From the first wilderness story heard I had always dreamed of going where few venture. Rod or gun in hand (preferably both) paddling silently in a canoe through the northern waterways would often glide into my thoughts . Visions of bulling through the brush with pack, canoe, compass, and an old hand drawn map of hidden lakes slyly beckoned from the many corners of my mind. In my sleep I would sometimes hurt my elbow on the wall beside the bed setting the hook on a lake monster crushing an old red headed wooden surface lure. Consequently, as a kid I inhaled any section of the school library containing wilderness stories.
Everything I read seemed to nudge and warn me. “Danger” signs and red flags were common “pop-ups” before computer people people irritated the world. I came to the realization early on that the most abundant ingredient used to change dreams into reality was “Work”. Entry level-minimum wage work would not suffice. The river does not slow down for the beginners, the weak, timid, tired or lazy.
Work. Since the beginning of creation we have had work. I’m not talking about the ideology, appearance of, or just showing up at a job expecting more than the limited value they add in a paycheck. I define work as putting out energy to productively get something properly done. A wilderness adventure is very hard work and short-cuts on doing things the right way bite hard (note: check tent for holes and working zippers before packing into black fly and mosquito infested territory).
In canoeing terms there are paddlers and there are paddle dippers. A paddler intentionally puts the paddle into the water and exerts pressure on the paddle which propels the canoe in the direction intended (usually forward). A paddle dipper puts the paddle into the water and brings it along with the flow of the canoe without exerting pressure on the paddle and does nothing for the direction of the canoe. Successful paddle dippers pair themselves with a blissful and forgiving good paddler (note: there are no blissful and forgiving good paddlers in high waves or strong river currents). Nice walleye fillets. Someone worked hard to fillet out a walleye lunch on a wide canoe paddle. A fire will need quite a few dry sticks from downed dead wood properly tended for the right heat. Someone will batter and fry them over the fire. Someone will see that the dishes are washed and the fire is completely out before leaving camp (Note: the lazy tend to miss out on when the food is ready as they are off escaping some of the camp work (I’m sure it’s not very intentional…OK maybe a little). Work Worth the Dream: Three hidden lakes after the trails gave out. Waterways not meant for canoes so we walked and carried them through rapids, over bog and beaver dams; forging ahead until daylight threatened to leaves us to the rabid mosquitoes and glowing eyes in the black forest. There is another small lake ahead, we think we can tell by the opening in the woods just to the left of where the river seems to disappear into the wood (Note: there is a time to turn around and head back to camp. The rivers are barely passable and fairly risky for the experienced in the light).
Work is still the main ingredient but it’s my work as well as those whom I have ventured with. The amount of work put into the trip (packing individual meals with directions so anyone can cook them) pays forward big time when in the bush. I have outlasted a canoe, several packs, tents, and a couple cook sets. I am not sure it would be worth it if it was a job. It’s too hard of work before, during, after and the hours are too long for a job.
A wilderness fire crackling to the moaning of lobo timber wolves nearby seems to cut through the self protective layers of pretense I build up in front of the world. When I look into an evening campfire after a day in the wilderness, I often think about the other parts of my life that I might not work as hard at. Am I a paddle dipper in my marriage? Are there parts of my life showing a lazy streak? When I do public speaking, do I package my thoughts as well as our wilderness meals? Am I so productive at work that I am worth the pay and the company gets their fair share from my labor as well? How many more wilderness trips does this body of mine have in me? As the fire wanes so my body does with each trip but my mind and soul are more like a fire being fed more sticks as I have worked hard not just to know nature but the creator as well.
In Jesus day the religious leaders asked him a “work” question. “What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered, “the work God requires is this; to believe in the one He has sent”. I am a follower of Jesus and I add sticks to the fire of this relationship every day (don’t confuse this with being religious).
I have a belief about our culture and spiritual things…most of us are paddle dippers and are not willing to work at knowing our Creator. Truthfully, wilderness adventures run deep in me. I am traipsing through the painting of the Creator (and catching some big fish), but I want more. The more I know creation the more I want to know the creator. When life here is over I want more than a fish fry.
I know where I am going