Monday, September 28, 2015

Wildlife Of The Upper Peninsula

Wildlife  is what we always hope to see on our jaunts up north in Michigan.  This month’s trip to the northwoods involved retirement tent camping in the upper peninsula of Michigan.  But there’s something wrong with that sentence.  “Retirement” and “tent camping” should not appear together, at least not for us.

Sleeping in the campground at Taquamenon Falls State Park required lots of bending, stooping and twisting, sometimes reaching poses that would challenge a yoga instructor . . . with aging joints that are not as flexible and which at any time might issue forth shooting pains.  Still, I could not pass up a lovely weather weekend so late in the summer.  What better way to enjoy the wilderness experience you can find up north. 

I had looked forward to this expedition for most of the summer and practiced setting up and then sleeping in our two-man yellow nylon tent in our backyard one night.  Since rain was not predicted, I didn’t even bother with the rain fly, wanting to sleep with the stars shining brightly above me.  That lasted until the wee hours of the morning when I began to feel damp inside my sleeping bag.  My tent was as wet as if it had showered briefly.  But this was all dew gathering into droplets on the netting above me, then dripping like so many leaky faucets onto me as I slept below.

Oh well.  Better to keep the rain fly on anyway.  Better not to see the woodland creatures, a bear perhaps, looking down on us in the middle of the night.

So we pitched a tent next to the woods and a gurgling brook below us, not quite close enough to hear the roar of the falls.  Despite being after Labor Day, there were lots of campers, mostly housed in the stainless steel mobile home kind.
There was a small tent in the campsite next to us, about the same size as our’s.  However, that turned out to be a bit suspicious, at least for my wife.  There was nobody there when we originally set up, though a car was parked nearby.  Then an older man and younger woman arrived in another vehicle, regarded Wendy cautiously as they sat together, then embraced eachother fervently before striking their tent and quickly leaving in separate vehicles.  Hmmmm.  All kinds of wildlife.

Well, no, we actually didn’t see any exotic wildlife.  There was a squirrel and a chipmunk that chattered and scurried around us, especially when we were eating a couple donuts.  In fact, the chipmunk bravely approached us and stood up on hind legs as if to say, “Can you spare a crumb, please?”  Uh, sorry, no.

We saw more dogs than anything here.  I hiked up a trail along the rapids and on the way back noticed that a gentleman in front of me was having difficulty pulling his powerful looking mutt that looked like a cross between a boxer and a hound from Hell.  The dog was trying to pull his master into reverse after he spotted me coming up behind them.

“Lucky,” he called to the dog as I approached.  “He wants to go south instead of north”, he added to me.  No, no—I think he wanted to eat me.  The dog was muffling something to me under his own breath that sounded like, “C’mon, buddy, come on over here and let me give you a sniff.”

    I passed Lucky as his owner struggled to contain him.  A little ways farther and I passed more dogs going the other way.  As I skipped down a side path devoid of other hikers, whether four or two-footed, I heard all the dogs engaged in a rather vehement discussion, about rights-of-way I assumed.  Pretty soon, I heard a guy calling out, “Lucky” over and over.

     Turning around, I saw Lucky had broken free with his leash and had also taken the side path and was now behind me.  The hellhound was still muffling something that sounded like, “C’mon back here guy, I want to nuzzle your pant leg.”   Lucky for me, Lucky the dog was re-captured by his owner before he could muffle or growl any further invites at me.  

     Other than that, the only wildlife encounter of note occurred when Wendy climbed out of our tent and cried out when a frog tried to hop past her through the open tent flap, trying to join me still lying on our camping mattress.  That's okay.  I'll take a frog over Lucky any day.