Monday, February 20, 2012


I've been a big-time blog slacker and now have too much to catch up and am overwhelmed so I haven't been writing at all. I have to quick update about Kaylin's knitting and will then go into my amazing Duluth road trip with Logan.

After the dramatic tears of sorrow and frustration, knitting is impossible class, Kaylin sat down and learned to knit. Of course, she couldn't knit like everyone else, she had to do it her own way. And of course, her own way is about 10X cooler than the regular way :) For whatever reason, Kaylin decided to knit using pencils rather than knitting needles and proceeded to knit a really cool headband and some wrist band bracelets. The pattern looks like it was done by an expert. She took her stuff to class and I figured the instructor would be offended by Kaylin's lack of respect for the "right" way, but she was impressed by her creativity and watched Kaylin knit with pencils and finger knit for a long time. I think Kaylin won "Most Improved" for a one week period. She was thrilled by all the compliments from the other students and I imagine she'll continue to knit long past our final class. I, on the other hand, feel that I have fulfilled my commitment and may never knit another stitch. Yay!

I had a week of E-time I needed to use up before the end of March. I would really have loved to take another birding/zooing road trip with Meghan, but we're too short-staffed at the moment for both of us to get the same time off. I still wanted to go somewhere and do something; I wanted to go birding somewhere I'd never been, but where? My biggest goal for this winter was to see a snowy owl in the wild. I missed my "sure thing" opportunity in Chicago due to illness and other obligations. I googled and googled places to see snowy owls and Duluth, Minnesota seemed like the best option. But did I really want to go to Duluth in February? Yes. Yes I did.

I researched and researched birding hotspots and got a new set of tires for the car. I checked weather dot com daily, hoping for no big Minnesota blizzards. I had every intention of going by myself, but then Friday morning while I was driving Logan to school, he asked if he could come along. I was stunned. I mean, it's a long drive and the only thing I had planned was birding. He wanted to come. Okay, cool. Let's do it!

I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive. Our usual road trips involve the van that has TV and video. And comfortable seats. And doesn't stink like red river hogs and zebras. Would Logan be bored to death on the drive? Would we spend more time at the hotel pool than birding? I need not have worried, my boy is loving this trip!

We left home around 1pm Saturday. Logan had football until noon and Kaylin and I had knitting until 12:30. We drove along the Illinois River to Lacon and saw tons of bald eagles. We then drove up through Rockford and Madison, past Wisconsin Dells, and finally stopped for the night in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. We spent ~6 hours driving, with ~2 1/2 more hours to Duluth. We stayed at the only hotel we could find- a Holiday Inn Express- and Logan was thrilled to not only have his own bed, but to get to use hotel blankets for the first time in his life! (Only Gene will get that.) We were on the road by 8am, headed toward Duluth. We were the ONLY people on the highway, it was a gorgeous day and we were full of excitement. Full of excitement to the point I guess my foot was a little heavy on the gas pedal because I flew past a well-hidden cop who promptly pulled me over and gave me my first speeding ticket since 1990. Crap! Oh well, at least he was super nice about it. We moved on at a much slower pace and arrived in Superior, Wisconsin. I found the airport and fairgrounds where a snowy owl had been spotted the day before and looked and looked to no avail.

We headed over a huge bridge into Duluth, where we stopped at the touristy lakefront area. Logan skimmed rocks over the ice at the edge and it made a weird whistling noise. We then walked across the lift bridge and walked along the sandy beach on the other side, looking for rocks and driftwood and marvelling at the ice "caves" along the lakefront. We drove up along the north shore of Lake Superior, stopping occasionally to hunt for rocks or just play. I didn't realize how few and far between our dining options would be and it was after 2pm before we found a small town and a McDonald's. We then went on to Gooseberry Falls State Park which reminded me very much of Starved Rock State Park, with trails and canyons. We hiked probably at least 2 miles and saw some little birds, lots of cool scenery, some mini squirrels I have yet to identify and a pair of young deer that came right up to the bird feeders at the visitor center. I think Logan enjoyed every moment of the day and even lugged full-size binoculars on our entire hike.

It was late afternoon and starting to get dark. I wanted to check the Superior airport area again before total darkness so we headed back that way. I had pretty much given up on seeing snowy owls for the day, but when we were headed over the bridge between Duluth and Superior, I looked up and there was one perched on a lamp post! I think I screamed and scared Logan to death, but he looked quickly and saw the owl! Not only was it the first wild owl Logan's ever seen, but it was a SNOWY OWL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We headed to the airport and didn't find the owl so decided to try going back over the bridge to see if the OUR owl was still there. It wasn't. We found a Comfort Inn in Duluth, ate dinner at the Perkins next door and Logan swam for an hour.

It's almost 8am and Logan's just starting to stir. Today we're planning to head north to Sax-Zim bog. It's a well-known birding hot spot, known for sightings of great gray owls. I don't have a lot of hope of seeing one because they are most often seen along roadsides when the snow is deep. There might be a quarter of an inch of snow in areas the sun never hits, but nothing deep enough to even cover a mouse. It's sort of like how bald eagles flock to the open waters of dams when the weather is extremely cold, but when the water is open they spread out all over the place. I still want to see Sax-Zim bog just to say I've been there, in case I don't get up this way again. If we make it back to town in time, we then plan to go to the zoo before starting our journey back home.

Yee-haw! Logan's awake and getting ready. We'll grab some breakfast, pack up and get a move-on! So far, it's been a really fun trip!

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