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Wacky Weekend Up North

March 19, 2007

OK, I'll explain the photo.

In a bit.

We went up north for the first time this year last weekend. I wanted to try to catch the last of the lower, clear-water canoeing days with snow on the ground, before it all started to melt and flood and get murky. Snowy, winter paddling is a gorgeous thing.

And there are steelhead trout about, too.

So we were going up as a family unit to go canoeing and try to catch a big, wild silver dynamo-torpedo of a fish. And we brought skis, too, just in case.

On our drive up north we pass a pheasant dead on the side of the highway. Pretty birdy. No one really cares, but I decide to show the kids a truly pretty bird and I turn around and go back. I get out, pick it up and show it to them. They turn off their Gameboys long enough to admire the bird. It really is gorgeous. And, I realize, it's floppy and warm. It has just been hit. I look at it, feel it around, and, darn, it's all there, not mangled at all. So I say: "Let's have it for dinner!" and toss it in the van. I clean it at a McD's parking lot on the way up.

On the way to the trailer we see a sign for "fresh eggs" and end up buying a dozen organic duck eggs from a lady for $1.50.

So we get up to the trailer and get a big fire going. There's snow on the ground and the weather is cooling.

I skin the pheasant nicely, keeping the skin intact for preserving with Borax, and we roast the breast and legs in foil, with veggies and herbs, in the coals. Yummy! Henry goes nuts. It really does have a nice BBQ smell. So flavorful!

It's supposed to go down to 15F tonight. We get the propane turned on and heating the place up. It starts to get dark and really cold and *whup-whup* the propane goes out. Ugh! But the tanks are half full. I get ready to drive into town and stop by a neighbor's house on the way out of the woods just to run it by him. His friends are over, including a mechanic-type. He says he's heard there can be freezing going on, some moisture in the system, and if you get the tanks to room temp they'll work again. I go back to the trailer, put the tanks in the running van with the heater on full. We all snuggle up and watch a DVD in a mound of sleeping bags. Soon the tanks are toasty. They work for a half hour then die. It's late.

We go for it and pile on the bags and blankets. A cold night but we make it.

In the morning we have duck eggs omelette and coffee all made over the fire.

My neighbor says maybe the propane glitch is a plugged regulator. Or just get fresh tanks---moisture might be in them. I take apart the regulator and lines and, darn, they sure seem cloggy. Tons of clots fly out when I rap em and blow. I reassemble and the heater works great all day.

I cut firewood during the day to refill our pile, sledding it to the trailer. The kids gather kindling for cash reward. It's kinda sad to bribe 'em, but darn it works wonders.

We also have a big crafts project around the campfire, with kids and mom making postcards while dad hauled logs.

We go on a hike of our local woods and along the creek. There are new survey stakes popping up. Man, why did that Republican Governor have to sell off all that state land just before he left? We were right up against 80 acres of state land, 5 acres of it between us and the stream and pond. That chunk went for $40K at auction. Still, we might luck out. I think most of the new stakes relate to a neighbor and his wife who just split up. Pleasantly, I find that my pacing-off with a compass ended up just fine and our trailer and clearing have no untoward stakes nearby.

At night it gets below freezing and, putt-putt, our heat fizzles again. Argh! I drive to town and find a propane guy (his shop is closed but he lives there, I heard you can just honk and he comes out...it works). I swap out my tanks---the guy says there can be a blockage from refilling without purging correctly. They work now. Whew!

The next morning we pack up then go canoeing on the beaver pond next door, using polarizing sunglasses to see the bottom.

We go check out the put-in's on the famous trout river. It's Monday---no school for the kids and these parents are self-emp---but there are quite a few rigs on the water. I'm still surprised at the popularity of the new "catch & release" part of the river. They like to catch the fish so much. And they don't mind throwing them back. I guess when you catch hundreds...and catch them every weekend...and they're big... I would be happy with one a month, oh yeah! But I suppose I wouldn't invest the ballpark $3K per guy that I saw in fancy rigs and boats. It seems like it would be like riding without, uh, riding? Skiing without skiing? The fish seems part of the essence of fishing. Well, a lot of them sure do work hard at taking care of the fish, building habitat and such. I guess with so many fishermen, you just have to give them sheltered areas. I suppose they nip into the open waters every now and then to take one home.

The water had been intimidatingly high, so we hadn't gone canoeing. There was warm weather earlier in the week. But the cold recent nights had the level down by over 6 inches overnight. I wished we could do a little hour-long paddle but Martha was itching to get home.

On the drive east from Baldwin on Highway 10 we soon passed State Road crossing with the powerline. It's a favorite road of mine that the family has never seen. So we checked it out. It got a little muddy and dicey but we have fresh tires. It is a lovely road and got me to thinking about exploring lovely little roads... But someone wanted to get home.

Still...those little roads...maybe some small 4-cyl pickup with good tires and a capper that I could build a bed into would be good for exploring the tiny dirt roads up here...30 miles between towns makes non-motorized exploring tough for connecting towns. Bikes/skis/boats are good for short loops, about 15 miles is all I'm good for offroad. Still, a tiny road is a lovely thing...

So we had fun. Roadkill. Duck eggs. No heat at 15F. Canoeing with snow. Firewood gathering. Can't beat it!

[UPDATE: I'm on a roll with the roadkill. While out biking a few days after going up north I found a mink dead in the road. He was big and beautiful and in good shape, so I hauled him off the road into the woods, skinned him out, rolled him up and put him in my pocket and rode home, where I stretched him and put preservative on him. A few days later, I turned him rightside out and now we have a beautiful mink pelt on the wall, along with the gorgeous pheasant skin! ...And the full turkey cape from last spring! Then Martha brought in another lovely mink just yesterday... Man, I can't let these gorgeous things go to waste! Also, did you know they're getting $30 each again? Muskrats are up to $10. Henry is starting to get interested... Get him some hipboots and he can start trapping the ditches near here...it's like running a paper-route...I still have my old rig.]

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