My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Archive for August, 2010

My new kayak

I should have added this in my earlier post about the great weekend kayaking, but it slipped my mind for some reason. That weekend was the first time I had a chance to use my new kayak. It works really well, surprising in fact, since it is a duplicate of one I had before.

Like many people, I made a mistake when I purchased my first kayak, a Wilderness Systems Pungo 14. It was OK on lakes and large rivers, but it was a pain in the rear on smaller rivers. I bought it on the advice of some one who thought she knew more than she really did, the salesman said it was a good boat, and I could fit in it. For those who have never met me, I am 6 foot 6 inches tall and weigh in at around 300 pounds. Few products are made to fit some one my size, from clothes to vehicles to of course, kayaks. So I bought the first one I found that I could fit into after looking at many yaks, but in the fall when selection is limited. I will say this about Wilderness Systems, they have the best seats of any kayak I have seen, and the Pungo wasn’t a bad boat, it was just a poor choice for the type of kayaking I do most of the time. At 14 feet long, it was hard to maneuver on smaller rivers, compounded by the fact that the hull design leans towards good tracking, meaning the boat wants to go in a straight line. I had to paddle hard to get the thing to turn, the entire time I had it I was wishing I had a canoe instead, I was used to them. I eventually found some one who wanted a kayak of that type and sold it to him and bought a Mad River whitewater canoe.

The Mad River canoe works great on smaller rivers, it holds two people and a ton of gear for camping, but it is slower than a kayak, so I still yearned to have one of each. During one of my many visits to Powers Outdoors in Rockford, Michigan, they told me that they had just gotten in a kayak that may work for me, so I gave it a try. That’s one of the many great things about Powers, you can try before you buy. The boat was a Perception Prodigy 12, and it worked pretty well. It didn’t turn as easy as the canoe, but it was a lot faster and easier to paddle, so I bought it in May of 2009. It served me pretty well for a year, until ran the Pere Marquette River back in July 2010. By the time we were done, there was quite a bit of water in my boat, even though I had drained it dry when we stopped for lunch. I feared the worst, and sure enough, when we turned it over, the hull was cracking right where the seat mounts to the hull. The seat mounts were very small, which concentrated all my weight in a very small area, causing the hull to crack.

I should tell you that I am not easy on a kayak, or canoe, for that matter. I don’t hesitate to “jump” half-submerged logs, I kayak in the winter when the cold water causes the plastic to become brittle, and I have been known to launch by sliding down a dirt bank into the water. All those things are hard on a kayak, and with the seat mounts the way they were designed, all my weight was concentrated onto a very small area of the hull. I took it back to Powers, and a week later, they told me Perception would warranty it, and a new one was on its way. In this day of rotten customer service, finding both a manufacturer and a store that stands behind their products was great news indeed! Kudos to both Perception and Powers for the new boat and the way that they handled everything!

I had made a back up plan in case I was stuck with the old one. Powers said they could repair it no problem, and we discussed shooting the foam that people use for insulation in the area under the seat to spread my weight over a larger area of the hull. I bought a can of the foam to use no matter what, thinking that even if I did get a replacement, I would soon have the same thing happen to the new one. It only took three weeks total, from the time I brought the cracked one into Powers until the replacement kayak arrived, just in time for a scheduled trip on the Pine River. Not bad considering Powers had to send in pictures of the damage to Perception, Perception had to make the call on whether to warranty it or not, and the replacement to be shipped by truck to Powers.

The first thing I noticed as Jason and I unpacked the new one was that the seat mounts had been redesigned. In addition to the two tiny little attachment points at the very front of the seat, there was also a large center mount that was 5 or 6 times larger than both the others put together. It must be that other people had the same thing happen, as manufacturers do not change their tooling unless they have to, because of the costs involved. Since I had the can of spray foam insulation already, I went ahead and filled the area between the seat and the hull with the foam, better safe than sorry.

I started down the Pine in the new one, and noticed right away that it seemed to work better. It turned easier, and was more responsive than the old one. I don’t know if the added rigidity of the redesigned seat mounts, the foam I sprayed in, or something else I haven’t found yet is responsible for the better performance. I stopped about 15 minutes into the trip to adjust the seat better for myself, and that made it even better. It makes things a lot more fun when the boat turns when you want it to turn, and goes straight when you want it to go straight. To say I was pleased with the performance of my new kayak would be an understatement.

Then on Sunday, when Mike, Connie, and I floated the upper Rouge River, I did something I seldom do, I left almost all my safety gear in the car. I knew the river would be shallow since we haven’t had much rain lately, and I didn’t want to scrape my new boat all up running over rocks and gravel. Normally, I always have a change of clothes, a throw rope, an overnight survival kit, first aid kit, and a few other things with me when I kayak. The day before when a group of us had run the Pine, I also had extra rain gear, food, and water along too, in case some one needed it. I left all that behind, and the new kayak performed even better! It was an absolute breeze, both in the way the boat maneuvers, and as far as being easier to paddle. That has gotten me thinking, I do need most of the things I carry when I kayak, but maybe I can cut the weight down some, and/or load the boat differently to change where the weight is in the boat. A friend of mine died of hypothermia/drowning a couple of months ago while kayaking in Canada, so not having safety gear along isn’t an option, except for very tame rivers like the upper Rouge. I really, really liked the way the new boat worked, especially on Sunday when it was lighter. Now all I have to do is figure out how to load the gear I must have with me in a way that the boat can live up to its potential. I can’t say enough good things about the way Powers Outdoors and Perception handled the problems with my old boat, or the way the new kayak handles. Sometimes, just when things seem to be going badly, everything turns around, and you come out better off than before.


I have become a lazy wimp

For those of you who don’t know me, I earn my living as a truck driver at the present time. It is an incredibly boring job, especially now that I drive the same route every evening. As I am driving along, I find myself gazing out across the fields or into the woods as I pass by. Some of the places I see remind me of places I used to wander around when I was younger, and I would think to myself that I should find places like those to hike through again.  I even imagine myself walking through the places I pass by, down to the point of planning my route through the tangles of vines and underbrush that make for difficult walking. A couple of weeks ago it hit me, I have become a fat, lazy wimp.

For some years now I have stuck to established trails in parks, easy walking, but you miss so much of what nature has to offer when you do that. That has gotten me thinking of my evolution as how I got this way. I certainly didn’t start out sticking to established trails, as when I was a kid, there weren’t any. My brother and I roamed the woods behind my parent’s house, learning to navigate our way by going a little farther all the time, then returning to landmarks we knew so we didn’t get lost. When I started hunting, of course we avoided anything like a park or established trail, the point of hunting is getting away from the crowds to an area where there is game, and it is safe to shoot.

My uncle Ted owned 320 acres of land just a few miles west of Big Rapids, a great area to hunt. There was one 2 track going through his property just so we could drive back to the particular area we were planning on hunting, and for bringing deer back to the house if we were good enough to bag a deer. Other than that one 2 track, there were no trails, you learned to navigate by compass and memory of landmarks learned before. The only established trails I ever walked were those to a specific public landmark, like a waterfall, where you would park in a parking lot, and follow the trail to what there was to see, then walk back to your car. Those trails were usually short, and I never considered them as the reason for being there, the trails existed only to get people to and from the landmark they were there to see, and reduce the impact on the environment that hundreds of people walking through the woods would cause.

My buddy Spud and I would often pick an area of public land that looked “gamey”, park on the side of the road, and just strike out through the woods with just a compass and a map. When I was fishing rivers, I would cut back cross-country to get back to the place I started, whether it was where I had parked, or the campground I was at. I even considered taking up Orienteering, a sport that requires navigational skills using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain, and normally moving at speed. Participants are given a topographical map, usually a specially prepared map, which they use to find control points. The reason I didn’t is that they are more of a race than a nature experience.

So how did I become a trail hiker? It started while I was married. My ex was a city girl through and through. We went camping a couple of times, neither she or the kids liked it at all. I had pretty much given up hunting, for reasons I’ll explain in another blog sometime, but I did go wandering through the woods on my own now and then, but not often. It was a time in my life, as with most people, that I was busy making a living, house and yard work, and raising a family. We did go fishing a lot, always on lakes in my boat, that was the extent of their outdoors adventures. I would take the dogs for a walk in the woods every night, and sneak off now and then for a weekend of river fishing, but most of my time was spent with family.

It was while I was married that I lost touch with all my old outdoor buddies as well. Most of them were getting married and starting families too, and it made it hard for us to find times to get away. My ex had a bit of a jealous streak as well, and didn’t like me being gone for any length of time either, as she afraid I would be out running around on her and not out in the woods. Silly girl, she was the one I loved, and I never would have cheated on her, but she was who she was.

You know, as a side note, my buddy Jeff and I lost track of each other because we both married women who didn’t want to let us out of their sight. We were both happily married to beautiful women who were on the insecure side. We did manage to go to a couple of fishing tournaments down south together, until our wives’ put a stop to that too. They were both worried that we would go off whoring around on them, but hell, he and I never went whoring around together when we were single, we both loved fishing too much to let chasing women get in the way. But, that seems to be the norm, new wives’ don’t like their husbands hanging out with the male friends the husband had when he was single.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog. After the divorce, I went back to many of the places I used to go, but in the ten years I was married, things had changed. Civilization had taken over many of my old favorite places to wander. Now there are houses and sub-divisions where before there were woods and fields. I had to find new places, and ended up in parks with established trail systems. I guess because it was easy, and I had heard or read about them, so rather than seek out new places to explore, I gravitated towards them.

Sometimes it was because the places I had gone before suddenly had trail systems where there had been none before. Like Aman Park, I caught my first steelhead out of Sand Creek in Aman Park back in the early 70’s. Aman Park is a small park a few miles west of Standale. When I fished it for steelhead, there were no trails, other than to the creek that fishermen had worn down on their way to and from the creek. Now there are a couple of miles of marked trails there. It was a quiet little hole in civilization that no one knew about, now it is a crowded mass of people jogging and walking the trails on a nice day. If people didn’t stick to the marked trails, the plant life there would be trampled to death from all the people who go there now. That would be a shame, because the wildflowers there in May are beautiful beyond words. There are acres of trilliums there, as if they had been planted, and many other flowers as well. I try to make there every May just for the flowers. I also walk it a lot in the winter when there aren’t so many people, but it is so crowded during good weather that I avoid it and the crowds.

And so it goes, when I took an ex girlfriend up to fish the south branch of the Au Sable and introduce her to the Mason Tract a couple of years ago, I found the DNR had put in a system of marked trails through the Mason Tract. The same with Hartwick Pines, and even my beloved Pigeon River Country, there are now trails when there didn’t used to be any.

Not that there is anything wrong with marked trails, I think it is a good thing that there are more of them all the time. Especially for people who can’t find their way through the woods without getting lost, and for environmental sensitive areas where hoards of people would destroy nature’s beauty. But trails are easy, the walking is easy, you’re not fighting your way through vines, burning nettles, or briars, and trails are laid out to take the easy way up and down hills. Trails are also mentally easy, you don’t have to think about finding your way back, don’t have to keep track of where you are and you don’t have to make note of landmarks to help you navigate. You just follow the trail. Well, for most of my life I didn’t do easy, and because of that I saw places and animals most people never get to see.

My days of easy are over with, at least for most of the time. Now that I have the time, I am going to find new places to go wandering, what with Google Earth and the mapping program I have, it won’t take driving around like it used to. We’re lucky in Michigan, there are huge blocks of state and federally owned land open to the public, and it’s time for me to check even more of them out. I’ll look on my maps and find those blocks of green that represent public land, check them out on Google Earth, then go to wandering.

Who knows what I will “discover”, it may be stunning vistas, but more likely, it will be little gems tucked away in some little corner of the world no one visits. Maybe a pretty little stream, a giant old pine that survived the lumber days, a small lake or marsh, there is no telling what I will find except for one thing I know I will find, and that is the old me. The me who didn’t take the easy way, the me that wasn’t worried about striking off into the unknown, the me who wasn’t a fat lazy wimp.


A great weekend of kayaking

It is Monday morning as I type this, I spent the weekend kayaking with friends. On Saturday, a group of nine of us ran the upper Pine River from the 6 Mile/Meadowbrook access to the Lincoln Bridge access, about 12 1/2 miles of river. That stretch of the river is farther upstream than most people who float the Pine are used to. In fact, the Pine is such a popular river that the US Forest Service has implemented a permit system on the lower river to limit access to the river. The permits are only $2 per boat, I don’t mind the cost, the Forest Service has put the money to good use for a change and built some great facilities for river users. I had always avoided doing the Pine, since it was so crowded all the time in the past. Nothing like a group of drunken louts to ruin a fine day on the water. While there are still a lot of drunken partiers on the rivers, the permit system has helped. It isn’t just the drunks that cause problem, there were so many people running the Pine that there were problems with bank erosion and trash as well. That’s one of my pet peeves, people who venture out to supposedly enjoy the beauty of nature, but leave their trash behind to ruin it for those who come along later. It isn’t just trash, but also just plain stupid vandalism like destroying signs and hacking up trees just because some people feel the need to, something I don’t understand at all. Well, maybe I do understand people like that. They are pathetic little people who can only leave their mark in this world by destruction, because they are incapable of building anything. They have no respect for anything because they have no respect for themselves’.

I know I titled my blog Quiet Solo Pursuits, but I should let you all know that I started a web-based kayaking group last spring, April 2009, and it went quite well for the first year. We had close to 200 members and averaged 25 people on our trips on a regular basis. After our first float of this year, a couple of things happened and I am no longer with that group anymore, but a few of us have stuck in touch and still kayak together. It isn’t that I am opposed to having other people along, it is that I have high standards of acceptable behavior when in the woods or on a river, and very few people meet those standards. But, back to the rivers.

 Saturday started out overcast with a few rain showers moving through the area, which were over with by the time we got to the river. The Pine is a spring fed river that stays cold all summer long. With the rain and humidity, there was a haze on the water as we put in and started our journey.

 The Pine is one of the fastest rivers in Michigan’s lower peninsula. It keeps you on your toes with not a lot of time for taking pictures or anything else. You don’t need to paddle to move along at a good clip, but you do have to do a lot of steering to stay out of the brush and off the rocks. It is a beautiful river, with a mixture of everything. Low brushy banks to towering high banks with old growth trees still standing. It has become one of my favorite rivers to kayak, I think only the Jordan River near Lake Charlevoix is prettier, and that’s saying a lot. A couple of us ran this same section in the middle of July, and the banks were lined with many different wildflowers along the way. Most of the flowers were gone Saturday, but it is still a beautiful river, and if you can run it in June or July, you’ll also get to see an explosion of color in the form of wildflowers that you’ll want to stop and take pictures of. Being spring fed, you can run it all year round. It would also be spectacular in the fall when the leaves have changed color. The upper section we ran Saturday has some whitewater, not a lot, and not difficult at all. It may not be a beginner’s river, but any one who has paddled a couple of rivers shouldn’t have a problem with it. It isn’t as fast or as twisty as the Sturgeon, and not as difficult as the Little Manistee is. It took us about 4 1/2 hours to run the 12 1/2 miles, and that included two short stops along the way. One at the South Skookum access site, and the other at the Silver Creek access site. A private association owns the land along the river between those two access sites, and by taking our breaks at the access sites, we were able to respect the landowners property rights. By the time we pushed off from South Skookum, the sun had come out and it was a gorgeous day. It did get warm, but there was enough shade and cool spots along the river to ward off the heat, and dipping your feet or hands into the cold water of the Pine is a great way to cool off.

It was a great trip, marred only by the drunks at Silver Creek who insisted on whooping and hollering at every woman who went by in a kayak or canoe. If they were ever to allow shooting rude men, I’d be all for it.

Then on Sunday, Mike, Connie, and myself kayaked the upper Rouge River above the Dam in Rockford. We did it as a change of pace, the upper Rouge is a much gentler river than the Pine. I consider the Rouge to be my home river, I have floated it the entire length that is practical in everything from a rowboat to rubber rafts to kayaks. I have also waded most of it during the many times I have fished it. I am not positive, but I think I have run the Rouge in every month of the year. I know I have fished it all year round. They say every river has a personality of its own, the Rouge has a split personality. Above the dam, it is a gentle river with a moderate to slow current, with a gravel or sandy bottom in most places. Below the dam, the river picks up speed, the bottom is mostly rock or gravel, and there is some of the best whitewater in the lower peninsula, albeit very short stretches, like where the old Childsdale Dam used to be. The “problem” with the Rouge is that its depth fluctuates a great deal depending on the amount of recent rainfall. The entire river tends to be shallow, and a week without rain in the summer means you’ll probably be walking a couple short stretches. We had to get out of our boats a couple of times on Sunday, but that doesn’t bother me as much as it does most people. I guess it is because I am used to wading rivers while fishing. The best time to do the Rouge is after a heavy rain, especially below the dam. The surprising thing about the Rouge is how undeveloped it is for being less than 15 miles from downtown Grand Rapids. There are some houses along the way, but not as many as you would expect, and the amount of wildlife is incredible! Many a time I have seen deer crossing the river while I fished, or watched mink along the banks, and there are a lot of waterfowl, especially once you get near the dam.

Just a couple of the pictures I took on Sunday. Here’s another, of the Cardinal flowers along the river.

Every river does have a personality, and we chose two different rivers with different personalities just for that reason. Saturday on the Pine was beautiful, but as fast as it is, you sometimes feel as if it went by too quickly. Sunday on the Rouge was the antidote to that, a slow leisurely float with lots of time to take in everything there was to see. It doesn’t get much better than that!


The early years

Most of the earliest memories that I have are of places and times when my parents were doing something out-of-doors. My dad was a hunter and fisherman, and my mom would go along on his trips until there were too many of us kids for her to do so.  There were fishing trips to Copper Harbor for trout, and trips to the fishing camp in Canada that a friend of my dad’s ran. I can remember waking up in the back seat of the car as we were waiting in line to use the ferry that ran between Michigan’s two peninsulas before the Mackinac Bridge was built, on the way to a hunting camp for deer season. The memories are faded now, but they are still there.

I have a picture that my mom took when I was around three years old of myself in the middle of a canoe, with my dad’s friend John Stevens in the front, and my dad paddling in the back as they returned  from a scouting trip. So you can see that I got an early introduction to the great outdoors. People ask me how long I have been canoeing, and I tell them “All my life”.

Before I was even 5 years old, I was fishing along with my parents when they went fishing for panfish. My mom was quite the fisherperson herself, as long as it was with a cane pole and bobber, her favorite way of fishing. She was also a very good archer, while she never hunted with a bow and arrow, she was as good or a better shot than my dad was with a bow. Even back then, I caught fish, maybe it only seems like it now, but I remember keeping my dad quite busy taking fish off the line and re-baiting my hook.

The year that I turned 5, my parents bought a house in the country and we moved from the city to the sticks. The house wasn’t that far outside the city limits, but you would never have known if you were dropped in there. There was one house right next door, but other than that one, the closest houses were a quarter of a mile or more in either direction. There was nothing behind us except woods and fields for a mile until you came to the next road. Across the street was even more wild, a large gravel company owned a very large piece of land and only worked it for a couple of years. There were hills, streams, ponds, even a couple small lakes tucked away here and there on both sides of the road. My parents would often go for walks in the woods behind our house, and of course, bring me along with them.

About the same time, one of my uncles bought a cottage on a small lake less than five miles from my parent’s house. Also, my dad’s friend John Stevens bought a house a little more than a mile north of us. There weren’t many other kids in the neighborhood to play with, since there weren’t any houses around us. When my brother and I were old enough, we would ride our bikes to John’s house, he and his wife, Pat, had kids our age, so we went there to play. When we were old enough, we would ride to my uncle’s cottage and spend the days swimming and fishing with my cousin Will.

Those were great summers!  There were many times that my brother and I would leave the house right after breakfast, and be late coming home for dinner. We spent our days wandering around in the woods, catching frogs, turtles, and salamanders near the ponds and lakes, swimming, and exploring the world around us.

Both my parents were also readers, and they instilled that in us kids too. We had books about animals, birds, reptiles, and insects that we read, and we tried to find all of the creatures that we read about when we were exploring. Dad also gave me a couple of books by the late Jack O’Connor and told me to read them. My dad was a huge fan, and I became one too. For those of you who don’t hunt, the name may not mean anything to you, but Jack O’Connor was a writer for Outdoor Life in its heyday. Unlike most outdoor writers, Jack was a former college English professor, so he could actually write well. He was a true sportsman in every sense of the word.

His books played a huge part in influencing who I am today. They are worth reading even if you never hunt, because they are about more than hunting and guns, they are about the outdoors and ecology, and written long before ecology became popular. My dad “assigned” then to me to prepare me for my days as a hunter that were yet to come.

I don’t recall which came first, my first hunting trip, or being given my first real rod and reel. I was way too young to be using a gun, but my dad would bring me along on some of his small game hunts from time to time. I got to play the part of the dog. I would follow behind my dad and fetch what he or his friends shot. But I was learning, learning to keep quiet for one thing. Learning how to walk quietly, where each type of game was likely to be found, and their habits. I was learning to pay attention to every little detail, every scent, every sound, every motion. It was training my senses and my mind in a way that some one who doesn’t hunt probably doesn’t understand. There were greater life lessons too, like what it meant to be a sportsman, and a man. I learned from dad and his friends, listening to their conversations on the way to and from the hunting grounds, and during the breaks during the hunt.

It was about the same time that I received my first rod and reel, a Shakespeare fly rod and closed face spinning reel combo. With it I was able to go along with my dad on his serious fishing trips, I wasn’t limited to the family outings fishing for panfish anymore. We still did that, but I also learned to fish for bass, pike, and trout.


Quiet Solo Pursuits

I am breaking down and starting a blog, since every one else is already been there and done that. For the most part this blog will be about my journeys into the great out doors, mostly in Michigan, but I hope a few other locations as well as time goes by. I am in the planning stages for a fishing trip to the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming, hopefully I will be able to pull it off in the next year or two.  

I have chosen the name, Quiet Solo Pursuits, because most of my excursions are me by myself. Not all, I do kayak with others some of the time, but most of my fishing and hiking excursions are by myself. I am not the easiest person in the world to get along with, and I prefer to go solo rather than “spoil” a great day afield putting up with some one that doesn’t see things my way. That may sound harsh, but there is nothing worse than listening to some one whine because their feet hurt after only a couple of miles, or the weather isn’t perfect, or what ever reason people find to whine about. I am out and about all year round, although less in the summer when it is extremely hot. The picture used as the header for this page was taken on the beach at Saugatuck on a day when the high was around 15 degrees, and the wind was blowing with gusts over 30 MPH. I don’t find many people willing to take a stroll on the beach on days like that, but that’s my kind of weather!   

I have my own set of rules and standards of conduct when I am in the great outdoors, I am not saying mine are right and every one else’s are wrong, it is that these are the rules that suit me. You are free to take them or leave them as you will. As I go along with these posts, you will get an idea of what my rules and standards are. I guess the best way to give you an idea here is to relate a story an ex-girlfriend told me. She was camping with some other people, and was up early chattering away in the manner she is prone to, when one of her friends, who was also up early, turned to her and said, “Could you please shut up. You’re fucking with my serenity”. She must have understood what the guy meant, as she and I had many a grand adventure in our time together. We got along great out doors, it was indoors where the trouble between us started.  

My old fishing buddy, Spud, used to tell people who made too much noise that they were “ruining his wilderness experience”. I think Spud and I got along so well because we were both raised in families that took their hunting seriously, his even more than mine. His uncles hunted to put food on the family table during the Great Depression, if they weren’t successful, they didn’t eat. He was just as serious about fishing too, but I have to admit that 4 or 5 hours without even a hit will find me pulling rocks out of the river to check the aquatic insects clinging to them, or looking for good subjects to photograph.  

The woods are my place of serenity, where I seek my wilderness adventures. Not that I wouldn’t talk if some one were around, but quiet is the rule. I was raised as a hunter, and although I no longer hunt to kill, I still conduct myself in the woods as a hunter. Moving slowly and quietly in order not to spook the critters around me. I hunt with a camera now, and when I figure this service out a little better, I will share the pictures I take with any one who cares to read this.   

A swan on the Jordan River

 

 You don’t capture moments like this if you are romping along the riverbank making a lot of noise.


The old man in the chair

One of my favorite stretches of rivers to fish is the Pere Marquette from the forks to M 37 bridge. Because of the way the river flows, and the roads are laid out, I fish 4 or 5 miles of the river, and it is only a mile and a half walk back to my vehicle.

On most days when I fish this stretch, there is an old man sitting by the road in front of his house in a patio chair as I am walking back to my vehicle. He sits out there because he is lonely and bored. Since it is about the half way point in my walk back, I have always stopped to chat a while. We swap fish stories, talk about the river, and anywhere else the conversation leads. He seems happy to have some one to talk with for a while, even if our conversations don’t last that long, half an hour at most. I know most people would just say hi and keep on walking, but I figured that spending a few minutes cheering the old guy up was worth a few minutes of my time.

The last couple years I have noticed a sharp decline in his health, the last time I was there he looked liked death warmed over, and I had to practically yell for him to hear me as he is almost deaf now. I find myself fishing other stretches of the river more these days, for one reason. I am afraid that one of these days the old man and his chair will be gone, and that will be a very sad day for me.

I don’t even remember his name, but that isn’t important, what is important is the love of the river and the trout in it that we shared. What is important is that there have been many people like him in my life, and most are gone now. Like the guy who ran the bait and tackle shop on Sturgeon Valley Road on the way to the Pigeon River Country. The guy who owned the flyfishing shop outside Wolverine, and of course, Rusty Gates.

If you added up all the time I have spent talking to these people, it doesn’t amount to much time, but I learned from all of them. We weren’t friends, barely aquaintances, but I remember them, and they remembered me, that was important. I think they mean so much to me because I am not meeting new people to take their place. A sign that times are changing, and that they don’t make men like these anymore. That’s sad, not just for me, but for the younger generations who will never get a chance to hear how things used to be. Never meet men that stood on principle and weren’t afraid to fight to protect what they loved.

Yes, one day the chair will be gone from the side of the road, and I will shed a tear, then drink a toast to the old guy in the chair.