North Shore Chinook and Other Ghosts

Arriving late, we make camp while it is still light
A tent emerges and a tarp is strung between the trees.
We hike to the river at dusk, in anticipation.
The salmon are running.

Tap, tap, tap… Tap, tap, tap…
We awaken to the sounds of a nearby woodpecker.
The rush of the Baptism River is faint in the distance.
This is Tettegouche.

Our breath hangs heavy in the morning air
Grey clouds and bare trees, a very cold Superior breeze.
The birds sing a melody.
The salmon are running.

We clap our hands and stomp our feet, get the blood moving
The water is frozen in the coffee pot. A fire warms our bones.
Coffee and cocoa, toast and turkey bacon.
This is Tettegouche.

Off through the woods, fishing poles in hand. Uphill and upstream
We’re after the mighty Chinook, already spawning and waiting.
Headed for the high sault, that’s where the Chinook will be.
The salmon are running.

Cast after cast, they refuse the bait
Suddenly the reel is spinning… Keep the line tight, the rod tip high.
Then the line snaps, the fish is gone.
The salmon are running.

Back at camp, we feel the cold, but are warmed by our perseverance
Broiled salmon, French bread and green beans fill our stomachs.
The fire is warm and we enjoy the glow in each other’s faces.
This is Tettegouche.

The night brought out the ghosts:

Of the Native Americans that originally roamed these lands
The Algonquian, Assinboin, Cree, Lakota and Ojibway.

Of the French and English explorers, the Voyageurs
Black robe Jesuits, The Hudson’s Bay and Northwest Companies.

Of the European and Chinese miners on the Vermillion and Mesabi Iron Ranges
The ore shipped by rail to nearby Two Harbors and Silver Bay.

Of the caribou and moose that are now found much further north
The black bear, deer, wolf, and beaver that remain.

Bright stars overhead, we retire for the night.
No television, radio or telephone. We are alone.
Not everyone is so lucky.
The salmon are running at Tettegouche.

          Originally published in Southwest Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Winter 1992




About Mike Hohmann

I did lots of camping/hiking as a kid in the Scouts, and I still strive to 'be prepared.' After high school, I got bored with more school and enlisted in the Army Corps. of Engineers, doing two tours in Vietnam. Post military, I completed BS and MBA degrees and spent several decades with Corporate America, working mostly in the areas of conventional and renewable energy. I also spent over a decade as a self-employed small business consultant in marketing and finance. As a young family man with a wife and two kids, we spent many vacations camping and hiking in northern Minnesota. I spent additional long weekends fishing the rivers and camping/hiking along the North Shore of Lake Superior. I retired early and hit the trails hard-- in the lower-48, Alaska, and western Canada. These days I backpack, car-camp and day-hike, go snowshoeing, and try to get the grand-kids out to teach them the ways of the trail. Other interests include American Revolutionary War and Civil War history, 19th and 20th century firearms, Native American history; business and macroeconomics. I'm a recently-licensed amateur (Ham) radio operator, and I look forward to many radio-related adventures in coming months. Life is good! Member, Superior Hiking Trail Association; Member, Appalachian Mountain Club; Member, REI; Member, ARRL- Amateur Radio Relay League, the National Assoc. for Amateur Radio; Twin Cities Metro Skywarn Spotter; Twin City FM Club; Richfield Amateur Radio Club; QRP ARCI, Low-Power Amateur Radio Club International; Honorary Member, Toronto QRP Society; Life Member, National Rifle Association
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