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BLANE KLEMEK COLUMN: Those places that stir certain emotions among us

For about a week in early June, I left the forestlands and lake country of northwest Minnesota in exchange for the deep and cold lakes of the Canadian Shield's famed Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northeast Minnesota.

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Blane Klemek

For about a week in early June, I left the forestlands and lake country of northwest Minnesota in exchange for the deep and cold lakes of the Canadian Shield's famed Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northeast Minnesota.

Departing home about 7 a.m., three of us were happily paddling our canoes by early afternoon.

Not bad, I thought. For as much time and energy as it takes to prepare for trips such as these, it's always a pleasant surprise when one at last arrives and troubles are left behind.

Why is it that certain places stir certain emotions among us? For me, those places have always been the wilderness. And though the wildernesses of choice are the pine-studded granite islands of the coffee-colored lakes of the Boundary Waters, I can find these special places in other locales, too. However, it is the wildness of the Far North that I always prefer.

The biota is vastly different in the Boundary Waters than it is most anywhere else. For example, one can spend hours just examining the abundant life forms living on the great boulders of granite that was pushed up and carved by the moving glaciers of long ago. Succession begins on bare rock and evidence of that was everywhere.

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Lichens and mosses of different species in beautifully assembled communities blanketed the granite in carpets of assorted color. One could not help laying down beside these microhabitats for closer looks. In fact, though nearly impossible to do, just stepping on these delicate and ancient plants felt dreadfully wrong. After all, the mosses and symbiotic lichens had been there, living and growing in such harsh conditions, for so very long, for thousands of years, that my mere presence seemed a trespass of sorts, like I did not belong.

The over-story of trees and shrubs towering above these tiny communities, though much spectacular looking from afar, owe their grandeur, if not their very existence, to all the miniature colonies eking out a living on the rocks below. It is hard to imagine that the majestic white pine, the stately red pine (our official state tree), the fragrant balsam fir, and the wonderfully aromatic and slow-growing white cedar-all finding precarious footholds in rock and crevice-can do so because of fungus, algae, lichen, mosses, moisture, and Father Time working synergistically to break down hard rock into soft soil.

And with the abundance of plant life is the animal life. On a short portage between two lakes where a cascade of water flowed through the lush greenery to the lake below, a mink frog escaped from our advance into a patch of jewelweed. As we fished for smallmouth bass and walleye, a bald eagle flapped overhead, its white head and tail feathers clearly visible and contrasting with dark brown body plumage and a background of blue sky.

A great blue heron flying below the forest canopy along a quiet bay suddenly banked and landed behind a small island of trees into the shallow water, no doubt a favorite hunting spot. And on a short hike into the conifers, I heard white-throated sparrows calling for "Old Sam Peabody." I listened and heard other birds, too-black capped chickadees, red-breasted nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, common ravens and a lone gray jay.

But perhaps the most enjoyable of all bird calls, which evokes the purest sense of wildness, belongs to that of Minnesota's official state bird-the common loon. Their wails and yodels, somewhat mournful, somewhat lonely, are always pleasant, always welcome. Indeed, along with the howls of gray wolves and the calls of Canada geese, no other creature captures better the essence of wild, as does the magical call of a lone loon on calm, dark night.

Friendship and laughter and hearty meals of fresh fried fish; campfire flames and fragrant pine smoke; starlit skies and shooting stars; blue-bird days and puffy white clouds; and tannin stained waters surrounded by cloaks of greenery is what the Boundary Waters is all about-and much, much more-as we get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

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The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.