The travel diaries, hidden places

I want you to close your eyes for just a moment and think about the busiest place that you have ever been. I am thinking about New York City. Horns honking, tires squealing, brakes squeaking, street vendors selling loudly, all a jumbled mass of sounds echoing off of buildings. Now I want you to think of the most remote location that you have ever been to then multiply it by 100.

A few years ago, Paul and I wanted to get away for the weekend to escape from the noise of life. I reserved a remote camping site at the Northern Highlands State Forest in Wisconsin.The site I reserved was called Sunset Point. It was one of five camp sites. Three were located on the main lake, one was on the second lake, and the site I reserved was on the farthest end of the third lake.

Paul reserved remote camping sites before. He would get together with a group of guys and take his fishing boat filled with camping gear to the remote site. They would spend the weekend fishing and cooking up their catch. This time I wanted in on the adventure but with just the two of us.

There were a few very important things that I overlooked when I reserved this site. We had the truck loaded up with camping gear when Paul decided to take one last look at the site details before we left. He noticed that our camp site was not a boat in remote site like we thought. It was actually a canoe in remote site. We would have to carry our canoe and gear a couple of football fields between lakes to get there. Oh, and a storm was coming.

Thankfully we were able to drop off the kids at my in-laws and pick up a canoe that they had up in the rafters of their shed. That afternoon we were finally able to check into our camp site. The park ranger said that due to the bad weather expected almost all of the campers canceled their sites. We decided to keep our site on the furthest lake. He told us that in the event of a severe storm, we were on our own. He gave us a map and wished us luck.

We drove about 15 minutes down a one lane dusty dirt road. It was full of potholes. We were bouncing around so much that I thought our canoe would fall off. Vines and brush pressed against the truck on both sides. It was a great place to hide a body and we didn’t even get to our site yet. Once we got to the parking spot, we realized that we majorly over packed. We packed for a boat ride across the lake, not a canoe ride across three lakes. We took three trips back and forth across each lake to be able to fit our most essential gear. Then we carried the canoe across a couple of football fields down a little dirt path to get to the second and third lakes. We had to make multiple trips to get the rest of our gear. It took us several hours to finally get to our site. We arrived just before it got dark hurrying our exhausted muscles along more and more as dusk approached. We still had to set up camp, eat, and try to hunker down before the storm came.

We truly were out in the middle of nowhere on a small lake in a heavily wooded area. There weren’t any electrical hook ups here. A short distance from the camp was a pit toilet in the middle of the woods without a structure around it. We were completely in the dark once night hit. We settled into our tent early that night trying to sleep before the storm arrived. Paul tied our tent up to the trees surrounding it to give it more support. We heard a coyote howl in the night. Taking a hike to go to the bathroom would be a little scary. Not to mention feeling vulnerable out in the wide open.

We awoke that night to distant thunder then the roaring of a great wind. Rain knocked gently at first with a little tap, tap, tap. Then tree branched clapped and tapped along our tent. Everything seemed so loud. I grabbed the flashlight to shine on my face (like the actress from the Blair Witch Project) and jokingly said, “I’m so scared.” But I really was afraid. I was afraid that a big tree would come crashing down on us. I was afraid that I would have to swim across three lakes and run across a couple of football fields with broken legs. Oh heck, might as well just throw in a bear.

Despite my fears, we woke up that morning in paradise. Most of our wood got wet, other than that everything was perfect. We fished on that little lake. We had a great time in the miniature Garden of Eden (without snakes). I even checked skinny dipping off my bucket list. We didn’t see a single person all weekend. Well, except for when that small plane flew over while I was skinny dipping.

The next morning it was time to go home. Once again, we were in a bit of a hurry because another storm was going to hit that afternoon. We decided that we did have enough time to make a good breakfast. While Paul made bacon, we heard howling that came closer and closer to us. I sat in the canoe while he cooked just in case something came out at us. To this day I couldn’t tell you if it was coyotes, wolves, or hunting dogs. All I know was that it was pretty unnerving. It sure did motivate us to get out of there as fast as we could.

We finally were able to load up our bags and head out, but not before we put the weight of the world back on our shoulders. Things didn’t go that well with my mother-in-law and the kids. She couldn’t handle all three kids at once. She was swearing about them while we loaded them up into the truck and left. After that, I didn’t speak to my mother-in-law for about a year. Getting away did wonders for our marriage. Too bad it didn’t have the same effect on my mother-in-law.

We always expected to go back to our hiding spot. In fact, I even made reservations to go back the following summer. We loved the taste of serenity that solitude provided along with a little spice of being survivalists. We wanted to right our wrongs, like not over packing. When the weekend came around to go back, we didn’t have a sitter for the kids and it was going to be stormy the entire weekend. So we never did go back, but sometimes I want to.



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