Natural wonders

Tales of the plump and poisonous
August 3, 2009 by Andrew Slade

Tales of the plump and poisonous

Caution: Sassy, deadly berries aheadThe North Shore is awash in berries right now. The raspberries are ripe, but they hide discreetly under leaves. The blueberries are coming along and should be ready in a week or two.But watch out for the poisonous ones! They're out now, they look terrific, but they'll ruin your day.I hiked from the Caribou Trail to Lutsen yesterday on the Superior Hiking Trail. The woods were awash with these brash and brightly colored berries that demand attention. They were "in my face."The fruits are almost pornographically plump. The colors are nearly artificial against the woodland groundcover. … read more


Women who run with the wolves
April 12, 2009 by Andrew Slade

Women who run with the wolves

It was March 1992. I could hear the wildness in her voice. My lovely wild wife, on the phone. She had been out on the ski trails outside Ely and was calling me at work. Deer hair on the ski trail. Spine tingles. Wolf scat. Fresh steaming deer carcass in the middle of the trail. Invisible eyes in the forest trained on her. The women in my life run with the wolves. Sally runs with the wolves. And now, so does our poodle Chloe. Now here we are in April 2009. How lovely it is to ski across a frozen … read more


Funny from Texas
October 29, 2008 by Andrew Slade

Funny from Texas

Check out this funny essay from a Texas columnist about his recent trip to Two Harbors and the rabid late-season mosquitoes. Based on his dateline, this must have been just two weeks ago that he had so many skeeters.This was totally the summer of bugs for us, like the woods were full of frustrated larvae that had waited out two or three dry summers and then just cranked out the generations like mad to catch up.I don't know how this writer's bug experience really was. I'm pretty accustomed to onslaughts of insects. But the fact that this was mid-October is … read more


Out of the wild
October 9, 2008 by Andrew Slade

Out of the wild

The juncos are coming through. They're hoping around our backyard, cool as a cucumber. Check that, our garden cucumbers are gone already since it got too cold for them. The juncos are as cool as a...carrot...and nearly as earth-bound.Juncos remind me of the wild woods, the deep real forests that surround Duluth and Lake Superior. They hang up there in the deep woods as long as they can, and only migrate a short ways south. Compared with the chickadee, juncos are a bit more shy and a bit more wild. Yet they come each year to our backyard and hang … read more


Thimbleberries in bloom
July 7, 2008 by Andrew Slade

Thimbleberries in bloom

Thimbleberries. It sounds like the friendly neighbor family in some British kid novel "Say there, Rufous, go and see if the Thimbleberries would like to come for tea."But here by Lake Superior, thimbleberries are one of the secret pleasures of a North Shore summer, along with skinny dipping in August, the cry of glorious herring gulls (not the dorky ring-billed) and the smell of wet lichen on the ledgerock.The thimbleberry flower is this huge fragile white bloom, like tissue paper cut carefully out in perfect patterns by a woodland fairy, then laid out just so onto the wide maple-shaped leaves. … read more


Snow buntings
October 25, 2007 by Andrew Slade

Snow buntings

Snow buntings are cool. There are a very few birds that seem to come through at the hinge of the seasons, when one time of year fizzles out and another starts to flame. Snow buntings are one of those. I suppose if their name was "lily buntings," I wouldn't feel the same way. But they skitter across the roads and fields like the first flakes of snow, whirl in their little flocks like a bit of a blizzard.I've been seeing them for about a week. Summer was so dry here, and the fall so far so wet, things are weird … read more