Well Ryan and Bridget officially arrived back at Tall Pines on Sunday, June 6th. To fill you in, we decided to take advantage of the hot real estate market in Illinois as well as downsize as we realized how challenging it is to maintain two properties. So to make a long story short, we sold our home, Bridget wrapped up her school year teaching, and we packed for Canada all in a week's time. So to arrive this year at camp, is unique to other years.
Though exhausted from moving, we were still energized on the morning of our drive up to camp. It made me pause to remind myself that the packing, checklists, grocery shopping, loading up the boat in the dark, and hitting the road at 3 A.M. is part of the Canadian experience. So many of you have shared in that excitement and know that getting ready in the days ahead of and the night before a road trip may be tiring, but are an integral part of the anticipation. Those first few hours of driving in the dark with so few cars/trucks on the road are so soothing. Then, watching the sunrise, it's almost like hearing your favorite spiritual hymn.
We caravanned- me driving the truck and towing our boat, while Ryan followed in his van. I should have taken more pictures of how Ryan was like a master at Tetrus packing everything just so. We were soaking in that drive up North, every mile just a little bit further from the stresses left behind, and that much closer to our Tall Pines home. Every hour closer to your destination you observe how the trees get a little taller, the traffic and construction a little less, and the air, oh the sweet air.
Driving past towns in Minnesota such as Minong, Virginia, Spooner, and International Falls (or in Canada- Fort Frances or Dryden), I thought about our guests that typically book an overnight on their way up. At the border, the agents were very courteous and helpful, and our crossing was the quickest in three years. (ArriveCan is an app we used to have all paperwork submitted ahead of time to expedite the process- not sure if that will be what everyone uses, but it worked well for us).
Once across the border, and out of Fort Frances, we started to see wildlife- the deer running across the road, the turtle sunbathing in the middle of the road, and Ryan spotted a bear on the 502. Sirius No Shoes Radio kept me company for that stretch. Then, once past Dryden and Vermilion Bay, that turn onto the 105 is like the epic "Aaaahhhh" music crescendoing.
From there, I got my playlist going; Garth's "The River", Stapleton's "Starting Over" and "Cool Change" blasting while looking out on God's beauty brought tears to my eyes. Ryan chose to forgo music and just drive with the windows rolled down. Passing Whiskey Jack, Dutchies, and some neighbor camp friends, we then made a left. Hearing that crunch of the gravel going down Tall Pines Lane, we breathed a sigh of relief...We did it- we made it to Tall Pines.
Andrea and Steve left this poem as a gift to Ryan and me when transitioning. I didn't fully grasp the significant of it until this year- but its something special how we Tall Pines family know in our heart why we stop heading North on Tall Pines Lane:
After taking a few days to unwind, settle in our cabin, and do some paperwork stuff, I got to see some projects Ryan had worked on last fall. With getting to camp so late and no Earl right now, the grass was a foot high and mowing was a top priority.
We are loving it up here- going at our own pace, enjoying the sights and smells, and finding calm in the solitude. But it is not lost on us that this should have been the busiest few weeks at camp, and we sorely miss our May and June guests. We were just reminiscing last night over our first campfire how it was this time in '19 that the Chappas and Ken Kunhle and Amy and a few others were sitting around the firepit with us.
Definitely seeing more wildlife- I rested my eyes while lounging on the pier while Ryan was at the edge, doing prep work to get the docks in, and then Ryan says "Did you see that!" Eldon, aka Eagleman, had flown right over Ryan's head, and of course I missed it. But we spotted two moose swimming in front of camp towards Gawley's as well as the tracks of what looked like a mama and calf moose on the driveway and all the way down to the Eagle's Nest cabin. We're hearing the poetic sounds of the loons, chirps of Eagles, and seeing the ducks and the occasional fly-over of a neighbor's float plane.
Weather here has been comfortable. Has been in upper 70's, though today is a bit cooler. Water level is a little low. Last year the levels started so high, but came down over the course of the season. It is about where it was when Ryan left in the fall. We have had a couple good rains, and hope to get more. Already seeing mayflies, which is a bit early! Guess it was just a milder winter all around.
We've started some projects, and will go into full camp mode if that darn border opens. Earl and Patsy are on standby and hope to come join us soon to help make something of a partial season. We also will soon begin to visit with some of our Canadian friends here, and are fortunate that so many have welcomed us to these parts.
Now that we've unwound and put in some hours at camp, we plan on getting some serious fishing in this week. So next blog should hopefully have some good fodder. I know that's on everyone's minds- "how's the fishing" we'll find out soon enough. We have been able to fish off the main pier catching plenty of northern and a few smallmouth.
Here are some pics to hold you over til then- from our first sunset and campfire of the year, the new Fish Fame wall in the fish cleaning house- to the geese that were cute at first but now need to move on, enjoy:
A friend had posted this quote, and it really hit home for me- it took a few days to become "unbusy", but nature is sometimes the best medicine.
Check out some new barstools that will fill a couple cabins
Our first filleted pike of the season. Grilled on the cast iron and served with wine and some wild flowers Ryan picked (he sure knows how to romance his girl, huh)
Eagleman poses for the camera- this is not zoomed in!
some new entertainment for the Bear's Den! (and praying everyone's aim isn't horrible)
Check out the before and after of a little paint job on propane tank...
And welcome a new fixture at Tall Pines; some of you may remember Sasquatch at our basement bar- well he just wanted to get back Up North too.
Gave the sign one last coat of varnish and then hung 'er up
first campfire of the season over a beautiful sunset on a calm evening
sadly this is where the fleet of boats are still at- during prime weeks in June this is unheard of
so many dandelions the mower was acting up, but now lawn is under control, though we're looking forward to Earl making it stellar again soon
I used to have a bunny named Snickers- think I'll call this one Little Snickers
posted these on the Facebooks, but for those that didn't see...
we saw two moose swimming in front of Tall Pines, and caught two sets of tracks going from the long driveway towards Eagle's Nest.
Have some more pics from '19 to add, but check our new wall in the Fish Cleaning House; we'll keep a leaderboard for each week and the season for fun bragging rights
After hearing how numerous property owners had dock damage last year or this year, we are so grateful our docks are still in great shape. We try not to take things for granted up here.
We were so exhausted when we arrived that we didn't make it til sunset until night 3 or 4...
Love the detail work Ryan finished last fall- cabin numbers are now on a green tall pine- thank you Jim for the great idea.
Enjoying these glorious moments, but know they are meant to be shared. Before the weeds grow in, fishing off the docks can be quite active.
The border closure extension is set to expire July 21st. Yes, it is discouraging as once again we had to cancel our July guests through the 24th. We do know however there is finally much going on behind the scenes. Vaccinations in Canada are rising rapidly, and with both the U.S. and Canada being a coded green for "low risk to travel", countries such as France are welcoming international tourists as of this week and we are hoping our governmental leaders will follow suit. There are now daily news conferences and articles pertaining to the border, making it more of a priority. More and more mayors and governors, premiers, and regional MPs , senators and congressmen on bordering states/provinces are seeing the catastrophic consequences of this extended border closure. We also know that the science and data and even government task force's recommendations support a border reopening. There will be a protest/rally in New York at the border June 22. There are numerous Facebook groups where we lobby officials at every level and on both sides of the border. Many Canadians are just as frustrated as you and want to welcome their American neighbors. We encourage everyone to contact their Congressmen and Senators to press our President to take a stand, take action, and unilaterally open the border June 22nd.
And finally, Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there. The title of this blog is not just about us getting to our North Home Sweet Home. Ryan's dad Joe, peacefully left this Earth and made his journey to his final Home this February. We honor Joe for instilling Ryan with the love of fishing. If it wasn't for Joe taking Ryan to Canada as a high school graduation gift all those years ago (and many times in between), we wouldn't be where we are today. Joe got to experience Tall Pines twice. One of the last conversations we had with him in February, Joe reminisced saying that he wouldn't miss much, but the water- he would miss being in a boat on the Canadian water. Joe had accomplished so much in life and yet, at the end of it, he knew it was making the kind of memories in the picture above that are what really matters.
We know we're not alone in losing a parent since '19. For some, an aging parent's wish was to come to Tall Pines one last time. For others, being here will make you feel closer to them- just a little bit closer to heaven. For us, Tall Pines has become a place of healing and comfort. We so look forward to sharing that with you someday hopefully soon. So this Father's Day we celebrate all the Dads out there that are doing their thing, remember the Dads and Granddads that have passed, and give a salute to a Dad we miss, Joseph Taylor