The Upper

Last Friday morning at 12:00 AM I got up and headed for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Why, you ask, would you get up at midnight to start an 8 hour drive. Well let me tell you. The route takes me through northwestern Indiana, around Chicago, past Milwaukee and Green Bay. The middle of the night is the only time this is even slightly bearable. And I get there just after sunrise, so I have a whole day to enjoy.

I drive right past all of the toll booths, and pay on line when I get home. That is fun in its own defiant little way. There was a lot of construction and truck traffic, so it was still kind of grueling. But there I was Friday morning, in the middle of nowhere, with no one around. I love that.

I made a nice camp in a spot I have been many times. I first started going to Stephenson around 35 years ago. I have gone there for deer hunting, waterfowling, grouse and woodcock hunting, and looking for mushrooms. Those are the things people do in the Upper. The U.P. They also bear hunt, snowmobile, and probably ice fish. That is a silly sport. I have killed a lot of deer there, as well as many ducks and geese. People that don’t hunt call it “catching a deer” or whatever.

I spent my day walking little loops through the woods. A mile or two at  a time. It is tough walking. This area is logged continuously. They cut almost everything, and leave all of the limbs and brush where it falls. They used to pile it up, but no longer. So once an area is cut, it is almost impossible to walk through for ten years or more. And by the time the brush rots away, the Aspen are so thick you can barely move through them anyway. There are bears and wolves in this area too. Exciting.

On a clear night the stars are down to the tree tops. I once watched a pre-dawn meteor shower there in November. You could hear the meteors zip across the frigid sky.

At dusk, as I sat by my fire, I could hear the bear hunters dragging the forest roads. They do this, and come back later to look for tracks where a bear has crossed the road. When they  find a track they let the dogs go on the track. They are a noisy bunch.

The climate has changed a lot in 35 years. The first week of October meant it had frozen, killing the bugs, and bringing on the full changing of the leaves. But no longer. While the colors where amazing, there are still a lot of green trees, and far more leaves still on  than off.

Just after dark the first night, I heard an animal call far off in the swamp. I didn’t know what it was. Then there was an answer, very near. Still no idea. Well, one idea I was having. Holy crap, what was that? Or something like that. But I was sitting there with loaded guns, a big fire, and my Kindle. Being manly.

I eventually got into my little, flimsy, nylon tent, and went to sleep. On my battery powered blow up mattress. The Sasquatches yelled at each other again. And again. Now I tried to rationalize that it was a screech owl, or wolves. But I have heard them, and I have never heard this before. Not a good night’s sleep. But dawn fixes all of that, and I started another day in the north woods. One of my chores Saturday was to go to Cedar River and buy more firewood. You see, I burned about a cord Friday night while I was trembling in the dark, freaking out about all of the big foots around me. Or big feet. Whatever.

I really never saw any woodcock or grouse at all. I saw some French Canadians who were hunting mushrooms. One asked me if I was hunting. I said no, I am walking in the woods with a gun. I should have told him I was waiting for a bus. That is what Paul would have said.

I don’t care about the birds, or lack thereof. That is not why I am there. It is about meditating on the simple art of existing. Of being. It is about purging the constant drive to produce and consume, of striving to turn the wheel. After 60 years, I am really sick of that.

It worked. Again. except it is always temporary. I left Sunday with a clear head, driving back into the fray. I had planned to stay until Monday, but I got a little lonely. I spent Monday with my retired wife. We boated, and went to the nursery to bring home a new tree.

I will report that I saw two Golden Eagles, up very close, and one Bald eagle, also very close. Close because they were on the side of G12, eating roadkill deer. Eagles are scavengers, despite their regal reputation, and not extremely efficient at hunting. Maybe opportunists is kinder. Roadkill is much easier. I also saw a lot of turkeys, deer, Sand Hill Cranes, and ducks and geese.

I love the U.P., and the places like it I have been, that bring a different perspective to my common Midwestern life and times. The walking in that terrain is getting hard, and this may have been the last time for this specific adventure. Or maybe I am just getting really afraid of Sasquatches?