is not always comfortable; however, it’s still adventure. It’s not always safe, either. Whatever it is, it beats a couch, remote
control and the inane, indolent TV any day of the week.
first canoe trip of the summer proved green trees, blushing flowers, small wild
animals, waterfowl and the delights of paddling around islands, past geese,
dragon flies and under blue skies. Not
one mosquito landed on us! Yeah, right!
dipped the canoe into the autumn waters of Shadow Mountain Lake, the first hint
of fall flashed before us in golden leaves sprinkling the forest
landscape. For whatever reason, most of
the boats of summer ceased their noise and speeding on our September weekend.
our gear into the canoe after unloading it at the dock. We tossed in sleeping bags, tent, air
mattresses, food, water and more camping gear.
Sandi jumped into the front while I slid into the rear seat. Once again, peaceful, still waters curled
past as we dug our paddles into the placid waters of that high mountain lake. All around, lodge pole pines swept upward
along the mountain flanks creating a green theme. However, reddish brown needles from beetle
blight sobered us with millions of dying trees.
that one small insect only uses 1/millionth of the tree for food and cover, but
kills 100 percent of the tree. Makes me
wonder why nature developed such a deadly killing beetle machine.
as John Muir said, “This grand show is eternal.
It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a
shower is forever falling, vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn
and gloaming--on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round
Sandi and I in our time, pressed the paddles of the eternal water craft, the
canoe, which carried trappers, Indians, Hawaiians, South Americans and, really,
most civilizations around the planet use canoes for travel on waterways.
headed toward our favorite spot to watch the Canada geese and the magnificent
pelicans on the west side of the lake.
We pressed our canoe through three islands before us. As usual, majestic osprey flew past us or
watched us go by from their perches in tall dead trees. Mallard ducks and diving ducks paddled around
the islands as we swept past. A few
squirrels, on their own private islands, chattered at us as we neared the
shoreline. Before us, white, purple and
yellow mountain daisies greeted us with their own beckoning beauty.
it slow, quiet and eternal! Can’t quite
describe the speed of a canoe, however, it’s one that gives a sense of
spiritual serenity. Mental calm! Cellular rejuvenation! Jonathan Seagull said it provided the “perfect
speed.” What is THAT speed? You don’t fly the speed of a jet, nor the
slowness of a donkey, “The perfect speed--is being there.” In a canoe at 9,000 feet in the Rockies on a
sunny day is “being there!”
you do in that canoe while paddling around the lake? For sure, you soak up the sky, the sun, the
birds and the view. You fall back into
your natural, spiritual speed. You talk
about something, nothing and everything.
pelican walked across the water before taking flight to put on an air show for
us. Several Canada geese flew in before
skidding to a landing. Several turtles
sunned themselves on dead logs sticking out of the water.
dusk, we paddled toward a private lagoon.
We pushed through giant cat tails, through a narrow canal and into our
own quiet, magical pond in the wilderness.
Tall pines surrounded us.
pitched camp, set up our chairs, table and fire place. Sandi pulled the tent, sleeping bags and air
mattresses out of the bags. We strapped on
our miner’s lamps and warm sweaters. We
stood on a small spit of a clearing that was 30 yards long and 10 yards back
from the water. We pitched the tent near the water. We pulled the canoe onto the land near the
tent. Sandi broke out the Mountain House
Mexican vegetarian meal that tasted like a five star New York restaurant. We cooked it up and served it with onion flavored
soft bagels. “Oh my God, does this taste
good,” I said.
agreed, “I love this food!”
I pointed. “Honkers flying overhead in a chevron formation…just black
silhouettes against a starlit sky.”
honey,” Sandi said.
our steaming dinners with a glass of wine in our new wilderness wine glasses.
Abbott said, “Twilight is a time for sharing, a time for remembering, sharing
the fragrance of the cooling earth, the shadows of the gathering dusk. Here our
two worlds meet and pass, the frantic sounds of man grow dimmer as the light
recedes, the unhurried rhythm of the other world swells in volume as the
not strange that discord has no place in the great symphony of sound, it is not
strange that a sense of peace descends upon all living things as the things of
substance lose their line and form in the softness of the dark.”
night air cooled. While sipping on
freshly prepared hot chocolates, we looked up at the night sky to see the Big
Dipper, North Star, Little Dipper, Orion and many other magical
constellations. Nothing like sitting up
at night to see the universe as the ceiling over your head! It allows you to see forever.
rolled over on the big fat mattress. It
sleeps like a Serta Heavenly bed!
sweetie,” she said.
tight,” I said.
usual, I dropped off to sleep like a rock.
Around 2:00 AM, I heard Sandi unzip the tent to take a bathroom break
which is her usual modus operandi.
Moments later, I heard her unzip the tent and crawl back into her
sleeping bag. I dropped off to sleep
Harumph!” a BIG sound from a BIG animal sounded not far from the tent.
with a rush of adrenaline that raced through my body like the cars at the Indy
500. Fear plowed through my mind like
Hurricane Katrina. Whatever it was, it
was BIG! I hadn’t had that kind of fear
since I faced a grizzly in Alaska in the 70s.
God, it sounds like a bear,” I said.
the bear spray?” Sandi asked with her heart pounding out of her chest. She was scared to death. I wasn’t too far behind her in my own
the plastic box in the vestibule,” I whispered.
“I forgot to put it in the loft in the tent…not smart.”
it,” she said.
“Harumph! Harumph!” the sound wasn’t 20 feet away and
unzipped the tent. Grabbed my miner’s lamp! Placed it on my head! Grabbed the plastic box! Grabbed the bear
spray! Shoved my feet into my
boots! Didn’t want to face a 350 pound
black bear in my stocking feet!
you going to do?” Sandi asked.
going to face the bear and spray him with a load of this stuff,” I said. “If
we’re going to die, we might as well give him a fight. No sense letting him
maul us in the tent.”
unzipped the nylon door, turned on my light, stood up and looked immediately in
360 degrees of direction pointing the bear spray. Not 30 yards away, in the
brush, along the lakeside, two big eyes reflected my miner’s lamp. He crashed through the brush making a lot of
sound breaking off branches of small trees.
I said to Sandi. “It’s big!”
it?” she said.
tell,” I said. “It’s moving away
probably 100 feet and going east from here.”
couldn’t see its eyes as it vanished into the night.
it’s gone,” I said as I stepped back into the tent.
is pounding out of my chest,” Sandi said with fear in her voice. “I first heard it when I took my potty break.
I raced back into the tent. I didn’t want to wake you up because I didn’t know
what to do.”
as I heard that first sound,” I said, “that startled me out of a sound
sleep. It’s probably just a black bear
making his night rounds. I think we’re
okay now because he’s headed east away from us. Let’s hit the sack.”
scared to sleep,” Sandi said.
I said, “stay up until you fall to sleep.”
off. Suddenly, at 3:00 AM, that same
“Harumph, Harumph” sound startled me out of my sleep. This time, the breaking of branches added to
the fear I felt. The damned thing got closer and closer and seemed to be
rattling a lot of tin cans while it busted through the underbrush and trees.
it’s coming back,” Sandi said, clutching my arm. “What are you going to do?”
your shoes on and prepare to run like hell,” I said. “I’ll take the bear spray and fight him off
as best I can. If he gets me, at least you’ll be safe. Head toward the lights
of some cabin near the lake.”
unzipped the tent and about peed my pants I was so scared. I stood up and
looked in the direction of the sound. My
miner’s lamp lit up the bushes and trees and, there, not 60 feet away, two big
eyes headed right toward me without stopping.
it’s coming right at us,” I said. “Get your shoes and get ready to run if it
at it! It looked at me! Two big eyes reflecting my miner’s lamp! I stood there
in the wilderness with my little can of bear spray and wondering if I was going
to live through the night. All my years
in the wilderness, and shit, a bear was about to eat me for a late night
snack. Damn! Where’s my Barker Lounger
and remote? Where’s my safe bedroom in
suburbia? Why didn’t we order a motel?
came, steadily, “Harumph, Harumph, Harumph” as it broke down more branches and
plowed through bushes. As it got closer, it was less than 40 feet away when it
broke through the clearing. It loomed
bigger and bigger, scarier and scarier until my light shined not only on its
eyes, but its whole body came into view, all 1,500 pounds of its body! Because I was expecting an awful monster of a
bear, my eyes couldn’t believe what it was until my mind switched gears to the
sight before me—a magnificent bull moose with a five foot wide rack on his
darned,” I yelled to Sandi. “It’s a
she cried out. “It’s a what…a
vegetarian? What are you talking about?”
bull moose,” I said. “He’s a vegetarian. He won’t eat us.”
guy walked right by the tent not 15 feet away.
He looked at me, I looked at him, and he kept on walking until he
vanished into the darkness.
I said. “What a magnificent beast! Sure
happy it wasn’t a bear. Let’s go to
tell me again why we love camping,” Sandi said.
“I’m scared to death.”
back to sleep, or at least, I fell asleep while Sandi clutched at my sleeping
bag and squirmed in closer than ever before.
morning, ducks flew overhead, geese honked across the water, mist rose from the
lagoon where we had camped. I opened up
the fly to see the steam rolling in circles off the water. A golden aspen bloomed across the way.
great to be alive,” I said. “Let’s fix
cooked oatmeal, prepared hot chocolate and sliced a few bananas for condiments.
Lovely breakfast watching the steam rise off the lake! A cacophony of squirrels, osprey, crow,
robins, geese and ducks made for an amazing breakfast full of wilderness.
day, the sun rose high in the sky. We paddled to our hearts’ content around the
beautiful waters of Shadow Mountain Lake.
Later, we headed the bow of our canoe toward the eastern shore. Sandi wanted to hike the east side of the
lake so we tied up and took a four mile hike along the magic of the wilderness.
as the day faded, we paddled southward toward our take-out. Not a boat on the
lake! Quiet! Serene! Lovely! What a gift
for us to sail away on placid waters teaming with birds, fish and vegetarian
wildlife! In our memories--delicious
eating by starlight, night sounds, birds, a vegetarian moose on his night
rounds and the very special joy we shared with the coming of autumn as we
paddled our ancient craft upon the magic of a high mountain lake.
summer—no sweeter than ever;
sunshiny woods all athrill;
grayling aleap in the river;
bighorn asleep on the hill.
great, big broad land way up yonder,
forests where silence has lease;
beauty that thrills me with wonder;
stillness that fills me with peace.”
strong life that never knows harness;
wilds where the caribou call;
freshness, the freedom, the farness—
How I’m stuck on it all. (Robert Service)
Excerpt from: How to Live a Life of Adventure:
The Art of Exploring the World by Frosty Wooldridge, due out in March 2011