The day before the snow was perfect. Everything was clear and still. The sky was a cloudless eternal blue. It was beautifully bright without any oppressing heat. The water was glass. Our canoe glided effortlessly as paddles dipped and pulled the depths of sky mirrored in it. The air reverberated a perfect symphony of sound. Distant bird calls traveled across the stillness.
It wouldn’t be so entombed in memory if it hadn’t been followed by days of misery. Seriously, I have lived many days of wonderful weather. Just the other weekend there were fantastic crisp sunny days with colorful trees and warm wind. I hardly noticed as I spent hours engrossed in the internet or preoccupied with my to-do list. That perfect day stands out purely for what came after.
That still and sunny day was 9th on the water in the woods. Before lunch we saw an enormous unidentifiable eagle. Lunch on a small island we found the 4 foot skeleton of a fish. Regretfully I have no pictures of it. That afternoon we surprised a loon. Upon the glass lake we paddled within 40 feet of a loon which then dove down. As we got closer the surface became ripped with underwater action. It must have been chasing a school of fish. We were coasting along piercing into the mirrored depths when the loon popped up. It’s little red eyes bugged out in alarm at our proximity. Immediately it dove right back down only to resurface and paddle away as if it was too out of breath.
As the day progressed the clouds moved in. I enjoyed the complete adaptation to my surroundings. In the first days of wilderness travel navigating and patience had been real struggles. My sense of time and distance were completely out of whack. The “Are we there yet?” syndrome became problematic in assessing “Should we actually be at that landmark yet?” Navigating requires distinguishing contours in the shore and distant islands based on size and detail of trees. The first days staring at the horizon, all the trees blend into one green line. This leads to an amazing amount of uncertainty and stress in giving directions to Will. By day nine I nestled peacefully in the realization that all the trees had become distinct individuals. The texture of the forest had become deeply engrossing and with it came peace in reading the shape of the land.
Selecting a camp site is often fun, and always important. Imagine shopping for a new home every afternoon. High level ground makes for dry and easy sleeping. If the tent is on slanted ground I need the high end or I spend the whole night being crushed by Will sliding into me. Clear open space without underbrush, and nice view is a bonus. Most importantly it needs at least one big tree. Not only does it lend nice atmosphere it’s essential to hanging food away from bears and mice.
The weather radio had been giving us a “winter weather warning” so we knew whatever we picked that night we might get stuck at. We passed several nice sites, but wanted to push on and get as far as we could. Then we spotted a beautiful rocky island with majestic white pines. I would have been happy to be stuck there for days. In a vast and seemingly empty wilderness, it was occupied. Evening was creeping up and we made do on Birch Lake. It was aptly named. All we had was slender branchless trees. Hanging the food was comical and our tent got tucked into a grass patch surrounded by shrubs and small pines. So it was less than ideal, but there we would stay. Turned out that we would stay for two whole days.
Next: Wind and Snow
This is our Honeymoon Adventure story, it starts with A Beginning.