This week I revisited my photos of Lost Creek Falls, an isolated, primordial waterfall on the escarpment overlooking the south side of Lake Superior. I hardly ever look back and perhaps was seeking solace after the results of the national election a few weeks ago. The reflections on the water and stones, together with the light patterns in the foliage drew my eye inward to the waterfall and reminded me to give Thanksgiving for having experienced this magical place.
This photo was taken the morning after a day and night of heavy rain and wind. My husband told me the boat rocked and listed all night long (despite the fact that we were tethered to the dock at the marina.) I had slept through the night, hearing nothing, and missed the whole spectacle.
The featured image shows the marina headwall from the beach at Siskiwit Bay. The orange ladder and blue bench atop the marina wall caught my eye. The waves had a purplish cast, perhaps from the sediment disrupted from the lake bottom in the storm.
Earlier in the week, we motored to the sea caves and returned just as the sun was setting, the “blue hour.” The lake was so calm and still it magnified the reflection of the sunset. I took the photo above of Barker’s Point from the bow of our boat. At the time it was hard to imagine this same body of water turning into the mighty waves the happened a day later.
We keep San Francisco, our Island Packet sailboat in the marina at Cornucopia Wisconsin. Cornucopia lies on the South Shore of Lake Superior and is the northern-most town in Wisconsin. About a 100 people live there, I think. I first traveled through Corny when I was a child vacationing with my family. Returning there now takes me back to a simpler place and time where I spend my days doing fun stuff like swimming in Siskiwit Bay and making endless trip to Ehlers General Store for sandwiches and cookies and sodas. We love the village and the marina, and especially enjoy hanging out with our friends Dave and Mary Beth, the owners of the marina.
This year, we left our boat and Corny more than a month earlier than usual for Howard to head to Texas for treatment. Staying on our boat that last week was bittersweet for as much as we enjoyed being on the water, we knew that our stay was short and we would not be returning for another year.
The first time I visited Lost Creek Falls, I went alone. The trail took me on a hike through forest so dense that little sunshine came through the tree canopies. I felt like I was walking in the twilight of evening, not early morning. No one else was parked at the trail head, or hiking on the trail, and I was little nervous, not knowing what to expect and wondering if I might meet a bear. After about 30 minutes of walking, I descended into a gorge. And there, running through the gorge was Lost Creek and its falls, cool, secluded and lush with flora that felt primeval.
Yesterday, we drove along the South Shore of Lake Superior, heading home after a short week on our sailboat in Cornucopia, Wisconsin. In the midst of vast fields of silky grasses and on the edge of the forest bordering the Lake stood an abandoned schoolhouse. I persuaded my husband to stop and explore it. The King School, per the sign, dates back to 1916 and was last used in 1948. The Cloverland Community Club operated in the building for some time after that but also was eventually left behind.
Walking up to the building, I was surprised to find its doors open. The three room interior appeared rotting and unstable. Some of the furnishings remain from its days as a schoolhouse. The glass windows are broken and milky white in places but flooded the rooms with light. The wooden floors were both soft and tilted in different directions. I felt like they would give out at any time. The Hammond piano sat silent, casting a shadow on the chalkboard. I loved the handwriting on the wall and chalkboard for its reflection of families who visited the school over the years. But even on a bright and sunny afternoon, the schoolhouse felt eerie and forgotten
In the photo taken outside of the school house, you can see a woman in the window on the right, with a flash of sunlight on her face. I did not know she was there or even in the building at the time I took this photo. It was only today when I uploaded and reviewed the photo that I saw her. I do not know who she was or what she was doing there. There was another family at the schoolhouse just checking out the premises when we arrived, but they left soon after and I never saw this woman. While I doubt that I captured a ghost, the woman in the window looking out at me is a mystery.
Isle Royale and its waters are wilderness and offer a spectacular and solitary experience. Whether we were anchored in the coves or sailing its coast, we crossed paths with no other boats. Considering that there is no WI-FI, e-mail, or TV, contact with the outside world is limited. I would like to say that this beautiful nature experience leads me to great self-insights, bouts of creativity, internal peace and remembrance of past lives, but not really.
But, sailing and hiking in Isle Royale require a self-awareness and focus on one’s surroundings that I never practice at home in a city. Isle Royale means that I watch the weather forecast closely so we don’t sail into thunderstorms or gale force winds, I hang tightly to the boat’s ladder when climbing into our tippy dinghy (which I hate by the way) because I really don’t want to fall into 48 degree water. And I’m careful about how I step on the rocky, overgrown hiking trails because I don’t want a twisted ankle especially when medical help is days away. All this makes me really enjoy the boat’s evening cocktail hour, also something I never do at home.
At the ranger station in Windigo Harbor, we heard the sad story of a hiker who broke her ankle out on a trail. The hiker had to continue walking on the broken ankle for miles in order to find a campsite with other hikers. To reach help, those hikers had to walk for two days to reach the ranger station, and then the rangers were going need another part of a day to reach her by boat. Even after being rescued, this poor lady was still facing hours of travel by boat or maybe a plane to reach a hospital.
This is not to say that Isle Royale’s wilderness is not worth the effort. Few are so privileged as to be able to go here, and this is why I write about it. In fact, I am encouraging my friends to make this trip, whether with us by sailboat or through the large ferries which transport hikers and kayakers. Just go! Be prepared for new experiences!
On September 1, we sailed west in the late afternoon under sunny blue skies from Chippewa Harbor on the south side of Isle Royale to Grace Harbor on its western-most end. A dense fog bank descended on us a couple hours into the sail, covering the sun. We sailed blindly through this for hours, relying on GPS to navigate. We were not far from the Rock of Ages Lighthouse, where skeletons of past shipwrecks litter the bottom of the Lake. I could see the peril of these waters in fog and storms before modern navigational equipment came into use. We finally arrived at Grace Harbor just as the fog cleared and the sun was setting