The pike we didn’t catch

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We do not catch fish like this on Long Lake. Other people catch fish like this on Long Lake. If we catch a fish it’s a teeny one. And we hardly ever catch even a teeny one. Of course, we don’t fish in the dedicated way that Jeff does. Jeff and his Great Dane were out on the lake when it was 40 degrees and the wind was blowing and fierce rain squalls were moving through the area.

This is the Northern Pike (Esox Lucius) that Jeff caught near the drop-off pretty much straight off from our dock on Friday October 24th. I saw him pull this fish out of the water as I sat knitting  and warming myself by the fire.  And, in case Jeff’s brother is reading this, this blogger, being first duly sworn, states that she personally measured this fish and it was 38 inches long. If I saw this pike swim by my kayak, I’d be hoping he wouldn’t eat my paddle. If I saw this pike swim by when I was swimming in the lake, I wouldn’t swim in the lake anymore. In fact, just knowing she’s in the lake (most big pikes are female) will make me think twice about dangling my feet off the dock next summer. Jeff released her right after this photo was taken and she swam away lickety-split.

The Northern Pike has a lot of goofy nicknames. Mr. Toothy is one and if an angler reaches in to that mouth to remove a hook, he finds out why. Wikipedia reports another nickname that captures the same quality: Sharptooth McGraw. But my personal fav is snot rocket. If you’ve seen a pike dart away you  know about the rocket part. And the snot part is the slime that covers the pike. It is a protective coating. Careful anglers make sure they don’t handle the fish any more than is absolutely necessary, not because they are squeamish (as I am) but because healthy pike need their mucous coating to avoid skin damage that can lead to death-by-infection.

The other angler on board is Jeff’s 2-year old Great Dane. What a great day to be a dog on Long Lake.

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Hillman’s 2013 Applefest

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Any of my regular readers know how much the loons on Long Lake matter to us. Every chick and every adult is special. This year’s twins are doing fine. Their parents have flown south and the adolescents soon will too. They have been flying low over the water, practicing their take-offs and landings.

This decorative decoy is handcrafted of Northeast Michigan Northern White Cedar. Bob Theiner, who lives on Theiner Trail in Hillman, carved and painted this adult loon with its just-hatched chick. It has landed an honored place at our Long Lake cottage. Here’s our 2013 chicks about a week after they hatched. An excellent interpretation, Bob!

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Theiner, of Bob Theiner Decoys, was a featured maker at this year’s Brush Creek Mill‘s Applefest. Honestly, the Hillman area doesn’t grow many apples (and Posen already has dibs on the potatofest). But we have lots of home-grown talent, like Theiner, a master decoy maker. Here he is–along with his creations:

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We couldn’t be happier with our loon decoy purchase. Theiner’s work is top-notch. If you’re interested in his decoys, leave me a comment. Theiner doesn’t have a website (yet) but I can forward your comment on to him. Also, here’s his decoys Facebook page and his Flicker page.

HIllman did not catch a break on the weather today, but the event was still wonderful. A little rain, OK a lot of rain, just meant more of the event moved indoors. Great hot apple cider, homemade apple dumplings topped with ice cream and caramel, and lots of welcoming folks. Welcomes are something HIllman is especially good at.

Here’s the refurbished Brush Creek Mill, staffed mostly by an army of volunteers.

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You can learn stuff here (yoga, computer skills, weaving), buy stuff at the River’s Edge Gift Shop, stop by and visit with a Montmorency County deputy sometimes, and check out the mill’s small collection of historic objects.

Here’s the view from the mill’s entrance looking toward Hillman’s new bridge, spanning the Thunder Bay River.

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The bridge’s design echoes the design of the historic camelback bridge it replaced.

Even the mill’s mascot was decked out for Applefest.

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There weren’t many apples for sale, but this farm booth had choice vegetables, beautifully displayed. (Check out the quilt covers!) We purchased a big green cabbage, the one behind the frilly leafed one, and will be steaming it for dinner.

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The tomatoes, one of which I ate with lunch, are wonderful. And that’s quite remarkable, this late in the season.

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The inside makers included jelly and jam specialists. Small batches of unique flavors like banana split (banana, pineapple & strawberry) and red velvet apricot plus all the traditional flavors you’d expect.

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There were vendors of vintage pottery. I even “found” my grandmother’s drum table. I’m not kidding, I think I remember putting one of the scratches in it!

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This is a working mill. The water powered wheel is powering the alternator.

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This is the 8th year for Applefest and no Applefest would be complete without…you guessed it…yarnies!

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Dramatic skies

A cold front passed through about 8 p.m. Sunday, September 1st. Looking west, you could see the warm, moist air leaving with all its clouds and the cool, dry air arriving with clear sky. The golden light reflected on the water as we left for a sunset pontoon ride around the lake.

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Looking east, you could see the turbulent, unstable air leaving. Those are cumulonimbus mama heading off high above the cottage. Mammatus clouds, those rounded bumps on the cloud layer’s underbelly, are an indicator of an extremely strong storm with conditions ripe for tornado formation. Fortunately, the stormy weather missed us and we just got an incredible cloud and light show.

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Long Lake’s Sports Illustrated cover nominee

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This is Nick. (And yipes, if it isn’t, somebody quick set me straight). Nick is the best water boarder on the lake. Water boarding makes his sport sound like torture. It would be for me, but Nick doesn’t seem to think so. Wake board. This is wake-boarding.

Nick is jaw-droppingly cool to watch. He speeds around the lake, jumping over his speedboat’s wake and tapping the underside of his board before landing (as in this photo), or hanging on to his tow rope with one hand and waving hello to the awe-struck. He twists, turns, and inspires.

Nick is devoted to his sport. He is often out in the early morning before the potatoes, excuse me the tubers, get started. His boat’s driver, usually Mrs. Nick I believe, is always courteous and watchful around us unpowered boaters.

Nick will be the first person on the water in the early spring and the last one off the water in the late fall. We sometimes are out in our kayaks earlier and later, but face it, we aren’t getting wet and we aren’t working hard. We’re sipping our morning coffee in Ghost Bay. Or floating around hoping to spot snapping turtles.

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Long Lake is finally freezing over

It’s been a warm fall. There have been cold days and nights, but not many. And the cold weather the lake area has seen has been followed by unseasonably warm days. Heck. We were kayaking in Ghost Bay on Thanksgiving afternoon, when it reached 60 degrees.

But on Sunday morning, December 9th, it was 27 degrees, winds were calm, and the lake was finally starting to freeze. Most of the way to the narrows was frozen over. On Saturday, three common mergansers were still dabbling around in the lake. But early Sunday morning  I saw them flying low over the lake, headed south. The goofballs. Leave it to the mergansers to be the last to leave a party and the last ducks to finish eating at the Long Lake buffet table.