Friday, August 4, 2017

Canoe and Canon
June 11, 2017, day 6 of my 45-day adventure:
Still not many mosquitoes along the Nation River, hauling my canoe up river, but a few no seams came out in the evening last night while walking around barefoot at camp. All the while I couldn’t figure out why my feet were itching so badly. Then I saw one of the little bastards; just a spec smaller than a grain of sand, but with a wallop of a bite. They’ll actually take out a minuscule hunk of flesh I guess. These tiny insects can become one of the biggest problems on a journey like this. If you can’t keep them off when you sleep you’ll wear down day by day when you already have the burning sun, icy water, long days of marching, lack of food, loneliness, and fear of getting hopelessly lost trying to pick you apart. 
     I feel rejuvenated though from my rest day and am anxious to get rolling toward the border, where some of the mountains don’t even have names. It’s overcast with a cool breeze this morning, perfect conditions if it stays this way, but not likely. This far north, very unlike Oregon where the sky will stay calm and clear for most the summer, the weather changes hour by hour. It can literally go from clear blue sky to thunder and pounding rain within a couple of hours. I always have to pay attention to the sky when I’m living out in the open.
     A person could probably survive out here for the summer with nothing more than a nap sack of gear eating fish and willow leaves, but there’d be little margin for error if things went south. To walk out would take a couple weeks. On a log raft you could probably get to Circle in a week, with a little luck that you didn’t get engulfed by a cut bank or log jam. It’s nice having a canoe and 12-gauge for insurance. I adore animals and try to carry enough food for the entire trip, but if I had to, I’d kill one to stay alive. The gun is like a canon, and when bears are around, I sleep better at night having it. When I’m exploring I like some safety in food, shelter, and mobility so I can spend more of the day traveling instead of surviving. So I carry as much in the canoe as I can.
     I wonder what Dad would think about this trip if he were still alive. I think about him a lot now. I get sad and have lost a little bit of direction now that he’s gone. Mom is great, but Dad knew things Mom doesn’t, and acted in ways she doesn’t. He was happy I finally bought a house, so he probably could have appreciated my trip more. He would have loved the fishing, since it was what he lived for. The house is fine, but it’s taking some getting used to. It’s a relief having a home to come back to. But in the back of my mind I don’t feel like I belong, living like that, cozy and too comfortable like; too goddamn sedentary and hemmed in. I’ve been on the move for so many years, working so many low-paying jobs and then quitting, trying to put together these trips into the wilderness, that I feel a little like I’m suffocating when I’m in a house, especially my own. I can’t even sleep on a bed anymore. I have to stick around more to make sure the mortgage gets paid.
     It’s a much bigger production leaving when you own a house. I’m not sure I can ever get used to that. It scares me so, not that I have a house to stay in, but that it will keep me from the natural world where I find my peace. I get great serenity in moving my body in nature. Quite frankly, my canoe feels more at home than my house. It gives me access to the wild places I couldn’t get to on foot. And my ratty, faded tent, where I can hear the thumping rain overhead, knowing I’m only millimeters from being soaked to the bone and cold, reminds me that I’m alive.






Thursday, July 27, 2017

Wilderness to Stay Sane

Was I completely mad, or was the rest of the world. Driving back from Dawson City to Cottage Grove, Oregon after having spent two months in the wilderness, with drivers hugging my rear bumper at 70 mph, you'd think I'd be ready to integrate back into society, take a shower, sleep on a level surface without rocks sticking me in the back, maybe eat a descent meal, and start gaining back those 17 pounds I lost. But somewhere around Kamloops I had a revelation. I didn't want to go home to my life of drudgery, working, eating, sleeping, staying in one place too long, slipping into the doldrums of modernity. No, I wanted to go back to the wilderness. But I couldn't. I didn't have money to get there, and I had an aging dog to take care of. I had to enter the shit storm of work and haste, people running here, doing that, always in a freaking hurry. That was what I loathed most about going back home, the hasty lives everyone led, and the noise of motor traffic needling my brain. I've understood for a long time, since I was a child, that I needed wilderness to make me happy. But now, driving dead-eyed since leaving Dawson City, catatonic as hell, and thinking about traipsing along a remote stream in the Ogilvie Range somewhere, I needed, with absolute certainty, big wilderness to keep from going crazy.