My husband’s family owns a cabin in Northern Minnesota, just a few miles from the Canadian border. It’s a beautiful retreat from the hustle and bustle we experience in our everyday lives. The cabin is “off grid,” so our power comes from solar panels, batteries and generators, and we had our own cell phone tower. We can hear loons singing on the lake, the wind rustles the leaves on tall white pine, birch, and other trees that surrounded the cabin, chipmunks scurry around looking for food, grouse freeze in place, hoping we won’t notice them (we are in the middle of grouse hunting season). There is evidence of deer, moose and bear. Wolves have also been sighted on occasion. We’ve never seen mountain lions, but are sure they are here. In spring, we find lady slippers in bloom; in summer, we can pick blueberries and raspberries (if the bears haven’t found them first.)
Until recently, we could barely see the lake from the cabin. We were surrounded by tall trees until a tornado hit in July. Tornadoes are rare up here – the annual average is less than one per year. Fortunately, this was a mild tornado, probably an F0, and no one was hurt. There were a couple of people staying here, so they were the first to witness the devastation that occurred. They watched as the tornado hit the lake and pulled water into the air before it died a natural death.
It’s been about 2.5 months since the tornado struck, yet the we are still shocked and saddened by the aftermath. Workers have been in to clear up some of the damage, cutting trees and hauling logs away, but there’s still plenty of cleanup to be done. It will probably be a year or longer before things begin to look normal again. The cabin itself fared quite well, although the roof needs to be replaced.
Mark and I decided to take an ATV and drive around the lake this morning (about four miles around). We stopped a couple of times to clear branches from the trail, but were only able to make it about half way. Mark had constructed a cell phone tower about 18 years ago (we want to get “away from it all,” but still stay in touch). It was bent in half, but surprisingly, some of the equipment still works. Remarkably, all of the solar panels survived, but did need to be moved to a new location.
Fall colors are approaching their peak in this area. Brown ferns tell us that we’ve already had the first frost. Snow fell just two days ago. While driving around the lake, we are greeted by the reds and oranges of young trees surrounded by their uprooted elders. Many trees are leaning precariously, supported by other, stronger ones. We notice more bedrock that has been exposed by uprooted trees. This 2.5 – 3.5 billion year old rock lies close to the surface at any time up here, often only a foot or two below the soil.
Next spring, we’ll see a lot of new growth, not just young plants, but older ones that have more space to branch out on their search for the sun.