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
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.
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.
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
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.