MW Mobile Blog

For friends, family and the random search engine visitor. This blog started as an experiment in mobile blogging from my Palm TREO 600 700 Prē HTC Evo,Samsung 5. Now it serves as a simple repository of favorite activities. Expect bad golf, good fishing, great sailing, eating, drinking, adventure travel, occasional politics and anything else I find interesting along the way including, but not limited to, any of the labels listed here...

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Undiscovered Country

My grandparents bought the Shag Lake property in 1956. I was 3 years old. I have been to the lake almost every year since, often multiple times per year. Which all goes to say there is not much to surprise me (outside of weather and water levels) about Shag Lake.  But I was surprised by a close look at a google satellite map:

The map revealed a water feature at Shag Lake I wasn't aware of before. It looks like a good sized open water pond in the middle of a clearing, with no homes, roads or paths to get to it.  I was familiar with the closest point of the main lake to this pond. A shallow inlet, protected by fallen timber, favored by turtles, frogs and small fish. The question: With this record high water level, would it be possible to take a canoe or kayak into the pond?

 It was our last day at Shag before Dad and I would drive back to Chicago. There was no rush to get home, so Robyn, Jeff, Dad and I mounted an early expedition to see if we could find a passage to the pond. This meant tying the canoe to the pontoon boat, towing it over to the inlet, anchoring on a fallen log, and canoeing in search of access.

On our way to the inlet

Robyn and Dad held down the fort on the pontoon boat while Jeff and I proceeded into the Shag Lake heart of darkness.

 So, long story short, we couldn't find a water route to the pond. We did make our way into someone's drowned backyard, where I set off overland. More accurately, sloshing over swamp in my waders to find the secret pond.

And find it we did.

A lot of sarracenia purpurea here
This natural feature is a "Northern Tamarack Swamp" or "Poor Conifer Swamp" or a transitional environment that encompasses aspects of both. You can learn more than you ever want to know about either at the above links:
"Poor conifer swamps are characterized by a canopy of coniferous trees, low ericaceous, evergreen shrubs, a poor herbaceous layer, and a hummocky carpet of sphagnum moss. The canopy is often dominated by black spruce. Tamarack (Larix laricina) is also a frequent canopy dominant or codominant. Canopy associates include balsam fir (Abies balsamea), white pine (Pinus strobus), jack pine (Pinus banksiana), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), and American mountain ash (Sorbus americana). The shrub layer is dominated by low, ericaceous shrubs, with Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum) being the most prevalent. Additional heath shrubs include bog rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla), leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), creeping snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula), wintergreen (G. procumbens), huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), sheep-laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), bog laurel (K. polifolia), low sweet blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), Canada blueberry (V. myrtilloides), and small cranberry (V. oxycoccos). The tall shrub layer is less dense than the low shrub layer and is often restricted to the periphery of the swamp or adjacent to streams that may meander through the peatland."
You're welcome.

Monday, May 27, 2019

A Song of Fire and Water

With this blog backpost reboot, I will be starting with our Spring Shag Lake trip, moving forward and backward in time, and forego the usual chronological journal format. Instead we'll favor subject focused posts summarizing related events over the course of the trip. Anyway, that's the theory.

The number one Shag Lake subject of the 2019 spring trip is the record high water. Harlan was here in February to document the record snow, and with continuing rain, the high water continues to rise. How high is it?  A few short years ago, after an extended multi-year drought, we were wondering whether we would even have a lakefront property as our bay appeared to be drying up.

That was then. This is now:

Front Yard - Fall 2010
Front Yard - Fall 2012
Front Yard - Spring 2019
Note the fire pit and birch tree have not moved. In less than ten years, the volume of water in the lake more than doubled. Yes, I just made that statistic up. Prove me wrong.

The first challenge presented by the wild swing in water levels, is what to do with the dock. After decades of mounting the dock in exactly the same place, in recent years we've relocated the dock at least half a dozen times, added sections, removed sections, built rock paths through and boardwalk bridges over the mud. Most of which was underwater and useless this spring. This year it was my turn to undo and redo some of the work that had gone before and with some senior guidance from the deck, figure out what dock configuration works in this spring of 2019. Robyn documented my efforts from ShagCam.

I got it started, but needed reinforcements to finish. Later in the week Harlan and Jonah were pressed into duty over Memorial Day weekend.

With  their assistance we added a third section to the main dock, fine tuned the 2019 configuration, and relocated the mud bridge boardwalk to the south side of the property.

Who wore it better?

The second, and arguably greater, challenge presented by the high water, is how to build the traditional bonfire, when the fire pit is underwater. Harlan took on the challenge:

I'm still not exactly sure how he did it... but facts are facts.

The following weekend, after Harlan & Jonah departed, on our last night at Shag - Robyn, Jeff and cousins Judi, Hanna wanted a sendoff bonfire, so we needed to try again.

Fortunately, we had help. The flood water brought a section of someones dock floating on our shore.

After an appropriate time attempting to locate the owners and permit them time to find and reclaim it, we invoked the law of the sea and it was consigned to the bonfire.

It just happened to be the exact length needed to bridge the water gap and built another fire on the drowned fire pit.

It worked. That's 2 for 2...

Now that we know that a bonfire can be built on a drowned firepit, the precedent for the year is established. We will not be building any new fire pits this year. Anyone wanting to build a bonfire at Camp this year must build it on the drowned fire pit. Deal with it. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Getting There: SFO => MDW => Big Shag Lake

The usual post "getting there" from San Francisco to Big Shag Lake. First Uber to SFO...

... and some SFO killing time posts...

... including a traditional checkpoint on the departure day news of the day.

Another day, another Trump administration outrage. 
Then arriving in Chicago to start the trip reconnecting with relations and traditional Chicago culinary delicacies. Here enjoying a Gold Coast Char Dog with nephew Jonah at MDW, and an Italian Beef with cousin Howie at Irvings, also demonstrating the yin/yang of Wallach hairlines.

Finally prep, pack and drive to the U.P. with Dad ....

... stopping outside of Milwaukee to meet my newest relation, pick up my dog Bowser and ...

Sidney, Sydney and some other people.
... continue through the Wisconsin Heart of Darkness...

There is a bad smell here. arrive at the lake and contemplate the days ahead.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Golf on the Island - Cedar Valley Golf Club

 Doug gets out of a trap... eventually 
We had plenty of time to discuss many topics during our two weeks before the mast, including comparing notes on our golf games. Having determined that we were compatible bad golfers, Doug suggested we try to get in a round on Antigua. Kim took advantage of some local connections and we scheduled a tee-time at Cedar Valley Golf Club.

Jim planned to play with us, but when it was time to depart decided he would rather spend the day relaxing on the boat and cleaning up Morpheus (cough... hangover... cough). Doug and I hired a driver and pressed on. 

Cedar Valley Golf Club is an unpretentious public course situated in the highlands of Antigua offering some spectacular vistas. It's not Country Club level of maintenance, but still as good or better than some of the muni tracks I play in San Francisco. The Clubhouse is a little rough around the edges, but the staff was friendly, the rental clubs were good, and it was a fun track to play. 

Our tee time was at 10:00, which means we were playing the heat of the Caribbean day. I was reminded of the Noel Coward song that  "Only Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun". OTOH, Doug and I pretty much had the course to ourselves for most of the round.

Some pics from the day...

Doug on the 1st hole fairway.
I am pointing to my tee shot in the far distance.

At the turn... I was kicking Doug's ass

A local resident of the course

A fun day. The final score is not important, but it should be noted that Doug has now joined the very exclusive, very small set of golfers to share the distinction of losing to me over a round of 18 holes of golf.