My Wilderness Stories Mostly True (1)

Before I tell the first tale I have a (dis) claimer.

Strange, wonderful and mystery describes best my 60+ trips into canoe county wilderness. My first trip led by an extreme risk-taker wild man launched me into my own adventures creating hundreds of stories. The hazards of time and memory make them “mostly true”. Some are so unbelievable that that I quiet down the truth a little to make them more believable than true.

(1) 30 memorable hours

Wilderness in the morning fog

Adventure most often lies beyond sight

Day two started in the fog and ended up in the dark. We were behind schedule. I had not yet figured out that schedules do not work well in the wilderness. I roused eight teenagers, broke camp, packed everything into 6 packs and 3 canoes, made a quick breakfast and we were paddling the big water of Pipe Stone bay of Basswood lake BWCAW. Note to self “no more packing tents by 5:30 am.

Hit By Lightening. We reached the Canadian border mid-morning and tackled the Basswood river and portages (cheating on some…not recommended as canoes, fishing rods and sometimes people are lost here). A very nasty thunderstorm forced  us unto an island in the middle of the river where we ate trail mix while getting drenched. I asked everyone to put the packs under our overturned canoes and stand on rocks under the smaller trees and avoid roots as lightening seemed to be all around us. A bolt of lightening hit a tree higher on the top of the island and the kid I was talking to had disappeared. He was on the ground completely immobilized. I should have noticed he was standing in a puddle of water and not on a rock. It took about five minutes for him to stand up and talk. We figured out later that there was about five minutes of his waking minutes on the trip that he didn’t talk. I believe later in life he became an insurance agent like his father.

A 27 mile day. After the river and portaging around lower basswood falls we began to look for a camp site.  Crooked Lake is not loaded with camp sites and it seemed the border water was popular. We traveled most of the lake before finding a camp site in the dark. We made camp, built a fire to cook over, set up tents, hoisted the food pack higher than a bears reach between two trees and went to bed. Somehow I managed to talk the group into sparing my life by promising sleeping in till noon, catching fish for a brunch, a sunny day with the wind at our back and quite a few other miraculous things that probably wouldn’t happen.

More Strange things happened. I woke early. Long before the promised late breakfast. Still, heavy fog, medium size frogs everywhere, fish rising and a few distant birds hardly disturbed the eerie morning. I remember that it felt spooky but not enough to keep me from putting on a lead head jig and a  live frog to catch some fish. Some day I hope to camp there again as there was a small-mouth bass caught on every cast. I found some stepping stones out into the lake onto a five foot long rock barely sticking out of the water and caught a nice bass when I began to feel that something was very wrong. I froze and listened but heard nothing. The water began to move around my feet as the other three quarters of the rock I was standing on was moving into the lake. My whole body turned into shaking rubber while trying to stand on the remaining  small rock as a monster snapping turtle moved into deeper water. Back at camp a girl screamed and I found my legs working again to see what was wrong. A big snapping turtle was crawling between the tents. We would see three more turtles in the water by camp before leaving after brunch. maybe I won’t camp there again.snapping turtle

The worst and best was yet to come. This trip would introduce me to the most mysterious area of all a couple days later. I have purposely sought out adventure. It’s a beautiful, adventurous, harsh wilderness all at the same time. It can also be painful and deadly. I have gone to seek God, find ones self, and catch or lose the biggest fish ever. I have often had to face my fears or just a crazy bear claiming my food, conquer or fall on a portage trail, face 100 mph winds with trees flying or dump in monster icy waters. There is much more to tell. This odd 30 hour tale sets up more drama and mystery for My Wilderness Stories Mostly True (2)”


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Fine Days

Oh how fast the fine days of autumn hurry toward the fourth season (I didn’t say it!). I want to share some autumns thoughts, just between you and me. My first thought is that nature is sure in a hurry these days.

Spider web art email
Every bush, tree, insect, bug and animal is preparing.  Sumac colors email
Even the farmers are getting ready

Sunset through the corn email

Mike Brooks Photo from COFA Fish Camp

Camp Sunrise

Scott Glasscock picture from COFA Fish Camp

The fish go on feeding sprees to build their eggs and thus are extremely catch-able.
Coles walleyecarols WalleyeBarb Walleye

I encourage you to be less like nature and slow down. Carry the camera and take the time to soak in the autumn beauty. Hunt and fish my friends and get out there for long walks before the snow flies. Carry the camera and notice the smallest of details. Salve for the soul I’m telling ya. God  is talking but it’s hard to know what sometimes unless we spend some quantity time listening. I often hear woods and water call from sunrise and on “come spend some time with me”. Trust me the voice is beyond nature.
Ready to huntYes the woods calls and hopefully a few turkeys as well. But there is more to hear beyond nature.Battered fall maple emailFall leaves are prettier from a distance. They are battered and ragged. They are drying out and getting ready to fall. Really fall. Someday I will fall but that’s not the end of the storyOaks turning color e mailI just turned another decade in my life. It’s autumn in human years. As I get older the years turn and the gas pedal seems stuck to the floor. I soak in Gods beauty and relate to the battered and changing leaves. When young, one seems to squander sunrises and sunsets. I now try to collect them to memory (mine) and on a hard drive to share. Could it be possible that our red and golden skies are meant to be between us and God? Our creator allows us the emotion of beauty. Eternity is in our (non-understanding minds) hearts. May this old guy suggest we look through our “Windows of the Soul” (A good book by Ken Gire by the way). I leave you with this thought… Sunset panarama email Yes, as my physical legs begin to weaken, my spiritual legs are strong as I walk often with My Creator. My advice: Take a walk, have a talk, get right, stay tight.


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The Value of Boat Time.

Dad Fishing 1emailBoat Time could be construed as expensive hobby time. We are speeding across miles of Lake Bemidji in Minnesota looking for the sometimes elusive walleye. A friend of mine often says “fishing is always good and sometimes the catching is as well”. I relate. I just happen to be in the boat with Dad and a close friend. I might not remember if we caught fish but I am devouring and storing each minute spent in the boat. Fish are extra credit.

marty 2 walleye email small sizeSeveral friends hopped into my boat and I in theirs last week at our annual COFA Fall Retreat (Fish Camp). Within minutes we caught fish every day. We sampled walleye chowder (the best), walleye pizza (pizza with walleye chunks on it), Walleye quesadillas (they were good) and the famous crispy fried walleye (always great). Boat time getting these fish…legendary (the stories will grow). Trophy 1

Plans are made, priorities sorted, nature watched in awe, friendships grown and relationships evaluated from family to God to new friends made at camp. World peace is taken care of in the boat. I’m a fisherman and may exaggerate on rare occasions. But life is good in the boat until ones muscles and sleep deprived cells (or bladder) begin to complain louder by the minute.

Our best fisherman (a high standing tourney fisherman) threw in a trophy for the best walleye, another a cherry handled hand tied walleye rod. We keep track of walleye inches and weigh a few as well.Fish scale
Marty tom cole emailBoys turn into young men, dads get to know sons, generations pass on family values and bear their souls in the quiet times between fish bites. As the sun dips lower each day talk deepens and we experience riches that money cannot buy.  We caught an unusual amount of fish this year. We ate well and brought some home.

I hope to depreciate out my boat. May it be used and battered; may it log hundreds of hours on the water and become the richest boat around.



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Watching Out The Window…For The Birds

Blue Bird House Sunset EBeing one with an infinite appetite on a finite time budget  for the outdoors, I have found a camera necessary to relive split second moments. A good camera on a tripod by big windows in the middle of nowhere (OK the wild country of Wisconsin) is a must in choosing where to camp on this planet.

When Friends of ours came to camp in our back yard  we were thrilled to share the sights and sounds. Somewhere between the hummingbirds, rabbits, bluebirds and grilling the 20150703_195023-1best burgers and brats in a screen porch setting, we were given several photo presentations ready or not. One of our friends  finally captured a timid pose on her phone after a bit of fumbling  (Click on the picture and look closely over the grill) as one semi-shy visitor was wistfully leaving the smells of our meal. That’s a little one my wife said.                      Between frying our catch of fish, grilling and numerous coffee times our conversations were frequently interrupted by the birds. Mostly the timid blue birds courtesy of the young constantly demanding food. Blue Bird 4E

I finally succumbed to the urge to set up and get some snapshots out of my system. Lately I have had these sudden urges to time freeze what we are seeing out the window and share; so here are a few recent moments from view of the house.

Bluebird in flight E

View E 1
Hummingbird 3Deer

Hummingbird desktop

Rabbit e2

I cannot imagine being unemotional or have no wonder at all in a sun set. I can only imagine no small rush being in a plane and landing at the doorway of the hanger like the Blue Bird lands. We watched several landings and neither Blue Bird took out the bird house. With our garden being reduced to nothing I am looking up rabbit recipes. I see venison steaks eyeing the garden sometimes and I suspect our friends would come back for bear on the grill as well.  I often wander over to the best pit masters site for guidance and inspiration. You guys inspire me but I gain (acceptable) weight reading your blog.

Sunset e2Drop a line in the comments if you enjoyed a particular moment.                                                     Thanks

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Wilderness canoe Trip, #60 Perspective

Dead Forest
Two canoes, four packs and four people pushed off on a typical wilderness lake. Grey rock and green trees outlined the waterways past bays, points, and islands. The rhythm of nature begins to slow the brain waves. Small whitecaps challenge us to dig a little deeper with the paddle in our unhurried pace. The four of us represent 130 or so trips to the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness.

IMG_1921    We paddle into a river system with some small portages around dangerous water, cross beaver dams and into the beginning of what is left of a forest fire from five years ago. Black trees and cracked rock are all we see. The fish still bite and the bugs have found their way back but it’s very dead and barren. Small plants are beginning to grow in the crevices of the rock as all the humus and top soil was burned. The swamps, bogs, and strips of low land are green and seem to be recovering better as long as there is water to keep the hydroponic effect going.

The fifth lake we portage into is mostly green again. there are nature sounds and we realize the last four lakes have been on “Mute”. The difference between life and death is beyond words. My mind wandered to visual illustrations of relationships from the vibrant to the dead. I know of marriages that look quite charred. I see hydroponic relationships that will dry up all too easily (thus the saying “puppy love leads to a dogs life”).

email sunrise I am here to slow down. My busy life bumps and blurs any perspective I may have of my relationships. family, future goals, and my relationship with God. My soul is still, It is well but it is cluttered with busyness. All my stuff could burn tomorrow and life would be hard but I do not have to be in the  wilderness to find peace.

I do struggle with getting older. The rocky paths and portage trails are steeper and longer than I remember. The days have shifted a couple of gears faster and lounging around camp is almost as enjoyable as bushwhacking to hidden lakes with no trails. My sense of adventure is still off the charts but sometimes I lose the charts (don’t think too hard about that statement).

Walleye Breakfast

The guys are out fishing and caught breakfast. We had fish for lunch and Supper and threw quite a few back. There are perks in the wilderness and one of them is cooking great food over an open fire. Another is getting so tired you have the best sleep of your life (disclaimer here as moaning wolves, big animals wandering by the tent and beavers falling trees in the night bothers some campers).

Sunsets challenge me. As I watch I make notes to self: why not have some color in one’s life? Why not choose an abundant life? Why not work hard and dig deeper against the whitecaps of life? Make you marriage vibrant, Take more people fishing,  know God well enough to experience his peace and presence, Keep your mind sharp and growing and keep you body fit enough to have a great trip #61.

Campsite sunsetGary

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Coming off Winter Weary

Spring Deer in Jans fieldBrown, the after winter and before spring color. Shaggy deer in their dark brown suit which will soon turn reddish as the grass grows green. I am again reminded that the only constant in life is change. I am “life stuff” weary but the deer cheer me up. I leaned the camera against a post on the back patio and captured a slice of time in deer life. Tomorrow it would rain and a green spring would appear overnight. Something snaps out of me each year about April and I wonder again why I do not start my year of planning in January. Is it possible I only plan when it’s green? Hey I come from the “hippie” generation where planning was considered unnecessary and painful (insert disclaimer here) even though I was not raised that way.

Putting in at lake One to go home BWCA 2014"River


BWCAW  Trip #60 end of May is on the Calendar.  Fishing with the grand kids in June. Fishing with friends and family in July, Exploring several lakes near our new home (which happens to be over the river, through the woods, across a field and over a knoll from town) affectionately known as grandmothers place to 6 young-uns in northern Minnesota and southern Kentucky.

  Crappies, Walleye, a fish fry or three,checking out a nearby trout stream, another fish fry, fishing with friends, and the final plan until I make some more is Fish Camp in September (see my fish camp page).smallmouth 4_editedisland lake rainbow

The trail cam says he is here often!

The trail cam says he is here often!

waptus fishing with  Jim 007_edited
It is  green outside now and I have been making plans beside my 55 hour work week. If the buck on my trail cam made it through the winter my DNA will be whispering 30-30. What do you suppose that means?

A small piece of advice to myself and the weary; “get out there”, do something even if it’s right!


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A Real Christmas Tree

Tree in the Rock

Bare, exposed, small, fragile and seemingly a random plant in a crick of a rock. At our lowest point of life we have more going for us than this tree. At our best we have no more significance than this little tree in the wilderness. I can only imagine the root system it takes to sustain life and grow nice healthy white pine needles. Someday this house sized rock may break in half from the roots of this mighty tree. In the big picture the tree will win.

Bare,exposed, small, fragile and seemingly a random baby born in a barn. I cannot imagine what God was thinking in planting himself into his creation in this way.  As predicted 600 years earlier by Isaiah the Prophet this was the intent of the Christmas story in God’s plan of redemption for mankind. In the big picture, God wins.

Consider a piece from Isaiah 53 (Isaiah’s condensed Christmas story)

2) He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3)He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4)Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5) But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6)We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all…

Could it be that my little tree was actually planned? An object lesson in nature bent toward eternity? I actually believe I have found a “Real Christmas Tree”.

To all my friends who believe                         All kinds of trees on the rocks

Merry Christmas

To all my friends who don’t believe

Merry Christmas

To all who are culturally and politically correct                                      There’s hope!Grow on a rock

Merry Christmas


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In The Wilderness With a Gun and Camera

Foggy Forest emailWhen I hunt I carry a gun and a camera. With the gun I harvest food. With the camera I capture emotion and document a slice of what my eyes have seen. I am glad that most people on this planet will never see these places so one can be alone. I am a long ways from the nearest person. In both pictures the Big Timber wolves are closer than people judging by the tracks in the snow. I was really hoping for deer instead.
A lot can happen in  few days. From a glittering below zero November sunrise to a foggy 45 degrees. Creation does sparkle, dispense gloom and mirror every mood imaginable depending on the weather The Sun is Coming e-mail    The moods of nature could reflect every one of our relationships. I could write names (as could you) on these pictures but I won’t. Broken tree email
Each individual tree might well reflect even our deepest emotions. The strongest oak may have broken branches. tree graveyard email

Only people get a graveyard (and some pets). In nature there is life, death and decay all in the same place. It’s no secret that we live in a very damaged world. What I see from the deer stand, looking at the forest, is not much different than what I see on the news around the world, looking at people.

Like the forest we sparkle, grow, thrive in good environments, get cold, experience depression, feel broken, get sick, bask on sunshiny days, lose a part of us in life’s storms and seasons of life including death. Generations later will probably not recall what the dash between dates meant to us on our tombstone.Deer Stand view

All I know is that life is much better when the sun comes out. No matter the season, the sun comes out sometime. In my world it’s not far-fetched to not see the sun as representing the Son. It’s the same testimony of millions around the world that Jesus Christ was who He said he was, The Son Of God in the flesh who came to die for our sins that we might have hope beyond this life. There are more myths about the Son than there are about any forest creature including the wolves. All I know is that life is much better with the Son in my life.

As I put the camera in the bag a deep reddish mink trotted out on the ice in front of me. He seemed to grin at me scrambling to get the camera and disappeared. Most moments in time will never be captured to be shared. In reality we are the captured. The sun captures all of nature (and us) and gives life. So too the Son would capture us to share all of eternity. now that’s Life!tims deer 002_edited


The Porcupine was not as fast as the mink!

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Signs You Need a Getaway

Bald eagle Preening email    We live between the lake (in lakes country) and a highway full of semi-crazy people coming out of the Twin Cities to “get away” on weekends or all summer. We live where many people want to be. We often feel a need to “get away”, so what’s that about when so many think we are already there? After all even the Eagles like it here.

>Text or Tweet Me (Hezekiah 6:18)... social networking with God? By Gary Fultz

Thinking of You

Signs that you need to get away: 1) Instead of fishing you find yourself casting musky lures at the jet-skiers. 2) Everyone at work keeps asking “when are you taking a vacation?” 3) You find undeveloped rolls of 35 mm film from your last vacation while looking for your tackle box. 4) You find your tackle box and your film camera is in it. 5) The only thing good in your tackle box is your uneaten Twinkies. 6)  All you have to post online is what you ate for breakfast. 7) The neighbor kids only “Trick” you at Halloween. 8) The boss volunteers you to listen to a Time Share Spiel “for the company”. 9) You buy a hunting video game and realize it is opening day of Deer Season. 10) You get away and don’t know what to do. 11) You get home from vacation and a grandchild sends you the above Halloween picture and caption.

Don’t worry Liz I’m just “funnin”. See you hopefully soon for turkey hunting. We can stay in the timeshare. Do you like Twinkies?


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Work Worth the Dream

Putting in at lake One to go home BWCA 2014From 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.

Alvin Mike delta rapids BWCA 2014 email    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   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).Just beyond    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).

River to Delta Day Trip BWCA 20143    Work Worth the Dream: 59 wilderness trips in the summer, fall, winter and spring have added up to an incredible amount of satisfying high adventure.

Trout in a snow storm

Trout in a snow storm

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. BWCA Fire 2014

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. 46 inch pikeWhen life here is over I want more than a fish fry. >A Case for...Outdoor Adventures By Gary Fultz

I know where I am going


>Day is Done by Gary Fultz

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