Archive for August 2012

Things my Brain Felt Like Drawing Today

August 16, 2012

A water tap.   A duck   Saguaro cactii.   Saturn.   An ice cream cone.   Stars.   Tau.   A gear.   A heart.  A potted lily.

A hockey skate.   A resting dog.    Clouds.   A light bulb.   A bell.  DNA.   A donut.   A foot.   A pipe wrench.

A mitochondria.   A pine tree.  A bone.  Jupiter.  A tetrahedral model of the methane molecule.   A frowny face.

The sun and it’s corona.    A greek column.  The letter F.   A snail.    A toilet.  Building blocks.   The sun partially obscured by clouds.

An “up” arrow.    A curved arrow.  A right arrow.  A left arrow.  A ladder.  A bush with flowers.   The letter Q.  A tennis ball.

And a whole bunch of random shapes that make no sense to me whatsoever

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Chasing Rainbows on a Sunday Afternoon

August 15, 2012

It was unsettled weather this past Sunday.

Rain showers…sun…rain showers…sun…etc.

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Got a bit wet.   Saw a small rainbow.

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Managed to catch the occasional bass.   Little scrappers, they are.

Sun came out again.  Then more unsettled weather.

Then I heard a rushing sound: “Shhhhhhhhhhhh….!!!”

Which I knew was a wall of rain coming slowly my way across the lake.

Cursing the weather, I reluctantly ducked under a tree and waited out the downpour.

Shortly after which, was one of the best rainbows in recent memory.

WOW.  A double !!!

Here’s a close-up.

Notice  how the rainbow is in FRONT of the trees on the far show.   I’m actually seeing where the rainbow BEGINS.

I went to Google Earth later, and estimated the rainbow was about  500 meters away from where I was standing.

Of course, if I had paddled 500 meters to try to catch it, I’d never have succeeded.  I’d only just end up seeing a different rainbow, further away.  (Sorry, folks.  No pot of gold.)

This is because there isn’t actually any “unique” single rainbow in the sky.    Rainbows are an optical phenomenon that have to do with light reflecting and refracting inside of raindrops.  Every person sees a slightly different rainbow.

I wont’ get into all the scientific details but a good explanation is found here.  Another good site is found here.

Double rainbows occur when light is reflected inside the raindrops not once, but twice.   The order of colors in the secondary rainbow is always reversed from the first one, like a mirror image.

In both rainbows, the reds are towards the inside, the violets on the outside.  It’s always like this.   That’s just how the laws of physics work.

The area between the two rainbows is darker than the rest of the sky.  This is called “Alexander’s Band“.   Again, I won’t go into all the details (I’m a bit rusty on undergraduate physics!).

Suffice to say, all these phenomena have to do with the physical properties of water and how light bends while travelling through it.

I didn’ t overanalzye this while I was on the lake, though.  I just sat back and enjoyed nature’s show.

The rainbow spanned the entire lake, right in front of me, from one end to the other.

In my 48 years on this planet, I’d never seen such a thing.

And that was well-worth getting wet over.

Junior Bear Rates Some of the Beaches of Lake Superior

August 11, 2012

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1.  Agawa Beach, Ontario.

Located in Lake Superior Provincial Park, right off Highway 17.  Nice long sandy/pebbly beach.  Not too crowded, even in peak season.

If you go there after Labor day it’s pretty much empty.

The water is cold early in the season, but it’s shallow and warms up nicely.   Towards the end of August, I find it’s  one of the nicest swimming beaches on the lake.

Junior Bear’s Rating:  9 out of 10

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2.   Gargantua Beach, Ontario. 

To get here, you have to exit Highway 17 and drive on a gravel road for 15 km through the bush.

This is one of my favorite quiet areas, away from the crowds.  It gives you a good sense of remote wilderness.   Even in peak season, you might be lucky to see a couple of other hikers or kayakers here, and that’s it.

The beach is very rocky with big round pebbles, and not really good for swimming, though.   The water is deep and cold.  It almost looks too dangerous to go into the water here.

Junior Bear’s Rating:   7.5  out of 10  (due to lack of swimmability)

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3.  Old Womans’ Bay, Ontario.

Nice little cove, with sheer cliffs and sandy beach, just south of Wawa.   Sea kayakers enjoy this area.

I always stop here because it’s right off the highway and it’s a quick photo op.    The water is deep and cold, though.   I once dunked my head here in May, but I don’t usually swim here.

Junior Bear’s Rating:   7 out of 10 (due to poor swimmability and close proximity to the highway).

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4.   Sandy Beach, Ontario.

Located a few km off Highway 17,  just outside of Michipicoten.

This is one of my favorite beaches.   It’s sandy and quiet.   Even on a summer long weekend, you can have the place almost all to yourself.   It’s a great place to come in the evening and relax and just listen to the lake.  This is where I get my “Zen Like” moments.

This is a special part of Lake Superior.   Just west of this beach is a long tract of roadless wilderness.  For about ~ 150 km there’s nothing but pristine shoreline with no towns or cottages or road access.  It happens to be the  longest undeveloped freshwater shoreline in the world.   This is what’s so special about Superior, compared to the other crowded Great Lakes further south.

The water is cold and gets deep quickly.  I don’t bother swimming in June or July, but towards the end of August you can probably brave the water.

Junior Bear’s Rating:  10 out of 10

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5. Pebble Beach, Ontario. 

This beach is found just outside of Marathon, Ontario, which is a pulp and paper town on the  north shore.

This is definitely NOT a swimming beach.   It’s strewn with football-sized pebbles and piled high with driftwood logs.

You can hardly walk on the beach without risking a sprained ankle.  The water is very cold, and  gets deep very quickly.   Again, this looks like it would be a dangerous place to swim.

But there’s a certain charm to this area.   It’s wild and untamed.  Outside the town, the shoreline is pretty remote, with no cottages or road access,  just big tracts of wilderness on all sides.  It’s one of those beaches that’s good for sitting and just contemplating the lake.

I love the polished round granite pebbles.    I once photographed some rocks and turned it into my all-time favorite painting.

Junior Bear’s Rating:  8 out of 10

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6, Neys Provincial Park, Ontario. 

Located just west of Marathon, there are two parts to this beach.    The first part  is shallow and warm, next to all the campsites  If the water is calm, it’s clear as champagne and very nice to swim in.    However, if the wind picks up,  the water quickly gets muddy and turns brown.

Here’s a photo of the beach on one of the rare calm days.

The best part of the shoreline can be found if you hike a kilometer east.    The sandy beach disappears and the shoreline transforms into solid bedrock, polished smooth by water, wind and glaciers.

This is one of my favorite parts of Lake Superior.   Rugged, untamed, and wild.    This is the North Shore at its finest.

I can (and have) sat here for hours watching the waves, which can get spectacular on a windy day.

Junior Bear’s Rating:  10 out of 10

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7.  Grand Marais, Minnesota.


I’m sad to say, I found Minnesota had the least impressive shoreline.   It was average/mediocre.   No islands or rugged shorelines or long stretches of sand.

Furthermore,  Highway 61 pretty much hugs most of the coast, so there is very little shoreline that’s more than 100 feet from noisy traffic.   And most of the shoreline is privately owned.  There is little public access. except for the occasional State park, boat launch or picnic area.   But these are few and far between.

One exception is Grand Marais, which is one of the nicer areas.  It’ s a quaint town with a  big marina and a harbor, though it’s also somewhat touristy.

There is no swimming beach to speak off.   Just a lot of rocks.

The water, however, is amazingly crystal clear, and very deep.   In theory, you can jump in if you wish.

I did, years ago, in June.  All I remember was opening my eyes underwater  and seeing green-blue, and thinking it was like being in a furnace.   The water was so cold, it felt like my skin was burning.

Junior Bear’s Rating:   6 out of 10  (because it’s not really a beach).

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8.  Nameless Beach, Minnesota.

In my quest to find a decent Minnesota Beach,  I kept stopping at the all the rest stops to see if I could find anything.

Here’s a typical one  just outside the city of Duluth, which you can see in the background.     This was right off the old Highway 61.

What a dud.     There was almost no shoreline between the paved road and the water.  Nothing but brown rocks with bits of twigs and wood and debris all over the place.

Furthermore, it was a windy day so the water was stirred up to a silty, dirty chocolate-milk brown.   Nothing you’d want to go swimming in, unless you wanted your shorts to fill up with dirt and junk.

Junior Bear’s Rating:    Pretty sad.  2 out of 10. (And it’s only getting a 2 because it’s Lake Superior)

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9. Cornucopia Beach, Wisconsin. 

Located on the Wisconsin Coast between Duluth and the Apostle Islands.

Again, this was an unimpressive beach.    Nothing but a tiny strip of sand between the sand dunes and the water, where people were jam-packed.   And once again, the wind had stirred up the water to a chocolate-milk brown.    Nobody was actually swimming.

Maybe I’m being too harsh.   Perhaps I saw the beach on a bad day, when the water was unusually high and stirred up.

Either way,  based on what we’ve seen, Junior Bear rates this a 5 out of 10.

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10.  Eagle River, Michigan.

This beach is located on the western part of the Keewenaw Peninsula,  which juts out ~60 miles right into the middle of the lake.

This beach was a delightful surprise, after the disappointment of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

It’s a nice white sandy shore,  with clear blue water, that goes on for miles and MILES.

Granted, I was there on a weekday, but it was July 3rd, and I’d figured it would have been crowed for the American Holiday.

But there was hardly a soul there.

I didnt’ swim because the water was quit choppy, but I walked along forever, and the beach it just kept going and GOING.

Yes, there were houses along the shore, but they were mostly tucked in among the trees, and there’s plenty of access to the water.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is out of the way for most people, so isn’t very developed.

This is probably one of the few beaches where you can see deer tracks in the sand.

It’s comforting to know there are areas in the Lower 48 that are still unspoiled like this.

Junior Bear’s Rating:  10 out of 10.

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11. Bete Grise, Michigan

Located on the opposite (eastern)  side of the Keewenaw Peninsula, just south of Copper Harbor.

Beautiful sand.   Shallow pristine water. When I arrived, I was surprised to see it so uncrowded, especially just before the July 4 holiday.

I was expecting this would be a perfect ten.

But it was NOT.

In fact, is the the WORST BEACH EVER.

The setting and water temperature were fine.    The main problem, however, was the SAND FLIES.

The #$%*ing  little bastards were EVERYWHERE.

Within seconds of coming out of the water, they’d swarm all over your ankles and legs, by the dozens, and start biting.

It was enough to literally make you run to the car screaming, even before drying off.

What a horror show. That’s  probably why there were not people here.

Junior Bear’s Rating:   ZERO out of 10.

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12.  Miners Beach, Michigan

Located within the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, this is one of the top 5 most beautiful areas I’ve seen on Superior.

It was a stinking hot day and the water felt so good to jump into.     I stayed in as long as I wanted  without getting cold, though my American fellow beach-goers were somewhat less enthusiastic about jumping in.

I found the water had a nice turquoise color to it, that I hadn’t seen in any other parts of the lake.  It almost looked Caribbean.

As an added bonus, there was Miners Castle, an interesting rock formation just down the road.

The entire coast in this area is spectacular.    I guess this is why they made it a protected National Seashore.  I definitely want to come back and explore this area some more.

Junior Bear’s Rating:    Sweet.  10 out of 10

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