We had dinner at one of Becky’s coworker’s houses this evening and they have a little guy who’s a little over a year and a half old. With Dominic away at Scout Camp it was just Gavin along with Becky and I. Gavin and Noah hit it off right away and they had a lot of fun on the wagon, playing with Lincoln Logs and goofing around.
What really struck me was how appreciative I am of how great Gavin is with little kids. Sometimes he is a handful and full of a bit too much energy, but seeing him with younger kids is a stark contrast as he calms down and goes their speed. Being with those smaller kids brings out a more mature side of him that I appreciate greatly.
Later in the evening my cousin Chris came over and I had an awesome time re-connecting with him. We shot the bull until later than either of expected and laughed hard and often as we traded life, adulting, and parenting stories. It’s not often that we both have time to hang out like this, I’m very thankful for this time together. We’ll have to figure out a way to carve out some time to do this again sooner than later, and maybe even work on a project or two while doing it. There was something about hanging out with my cousin late on a summer night that reminded me of so many times we’d done this in the past as kids. It was a blast!
When Becky and I planned this vacation we thought about going for a couple of extra days, but thought it might be nice to have a couple of days at home to get back into the swing of things. Pretty much every vacation we come back from we both agree it would have been nice to have some time at home to get back into the swing of things.
Last night we got everything unpacked from our trip and were set up for a pretty excellent day today. Becky and I got up early and hit yoga. Afterwards we picked up the girls. A quick brunch and we were off as a family on the boat (including the girls). Get home and get a bunch of stuff done around the house. Bike to church, enjoy a meal downtown, bike home. Run a quick errand to the grocery store, maybe clip the garage door with the roof rack of the car (more on that later). Now we’re chilling on the couch and relaxing as a family. Tomorrow will be focused mainly on getting caught up on work and prepping for next week.
All in all I’m feeling ready to jump back in and I’m ready to go, and most of that is due to having a couple of extra days at home. I’m very thankful for those extra couple of days!
As you may have picked up on before, I pulled a dumb one and decided to hit the garage door button a little too early while pulling into the garage. Gavin and I were engaged in a pretty deep conversation and I completely spaced it and pushed the garage door opener a little too early. Next thing I knew I heard the sound of crunching.
Thank goodness we have some of the best neighbors in the world, including a super hero who saved the day! I am hugely grateful for all of the help from my neighbor Matt who helped get our garage door back up. Amy was also a huge help over the past week as she helped to take care of our house and cat while we were out. They are a couple of the best neighbors a person could ask for and I am very thankful for them!
As I type this we’ve just left the dock at Rock Harbor to start our trip back to the mainland. The weather is perfect as it has been each day we’ve been here. The water is almost perfectly still until our ferry cuts through the calm. We’ve run into the same dozen or so people we’ve bumped into several times since arriving. Currently we’re below deck relaxing and reading and will pop back up once we hit the next stop which is going to be a mother beautiful view of Lake Superior, complete with lighthouse.
While it’s still very early in the day it’s easy for me to write about what I am thankful for. Isle Royale was much more peaceful and relaxing than I ever would’ve expected. It might not have mountains, but the quiet and calm of this place is incredible. Becky pretty much nailed it this morning when she called it “our island of solitude.”
And that’s exactly what I’m thankful for today. In checking off National Park #24 together we found an island of solitude at Isle Royale. Everything about this place is peaceful and calming. There’s no crowds, no traffic, no phones, no noise, no internet, no news, and very few clocks. We used the sun as our gauge of when to go to sleep and woke up when we were ready. We ate when we got hungry, rarely at normal times. Nature surrounded us and paid no attention to us. Rabbits, squirrels, moose, and loons were all much closer to us than one would expect and were totally fine with our presence. Everything here reminds me of a simpler way to live, the quiet that my brain and soul need from time to time.
With all this quiet we were able to soak in the entire experience and totally relax. We spent a ton of time as a family playing games and goofing around. There was never a hurry for anything, even the prep to get ready this morning was barely more than a slow pace. In a word, it’s been magical.
Thank you Isle Royale for sharing with us why you are the most re-visited National Park… I would imagine that we’ll be back to visit our Island of Solitude again in the not too distant future.
When we started planning our trip one of the biggest draws to Isle Royale was the opportunity to see moose. On our first afternoon here I lucked out and spotted one, but no one else saw it, they just heard him. Our hiking and cruise yesterday were beautiful and relaxing, but alas, there was not a moose to be seen. With canoeing and hiking on the docket for the day we knew it was now or never time on this trip as we head back to mainland tomorrow morning.
We explored every nook and cranny of the river as we paddled along the shore. There were many awesome things including loons with a chick, a bald eagle, and several sweet rock formations, but again, no moose. When it was about lunch time we headed to shore for a hike that offered beautiful vistas of Canada less than 20 miles from us. It was prime moose country and there was a lot of signs of them, but still no moose to be seen. On the way up Dominic and I saw a pair of beaver in a pond which was pretty awesome, but it wasn’t the same as a moose.
Finally, less than a tenth of a mile from our canoes on the way back down a young bull jumped out on the trail just 15’ or so in front of Dominic. His face had a combination of joy and a healthy dose of nervousness as he looked back at the rest of us. The moose calmly walked across the trail and wandered into the beaver pond. For the fifteen minutes or so he calmly walked the shore and dipped his head in the water for some great tasting vegetation. Fortunately for us he didn’t care in the least that we were there and he was sure to walk out in spots that were great for photos.
As he did his thing the four of us just soaked in the experience and enjoyed every moment of it. It was awesome and sure to be remembered by all of us for the rest of our lives. We’d struck gold, moose gold, and I am thankful for that!
One of my favorite parts of going to an island in the ocean is the transition to “island time.” You know, the weird nexus of the universe when time kind of stops mattering. I go from being in a hurry constantly to get from Point A to Point B to suddenly not caring when or if I get to Point B at all. Maybe I’m on time, maybe I’m an hour late, and maybe there’s just no schedule. It’s a wonderfully relaxing mindset (though not necessarily healthy for work, hence why it should only be enjoyed in smaller doses).
Today I learned that I can be on island time when not in the ocean. Being in the middle of Lake Superior helped me get on island time regardless. We had some loose plans for the day, but nothing carved in stone. When I woke up we ate breakfast and we headed out for a hike. We took our time and enjoyed the journey and the scenic destination. Part way through the hike my watch battery died and I quickly realized I’d forgotten my charger in the car back on the mainland. So much for keeping time! I’d say it actually added to the experience in a very positive way today.
Once we got back to our cabin we cleaned up and headed out for “lupper” at sometime around 4-ish. Similar to yesterday I had zero concept of time and it was so relaxing! After our meal we headed back and Becky and I took a nap for somewhere between 90 and 120 minutes. Then we hiked down to the marina for our only scheduled event fo the day, a sunset cruise. Now that we’re home I’m blogging as everyone gets ready for bed then I’ll be off to bed. If it wasn’t for the clock on the top of my computer I’d have no ideas that it’s 11:11pm (trippy!).
Without having an agenda or schedule we were able to take our time and just enjoy the day. No rush, no hustle and bustle, just enjoying the time together as a family. It felt amazing!!! If only my watch was still running I’d know how much my heart rate has dropped over the past 100-ish hours…. But if it means I’d know and/or care about the time it definitely wouldn’t be worth it. I’m on island time and loving every minute of it!
Quick heads up – as it relates to the title and topic of this blog, I’m off the grid for the next few days. Regardless, I am writing each blog post daily and will add them once we’re back online. Who knows when that will be, I might wait until long after we get home!
Once we got onto the ferry to head to the island this morning I did something that I haven’t done in a very long time…. I totally unplugged. I shut the data off my phone, put it on silence, and have only been using it to take pictures and listen to music. No emails, no calls, no news updates, no reminders, no ties to the outside world. Just being able to enjoy the time away from the world.
With nothing to respond to I was able to spend time writing my book. We spent time playing many games on our 8 hour ferry ride. Several times I wandered out to the deck and just basked in the sun while listening to music, enjoying the beauty of Isle Royale, and thinking about nothing too crazy. At one point in the afternoon I took a nap.
Once we got everything unloaded in our cabin we headed out for a hike as a family and there was zero stress about the outside world. Occasionally it came up in conversation but it was either in a no stress way or quickly forgotten. With the increased level of focus I was totally drawn in to the beauty of the wild flowers in bloom, the incredibly blue water, and all of the rock formations. At one point when Becky and the boys had gotten a little ahead of me I heard a noise that I would have totally missed had I been thinking about other stuff. It was the crack of a branch under the hoof of a very large animal. I slowly drew closer to the ground to see underneath the brush and was rewarded with the view of a good size bull moose walking on a trail about 20 yards from me. It was AWESOME!!!
Being completely unplugged has caused momentary fits of nervousness but they’ve quickly started to happen less and less frequently and seem to be about ready to disappear. It’s amazing how time has gone by at such a different pace without the dinging of my phone keeping time. While up on deck I honestly couldn’t even being to tell you how long I sat alone on the deck watching the island as we passed by. It could have been less than a half hour or a couple of hours. I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts and the moment that I completely slipped out of time and it felt incredible! Based on how great this has felt in just fourteen hours I might have to make time for this more often. 🙂
Now that we’re back home and unpacked it feels pretty great to be back home. I’m so looking forward to sleeping in our own bed tonight! Thinking back through our vacation that’s about the only flaw I could find in the entire trip, not having our bed with us the entire time. That seems like a pretty near perfect vacation.
Our first long travel day was better than expected due to a couple of awesome side trips Becky found along the way. The first day in Voyageurs included a great boat ride / tour with a very knowledgeable and friendly guide, a view from the US to the south into Canada (yup, let that one sink in), and a surprising bear encounter. Our second day was another great travel day with more better than expected short hikes and views. The time in Isle Royale was AWESOME and included checking off pretty much every possible animal box (moose, beaver, loons with a chick, bald eagle) while providing spectacular views and relaxation. The trip from Isle Royale to Duluth included a wonderful hike past Split Rock Lighthouse and the adjoining beaches. Our last day (today) was a cool mini-tour of Duluth, a town that is way cooler than I’d imagined.
Add that all up and the only thing that I wish we could have done differently was bring our bed, a near perfect vacation!