Jeff’s Journal

Jeff’s Journal captures the thoughts and musings of Jeff Garrett, our Brickyard Creek manager. This is a wonderful capsule of life in the creek throughout the seasons. Put on some great music, grab some coffee or tea and enjoy the read!

You can measure water and you can measure soil and trees, but intangibles never. - Sigurd Olson
December 29, 2019

The Sunday morning after Thanksgiving, the world was coated in white. Trees bent at awkward angles, and nothing looked the same as it did before. After my first cup and before I could talk myself into going back to bed (in the hopes it was just a dream), I stepped outside and was greeted by the crack of a tall, mighty cedar. The thud you’d expect to follow was instead a silent plume that reached the porch where I stood. An ominous sign that confirmed that, indeed, I was awake, and sadly foretold what was in store.

Once I mustered the fortitude to strap on the shoes and get myself otherwise properly attired, or so I thought, I post-holed my way through thigh-high snow to the edge of my driveway. There, I rested to catch my breath and take a glance down Olivia Lane. What I saw left me slack-jawed. A tangle of trees, mostly broken, blocked the view and confirmed my fears. I heaved a sigh and retreated to grab my saw and a hiking pole. Both were required if I hoped to take a look around.

By the time I reached Roy’s Point Blvd, I was drenched in sweat, and the magnitude of the storm was beginning to sink in. Trees continued to sway in an exaggerated way, and the relentless snow fell like sheets of rain. I looked toward the highway and had a quick moment of dread thinking nobody would be able to come or go until late March. How was a pick-up truck ever going to be able to move snow this heavy and this deep with countess trees down across all the roads and many of the driveways? I took another deep breath and got a grip.

The cutting began, and miraculously Gary showed up with a skidder. We worked in concert, prioritizing the roads and driveways to free those trapped at their cottage. We then moved on to the rest of the community, and by working well into Monday night, we were able to have everything cleared by Tuesday afternoon. A far cry from March. With our arborist now able to get around, he began the meticulous and exhausting task of removing trees off roofs and evaluating those that were threatening. Thankfully, damage to structures was relatively minor — much credit to Roland for his expertise and thoughtful approach to managing our trees.

Indeed, I am blessed to work with vendors who are pro-active and have a “can-do” attitude, especially in emergencies or when time is of the essence. In a community that functions entirely as a private enterprise, without any public services, this “sense of ownership” is something I try to instill and certainly cherish.

In sum, we have had more snow, and we have had stronger winds, but never at the same time. The storm over Thanksgiving weekend was the most powerful I’ve experienced in my eighteen years at the ‘Creek. It is still hard to gauge the number of trees we lost, but it is significant. I counted seventy down on or near the trails (making parts impassable) and all told we lost hundreds (sadly, a lot of cedar) throughout our forest. As you can imagine, clean-up will go well into the Spring. Still, as of yesterday, BYC was in excellent shape (even better than some municipalities), but I am afraid the driving rain that began last night and continues this morning has softened the base of snow on the roads and will make getting around tricky.

Without question, the impact of our changing weather is becoming increasingly evident at BYC. It is now obviously reflected at our shoreline and in our forest, but it also been a challenge over the past 4 or 5 years to maintain our gravel roads with the warmer temperatures and freeze-thaw cycle that is our new normal. I expect over the next few days, the roads will refreeze and will be slippery. We will do what we can to make moving around possible for those who have plans to be at your Northwoods digs this coming week, but a reminder that if you do need extra traction, there are three (black) sand barrels placed around the community. You will find them near the front and back entrances and under the Sophie Lane street sign. Of course, for the safest and best ways to move around our roads, I always recommend snow tires for your car and ice cleats for your feet.

March 4, 2019

It is almost impossible to remember that in the late Fall Brickyard Creek experienced soggy gray days, day after day after day. And while it was a bit of a downer and difficult to work outdoors, the higher than average temperatures lulled most into thinking we would have another mild winter. Certainly, dry air would arrive, and the seasonal checklist would be completed. Instead, as we all know, the thermometer went in the opposite direction, and the ordeals of a “real” winter began in earnest. In addition to reacquainting ourselves with the term “polar vortex,” Bayfield has so far received over 100 inches of snow. On the hill, some are saying closer to 150 inches. You know it’s legit when the talk at the post office is about the height of the snowbanks and questions regarding where March snow will go.

July 23, 2018

Sitting near the shoreline the other night with a sizable group of BYC residents reminded me once again how blessed we are to be located next to the greatest of all lakes. The sky was that deep Bayfield Blue, the air mercifully dry, and the temperature in the low 70’s. There was just enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes away and cause the sun to glint off the ripply water. Of course, the conversation’s crescendo took place when the light from the setting sun finally shifted to the island and well, you know.

As I made my way back to the cottage, I found myself celebrating how fortunate we are that this portion of shoreline was not developed but instead granted to all BYC residents and Roy’s Point Marina members to enjoy through a perpetual easement. Even after fifteen years of ownership, that knowledge has always caused me to approach the area with respectful gratitude like that of a guest.

February 13, 2018

Strapped in snowshoes, we tried to stride but mostly stomped our way across the open clearing. When we located the buried viewing deck, we stopped and with a satisfying plop found ourselves comfortably on our back staring up at the Milky Way. It was there in the peace I found myself trying to think of another way to say “wonderland” when Diane reminded me that a moment like this says what words cannot…so I left it there in the silence. That is winter at Brickyard Creek.

The “new normal” that I described in last winter’s manager report spoke in part to our changing seasonal expectations. So I was admittedly hoping for the same mild start to December that we have experienced in recent years. Then I heard cold and snow were on the way. After I ordered two loads of wood chips. Finishing work on the newly designed Gaylord Nelson Trail needed to be expedited. The next morning was a carbon copy of so many previous days. Gray, with the penetrating mist that really is the worst kind of weather. Regardless, I headed out with shovel in hand and the knowledge that I would soon be caked in mud. The trail did not disappoint. However, I was not deterred, and when I began to feel the encroaching dark sky, my determination went into overdrive. Just then, Dan Wilczek out for his last snow-free walk for the season appeared and sensing my urgency picked up a shovel. The race was on and no matter how fast I could coerce the cart down the trail another was ready to go when I got back to the pile. In short order, we finished the project together. We did not have long to admire our work because almost on cue big, heavy flakes the size of silver dollars dropped from the sky and coated our efforts. I haven’t seen the trial since.

I share the story because it illustrated the past year at Brickyard Creek. Steadfast goals followed by a blur of activity (despite the weather) and remarkable amount accomplished through teamwork, determination, and the support of community members.

December 29, 2017

I am at the moment perched in front of a satisfying fire after an invigorating hike through our winter wonderland. Almost seems routine after weeks of frigid cold and lake effect snow. That is not to say that the experience is any less captivating. In fact, more so, but admittedly it will be good to feel double-digit temperatures once again. For now, there is more time inside. Thankfully, by design, we are surrounded by nature, and every glace out the window provides a vivid close-up of its beauty. So, for now, I’ll marvel from the coziness of my cottage.

February 2, 2017

Already January is over, but in some ways I feel like winter has yet to begin. Any progress to the contrary has been quickly erased by misty, gray days reminiscent of late fall.

In fact, the open water makes the relatively recent Polar Vortex now seem like an obscure memory. Of course, even that event was not a harken back to winters of old, but rather the ushering in of a fierce unpredictability now evidenced by epic windstorms and rainfall totals often conveyed by inches.

Adaptation is becoming routine.

I recently read that the “word of the year” for 2016 was “normal,” as in normalize or perhaps best conveyed as the “new normal.” In the past, I thought any attempt to encompass an entire year with a word was a bit trite. If I happened to hear it I would make the obvious connection and then just as quickly forget it. This time, however, the irony has made it notable. It is normal to see change, but there has always been an underlying standard we could rely on.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

How many times have we used the adage? Too many to count because of the truth it conveyed and the assurance it offered. I suppose if we trace history long enough it will always prove valid, but in our lifetime the rapidity of alteration has never been more evident. It has left many feeling disjointed and grappling with the impact. How can we adjust to uncertainty and the bigness of circumstances beyond our control?

Almost at once I see and hear those around me turn towards home.

Perhaps what was initially instinctive has become a deliberate movement to protect and enjoy what is cherished. Acceptance of the “new normal” will be limited by our preparedness and the actions we take in our immediate vicinity. Offsetting the climate is monumental, but our focused efforts can make a difference on places we deem special.

November 18, 2016

Missing was the crunch of leaves and the crisp air that expands the lungs. I’ve yet to wake to the shimmer of frost covered trees, but instead had come to expect the well acquainted sound of water dripping off the roof. Persistent drizzle and high humidity were the hallmarks of our summer and continued into early November. Then suddenly, like a flipped switch, it changed, but to something more like September. A long stretch of sunny, dry days finally gave me the opportunity to complete this year’s planned projects. You can expect a full rundown of those improvements and other accomplishments in my upcoming manager report, but I wanted to cover a few items before the cold and snow arrive. We all know that switch will flip again.

March 30, 2016

It has only been a few years, but already the “polar vortex” type winter seems distant and on the fringes of memory. My recollection is with numbers. The five weeks below zero, the 175 inches of snow, the 14 cords of firewood that I burned, and, of course, the nearly 140,000 people who flooded the area to experience the ice caves. Lake Superior completely froze over for the first time in 18 years and the season stretched out for almost six months. Amazing statistics, but when I skip ahead to this winter it is easy to forget how that kind of cold actually felt. How quickly the mind can dismiss, but it has been, without question, mild and my warmest sweaters remained untouched. In fact, throughout much of December I was still able to work on the walking trails. Thankfully, however, when so closely situated to an open lake that can produce its own snow it usually does. So Brickyard Creek might not have been an arctic arcadia this year, but it was certainly snowy and a lot easier to strap on the shoes for a good stomp around the property.

Indeed, January and February were idyllic to be in the woods. It seemed most days began with pink striped skies that defused the rising sun and cast an unlikely light on my early morning walks. This wonder became so frequent that I was often out the door before my second cup. A testament to its beauty if you know my love of coffee. Certainly, the moment was somehow invigorating in its own way, but it never lasted long. I wanted to capture it, but once the first rays peaked over Basswood the clouds would lower in a heavy gray blanket and immediately snuff out the sun. Lake effect would soon begin in earnest and like clockwork add a few inches to our deepening snow depth. Now mostly melted, I am on high alert for a late winter storm, but otherwise looking forward to the new season and your return.

October 31, 2015

Are there enough superlatives to describe the early Autumn we experienced in the northland? Perhaps best described as the continuation of summer minus the humidity and mosquitoes. I know I flipped the calendar and the leaves changed colors, but the temps remained mild. Working out-of-doors was pleasant and left me wishing for longer days. Finally, I suppose, I felt and saw the change of season from the front row near lakeside. Huge, white-capped waves were pushing out of the south and the flag appeared starched to point due north. No doubt the winds were strong, but I was engaged and comfortable with just a t-shirt. When I noticed the silence I looked to see the flag draped around the cedar pole. Minutes later it was flying in a southwest direction and I was immediately chilled. I headed to the cottage knowing that Fall was finally here and I needed to pull the flannels to the front of the closet. Now sitting near the fire (in my warmest shirt), I am reflecting on the happenings in Brickyard Creek.

April 15, 2015

I just made the bold step to put my snowshoes back in storage. Dangerous I know, but the sun is almost directly overhead and must have me giddy if not overconfident. That is not to say that it hasn’t been another cold winter in Brickyard Creek. I am reminded of this by my nearly depleted woodpile; however, it is deceiving when compared to the “polar vortex” we endured last year. This is particularly true given the unusual seesaw nature of the season. Heavy snow in November gave way to voluminous rainstorms in December and then the mild, yet snowy start to the New Year was followed by below zero temperatures in February. The ice caves finally became accessible at the beginning of March only to close 10 days later when we hit 50 degrees. Somehow throughout this disarranged winter we escaped without any major storms. In fact, the 5 inches of snow we received in mid-March was the most since Thanksgiving. That said, we still managed to accumulate over 60 total inches for the season. Certainly enough on the heels of last year’s high moisture levels to keep springs regenerated and our forest saturated. Admittedly, the early snow melt always makes me nervous, but the long-range forecast continues to look relatively dry. Really, a sigh of relief. After the past couple of winters I am all for a mild spring with no damage to report. And no snowshoes.

November 24, 2014

The walk around Brickyard Creek this morning was beautiful. The half-moon occasionally peaked from behind the pink and purple streaked sky as light snowflakes softly floated down to collect with the countless that came before. Crisp, the silence was only broken by the crunch of my boots and the tapping of a far off woodpecker. When I rounded back to my driveway the sun suddenly popped over the horizon and I was sure the spell would be broken. Instead, one hundred million diamonds appeared and the gift became priceless.

Early in my walk I thought about how we see snowflakes only seconds before they lose their individuality. After my return, I reflected on how something singularly special becomes more permanent and important when gathered with others. It reminded me of community.

The first big storm of the season produced about 10-12 inches of snow down here in BYC. Of course, those totals are much higher on the hill. Regardless, I believe it is safe to say that winter is here in earnest. Clean-up has been completed and all cottages/homes fared well.

February 22, 2014

I am just back from my second walk in as many days around all the cottages and lake homes in Brickyard Creek and wanted to let you know that there was no damage from the snowstorm that moved through Thursday and Friday. Bayfield officially received 14 inches of wet snow that weighed heavy on the trees, but they all seemed to have withstood the load and the high winds that followed. Of course, recent storms have caused extensive tree damage so I am relieved that this time clean-up has been limited to plowing and snow blowing.

February 3, 2014

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and managing ok through this cold and snowy winter. We have officially received 94 inches of snow in Bayfield since Thanksgiving and the cold temperatures, if not experienced personally, have been well documented on the national news. The ice road has already been well traveled to Madeline and the sea caves are available for viewing for the first time since 2009 (as it now appears the entire world knows). I believe this is the earliest opening for both since my arrival over a dozen years ago. Of course, now we need some moderate temps so we can get outside and enjoy our winter wonderland.

October 10, 2013

I am just back from another snowshoe around all the cottages and lake homes and wanted to report that currently there is no damage to any structure. The 20 inches of heavy, wet snow that fell on Wednesday certainly brought down a fair amount of trees and branches, but these were mostly along the roads or in driveways. I worked on clean-up all day yesterday and have continued today hoping to have most of it completed by Friday evening. That said, if you have plans to come to BYC this weekend please contact me and I will make sure to prioritize your road and driveway. Our snowplow has been working as quickly as possible, but you can imagine it is taking a bit more time to move all that snow.