On the eve of my first solo trip into QuietJourney, I camped at the campground on Wet Your Pants Lake. It was unusually hot and I was too excited to sleep.

Remembering the meteor shower that had been forecast for that night, I went down to the lake with hopes of catching a breeze and maybe a glimpse of a shooting star. I found neither. It was however, the perfect opportunity for my ritual prayer to the creator of all things natural. I just call her ma. As long as I was at it I also offered a gift of tobacco to the maymayguishi. (Actually, I was field stripping a cigarette but my heart was in the right place.) The instant the tobacco hit the water there was a sudden splash and something touched my hand. Startled, I jumped back and hit the area with my flashlight. I didn't see anything, only wavy sand in the shallows. "Maymaygushi?" I wondered, "or just an angry amphibian." I started considering the possibilities of a nether world, but I knew there would be plenty of time behind a paddle to ponder the parameters of existence. That evening there were more pertinent dilemmas to contemplate.

Since this was a restricted fire zone with no rain in sight, should I bother taking my saw, my hatchet, or my fire grate? What about my bacon, what will I do with the grease? Even if I found a way to store the grease and pack it out, won't the smell attract bears? "Wait! What am I thinking? I love bacon and I can't 'bake a laker' on my stove." I decided to take everything and hope for a soaking rain.

Two cloudless 93 degree afternoons later, I was still at my "Wet Your Pants Lake" camp. I say still because, even though the plan was to be camped on "Beaver Lake" by now, this campsite was too cool to leave. The front porch and fire area consisted of a treeless, and therefore very hot, rock. There was no possibility for shade until late afternoon. With a fire ban that didn't matter. The cool part was once you ducked through five feet of heavy vegetation at the edge of the woods, you stepped down into a large, open, flat, densely shaded tent area. Behind that was a cliff, cool and damp, that never saw the sun. It was the perfect natural refrigerator. Gotta keep that bacon cold, eh? Thanks Ma.

After dinner it was, time to look for photo opportunities, and I decided to make the short carry into "Rainy Lake". I began by paddling the lee shore, getting out to take a look around wherever something looked interesting. The sun slid below the treetops as I entered the west bay. Soon the resident beaver politely asked me to leave, and since I wanted a walleye for breakfast anyway, I obliged. Not being in a hurry, I drifted towards the portage bouncing a jig. When I passed the islands I heard a splash in the north bay. I reeled in and paddled over to investigate, but by the time I glided close enough for a decent photograph, all I could see through the viewfinder was the back end of a moose entering the woods precisely where I was standing forty-five minutes ago. It continued to head straight into the forest, so I consoled myself with the fact that it was too dark for a clear shot anyway. Disappointed, I turned toward the portage once again.

A stroke or two later I noticed movement in the woods.

As I watched, I felt certain the moose had gone in a different direction. To my surprise, a small bear appeared on a shoreline bluff just long enough for me to shoot what I knew was going to be a blurry picture. "But it's a blurry 'bear' picture," I assured myself. I don't think it noticed me but it turned back into the bushes and headed for the bay. I did my quietest "Rockford 180" and followed. The bear came down to shore for a quick drink and yet another bad portrait before disappearing again.

At first I hoped it would stay close to shore and allow me to watch for a while, but I quickly deduced it was heading for my portage. Since I didn't want to meet Mr. Bear on a dark portage, I decided I'd better race him to it.

A few minutes later, after running through the portage,

I was out of breath but victorious on "Wet Your Pants Lake". All that work made me hungry, and when my thoughts returned to butter fried walleye, I paddled east to my favorite spot. Two walleyes in three casts made me forget all about the bear, and I took the smaller "breakfast walleye" on a farewell tour of his old neighborhood.

By the time I returned to camp it had become very dark. It was impossible to avoid banging into the shoreline without the aid of my flashlight. Upon landing, I had one foot out of the canoe when noises came from the tangled windfall of jack pine beyond my tent. It was a moment of pure indecision. Which foot did I want to move? "It's probably nothing," I comforted myself as I got out. I started to unload the canoe, but stopped when I heard the undeniable sound of a large stone teeter back and forth. "That sounds like a large mammal all right," I mumbled, tying the canoe so it wouldn't drift away. "Probably that bear from Rainy Lake," I added, as I angled it out for a quick get away in case I had to jump in on a dead run. I crouched beside the canoe a while, listening, wondering what I should do. Then I remembered my cooler was still in the chilling recess of the cliff. I saw only one option . . . Save the bacon.

I grabbed my spare paddle and trembled as I walked to the edge of the trees to begin formal negotiations with Mr. Bear. I couldn't see through the trees, but I could hear that the limited amount of noise I made so far had not bothered him. I slapped a tree with my paddle. The sound startled me, maybe a few more times might move him out. Slap! Slap! Slap! Nothing. Rejecting the momentary idea of entering through the trees and having a more direct confrontation, I settled on another tack. I wound up, stuck four fingers in my mouth, and let loose a screeching whistle. That worked. . . Not! The sound of him running towards me was incredibly vivid. In my minds eye I saw him passing the tent, bursting through the trees, and snapping at my heels as I dashed for the canoe. That instantaneous nightmare caused me to start retreating, but remembering this was a dangerous reaction, I returned and stood my ground.