Spring is almost here in the northland and on the shore of Lake Superior. Robins flew back into town the other day. I saw a raven carrying sticks for nests. The gulls are back and loud and dive-bombingly protective of the shoreline and their islands. Tons of eagles soar along the shore. And the deer, both dead and living, line the highways where the melting snow exposes grass. The wolves have followed the deer. These signs signal spring.
Lake Superior never really froze over this winter, so I’ve been paddling all winter long, but the weather is heating up and the days reach temperatures above freezing, the days are longer and daylight liberation day made the evenings last longer, so I’m paddling more often. Yesterday, I saw two other Grand Marais kayakers out on the big lake. Today, I woke up to a completely frozen harbor. Last week, the parts of Lake Superior that actually froze blew free of ice. The ice piled up into mountains of ice on Park Point in Duluth. Some mountains are 30 feet tall! All signs of spring. Of change.
Inland, the lakes remain covered with feet of ice, but I can feel that ice-out is coming. Sort of like that episode of Northern Exposure when the town goes crazy waiting for the ice to break. I feel it. It’s coming. I know it. When it will happen, I can’t say. I hope it’s not one of those years where ice stays on the Boundary Water’s lakes until mid-May. It’s also making me crazy. I just feel like doing something out of routine, something not planned, something different, something crazy. Something that feels like spring.
Speaking of Northern Exposure, I know that winter is almost over, because we’re getting to the season where Joel starts to get mystical and philosophical. My partner watches all the season each winter starting with the first snowfall. I feel like Joel this time of year. He takes long boat trips, plays golf in the bush and generally disappears. I have Wanderlust with a capital “W” like how the Germans spell it. When I start speaking German, I know I’m either crazy or it’s spring.
And then there’s the repairs. I have gel coat chips from last year’s rock hits. A stress riser crack in one hull at the bulkhead, more gel coat work on a canoe. I need to revarnish a wooden canoe. My carbonfiber paddle needs resin on the tips to hide the fraying carbon. My equipment is getting old — even my two-year old lifevest faded in color. It never ends; the replacing and repairing gear. For some reason, spring feels like the time to fix things, but if I don’t get around to it, then another year will pass without repair. Maybe I should buy some new gear, but I don’t like spending money, so maybe not. These crazy thoughts — I can’t make up my mind — like spring, it’s hot and looks like the snow will melt one day and then it’s cold the next. So it goes. So it goes.
I guess it’s just another spring in the northland, because I get this way every spring. I’m ready to travel. I’m ready for warmth. For growth. I’m ready for the seasons to change. But, most of all, I’m ready to paddle.