Day 8: Hawks and Wolves

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I woke up in my smelly motel room in Duluth eager to get up and out of Dodge.  After writing my blog posts, I packed up, ate some sketchy free breakfast in the motel’s “dining room” and headed north along the western edge of Lake Superior.

Northern Duluth was a much less depressing sight.  Middle class homes took on a more Newton-suburbian feel as I climbed up the side streets to the Hawk Migration Observation site.   Up on a hill overlooking Lake Superior, I found a gaggle of birders with binoculars all looking up and over the landscape.

I jumped out of my car, armed with a borrowed set (Thank you, Mike D!) and trekked up to the observation deck.  Here I found very enthusiastic birders and ornithologists all scouring the sky and making notes on iPads.

“There’s a cooper’s hawk!  And over there is a gos hawk,” they shouted.  I tried to follow their gaze but saw little.  Finally, one took pity on me and helped me find a lone bald eagle circling over a small island in the lake.  Later, I spotted a cooper’s hawk.  It was thrilling.  Over 100,000 hawks migrate down from Canada along the coastal way of Lake Superior each year between August and November.  They catch the currents and stick to the coast to avoid the dangerous flight over the large expanse of the lake.  I was fortunate enough to be here at the right time.  So far, my timing is working excellent!

After about a half hour, I knew I should head off to Ely.  Waze said it would take 2 hours, but I knew these country roads have a mind of their own.  So, off I went.

About 2 hours and a half I found myself in the cute tourist town of Ely, Minnesota.  Here, people jump off for canoeing adventures in the Boundary Waters.  I was not that ambitious, but I was eager to camp out one night in Ely because there was a promise of hearing the local Timber Wolves howling at night.

When I got to Fall Lake campsite, I was lucky again, finding a campsite right on the lake.  I even had my own private trail that led down to the water with a private beach.  Perfect.

I set up camp, bought some wood, then headed back towards Ely for food and a stop at the International Wolf Center.

Here at the center, they educate people on our native wolves.  They have four males, one a midwestern fellow by the name of Boltz, two white Arctic wolves Axel and Grayson (brothers), and a massive Northern wolf by the name of Denali.  (I think he was my favorite.)  Since it was a bit rainy, these guys were in hiding until the staff brought out some snacks of Brautwertz.  One by one, they came down from their hiding spots to snack, say hello to the tourists, then go back to the warmth of their caves.  It was pretty amazing.   I highly recommend you go.

Then, into town, where I now sit at the Rockwood restaurant enjoying a local beer and a burger at the live edge bar.  After this, I’ll head back to the campsite, build a fire and keep my fingers crossed that the Northern Lights come out to captivate me.  But the skies are a bit over-cast, so we’ll see.  You can never predict these things, so I’ll just have to hope.

The skies were solid black an hour ago and I was praying my tent didn’t get blown off, so I’ll see when I get back into camp.  Wish me luck!

One final note:  Maurice has a new friend.  Name suggestions?

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