Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fifteen Important Tips for Hiking Alone

Spending time alone is underrated. I am at the cabin - completely alone - not even a canine shares the space with me. A crackling fire warms my toes and a garnet colored glass of Cabernet Franc mellows my insides. As far as awesome goes, I gotta admit....this sits fairly high on the list.

And you'll never in a million years guess what's on TV. Smooth Jazz. Yes - the likes of Darren Rahn and Nils and Einstein Cloning serenade me in this blissful place. For the record, I've never heard the names of these artists in my life until tonight when I took the time to see who's crooning on DirectTV. And I dig it. A lot.

I spent plenty of time here this summer working and writing and reading but didn't take advantage of my surroundings. Sure, I ventured out on plenty of walks and channeled inspiration while gazing at Echo Lake, but I left the galavanting around town to the weekends when Mr. Musky joined me. Not so today. I decided that if my girlfriends weren't able to make it then I would get a little adventurous and obnoxious on my own.

A giant field guidebook provides bathroom reading entertainment around here, and I prefer its suggestions over the internet to find out-of-the-way hiking spots. Normally we hike on "interpretive trails" which means a wooden sign posted along the very well worn path provides an interesting science or history tidbit. I didn't want that today. I wanted to venture deep into the woods, not see another soul, soak in the silence and really feel alone. Here's what I learned. Call them Fifteen Important Tips for Hiking Alone.

1. When pulling onto a narrow dirt road that doesn't exist on most maps or on any Global Positioning System, do not assume you are alone in the world and drop your drawers to relieve yourself, because a truck of deer hunters might just amble by as you yank up your jeans all doe-eyed in disbelief. Wait to hike twenty feet onto the trail before commencing your business, for crying out loud.

2. Respect the fact that despite the lone truck that just meandered by with grinning men in the cab, you really are in a solitary place. Tell someone where you are. For example, leave a picture on Facebook of your wooded entry spot so a search party can find you should you miss the cocktail hour.

3. Wear orange. Understand that your field guidebook calls this "Decker Lake Hunter Hiking Trail." Question your judgment for hiking on a hunting trail during hunting season.

4. Carry on, and pull out the GPS device your husband bought you for Christmas to map your course, as Hansel and Gretel proved that breadcrumbs are fruitless. Then curse your husband because the batteries in the GPS device are dead. Don't slander yourself for forgetting to check before you left the cabin - flummox your husband. Who is approximately 360 miles away. Whatever. Gaze at the trail of possibilities before you, wondering how you'll feel about this experience an hour later.

5. Tell yourself that you are Henry David Thoreau and it is so cool to be alone in the woods. Take a picture of beautiful Renk's Spring since you will get nowhere close to Decker Lake by following the trail. Know that 90% of the time a hiking trail falsely advertises its proximity to an actual lake.

6. Become annoyed that the trail ends, and you have to backtrack. Berate yourself for idiotically NOT taking a picture of the trail map with the iPhone in your pocket. Huff and puff yourself back to the last trail map sign and take the picture already.

7. Pat yourself on the back that you were actually off trail when taking pictures of Renk's Spring. What a rebel! So stay off the trail, like a moron, and tell yourself you'll just pick it back up south of the spring.

8. Freak out, when off trail, your right foot disappears into a sink hole, and you have to roll up your pantleg as a result. Realize that you should not challenge Mother Nature so radically, and vow to find the trail sooner rather than later. Then start sweating through your three layers in the misting rain because you cannot find the trail, and you are officially lost. And alone. Scenes of Blair Witch Project and The Ring and The Watcher in the Woods invade your imagination. A giant eagle, or raven (Edgar Allen Poe, ugh) or Pterodactyl cries from its perch above and angrily flees to peck at eyeballs. Don't cry. Think about your Mommy. And how she makes everything bad disappear. Try not to obsess about how it would feel to be mistaken for a hunted animal with an arrow launched from a high powered bow searing your shoulder blade. Squash sounds of banjos playing Deliverance. Focus. Find the trail. Get over that your pants look like something you wore to high school without the necessary skinny pantleg ankle crease.

9. See the trail, drop to your knees and kiss it. Look to the right, and realize that's what the blasted map calls the "lowlands." Stick to the trail around the lowlands. Embrace the lowlands. Sit and bask in the eerie moor-like quality of the lowlands. Just ignore American Werewolf in London images that race across your brain.

10. Resist the urge to peek behind you based on the creepy silence. Take a deep breath and remember why you did this in the first place. To embrace the silence. To be alone in your thoughts. Have a snack. Hydrate. Bask in the message at the top left corner of your iPhone: No Service. How often do you see that? Wonder at God's creation. Pack up your stuff, and hit the trail home.

11. Let out a bloodcurdling scream when stumbling on the trail and remnants of a dead mammal fill your nostrils with stench. Human? Four legged? Remember that it is wolf season for the first time ever in Wisconsin. Something huge rustles in the brush nearby. Heart racing, faint from relief when you see the unmistakable white fluff of a deer's butt bounding through the woods.

12. Screw it. Run like hell for the car. Ditch the trail and double back via the Decker Lake Fire Trail, which even the locals have never heard of. Cry again for Mommy when the rain picks up.

13. A shotgun blasts behind you. You twist your ankle in a muddy pothole. GET UP! RUN FASTER!

Mommy, Mommy!

Where is that blasted car? Am I going in the correct direction? Mommy, mommy, MOMMY!!!

Aaahhhh. Blessed Mother of German Engineering.

14. Abandon all propriety and change into dry clothes without meandering back into the horror laden trail, regardless of which deer or wolf or turkey hunter sees you. Free show for all. Comb your hair out and don a cute, dry pink hat belonging to your daughter. Drive to the closest bar and order life sustaining refreshments.

15. Resolve that it is fun to venture into the woods by yourself, and vow to do it all over again tomorrow. On an interpretive trail, very well trodden.

Missing some girls I know....


Friday, October 12, 2012


Once upon a time, three boys went musky hunting for a week in the stunning Northwoods of Wisconsin when the brilliant fall colors reflected their beauty on the glassy surface of the lake.

Two caught fish.

The other did not.

After a few days, one caught some old line on his lure and pulled it in by hand to find a beastly, lethargic small mouth bass on the end with a rusty hook in its mouth.

The fish thanked Moby Mike for saving his life and happily swam away.

Desperate to catch a fish of his own, the third boy embarked on a crusade in the woods to call upon the fishing gods for help. While wandering aimlessly on his quest, he encountered a massive grizzly bear and a hairy man in acid wash jeans and a jacket made out of dead animal skins.

The legendary Grizzly Adams ate the boy and didn't give him back, until his wife and children threatened to replace the bear with a desperately lonely, whiney, needy, pain-in-the-butt drooling yellow lab. Grizzly Adams recognized the canine for the diva that he is and immediately returned the boy to his family.

The waitress at the local bar did a triple take and almost didn't accept the boy's ID. And the children?

They yelled and moaned and gnashed their teeth. His son cried out: "A SPOON! A SPOON! SOMEBODY GIVE ME A SPOON!"

"Why do you need a spoon, son?"


So the third boy reluctantly shaved his face and returned to the life of a respectable father, husband and businessman.

But he dreams of muskies and bears at night.

The end.