Keep Your Balance

I fell. I lost my balance, stumbled and fell. Perhaps it was the 80 pound back pack I was carrying shifted as I stepped over a big rock onto a smaller round rock. Perhaps the stack of dry boulders beside the white water river was not a very safe place to walk, even though it was the only possible place to walk. Realistically, I was still too weak after being sick. After 67 trips during my life through this wilderness area, I miscalculated my actual abilities for our first days portages. I fell four times.

To put a pack or canoe or both on and portage overland requires balance. I had somehow lost my fine-tuned sense of balance without knowing it. A fall with 80 pounds on ones back and shoulders could wreck a canoe, break open food bags, crush the cooking equipment or just break ones bones. I have helped get people out of the wilderness for immediate emergency surgery from falling. I was fortunate, this time. The campsite food and equipment was fortunate as well. We made camp early. For me. In 67 trips, stopping to camp early for me, was a first.

Quite a climb for a great view. A rock the size of a city block and just as high..

Losing one’s balance is more than humbling. It puts everyone else at risk.

I share this fail of mine for more than one reason. Balance is an important ingredient of every area of life; be it mental, physical social or spiritual. I’m quite sure in our honest moments we know where we fall short. I wish I had been more honest with myself before tackling this series of very hard portages.

A nice evening campsite view.

I suppose there are many conclusions one could draw from my experience. I have many. Reality is sometimes quite different than perception. My physical strength, stamina, balance and ability to overcome all obstacles had taken a fork in the road from reality. This makes me wonder about my perception in other areas of life.

When the water is calm, I am invincible. When the trail is smooth and flat, I can carry a heavy pack and canoe over a short portage. When my perceptions line up with circumstance, I’m really okay in my little corner.

Walking the rocks is the portage. Balance and strong ankles required.

I used this old picture to show a portage consisting of stepping on the rocks. With a heavy pack or canoe one needs balance which requires strength from the feet up. I have seen people in the wilderness trying to portage with flip flops on their feet (“I’ll be fine”). It’s possible. That’s like trying to navigate life and eternity without God. I don’t know of many careers where flip flops are acceptable; beach bums and politicians comes to mind (did I just say that?)

Sometimes the skies weep. Sometimes they just dance and twirl colors while the rest of nature stills in reflection

I’m just thankful. The portage trail. Life. The good, bad, hard rocks, falls, fails and good times have been much like life for me. I have lost some strength and balance here and there. Recharging is longer and less. But, I have stories and friendships that touch eternity. You are a part dear reader. I wish everyone could experience a wilderness trip within your balance ability.

I also wish everyone could experience balance for every portage in life including the last final one into eternity.

My brother putting a canoe and pack down after a rough portage

Keep your balance…Gary

Published by Gary Fultz

Outdoors Man, Hunter, Fisherman, Guide, Writer / Author, Photographer, Public Speaker, Musician, Song Writer, Story Teller, Follower Of Jesus. Love God and family and total strangers

90 thoughts on “Keep Your Balance

    1. I have been taking walks through the woods and not using the trails. Stepping over logs and skirting brush clumps has been some good therapy for picking up my feet. I guess I’m trying to stay younger longer

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hey Gary
    Very inspiring post!
    I agree with you – when we fall, it’s always a humbling experience and a reminder to check ourselves and also check in with GOD to find out what’s going on…

    And I never knew which profession I could choose if I ever wanted to wear only flip-flops 🩴 🩴 thanks for that teaching 😂😂
    Glad to hear you are well!!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes, humbling Eva. Very humbling. And, don’t get me going on flip flops. Some people insist on their ability to walk anywhere with them as their only footwear in the wilderness. Bugs really like those ankles, there is no ankle support and they slip on rocks. I know someone who tried to cross a swamp sinking a foot into the muck. He lost one. one would need to “drain the swamp” to make it safe for the flip flop people.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful pictures!!!! My theological
    Interpretation of media professor opened his one lecture with a picture of a plane and asked, “which wing do you want to fall off?” The answer is neither. He processed to say, “balance is a myth and life is full of tension and we navigate tension more than we seek balance.
    As the plane needs tension to stay in the air so we need tension to help us navigate divine sovereignty and human responsibility.” I appreciate you and your humble heart so very much, Gary! I love your heart for Jesus and His Creation!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. So true Mandy. I agree with David on your comment. You could make a post on that!
      I actually lacked the strength in the core of my body as well as my legs to walk and stay upright over the rocks and climbing up the trail. One of the trails climbs treetop height and winds back down. the impassable river looks small below. My feet were not quick enough to move them where they needed to be for stability.
      If I were a plane both wings would have fallen off.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Gary, you are the absolute best and Nathan and I would love to have an opportunity to meet y’all before heaven!!! Praise God for helping you and intervening and that you weren’t seriously wounded and that all your appendages are still attached and didn’t fall off!!! You are such an inspiration to me, Gary! Can’t wait to hear more stories and see more pictures!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. That would be very fun Mandy. If you ever get this way, I am building a small 12×16 rustic cabin in the woods for guests. I only have the floor on and the wall studs up. rafters are next and then windows, doors and siding. It will be winter before I am done though (too many other projects on the burner). You would be very welcome and the lake is 1/4 mile down the road. I have 2 ATV’s as well. We are also near Itasca state park where the Mississippi headwaters begins. People vacation here.

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    3. The seat back is nice as it can be adjusted to lean way forward for paddling and we also use it in camp as there are no chairs in the wilderness. Sitting on a log or a rock it gives some comfort and back support. in a pinch it can be folded for a pillow base or unfolded for extra comfort on a rock or root in the tent. it’s also lightweight for portaging.
      That being said I rarely use mine but my friend that I canoe with uses his all the time and then I wish I had brought mine. Canoeing is hard on the back when you go all day.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yep in spiritual issues and growing in maturity, BALANCE is also key. Seen many people fall off the horse both ways. Jesus the most balanced person/theologian ever! Thanks for sharing the lesson learned, Gary.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Good point Erroll. The little that was written about Jesus when he was young refers to being balanced mentally, physically, spiritually and socially.
      “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Gary, I really appreciate your honesty and introspection, no criticism coming from this end, that is for sure. And I know the lure that you speak of, and what draws you back, again and again. Modification is not the same as abandonment, but you’ll figure it out. I do know this, I envy the beauty that you witness and the peace and tranquillity of fewer distractions. I can still chase my grandchildren, but now a deliberate tad slower than I used to before. Keeps me from catching them, but that’s not the real goal. Amazing pictures! God’s continued blessings on you and yours!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Bruce, you know me well. There are all kinds of ways to see some of the wilderness by modifying the trip. One is to go where there are no portages. And yes, the allure will bring me back again and again. My body still responds well to physical exercise. That being said, I can catch my grandkids but I might need a couple of recovery days afterwards. You have 10 years on me so you are doing well. I knew a guy who still went into the wilderness at 90 years old. He had good friends and made his own ultra light canoe (about 30 pounds), and didn’t go far but he was there.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh man. Make sure the line isn’t rotten when you take it out. I did that with my dad’s old, but new rod and reel in his closet. I l had my grandson use it. To this day he believes he tangled with a large fish because it broke his line.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s a great way to look at balance. Isn’t it funny how in God’s plan we can learn to get better at spiritual balance just about the time we are losing our footing now and then physically. Wonderful photos and so glad you made it through okay.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks Pete. I am discovering through the comments how many ways one can look at “balance'”
      A high wire walker is said to have tremendous balance. we want a balanced life. We want a balanced home budget (with no debt) and be able to plan retirement. Ministry balance. job and home front balance.
      I just want to portage without falling. I do wish it was more natural to automatically trust God more when our footing fails.
      Spiritually speaking, sin by it’s very nature, is always hanging on the side of our life’s canoe. Grace is not a counter balance (there’s a post for you). People use good works as a counter balance while God is saying “How’s that working out for you? Come unto me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (balance?)”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for such a humble and honest post, Gary. Balance is indeed important and can often be quite elusive. I’m glad you weren’t injured physically. Just the other day, when I was struggling with balance issues, God said to me, “David, your pride is not more important than the mission.” This isn’t meant to be a sermon for you, Gary, I’m just saying what happened to me. God Bless.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Don’t worry David, I got 6 days of sermons (subtle and not so subtle) from the guys with me (I wouldn’t trade them for anyone else though). You are right about balance being elusive. For me, I do not stop and figure out the reason behind imbalance. When I do I want a different opinion so I won’t have to work at fixing it.
      Thanks on the photo comment. Sometimes I want to write a comment or describe a scene for context, then I think “Let the viewers mind and imagination go wild here without any guidance from me” I vacillate on those things.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am glad that you are okay! A fall is a scary thing. The pictures are wonderful! I am glad that God is there with us to help us balance our lives. His constant guidance and support make the impossible possible.

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    1. Thanks so much Linda.
      More scary than I though it could be Linda. I think if I was naïve about all the things that can happen and how hard it is to get an injured person out of the wilderness, I would have not had that instant jolt of fear as I was going down.
      My wife and I often talk about how much God has made so many of our impossible life situations possible through the years. It’s so good to have that kind of “balance” in our lives.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My husband and I have had those same kind of conversations. When we look back at a given situation, we sometimes do not know how we made it through. It dawns on us that we were not alone. God was there every step of the way. I do know that there is so much in life that we will never understand. Knowing that God is with us is the best way to ‘balance’ all the unknowns, all the scary moments, all the ‘falls’. I do not know what people do without faith. I pray for them. That is why it is so important that we share our faith with as many people as possible.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wonderful testimony Linda. Everyone needs God. When the object of life’s faith is ourselves, our life’s canoe is quite tippy. When the storms hit that are bigger than us, we end up adrift hanging on and drifting where the wind blows.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I hope you’re okay, Gary; that’s the most important thing. You know, I think of life as one giant flip flop (how I hate those things!). Wearing them is an accident waiting to happen and we need to watch our step and balance every minute. I’ve fallen too many times to even own a pair of flip flops and my heart is in my throat whenever I see my grand kids running around in those fool things! As I just wrote to a fellow blogging friend, as long as we keep on truckin’ with God riding shotgun, we’ll maintain our balance. It’ll be okay.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A great way to put it Nancy. My son and his wife led a trip for couples into the wilderness (beginners trip). One gal wanted to just have bare feet…she was so glad he insisted on good boots after being there. Flip flops are good for protection from sun-burning the bottom of one’s feet while lying in the sun.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 😂 Bare feet? Inside the house, sure, but trekking through the wilderness? 😳 I stepped on a wasp while walking barefoot in my own backyard. Never again!
        Flip flops are also good for swatting flies and make excellent door stoppers. That’s about it.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks Gary for this inspiring post and pictures. It vicariously swept me along with you on your journey with each precarious stumble, spectacular sunset, and friends camaraderie.

    “The portage trail. Life. The good, bad, hard rocks, falls, fails and good times have been much like life for me. I have lost some strength and balance here and there. Recharging is longer and less. But, I have stories and friendships that touch eternity.”

    Amen brother! I’m looking forward to my life’s final portage where together we’ll share a perfectly balanced eternity together forever with our Guide who has faithfully been with us on every journey we’ve taken through this world’s wilderness.

    Be blessed brother!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You sure get it Fred. You know the terrain I speak of and more. Someday we will find out how much the Lord propped us up here and there through life….and we thought we were good all this time. Yep, that someday doing a final portage will be quite the scene as we break through to the undercover of this life hiding eternities shoreline.

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  10. I’m thinking a different area would help us all Barb. I have always looked at the most vulnerable member (my evaluation) and made sure the trip was not too much. Usually this works. I was just so blind-sided that I didn’t have myself in that category.

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  11. Dear Gary, How blessed you are to be able to venture into the physical wilderness (a reminder of the world’s condition.) Regular terrain is the only one I can maneuver at this age. At this stage we are continually reminded to “keep moving” – but “don’t fall.” Both are detrimental to our physical and spiritual life. Each require faith in the constant presence of our heavenly Father strengthening, leading, and upholding us with His righteous right hand. Praying for your safety and for those who are there from our church. Blessings for your ministry.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your insight and your prayers Francis. I hope the guys at your church have a great trip in the wilderness. The wildness of that kind of country is harsh and so beautiful it’s well worth the strain, sweat and fatigue to be there. I imagine the mosquitoes and black flies are glad they are there as well.

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  12. What a great post and lesson! So much that God can teach us in the wilderness…God provided the perfect balance of manna, quail and provision for the Israelites in their “wilderness” season yet they complained and stumbled all the while…may we learn and grow from what we read in His word and what He teaches us currently!!
    Good stuff Gary!!

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    1. Thanks Alicia. I am always surprised when new experiences come up unanticipated and God is using it in some way in my life and those around me. Also, I have often thought to myself “please don’t ever turn out like the grumbling Israelites in the desert.

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  13. Good write-up, Gary. Really great photography. And much good teaching. Kinda reminds me of Pilgrim’s Progress. The good news is no injury and a wonderful teaching moment for you first and then your associates and readers. The full strength will come. Same thing happens with premier athletes when they may return a tad early from an injury. Nowadays it seems they always err on the side of caution. In the past, for example, when there wasn’t much money and baseball was a job, players often hid their injuries so they wouldn’t lose their job. Who knows how many ruined their careers as a result? And in life, trauma for some needs more time of healing than they may imagine. You were pretty ill, but we heal in time. It’s great for you guys to be out there.

    And then I think, wait. Carrying a sack of concrete on one’s back over rough slippery rocks is no easy chore for the strongest and healthiest. Hope it all panned out. Later

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  14. 80 lbs on the back – that’s a heavy pack! I’m entranced by your numbers – 80 lbs, 67 trips, 72 yrs-old. Amazing – all of it. And your sense of balance, humility and God are so inspiring. Thank you for sharing your trip and your stunning pictures with us!

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    1. Ahh, the important number Wynn is I am 67…and usually strong. I had not regained strength after Covid and didn’t know I was down that far.
      I had the food and gear pack so it’s always heavy going in and almost as heavy going out as we try to lighten packs that are carried with a canoe. There is something about that many trips which allows veterans to do better on portages often than the young and strong. Some of it is knowing the knack of a good gait and so on.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, thanks for setting me straight on your numbers! Yes, I think there’s a lot of room for the wisdom of the veterans that makes feats like that more doable. But I can see why recovery from Covid could make it harder!

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Great post, Gary, not just for the fine writing and photos, but for the important messages. Balance is an important ingredient of every area of life, especially if being out in nature is simply a part of your being and the reality that in the final decades of our life a key to enjoying everything to the maximum extent possible. I remember trail running once when for the first time mid-stride running down a mountain I had a twinge of doubt about where I was going to land… and while nothing happened, it freaked me out realizing what I can do now vs. my youthful self is dangerous for all, especially myself. Great post, and admire you still toting an 80-pound pack as it is something many cannot or could never do 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thankyou Dalo. I have always been very strong, now I am not, but I am working up to carrying a pack and a canoe again which is also about 80-90 pounds with a lighter pack and a light canoe (55 lbs).
      It is said that with age comes wisdom. I disagree as stubbornness mixed with either arrogance or being unaware arrows that theory.
      That being said, I do find insights in all of life’s victories and failures. Hopefully, someday, I will gain some common sense and possibly some wisdom for everyday navigation. Thanks for your input. I have found that the comments section triples any wisdom I put in the post which is awesome.

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      1. It is true, I think for some we hold this arrogance/ego from our younger days a little bit too long. What I’ve notice with me is I now have slivers of doubt, and when these arrive it is a splash of cold water on my ego 🙂 And as to the idea of carrying a heavy pack and then a canoe portage… this is why I have nephews! Cheers and take care!

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  16. This makes me think about how often we feel so confident in ourselves and our abilities, that we don’t consider the risks. Spiritually, we don’t take into account the risks of not depending on God and stepping out in our own faith (although we might call it something else). When faith in ourselves becomes bigger than our faith in God, we are definitely off balance and at serious risk of suffering devastating consequences. Love how you connect these experiences with life and God. And oh wow, those pictures are absolutely gorgeous! Now stay safe and keep your balance. 🙂

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    1. You are so right Stephanie. The principles are the same in the physical realm and the spiritual. So glad you appreciate the pictures. I wish they would be able to do the scenery justice. It’s a small slice of time and place though.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Alan. I actually took a cheap, small, lightweight camera this time. I knew we were going into a very rough area. The last time we did that we hit high winds on a big lake and tipped all but one of our canoes. four foot whitecaps with a cross-wind caught us before making shore. another risky adventure story.
      That being said, our stuff was dry and our packs float because of how we pack.
      Someday, I hope to lead a photographers only trip. I just can’t imagine a bunch of artistic people in camp together..

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Donna.
      Physically I was hurting for a could days but no broken bones or rock gashes is a good thing.
      It is a place where one can feel “settled.” I don’t know of a better word as it’s not relaxing to be alert all the time to what is happening in nature. But thoughts and insights are very numerous. I should take the time to journal (and I have) but it’s extra weight and time spent doing something that I do at home.

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    1. Physically I recovered in a couple days. Mentally, it will affect me a long time Jim. I sense there is a spiritual application or lesson there as well. It like denting the hood of your car. The car runs fine…but, there is always that dent without some major work.

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  17. Gary,
    I used to tell my Ballet students that they were never real dancers until they fell. Otherwise, they were playing it too safe and would never experience the real joy of dance or their true potential.
    I love your story. It reminded me of that.
    My dad was a big canoer. He would portage his canoe to the Milwaukee River all through high school. (Isn’t there an Eagle badge associated with that…?)
    Later, when we were kids, he put a sail on the canoe. My brother Ed sailed me out on Lake Michigan after school one day and we barely made it back in the unexpected rough waters. I don’t remember if Dad was mad about that, but I do remember Ed was fearless and I always felt safe with him. He was a great guy. Like you.
    And I can’t wait to hear about your next great adventure!
    Deb

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A great comparison Deb. Your dad and I might have quite a few things in common I suspect as I did with my dad. Possible some genetics there. My mom would say, “ya, possibly some gene missing”
      My long portages without stopping to rest are only a mile.
      A canoe on the big river sounds daunting though. Putting a sail on a canoe…wow. I would end up a long ways down on the wrong shore. My cousin was in scouts and reached eagle status. There was some big accomplishments to attain.

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  18. Gary I am so thankful that you are OK if somewhat humbled. I really appreciate your take on balance and can apply it to my own experience late last year. My return to horse riding had a rather unglamorous incident which resulted in several broken bones and dented ego! Balancing sooner would have saved me from the fall. But thankfully I am mostly healed and still hoping to get back into the saddle. I was playing it safe when the accident happened but not enough. I felt really foolish as an older person but praise the Lord it wasn’t worse. I wrote a blog post about my accident earlier this year. Take care and thank you for sharing. Lynn

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow Lynn, that just sounds painful. In my case I sure overestimated my strength and agility and losing my balance took me by surprise. I can see where a horse could take one by surprise. But then I am not experienced.
      I guess it’s a good way to find out how much ego we have…hopefully we both have shrunk our ego’s which is a small consolation.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, doesn’t work does it. Our footwear is important if we want to walk through life in any meaningful way. I suppose that could be a post on it’s own with all kinds of applications.

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  19. Gary, I’m so very thankful you are OK and now a bit the wiser. It’s likely impossible to always know our limits since they are such a strong function of time. Just when you get used to them they change without informing you. Praise the Lord we have a Good Shepherd looking after us!

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    1. I am also thankful Craig. you sure have it right. our limits do change without telling us. I think they think they tell us but little hints I have never done well picking up on those. I have built a lot of strength since then. I’m building a small rustic off grid cabin in the woods for guests. We will see how good I do on the roof.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. High praise, thanks. I think you write quite well AJ. The way I think of it…Those bottom line thoughts of the outdoors and the characters of life connect us to people as well as a doorway to a relationship with God.
      By the way, If you ever get to the BWCA and fish out of a canoe, there are huge untamed and untried fish to catch. To date we have tied into lake trout over 36″, pike over 46″, largemouth (more rare) over 22″ and smallmouth over 23″. landing them from a canoe without a net is the real sport. A friend of mine released a walleye 36″ (my best is 29 3/4″).

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      1. I told my wife about your article – how it spoke to me – she asked where you lived and how far you are from the BWCA? I was just talking to Dad about this as well. We’re currently in Minocqua WI and just got back in from some smallmouth fishing. Jerkbaits and jigs w/ leeches were the ticket. Currently enjoying the breeze as the sun breaks through the overcast sky.

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  20. I’m out past Bemidji Mn near where the Mississippi river starts. About 4 hours from the BWCA. It’s a major trip for me but I outfit myself with packs and have a couple canoes. The guys I go with also have packs and canoes. I used to lead teenagers on 6 day trips so I learned what not to do on the kids (thankfully they survived and thrived with me).
    I have posted several articles from BWCA trips. some are informational and you can follow the threads from the “related posts” on the blog just below the like button area.
    Start with this one, https://garyfultz.com/2019/06/09/a-family-tastes-the-wilderness/

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