Cookery Maven Blog

Spring Camp Falls

There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say "It is yet more difficult than you thought." This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Wendell Berry

Will and I have visited quite a few waterfalls in the past year but Spring Camp Falls was one of the most lovely. We started the day headed towards Potato Falls but after failing to get close enough to the falls and climbing up the steepest river bank I've been on in 30 years (I'm terrified of heights), we decided to try and find Spring Camp Falls. I saw a description of it on the internet before we left and the sum total of what I remembered was it was outside of Hurley, somewhere. Since I knew how to get to Hurley, had a full tank of gas, at least 4 hours until dark and car full of adventurous people (and one yellow Lab)— we decided to drive until we got cell service, google the location, get directions and take a few photos. If only it was that easy.

After the hair-raising cliff climbing adventure, we thought ice cream would be the perfect way to fortify ourselves for the next waterfall hike. Except the DQ in Hurley was closed and, faced with a car full of nearly mutinous children, I turned towards Ironwood in search of another ice cream option. And then it hit me, the first place we stopped after I bought George (from a nice man in Bessemer) was the McDonald's on the highway. Since George was in the car, all grown up and handsome, taking a trip down memory lane at the McDonald's where he had his first french fry (he was a food hound from the moment he joined our family) was even more than physical fortification— it was a celebration of George. I was chattering away to the kids while Will looked up the location of the falls and in my excitement, I neglected to read the directions until we were out of cell phone range. Big mistake.

Here are the directions (from the Travel Wisconsin site):

'Heading south from Hurley on US 51, travel about 4.5 mi to County Road C. Turn right (west). About 1.5 mi west, the county road will take a sharp turn north-don't take that. Continue forward on the gravel road. About 1 mi, turn to the south, following the'

Following the...what?? Will and I, while I was driving down dirt roads to nowhere, tried to fill in the blank. Following the river, the yellow brick road, the pied piper, the big sign that says 'Spring Camp Falls this way'?? I hate asking for directions but it was getting late and after all this driving around, I wasn't going to let my bullheadedness get in the way of a waterfall photo safari. After a wrong turn into someone's deer camp (Meg had never seen a plywood stand with a toilet seat in the woods before), we took a right at an intersection with a bunch of signs on the corner. We drove and drove and drove until we finally saw an old man walking down the road. I stopped the car and asked if he lived around here, to which he answered, 'all my life, about 85 years'— at least I had enough luck to find a knowledgeable direction provider (unlike Travel Wisconsin). Back where we took a right (at the corner with all the signs), we should have taken a left. We thanked our kind direction giver and traveled back the way we came. Right back to the intersection with all the signs and the one sign we missed, 'Spring Camp Falls 1 mile ahead'.

Our day started out with Potato Falls as our destination and instead, we spent a couple of hours in the car driving through remarkably beautiful country, laughing about George stories, bickering about Will's music choices and breathing the same air, in the same space for a little while. As Berry said, 'It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey' and while a road trip to a waterfall is a small thing compared to finding my real work, I'm so glad we took the long way around.

Two themes that have played themselves over and over in my life's reel are surrender and acceptance. And believe me, my rudimentary understanding of those two words has been hard won. I don't like to ask for directions and I sure didn't ever want to surrender. Surrendering meant straying from the script I wrote, in my head, and allowing someone or something else to take the reins— not exactly my cup of tea (or more accurately, my glass of dry Spanish red wine). Except that when I did, because I was flattened by trying to orchestrate a life that had become unruly, I could take a breath without impediment. I knew whatever challenges, detours or roadblocks I encountered were there because I was ready for the next thing. The thing I hadn't even dreamed of yet.

It doesn't mean it's all rosy with rainbows and butterflies but it does mean the moment you think, 'I have no idea what the hell I'm doing' is the moment you are starting to do exactly what you should be. Obstacles are not deal breakers, they are a chance for re-calibration and to keep your eyes peeled for the sign that will lead you to your next destination. Impeded streams make the most beautiful music, especially when you have just come up for air after a ride down the waterfall.

On the 'wrong turn' portion of the photo safari, we discovered the Giles Flowage and we chose a route back to Bayfield that took us through it again so we could scout it out. Charlie and I got out to take a few last photos and I got my favorite shot of the day— Charlie capturing the sunlight on the water. Thank God for wrong turns, detours, kids with cameras and of course, yellow Labs.

70 Percent Water

'Land and water are not really separate things, but they are separate words, and we perceive through words.'

David Rains Wallace, The Untamed Garden and Other Personal Essays

We are 70 percent water and fresh water is essential to our survival, two seemingly simple facts. I've heard them many times in my 43 years but ever since I've fallen in love with a vulnerable Great Lake, fresh water is always on my mind. Lake Superior, the last place on earth with clean and abundant fresh water, is threatened by the mining industries in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario. It's a foregone conclusion, regardless of the 'research' and 'engineering' a mining company will espouse, that pollution is a by-product of the extraction industries and any pollution, on the shores of 10 percent of the world's fresh water, is a global problem.

According to, , a child dies every 21 seconds from a water related illness, women in developing countries spend 200 million hours a day collecting water and 780 million people lack access to clean water. While 3.4 million people a year die from water related illnesses and the United Nations declared 2013 the Year of International Water Cooperation, there are companies (Polymet, GTac and Rio Tinto) seeking to build new iron ore, copper and nickel mines in the pristine wilderness on the shores of Lake Superior and putting fresh water at risk.

Where is the hue and cry? Where are the millions of people taking a stand against corporate greed? What happened to 'when you know better, you do better'? Why hasn't the global issue of access to clean water stopped these mining companies in their tracks? All good and maddening questions waiting to be answered. I do know the answer to one question posed by Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac, 'Now, we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free'— absolutely not because our standard of living in intricately linked to all things natural, wild and free and as such, any imbalance is the beginning of the end. I'm lucky to live in a community that shares my deep appreciation for the natural world and is working tirelessly to protect Lake Superior, a global resource, but we need more voices asking those questions and demanding answers.

When we first pulled into Justice Bay on Sand Island 14 years ago, I couldn't believe my eyes— the water was crystal clear and we could see straight down in 20 feet of water. We were used to the murky water of the Duluth harbor and I knew there was no going back after spending a week in the Apostle Islands. We didn't go back to Duluth and the Apostle Islands became the backdrop for our lives, memories and stories. I'm still awestruck at the pristine wilderness surrounding me, it's nothing short of a miracle that it's survived as long as it has. A miracle worth protecting for those who will come after me.

Ted and I took the kids and George out for an adventure in the Islands yesterday and we couldn't have asked for a more beautiful, sunny and calm day. There wasn't much wind so we decided to go all the way to Devil's and check out the sea caves. On the way to the caves, we charted a course that has become familiar to me— past Oak, Otter and Bear Islands. We've been fortunate to have spent many days and nights in the Islands and I wondered if someone, who has never been to Devil's or Lake Superior, would care if the Lake, the Penokees, the Kakagon Sloughs, the Upper Peninsula or the BWCA were destroyed by mining companies? Baba Dioum said, 'In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught' and if people aren't taught to value, love and conserve these wild places, will they?

While there are lots of people who haven't stepped foot in the Penokee Hills, Oak Island or the BWCA, they understand the intrinsic value those wild places have in their lives. We are part of a greater whole and everyone, even the ones who seek to destroy the wilderness, has heard the earth's heartbeat— in a tree-fort as a 6-year-old, in a rumble of thunder on a warm summer night, in the caress of water while swimming, the sting of wind-driven snowflakes or the smell of pine needles warmed by the sun. Are these common experiences enough to stop the mining companies from ripping off mountain-tops, polluting watersheds and creating mountains of over-burden? If we all wake up from our slumber and open our eyes, then the answer is a resounding yes. Mining companies have operated in the Lake Superior Basin for years, with various degrees of pollution (remember Silver Bay and Reserve Mining) but it's time we realize the biggest resource in the basin is clean water, not the minerals deep in the earth.

The following websites for the Polymet Mine in Minnesota, the Rio Tinto Mine in Michigan and the Penokee Mine in Wisconsin are a good place to start to understand why Lake Superior, the Apostle Islands, the Penokee Hills, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and the pristine wilderness of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan are worth saving. There is a long road ahead of us and conservation is a tough sell in a culture of greed and hubris but our voices raised in defense of Lake Superior can change the course those in power have plotted for us.

Aldo Leopold posed an important question in an article he wrote for Outdoor Life. I'd say that the mining industry will most definitely make a poor master and a legacy of good stewardship to the natural world will serve us, and the people who will come after us, far better.

‘For unnumbered centuries of human history the wilderness has given way. The priority of industry has become dogma. Are we as yet sufficiently enlightened to realize that we must now challenge that dogma, or do without our wilderness? Do we realize that industry, which has been our good servant, might make a poor master? Let no man expect that one lone government bureau is able—even tho it be willing—to thrash out this question alone.

….Our remnants of wilderness will yield bigger values to the nation’s character and health than they will to its pocketbook, and to destroy them will be to admit that the latter are the only values that interest us.’

Aldo Leopold ‘A Plea For Wilderness Hunting Grounds’ The Best of Outdoor Life: One Hundred Years of Classic Stories

St. Peter's Dome On Easter Sunday


When Easter and photo safari day coincided this year, I knew exactly where to go— St Peter's Dome in the Penokee Hills. The 1600 foot red granite dome is the highest point in the Chequamegon National Forest and trust me, it's a challenging hike on snowy/icy paths. We kept reminding each other to think like mountain goats when we encountered a particularly slippery patch. I think it worked because we all walked off the trail in one piece.

What a change from Easter five or six years ago— the bunny has been unmasked, the kids sleep in until a civilized hour and they are game for a 4 mile hike instead of sorting their candy and blowing bubbles. While I enjoyed those early mornings looking for the Easter baskets, today was about as close to a perfect Easter Sunday as I could have imagined.

While it was not all wine and roses on our hike and there were plenty of comments about the cold, wind, ice and a slow-moving Mother with a camera, we all experienced moments of wonder. Wonder at the wind howling at the top of St. Peter's Dome, at lush green moss on a tree trunk, at the feeling of walking under very, very old trees or at the perfection that is the heart of any untouched forest.

St Peter's Dome 1
St Peter's Dome 1
St Peter's Dome 2
St Peter's Dome 2

Of course, I had to include a couple of pictures of George— he is just so terribly handsome.


The water was beginning to flow, it's a sight and sound I never tire of. I can only imagine the roar of rushing water during the spring thaw— there's a lot of snow on the ground.


Even under the deepest blanket of snow, green things are awakening. The early risers are such a contrast to the whites, browns and evergreens I've been surrounded by all winter.

As I was walking along, I wished I had the right words to describe what I was seeing and feeling. We got to the top and I saw Jack looking a piece of paper attached to a tree. There they were, the words I was searching for, in a poem by Marvin Bell. Places like St. Peter's Dome, the Apostle Islands or the Penokee Hills are lifelines in a noisy and too human world.

Around Us Marvin Bell

We need some pines to assuage the darkness when it blankets the mind, we need a silvery stream that banks as smoothly as a plane’s wing, and a worn bed of needles to pad the rumble that fills the mind, and a blur or two of a wild thing that sees and is not seen. We need these things between appointments, after work, and, if we keep them, then someone someday, lying down after a walk and supper, with the fire hole wet down, the whole night sky set at a particular time, without numbers or hours, will cause a little sound of thanks–a zipper or a snap– to close round the moment and the thought of whatever good we did.