Life on the Little Fork

21 Jan

By Jared

Thoreau’s Walden Pond.  Annie Dillard’s Tinker Creek.  Wendell Berry’s Lane’s Landing.  There’s a long and marvelous history of people communicating their love of the outdoors, respect for nature, and the joys of living in wild places, by writing about their specific place – and the adventures offered in the land around us.  While our blog is about more than just that, we deeply enjoy sharing the ways our family has come to love where we live.  It’s our life on the Little Fork.

The Little Fork River is a small, meandering river in far northeast Minnesota.  Its waters take shape somewhere east of our small town, and flow west for a while before absorbing the Rice River, then turning northwest and ultimately spilling into the Rainy River along the Canadian border.  It’s often finicky on our end, relying heavily on gurgling swamps and springs for water level as it gathers the momentum that will carry it into Canada.  It can quickly change depth several feet in either direction depending on recent rainfall or snowmelt.  We’ve swam in chest-deep waters after a downpour in June, and skipped through ankle deep trickles after a dry-spell in July.  It’s our lovely spot on the Little Fork, and it shapes the way we enjoy this place.

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Winter brings more stability, though not as much as you may think.  The ice forms at one level, but as the water depth gradually decreases, the ice becomes just a shell, and will sometimes pop and collapse where there’s no support beneath it.  And no amount of cold can keep the springs from doing their thing.  It’s currently -30 degrees on this clear January morning, but I can look over the bank and see fresh water spilling from the ground and sliding its way beneath the ice, ready to make the journey west and north.

We’ve spent the winter observing this river, learning about its moods and behaviors.  I’ve skied a few miles in either direction, noting the springs, soft spots, and beaver dams where the ice might be tricky.  We’ve got a pretty good grasp on the thing now, and can ski, sled, and explore confidently as we enjoy or frigid world.

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We woke last Saturday, and after enjoying our family breakfast, we bundled up to go enjoy the last morning of above zero temperatures forecast for several days.  I tied a few ropes together and hooked the sled to my belt.  Cait grabbed the camera and we set off up the river to spend the morning skiing and sledding.

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Our oldest child has been on a bit of a Narnia kick lately, so with a stick in her hand and her little sister at her side, she quite quickly decided that she would be the Queen of Narnia, her sister the Dwarf servant, and me, of course, the reindeer charged with dragging the sled around.  Caitlyn, by default, got to be Aslan.

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This is how we spent the morning, and by the time we returned home it was time for hot cocoa, a little lunch, and a Saturday afternoon nap.  This is life on the Little Fork.

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