Last spring, I decided to take a day to myself, away from work, kids, and other responsibilities. It was such a clear beautiful day, I could not help cancelling all my previous plans and heading for my favorite fishing spot. I always pack a small lunch in the event that my sugars drop while fishing. Being diabetic, I have to watch that.
Usually I would drive into the fishing spot with my ATV, but seeing how this was such a glorious day, I decided to take my mountain bike. Last year we had a late winter, and because of that, there was still snow in the low lying areas late in the spring, and as I rode past the trail I noticed many tracks in the snow. I witnessed a rabbit hopping for his life as a robust red fox hunted him down. At first I considered firing a rock towards the fox, but I later decided to let nature be, and allow the little canine a fresh dinner.
This particular part of the woods is filled with fox, bear, rabbits, and the occasional coyote, so I take care not to disturb any of those creatures while on my way. The bike allows me to ride inconspicuously while nature takes its course.
A ruffed grouse almost flies into my head as I maneuver my bike through the twisty trail. Those grouse seem so dumb to us, as their main defense is camouflage and the art of keeping completely still when a treat arises, but this defense works well when they hide in trees or area with tall grass.
As I bicycled down the little winding road, which once allowed loggers a path to the finest timber in the land, I thought of all the people out there who could not enjoy this spectacular scenery, and I felt sorry for them. For people who have spent their entire lives living in cities, I often wonder if they know what they are missing.
The road has led me to a large abandoned meadow that once belonged to a farmer from another community. He was a nasty sort who used to sit in the fields waiting for the odd trespasser to pass by, so that he could threaten them with his old shot gun. He used the ‘squatters rights’ law to claim hundreds of acres of farmland, far too much for one man to utilize. He is gone now, but the fear of his loathe still remains. I cautiously pedal faster than usual as I pass his fields, despite knowing that he has been dead for the past ten years.
I arrive at a small creek, and I see small minnows swimming frantically in the cold icy waters. I dismount my bike and on all fours, I dip my hands into the freezing water to savor the icy taste of spring. With my lips frozen, I continue my trip to the river where my dinner awaits, at least I hope.
The old road is beginning to show it’s age, as spring run off begins to devour the gravel on either side of the trail. A few dandelions paint the roadsides with a hint of yellow, and the sky is a deep blue, despite the few clouds that have formed along the mountain ridges. Sure hope it doesn’t rain.
Here on the island, the weather changes faster than a woman’s mind, and knowing that, I fear that maybe taking my bike may not have been the best decision, but given the fact that already I have witnessed the beauty and savagery of nature, I do not regret my decision.
I am now just a few miles from my favorite spot, and I am getting anxious to arrive. Along the roadside I notice fresh moose tracks, I do not fear those giant creatures, but I do respect them. I also notice that along the stump of a birch tree, there are large claw marks, probably from a bear scourging the area in search of ants or other tasty insects. Taking notice of possible threats is the best way to stay safe in those parts. The first sign of bear and my day will be cut short, at least for now.
The winter was not kind to my trail, and a large portion of the road has been washed out. I notice a fallen tree next to the trail, and I choose to abandon my bicycle in favor of my feet for the remainder of the trip. I load my fishing rod and tackle on my shoulder, along with my knapsack of food, and head on across the log.
Like a tightrope walker in the circus, I carefully maneuver across the slippery log, knowing full well that if I fall off I will be covered in muddy bog water. On this chilly morning, when the sun has not yet developed enough power to heat the land, this would not be a wise move.
As I anxiously head down the trail, I can hear the water bubbling across the rocks. I see a few trees have been cut along the trail, probably by a busy beaver working on this years hut. The trail is slippery with the morning dew, which illuminates spider webs along the grassy road. I am glad I chose to wear my rubber boots, as the grass on either side of the trail is tall and wet.
Thistles seem to be the first plant to grow in spring. Those tall thorny plants seem to reach out to stab me, as I carelessly run toward the shore. I reach the colorful beach, filled with stones of every color and shape, and the heat from the sun has already begun to warm the sand along the river. I am here.
As much as I am excited to begin fishing, I am also hungry. I was wise to pack an old corn on the cob can, which I fastened a wire handle. I hunt along the river bank for a few dry sticks of kindling, and I notice a birch tree in the distance. The bark on the birch trees this time of the year is perfect for lighting fires, and I take care to only cut what I need from the saplings. With a few pieces of straw, a handful of ‘whiskers’ from a nearby spruce tree, and the birch bark, I now have plenty of kindling to start the fire.
I take the time to gather a few stones from the river bed. In these parts, rocks come in so many colors, blue, green and even pink. I build a small rainbow of rocks in a circle, to serve as a fireplace, and to keep the sparks and embers in one spot.I cheated in bringing a lighter with me, abandoning fire lighting secrets taught to me by my grandfather, and in minutes I am in the presence of a roaring fire. I add a few pieces of dry wood from along the river, and adding fresh water from the river to my makeshift corn on the cob kettle, I proceed to boil water for a fresh cup of tea.
Savoring my tasty snack, I notice a few beaver have moved to the river. The opposite end of the river has been carefully dammed by those busy creatures, which gives me hope of the perfect fishing spot. Since the beaver has dammed the river, they have created the best fishing pool where the bigger fish gather. I am now anxious to try my luck.
Before I left for today’s adventure, I dug a bottle of worms, and they served as the perfect bait for the trout. Every line I throw in, I catch a fish. The river I am fishing in leads to a fantastic pond high in the hills, and since the fish travel to and from the pond via this river, I am fortunate to catch a few pond trout.
Usually the river yields only brook trout, which have white flesh and are not that tasty, but the trout from the ponds contain a red flesh that is very good. The redder the belly, the better the taste, and all I have caught are blood red at the belly. In just a half hour, I have caught my quota of twelve fish.
I carefully clean the fish, which range from 6 to 9 inches in length. Although not prize fish, the smaller ones are much tastier than the larger. I then soak the fish in the running water of the busiest stream, and then throw them into a bag containing a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper. Since my fire is still burning, I lay my fish on a hot rock at the edge of the fire, just like my native ancestors did hundreds of years before me.
The smell from the slowly cooking fish is heavenly, and turning the fish several times, I notice that they are done to perfection, ready for eating. I take out a few pieces of buttered bread that I brought from home, and with a steaming cup of tea, my catch for the day, and my comfortable spot on an old dry log, I am in heaven.
As I finish my tasty lunch, I use the remainder of water in the kettle to douse the fire. The steam from the fire raises high in the air, and the heat from the now burning sun devours it in seconds. The songs from a thousand birds fills my head, each one their own wonderful note, and the sound of the wind blowing leaves in the trees around me gives me a warming feeling throughout.
A small squirrel runs past and sits on the log next to me. He gives me a quick chirp and his is on his way. It is a wonder how quickly nature accepts a person when he sits still, a lesson taught to me by my grandfather many years ago. I use many of the things he taught me, such as how to light a fire without matches, how to cook without a pan, how to catch fish, and most of all, how to get along with nature.