Wednesday, June 12, 2019

How You Get There Matters

I've been reading more Sigurd Olson again.  This time, a collection of articles and speeches that he wrote over 50 years starting with his days as a canoe guide in the Quetico and Boundary Waters.  Instrumental in the passing of the Wilderness Act that set aside wild lands for preservation, Sigurd argued that how one got into the wilderness mattered.  Often, at least recently, people think that the restriction on using mechanical means was put in as a way of limiting trail damage.  But, it was included in the act because one's experience of wild places (and others that might be there) is directly related to how one got to that spot in the first place.
"Travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute; pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois; paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature."
- Pierre Trudeau, the former Canadian Prime Minister.  As a teenager in 1944, he paddled from Montreal to Hudson Bay.

The idea of course isn't that you have to toil endlessly to make the trip worthwhile.  It's more that you need to give yourself time to blend in, time to have the experience, time to let the other stuff that doesn't matter drift to the background.  I saw a documentary that included Yvon Chounaird.  When asked about the current guided climbing scene on Mt. Everest, he replied about how in the old days one walked in, climbed, and walked out, and the experience changed you. Nowadays they are flown in, guided and catered to. They're assholes going in, and they're assholes coming out.

It is a spectacular day of sun and comfortable temperature with a low humidity and only a whiff of air movement.  I set out at high tide from the old ferry landing and head up river following the shaded east shoreline.  Only a couple of motorboats pass by and I know that they do not notice the Coopers Hawk or hear the songbirds and Mourning Doves that are back in the forest. 

It takes an hour to reach the Elf Forest, a meandering channel that drains the surrounding hills.  It goes in off of the channel only about a 1/3 of a mile, but the scenery is well worth the side trip. At the second bend I flush a white tail deer.  I don't see it, but I here the rhythm of its evasive leaps as it moves farther off into the marsh.  There is a bumper crop of honeysuckle spreading its scent throughout the area.  Yellow irises are everywhere and the shorter less common purple irises are also in bloom.
I continue up the channel seeing no one until I reach the top of the island.  From there, I cross the river and follow the west shoreline with diversions to the other islands as I head back down river.

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