Standing on the shores of Gitche Gumee, fwatching the waves crash onto the black rocky shore, it didn’t take long to understand why the Native Americans often called it the Big Lake of Shining Waters.
Not just for its massive size (it is the largest fresh water lake by land area in the world), but for the way the sun leaves a reflective trail on the water for most of the day, at least this time of year.
The English settlers chose a less descriptive name, but still accurate: Superior.
I couldn’t help but wonder what the first settlers to the area thought when they came upon this massive lake.
The Native Americans, migrating from the west would have come to the north shore after passing through the boundary waters and some rugged hills, past waterfalls and sheer rocky cliffs.
The Europeans, coming from the east would have already passed the other Great Lakes. Many were seeking passage to the Pacific Ocean. Their first sight of Lake Superior might have made them think they’d succeeded. Had they found an ocean?
All kinds of possibilities came to mind.
The lake itself is ferocious. A gentle wind kicked up 2-foot waves. They crashed into the black boulders that formed the shoreline, spray leaping twenty feet into the air. I could only imagine what it looks like when a storm hits.
And storms are what the area is known for. The Edmund Fitzgerald, immortalized by Gordon Lightfoot, went down in a November gale. When shipwrecks had become extremely rare on the other Great Lakes, they weren’t unheard of on Superior.
There’s a wildness to the north shore, as sense of adventure and exploration, called into being by the clash of the lake’s waters on the black rocks of the shore.
We only saw one mood of the north shore, the quiet of early November after the leaves have fallen, the season of patient hunters instead of busy boaters and hikers. The calm weather is treasures, knowing the wrath of storms that pummel the area most autumns.
The winter becomes busier, with skiers who take to the slopes, rewarded with a stunning view of the lake from the top of the mountain
As I think of the moods of the north shore and how they could fit into a novel, it strikes me that this is a place where on the surface, nothing happens. But the conflicts that rage, like the waves that hit the shore, are eternal, and because of that, nearly invisible.