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August 1: Story Challenge in 99-words

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.


  1. Anne Goodwin says:

    So glad (and jealous) you and D could have this time together. Interesting to learn about the paulding lights.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Anne, what I’d give to hike your land, ,too and learn it from your experiences. It was precious time together. The Paulding lights are one of those fun phenomenons that can live between scientific explanation and mythology.

    • The Paulding Lights are headlights. I sleuthed it with a roadmap. But it was definitely Bigfoot country.

  2. Norah says:

    I agree with Anne. She took the words right out of my … fingers.

  3. Liz H says:

    What a great teaching method! Take a local legend/phenomenon, investigate using your best tool, (in this case, Scientific methodology), and go at it because research is fun! But I wonder if the phenomenon was noted further back, by indigenous people? More research…yes!!
    Glad you & D had a great vacation: the great wide open, canoe/kayak hulls cutting thru cool water, campfires & hearty laughter all make for restoring the spirit & the writer’s soul!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Right? I love the learning approach to a local mystery. D. and I talked about Indigenous people’s stories of lights, but I don’t (yet) know of any stories directly related to the Paulding lights. Sounds like some mythology research is needed! Nothing quite like c/k hulls cutting through cool water and the intimate examination of marshes and log terrariums. Campfires, Scrabble and laughter rounded out the best of times to fill the Writers’ Wells.

  4. I agree with Anne and Norah. What a fun time for you and DeDe! The Paulding Lights… hmmm… why do we have to prove everything. Why can’t this place in the UP be a portal to another dimension? This light was seen before cars were in existence. LOL!

  5. Curly’s Tale (99)

    This pig will fly anytime there’s an opportunity. I squealed with delight when I saw Pepe and Kid prepping the hot air balloon and hopped right in. We floated in the sky while two women floated below in kayaks. One squealed like a piglet, just because a little frog startled her.
    I had a bird’s eye view of my cousins at Ghost House Farm, even from way up I could see how happy and healthy they were! I wanted to visit with them but Kid said no way, said bringing me back to the ranch would save my bacon.

    Pepe Chimes In (59)

    Yes, we tuke de balloon up for de ‘Floating’ prompt, eet seemed feeting, no? Den we found ourselves over a campground. I saw two tents an heard not only my dear Logatha, but her seester too, Cheri D’Shart. Eet was too tense for sure. Dose two, camping together? Ees double troubles. But eet always works out in de end.

    Burt the Mail Horse’s Thoughts (9)

    Never again, nay, never. Airmail is for the birds.

    Kid’s Account (99)

    I didn’t know the balloon was gonna drift away from the ranch an towards HQ, but it did. Reckoned I was gonna hear about it from Pal, which made the trip sweeter than cherries because fer a precious few days there warn’t no Pal.
    Was glad too ma writer never caught sight a me. Tell ya, she was bout as active as a hunk a driftwood. She musta’ve filled her well, what with all that water she was floatin on.
    Thought Shorty was waving up’t us from them remote waters an woods, but she mighta jist been swattin skeeters.

  6. I’m so glad you two had a good time! I’ve been walking (and weeding) in my local area a lot, recently, and it’s so refreshing 🙂

  7. suespitulnik says:

    Sounds like a fun, well-filling vacation. I’m happy you had the time together and am sure the rest of us will benefit from ideas that flowed and grew. I can’t help but wonder what too remote looks and feels like. I’m glad I missed the swarms of bugs, but the Ghost Farm critters would be right up my alley.

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