Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In the Back of My Mind…

I have an idea.  Whenever I utter these words out loud, my family groans and says, "Good God, what now?"  They know when I get an idea, it will become an obsession, and it will cost them.

There was the time I got this idea that I could be a professional photographer.

 Which I was, for a while.  Let's not forget the idea I had to take every photo I've ever captured, organize them, and make beautiful memory albums.  One year and several hundred dollars later, I completed the first of one memory album.  I once had the idea that if I joined the Junior Welfare League, I could learn how to fit in where I live, be part of a community.  I was eventually kicked out of Junior League.  They weren't ready for me.

But as I've grown older, I've gotten smarter, and these days, my ideas are better.  They are born of my true passions, so naturally my ideas are more possible.

How about when I got the idea to buy a simple camper at a cheap price to have a place to sleep, off the ground?  Actually, that idea turned out great, at least for me.  Even though my husband, Scuba,  has put a considerable amount of time and money into the tin can over the last 14 years, he knows it's been worth it.  I may have
completely renovated the trailer, but it still feels simple.  My family feels better about me going to the ends of the earth (or the U.P.) knowing at night I am locked inside with heat, water, and a bathroom.

But one of my better ideas was born when I was a child, and rekindled when I read Joseph Heywood's "Woods Cop" Series, about a Conservation Officer in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  Even though his stories are fiction, the place is very real.  I found myself drawn to the U.P. again, wanting to see and
feel and experience this wilderness and be a part of it.  So I got this idea to travel there as often as possible with the tin can, live in the wilderness for brief periods, and write about it.  I can't say it has brought me any success, but it sure has brought me a lot of joy and peace.

Most of my ideas cost money I don't have, and involve me being away from home.  Ice climbing (which was awesome), kayaking, hiking, camping, taking pictures, and writing are all things that make me a better, stronger person.

This latest idea came to me during my most recent trip.  After years of dreaming and planning, I finally made it to the Porcupine Mountains, though all my planning did not prepare me for the awesome beauty and wild nature.  I spent my days hiking with Rooney, climbing mountains, splashing through streams, and seeing the most beautiful and complex ecosystem that has survived for over a million years, untouched by human intervention.  It is a wild and free place, and gave my soul wings.  I wanted to stand at the top of the Escarpment Trail and scream "I am here!" but found the silence too overwhelming to disturb.

I have many stories to tell, which I will over the next few months.  In the meantime, this idea is growing in my mind, and I've already begun researching ways to make it happen.

On my way into the Porcupine Mountains State Park, I made a quick stop at the Visitors Center.  My eyes immediately went to the shelves of books, and I bought two; a companion guide, and "The Porcupine Wilderness Journals", by Christopher, Stacey, and James Fralish  (Copyright The Stacis Group, LTD 2001).  In each of the rustic cabins available in the park for hikers, there is a journal.  Guests are invited to write of their experience in the cabin.  The Fralish family compiled a collection of excerpts from these journals, which I eagerly looked forward to reading each night by the fire.

Some of the stories were about small groups of women who endured challenges and struggles during their time in a cabin, but bonded and grew together from the experience.  I thought it would be amazing to hike here (all of the cabins have to be reached by hiking) with some female friends, but quickly remembered I don't have any friends who would be crazy enough to do it.  As I read more and more, it occurred to me that my favorite entries were from solitary hikers who came in the winter months to find absolute peace and quiet.

Hmmmm…three nights in a rustic cabin, with no water and no electricity?  Hiking in extreme weather with a heavy pack, and possibly pulling a sled, just to get to an isolated cabin that is cold and empty?  Having to find and chop firewood just to get warm?  Seeking a fresh water source for hydration and cooking?  Going outside at 3:00am to pee?  Sounds heavenly!
Dan's Cabin
The journal stories do not romanticize the cabins in any way.  They speak honestly of how difficult it is to get there, especially in winter, and how much hard work is involved once you have arrived.  Previous inhabitants wrote of the eerie silence at night, the total darkness, and the utter sense of being all alone.  There are tales of raging blizzards and deep cold.  But in all of the stories, there was an underlying sense of complete contentment.

I want to experience this hardship, and this contentment.  So the idea has been born, to go it alone in the winter to a remote cabin with no utilities or comforts of home.  Cell phone signals are nonexistent.  Computers and TV's have no place in the Porkies.  I've got the snow shoes and pack.  I just need a sled, water purification tablets, and canine booties for Rooney.  Oh, and waterproof matches.  And candles.  And courage.  But first, I need the courage to actually tell my husband about my idea.

I know what all the arguments will be.  He will urge me to go in the summer, when there are plenty of other hikers about.  But there are also plenty of snakes about in the summer.  He will worry about blizzards which would prevent me from getting out.  I am not known for being particularly graceful, so what if I fall and get hurt on the hike in?  These are all valid concerns, only because Scuba has never seen me in my own element, he has never watched me live alone in the wilderness, and he has no comprehension of how capable I am.  Not just capable, but I love a lifestyle of having to fend for myself while living off the land.  I will promise him to take every precaution possible.  But if it were going to be easy, why would I do it?  I want the challenge, and the misery of the cold, and the sense of accomplishment when night falls and my cabin is warm, my belly is full, and the quiet is absolute.

Trust me, it will happen.  I may not be able to convince my family this year, but eventually I will, because my idea is already becoming an obsession, and most often, my family gives consent just to shut me up.

Some people do not write stories in the journals; they draw pictures or pen a poem.  But one of my favorite entries comes from the Section 17 Cabin Journal, May 1974:

I came not to conquer and
subdue the earth
But to let the earth conquer
and subdue me

Wilderness Studies Club

When the time comes, I will be ready to be conquered and subdued.  See, I have this idea…