There are so many reasons in life to be grateful. One of them that gave me great joy on this trip was that there were no ticks. Yep, that’s right, no ticks, specifically deer ticks. Ticks that could latch onto me in indiscreet places on my scalp, behind my ears, on my back, anywhere that they could sink their nasty little blood sucking fangs into. And ticks that could give me lyme disease.
This truly changed the entire experience. I could go without a hat if I chose. I didn’t have to be constantly checking every time I felt a little tickle. I could brush up against an overhead branch, or walk through overgrown brush and not have to worry about having a tick latching on. Over and over I was grateful for this!
Upon deciding to come to Isle Royale I decided to quarantine strictly to ensure there was no risk of developing Covid while on the island. Mike always follows a strict quarantine, but I had been going out to stores, etc. (with a mask) periodically. It was well worth the time spent at home as there were just no concerns. We had limited contact with other humans on the island, and all were at a distance. The rangers also told us that there had been no cases on the island; I guess other visitors also decided it wouldn’t been a real cool place to get sick, especially when the only way off the island was via a seaplane – and how unfair (I think) to expect a pilot to have to do that! It was a great respite!
This was another big day. I decided to put on a clean shirt AND clean pants. Seriously. Both in the same day. As I was getting ready for my coffee though I noticed that I was wearing my shorts backwards. And inside out too. Very stylish, I thought. And that was that.
When I was in eighth grade my cousin Karen and I did a 4-H project called “The Great Outdoors.” It was during this that I learned many many different kind of trees and I still know most of those today. I discovered the sycamore tree then and it still my favorite today. And I believe this is what spurred my love of trees. The simplest things can touch and change us, without us even knowing it is happening.
I read a book a while back “The Hidden Life of Trees.” It can be a bit technical but it has only caused me to love trees even more as I’ve come to understand they are living nurturing beings. I think if only we could live like trees, our world would be a better place. If you’d like the cliff notes on this book, take a quick read! I think you’ll be surprised!!! https://watsonadventures.com/blog/fun-stuff/10-amazing-secrets-from-the-hidden-life-of-trees/. And pay attention to #10 :).
The Isle Royale forest had a significant number of coniferous trees – hemlock, fir, and spruce. Also, more paper birch than I’ve ever seen in my life, many of them fallen, with their bark remaining intact and laid out like rolled up sheets of cardboard. I thought this would be great kindling for a fire, remembering Gerry. And then the (quaking) aspen, whose leaves make a rustling sound when the wind blows, with the striking silhouette of the round leaves against the sky. Aspen, by the way, are the most widely distributed tree species in all of North America. Betcha didn’t know that! :). I saw only one small oak, which was weird (where was its mama? Perhaps the acorn was carried in by a squirrel?). But underneath it all, throughout the forest, I knew there was this underground web and the trees were looking out for each other, communicating with each other, perhaps whispering about us. I wondered what they were saying . . .
It would be cooler today and we were only hiking about eight miles. I had been really sore when I laid down last night but woke up feeling good once again. And I was certain it would be an easy day. There were the usual planks though. So many planks!
We would be tracing back on part of the trail from yesterday, including a lengthy plank over a fairly large body of water. When we had approached the plank the day before, we noted a message left by a kind hiker. “Bad Spot! Bees Under Bridge! About 2/3 the way across. Where the grass starts. Wear pants.” And then . . . “No Joke.” Oh GREAT.
I continued to be nervous on planks, with my nervousness level coinciding with how deep the water was underneath. And this was deep. And now I had to worry about bees. I started slowly and stubbornly, talking to myself. “I am just going to walk my own pace. I am not going to get scared. If they attack me I am just going to ignore them. I am not going to fall in this water.” And once again, I was grateful I was not attacked by bees and I did not fall off the plank.
So we passed over this plank on the way back; I was again lagging behind Mike, and then I heard him whispering. Lo and behold, there was a moose in the water, right by the bridge! A cow! We stood and watched her for a long time, from the trees (and I made sure to be very near a big tree, just in case), but she seemed oblivious to us. I expected her to at least raise her head and look our way but she was more intent in looking across the water toward the trees on the other side. Then she started climbing out of the water and we saw the calf on the other side, its long legs blending with the trees. Mamas and their babies. There is nothing so touching to me, how mothers just intuitively look out for their babies.
We waited until she had moved on and then quickly crossed the bridge, barely thinking about the bees.
We were a bit further down the trail when we met another hiker, who also spoke in hushed tones. “There are two moose up there! About 20 feet ahead, lying in the woods on the left. They crossed the path right in front of me.” I got a shot of adrenalin and moved forward cautiously. I could only see one, and it blended cohesively with the forest. Without the hiker’s alert we would have never seen them. Ahhh nature, and how it all works together.
We had elected to hike back to Rock Harbor and spend the next two nights there. While I felt good when we took off, as the day progressed I lost my energy once again. I struggled with this a lot and when I would get tired, it seemed the destination always outdistanced me. I would think it was just an hour away, and then would discover it was not. And reminded myself frequently to not focus on getting there, but to enjoy the journey, enjoy the moment, enjoy the blue skies, how the thimbleberries clung to their stems, the flowers that reached toward the sun, the white birch, all of it. And embracing the peace of nature, where it all flows and you can just be.
We arrived at Rock Harbor to a slightly higher population of other humans. Decided to stay in a shelter so we wouldn’t have to deal with varmints taking our “stuff” but I also reminded myself that we were the intruders in their home, and I had no reason to find any fault with them.
I had adapted to sleeping on the ground or the hard floors of the shelters. I use a body pillow at home and am accustomed to laying half on my stomach, half on my side. I replaced this body pillow with my bag that held my extra clothes, my first aid kit, and my extra food, including my little beers. As my food dwindled though, my sleeping prop got smaller. It’s crazy how you wedge all these things under you just to get a decent’s night sleep. Nevertheless, I often woke during the night and I would be cattywompous, completely off my mat (which is one of the wider mats at 24″ wide) lying on the hard ground or floor. It made me grateful when I got to sleep on a real mattress that was soft and molded to my body with real sheets that smelled like Downy and a real pillow and a real comforter. Yeah.
Another beautiful day in nature.