Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Sunday, November 18, 2012

You've Got Four Wheel Drive, Right? - Part 2

There are times when I choose to get lost in the wilderness.  I can always find my way out eventually.  On this day, however, with Debbie as my partner in crime, I did not choose to get lost.  It just happened.  I only worried about being lost because I just had to make it back to the Two Hearted River to fulfill my childhood dream, and because Debbie was dreaming of a glass of wine waiting for her at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery while we were driving aimlessly with no food or water.  Or cell phone reception.

Traveling to the U.P. means going back to the time before cell phones and iPads and easy access to the internet, with all its wonderful GPS maps and navigation apps.  Time spent in the U.P. requires that you  be willing to break off all communication from loved ones, friends, and emergency personnel.  Debbie was a little uncomfortable with that.  But as we left the Crisp Point Lighthouse I had a picture in my head of where we needed to go to experience the river of my dreams.  The picture looked something like this:

Please note that nowhere on this map is an indication of, well, anything, but still, I knew where I had to go.  What I hadn't factored into the directions was the Duck Lake Fire, a forest fire that had burned for two weeks back in May and destroyed, in places, all trees and vegetation.  It also apparently destroyed road signs.  We drove back out on 412, but because I didn't know exactly where we were going, I turned left onto 500, going back the way I came, because I had originally planned on taking 414.  Turning right on 414, I told Debbie we just had to follow signs for the Two Hearted River.  Eventually, after passing several unmarked two tracks and dirt lanes, we saw a sign at the junction of 414 and 410.  Wait…we weren't supposed to be this far west.  Hmmmm…

I turned around, deciding to go back to 500 and take 412 to the west.  It took us about an hour to drive back, but once we were on 412 again, I saw a road heading north, unmarked of course, but knew I had to go north and I figured this was 423.

Courtesy of StockPhotoPro, Google Images
It wasn't.  About 100 feet down, we saw a sign that read "Impassable Road".  It didn't look impassable. It just looked like a wide, sandy road, and we've got four-wheel drive, right?  Off we went.

You can guess where this story is going.  The road became impassable.  Not only that, it got pretty difficult to find a spot big enough to turn around.  This wasn't a road, it wasn't 423, it was a logging lane for loggers clearing the land after the Duck Lake Fire.  Keep in mind, we hadn't seen a single logger all day, but supposedly this was the road they would use.  Maybe the monster logging trucks could get through, but we did not want to risk it.

Heading back out to 412, Debbie spotted a woman walking down the road.  We hadn't seen another vehicle, person, or building in the last 90 minutes, so we got pretty excited.  I rolled up to her, leaned out the window, and said "Excuse me?"

The woman turned to us, but did not approach the car, so I called out, asking if she knew where the Two Hearted River is.  She said,

"Yep".

Perhaps living a solitary life in the U.P. teaches one to say less and feel more.  So I asked if she could give us directions.  Her reply,

"You're going the wrong way".

We went back and forth like this for a few minutes, until finally she said we had to turn around and go back to the Impassable Road.  She asked,

"You've got four-wheel drive, right?"  She felt confident that we could make it through.  I then asked her if she lived there full time, and didn't she just love it?

"No."

"No?"

"It's hard work to live here."

Then she walked away.  We turned around, made one more pass at the Impassable Road, got scared, turned around again, and went back to 412.  The woman was gone.

By now we were pretty comfortable with 500 and 414, so we drove back that way.  We encountered a truck with a bear hunter and his son, but they glared at us so we didn't ask them for directions.  At one point, we were going south on 414, past the junction with 410, and we saw a sign pointing to a campground, so we went to explore.  We never found a campground, but in the middle of nowhere, along another uninhabited lake, we found a phone booth.  No, the phone didn't work.  Going northeast again on 414, we came upon another unmarked intersection to the north, and two guys in an open-top red jeep were stopped.  I called out to them,

"Do you know where the Two Hearted River is?"

The driver laughed and said they had just come from that direction, all we had to do was turn here and we would see it just up the road.  Ah, so this must be 423.  The sign had burned down.

We ended up back on the same Impassable Road, but from the other side.  How did this happen?

I could go on with this story, but you are probably getting bored at this point.  Suffice it to say, from the time we left Crisp Point, in the next four hours we passed Culhane Lake 4 times, we drove portions of the Impassable Road 5 times, we passed the boarded up Gas Station at the junction of 414 and 410 twice, and we were losing daylight.  We were tired, hungry, thirsty, and had no idea where we were or where the Two Hearted River was.

My disappointment was mounting.  As we were driving west on 410, hoping that the road to the river was just ahead, we came to a stop sign, and a paved road.  Looking right, I saw a sign advertising Gas and Groceries, 4 miles north.  I said to Debbie,

"This is this the first paved road we've seen in hours.  It has to go somewhere, right?"  By now, it was 5:10pm.  I fully expected that the gas/grocery store ahead had either closed for the day at 5:00pm, or was closed permanently, but we headed that way anyway.  I cannot adequately express to you our jubilation when we crested a rise in the road and saw trucks, store lights, and an "Open" sign.

I needed coffee.  I had a caffeine-deprivation headache, and I needed the warmth and comfort of my ole friend, Java Joe.  If you're assuming that the gas/grocery store had no coffee, you are correct.  But it did have water, and Pepsi, and an ample supply of nutritionally deficient food.  I settled on BBQ chips, while Debbie stocked up on chocolate.  With water and Pepsi and food in our arms, we approached the check-out counter where a rather attractive middle-aged woman was waiting for us.  I asked her if she knew how to get to the Two Hearted River.  Raising an eyebrow, she said,

"Why would you want to go there?"  I explained to her that I had been waiting 37 years to see it again, and the next question she asked was "You've got four-wheel drive, right?"

"See that sign right up the road?  The red one?"  I nodded.  "That's Rabbit Patch Road.  It's not really a road, but you should be able to get through it.  Take that until it ends, turn left on 423, which isn't marked, and keep going until you hit the river.  You can't miss it."  Obviously, she didn't know us.

Courtesy Google Images
Back in the car, we ripped open bottles and packages, devouring sustenance.  Rooney was whining in the back seat, and even though my judgement was questionable in light of the effect butter toffee peanuts had on him, I handed him a bunch of BBQ chips.

 Once I'd had a few guzzles of Pepsi and could feel the caffeine coursing through my veins, I sat back and looked at Debbie.  We were exhausted, it was getting late in the afternoon, and we weren't sure if Rabbit Patch Road was something we wanted to try.  I said,

"Well, what do you think?  If we go south on this paved road, it runs into M-123, which takes us to the campground.  We could be there in 45 minutes."

She pondered a moment, but decided this was my decision to make.

"I'll be back here in the Spring.  I can wait to see the Two Hearted River."  The decision made, we buckled up and headed south on 407.

About 500 feet down the road, we approached the red sign, the one for Rabbit Patch Road.  Suddenly, I just couldn't keep going, I had to see my river.  I whipped the steering wheel left and careened onto Rabbit Patch.  Stopping the car, I said to Debbie,

"I have to try.  I need to see the Two Hearted River".

Courtesy Google Images
God bless Debbie, she popped a Rolo in her mouth and said, "Okay".

The Yukon was still in four wheel drive.  We looked ahead, seeing that Rabbit Patch Road was not really a road.  I wouldn't even call it a two-track.  It looked more like a wide hiking trail.  Debbie and I looked at each other, Rooney groaned in the back seat, I said "Ready?" and we rolled forward.

But again, I've gone on too long, so you'll just have to wait until my next post to find out if I saw my river.  I promise, next time I will bring our story to it's dramatic and stunning conclusion. And hey, thanks for reading!