"Bagwaji" means "Into the Wild" in Ojibwe, a Native American Tribal language. I may not be quite in the wild, not like Alaska or Yellowstone, but this is still pretty remote. I am writing from what will be my home base during this trip into Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where I can get a weak cell phone signal and wireless internet if it's not too windy.
The trip up was uneventful. With each passing mile I daydreamed more and more of the adventure that lies ahead, and once I crossed the Mackinac bridge without plunging to an icy death, all anxiety melted away and I left it behind in the frigid yet unseasonably unfrozen waters of the great lake. This is my first time in the U.P where I will actually get out of the car. Not only will I get out of the car, I will leave it behind and explore most of the wilderness on foot. Or snowshoes, to be more precise. I am starting my journey on Drummond Island. When I reached DeTour Village, I had just missed the ferry to Drummond, so I stopped in a local bar for the best grilled cheese sandwich I have ever had and a cup of coffee. There were two older men in the bar having a heated discussion on whether the coyotes were mating early, a discussion which involved considerable debate over blood trails that I could have done without hearing over lunch. As I was leaving the bar, one of the men stopped me and proclaimed that I am not from around here. I asked him what gave me away and he replied that he knows everyone around here and doesn't know me. We discussed some of my plans, and it turns out he owns a lot of land on Drummond Island, not to mention a grocery store and restaurant, and he gave me some very good tips on hiking in the wilderness here. I mentioned not being able to find any good maps that designated private from state land, but he assured me no one will care if I wander onto their land. He said, "You're in the U.P. now, miss. People here are friendly". Good to know.
I thoroughly enjoyed my ferry passage, but was surprised by how short the trip over the open waters of Lake Huron is. I am also surprised by the number of uninhabited islands there are up here! If I were to come back in the summer, which I won't because of the snakes, I would kayak to as many of those islands as possible. You can do that. There are actual DNR water trails for kayakers to all the little islands where no one lives but adventurers are welcome to explore. Many of them have hidden inland lakes, rock formations on the shore, and all kinds of flora and fauna. And snakes.
But since I wisely traveled here in the middle of the winter, I have no worries. I also can't go kayaking. That's okay, there is so much to experience on this island just by hiking! Once I got here and settled into the little lodge, I drove around with satellite map in hand and found some snowed-over two-tracks where I can leave my car and proceed to get lost for days. I saw deer that at first I mistook for moose, because the deer here are huge compared to what I've seen in the land of trolls. (That's yooper talk for below the bridge.) I hiked around a deserted state park for a bit, got all excited when I heard a large dog barking, thinking it was a wolf but quickly figuring out it wasn't, and stopped at a little store for some local knowledge of where to hike. Locals really are the best source for everything.
I've yet to meet the owners of the lodge. When I got here, the key was in the door lock with a note that said Welcome. Not only are people friendly here, they are pretty unconcerned about security. I suppose the owners will want to catch up to me at some point, so I can pay them, but I don't plan to be here much. Maybe I'm just supposed to leave cash in the unlocked lodge when I leave.
Tonight I am going to enjoy the luxury of a hot shower and a good night's sleep. In the morning, Mass at the Catholic Church on the island so I can properly thank God for the husband who supports me in doing this, the family and friends who are excited for me, and for being in a place where the world moves a lot slower and people really do take the time to stop and smell the marshes...and notice the rivers that never stop flowing, and rocks that never stop changing, and great waters that mold and reshape the shoreline of an island daily. Then back to the lodge to grab my pack and start walking. Wish me luck in spotting that elusive wolf!