Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Unexpected

     Let's face it, the unexpected is always expected.  What it actually turns out to be will no doubt catch me with my pants down.  Always does, fact of life.  In this case, a couple of mature sixty foot aspens laid across the Woodtick trail.  Thirty feet of trunk on one side, thirty feet of branches on the other.
     We had another hammering storm up north.  Four or five inches of rain layered on top of an already flooded land.  Strong, gusty, tree whipping winds.  Deadman has gained a dozen acres of surface area and the outhouse hole has become an unhealthy cistern.  Almost makes a man want to flush when he's done with his business.  My best guess is the water table now lies two feet below ground level.  Two hundred miles to the southwest the land is in drought.  Well it was until the last week.  Nine inches of rain with more on the way sure does pump up the ground water.
     The forestry roads turned out to be even more of a challenge than last year and last year's had us backtracking now and then.  Mud holes here, two foot deep, engine wetting puddles there, downhills looking like dry stream beds filled with rock and boulder.  Driving into some of the lakes was a four mile an hour creep.  Scary.  None of us had a problem with leaving before the sun set.  Been stuck in the blackness of the night woods before and have no great desire to do it again.
     On the upside I only saw five ticks all week.  Two on the truck, one on El Dean's neck, one on my old orange sweat shirt.  Of course the last was a deer tick partially imbedded in my knee.  Little bastard.  Fly in the ointment.  Chances are slim for a reoccurrence of lyme disease but I'll pay attention for the next month.
    The week over, my body is tired.  Old gray mare syndrome.  No complaints except my butt which feels pinched, abraded and crushed after thirty hours on the canoe's cane seat.  You'd think a mature retired guy like me would be used to sitting and I am.  Maybe it's 'cause I don't use a seat back or cushion.  Or possibly the way the ash frame of the seat seems to line up nicely with every bone in my backside.  Don't know if I'd ever been bruised from sitting but I am now.
     Once again it was a whirlwind, good time that was over almost as soon as it started.  Four days just isn't enough time for a fishing trip.  We're on the run from the arrival of the Deans till they pack it up on Saturday.  Manic.  I recall the Canada trips with my son Allan.  How each was longer than a week and three were a full two weeks.  Enough time to slow down and putz.  It's the doing nothing that rejuvenates.  Oh well, as the saying of the day goes 'it is what it is.'  And why should a retired man need rejuvenation?
     The aspens spanning the trail were a godsend.  Not that the fishing was bad but we expected good fishing, not trees.  And they were a challenge.  How to move a ton of wood tangled among brush and hundred foot pines?  Had I been a savvy… let's just say my learning curve ticked one notch higher and on future trips into the woods, over marginal roads, after a storm I will pack the chain saw.  As it was we began by snapping off branches to lessen the load before trying to manually push and drag the trunks off the trail.  Like whistling in the dark.  Pointless.
     Fortunately L. Dean had a heavy duty towing strap in the back of his truck.  The upper tree moved easily.  We were absolutely sure it would but kept a respectful distance.  In the back of my mind I could clearly see the bullwhip effect of twenty feet of yellow strap tipped with a half pound steel hook.  Being the gentleman that I am I placed my body directly behind El Dean.  After all, I knew the way to the hospital.  Seemed R. Dean had done a good job with the strap.  The Explorer tugged the top tree till it would move no more and the truck began to do a sideways dance.  The four of us finished the job.  Good enough.
     The lower aspen was a tough nut.  Pinned in place by the upper she just didn't want to move enough to let us pass.  Long story short we escaped thanks to being on high ground in a saturated forest with no more damage than a hole in the seat of L. Dean's rain pants.  War wound.
     I showed up last Sunday with cleaning on my mind.  German-Swede nature I guess and didn't want the Iowa boys to tsk-tsk my house keeping.  Pines are pollenating and they strew their yellow powder far and wide.  'Specially on the cabin's porch.  Come June everything out there is coated in the saffron colored stuff that gets me honking and coughing.  Throw in the accumulation of winter blown dust and dirt and the porch is a mess requiring five buckets of warm soap and water to dent.  Hands and knees, city boy.  But in an hour or two it's done.  Standing tall for a few hours till more pollen comes visiting.
     In some ways the best part of the week is Monday.  Work to be done for sure but with time to spare for reading and listening to bird song.  Truth was - and is - another day would have been nice to do a full clean up.  The building is what I'd call middle-aged.  Has a patina but is as sound as day one.  Maintenance, pure and simple.  Seems I recall something to that effect in Kesey's novel "Sometimes a Great Notion."
     Anyhow, the gang showed up pretty much when they said they would and I was as ready as I was.  The canoe trailer was modified to make it idiot proof.  Gotta do those things when there's time to think it over before getting out the tools.  Won't go into detail but the rig worked almost as good as store bought.  Or maybe we were lucky.  Since nothing came close to happening I'm leaning towards a job well done.
     Canoes were strapped on and ready to go.  Rods were strung and all of the gear loaded.  Yeah, I was ready.  I suppose the Deans were hot to trot from the moment they drove in but I figured a relaxed attitude was the way to go.  They came, they strung, we cracked a beer and waited for the food to warm.  This was the year of the crock pot.  Rather than cook over a fire we were dumping our meal in the pot after breakfast, setting the pot on low and dinner was ready when we returned in the evening.  Slick.  Not exactly the way the Daniel Boone did it but if he'd had electricity….
     Dinner done, dishes washed - damn but we were civilized - we hit the road and drove for all of nine minutes to a fair to middling lake.  Let's just say fishing was slow.  But we knew it would get better over the next few days.  Had to.
     Just in case, I had fourteen lakes up my sleeve, even wrote them down.  Couldn't do them all in three days, I knew that.  But I did know mother nature would shorten the list.  Can't buck the big waves in a canoe.  I suppose we could but a fair chance of a dunking takes the edge off a good time.  When the wind's up I look for a protected launch and shore.  A strong breeze and I run carefully down the list, assess 'em all, then go with my gut.  Sometimes it even works.  I guess thirty-four years on the local water is my ace in the hole.
     Truth is, out of the fourteen lakes, seven of them were only on the 'maybe someday' list.  All the others were tried and true.  Like that means anything.  It's a crapshoot plain and simple.  I've been skunked on the best of lakes and sometimes hammered 'em when everything seemed wrong.  On that first night I wasn't expecting much and wasn't disappointed.  A sign of things to come?  I hoped not.

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