There’s a small creek that runs across a corner of our property. It’s one of countless nondescript waterways that run downhill from the forest into Lake Superior, known to the locals only as “No Name” creeks. It has a small waterfall that I like to look at every day. Here’s what it looks like today.
Here’s what it looked like on Saturday (four days ago).
And here it is back on November 28.
During the summer, it generally looks more like the drip from a leaky faucet. However, during the spring melt or when it rains, the creek can swell to a raging torrent for a few days or even a week or two. Today’s rush of water is the result of an unusual warm spell that has given us several days in the forties and a few actually topping fifty degrees, compounded by a soaking rain on Monday afternoon and evening (two days ago). The December torrent followed a similar pattern of warm temperatures followed by rain. After that we had some more typical temperatures (and perhaps two feet of snow) until the current warm spell arrived last week.
Downstream of the waterfall, the creek passes through a culvert under Highway 61 and discharges into Lake Superior. Here’s what it looks like at the Lake entry point today.
Normally there’s no visible channel – the water merely percolates through the stones, and you wouldn’t even be aware of water beneath your feet if you were walking along the shore.
My father, Paul, loved the little creek. He built a footbridge to cross it, about a hundred yards upstream of the waterfall, using fallen tree branches for support members and cross pieces. We called it his Flintstone bridge, because it looked like the little cars that Fred and Barney used to “drive” in the old cartoon show. It almost always washed away during the spring melt. Paul would recover the remnants from the downstream rocks, make replacement pieces for the ones that weren’t salvageable, and rebuild it. Once he passed away, I tried to rebuild it myself, but I gave up after a particularly heavy snow melt broke it into mere shards, tossed all the way downstream past the waterfall. (This fall, I built a little Flintstone bridge just downstream of the falls. When that one washes away, at least it won’t go too far.)
After my dad died, I decided the creek needed a name. With unanimous consent from the family, it’s now known as Paul’s Creek, although that name won’t be found on any map. In fact, all the maps I’ve seen actually show the creek in the wrong place, angling away to the east as it crosses our property, presumably passing through a non-existent culvert, and supposedly discharging into the Lake some 100 yards from its actual location.
As I was taking pictures today, I realized something. This interesting little creek, though invisible to most, is dearly loved by all who know it. It’s a bit misunderstood and hard to pin down (the mapmakers can’t even show it in its correct location). It regularly cycles through a wide range of behaviors, a meager trickle during the summer doldrums progressing to bank-bursting torrents of energy, then back again to the low energy state. To sum up: known to few; dearly loved though somewhat difficult; bipolar personality…
I couldn’t possibly have come up with a better name than Paul’s Creek.