Due North

I have spent the last three days doing historic survey in Ely.

You might think about taking my Minnesota card away if I admit I had never been TO Ely before, only THROUGH it. But I think the town is used to that. For its entire life it has been the last stop, the jumping-off place for going into the wilderness, for paddling off into the Boundary Waters, the Quetico, or points farther north.

But the last few days I've been studying the built environment — surveying the downtown, doing historic research, meeting with the HPC in City Hall. I've walked up and down the streets, had delicious coffee and muffins for breakfast, and ate at one of the best restaurants I've been to recently (hail Insula!). We stayed in a house in town across from the school that was like a trip back to 1972.

What you may not know about me, unless you've known me for a long time, is that during my teens I used to spend a month at a time on Widji canoe trips. Every winter I would go up a couple more times for winter camping weekends. That wilderness was my home, but it's been a part of me that's been shut off for a long, long time.

This trip, being that close to the wilderness but not actually in it was kind of painful. Ely is quiet in late September. The canoes are all stacked up, the outfitters closed or closing, and it seems like the end of something.

In the middle of last night was a ferocious storm, where the windy, rainy air was filled with the scent of pine and somehow the wilderness seemed even closer.

And today we visited the National Register site Burntside Lodge, and suddenly it was like no time at all had passed. It was all I could do not to grab a canoe and head out onto the lake.

I think I need that back in my life.

(a post dedicated to 9, who taught me about all this to begin with)


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