Autumn Paddle/Bike on the Pine: Oh Yeah!
My friend Chris and I went up north to the Baldwin trailer over this past weekend and had a doozy of a time.
He'd never been up there before. They live in Chicago and were wondering if there was a reasonably close way to get "up north" for them. Well, the Baldwin area seems to be fine so far.
We batched it. I got in first and set up camp and got a fire going and Chris found his way back into our winding 2track no problem. Instant relief from the big city!
Bacon'n'eggs in the morning then off to paddle the Pine! We planned to overnight on the river and stashed our bikes at the take-out. We pow-wowed at the put-in with DaveE, an Ann Arbor friend of ours who was also up north for a decompression getaway, then we were off. What gorgeous fall weather! (I note that we both have 15-yr-old Bridgestone MB1 mtbikes, no fancy suspension.)
(On our drive thru the small town we see signs saying "Save Our Jobs! Keep the Prison Open!" Yikes. What if there are unjust laws that are inflating the need for prisons? How many are imprisoned for minor infractions or baggies of backyard weed? Anyone can see that's nutty---except for those who've built jobs around it. The folks who live by prisons are just the tip of that iceberg. Never forget: chickens > home > roost.)
The section of the Pine just below the Peterson bridge is my favorite so far, by far. It wanders in a mini-Grand Canyon. Well, not so mini: a half mile across from ridge to ridge. There are Class 1 and 2 rapids sprinkled every 15 minutes down this 2 hour stretch of heaven. I could do it over and over again. In fact, I'm going to. I want to get the feel of it in my bones. (An ideal tandem boat for this river would be 16 feet with some rocker. I still don't understand how to take the sharp bends with logjams all that well---I think one needs mastery of the crossbow draw sorts of slicing moves.)
An hour downstream we passed the area I had long been hankering to hang out at. Beautiful beaches, dune, fishin' holes, cedar grove. We scoped it out further and it turns out one of the very few grandfathered cabins (in this Federal Park) was just uphill a ways. What a place. It has two creeks tumbling into the river on either side of the grove. We hiked in and saw a truck at the cabin. Oh well. It's all public land so we figured we'd chance a "ninja camp" and set up in the trees at the back side of the grove, then fish and start a fire in the well-used firepit. Then we started hearing the standard up north screaming and ah-ooo'ing. The drunk yahoos were warming up, so we ferried across the river and set up in the trees at the back of a lovely savannah over there. (I note that in this area you have to camp 1/4-mi back of the riverbank and not on any bluff. We were pushing it, but did haul all our stuff out of sight, which is the point of the rule---to give a wilderness experience to all the riverfolk.)
I went back across again and wet a line and in short order hooked a big rainbow from a high bank. I was hauling him up the shallow creek and into the air to my high bank when my rod snagged the trees and he shook free into the riffle and stuck there. I jumped down in and the fight commenced. Fish won.
We made a little bonfire and had cans of Dinty Moore and beer then hit the hay under the stars. (The screamin' went on for a couple hours. No one ever came down to the river or started a fire. I heard a generator at some point. Probably watchin' TV.) It dropped to 30F and frosted hard. First one of the year, I think. I watched a huge red Mars on and off thru the night as it made its way across the sky. I was just barely warm and almost tolerably comfy on the hard ground. I had 2 summer bags with nylon tarp tossed on top and old ensolite pad. A wider sleep area would somehow be good---one needs to dig a hip/butt divot but then when rolling onto belly the divot is no good. So I can't say I'm dialed-in yet. But I was fine and had a great starview all night---that is, I woke up occasionally but without too much regret.
I had a scary society idea during on our bonfire time. OK, the countryside is full of idle people getting drunk, drugged and pumped up on violent sports and music and screaming every chance they get. Our cities are full of the same. There's not much hope for anything, really, for millions of energetic Americans today, right? The jobs aren't coming back. They have no skills. The ones who do have jobs blow it all on expensive, violent machine toys and casinos and get just as crazy and are psychically idle. I'm sure that our leaders realize there is indeed something these folks could all be really good at doing: killing and violating defenseless people and taking their land and stuff for their bosses, as so many other populations of pumped-up hopeless people do worldwide. It's just another way of competing, right? I suspect that our own leaders aren't going to leave this "workforce" idle for much longer. Be prepared, eh?
(I also heard that the average US male waistline has recently grown from 34 to 38. But what's worse is the research showing that only 3% of Americans live in a basically healthy way---put "live within means" in there and you're probably down to 1%. What's going on? Actually, it HAS to be intended. We're going somewhere definite and someone is in charge and it isn't pretty.)
(PS: Maybe the American way of war is bifurcated: "sides" war against others and "war of all against all" for ourselves. Our interpersonal conflicts result in a civil war's amount of mayhem every year. This keeps us weak, victims of our egos and our leaders. It still seems worthwhile to remember that it doesn't take much to really get things going. Consider the religious basis to the Balkan Wars: it was Protestants against Catholics against Muslims, but if you asked most of the fighters about their faiths they wouldn't know the first thing: it was mainly borne of hyper-revved-up-energy and hopelessness. Supposed faith was used by leaders for their nationalism. So let's keep an eye on our own divides and realize that they don't have to be real for someone to exploit them.)
Next morning we had coffee on the high bluff overlooking the cedar grove and let loose with a few wake-up hoots'n'hollers of our own then paddled off. (The coffee-can twig-stove worked fine yet again.)
There are 2 tricky rapids but we figured em out nicely then commenced a splendid bike ride along the 5 miles of ridge back to the car.
Got back to town and had burgers'n'beer and sawdust shuffleboard at the Log Bar then retired to the trailer zone and the new picnic area down by the beaver pond for sunset. Ah, yes. Then grilled steak over a fire, with veggies in foil. Warmer night with heater in trailer.
I don't mind reiterating that we paid $1000 for our lovely birdseye maple paneled trailer (with blue enamal appliances) 10 years ago. And $1600 for our buildable vacation lot near lovely river and pond. One doesn't have to go nuts to get a slice o' heaven.
However, I *highly* recommend camping in America during weekdays in the "shoulder seasons" and not on weekends or during prime holiday/vacation times. That is, if one is bothered by screaming drunks and extreme night-time noise of all kinds.
Next day we did a big loop on bikes on 2tracks going south to the S. Br. of the P. M. Along the way we explored a side-route that ended up at a big old fence. It was lovely high-ground hardwoods. I saw there was an opening to one side so we checked it out. Sure enough the river flowed by down in a meadow below. We went to the pool and it was full of salmon and steelhead...and dozens of 12" trout along with dozens of 6" ones. It was a crystal clear aquarium of fish swooping here and there. Man, we got fishin' lust! Next time: bring poles on the ride! Of course, an hour later I realized once again why I'm not a real photojournalist: I almost always forget to use the camera at the best parts. So, no cool fish-pool pic.
Of course, as Chris and I discussed, something like sketching can often tell the truth of a scene better and more realistically than a photo. (He's a good sketcher and wants to start doing it again.)
This was the first time a pal had explored the extra-rustic territory around the trailer with me. I wondered how it would seem. Chris seemed to like it all just fine and declared it some of his favorite kind of offroad riding.
After another couple hours of beautiful trails, ridges and overlooks we were back at the trailer, had lunch and headed home. Very nice. We saw about a handful of people outside over the whole weekend. We'll take it! We were happy campers.