Saturday, September 22, 2007

from the UP: chasing cranes, storms and a sunrise

Cranes? Pull over. There, in the wetlands.
A hard maneuver and still, no access road.

We abandon the little pink-striped Geo, pick up trails that go nowhere and smell, for the first time, the autumn air of the north.

038 red, copy

But we cannot get to the wetlands.

Loop around and let’s see if we can find a path from the highway.

Yes, they are still there. We try to get closer, but birds have this habit of flying away when they see my camera. Shy creatures.

045 birds, copy

The skies cloud over. Rain. What rain! And lightening. And the winds, pushing us up toward the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

In Iron Mountain, just over the border, we look for one of the three traditional Italian eateries. It’s very Italian up here, in Iron Mountain.

Let me call. Maybe they’re closed because of the storms.
They’re closed alright. Burned down in a heap of embers not too long ago. Oops.

Discouraged, we head for the next – Fontana – and it’s hoppin!’ Becky, the owner (I would put her at around ninety), shows us to a table. All you can eat fish fry, if you want it. $8.95, she tells us. No, no – we want to pick up on the Italian theme.

Four women, in ages somewhere between Becky and myself, all with very poofy hair, are reviewing the day’s weather. We’re under a tornado watch. It's a mess out there, Edna.

We get drinks, we get menus, but Becky makes no effort to take our orders. Becky isn't feeling warm toward us. Possibly we did not show excitement at the mention of fried cod. Oh, to be liked by the head of the Italian family that has served food here for generations! Ed shrugs, but I smile at her, a big toothy grin, everytime she looks our way (which is rarely).

We’re hungry. We ask the bartender for a plate of sautéed mushrooms. People have those with steak, you know, with dinner. That’s fine, but could we have some anyway? We have given up on the elusive intractable woman in control.

But eventually she comes over, poised to write down all that we ask for.

I ask my usual. I don’t mean to be difficult, it’s just that I really really care about these things:
Where are the shrimp from?
She looks at me over her thick glasses.
Randy’s distributor, like all our seafood.
I’ll have the Canadian scallops over mushrooms, with a side of gnocchi with marinara sauce.

We’ll seat you at your proper table when the salads are ready.

Ah, so there is a procedure. I see that the four women with poofy hair have made their way to the second room. In another hour or so, we are there as well.

I’m ready to eat anything and everything, even very average food.

Except that the food is not average. The homemade salad dressing, pungent with olive oil, is perfectly herbed, the scallops are picking up the flavors of the garlic mushrooms, the gnocchi are clearly home made.

058 Fontana, copy

Welcome to the UP.

It’s very late as we make our way down the dirt road to Little Squaw Lake. An A frame cottage at the water’s edge. We fall asleep in the utter quiet of the woods.

And in the morning, as the sun throws its first light on the trees across the water, we push the canoe out onto the lake and watch.

005 sunrise, copy

014 canoe, copy