THE PILGRIMAGE(May 15 through 20)


Goin’ to Gitchigume, dont’cha know……………..

Voyaguers’ canoes are calling me. Time for fur traders in racoon hats clad in deerskin leathers to land on the beach shores guided in from outer shallows to the bay by campfires of those who have already landed. Dinners of berries and fish await them, prepared by those assigned to that chore for tonight. Tents raised by others who have already dried their clothing and put their garments back on.

The later arrivals will be assigned the first watch of the night after they their supper because the others have finished their chores and are tired. All must immediately sleep, for they will be up and on Gitchigume again before the sun is up with 100 miles to journey if the weather holds.

This beach is sublime and they have been here before — it is a favorite stopping point among most since the bay is almost always calm and it is shallow for hundreds of feet from the beach. Just past garlic point, around cliffs that lead back to the Huron Mountains is a southward turn into a bay a mile deep. The next point of the bay is three miles off and with a hard right turn in the last arrivals spot the brown pure sands of Squaw Beach. On the map of the great upper peninsula it is no more than a deep crescent along the shore thousands of miles around. But once there, the bathing is excellent and comfortable.

Some men are gathered in a small group waist-deep in the clear evening water that still reflects a crescent of sunlight off the top of the slow rolling waves. They crest only a few feet from shore, making a relatively quiet lapping sound — not roaring or punding as it has been at times in the past.

A few of the naked, bathing men are making sport of tossing a rope-bound log around in a somewhat dangerous game of catch. Others are just lounging in the shallow water, couched on a sandy bottom that is smooth to the feet. The water is cold by any other swimmer’s standard but for Gitchigume any time it is tolerable these tough men consider it “warm.”……….(to be continued)

Time for my annual spring pilgrimage to Sqauw Beach on Gitchigume, the great body of water that claimed the maritime sailors of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Time to make the annual trek to our cottage on the bay and prepare the pure sandy beach for another endless summer in Big Bay.

“Gitchigume?” you ask. “What, Vinman, are you talking about? Have you finally given into your native fantasies of being Big Chief with Indian Squaw in another time?” Well yes. And no. I wrote the into piece above in italics in a few minutes of just mind wandering to Squaw Beach. It evokes creativity and spirits so easily it’s like mainlining a vibe. One hit, goodbye. I’m gone to another place, another time, another journey. Another great sail in body and spirit on the great lake they call Lake Superior

You know of the lake. Maybe only from the deep toned singer Gordon Lgihtfoot…sure, you remember: “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the gales of November come early?” The storms of the greatest of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior, are legendary and have claimed many. The second largest body of fresh water in the world is so deep in places that scientists have been unable to fathom it. Once they put a special dye into it to see what underground rivers fed out of it and into other bodies of waters. Agencies around the country were alerted that in a feww weeks, a week at the most, the dye might turn up and not to be alarmed.

Within four hours, the dye turned up nearly 1,000 miles south in a river in Kentucky or Tenesse or somewhere damn far away. That mystery has never been solved.

But for me, this is THE PLACE. The place where my books are born and where they usually stay. The place that inhabitable in the winter because it’s snowed in and where one can watch the Aurelus Borealis (Northern Lights) on the beach in the summer. The Milky Way is so thick at night you can almost stir it with a stick and watch the riples of the stars move like a poured milk shake.

Shooting stars are common place as are fast moving satellites across the sky. But there is no traffic sound, no jet airplanes buzzing, no freeways for hundreds of miles. On Squaw Beach you are a thousand miles away from civilization. Ok, 25 from Marquette and the nearest cell-phone and pager service. But in between nothing but forest, lakes and waterfalls to traverse. And of course the sandy beach on Gitchigume to lounge on.

The air is almost pure oxygen. So pure, few can stay awake much past 9 p.m. on the first full day of taking it into one’s bloodstream. Oxygen from the pines and ions from hundreds of miles of the freshest, cleanest water on Earth.

And so, I am preparing for my journey. Usually, it’s a time for my father and I to get away alone. A tradition we’ve shared for the last five or six years. But, this year my sister from Long Island, NY and mother are joining us since dad is 75 now and doesn’t want to supervise a one-man crew. Later this week we’ll load up my Ford Explorer and head 500 miles north. The trip will take at least 9 hours with stops and by the time we arrive we will have passed from the cellphone and pager zone to “phones at the hotel in town a mille away” zone.

I plan on writing. To capture the spirit and possibly even shoot photos if I can get my hands on a digital camera. I might be able to post to VINMAN’s VERBOSITy from the Thunder Bay Inn which was the setting for the 1960s classic movie Anatomy of a Murder starring Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara and George C. Scott.

It’s the land of logging, inhabited by Bear, Eagle, Moose and mountains (such as they are in these parts). Almost Alaska, but not quite on that scale.

I hope the spirit I have now remains with me. I hope I can connect at the hotel to post some items you will enjoy. I wish you could all come with me. But I promise, I’ll dutifully report all that is good in this land touched by God.

(c) Copyright Vincent J. Kern — 2003

All Rights reserved

I have posted some picures from the area to show what it is like. All are authenticly from the Upper Peninsula………….

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