being a parent? We WANT her to have her own dreams, her own places-her own adventures of a lifetime—even though that means we lose her. We’re genuinely happy when she’s happy. Still, my favorite part is that we get her back for August, and now she’s a certified sawyer too.
Daniel is the outfitting manager. It suits him. As a mom, I worry that he’s taking on too much responsibility and becoming too old too fast, and developing a little twitch next to his right eye. As an employer, I have to admit that he sure is great at his job. Sometimes before he goes to bed he still comes around and says “hug” just like he did when he was three. He’s a competent man and a sweet boy all at the same time.
Macky is just a handsome little feller.
Joe is absolutely perfect for hospitality because he offers the same friendly helpfulness at the end of a long day that he did that first day of the summer. He’s is an optimist…in the flesh….even after he just fails the gallon-challenge. He’s just game for everything—and I hear he doesn’t miss anything going on…ever. You can’t help but like Joe.
There they are–our 2014 crew. Can you see why I love them? It has been an honor for me to be part of this group of young people, and watch how they became a family who takes care of each other—and who are honestly committed to doing the hard work to take good care of every one who visits Tuscarora. So, while I’m directing my heart to let go, I’m also really grateful for this slice of time and for the 2014 Tuscarora Crew.
Here’s our Mack. He has the self-appointed job of hunting down all the shadows. He spent entire exhausting sunny days in the outfitting yard when the dragon flies first hatched. Luckily the shadows also travel to the lake, so he follows them right in and cools off. It’s all very serious and important so he cannot be distracted.
It’s funny what his antics will stir up in people. The futility of it all is irresistibly endearing Plus, for me who lost her best Denali a couple of months ago—he simply lightens my load in all kinds of ways.
But then, his antics also stir up a sort of regret in me. This time of year, there is so much stuff. There are sump pumps and bunkhouses, punctured canoes and a cute little black bear down the road who hasn’t found his meandering way to us….yet. There are sprained ankles and ice cream shortages. The phone rings, the food truck pulls up, and the wheel on the trailer needs to be tightened. All at the same time. It can be really fun, but it also can turn me into the Mack of the video. It’s all very serious and important, so I run around and cannot be distracted.
Sometimes, I really wish I could back up and see the whole video of my life….before I make my choices about what is very serious and important. Every once in awhile, I stop running around for a minute. It happened yesterday when I paddled across a clear calm Missing Link to deliver Grant and Anna to the Tuscarora portage for a gear-rescuing mission. It happens some evenings in my favorite blueberry patch, where there is focus: find ‘em, and pick ‘em.
It’s only when pause that I remember that I might want to be deliberate about my time….I want to be right with the people around me, , I want to be satisfied, I want to be grateful, I want to finish what I start, I want to walk in a focused line.
As for Macky’s time, the truth is that he often makes folks stop and smile. That’s value right there. He adores the guests, especially the littlest ones. His course is charted one day at a time….sleep, eat, play, practice hunting, greet people.
Wouldn’t it be great if life were always so straightforward? Then again, maybe I should just stop racing around and remember that it pretty much is.