Ed was born in Waterville, Minnesota in 1916, but grew up in Albert Lea. His family was quite involved with the outdoors and scouting (the early years of BSA) which he pursued to the level of Eagle Scout. While helping with a scout swimming (lifesaving) clinic in southern Minnesota he met Hod Ludlow. Hod was running the Boy Scout canoe base on Moose Lake (near Ely) and invited Ed to be one of his canoe guides, which he did. In 1943, the forestry came to the base looking for someone to man one of their fire towers on Kekekabic lake. Ed volunteered, enjoyed his summer working on Kekekabic, so he volunteered the next summer to work out of the Crooked Lake cabin as a lineman. This is where the journal entries (written in a few pages of a steno notebook) come from.
With the money he made from his fire tower work he bought several lots on the Cook end of Lake Vermilion for $50 each. He settled in on this beautiful northern Minnesota lake, woodworking, trapping and working locally. He married a local gal, Marie, then took a job as caretaker for Dayton's summer cabin and stayed at it for about 30 years. He says, when asked about Governor Mark Dayton, "I used to pull him on water skis."
Ed Woolverton is now 100 years old but still manages to go for an hour walk each morning.
Checked in at forestry office at Ely. Was issued badge, key, compass, etc.. Spent the day with Charley Salminen “Solly” — Al Lakner of LaCroix cabin, Bill Spodjak, Souix River, Everett Johnson, Norway Lookout, checking telephone line. Bill managed to slip and fall about 15 feet while getting used to the climbers. I was so fascinated I did the same before the day was over. Only a few scratches for either of us.
Bright sunny day, still some snow in the woods in spots. Managed to walk a little on the ice on Fenske Lake without falling in. Spent the nite there. —- Heard the first spring peeper.
Spent day on telephone line, tightening and replacing brackets, and falling dead trees that endangered lines.
3 V's of geese flew over heading north. Walleyes are just beginning to spawn. Could see their eyes shining in our flashlight beam. Freezing again tonight.
One of the lakes was open today. Saw first Morel, saddle kind.
Have had several warm nites now. No snow to be found anymore. Walleyes still running. Willows all in blossom from silvery slender tufts thru warm lavender and pale ethereal shades to plump golden fluffs that shed a soft shower of shimmering pollen.
The fresh fairy-like perfume of the Trailing Arbutus rose. The soft pink and snowy white petals peeped coquettishly from beneath its hardy green leaves trailing close to the moss and pine needles. — In spots the ground appeared like a toy rose garden as thousands of tiny pink buds made their first appearance on the Blueberry plants. The tall spikes of Labrador Tea shone fresh and emerald green as their leaves speared out from the rosy center of the spike while the furry velvet on the underside of the leaves was warm fox fur. — The Tag Alder were hanging their sinuously graceful Japanese lantern from every branch, long and delicate, quivering joyously at the faintest breeze. — The birds are singing eagerly from every tree, The White throated Sparrow, Pheobe, oven birds, warblers. — Still on telephone line. Start for Angleworm tower and Crooked Lake Cabin tomorrow. Am now almost used to the climbers and feel quite professional as I lean nonchalantly out from the top of a telephone pole. — Several lakes open now. Partridge are drumming.
Wednesday May 3
Spent a long wet day on the trail to Crooked Lake. The Gypos had been in last winter and made hash of almost a mile of trail and wire. We spliced and strung wire, spliced and strung wire, all day while the rain came down in a steady mist that increased to a downpour before the day was ended. The woods were almost underwater, clear rain pools covering the green forest floor in all directions while we splashed steadily along. Moose tracks were plentiful in the trail today and I noted my first moose droppings, tiny nubbins the size of a thumb, not unlike beaver. The mosquitos are making their first appearance and the frog chorus at nite is becoming quite deafening near the swamp. — The rain is making a noise like wind on the roof this nite and the cabin is cozy and warm.
Thurs. May 4
Awoke the day to a still white world. Outside the frosty window, peeped broken-heartedly one little song sparrow. Our Springtime was buried under a blanket of snow. — We spent another long wet day struggling with a telephone line that was buried under an avalanche of trees. In places the beaver had flooded the trail. In another a moose had broken the wire and drug it thru the woods. — At the end of the day we staggered wearily into Crooked Lake Cabin, six miles of trail still down.
It was swell to see my summer’s home! We had it cozy and warm in short order. We walked down to the falls and watched a beaver vainly trying to find a way up the flow of water. I wish I could stay now but guess it won’t be for another week.
fri. May 5
Two tired and weary boys reached Angleworm Cabin this nite. — Telephone line completed but lots of work to be done yet. My back feels broken from struggling to drag stubborn wire high up trees. The wire was often so tight I had to strap myself to the trees with my safety belt and then climb.
Wed. May the 10th
Am finally at my beloved cabin! Carried two heavy packs the 12 miles from Angleworm and feel I’ve done a days work. Arrived wet from a rain that started when I was halfway. The first Hepaticas winked at me from beside the trail today, their fragile blue and white petals looking hopefully for the sun. Several times I smelled the perfume of the trailing Arbutus but didn’t stop to search for it. Saw quite a number of Saddle Mushrooms or false Morel. — Two deer leaped across the path and away. Once I saw a porcupine. Came within a few feet of a pair of beautiful Mallard ducks and saw a Bufflehead in my Beaver Pond. Here all is quiet but for the dull roar of the falls and a dripping of water from the eaves.
Thurs. May 11th
The fog is rolling up the river tonite and the rain still comes. — I love my little cabin! Explored the falls this afternoon and located some left-over logs from last spring’s log drive. These I plan to salvage and make some benches and things around the cabin. Tried out one of my canoes, an 18 ft river model. — I have another too, and a 16 foot boat, a 20 foot boat, and all with motors. What fun I’ll have this summer!
Fri. May 12th
And still the rain comes down. Spent the day in my boathouse, straightening it up and monkeying around. — Worked part of the afternoon struggling with my stove to make the oven work. Now I can bake — if ever I get any supplies.
Sat. May 13th
The days are not long enough! Spent a long happy day building a bridge over a tiny creek and then the afternoon on the river hunting up stray logs to build things with this summer. In just my shorts, it was a perfect day, I canoed up to wheelbarrow falls, poked in the little bays, pried logs from the rapids, waded waist deep in the icy water, and rode herd on nine big logs, 4 white pine, 5 Norways — five I hauled up on shore at the boathouse and darkness forced me to leave the others till the morrow. — It is now past mid-nite. I am baking bread and listening on the telephone. A fishing party went somewhere by plane today and didn’t get back and somebody is vainly trying to find them. They sound frantic with worry. Must be somewhere near here.
Sunday - May 14
Two clean blue green eggs in Robin’s nest today. I was quite relieved because a few days ago their nest was in a tree I had to cut down. I moved the nest to a different tree. They have accepted the change quite philosophically.
Today I found tiny white violets in bloom. Orchid throats and miniature leaves made them seem a delicate plant to appear in the center of a well traveled path. The mosses have thrown upward their green tipped orange handled spears, with every tip covered with a soft elf’s cap that pulls off easily in curious fingers.
Mon. May 15
A new soft green is filling the landscape as the aspens and poplars throw out their first leaflets.
Tues - May 16
I’m hemmed in by a pair of mother birds. If I go out the front door the Pheobe leaves her nest. If I go out the back the Robin leaves her three blue eggs. If I work in the front the Pheobe won’t come back to her nest and if I work in the back the Robin won’t come back — and I can’t let their eggs get cold! So I work away from the cabin or stay in the cabin as much as possible. I guess they’ll just have to get used to me.
A porcupine was up one of my poplars enjoying the new leaflets. I climbed the tree beside him and took his picture from only 3 feet away, as close as I can adjust my camera. He chattered his teeth and tried to slap his tail at me but he was on such a slender branch that he dared not move much.
Thurs. May 18
A bit of blue sky beside the trail today, blue violets and farther on, yellow buttercups. Spent a long day with my lineman’s gear on the telephone line, thru the hills of new spring flowers, past the beaver dam where the frog chorus made a din as of thousands of tiny riveting hammers, over tiny streamlets where yellow buttercups flashed their greeting, over the fourtown bridge, the loneliest spot on the trail it seems to me. I guess because it feels like there should be someone there and never is. And thru the dark forest of yellow birch and large pine to fairy-boot portage before I turned back.
Sat. May 20
This day on trail to Jackfish Bay of Basswood Lake. Trail runs thru barren table rock, low shrub country much of the way. Most of the trees leafing out now, the crimson of the maples, yellow of aspen, silvery white of the alder and green of the birch. The blueberries are in pink blossom and the white Juneberries and Chokecherries. Excitedly I found two tiny Morels, the first Sponge mushrooms of the year. Meanwhile the forest floor is covered with the crinkly-brown amoeba-like, distorted, cousin of the Morel, the most I’ve ever seen. I could gather bushels, some as large as my fist.
Sun. May 21
In my slim green canoe silently drifting at the water’s edge, thrusting with my paddle from time to time, I skirted the marshy bay to the north of the cabin. At a splashing in the willows I whispered “Be quiet” to the canoe and together we slipped up to a brown calf moose, an ugly donkey like creature. Suddenly he looked up and snorted indignantly, stepped about and paced lightly into the forest. As he moved he lost his ugliness, graceful on his feet as a cat.
I paddled on and before I had gone a hundred yards he was back in the lake again, sending silvery ripples dancing over the bay.
In a far dim corner of the green bay the woods called me ashore and I stole into a cool verdant dell of spring flowers and green mosses. Trilliums and yellow fairy-brooms, anemones and violets, marigold and wild ginger, hepaticas and unfolding clintonia. A black and white warbler curiously eyed me and oven-birds called persistently. Into this peace and dreaminess suddenly came a running of many feet and I backed startled and a little shaky against an ash tree as thirty feet feet away four huge, dark, wolves bounded and ran, one gaunt beast after the other, and were as suddenly absorbed into the green sponge of foliage beyond. The interior of my cabin tonite in the rays of the bright lamp seems especially cheerful.
Mon. May 22
The black flies are here. Tiny blood thirsty creatures that lance awesome wounds on your person. Often your first discovery of them is to catch sight of your good red blood slowly dribbling down your limbs. On many persons these spots swell enormously and cause real trouble, refusing to heal and making great pain. Life in the woods is usually a struggle for comfort — against cold or wet or insects, becoming a veritable hell when its a losing battle. — Only the fresh bloom of early spring and the wonderful relaxation of late summer and autumn presents one with camping seasons free from the relentless pursuit of bloodthirsty legions of insects — the various cruel flies by day, the mosquito by night. Only experienced woodsmen or masochistic philosophers can meet and defeat the mosquito and black flies at their flood tides. The north can be a paradise, and is, but only to those taking her for better or for worse and loving her even at her worst.
Tues. May 23
The Hendrickson’s, gun toting, old time Canadian Rangers with laughing eyes and eager smiles, ran their square sterned canoe into my grassy cove. Their pure joy of living and enthusiasm for the wilderness made their visit all too brief. As I regretfully watched their canoe out of sight I understand why this pair of brothers are so well loved and respected over this entire region.
The Stars and Stripes flying bravely over this outpost in the wilderness and farther along thru the woods the Canadian flag flying from their outposts make us comrades in a way that I am proud of.
Fri. May 26
Spring in her Glory! Golden streams of pollen sifting from the birches, glimmering in the warm sunshine. Snowy white petals drifting leisurely from the Juneberry trees, the Chokecherries and the Pincherries. The spring in bloom, from the blue, white and yellow violets entwined in her mocassins to the myriads of pale white petals in her hair. Fickle Spring. To change her color scheme from day to day. Or is she a practiced enchantress ever bringing forth new allurements?
The trails are now bewitchingly bordered in blue violets and everywhere the tiny Goldthread flaunts her showy petals.
The wine-colored wild ginger blossoms hide coyly beneath their two furry leaves and I Stepped in delight at finding two tiny rare orchids, the delicate Calypso head with twisting lavender horns and bright yellow, crimson spotted throats.
The Robin and Pheobe are now quite used to me. The plump woodchuck is often in the yard nibbling clover when I come home and the rabbit comes at nite for his share. Tonite there is a strange porcupine sleeping under the front porch. By strange I mean one I haven’t seen before. He has an extra long face and an overabundance of white quills.
Monday, May 29 (Memorial Day)
The plane was here today and I have news of the war at last. For two and a half hours I devoured the “Time” magazine, word by word, page by page, and reluctantly finished the last page. The war seems to be in its final stages and yet the worst is still ahead.
In the backyard is a deer delicately pawing at a stump that I’ve salted. They have finally come up to the cabin. The no-see-ums are here, those minute annoyances with a very apt name. I seem to be luckily immune to all insect bites and have really not been bothered yet this summer. Even the black flies only raise tiny welts on me.
The star-flowers are out with their slender, pointed rosette of leaves.
And finally the morels, sponge mushrooms, in grey brown, indented bonnets, are here in numbers to eat. I’ve had two good meals from them. They are pretty elusive though, it taking quite a while to gather them.
He other day I candied some wild-ginger roots with considerable success.
The mosquitos are here in greater and greater numbers every evening.
Two canoe parties have been by, the first of the year, the vanguard of a busy season.
Thursday June 1
Today I took the long trail to Angleworm. The whole world seemed in harmony and many were the surprises along the way. In a sudden inspiration the woods had taken on a pinkish glow. At every bend, glowing rubies hung daintely from stately wands. The moccasin flower, pink lady slipper. The greening bogs were lit up with sprays of the beautiful Swamp Laurel, Each flower aglow from within as if sculptured fancifully from rose quartz. The first wild roses were unrolling their buds and nearby the fringed red and yellow Columbine bells.
A miniature porcupine tumbled puppylike from side to side along the path, complete even to tiny quills, looking very much like his mommy. He suddenly saw me and scooted for the brush.
Sunday, June 4
As I stood in the center of my kitchen floor, dripping water in streams and a pool at each foot, I was awfully glad to be back. Rain, rain and rain, While I picked this weather to go to Moose Lake after my own canoe. — But who wouldn’t with that beautiful canoe. Guenever, 17 feet of curving grace, light and bouyant as a drifting gull feather. Foolishly, I suppose, I shot most of the rapids in Basswood river. Three times I filled the canoe with a half foot of water and paddled ashore to empty her out.
But there was no harm done and now I’m warm and dry and have been out to look at the rain guage. It has gone over 3 inches in the last 3 days. The forest floor is one vast lake. Clear water covering the flowers, the moss, the grass, with them all seemingly at home under the water.
Monday, June 5
And still it rains. As I splashed down the trails today it seemed incredible that this spongy streaming forest floor were dangerously dry only a week ago. And I wondered if there was a dry spot within miles, except my cabin, that dry oasis in this vast sea of water. The rain comes steadily, misting, dripping, gently streaming, and at times pouring itself down in great floods of water. Tonite I brought in a great armload of wood, lit the fire, put on dry clothes, and now sit comfortable and happy, listening to the dripping of rain outside. Was ever a man more content than I tonite? Every real and vague yearning of a long wet day has been answered and I am here, in my cabin aglow with unexplained contentment. I think I like the rain, the feel of its cool touch on my cheek, the lonesome sound of it wandering along the eaves, the long still depths of the forest freshened and cooly perfumed by it.
Wed. June 7
All evening I’ve sat by the window enjoying three deer wandering leisurely around the cabin, eating the clover and green grass. One was very grey, I wonder if that is a sign of age. Their antlers are just now budding out.
The rapids below the falls are full of lean and hungry pike. Any night I can stand on my favorite rock jutting out into the current and wrestle with several large Northern’s. Tonite a big Wall-Eye seized the red and white daredevil and now I have fish for several meals.
The weather has smiled and life is once more warm and sunny. Outside the stars are shining and from the distance I hear faintly but clearly the cry of a Loon. Fish-flies, pain stabbing, persistently swift attackers have joined the throng of hungry pests.
Sun. June 11
And now the first deer-flies, emerald green faceted eyes blazing, have leaped into the fray. These devils that drive men and wildlife mad. Many deer and moose run insane, blindly crashing thru the timber, hopelessly trying to escape the maddening buzzing in their ears. These green-eyed flies attack any moving thing in a relentless effort to get blood. Swift as sight they hover torturingly just out of reach and rare is the time you can kill one.
Thurs. June 15 - 44
Walked to fairy-Boot portage with Gus who had come over from his Lookout tower to visit us. — On the way back the storm broke, sullen, red-lipped clouds filled with grey-green chasms rolled and roared overhead like a hurricane and suddenly exploded in violent lightning and ear-breaking crashes. The forest reeled and rocked in the mad rush of air that uprooted trees, felled the line in a dozen places even as I trotted warily homeward. I groaned as I visualized the work ahead of us even as I dodged falling trees and started suddenly at every nearby crashing tree. The rain steadily poured over my head and shoulders as if coming from buckets, a welcome relief from from the heat and mosquitos of a few minutes before. — The telephone wire was really loaded, violent charges of electricity surging through it. After several attempts to get it off the ground in places I gladly gave up.
Fri. June 16
This is a tired weary boy writing this. On my face and shoulders I have counted 78 sand fly bites. The line is once more in good shape but it was a long, hot, insect-ridden day. The mosquitos and sand flies are cruel, merciless, and by the millions. At one place on the trail Ben and I took a much needed five minutes rest and started counting the sand flies and mosquitos we killed as we sat there. The count was 380 for me and 300 for him and still clouds of them, our clothes squirming and alive with them.
The trail is still beautiful, with new flowers now. Fragrant bushes of wild roses everywhere, yellow clintonia, white 4-petaled Dwarf Dogwood, Bright blue grass flowers, sky blue lupines, flaming Columbine, fairy-scented fairy bells, the Linnae and still many stately Pink moccasin flowers.
Outside the window the fireflies are blinking and the dull roar of the falls comes softly to my ears, telling me to sleep, sleep, sleep.
Thurs. July 13
With Ben here and lots of visitors from time to time I’m afraid my idle moments for diary writing have all but disappeared. Ben and I have a fishing contest on and every evening finds us casting from shore or trolling quietly in a canoe. We have a new bunk of peeled logs; and a solid dock, also of logs almost finished.
The black flies are leaving and life has become easier. We dive in the lake to cool off and bathe and much of our days is spent on or near the water. The strawberries are ripe and the blueberries. My favorite flowers, the fragile sky-blue Hare bells are here for the summer, nodding happily from every crevice in the rock cliffs.
Fri July 14
Walked along the falls tonite casting with my red and white daredevil. Caught a pair of dark golden Wall-eye Pike. Filleted and salted them for breakfast.
Can it be the 10th of September! Oh, Summer, where have you gone And only now have I found the time to open the diary. — It was quite a season, the last two months, with hordes of visitors, a drowning, lots of excitement, too much to even start putting down on paper. Alone with the last flowers of summer, the vivid purplish fall asters, the BlueBells of Scotland, the lovely water lilies. — And already the bright red, yellow, and orange leaves of Autumn are blazing forth and the ducks are flying by in ever larger flocks.