a stroll along the pigeon...

 

the swamp

 

With the excuse for my break gone, I shrugged into my backpack and started north along the trail in the wake of the eagle. I was soon wishing I had wings to fly over the ground instead of plodding along step by step. It wasn't long before I could no longer resist the pull of the river so I started looking for that day's campsite.

The trail had split shortly after I started hiking again, with the high trail wandering away from the river. The lower trail looked like it would be tough going through boggy ground and thickets of tag alders, so I stayed up above. This soon proved to be a mistake as the high trail wound further and further away from the stream.

After fifteen or twenty minutes of steady walking, there was still no sign that the trail would curve back to the river. It was time to make a decision. The smart thing would have been to backtrack to the fork in the trail and proceed downriver from there. Of course, I usually choose the hard way to do anything so I decided to strike west off the trail until I reached the river. Oh, what fun.

At first, it wasn't too bad, although the ground did slope away beneath my feet, which forced me to balance the pack with the strength of my legs. I was soon to wish that was the worst of what I had to go through. When I reached the bottom of the hill and moved forward through the woods I noticed that the ground was becoming softer and soon found myself on the edge of a cedar swamp. This was another chance for someone to make the right decision, but not me.

I didn't relish the climb back up the hill and a twenty-minute hike just to get back to where I'd been a half hour ago. I decided to push ahead - after all, I'd hunted in cedar swamps many times. Mistake number three.

The Pigeon is spring fed and it was soon apparent that I had stumbled upon one of the areas of springs. The ground soon became soft and I found myself hopping from high spot to high spot with a heavy pack on my back. Occasionally, I would slip or misjudge the distance and was soon covered to my knees with evil-smelling black muck.

It seemed like hours, but was probably no more than a half hour before I saw the light increase ahead of me. I doubt I traveled more than a quarter mile in that time, because of the crooked trail I took through the swamp. The tag alders I had to force through when I neared the stream were only a minor obstacle after what I had just endured.

Thankfully, there was no fellow angler near to observe my terrible fishing etiquette as I splashed into the stream fully clothed. I bent my knees and scooped up handfuls of clear, cold water to bath my sweating face. I was glad I didn't have a mirror or I might have been frightened by the red glare I knew my face must have been giving off.

Once the muck had washed from my pants, I moved to the bank, sat with my feet in the water, and tallied up my progress over the last hour or so. On flat land, with no pack, I usually cover about four miles an hour. I doubt I do more than half that on an up and down trail with a pack on my back. I realized it was very possible that I was no more than a half-mile from where the trail had forked - certainly no more than three-quarters of a mile. What a waste of time and effort. Oh well, I had wanted some exercise.

Part 8...

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