a stroll along the pigeon...

 

the camp

 

As soon as I got back to camp, I started a fire and soon had the trout grilling on an improvised holder made from green branches. Before going fishing, I had set some dried mushrooms and dried peas to soak in the last of my bottled water. I would have to purify river water for everything from this point on. This is exactly what I did for the rice that accompanied the trout. Dessert was an apple turnover I had purchased at a convenience store on the way north.

Weight is always an issue in backpacking, even when only hiking a short distance as I was on this trip. That doesn't mean you can't eat good food. Spices weigh practically nothing and enhance any meal. I seasoned the trout with salt and pepper and sprinkled it with rosemary. Thyme, salt, and pepper served to flavor the rice with mushrooms, while salt and lemon pepper were perfect for the peas.

Brook trout are not only beautiful they are also tasty. Few fish surpass them, not even walleye from a northern lake or Lake Superior whitefish. No meal ever tasted finer.

The Milky Way appeared in the darkening sky while I ate. The sparks that floated into the air from my small fire seemed to be trying to join the stars in the sky. The background noises I had heard during the day, mostly the calls of birds, slowly faded away as twilight faded into night. Then, with full dark, the mosquitoes came and sent me diving for my head net. The mosquitoes only stayed for about thirty minutes and then they too faded away as the temperature dropped.

Gathering firewood near a good campsite can be a real chore, but once you are sitting around the fire in the evening all that time and effort seem minor compared to the pleasure the fire brings. Especially, when you are alone in the woods with no more protection than a whippy fly rod and an air horn to scare away any unwelcome visitors.

I sat by the fire for several hours that night, feeding it another piece of wood whenever it began to die down. It was extremely calming, except when I heard the sound of a larger animal moving near the campsite. Each time this happened, I felt a little flush of adrenaline accompanied by an increase in my pulse.

Michigan's woods are generally a safer place than a city, but wild dogs and black bears have been known to attack lone humans on very rare occasions. My heart quickly calmed each time, because I assumed these were either raccoons looking for a meal along the stream or deer coming to the stream for a drink. I had washed my utensils and buried the remains of my dinner quite a distance from my camp, so I didn't expect to attract any large animals, namely a bear, in search of food.

Being alone in the woods, miles from the nearest road, is a very different experience than putting up a tent in a regular campground. It seems to sharpen the senses.

Even the simplest task can be life threatening when there is no help nearby. When I'm alone in the woods I don't step on top of a log that is laying across the trail, I walk around it. A slip could mean a sprained ankle or worse. I have no desire to crawl five miles with a broken leg, so I usually move cautiously and am constantly aware of everything around me. Before the trip was over I would be reminded just how quickly a situation can turn dangerous.

This heightened awareness is what always pulls me back to the woods for solo excursions. I imagine it is, in some ways, the same thing that draws people to attempt long solo journeys in a sailboat, which is something else that appeals to me.

The mockingbirds started singing around midnight. Hearing birds at night made me curious about what time it was, so I checked my watch for the first time since leaving the car. When I saw how late it was it seemed like a good time to call it a night and shortly thereafter I was sound asleep.

Part 5...

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