The Sun White Citrus Collection

Mountains & Deserts

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Gitchi Gami Got Me

I love the experience of riding new bike trails in Minnesota and last weekend's Gitchi Gami ride was a heart pumping extravaganza.This years ride consists of a 12 mile round trip peddle along the Lake Superior coast from Gooseberry State Park to Beaver Bay.... and back.The route between Gooseberry State Park and Beaver Bay ride is really the heart of this trail.

It's only the beginning.

Let's not forget the 21 mile Co. Rd 4/ Lax Lake Lochness Monster / Silver Bay Pain Hill/ loop that included oxygen stops in rural Finland, Silver Bay, and eventullay Beaver Bay. Once again, our trail club dedication proves that Northern MN excels in a high quality trail ride experience.

Biking the complete 55 mile ride left me rather winded, but certainly not speechless. For most of this trip I heard " Are you Ok?", "Is everything allright?", "Man, this next hill goin to drop you". There's always the silent bike rider's glimpse- mouth open, tongue displaced, a leap for air- and the shared riding code, "we're all in this together".

Thankfully, there were a few simple rest stops where one could hydrate and snack... and chat. I was following a really sweet group of riders up to Finland, but by the time I reached Eckbeck campground, I began to think I was part of the sag motorcade.

More hills and hills too. Keep peddlin.... Usually I get stronger throughout the day and so far no cramps.

More peddlin leads to some jive chatter, I'm feelin' ok now. Cut to the taconite railroad haze.......

All I remember is a long, painful bike climb out of Silver Bay en route to the first and last Beaver Bay rest stop.

I know this seems goofy, but I still recommend this trail ride to amaeurs, families, and even serious gear-heads. The north shore is one of the few areas in Minnesota that you can experience the "bikers climb", yet be blessed by Lake Superior views and tales and visions..........why will He come back? My Innocence Mission.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Playing With Fire

Occasionally land managers use fire as a tool to regenerate or restore jack pine native plant communities/forests. With that in mind, several DNR foresters and smokechasers I work with conducted a prescribed fire on a recent timber harvest site located near Brimson, MN.

To the right is a color infra-red aerial photograph showing the site before it was harvested. The red lines depict the burn boundary along with the yellow ignition points. The brownish color shows the extensive jack pine-black spruce forests in this area. Above that are recent timber harvests that have been planted or seeded with a variety of tree species including norway pine, white pine, white spruce, and jack pine. This area was not burned.

To learn more about jack pine forests visit My Minnesota Woods.

Photos courtesy of Jeff Jackson

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Breaking Away or My Summer Debut on the Mesabi Trail in 51 Miles

Saturday August 9th is a familiar date for folks who live on the Iron Range. It’s the 5th Annual Great River Energy-Mesabi Trail bike tour. That’s pedal bike not motor bike by the way. What could possibly be better than spending a gorgeous day outdoors in Northern Minnesota? Perhaps watching a few films about cycling on the verandah, but when the opportunity comes to get outside on one of the premier bike-trails in Northern MN, one should never turn the opportunity down.

This year I made a promise to re-unite with Black Beauty- my 20 year old Gary Fischer mountain bike- which unfortunately had been placed into semi-retirement. After taking her up to the 2008 Winnipeg Folk Festival for a test run, I knew she was up to the 51-mile bike challenge! Like any decent Gary Fischer bike, I wasn’t disappointed.

Although the Mesabi Trail is best suited to the modern tour bikes available today, I 'm an old sentimental fool. Give me my old Fischer, or no biking at all. It doesn’t matter that I can’t go 15 miles/hour consistently, nor does it matter that I have knobby tires. I just want to ride like anyone else. Ultimately, that’s what the Mesabi Trail folks have created. A trail suited for a variety of skill levels and bike types. On any given weekend you will find families, gear-heads, duffers, and everyone in between.

The planned route this year promised to be relatively easy. An occasional uphill climb was antipcated with only a few pedal-stomps to exceed an 8% grade. Thankfully this turned out to be true, although I was still sucking wind and cramping up by the end of the 3rd leg! That's expected though. Pain is defined by the name.... learn to accept and understand it.

The overall purpose of this day is a charitable one with proceeds going toward expansion of recreational trails and for promoting Independent Public Radio (IPR). As you know, our own KAXE is one of 12 independent/community based radio stations in Minnesota, and to ride for our station was especially motivating for me. In addition, we also know that this type of physical exercise has such a positive influence on physical and mental well being. Two excellent reasons to spend a day on a bike!

As early as June of this year, I begin to mentally prepare for this tour by watching and studying several fine films that involve cycling..... more or less. I’m sure you don’t want to miss any of these so search them out today. Remember any of these?

The Bicycle Thief (1948)- Italy
Breaking Away (1979)- USA
How can we forget this gem. A charming yet goofy bike film. Anyone remember the TV series Breaking Away featuring Shawn Cassidy as Dave Stoller? Yes, a rare nugget that’s extremely hard to find. Only in the 1980’s could TV execs pull this off- it barely lasted a season. Oh where or where can we find this?

American Flyers (1985)- USA
The Cyclist (1987)- Iran
2 Seconds (1998)- Canada
Beijing Bicycle (2002)- China
Cyclomania (2002)- Finland
Hell on Wheels (2004) Germany
Le Tour De France 2005: The Magnificent 7 (2005)- France
The Flying Scotsman (2006)- Scotland

How about some highlights from my personal Mesabi Trail tour? You can check out my photo-log below:

Iron Range/Mesabi Trail Ride 2008

Brief mile-marker harbor star observations coming soon. I'm too tired to continue.

A special thanks to all of the Mesabi Trail volunteers and staff for making this a special experience. This tour would not happen with out your commitment. Cheers to all of the riders, cutters..... I mean miners, and to everyone supporting IPR / recreational trails!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Whole of the Moon

The Waterboys came up with one of the finest songs and melodies ever written in the 1980's. Both Prince and C. S. Lewis are cited as major influences at the time. This is such a fine example of what it means to shine! A song for all.

The Waterboys

Photo Credit- Michael Myers

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Forest for the Trees

Here's one of my summer film recommendations:

Ever experienced what it’s like to change careers, move to another city, try to establish new friends? Sure. Everyone has. 1st time director Maren Ade crafted an amazing, true to life indie-film titled The Forest for the Trees. This German film is one of several foreign and independents that have been released by the smart folks at Film Movement.

Unfortunately I couldn’t track down a trailer, but I’ve included several reviews for the film. Critics are all over the map on this one, but if you like movies that focus on one central character this might be worth watching. A must for teachers.

Synopsis from Film Movement:

Bursting with idealism, Melanie Pröschle, a young teacher from the countryside, starts her first job at a high school in the city. Desperate to fulfil her hopes, Melanie intends to do everything the right way. Politely she introduces herself to her neighbours with homemade schnapps. At her first day of school she gives a very ambitious speech for her colleagues. She wants to be a "fresh breeze" to the school, but it is not easy to start a new life, as Melanie copes with loneliness, established teachers and ninth grade students.

My thoughts on the film:

The Forest for the Trees is a difficult fim to watch yes, but compelling enough to view all the way through. Eva Loebau is outstanding in portraying Melanie- the un-assertive, socially challenged country bumpkin whose life takes a serious plunge when taking up a career change and moving to the city. While she ends a long-term relationship and moves away from immediate family security, a new career brings possibilities that she feels ought to be explored. Unfortunately, things quickly devolve into a series of anxious, stressful encounters with unruly children and zombie-like city slickers. Loneliness starts. Existential dread creep in.

With the exception of one friendly co-worker who she trys to avoid for unknown reasons, most of the characters are portrayed as cold, judgmental, and aloof. Is this her perception or is this truly a reflection of the fast-paced city culture, or even German people? Perhaps all three.

I lived in Germany for three months as part of an internship (pre-911). I directly experienced all of the emotions and longing that Melanie has. Although I love the country and certainly met many wonderful people, there was a sense of indifference from some of the locals. Worse yet, understanding the native language was difficult. This alienated me from the culture to some extent. Still, watching this film brought back many pleasant memories of Germany even though there were moments that caused lots of squirming. Which reminds me- I need to scan in my old Black Forest photos.

Unfortunately, this film fails to reveal Melanie's inner spiritual world except for perhaps the ending. Is director Maren Ade providing some symbolism here? Is Melanie really in the "driver seat" or is it...God. Are Melanie's actions/re-actions becoming a pathway to another place? Some would say an auto-pilot cutaway scene. Is it really?

This film begs for empathy, but a close viewing can help to re-affirm our attitudes and treament of others. It provides the context that allows thoughtful reflection on what it means to befriend someone different from you, even if they don't seem to care. Of course there are boundaries between individuals that must be repected.

Now, watch and enjoy this video from Nouvelle Vague covering an old Cure song- A Forest