I don’t hunt, but one weekend a year I go on an upland game bird hunting trip. While several of my friends bushwhack through logged over sections of the Flambeau River State Forest in search of ruffed grouse, I stay behind at a lakeshore cabin to fish, paddle, and write. I have mornings and afternoons to myself, then join up with my friends just before dark.
I consider this an ideal situation. Many years ago I discovered I do not like to backpack or camp alone. To my surprise, I get lonely come evening. When Manyu goes to Taiwan and I stay in La Crosse, I can spend days on end without speaking to another person, but when I go solo into the wild or semi-wild, I long for a bit of human companionship. I cannot explain this odd phenomenon, but know it to be true.
Last weekend my hunting friends and I stayed at a cabin on Deer Lake in northcentral Wisconsin. On the first afternoon (after my friends had loaded up their dogs and gone hunting), I toured the entire lake by kayak. Near the end of the day I stumbled upon the lake’s outlet. It was a long narrow waterway leading into a large bog. I didn’t remember ever having paddled through a bog before, so I broke down my fishing pole, stashed it in my cockpit, and set off to see where the winding channel went.
Bogs are basically moss and a few other ancient plants growing atop a floating blanket of decaying vegetation. In the few places where there is solid ground, tamaracks usually take root. In the Upper Midwest, tamaracks are the only native deciduous conifer, and on this particular day, their needles were an intense shade of yellow. The width of the channel varied, and free-floating chunks of peat piled up in the narrow spots. If I rammed these ottoman-sized blocks with the bow of my boat, they would float along with me until the waterway widened enough for me to paddle around them.
About twenty minutes into my paddle, a railroad right of way bisected the bog. The channel, which I now realized was actually a small creek with a slight current, passed under a wooden trestle in an otherwise continuous earthen embankment. The lowest beams of the trestle were only a foot above the water, so no scrunching or contorting of my body was going to allow me and my kayak to pass through. As it was already late in the day, I turned around and paddled back to the cabin. I knew, however, that I would return the next day. Inaccessible bodies of water are irresistible, and I was not going to leave Deer Lake without exploring the far side of the tracks.
I did return the following morning, but that is a story for next week.