On my seventh birthday I received a book that, in hindsight, first sparked my desire to travel, to search out things seen on the printed page, and to experience them for myself. Paddle –to-the-Sea, by Holling C. Holling, is the story about a carved Indian figure in a wooden canoe, created by a young boy in Nipigon, north of Lake Superior, in Ontario, Canada. On the bottom of the canoe, the boy carved these words: “Please put me back in water. I am Paddle to the Sea.” The boy placed the carving on a hill near his home, and as spring came, Paddle slowly began his journey southward from his melting snowy perch.
Paddle’s exciting journey took him through forest fires, near misses at bustling dockside companies, and through each of the Great Lakes. Eventually he made it to the St. Lawrence River, to the Atlantic … and beyond. My fascination with the story, however, was back at Lake Superior. The immense lake, in the enigmatic shape of a wolf’s head, was a place I just had to experience.
Sixty years after that birthday I sat at a window seat in the bar atop the Landmark Hotel in Marquette, Michigan, gazing past brilliant autumn foliage to the waters of Lake Superior. The single malt Scotch selection was impressive, and I could not pass up the opportunity to enjoy one of my all-time favorites – The Balvenie 21 year old PortWood. The soft, warm glow of the whisky helped transport my mind back to the first reading of that very special book. Over the years, the Paddle in my mind and I have shared many a journey, but this was our first to see Lake Superior together.