Bird books describe common mergansers as “streamlined ducks.” Ever since my first encounter with hooded mergansers on Elmira Pond in North Idaho, I thrill to encounter them in the wild. In a remote wilderness area on the remote peninsula of the remote northernmost mitten of Michigan, I spent eight days outside and on the water with fellow writer and Carrot Rancher, D. Avery. And we got to watch a mama merganser swim and fish with her eight acrobatic ducklings.

We camped and kayaked at Sylvania Wilderness Area, Twin Lakes, and Ghost House Farm. We paddled Crooked Lake, portaged to Mountain Lake, and ate lunch on the water. We paddled beneath soaring eagles and among loons and logs turned terrariums. We paddled four lakes in a single day and pondered a memorial carved into a mystery on a picnic table. We took breaks to play Scrabble. We sloughed. Laughed. We watched birds, followed a moose trail in a swamp, smiled at pigs in sprinklers, and agreed that any writer’s residency on the Keweenaw didn’t need to be rustic.

The rustic cabin was a bust, but it made me realize that rustic was the wrong feature. The Keweenaw is remote and rich in inspiration.

While the re-enactment of Doug Jacquier’s “Bad Day at Black Fly Rock” did not unfold as planned, there were moments when we were swarmed. Mosquitos, Paulding Lights, a tour of kayakers. Yet, the one wee thing that nearly sent me squealing out of my own kayak was an awkwardly over-friendly frog. We will not talk of the frog. I still talk to frogs, but none will be allowed to frantically hop between my thighs in a kayak. Again.

We did not see the Northern Lights, but we did catch the Paulding Lights. Our first night, I woke up to D.’s tent flashing like a casino. We were in the wilderness area campground so it seemed strange. The next morning, we realized there were no campsites behind D.’s tent! I thought it must be the Paulding Lights, but it was a Christmas in July effort by our camp hosts. They did direct us to the actual Paulding Lights and we watched the phenomenon:

As promised, D. and I investigated the Conglomerate Falls Cabin as a possible place for a Carrot Ranch Literary Artist in Residency. We decided there’s such a thing as too rustic. I’m now considering ways to focus retreats, workshops, and residencies on the vastness of nowhere and anywhere of the Keweenaw. Carrot Ranch Headquarters are remote beauty sure to inspire writers.

August 1, 2022, prompt: Write a story that features someplace remote in 99 words (no more, no less). It can be a wild sort of terrain or the distance between people. What is the impact of a remote place? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by August 6, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.


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