Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Isle Royale Intro
People who know about the trip and read here ask "Why haven't you written about it?" There are many reasons for that. The main one is that I haven't really been altogether sure what to say about it. It was hard. Very hard. My hiking companion said one day on the trail "It wouldn't be a Boy Scout High Adventure if it wasn't challenging. And it isn't challenging if you are sure you can survive it." I am not certain that is really quite the level of challenge the Boy Scouts of American are after in their High Adventure program, but it was encouraging and inspiring at the time. The backpacking was hard. I did not train for the trip adequately for a number of reasons, some my fault and some beyond my control, not the least of which was bronchitis a few weeks before the trip with a very bad and lingering cough. The Boy Scouts that I was traveling with were older teens and stronger and faster than those that I backpacked with on the Kentucky trip. For some reason, I spent most of two of the days nauseous. There were horrendous amounts of mosquitoes and flies determined enough to bite through wool socks. I fell not once but twice on the last day of backpacking, and just after my last mile of the 50, some sort of pain set into my left knee that made it nearly impossible for me to walk. Aside from that, it was perfect. It was the most beautiful place I have ever been. The landscape was unspoiled and stunningly beautiful. We travelled through classic ecosystem types I had only read about before. I saw wildflowers I had only seen in pictures. There were ferns and aspen and birch. We saw moose and heard loons. It rained and I love to sleep outdoors in a tent in the rain. But it was hard. It was so hard that I almost didn't know what to say about it, almost didn't want to force myself to relive it. Then I read something in the last Patagonia catalog about rock climbing. It said "It doesn't have to be fun to be fun." Well, that about sums it up. It was NOT always fun in the usual sense of lightness and pleasantry. Though the boys and their humor certainly made for a wonderfully great deal of that too. But it was fun in the strange and complicated sense of a challenge that you rise to, a goal that you achieve, work that has purpose and meaning. And it WAS the most beautiful place I have ever been.