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Cover Story

Back to Au Sable

Freshwater traveling among the salts of the earth

Photo: , License: N/A


Interestingly, we did canoe by the home of the old-timer from the bar. He had been watching for us, and rushed out onto his property to wave. That was nice.

Finally, all four of us unloaded at Cathedral Pines, a beat-up campsite up a rugged slope. We had to huff our stuff up and across a field, and, after a day of canoeing, we were whipped. We ate and didn't talk much, drank beer, conserved our firewood, and stomped on june bugs until we passed out.

Dow left in his canoe to get back to running the bar before we took off on our longest canoe leg of the trip: 13 miles. The wind was almost entirely at our backs. A few times, it was so straight and strong to my back I secured my paddle and just spread my jacket open for a push. It was unreal.

It was a daylong trip, and we passed quite a few guys fly-fishing in shallow water at high noon. Now I wonder: Are they insane? They do realize that they're fishing at the wrong time of day, don't they? Unfazed by that, they just stand there in the shallows and throw hooks at canoeists, vacant smiles on their faces. The river rules say you're supposed to respect them, but how do you respect a man who's fishing at the wrong hour? That's like trying to fly a kite when there's no wind.

And then some party kids took "our" campsite. The campsites nearest the river are supposed to be reserved for canoe campers, but these folks were already there when we clambered up the hill, and started lying to us about there being no other campsites, or not enough fire rings for the eight people they wanted to bring. We asked one of them where he was from and he said, "Nowhere." What dicks. They quickly set up a tent to hold the spot and drove off to pick up the rest of their friends. We briefly discussed peeing on the tent, or perhaps taking a dump in it. 

If that sounds juvenile, remember, this was around 5 p.m. Friday on Memorial Day weekend. The livery would want to close early and maybe couldn't pick us up if we hit the end of the line, and there was no camping allowed there. We decided to chance it on one last campsite being available at the last camping stop left before the end. Cherry chugged ahead and found the place. A convocation of eagles soared above us, auguring well. Cherry humped a cooler up to the nearest campsite and set it atop a picnic table, claiming the spot. About five minutes later, a steady stream of cars started probing the road. We had just narrowly got our camp.

Plus we were running low on wood. As luck would have it, we saw a truck drive by with wooden sides on the bed hand-painted with "Firewood for Sale." We gave a shout, and the truck driver backed in and started chucking off the biggest pile of wood for just $10. His name was Raymond, and he'd just bought the truck for $150. Now he was making some money selling wood to campers. 

That evening, we ate well and had a large fire. Raymond's wood burned very well. Unfortunately, we were running out of water. Cherry had a filter pump, so we pumped cooler water into gallon jugs for drinking. Even with the filter, though, I thought the cooler water tasted faintly of meat, so we added some orange Tang. For good measure, not wanting to get sick on meat water, we added a generous measure of vodka. We began to call this drink "the Astrotini." But as even this water ran low, we kicked ourselves, wishing we had asked good old Raymond to come back and take us to the store for more supplies. 

The next day, we were delighted when we saw his $150 truck pull up again. 

"I thought you guys might want a ride to the store. I'm just dropping off my daughter, but I'll come back and give you a ride if you want."

We said we'd love a lift to the store, and high-fived after he drove away. Fournier said he'd go and, after much feverish discussion, I think our shopping list was: more ice, water, beer, liquor, smokes, chips and baby wipes. 

You know, just the essentials — when basking in nature.


Michael Jackman is associate editor of Metro Times. Send comments to mjackman@metrotimes.com.

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