Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Grand Marais

I felt like I’d missed quite a bit of the North Shore on my way to Thunder Bay Saturday, so since I’d accomplished two-thirds of my goal of climbing to the top of the giant, I left Canada a day early and thought I’d just meander back down along the shore to see what I could see. About a half-hour into the American side, I hit Grand Marais and decided to stay.

It was a good decision. Grand Marais is a tourist town full of arts and crafts, with Dairy Queen and Subway about the only chain stores in sight, but what sold me was the water. I took a room at the Shoreline Motel, where the deck looks out over the lake and you’re five steps from the red rocky beach. The day was slightly overcast and cool, which was the weather I’d been looking for.

I walked half a block down to Drury Lane Books, picked out a Garrison Keillor novel, and took it back to the beach and read while leaning against a rock.—and that was about as much as I exerted myself that day. It was great. It was a very non-Monday afternoon thing to do.

The most exciting moment of the day had occurred earlier, between Thunder Bay and the border. I was heading south at around 8:00 in the morning, practically the only traffic on two-lane Highway 61 at the time, and as I passed a scrub pasture I happened to notice something big and black in a little tree that hardly seemed capable of holding that much weight. Yeah. It was a bear.

I turned around at the next driveway and then stopped across from the field. The bear had climbed out of the tree and seemed to be hiding in the tall grass below it, but occasionally I could see movement so I knew he was still there. A telephoto lens would have been nice, but you know, as Donald Rumsfeld once said, you risk your life with the camera you have, not the camera you want. I stepped out of the car with my camera poised, figuring I had distance, a fence, and a highway between us—although that wouldn’t have helped much if Mama Bear had slipped up on me from behind.

I waited him out, and after a few minutes he poked his head up enough for me to snap a couple of pictures, enough to prove that he was, in fact, a bear. I saluted and said “Thanks,” then he disappeared into the grass and I headed back south.

Frankly, I’m surprised I saw him at all, since I had my bear bell wrapped around my gear shift.

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