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Outdoors North: A little sanctuary

John Pepin

“Baby, let’s go to the ca­­­bin down below,” – Tom Petty

I stood at the front porch rail for a good long time, soaking up the cool night air. I relished the sounds of the evening, which still included the playful splashing the ducks were making on the water. Best of all, there was a complete absence of any noise emitted by electronic devices.

The dawn would bring the most impressive concert performances, when the continuing sounds of spring peepers and buffleheads were joined by the prehistoric-like squawks of sandhill cranes that flew around in wide circles over the area.

Canada geese were honking, and a pair of trumpeter swans floated past the cabin in stately fashion. Later in the day, as I stood on a lake observation deck, the swans would trumpet out a brief chorus for me to hear.

I bowed and thanked them for their regal performance reminiscent of medieval trumpets being blown. The afternoon found me on a magnificent hike of about four miles through red pine, cedar, hemlock and mixed forests.

I love comparing the different bark patterns of these trees, and the smell after popping a balsam fir blister or pinching open a wintergreen berry.

I found a pathway that followed a sand-bottomed creek for quite a distance. I saw four or five brown creepers and I listened to the wispy twittering of ruby and golden-crowned kinglets that sat talking in the branches above me.

For this early in the spring, I was surprised to find the creek already well within its banks. On its bottom, opened clam shells and crayfish parts were evidence of mink or otters dining on the seafood delights of this freshwater buffet.

I crossed more than one small wooden bridge in the woods, took pictures of an old beaver dam and found an old railroad grade with wooden ties embedded in the ground, iron spikes still visible, pounded into the wood.

The woodland trails were beautiful and quiet. I only met one other hiker all afternoon.

My feet were tired by the time I got back to the cabin. I pulled off my boots and got a cold drink. In a short while, I got another fire going in the woodstove and got ready for another night.

The second night was almost entirely different than the first. A dense fog swept in, over the lake, first in small swirls and then in a thick bank. In a short time, I couldn’t see out beyond the lake reeds.

The trees of the woods were also engulfed in the fog. It seemed more like an autumn night a week before Halloween than a spring evening. Eventually, the rain began to fall, which I was hoping for.

I love to hear rain on the roof. By the early morning hours, it had increased from a mist and sprinkles to persistent showers that soaked everything.

The rainfall apparently dampened the activity of the spring peepers, which continued to sing throughout the night, but not as loudly or in as great a number as they had the night before.

The owls were quiet too.

My sleep was deep without dreams.

I woke and spent some time staring at the ceiling, which was followed by some time sitting at the table staring at the wall, which was concluded with some time spent looking out the window.

My mind was rolling over the wonderful respite this cabin stay had been. It was only a brief two nights, but it felt as though I had taken a week away. I think my body and soul were aching for this refreshment.

Before my mind could once again focus on the issues that would occupy me for the coming week, I kept my mind on the sights and sounds around me for a little while longer.

These things included the gigantic white pine that towered over the cabin, the swans tipping to reach their bills down to the bottom of the lake for food and the resplendent buffleheads floating across the water, trailing water in a V-shape behind them.

I didn’t want to leave, but I had to.

Not too long later, I was driving through roadways crowded with slow Sunday drivers and people seemingly everywhere. I felt like a creature from another planet that didn’t belong here.

I decided to comfort myself with thoughts of the cabin’s quiet confines and the wonder I had discovered all weekend long in and around that little sanctuary by the lake.

I hope I find myself back there again soon, tossing my duffle bag on the bed and settling in for maybe an even longer time. My heart is already there.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Outdoors North is a weekly column produced by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on a wide range of topics important to those who enjoy and appreciate Michigan’s world-class natural resources of the Upper Peninsula.

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