Tuesday, September 20, 2022

A unique family adventure to North Dakota

We went on a little explore into North Dakota today, sort of a family outing with our two sons before they head back home.  We saw a little of America few see, one was a rather diminutive waterfall. Mineral Springs Waterfall as it turns out, IS the largest within the State of North Dakota.  To be fair, it does not look like much, but the two and a half mile walk into it was pleasant and worth the adventure.  Who knew? 

The Sheyenne River valley is a cool place. The look of fall is in the air...

We then went to Ft Ransom, and looked for the many archeology oddities found nearby.  Pyramid Hill, a mound of conflicting origin, overlooking the Sheyenne River, much like Pilot Mound overlooks the end of the Pembina River to the rest almost straight north in Manitoba.  I have my theories but that is beyond this blog.

The Black Viking sits on top, a rather recent addition to an ancient mound.  It all started when Snorri and Bjarne--Snorri Thorfinnson and Bjarne Ness, two old cronies in Fort Ransom--decided they would put their little town on the map with a Viking monument. They were inspired both by Snorri’s discovery of Norse mooring stones along the Sheyenne River and by the example of Elmer Peterson of Jamestown College, whose World’s Largest Buffalo not only put Jimtown on the map but also lured Republican hopeful Nelson A. Rockefeller out for the dedication in 1960. Snorri and Bjarne started sculpting classes with Professor Peterson, the master of concrete, and planned to fashion the great Viking themselves. They wanted to place it atop the conical hill overlooking town from the south, an elevation Snorri thought surely was an Indian burial mound. That was when the dream began to unravel, for Bjarne got cancer, and died, and Snorri’s enthusiasm flagged.

Somehow, then, as the story goes, a Vietnam veteran named Bill Woell, down and out and living in a tipi, made connections with Snorri and other men of the Fort Ransom Commercial Club, and he offered to sculpt them a Viking.  He did the work in a farm building down by Leonard, fashioning the figure of pipe, steel mesh, and a sort of burlap-mache.  One afternoon in the early 1970s, a helicopter lowered the Black Viking into place.

It was not exactly what the Nordic stalwarts of Fort Ransom had in mind.  The Black Viking was downright demonic. He was, of course, black, and way too slender to be stolid. His spear was like a trident, his horned helmet like horns, and his eyes, they glared vacantly. “We wanted a Viking,” a local woman observed, “but not that kind.” The subsequent physical deterioration of the Black Viking testifies to the not-so-benign neglect by the community for a stunning piece of outsider art.  They now have a turn out and a sign below him.

We could not locate the mooring stone or the Writing Rock, sigh, a missed opportunity

We also went past the Scenic Theater in Lisbon ND, the oldest continuously operated movie theater in the United States.  It began operating in 1911.  "Where the Crawdads sing" is currently playing, should anyone get up this way.  It is a one of a kind place worth visiting.

Standing Rock is a rather odd deal.  What a piece of obsidianish stone is doing on this high overlook is not natural. There is a lot of money placed on it, for reasons I can only guess.  It is at an extensive 15000 year old burial mound complex (a mound is behind my son), this is about 8 miles north of the Pyramid Mound.  Who was here 15,000 years ago?  Nobody really knows.  Some speculate but they do not know.  

We saw the 1910 built Sargeant County courthouse in Forman, ND, to add to me nascent collection of County Courthouse photos.  The maroon trim is quite nice and considering this sits in a town of 450 people, and in a small county, its upkeep is good to see.

Plus a more recent one in Lisbon, for Ransom County, This one looks very much 1930s and upon looking it up, I was not surprised to see the building date at 1937.

I decided to not photograph birds today.  I watched but somehow felt I was intruding and could not press the shutter, the same held true for butterflies but I snapped a couple of photos anyways.  There were a few Gray Hairstreaks about.

and so diminutive Dainty Yellow butterflies hanging on in the rapidly browning of fall

Saw some western plains garter snake subspecies of the common garter snake, many were out on the roads

I also saw a smooth green snake as well, but could not get it photographed
Our picnic would have been better had not someone forgot to pack the bread

It was a good outing to the north, might be the last for a while, Allwin middle is leaving for the Max Planck Institute in Germany in two weeks and Tyko, is heading back in a couple of days to Chicago to complete his medical studies.  It has been a wonderful  idyll home with our boys.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Is the Doctor in the house?


We drove to Madison and the University of Wisconsin to welcome the newest "Doctor" in the family, Dr Allwin McDonald PhD, after he gave his public dissertation for his PhD in Chemistry today, he was done, All under the watch of his mentor, faculty researcher Dr. Andrew Buller  

the start of his hour presentation of 5 years of research, Dr Buller gave him a great introduction of how he became his initial 1st year lab grad student in 2018.

He is a well published protein engineer specializing in biological enzymes.  After leaving the University in Wisconsin now, in October, he leaves for the Max Planck Institute in Jena Germany for a post doctorate fellowship.  Since he majored in German in college and did both a summer internship in Vienna and studied for a year in Bonn, it should not be that big of a shock.  He will be using his expertise to aide their lab.  We will miss him terribly, but once the chicks have left the nest, what is a dad to do....I guess German birds are in my future, crested lark anyone? 

A department toast with his boss Dr Andrew Buller on the right, it was Allwin's big day and he seemed to revel in his element

His lab

the table said all kinds of nice things

We are such proud parents!

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Angling for an Adventure

So what did you do this summer?  It turns out, I went fishing....and winning awards doing it.

First there was Truman versus Dewey, Jesse Ventura in 1998, or even the Miracle Mets of 1969, but on Thursday I (yes I) shocked camp winning the much coveted Smoothrock Walleye Fishing Challenge" and got to hoist the Stan Peer Memorial Trophy for the first time ever and win the fabulous prize money.

Dr Rapp the 2019 champion presenting me in Duluth with Stan Peer Trophy

Why is this such a shock? You may ask.  First of all, we spent more time blueberry picking than walleye fishing, mostly because we found a blueberry spot that was just incredible and we never win the walleye trophy, walleye fishing is just too ....slow.

Greg, boat partner, picking berries on "Burnt over Lunch Island"

Secondly, we aren't very good at it.  We do not have the sophisticated sonar, fancy rigs, or anything, we just fish jigs, sometimes rotate colors, but only reluctantly, and well, catch many small ones but nothing large.  Greg, my boat partner almost never catches even a fish for the "Slot Board," over 19 inch fish we release and mark on the board.  This year the group had 58 registered fish, Greg, he caught 1, and was happy he caught one.  The first one I caught, was on a pike lure in 2 feet of water.  

Our boat spends almost our entire effort pike fishing going after a separate trophy, one in which we can win, one in which we have won, and won in which we expect to win, the only question is typically who in the boat is going to win it, and it becomes quite competitive, I the "Pike Whisperer" but also the guide, who usually fishes second on casts, so Greg has an advantage on each bay.

Greg admiring the Falun Sucker Club Memorial Trophy that hangs in Cabin #11 at Smoothrock Camp, first awarded in 1984 after being caught by me Musky Fishing on Big Trade Lake in NW Wisconsin (long story) and then fashioned into a traveling trophy of sorts, first won by me in 1985, since 2010, when Greg dedicated Canada fishing towards pike fishing, he has won it 5.5 times and me 3.5 times, one year not awarded due to Covid, two years we did not win it, and in 2016, I did a big year and did not go up there (but Greg won it with someone else.

3rd place, 37 inches.  The group landed and released 19 pike over 28 inches

2nd Place 40 inch fish, although heavier than the winning fish, it was a 1/2 inch too short to win.  Our boat caught 197 pike for the week, about average.  Our best total 352 in 2013, a year in which we boated 5 over 40 inches

Greg holding the first large fish caught, last Saturday, 40.5 inches, but it held out for the entire week

Greg Peer holding his cash prize, and luckily getting a chance again to "pet the beaver" in an annual tradition under the coveted trophy which will have Greg's name on it for 2022.

But that is pike fishing, to win the walleye award is the big honor.  My dad, Doug Segelstrom has never won it in the modern era despite first coming to Smoothrock with me in 1982 and many fishermen have came and went without having their name on the trophy.  I won it in 2013 (but before we got the new trophy to award two years later), but with the smallest walleye ever at 22 3/4 inches and I think everyone must have been drunk that year or something odd was in the air.  

So a newcomer named Butch from Phoenix took the lead on the second day, with a 24 and 1/2 inch fish, a respectable fish.  Greg proclaimed most accurately that we would have a better chance to both beat his 40 1/2 inch pike than to beat that walleye.  I had only caught one walleye bigger on the lake, and that was in June a few years back, well before an August contest.  Greg had never caught one bigger. So we never even fished walleyes for days 2, 4,5, and on day six, bored we fished them for an hour, just the 2nd hour to do it.  Everyone else fished for dinner and for ones to take home, but even though that was only our second hour fishing them (we had picked blueberries for four hours and pike fished for 50 hours during the week), I used some advice I gleaned earlier in the summer- fishing deeper down the drop offs away from the smaller fish and Greg and I caught three fish between 21 and 22 inches, his only one for the week.  It seemed to hold true but only to get on the fish board.  

But it wasn't like we were plotting an "attack," there was no attack, we were never going to win anything.  We spent the week otherwise enjoying the sights and doing what we do while fishing. 
BS-ing at camp, telling tale tales of ones that got away

stealing gas from a sister camp ten miles away so we can get home

wildlife watching and photography

Making shore lunch

Enjoying the many fantastic views.......

So the last day arrived, we went...pike fishing, rotating directions to hit the holes on the way to blueberry picking.  While passing a spot I have fished once for walleye in June, for reasons never clear I stopped to walleye fish, Who knows why I do things on the lake. I found the reef and backed off and Greg immediately hooked something large....and undoubtedly green, it would be a feisty 31 inch pike that made us struggle to land on light tackle and no leader. But, we did.
It was pike #190 for the week and a tricky catch on the walleye rod

So we did it again, Finally after sorting out some small fish I kept catching while backing down the the drop off, I finally saw the depth dropping fast.  I had a bite and set the hook then I got something on, it was notedly large. When hooking a bigger pike on jigs, if they don't cut the line immediately, need to be slowly hoisted off the bottom and then a quarter, half way up especially in August will just take off and swim away fast.  Greg noticed my hoisting efforts with my even lighter rod than he uses for walleye.  "Big one?" He asked.

"Yes, and if this is a walleye, It has money attached to it," I laughed at what I said knowing full well it was a pike just waiting for a big and fast run and which it would probably never be seen. Knowing such, I have changed my walleye reel to a smaller clone of my pike reel, a salt-water and hard to find, baitrunner series with two drags in which I use for different things than the company intended.  I use the second "baitrunner drag," to have an emergency second drag set very light to allow a run away pike the chance to go fast without giving it a chance to either pull the rod out of my arms or to break the line since it is so hard to keep up.  My 40 inch fish on heavy line ran 150 yards before it stopped enough for me to turn it back toward the boat.  I once had a 38 inch pike on this same reel that ran and ran so much Greg had to take the tiller to chase it down as twice it was nearing the end of my spool.  It took us 40 minutes and nearly a quarter mile to even land.  As such, knowing this was a bigger pike, I had my finger on the second drag button ready, but how big was it?  It is hard to tell at this stage.  On my rod, they all feel huge.  I struggled to pull the fish off the bottom knowing what was coming, I was ready for it to go.  But then It gave up some depth, and then some more, I was thinking the new and a little heavier line I had put on had helped, (my wife on her similarly equipped rod was able to out hoist a rather lazy 40 3/4 inch pike that never ran and we got it in the boat).  Maybe I could beat Greg's pike?   

It was coming up and I struggled to look into the depth to see how big the "pike" was to determine what we had to do to get it into the boat.  Maybe I would switch places with Greg so as to maybe chase it down when it ran.  The boat sometimes scares the lazy ones into running.  We prefer to hand land all pike but a walleye might cut you on a gill plate, and my fingers were sore for weeks in June from walleye fishing, so we use a net on them.  Greg held the net but was also trying to get a plan of what we would do.  My light trusty rod, was bent over double as I hoisted the fish.

Then Greg and I saw it together, "It IS a walleye."  It came right up to the surface and without a word,  He scooped it up and there it was a 26 INCH FISH!

   We high fived each other, I let out a hoot as I measured it as my arms started to shake.  It was not a record or anything. Then we laughed at the absurdity of it all.  Then laughed the rest of the afternoon thinking about it again.  It wasn't that big of a fish so other boats were out there fishing and fishing for walleyes in places were big ones lurked, I had not even won anything yet. But the laughing subsided...

So, what does Olaf do next?  Well, then I tried to snatch defeat from apparent victory.  We went blueberry picking two miles south of camp, but we were 12 miles north of camp and I never stopped to refill the gas tank, and after blueberry picking drove a mile even farther south.  I kicked the gas tank of the boat accidentally.  It showed empty and easily moved around.  Crap, I'm out of gas. Would we even make it home?

There is a rule for the contest.  All fish need to be registered by a certain time on the last day.  Previously, it had been 5PM, BUT someone still fishing caught a tying walleye five minutes after five a few years back and was not given the award.  There was also the event when a pike was trying to eat a walleye that was caught which was promptly netted by my dad which was never on a line, would that win (luckily Greg bested that fish two days later so it was never a real issue)?  We have had rule SNAFUS and committee rulings, that have adjusted the rules.  Quitting time now was 8pm, but if I ran out of gas, got stranded and would I even be rescued on Thursday, let alone by 8PM?  I could hear the lore for decades more, of how I had neglected to stop and register my fish only to run the boat out of gas....and lose.  Uff Dah!

I put the can up on the seat and shook it, it would be close and headed back to camp and into the wind, we would never even drift the right way home.  We had seen no one fish that direction all week so no one was going to come to our rescue.  I sighed and soldiered on.  Keeping close to one shore so we could paddle the boat to a point to increase our chances.  A mile ahead of us eventually I spotted a boat near an island not far from camp, it would turn out to be three boats.  I shook the can.  It was going to be close.  They would never notice us a mile off so I started to cross the open water heading straight towards them, it was probably unwise to go a few extra yards but I needed to get as close to them as I could.  Then I was a half mile, still too far to yell, then I crept to a quarter mile, and began to think we had a chance....

As I passed them, people I did not know, I was too close, I wonder if they got bothered by this crazy guy who was running flat out way too close to them but well, I might have needed them.  I got passed them and I breathed easier.  WE did have enough gas to get back to camp, but had I not kicked the can and noticed we would have ran out from where I was going.

Greg went and got more gas and I.....registered our fish.  We fished a half mile from camp for the rest of the day, actually walleye fishing for fun and then the previous champion returned from the their spot to join me at a place we call the "Hump."
Dr Jeff Rapp and Butch fishing at the Hump.

As I was marking the underwater mound with buoys, the three boats I had buzzed earlier drove over, circled around me in what all I can surmise was some sort of "f" you gesture.  I waved a small walleye on them and put down a second buoy and looked like I was not moving.  They all eventually drove off.

So that was it.  The fish held and in the morning, we organized our stuff for the flight out, luckily I was on the first flight out.  Like usual the plane was delayed due to fog at the basecamp and now sitting in the office, I tried to take a nap.

The fog cleared, the plane came, unloaded reloaded, and then we were able to board led by the camp dogs...

The men in Cabin #11 2022,  Most had not been here for three years due to COVID and Canada travel restrictions.

It is not the biggest award nor the biggest fish, and there is ALWAYS a bigger fish, but for an older guy, you do not get much glory in this world and this may be it, for me.  My real glory is seeing my kids and wife and their pictures are what makes me happy, but everyone needs a little recognition in life.  I am still feeling like I accomplished something special and that is why we live or at least why I live. In 2023, I will put in my tournament "fee" and well, fly to Smoothrock Camp and try again to win this award for two years in a row, something never done before.  Will I fish walleyes more?  maybe but probably not.  Nothing beats a big time pike run like the biggest one I caught, nothing.  Will I succeed in repeating, probably not, but heck, as they say it beats a day out at the office. 

So go out there, go fishing, go blueberry picking, something I shall savor all fall, as I brought back 20 pounds of them and why only 20 pounds?  It was all the containers we had with.....

Go out and enjoy yourself



Sunday, May 15, 2022

Our Daughter's Big Day of Achievement

We came back from Scotland just in time to attend our youngest's graduation at Hamline University in St. Paul yesterday.  It was Lauren's big day, graduation with honors in Chemistry and History on her way to Dental School at the University of Minnesota.  

It was a crazy line trying to get into the Rivercenter in St Paul for the ceremony.  The previous graduation went late, but we got in fine and the pomp and circumstance started late.

The ceremony was fine, but it also ended up being a little long as Senator Klobuchar made a cameo appearance and gave a surprise speech.  (Her husband went to graduate school at Hamline).  Her speech was a classic stump speech, but okay.  Hamline divides their graduation in two and Former Gov (and senator) Dayton gave the keynote.  Ours was some 80 year alumni who I had never heard of before.

L was near the back of the line but eventually, all masked up, her name was called and she got her moment of achievement!  We all had to wear masks inside, except when speaking I guess.  Oh well, photos of the time.

The proud family....

Grandma and Grandpa Segelstrom

It took a village to get Lauren through Hamline.  Aunt Jena tutoring sign language classes, Allwin Chemistry and Calculus, Grandparents feeding and helping her move.....well all of us helped her move.  Numerous mentors for her future Dental practice,.....it took a lot!

She still calls me with bird consults and I suspect we'll go birding and fishing next week.

Congrats Girl!!
A proud 


PS I got a Minnesota lifer Wilson's warbler walking back from the ceremony!!!


Thursday, May 12, 2022

By Land, By Sea, my Clan Experience

There is more to Scotland than just tits, (like this coal tit).  One cannot go to Scotland and not notice the local culture, the kilts, the tartan, the titles, and the Clans.  I have hated to admit this, and for most of my life ignored it, but as it turns out I have deep roots around the Highlands of Scotland.  As it turns out, I am a member of the Clan Donald, one of the largest clans around and usually known as the Clan Mac Donald.  By land and By sea, the motto of the clan is etched in my soul somewhere.

Clan Donald traces its descent from Dòmhnall Mac Raghnuill whose father Ranald or Reganeld was styled "King of the Isles" and "Lord of Argyll and Kintyre" and grandfather was Somerled, King of the Hebrides.

Specifically, I am from the branch known as the McDonnells of Antrim, in County Antrim in Northern Ireland.  You see, I have deep roots in the whole of Scottish history.  The MacDonnells of Antrim are descended from John Mor MacDonald chief of the MacDonald of Dunnyveg, John Mor MacDonald was the second son of Good John of Islay, 6th chief of Clan Donald and six generations descendant from the founder of the clan.  This birth was through John of Islay's second marriage to Princess Margaret Stewart, daughter of King Robert II.  Hence why the MacDonald's ended up on the Jacobite side of the whole threat to the English crown when the Tudors of Henry the VIII's line had no more children and the Stewarts took over but then they were removed by William of Orange in 1688 when the Protestants kicked out Catholic King James in the Glorious Revolution.  James or Jacobus would lead revolts from Scotland as would his son Charles,  Scotland would lose its independence in the ensuing years. 

John Mor MacDonald married Margery Byset daughter of the Mac Eoin Bissett Lord of the Glens of Antrim. They would take on the title Lord of Antrim from the Bissets even though that was not given.  It would turn out John Mor would be murdered in Edinburgh in 1427 by James Campbell continuing a feud that continues between the two clans, possibly even until today.

 John Mor MacDonald is my 20th Great Grandfather as it would turn out, and like probably hundreds of thousands, I am a direct descendant of the founder of the clan.  As the Jacobites gathered their forces in 1688, the second son of of the nobility of the Clan McDonnell, a young man named Bryan McDonnell was commissioned at Lieutenant of the Jacobite army, to fulfill the loyalty of the clan to the Stewart king James II, this despite that they were protestant.  James was open to al religions or so the history states. In 1691, James II left his army to go to Europe to secure support and left Lord Tyrconnell in charge of the Williamite War in Ireland, and he distrusted protestants in his army despite Clan loyalty and purged them all including my ancestor Bryan, who not being the family heir, decided it would be a good time to leave for America.  He purchased 693 acres from William Penn & moved to Delaware in 1691 with his family.  He was then known as "McDonald the immigrant."

So my ancestors have been in America for a very long time, oddly, as far as can be determined, none of my ancestors ever married another Irish person.....

Everywhere I went, I was surrounded by my Clan history.

The Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness was sacked by the Clan in 1513 and just about everything was carted off.  It was retaken in 1517 by the Clan Grant and then sacked again by my clan in 1545 when even more was taken.  The Grants blew up the castle in 1690 so the Jacobites would not use it in the Uprising of the period. 

Now it just gives a nice view to look for monsters

The Loch Ness Monster?  No, just a pipe.

We went to Skye, which we would learn must be the most crowded place on Earth in the summer and was still nuts.  The weather is also nuts out there.  Rain, fog, wind, cold, .....seeing the sky in Skye, a lucky break. 

It is also home of the ancestral and spiritual center of the Clan Donald out at the ruins of Castle Armadale. 

The view from the castle

The MacDonald's have been largely replaced by the Clan MacLeod of the other side of the island and who owns like 100,000 acres of the island which is most of it.   

We toured their castle, Dunvegon.  The MacDonald's were kicked out as "Lord of the Isles" in 1493.  The end of the MacDonald Lords came in 1493 when John MacDonald II had his ancestral homeland, estates, and titles seized by King  James IV of Scotland. Since that time, the MacDonald Clan has contested the right of James IV to the Lordship of the Isles and uprisings and rebellions against the Scottish Monarch were common.  This is why they sacked things like the castle on Loch Ness.

The MacLeod's (Leod which means "Ugly" in old Norse, the son's of Ugly, is a rather interesting name).  and the MacDonald's have had a rather odd and UGLY history.  Let us review a few of them.

Until the Lordship of the Isles was forfeited to King James IV of Scotland in 1493, both MacLeod branches were loyal to MacDonald Lord of the Isles, and kinsmen from both families fought side-by-side at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 for the Bruce cause; the Battle of Harlaw (1411) for the Chief of Clan Donald; and at the Battle of Bloody Bay in 1481 for John of Islay. After the loss of the Lord of the Isles’ title and lands, however, Scotland fell into a period of crisis and anarchy and the two major family branches — the MacLeods of Dunvegan and MacDonalds of Sleat — became locked in a violent feud that would last for over a century.

The enmity was bitter, the fighting barbaric, and both clans committed terrible atrocities towards each other’s kinsmen in a bid to regain and extend their powers over the Island. The fighting laid waste to farmland and the collateral damage to communities was high with reports of the civilian population being reduced to eating horses, pets “and other filthie beasts".

In addition to the battle sites during the Wars of the One-Eyed Woman, there are many places on Skye which mark the historical hostilities between these two vying clans. One such place is Trumpan Church, now a ruin, on the Waternish Peninsula.

In 1577, after a MacLeod raiding party landed on Eigg, the island’s population of MacDonalds fled to a cave in the south of the island. With a view to flushing them out, the MacLeods blocked the cave entrance with heather and vegetation and set it alight. Instead of becoming prisoners, however, all 395 MacDonalds were suffocated to death. Enraged by the slaughter, the following year, the MacDonalds of neighboring Uist landed eight birlinn war galleys at Ardmore Bay. While the MacLeods were all gathered inside nearby Trumpan church for their Sunday worship, the marauding MacDonalds barred the doors and set alight to the church, killing all but one – a young girl. The girl apparently managed to escape through a window, run the 10 miles to Dunvegan Castle and raise the alarm. Unfortunately for the MacDonald party, a low tide had grounded their escape vessels, leaving time for the MacLeods to catch them. A battle ensued, during which MacLeod raised the fairy flag and slaughtered his enemies to every man. The bodies of the fallen MacDonalds were lined up behind a turf dyke which was collapsed over the top of them. This bloody moment in history is widely known as the Battle of the Spoiling Dyke.

The Damn fairy flag of the McLeods, supposedly given to them by the supernatural and it hangs in the Dunvegan, when I saw it, my instinct was to steal it.

They were brutal...

Iain Ciar MacLeod, 4th chief

Iain Ciar and his wife were a particularly infamous couple. He was described as a “tyrannical and bloodthirsty despot” who was not only hated by his enemy but also his own clansmen. His wife apparently had her two daughters buried alive in the castle dungeons for trying to escape the clan.

Alasdair Crotach, Alexander the Humpbacked, 8th chief
“The Crotach” is lauded as the MacLeods’ greatest chief. Said to have been mutilated by a strike with a MacDonald battle axe during the Battle of Bloody Bay off Mull, this belligerent warlord who was feared by many had an aesthetic side to his nature. He embraced culture: he positively encouraged dancing, poetry and music. He formed a piping college on Skye and installed the MacCrimmons as pipers to the MacLeod chiefs, a relationship that still lasts today. He built the castle’s Fairy Tower and entertained King James V to a mountain feast on Healabhal Beag, one of the MacLeod’s tables overlooking Orbost. ‘The Crotach’ spent the latter part of his final years living as a monk on Harris and died there in 1547.

The strange but true

In 1739, Norman MacLeod of Dunvegan (The Wicked) and Sir Alexander MacDonald of Sleat and others were accused of being involved in the kidnapping of 96 of their kinsmen, men, women and children with a view to selling them into slavery at £3 per head. The plot was led by Waternish tacksman Sir Norman Macleod of Berneray who managed to herd his victims onto a ship bound for the Americas. A storm wrecked the vessel off the coast of Northern Ireland and the reluctant passengers were all rescued.  They escaped justice.

He also locked his first wife in the dungeon of Dunvegan to starve slowly to death, lost the ancestral lands of Harris due to excessive spending, never visited Skye, and was a generally all around bad dude.

John MacLeod of MacLeod, 29th chief, this man was featured on the introductory video of the castle, had a prominent painting and was a classically trained actor and looked like an outstanding citizen.  His picture is everywhere....but the truth, maybe is not so great.

I had thought MacLeod was a cool dude, but then I read about him.  He was just like the rest of the elites and not unlike his ancestor Norman, anything for profit mentality.  In 2000, John MacLeod attempted to sell-off the Black Cuillin for £10million in order, he said, to restore the dilapidated roof of Dunvegan Castle. At the same time, he also put forward plans to build a 60-80 bedroom hotel and leisure complex near the village. The intended sale of Scotland’s most iconic mountain range caused public outrage and fuelled a heated debate about Scotland’s ownership. When the plans fell through and the Cuillin taken off the market, MacLeod was forced back to the table for funding ideas. A subsequent bid to the National Lottery for £25 million with a promise to hand over the Cuillin and Dunvegan Castle to the public also failed. Further controversy followed his death in 2007 when he left £15million in his will.  Pleading poverty?  Hope his death was painful.

The Black Cuillins would be like selling Yellowstone to a mining concern or Exxon.  Would he have let go the famous Fairy Pools where his kin may have gotten the famous battle flag?  Stunning mountains, the best in the whole UK.

There were birds (and other creatures) on Skye and the son did shine.

Common ringed plover

Eurasian Curlew, a lifer

Gray heron

Greylag goose

Highland cattle

hooded crow

rock pipit

Northern wheatear 
Don and then Leroy befriended this chicken at the old MacDonald hunting lodge nee Sconser Hotel on Skye.

Old Man of Storr, owned by the MacLeods is an over popular hike

We finally moved on 

First Glenfinnan, another MacDonald site, better known as the site of the Bridge scene in Harry Potter and everyone came to see the steam train go over it

Inadvertently on the MacDonald tour as the monument to the Jacobites and the clan is on the other side of the road

Then on to Glencoe back on the mainland in the Highlands, despite this fleeting picture, the stunning area was encased in fog and rain on our entire visit.  

Again, MacDonald land.  In 1692, the MacDonalds took in a patrol of Loyalist forces from the king during a terrible snowstorm.  Twelve days later, violating the code of the Highlands, the men, led by a Campbell, massacred somewhere over thirty men and women with children in their sleep, and forced the rest into the Highlands in a blizzard, most and unknown number died.  This even shocked the nation, but after a parliamentary investigation, nothing happened.  There have been coverups for centuries.

Can I even listen to Glenn Campbell's music again?

Lesser redpoll, a lifer, recent split from the common redpoll, British birding thinks there is 5 species of redpolls, there is probably just one, but here we say three

I needed a pub after all of this Clannish stuff, some serious pints

I was overwhelmed.  I even thought, do I contact the Clan Chief for the Irish arm of the clan?

The Clan chief is the Right and Honourable Randall Alexander St. John McDonnell, 6th Earl of Antrim even looks a bit like me., well maybe.  LOL

Do I buy a kilt with the colors?  Do I keep up the feud with the MacLeods and Campbells?  Do I join the MacDonald Society USA?  What to do...but maybe history IS bunk.  Even for me, I had way too much, and it was all surprisingly thrust upon me due to poor choices for places to go birding.  maybe it was my genes dragging me here, I do not know.  It made me want to go home.  There was too much here for me, and the damp clouds did NOT help and we had some sun.  

More to come


A unique family adventure to North Dakota

We went on a little explore into North Dakota today, sort of a family outing with our two sons before they head back home.  We saw a little ...