My Wilderness Experience

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Trying to Stay Warm

This weekend I went on a very brief camping trip. Two nights on the Mogollon Rim outside of Payson, Arizona. As always, time outside of the city did my soul good. Nature has a way of healing the head and the heart.

I always envision a wilderness experience that would make Bear Grylls proud, but the reality is that my encounters with nature more closely resemble those recounted by the late Patrick McManus in his columns for Field and Stream, or in books like They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They and a Fine and Pleasant Misery.

For example, on this trip, I made a McGeyver-like attempt to repair my inflatable sleeping pad with tree sap and small squares of plastic. It sounded like a reasonable solution at the time but the end result was a leaking air mattress and bits of forest debris stuck to my sap covered hands.

In this world there are fisherman, there are people who fish, and then there is me. I typically spend more time untangling my line than fishing. My level of success is typically measured in the number of flies, or lures, I lose rather than in the number of fish I catch. I did manage to hook one trout on the first evening at the stream. I suspect there was something wrong with it. Perhaps, as McManus suggests, it was lacking in “style and taste.”

I have practiced ignorance most of my life and am intimately familiar with all its variations and applications…Let us now apply ignorance to fly-fishing. Suppose your flyfishing is like mine—no offense intended—and your main objective is somehow to get a fly to plop on the water in the hope that nearby there’s a fish lacking in matters of style and taste. – Patrick McManus, Ignoramus, October 1997

On the second day of the trip, I saw a small tarantula crawling through my camp. That evening, as I was enjoying a bowl of ramen noodles (that’s a lie, I wasn’t enjoying the noodles) I remembered a previous encounter with a tarantula in which I put my hand down in front of the arachnid. He (or she) crawled on to my hand and then, sensing the change in surface, promptly froze and refused to crawl off. I’d probably still be sitting on a forest road with a tarantula in hand if my brother hadn’t help me prod the spider on it’s way with the help of a stick.

I’ll keep making these trips to the wilderness and I will undoubtedly continue to resemble a character in a McManus book. Oh well. It makes for better stories than being an accomplished outdoorsman.

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