The worst/best thing about mosquitoes

A few things signal to me that I’m really getting somewhere: washboard roads, for example, and Forest Service two-track lined by “No Shooting” signs riddled with holes. It’s like the whiff of white gas as I light my Whisperlite or a sleeping bag that smells vaguely of last night’s campfire or a long silence punctuated by loon calls; these smells and sights and sounds signify that something is going right.  Continue reading “The worst/best thing about mosquitoes”

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List: Things that aren’t so bad about portaging a canoe through thigh-deep mud

As my Chaco-clad feet sank ever deeper into soupy black mud, I thought briefly of the woolly mammoths, who perished in droves as they struggled to free themselves from quicksand. Like the mammoth, who no doubt once inhabited the same sort of glacier-carved landscape I was now thoroughly stuck in, I was fighting against my own weight, not to mention that of the 100-pound portage pack strapped inconveniently to my back. Continue reading “List: Things that aren’t so bad about portaging a canoe through thigh-deep mud”

No goals allowed

I have a small stack of journals sitting on my desk. I don’t write in them regularly; they’re mostly for keeping notes while I’m traveling. I’ll often go weeks or months between scrawled, barely-legible entries. In the back of each one, there is a tally of annual nights spent in a sleeping bag (tents, yurts, huts, cabins, hammocks, and truck beds all count). I’m usually in the thirties by mid-May, and, for the last few years, I’ve broken 100 nights by September or October.  Continue reading “No goals allowed”

Tinker toys

Speaking strictly anecdotally, many of the smartest people I know have a particular practice in common: as children, they would disassemble things (toys, bicycles) and put them back together to see how they worked. Having mastered the innerworkings of one set of items, they moved onto bigger and more complex objects (kitchen appliances, clocks), not always without consequence, and eventually, in some cases, became capable of changing the oil on their cars or repairing heavy machinery.  Continue reading “Tinker toys”