Falcon Lake…Penguin Resorts; my spring/summer second home…by Chuck Duboff

FAlcon 15

Cabin 11 at Penguin Resorts…my second home.

Penguin Resorts in Falcon Lake…so very peaceful and beautiful.  It has been my spring/summer escape back to nature for the past fifteen years.  Waking up to loons singing amidst the fresh clean air,   No garbage trucks at 4 in the morning, police and ambulance sirens non-existent, people yelling on the streets…not happenin; just a breathtakingly beautiful place to read, relax, hike and allow nature to recapture your soul.  The owners, Irene and Ken, truly have invested not only their money, but have worked hard to make this resort a place where you feel welcome and are left not wanting anything.  Enjoy the pictures which follow (if you have any questions about the resort, drop me a note and i can connect you with Irene.)

Falcon 7

Falcon 12

falcon 14

The Trans=Canada Trail is right beside the cabins…amazing hiking.

FAlcon 19

This beach bum’s playlist…while lying around the pool and on the beach…in Puerto Vallarta…by Chuck Dubof

WEDNESDAY MORN, 6AM, PUERTO VALLARTA, HERE I COME!!!!

These six will get the most play while under the hot sun:

  • Neil Young…a lot!!!!  (Especially, Down by the River)
  • The Eagles….a lot!!!!  (Especially their Greatest Hits album)
  • The Alman Brothers…perfect hot weather music!!
  • Bob Marley, Maan….a lot!!!
  • Led Zeppelin…for hours on end!!  (Trippin out under the hot sun!!
  • The Doors…a lot, under those blue skies!!led-zeppelin-ii-1400175028
  • Queen
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • The Dave Matthews Band
    the doors
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Leonard Skynard
  • The Who
  • AC/DC
  • Stevie Ray Vaughn
  • Fleetwood Mac
  • Jimi HendrixVarious - 1967

The Devil’s Death Grip…by Chuck Duboff

devil-depression

© Chuck Duboff

The devil arrives, deep sallow eyes, a chilling smirk announces: “I am here and it is you I shall take control of you.”
Uninvited, arriving on its own timetable, I shake.  My soul recognizes the episode which is about to occur, as the devil’s grip tightens.
The thoughts become unruly, irrational, confused; yet it’s the devil standing there, sneering and bellowing with a haunting voice: “Hope you have none…for as long as I shall decide to play with your mind.”
With all my will I dig deep and fight the irrational thoughts; drink lots of water, green tea, get in exercise, talk with others…you know this is your best medicine to fight off the strangulating grip.
So many will be let down, I think to myself.  This is the rationale mindset, yet the Devil sneers, smirks and emits: “you know this will last as long as I want to play with your mind. Your so called medicine, water, green tea, exercise, friends…I Laugh at your pitiful attempt to defeat me.  I will just tighten the grip and your irrational mind will go to a darker place and you will be mine!!”
d62 years and 364 days later…I have come to believe this…all my strength, courage, internal will, do not stand a chance in the face of the devil; you are right, the light gets dark, the music haunting, the thoughts knowingly irrational; the walls arise, the energy dissipates, the self loathing ensues…
And I…a mere pawn in the palm of the Prince of Darkness.
As my muse Hamlet uttered: “Oh that the everlasting had not set his cannon against self-slaughter.”

Lake Itasca – a travelogue;… by Geoff Brookes

IMG_1310

Boardwalk at Lake Itasca

(C) Geoff Brookes

One of the most beautiful places in the world is an easy day’s drive from Winnipeg (4 1/2 hours of driving time). But in my conversations with fellow ‘Peggers, very few people know it exists.

Most Manitobans have heard of Bemidji, Minnesota. But not many have the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River on their map – just a stone’s throw southwest of Bemidji.

Lake Itasca is not large, in terms of square miles of water. Instead, this glacial lake is really two long, narrow fingers that join near the headwaters of the Mississippi. You’d think that it would flow from north to south, based on the fact that the water system ultimately flows south to the Gulf of Mexico. But it actually flows north, almost reaching Bemidji, until it circles around to the east, finally heading south through Minneapolis, on its way to the southern states. The two fingers of the lake are easily navigated – my daughter and I canoed the entire course of the western arm of the lake in two hoursof leisurely boating.

IMG_0665

Minne-Sodah ice cream & soda shop.

Depending on whether you measure it by length, volume, or drainage area, the Mississippi River is either the third or fourth largest river in the world. It gets its start by draining most of the water systems in Minnesota, beginning with Lake Itasca.

(A quick pronunciation note – the “i” is pronounced like “eye” by Americans. I incorrectly fall into the more Canadian-styled short “i”, but I guess it’s their lake, so “eye – taska” has got to be the right way!)

The headwaters is the focal point for visits to the park. The lake water flows like a slow river through the reeds as it nears the northwestern tip of the lake, then trickles over small rocks and stones between the near shoreline and a small outcropping of trees and rocks on the other side of the shore. It resembles a creek at this point, but quickly grows as it flows out of the park.

image1 (4)

If you want to get a quick orientation to this Minnesota park, the main visitor centre is near the east entrance. There are some video presentations there, maps, and knowledgeable staff. Very near to that  Visitor Centre is Douglas Lodge, and yet another visitor centre (“the Forest Inn”), with some good books for sale. Finally, there is an excellent visitor centre at the headwaters, near the north park entrance, which has a diorama of the entire Mississippi River, from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. There is a casual restaurant at the headwaters visitor centre.

A word about driving in the park – it’s slow, and you must watch carefully for bike paths crossing the road (with many cyclists). Watch out for wildlife and fallen branches or trees (after a strong windstorm).

IMG_1299

Douglas Lodge

There are many rooms of various types at the Douglas Lodge (with many separate buildings and cabins). There is also a youth hostel, and two campgrounds (all inside the park and near bike paths). There are many private campgrounds within half and hour of the park. Weekend dates will fill up quickly, and must be booked months in advance, but weekdays can be booked a month in advance, for the park campgrounds. You might find space in the private campgrounds in the surrounding areas, if you’re booking late.

The trees are spectacular. The best way to enjoy them is on the bike trails. The main bike trail goes about 7 or 8 miles from Douglas Lodge to the headwaters, with links to the campgrounds. Adventurous cyclists can also experience the 13 mile wilderness trail, which completes a circle around Lake Itasca, ending at the lodge. There are many smaller hikes off of these larger trails.

image1

Great time cycling with the family.

The cycling is challenging at times with the hills, but a weekend putz like me is able to make the 7 mile journey with my daughter, on my tandem bike. Neither my daughter or I are great cyclists, so it’s possible for the average biker to do it. Use your gears. If you’re not a great biker, and if you can get someone to pick you up at the headwaters, go south to north, starting at the main visitor centre near the east gate. Going this way, you can take advantage of the slight overall drop in elevation. It’s mostly uphill to the Pine Ridge Campground, but then mostly downhill from there to the headwaters. The easiest route is from Pine Ridge Campground (or the nearby University of Minnesota station) to the headwaters. If you plan to ride back and forth, take a break at either of the visitor centres before heading back the other way.

There is a beach, not far from the headwaters. It’s a nice way to cool off on a hot day. The beach is also on the northern stretch of the bike path. People also swim in the lake at the headwaters.

Also at the north side of the lake, there is a bike/canoe/kayak/boat rental operation. The people there are very friendly and helpful. You can also buy fishing supplies there. Check the map, and take one with you. The lake navigation is simple, but a map always helps to get the big picture. As with any navigation, make mental notes of the landmarks, as you go.

Supplies – bring them with you. The nearest towns are fun places, but Park Rapids is half an hour away – actually more than that, if you include the time driving through the park. You can get ice and firewood at the campground office. Get gasoline at the nearby towns – or at the gas station just north of the intersection of highways 200 and 71, near the east entrance.

IMG_0651

Bear Paw Campground.

The towns are a fun diversion from the nature experience. Park Rapids’ Main Street has old-fashioned parking – parallel parking in the middle of the street, and angled parking at the curb. It has a 60’s styled diner and soda shop, called “Minne-sodah “, complete with many antique period pieces, coke coolers etc, with ice cream, floats and milkshakes. There is also a nice Italian restaurant, “Necce”.

You can travel to the town of Walker directly from Itasca on highway 200, or indirectly from Park Rapids on highway 34, via Akely. In Akely there is a statue of Paul Bunyan. Walker is a quaint town on Leech Lake. At “Reeds” you can buy camping and boating supplies, and related fun things. Our favourite store is “Christmas Point”, which is not a Christmas store, but is named after a local place. In both stores you can buy excellent, Minnesota-grown wild rice.

IMG_2743

Paul Bunyan; Akley, Minnesota.

But the towns are a side story. You can easily spend a week enjoying all of the scenery and recreational opportunities at Lake Itasca. Like my family, you might find that it becomes an annual pilgrimage!

The joy of planting flowers; by Geoff Brookes

planting flowers 1

©Geoff Brookes

A few years ago I wrote one of my favourite poems, “Victoria Day”:

https://chuckduboff.com/2015/05/18/victoria-day-poetry-by-geoff-brookes/

When I read it, I think of the joys of gardening in the spring, and the sense of discovery as to the plants that survived the cruel Manitoba winter.

What is it about gardening that drives us to diligently turn the soil and weed the earth?

What is it that brings a smile to our faces when we decide where to plant the new flowers? When we consider possibilities for arranging colours and heights?

planting flowers 2

Here are a few thoughts for these questions:

1. It satisfies our desire to create something beautiful. It’s an art.

2. It is an act of defiance of our own mortality. We declare that, like the rose bushes, we are back again for another summer!

3. It brings us back to nature, after the long winter season when spend far more time indoors.

IMG_2629.JPG (1)

4. It allows us to try our hand at what Tolkien called “subcreation”, in which we mimic our own creator’s desire to create.

5. It provides us with a context to be outside with our neighbours, and to renew our life conversations with them.

6. It produces a natural high – the pure joy of seeing a plant take root and thrive.

7. It satisfies our desire to create order out of chaos.

I hope you’ll share your thoughts about the pleasure of gardening, or your favourite memories or experiences! Please leave a comment on our blog!

Muchas Gracias, Puerto Vallarta…por Chuck Duboff

 IMG_5556

© Chuck Duboff

Thank you Puerto Vallarta, these past two weeks have been absolutely wonderful.

I have traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean…Veradero, Holguin and Havana, Cuba, at least 11 times.  I have had holidays in Cancun several times and enjoyed the beauty of Playa del Carmen at least five times.  Additionally, I was blessed with the opportunity of teaching Grade 12 English and Drama in Cancun; this truly was a once in a lifetime experience.

When I went to book my winter holiday this year, my travel agent strongly encouraged me to give Puerto Vallarta a try; I had always been hesitant, for some unknown reason, but this time I followed her advice and booked two weeks at the Canto del Sol in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

I am having a hard time putting into words how magnificent these past two weeks in PV have been.  The weather has been absolutely perfect; 14 straight days of brilliant sunshine and hot temperatures…the sun lover in me couldn’t have asked for anything better.  Being a prairie boy, the Sierra Madre mountains were awe inspiring.  Running the beaches every morning, the sight of the majestic mountains kept me so incredibly motivated.  The grand Pacific Ocean was mesmerizing; I could sit and watch it for hours on end.  The power of the oncoming waves was incredible…they looked like giant turbines gathering force and then a monster throwing out its tentacles as it hit land.  Walking to the downtown area was wonderful…so much to see: from the bright coloured items in the little shops, to the warm caring Mexican people, to the interesting architecture, the restaurants and great food, this all brought you to the downtown area, which reminded me a lot of 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen.

PV2.jpg

This picture really captures what I am feeling about PV; my smile displays a very authentic joy…the gentleman, George, was very friendly and in no way pushed anything on me.  The hot sand, brilliant sunshine, colourful beaches, breath taking mountains, swaying palm trees, never ending Pacific Ocean…it’s all right there.  It inspired me, got into my soul…

It brought about a level of writing which I haven’t experienced before; if you have a moment, go back and read the great adventure I had walking through hot pebbles and rocks; check out the poem I wrote about the lady I encountered several times on my walks. I think you too will agree that that is some pretty good writing.

Thank you Puerto Vallarta; you got into my soul and brought out the authentic me.  For those reading this, who have never been to PV…put it at the top of your list of places in the Caribbean to visit…I promise, you won’t regret it.

PV5.jpg

A Merry Christmas to all of our readers…from Chuck & Geoff

merry-christmas1 (1)

 

Chuck and Geoff would like to wish everyone, all around the world, from Tunisia to Argentina to the United States to Australia to Spain, Sweden, Brazil and Austria,and all the countries throughout the world who are reading and participating in our blog…to our 867 followers who on a daily basis receive our blogs…

A very Merry Christmas. joy and good health to everyone.

Peace to all.