Letters

Letters 05-23-2016

Examine The Priorities Are you disgusted about closing schools, crumbling roads and bridges, and cuts everywhere? Investigate funding priorities of legislators. In 1985 at the request of President Reagan, Grover Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). For 30 years Norquist asked every federal and state candidate and incumbent to sign the pledge to vote against any increase in taxes. The cost of living has risen significantly since 1985; think houses, cars, health care, college, etc...

Make TC A Community For Children Let’s be that town that invests in children actively getting themselves to school in all of our neighborhoods. Let’s be that town that supports active, healthy, ready-to-learn children in all of our neighborhoods...

Where Are Real Christian Politicians? As a practicing Christian, I was very disappointed with the Rev. Dr. William C. Myers statements concerning the current presidential primaries (May 8). Instead of using the opportunity to share the message of Christ, he focused on Old Testament prophecies. Christ gave us a new commandment: to love one another...

Not A Great Plant Pick As outreach specialist for the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network and a citizen concerned about the health of our region’s natural areas, I was disappointed by the recent “Listen to the Local Experts” feature. When asked for their “best native plant pick,” three of the four garden centers referenced non-native plants including myrtle, which is incredibly invasive...

Truth About Plants Your feature, “listen to the local experts” contains an error that is not helpful for the birds and butterflies that try to live in northwest Michigan. Myrtle is not a native plant. The plant is also known as vinca and periwinkle...

Ask the Real Plant Experts This letter is written to express my serious concern about a recent “Listen To Your Local Experts” article where local nurseries suggested their favorite native plant. Three of the four suggested non-native plants and one suggested is an invasive and cause of serious damage to Michigan native plants in the woods. The article is both sad and alarming...

My Plant Picks In last week’s featured article “Listen to the Local Experts,” I was shocked at the responses from the local “experts” to the question about best native plant pick. Of the four “experts” two were completely wrong and one acknowledged that their pick, gingko tree, was from East Asia, only one responded with an excellent native plant, the serviceberry tree...

NOTE: Thank you to TC-based Eagle Eye Drone Service for the cover photo, taken high over Sixth Street in Traverse City.

Home · Articles · News · Books · Naked in the stream
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Naked in the stream

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli - June 21st, 2010
The wilds of Isle Royale come to life in Naked in the Stream
Naked in the Stream: Isle Royale Stories
By Vic Foerster
Arbutus Press
$19.95
By Elizabeth Buzzelli
If you liked Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods,” you’re going to love “Naked in the Stream: Isle Royale Stories” by Vic Foerster.
Forester’s tales of almost 30 years camping and canoeing and hiking on Isle Royale and surrounding islands is not only a captivating read, but instructive, throat-catching, and deeply knowing, the way good outdoor books should be.
In beautifully clear prose, he writes about the vagaries of weather so far north, as well as about people he’s met along the way. There are stories of encounters with animals and stories about himself—what he’s learned and how Isle Royale has made him the man he’s become.
It might be best to start with the last essay in the book, the title piece, “Naked in the Stream.” This is where his love of the outdoors, and finally his fascination with Isle Royale, began. He and his friend, Ken, who would become a lifelong trekking buddy, were college buddies up at Michigan Tech. Ken was the daredevil who took on challenges, but he was soon taking Foerster right along with him.
On one particular spring break, as their buddies headed for Florida and the pursuit of women and booze, Ken and Vic decided to hike around the shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula, from Bete Grise to Copper Harbor. It was only March. Spring hadn’t found the land up there yet. The snow was deep, the ice unpredictable, the terrain rough.
At the Montreal River there was no way to get across other than wading. With boyish bravado, Ken jumped in. When it was Vic’s turn to enter the icy water, all he could do was say a simple prayer and step into the river. “To say I was shocked does not do justice to it.” No easy summer wade across tranquil water, the river ran with ice. Foerster describes what happened next: “I swallowed hard, and then waded out to the edge of the drop-off. As I approached the channel, my shins and then knees lost feeling. I hesitated. My legs started to feel like they were burning, but the sensation disappeared after a few seconds… my balance was shot… Taking three deep breath to steady my nerves… I jumped into the trough. The water rose to my waist. I battled another surge of panic. The cold penetrated through me. The numbness stopped at my legs.”

HOWLING WIND
Although stark naked for this fording of a river in winter, the boys make it to the other side and continue on their hike, stopping at dusk to pitch their tent in the snow, to eke water from a lake protected by shelves of unpredictable ice, and to try to sleep, though the winds might howl around them.
On a terrible night of snow and high winds, camping out on a sheltered bay filled with ice, the boys take on Lake Superior, clambering up a wall of rock to get a look at the lake in full fury.
“Gripping the stone, I carefully rose onto my knees, not daring to stand, and lifted my face to peek at the lake. I froze. An unbelievably huge roller heaved up right in front of me only fifty feet away. It surged and then smashed against the rock. It hit with so much force the concussion of sound dazed me. Lake Superior was a war of water. Frothy, ice-filled waves surged and bucked everywhere at absurd angles. Water escaped hills of slush and squirted through the ice with the force of geysers. The liquid water exposed to the gale shot horizontally toward shore. The spray froze in mid-air, pelting the stone all around us.”
After this beautifully written introduction to what would become a lifelong passion, Vic and Ken move their weeks and months of camping to Isle Royale, over the years learning the small islands, the campgrounds, the trails, and the people.
In “Captain Don” Foerster introduces one of the ferryboat captains who take people across the open water, the the four-and-a-half-hour trip to Rock Harbor on Isle Royale. He had many a bad storm to talk about, and many a sick passenger, but kept the details of one, terrible trip to himself. Vic and Ken had made this crossing with the captain, a bad one that almost took the boat and the lives of all on board. At the end of the trip, the Captain came out on the stern deck where Vic was standing. “He was smoking a cigarette and I thought it kind of strange until I noticed that his hand holding the cigarette was trembling. It was at that moment, and not until that moment, I fully realized, it had been close.”

OTTER & THE FOX
In “Little Brothers and Sisters,” one of the charming glimpses of island fauna up close, Vic watches as a fox outsmarts an otter who brings his fish to shore, repeatedly losing it to the waiting fox. “I wasn’t sure if the portly fox would be agile enough for another battle or interested in more fish. He was.” With wistfulness, Vic adds, “If the otter had just carried his food to one of the isolated island rocks in the deep cove, all very safe from foxes, he could have eaten in peace. The otter never did connect his problem with his choice of shoreline feeding location.”
Encounters with moose were many, sometimes treacherous, as in when they erected their tent on a moose path and heard one outside their fragile walls that night, trying to figure what was blocking its usual path to food.
From tears, as in “Into the Wind,” to cautionary stories such as “Fish Tales” and “An Off Shore Wind,” Foerster is deeply knowledgeable about his subject. Whether he’s dealing with bugs or sunsets or Northern Lights or lots and lots of good fishing, the stories strike a cord with the reader. These are tales told around a campfire after dark. They hand us a man’s devotion to a natural world that might reject him or accept him, but always allows him to observe, learn, and take nothing home but long days of new experience and freedom in a timeless world.

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli’s new mystery, “Dead Sleeping Shaman,” is in bookstores now.


 
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