I THINK IT would be fair to say that 2020 has been an upside-down year. Most people would probably say there have been far more downs than ups, but looking at the bright side, I choose to relish my up times far more than I anguish over the downs.

Throwing the pandemic aside, how could you say it has been a bad or down year when you start it out by finishing your 20th American Birkebeiner?

You certainly can’t say it was a down year when you look at the photo of a gobbler that has already given you two meals of bacon-wrapped jalapeno and cheese-covered roll-ups on the grill.

And what about the summer? Perhaps COVID-19 spurred, our camper got used more this summer than in the last two put together. It went with us to three state parks among our camping outings, and with electric sites at two of them, we found out just how nice a camper with air conditioning can be on days when the thermometer reads on the plus side of 80.

A visit to the historical museum in Barnes was a highlight as well. Meeting the curators and being given a private tour of the Gordon MacQuarrie display where his ancient duck boat, the typewriter on which he wrote his beloved Old Duck Hunters Association stories and more were there for me to drool over made it a wonderful experience.

My first train ride was part of the summer. In August, my wife and I sat upstairs in a dome car while we rode for a little more than an hour from Duluth, Minn., along the north shore of Lake Superior and back. With narration and humor by a delightful hostess, it was a fun experience.

Then, there were the waterfalls. It would not be a summer without waterfalls. They were familiar cascades; on rivers like the Black, Presque Isle and Ontonagon in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Potato and Amnicon in Wisconsin and several others including Gooseberry, Cascade and Temperance, all in Minnesota.

Speaking of Minnesota, there was another first ever for me this summer. A trip to the fabled Boundary Waters Canoe Area was all that it is advertised to be. Admittedly, I barely scratched into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area itself, camping with my son just outside the boundary on Iron Lake. Fishing on a lake on the edge of the boundary, I caught a goodly number of small-mouth and a 5-pound northern pike.

North Dakota offered its usual treasure in October. While ducks and geese are the main course, seeing several moose, watching and listening to flocks of sandhill cranes, and simply admiring a sunrise or sunset across the vast open prairie are among the bountiful appetizers that go along with a stay at the little white house on the prairie.

 I believe there is an upside to this pandemic. Wrong as it may seem to say that, without a pandemic, I may well not have camped so often, nor gone on so many Sunday drives to places like the Porkies and Brunet Island State Park, and to so many other places where my lovely wife and I, along with our golden retriever and yellow lab, enjoyed so many of the scenic wonders of north Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the North Shore region of Minnesota.

Also, just because summer is over, the enjoyment we glean from the outdoors doesn’t stop. There are simple things, close to home things, that make life in the north country so alive, so worth living and so worth seeing. As we often do in the spring, summer and early fall, we set out on a Sunday afternoon excursion last weekend.

Just 5 miles from home on a delightful summery afternoon, we set up at Firefly Lake, a gem among gems, with a tote full of food, a Coleman camp stove and two drooling dogs who watched carefully as bacon and eggs sizzled just out of their reach.

A stiff breeze made it seem a little cooler than it was, but back in the woods, as we walked almost all the campground loops, it was peaceful and quiet. Huge oak, maple and aspen leaves, along with a generous mat of pine needles, cushioned our steps along the way.

Tramping the shoreline with Gordie after my wife and Molly took a shortcut back to our picnic site, I found myself lost in memories of years going back to the late ’50s when Firefly, it went by the name of Weber Lake at that time, produced some dandy catches of trout for me.

Along the northeast shore, I looked out at the spot where once on a summer evening, when the becalmed lake served as a perfect mirror of all that surrounded it, I missed a 20-inch or so trout when I whisked a Royal Coachman off the water just as the fish rose after it a split second too late. It remains as one of my most treasured memories of the lake.

After soaking up the unexpected, but welcome warmth of an early November afternoon, we bagged up the remains of our picnic, said good-bye to the lake and headed home richer for our time spent there.

Just one more thing. Though our dogs managed to beg and pilfer a share of our little repast, we did not lose our “pic-a-nic” basket to an opportunistic bear named Yogi.