Upper Peninsula Exposure

I have been waiting for the inspiration to find me to allow me to put my thoughts in order ,and finally write about our recent camping trip to the Upper Peninsula.
Nothing really spectacular occurred. Nothing that stands out really about the whole
Ten days of camping that hasn't been experienced before by someone else I suppose. You know,the Bald Eagles that were sighted nearly every day ,and the Ospreys that seemed to lead our canoe down the beautiful, wild Escanaba River as we drifted and paddled, and fished.
The anticipation and excitement (at least for the first day) of not knowing what lay ahead on this sprawling, remote river that we had not canoed before.
     There were rapids and deep runs ,and areas of sheer bedrock that the river flowed over, and huge rock gardens that we bottomed out on in the canoe.
There was of course, fly fishing and birds to watch, and so many wild flowers to try to identify. We picked wild raspberries and looked in vain for the venerable blueberries that did not do too well across all of northern Michigan it seems.
    We fished on a stretch of the river that had a waterfall dumping into the main river from a smaller tributary that came in from the north  where the entire river as far downstream as far as you could see ,had carved its way through the bedrock and exposed the rock walls that contained it.  The River itself and it's wild diversity, along with the possibility of seeing wildlife such as bear or even a moose, created a pleasant distraction that made concentrating on casting and following a drifting fly a refreshing challenge to a familiar routine.
There were smallmouth bass in all the places one who fishes for them with a fly rod expects them to be, in the log jams and the deeper and slower runs. They were aggressive and explosive, and had the 'pull' of a fish that made its living in this tannin stained, steep gradient river system.


    Aside from what the river had to offer and show us, there is always some back road or "two track" cruising to be done to just look at the country and experience the lay of the land. The constant slow drive with no hurry, and no one to rush you to allow time to check out the animal tracks and learn more about the area you are now a part of.....though temporary in truth, you explore as though you just purchased a cabin in the woods near here, and you want to acquaint yourself with your surroundings and neighbors, though few they are.
     There were the two sets of bear tracks we saw and took photos of, and one or two wolf tracks following the sand road in the direction we were traveling,though made the night before, and a few coyote tracks with one actual sighting of one wanting to cross the road ahead of us.
      The main focus I suppose on this particular adventure was the camping itself.
It seems that Julie and I have a knack or just good luck to find a remote campground that is vacant or nearly so, that affords us the privacy and solitude that we demand in seeking out a sanctuary for 're-charging' our internal batteries ,and avoiding an engaging neighbor that seeks out company in such a way that makes me suspicious of their motive for camping in the first place so far from home!
    This was our first real 'out bound' stay in the small camper trailer. Though small in stature, it has all the comforts of home on a much smaller scale.
There was a very comfortable and cozy bed. A small shower and toilet with miniature vanity and sink. A refrigerator/freezer and cook stove plus water heater that runs on propane.A water tank with a twelve volt pump that supplied our water to sink and shower. An awning for shade and rain protection.
We had a chainsaw and cut firewood every couple days for the constant campfire in the fire pit a few feet from the camper door.
We pumped water from a hand pump into a vessel and poured it into the holding tank through an improvised 'funnel' (pop bottle) every couple days.
     So here we were back in the woods with nearly all the comforts of home.
Refrigerator, hot water, comfy bed, stove, fire and firewood, and most important of all....solitude and quiet. The kind of quiet that we seek out . Quiet from noise and lights and cars and everyday distractions with everyday commitments that make their own sounds that usually manifest themselves in the form of a ringing phone or the 'ding' of a new email that we MUST check and respond to.
     We did spend some time in the the town nearest us for a meal or two and general shopping which, in this context is more novel than a chore and is done in a way that just becomes part of the vacation itself. I mean, we don't know anyone in Gwinn that we run into to 'chat' or catch up with. We only exchange pleasantries with total strangers that in itself is fun and novel and can be as stimulating as the other aspects of the vacation, especially if the stranger (I suppose WE are the strangers here) offers a tip or advice on a hot fishing spot or where a moose was recently spotted.
     It seems that I for one, am constantly drawn to the north country and the pine and spruce forest that has lead me to nearly all parts of northern Michigan and five Canadian provinces. I am constantly missing and seeking that clean fresh pine scented air with a sky that's a shade or two of deeper blue, and maybe the sound of the rolling, sometimes crashing waves of Lake Superior.
    Having been many places of the north or the mountains gives me satisfaction that I crave to sooth the wanderlust that is an affliction I suppose.
Having a place like the Upper Peninsula, that has so much to offer for the seeker of wild things and wild places makes one justifiably proud to live in the great state of Michigan.

Mark Karaba

Co-Founder / Fly Fisherman Guide