Eloise’s Wilderness Trek

img499Back in the mid 70’s, prior to becoming an English Teacher, Eloise ventured into Northern Ontario on a number of canoe trips. In this shot the guide is paddling while she fishes for the next meal. The canoe is piled high with all the camping gear and equipment.


The guide is multitasking, paddling and trolling for fish at the same time. We are on an unnamed pair of lakes that could only be reached by portaging the canoe and gear through the woods. A small island provides a perfect camping spot.


The tent is up, the cooking area erected, and the evening campfire site is ready. The island is about a quarter of a mile from the mainland and we are at least twenty miles from civilization.


Fishing for a big Northern is a daily activity.


At least we won’t go hungry this evening.


Future English teacher, substituting as camp cook.


This is what she looks like when the fish are not biting. Many a student of English experienced this look when things were not going well. (I am going to die when she sees these pictures!)

The James A Ryan – tugboat



The Minnesota and Ontario (Mando) Pulp and paper company at Kenora operated a small fleet of tugs that were used to haul large rafts of pulp logs to the mill. The logs were fed into the mill from the lake and processed into newsprint, the largest percentage going to Minneapolis, MM.

This photo show the James A. Ryan hooking up to the log boom, where it had been temporarily parked near the shore where I lived. The boom would be hauled miles down the lake to some bay where the pulp wood cutters were at work.  The cut logs were dumped into the lake and confined by the log booms.


Each tug was accompanied by a smaller craft that assisted in the operation of the tug and log boom. It was also used to recover any logs that escaped the boom and might be a hazard to other boaters. When in motion the raft was rather large and held many  hundreds of logs, but moved at a slow speed so it was easy to see and avoid.


In this view the tug is gathering up the log boom and preparing to move the raft to the mill. The tug operation was terminated many years ago but the tugs are on display in a couple of parks in the Kenora area. The pulp mill no longer operates and was torn down.

The Peach Can

trees & waterIn the 1960’s I lived in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior. My new neighbor, Howie, wanted me to take him fishing in one of the local lakes, early one spring.

On a Saturday morning we drove about fifty  miles to a lake who’s name I no longer remember. We parked our vehicle by the beach and then carried our canoe and equipment down to the shore. We had a Coleman stove so we could cook a fresh walleye lunch on shore.

The lake was three or four miles long and about a half mile wide. It was a long narrow lake. We paddled out into the middle of the lake and ended up about a mile from one end.  As we settled in to fish we noticed the weather was changing and the wind was dying down.

The fishing was good and we had two or three walleye on the stringer. I had just moved into the neighborhood where Howie lived so we sat and talked and got to know each other better. We enjoyed a few beers we had on hand.

About noon we found that fog had moved in and we no longer could see any shoreline. It continued to get worse until we could hardly see each other in the canoe.  I decided that there was no point going to shore for lunch as we could end up paddling the wrong way and end up three or four miles way down the lake. Hughie was not an experienced canoeist and he was a little nervous of the changing weather.

We were hungry and had some hot dogs and buns along so I set up the Coleman stove in the bottom the canoe in front of me and cooked the hot dogs.  Hughie was sitting in the front of the canoe but had managed to turn around earlier so we sat facing each other.

We continue fishing while eating a couple of hot dogs. We also had a medium sized can of peaches. It seems the can opener was not in the packsack so Hughie volunteered to open the can with his pocket knife.

The procedure of opening the can became quite involved and Hughie had a great deal of difficulty.  He stabbed and pried the lid off until he was able to bend the lid half open and then extracted the peaches out onto aluminum camping dishes for us to eat from. Once all the eating and clean up was done we continued fishing and drinking a few more of the beers we had brought along.

The fog continued to hang densely around us but there was no wind so we continued to fish and enjoy our outing.  We could not see or hear anything and felt like we sat in a bubble.

The tranquil scene was disturbed when Howie stated that he needed to take a pee but was afraid to stand up in the canoe.  I refused to try and paddle to shore and suggested he pee in the peach can which lay in the bottom of the canoe.

With poor hand eye coordination Howie managed to get his fly open, pried back the lid of the can, and carefully started peeing. When the can was almost full, his thumb slipped off the lid of the can and the jagged lid snapped back and partly closed on his delicate parts.

He immediately started yelling for help.  Keeping in mind that the can was almost full, wet, and vey sharp and jagged along the edges, he started to panic and rocked the canoe.

He continue screaming and calling me to help or do something.  I was at the other end of the canoe and all our equipment was piled between us. I got him to calm down and he slowly bent the can lid back so he could remove his appendage.  He then dumped the contents over the side and sank back into the canoe with a huge sigh of relief.

It was at this point I started laughing and the longer I laughed the madder Hughie got. Fortunately it was not long after the wind came up and the fog blew off the lake.  We were then able to get back to the beach, load up and head for home.

On the drive home Hugh was still embarrassed and mortified by the experience and not talking to me.  Finally he asked me, “Why did you continue to laugh, even after I removed the peach can?”

I replied, “Because I did not think you were going to get the can removed and I had a mental picture of you having to walk across the beach in front of all those people with the can hanging in front.”

After a long pause Hughie said quietly, “Yea, that would have been embarrassing but funny.”

He never went fishing with me again for some reason.


Morning Glory?

100_3420.JPGWhen I saw this flower yesterday morning I instantly thought of the name Morning Glory. At my desk I dug into my Wildflowers Field guide to refresh my memory. Well, I was close because this flower is part of the Morning Glory family but is in fact called Hedge Bindweed – with arrow shaped leaves.

This flower grows on a vine and likes to spread through brush so the flowers are far apart and can easily be missed. The morning glory family has many members with different sized and shaped leaves.

Flowers are a lot like people, we know they are there but we fail to pay much attention and fail to get to know them.

Did you notice we just passed the half way point in July and the evenings are getting cooler?

The sign of the bear!


One of our regular black bear visitors left his mark on one of the kitchen windows. The size of the paw print can best be appreciated by the size of the window frame. I consider this a good luck sign as the bear his given us his stamp of approval.  Any lesser bear, upon seeing this signature, would be sure to move on.

It also has an effect on uninvited human visitors, who would also get the message.

Last night while driving home in the dark and prior to reaching my driveway I had a small bear cub race across the road in front of me and dash into our woods.  Obviously he had been visiting the bee hives nearby.

This a good sign that at least one of the local bear cubs has survived and continues his residence in our woods. It also confirms that Browne’s woods are not yet bare of bears!


Time capsules

Many forgotten old storage sheds are hidden on the prairies. The farm has been abandoned, in many cases the house has been salvaged, burned down, or moved to another site. Visits to the old farm become less and less and finally no one even visits the place because only old rusted junk remains. The trees and bushes take over and soon the buildings disappear.


How many times have you driven by one of these old sheds and been curious as to what lies inside?  Here is a peak into the past.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

For starters, the roof is in the last stage of destruction and collapse. Caution is primarily as the wrong touch or bump can launch and landslide of debris on your head. This shed hold very old auto and truck parts from the early 1900’s.


Obviously the body of an old car with fenders, hoods and miscellaneous parts scattered about.


This view shows the rear tires and frame of a vehicle, accompanied by more fenders and the springs from the car seats. Many other parts I am unable to identify.


I was surprised by the great condition of the tire tread, but the wheel itself is in poor shape. The owner must have put the vehicle in storage because of mechanical problems, soon after putting a new tire on.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

A couple of 1951 license plates suggests there has not been much activity on this site for about sixty years.


Now your curiosity has been partly satisfied, take a good look as the next storm or falling tree could reduce this time capsule to a junk pile.

Orange Lichens

On a recent trip to Warren, Minnesota for chainsaw parts I wandered off the beaten path a number of times to satisfy my curiosity for old buildings and other sites. I found this old building which once was a storage shed, hidden deep in the woods. Falling trees had crushed it and an old 1951 license plate confirmed it was at least 70 years old.


I have referred to it as orange lichen but there are a few different orange types. Note how the lichens are hardly started on the window patch which indicates it was added to the building more recently. The tree and the building have helped support each other for a long time.

100_3384 (2).JPG

I think orange is the perfect color for a dying wooden building as it fits into the surrounding scenery tranquilly.  The color red or blue would be out of place. Further down the road I saw the same orange color on some grave stones in a cemetery

KODAK Digital Still CameraThis is one of the oldest grave markers in the cemetery so I am guessing it is well over a hundred years old. It certainly makes the rest of the grave markers look rather dull and boring.  Maybe it is mother natures way of directing attention to special people who have gone on before.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

I think the design is creative and shows some artistic talent. Painting the whole thing orange would ruin the effect. Perhaps in another hundred years it will look even more different.

Woods visitors return.

In the last few days we have noticed a few small changes around our bird feeder but we were staying optimistic that our black bear had moved on. This morning the platform feeder had been licked clean and a saucer had been knocked down but not true bear signs.


To deter bear visits I have taken the suet in at night and we close the kitchen porch door. This morning I did a few yard chores and then decided it was time to refill the bird feeders. As I went up the stairs I noticed sand on the bottom panel of the door and was puzzled at how it got there. I am continually hauling things in and out and was trying to think how I could have transferred sand to the door.

As I casually walked by the door my eyes followed the sand marks up the door until I was startled to see the sand went right up to the top of the six foot door and ended in large sandy bear prints!!

My friend was back, and he was obviously trying to find a way into my porch where the stash of fifty new pounds of sunflowers were stored. This guy was getting serious and was getting ticked off, while hungry.

Naturally I had to call Eloise out and show her the latest signs of our visitor.  We moved into the kitchen and talked about the old solid wood door that so far had kept our bear out.  I happened to look out a kitchen window that had a view of our deck and there filling one pane of glass was a beautiful sandy bear print.

Having a bear peak in your kitchen window while having early morning coffee is not the way to start a day off. A quick look outside and around the yard confirmed the bear was gone.

Long ago we were trained to look both ways when crossing the street. Now we slowly look both ways when opening the kitchen door, before make an elderly run for our vehicles.

When I lived in Kenora I frequently saw the damage black bears made when breaking into cabins.  In one case the mother tore the entire door and frame off the kitchen and then went through all the cabinets and drawers looking for snacks for the two cubs that accompanied here. Each can had a large incisor tooth hole punched in the top.  If the contents tasted good, the cubs licked what they could. Their favorites were cans of condensed milk which the mother punctured and allowed to run out onto the kitchen floor where it was licked up by the cubs,  leaving large sticky white areas.

Once the mother bear had opened the pantry and every drawer, she turned to the old upright fridge. She dragged it out doors where she had room to work on it. She opened the door from the hinge side, leaving lots of claw and teeth marks doing so. She obtained a few items but it was mainly empty of everything but the smell of bacon grease.

My bear has no cubs and immediately leaves when it sees me so I am not too concerned but it’s early morning visits certainly adds some zip to our day.


Bears, Bears, Bears.

Early this morning, when I was checking my bird feeders through the kitchen window I suspected the bear was back again. Someone had licked the platform and ground and not a sunflower seed was left.

Two nights before the suet holder and a  fresh fat cake of suet had been stolen. My local black bear was becoming a regular visitor. This is my second suet holder this year – gone!

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Bear licking the suet holder clean.

I keep all my seeds in two steel pails with lids in my kitchen porch.  The Suet stash is in the kitchen. The kitchen door from the kitchen into the porch has a glass window. As I approached the door to get more sunflower seeds for my feeders, my eyes met the eyes of a visitor.  The bears was sitting in the porch after finding the seed containers and partaking in a early breakfast.

Bears look bigger when sitting in your porch and peaking in the kitchen door window!!!

We both got a surprise, eyeball to eyeball, but he flinched first and headed for the woods with a bit of a trot.  The porch floor was a bit of a mess where he had opened the first container and licked its partial remains clean.  The second can held twenty five pounds of sunflower seeds (shelled) and that was half empty, lying it is side.

I am sure the bear felt he had stumbled on the mother load and certainly had plans to return. I on the other hand resolved to close the kitchen porch outside door each night. In addition I am going to take my suet in each night and leave the feeders empty.

Had I flung open the kitchen door and stepped into my porch in my usual manner this story might have been even more interesting.

I will remember Sunday, July 1st, the day when I had an opportunity to examine the head and features of a bear, up close. All the teeth were clean and shiny.

Baby Bears

The first week in May I happened to look out my kitchen window and saw a small bear cub in my yard. Because of its size I immediately started looking for the mother but she was no where in sight.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Not wishing to meet the mother, I stayed inside and the bear cub wandered off into my woods.  A couple of days later the same scene played out but this time I had two small bear cubs.  When I say small I mean they were far to small to be out and about without their mother.

The third time this guy showed up I felt safe in venturing out into the yard and obtained the above photo.  He was obviously alone, looked thin, hungry, and looking for help.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

This photo of the pathetic little orphan makes it obvious it needs help.  I went to the house for a hamburger bun and rolled a piece across the lawn to him. He immediately picked it up and started munching on a corner.

Because of his condition he was not too afraid of me and I could get within a dozen feet before he would turn and move away.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

I was hoping a bit of food would help him survive until he found his mother. From the difficulty he was having it was obvious he was thirsty so I set out a dish of milk.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Alternating between the bun and the milk he slowly did better then wandered off into the woods.  I left the milk and in the morning it was all gone. The cub never returned and even though I later searched our woods I was unable to find any of the cubs or their mother, dead or alive.

The experts tell you not to feed a bear cub regular milk as they cannot digest it and it makes them sick.  Goats milk is recommended.  Since I did not have goats milk and the cub was in serious condition I did my best.  Had I gone for goats milk the cub would have been gone before I got back.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

As the days past following the bear cub visit we kept our eyes open in the hopes of seeing the mother and her cubs.  I also contacted a few people but no one else saw the cubs again and no one ever saw a mother bear with cubs.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

I did what little I could, all the time making sure I did not get between a mother bear and her cub.  Mother nature can be cruel and I doubt of this little guy survived. All we can do is appreciate his photos and hope he made it.