Monday, July 18, 2011


The time has come, the family loads into the car and begins the long drive across the country. After spending a couple days in North Dakota attending a family reunion and 50th wedding anniversary celebration, we arrive at the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park on the Sibley Peninsula in Canada. We are joined by another couple and spend the next 10 days paddling kayaks 80 miles between Silver Islet and Rossport along the north shore of Lake Superior in Canada. We follow an archipelago of forest covered islands, camping on beautiful gravel beaches each evening, experiencing everything from sunshine, fog, thunder storms, wind and rain. The temperature of Lake Superior was in the low fifties, making any accident potentially life threatening. Safety was paramount.

It was a beautiful experience for all involved, although as time went on, the aches and pains of strenuous paddling began to take its toll on us, savoring lunchtime stops and reaching our island campsite for the evening where we could relax and enjoy the beauty of our exotic destination. Alas, all good things must come to an end, reaching Rossport and repacking our gear for the long ride home.

I made sure I brought along a good selection music that I could listen to after others had retired to their tents, dancing to the moon with bottle in one hand and a cigar in the other. The thought crossed my mind of whether the kayaking was the purpose of the trip or the opportunity to listen to good music in some special place.

Pictures on the screen
Wars latest casualties
The staring dead

First up was a really good recording of Echo & The Bunnymen performing at a music festival in Belgium on August 6, 1983. I listened to it while we were staying at the Marie Louise Lake campground, the day spent packing all our food and equipment and assembling our folding kayaks in preparation for our launch the following day from the Silver Islet Harbor. The night before I sat on the shore of the lake at 11 PM watching a fantastic lightning show happening somewhere above Thunder Bay, lightning flashing across the mainland and extending far out over Lake Superior, silhouetting the Sleeping Giant rock formation, deep rumbles of thunder coming in from the distance. Then very quickly at around midnight the storm expanded and made its way over Marie Louise Lake, accompanied by rushing wind, pelting rain, lightning and loud claps of thunder. I fell asleep in the comfort of my tent, listening to the drum beat of rain on its exterior surface.

Darting through traffic
Fawn watches as its mother dies
Panic in its eyes

North Star, guiding light
Follows that steady beacon
To his destiny

While camped at the lighthouse on Island 10, I listened to Echo & The Bunnymen perform a live show in Liverpool on August 17, 2001, an excellent recording pressed and sold as an official release by the band. Great performance around the time they released Flowers, their ninth studio album released on 16 February 2001. At this location another thunderstorm built skyward and moved across the area late in the afternoon, drenching everything and churning the water around the island with its strong winds. It was a good opportunity to rest up inside the comfort of our tents. But it passed by quickly and we cooked and ate our dinner outside, watching the play of sunlight and clouds as the evening advanced. The concert was listened to while seated below the solar powered lighthouse, its single small lamp blinking every few seconds while waves lapped the rocks at the waters edge.

I listened to Siouxsie and the Banshees do a live show in Tiel, Holland on July 7, 1981, almost exactly 30 years ago to the day. Another excellent recording. We were camped in Agate Cove, a beautiful sand and gravel beach in a protected harbor. The entire day was spent traveling through thick fog, either hugging the shoreline or making 1 and 2 mile crossings of channels and bays, traveling by compass, our eyes searching with the first sign of land that would allow us to course correct and continue our journey northward. As a consequence of this maneuvering, we traveled more miles than we would have if we had a clear line of sight.

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After spending the day battling strong headwinds, we sought welcome relief on a beautiful sand and gravel beach on the south shore of St. Ignace Island, looking out onto the wide open Lake Superior, the horizon dotted with small islands. While having dinner that evening, three loons entertained us from just off shore, diving and then reemerging elsewhere, singing loudly to us. I listened to Public Image Limited do a live show in Irvine, CA on March 26, 1992. It was after 10 PM when I started the show, the moon floating in and out of bands of clouds that were moving away farther out over the lake. It was a dreamy experience, during which I could swear I danced the whole show with the Lady in the Lake, shimmering on the water’s surface. This was my most favorite campsite for a variety of reasons.

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Moon breaks through pale clouds
There she danced on the water
Lures me with her charm

Wind and white caps caused us to defer crossing Moffett Strait to Simpson Island, a decision made over lunch, mulling over the possibilities. Instead we chose to go north down the strait, wind and followings waves pushing us quickly along. We went from an environment that felt like an ocean on the big lake to one that felt like a river, the narrow strait hemmed in by forests, the waves giving a sense of water movement. Camp was on a beautiful sand bar between two small islands in our “river”, just before it emptied into Nipigon Bay. We found moose tracks pressed into the sand alongside those of geese. That evening swarms of mayflies came out and rode in the wind, their one night out of the water before mating and either dying or falling back down to the ground to lay eggs as their final act.

Tonight I listened to Echo & The Bunnymen perform a live show at the Hanover Grand in London on July 15, 1997. An excellent recording, although the performance was somewhat lackluster. I stood on the south end of the island, noting the slow rise and fall of the water, a wind-driven tide of sorts. The light of the near full moon sparkling in the water.

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We reach Rossport and begin the tiresome journey back home. Thunder Bay in Canada for the night in a hotel. Deluth MN for lunch. De Moines IA for dinner. Omaha NE for the second night on our journey home. Driving through the night to Omaha one can see numerouis fireflies blinking in the grassy strip alongside the highway. While the family watched TV in the hotel room, I went outside into the hot, humid summer night to listen to a pair of great shows, the first being one of Van Halen’s best, New Haven CT on August 26/27, 1986, an audio rip from their Live Without A Net DVD. This is the first tour with Sammy Hagar and the band is on fire! The second is early Nirvana, a bootleg recording during which they played at a college campus party on October 30, 1988. Listening to the people in the audience is just as much fun as listening to early Nirvana, before they skyrocketed to fame in 1991. Shouts of “Do you know any good songs?”, “Rock and roll!”, “Kill it!”, “Play something good!”, “Play something in tune!,” “Kurt, you’ve gone too far!”, “Heavy metal!!” The show closes with a woman announcing that her friend has lost a pink Ramones button and if found on the floor, to return it. This is an amazing quality show! Close your eyes and you could be standing there in the dorm room.

I stood in the grass alongside the highway off ramp, full moon burning above, sweating in the late night heat, dancing. I finish the bottle of Tequila and the trip is over

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