Lechery in the Michigan U.P.

Lecherous Leech Lake
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
OK, I'll get the story of why I call this "Lecherous Leech Lake" out of the way right now. As readers of the blog know, I'm on vacation, and part of it involves going to a cabin up in the Michigan U.P. Among other things, I'm taking the opportunity to swim in open waters in preparation for this triathlon I'm doing this Sunday. Normally, I would have done this in the Michigamme Reservoir, but for whatever reason, our group of friends decided to take the kids to Butler Lake and I swam there. We were warned there were leeches, but that sounded like just a scary old story to me. So, I swam across the lake and back. Took me all of 16 minutes, so it couldn't have even been the quarter mile the tri calls for. Still, I'm on the beach, an eye on my little ones, sitting on a towel, quite pleased with myself when I notice a little itch on my inner thigh. I don't want to scratch it right there on the beach, but I look down and OHMIGOD! There's a black slimy thing, right on the inside of my thigh, a half inch away from where my swimsuit starts/ends (depending on your perspective). I ripped it off and threw it back in the water, trying not to make a fuss because I know Stella will freak out. But still, I'm freaking out. There's a freaking leech on me! Near my privates, which makes it a particularly lecherous leech! AAAAHGHGGHGHGH!!!!
I'm assured by my companions that there are no such things as poisonous leeches, and they tell me that the thing to do would have been to put salt on it, but frankly, I'm on the beach with a leech inching toward my hooch, and I'm not thinking "I wonder what the correct procedure to deal with this would be." No, it's "Get this mofo offa me!" And then I'm bleeding. Bleeding like somebody knifed me. Bleeding into my borrowed towel ("Here, Ileana, here's your towel back. Erm, sorry about the blood") and wanting to do something about this. My friend Harry got me some triple antibiotic and a bandaid, and just applying both helped me, like I was doing something about it. Look, I know that leeches are actually used in medical procedures, so they're not all bad, and the reason I was bleeding was that they impart an anti-coagulant, but still. Gross. Gross Gross Gross.

moonrise with tractor in foreground
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Oh well, that was my big excitement in the U.P. And that's how I like it. When the most exciting thing that happens is a lecherous leech latching on during a test swim, that's a good time. That's why I love the U.P. It's a place to chill, to enjoy a quiet night, to listen to the bugs and critters harping about. I used to go up there to enjoy the starriest of starry nights, but part of the U.P.'s magic is that it teaches you that even a cloudy night with a full moon (both contributed to obscuring this weekend the milky way star show you can only get when you're in the middle of nowhere) can be visually magnificent. The U.P. is no Door County, and it's no Rocky Mountain Park, but that in and of itself forces you to appreciate nature in and of itself, and the wonderful toll it takes on its surroundings. There's this barn I've been watching for years, a barn still functioning but slowly losing its roof, bit by bit. There's tons of things devoted to tourists, but there's still a farming industry up there that goes right along with the seasons, and this time of year the haystack harvest is literally rounding up. This particular one was on what was once a strawberry farm. The cabin I have the privilege of using was built by a group of us led by property owner and friend Zack: Zack who basically wrote everybody he knew almost 17 years ago with a simple message: "I've come into some land in the U.P. Help me build a cabin up there and you're always welcome." And we did. And every year we come back, in early July, and bring with us our growing/changing families, and take in the growing/changing U.P. Sometimes the evidence of change and resistance to that change is simultaneous -- this actually used to be this charming one-lane bridge, which is clearly a two lane bridge -- but they haven't bothered to change the sign. But the "family" we all became by helping Zack build this cabin changes and stays the same, just like this road.

One of the things I can stare at forever are these old buildings that nobody ever takes down. I'm in a group on Flickr called "Murder Shack" -- photographs of creepy old buildings where you can theorize about unspeakable horror going on inside. It's hilarious, and I'm here to tell you, the U.P. could pretty much tout itself "Murder Shack Capitol of the World." I'm not sure if this particular buiding is functioning or not, still. It's right by the Kiernan Train stop (and frankly, I've never seen a train cross those tracks, but then again, the crossing gates seem to be well-maintained and functional). But again, that's the beauty of the U.P. Its cause for speculation, reflection, and imagination. Even in a tent with the little onestelling them stories and assuring them that all those shadows are just the trees and sun, not some sinister monster or even Bigfoot.

Old 69 Road
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
I could go on waxing poetic forever, or get into detail about all the things we did in the past week, but you, dear reader, might be bored. Rather, let's take this space to discuss a phenomonon we've noticed for years in the Wisconsin/Michigan North Woods: the propensity to name local towns and roads with names that have clearly sexual innuendo. Just on the road to the U.P. you will come across the towns of "Beaver" and "Spread Eagle", and you'll cross the Middle Inlet which is of course preceeded by Lower Middle Inlet, and rest assured, there's an Upper Middle Inlet as well. And I thought I'd heard everything until I heard of the town called Felch. If you don't know what "Felch" means, if you're reading this at work, don't even do a google search for it at work. The Google Search might even ben NSFW. But it all makes sense. Because while you're in the North Woods, especially during the winter, there's not a whole lot more to do or think about. You're driving down a road, and you're headin' to yer cabin, and suddenly the mind turns to those thoughts. And before you know it, you're not just driving down a road. You're going down that Ol' 69, perhaps on your way to Spread Eagle. Lech.


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