Spring Break (Special Midweek Update)

Calliope, Queen of Lake Superior

Here’s one for all you spring breakers hanging out down on the southern coast somewhere.

Yes, it’s spring break time for many schools in the Upper Peninsula. This is when lots of families make an annual pilgrimage to Florida only to see exactly the same people in Florida they do in the UP, just warmer. Not really my thing, but more power to ’em.

One of the guilty pleasures I’ve picked up since moving to the Upper Peninsula is rock tumbling. Here’s what happened. I’d go to the beach and see all these beautiful, glistening rocks laying out there in the sunlight. Lake Superior in particular produces some amazing rocks. They just pile up in places, tons of colorful granites, quartzes, unakite, chert, jasper – even agates if you get lucky. I’d pick up a few pretty ones, get home, and they’d dry out. Solution? Tumble and polish. After a month or so, the rocks are permanently restored to a state of lustrous elegance.

With some time during break, the doggos and I packed up and hit one of my favorite rock hounding beaches in the Grand Marais area. (It’s like fishing, though. I can’t reveal my exact spot.) I hadn’t been there all winter long because the road in that area doesn’t get plowed in winter. In fact, I was hoping the road would be open enough at this point that I could squeak through. Fortunately, it was.

Queen of the Inland Seas, copyright the UP Traveler, no use without prior authorization

I took this picture about a half mile up the beach. Here’s what’s going on. Because Lake Superior is freshwater, the waves form huge mountains of ice mixed with sand that just grow and grow as winter progresses. For whatever reason – vanity, I think – one of my dogs decided to climb one and look out over what I’m sure she considered her domain. This particular mound of ice was about ten feet tall, or a little more than three meters for those of you in the rest of the world.

With spring on its way, the ice starts gradually to melt. This usually opens up some shoreline. One of the things all that gorgeous ice leaves behind is gorgeous rocks. Now, these rocks have been rolling around the bottom of Lake Superior for thousands of years. Some reach shore through natural wave action, while others make it all bundled up in ice. Either way, they are magnificent.

Lake Superior Beach Rocks, copyright the UP Traveler, no use without prior permission

Rock hounding is a form of communing with nature for me, and I can easily spend the entire day doing it. The shore is always picture perfect, and the rythmic sound of waves from that blue, blue water hitting sand or ice is as hypnotic as anything on earth. I find rocks that are pretty, unique, or both, and I toss them into a pack I carry along. Once I get home, I have nearly as much fun sorting them as I do finding them. The dogs enjoy the time, too, jetting up and down the beach hunting imaginary lions in the woods until they’re thoroughly beat and plop down to watch me do my thing.

What happens with all my finished rocks? Like any dedicated tumbler, I give plenty of them away. There’s something irresistably elemental about running your fingers through a bunch of shiny, polished rocks as they clack against each other. When someone finds a favorite, I tell them to keep it. Well, unless it’s one of the carnelians or agates. I get atttached to them. They’re really special.

Just Rocks, copyright the UP Traveler, no use without prior permission

I’ve found you can use polished rocks to enhance just about anything. I added them the centerpiece in this picture to dress up the dining room table with something tasteful but not ostentatious. I needed something to fill that empty spot, but I’ve seen too many certerpieces that look like they crawled out of someone’s late 60’s bouffant to go the usual route. A quick trip to the craft store and supermarket did the trick, and the rocks provide just the right touch to finish it all off.

All in all, not a bad way to pass a spring break.

Location: top secret, but somewhere along H-58 in the neighborhood of Grand Marais.

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