Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Les Cheneaux Islands: departure

I was, in more youthful times, an enthusiastic camper. In Poland, the minute my parents gave permission (and they did this very early; tormented by their own lives, they hardly knew my age or whereabouts during high school and university years) for me to go on long kayak trips, I went. Again and again. Down rivers linked by lakes. In small groups and large kayak clubs, sharing a tent most often with strangers. We pulled up on shores and asked farmers for bread and cheese and opened cans that smelled of grease, with chunks of something I would never before or after consider eating.

That was then. So what’s changed? Two things, really. Moving here, I noticed that American streets may not be paved in gold, but her skies, come summertime, are indeed filled to overflowing. With mosquitoes. On our mountain hiking trip two years back, the bugs were so bad, that we could not eat outside. Or stand still. Or sit down. Of course, that was Canada, but I think they cross the border freely.

And I have weather issues. This I carry over from Poland and my country summers with my grandparents. After storms, we’d bike to the village to see whose barn had been struck and what the damage was. Lightening was no joke. And I still find it somewhat terrifying if I am outdoors. I have been studying the ten day forecast for Les Cheneaux for a long time, and I swear, there has not been a stretch without scattered storms all summer long.

These issues notwithstanding, Les Cheneaux Islands, to me, are like a mystical dream. We watched a slide show this last winter, during the paddling convention here, in Madison, and maybe it was that we were in the middle of a deep freeze, with no spring in sight, or maybe I was in some weepy vulnerable moment, but the images from Les Cheneaux stuck with me. We have to go there, I said to Ed.

So this is it: one kayak on the car roof, the other, inflatable, in the trunk. Packets of freezedried chili, bags of trail mix. Deet. A new tent that, to our knowledge, will keep rain out. What am I forgetting? Too late. Off we go.