Reflections on the Jordan River Weekend
First of all, some housecleaning notes. You may notice that I have added some links to other websites on the right side of my blog. I will be adding more as I have the time, and may even start a link page if I figure out how. These are links to organizations whom I support. Most will be links to land trusts/nature preserves. These groups use member contributions to purchase critical environmental properties, and most of the lands are open to the public. The size of the preserves range from just a few acres, to thousands of acres, and some are entire islands in the great lakes. So if you are looking for a place to wander around in, or to kayak in nature for a day, you may want to check those links out. The preserves are scattered all around the State of Michigan, some are well-developed with clearly marked trails, others are just land to walk around on. Some are closed to the public, and I don’t think any allow camping, but the websites will let you know which are open to the public. Mouse over the links for more information.
One group that does overall good work but who I won’t link to is the Nature Conservancy. I was a member for years, and was about to become a life member when the environmental/animal rights wackos took over the leadership of the Nature Conservancy. They came out against hunting and fishing, and began closing off most of the group’s property, which I don’t agree with. They saw a significant drop in membership after they came out publicly against hunting and fishing, as they learned many of the membership had been sportsmen and women up until then. So they began a stealth movement of sorts, they took the verbage against hunting and fishing out of the group’s mission, but were still lobbying to outlaw both sports. To me, that’s the worst kind of dishonesty. That along with the fact that the leadership are elitists who want the average Joe’s money, but who think that the average Joe isn’t good enough, in their eyes, to set foot on land that he helped purchase. I know there are environmentally sensitive areas that require extra protection, but way too much of the land held by the Nature Conservancy is now designated as too environmentally sensitive to allow the public, or even the membership, to set foot on. So while I still support the idea of purchasing land to protect it from development, I can no longer support the Nature Conservancy.
On a related note, it may surprise many people to learn that THE major source of funds to restore wildlife habitat in the United States comes as a result of the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937. There is an 11% Federal excise tax on guns, ammunition, fishing rods and reels, tackle, etc. The generated revenues from Pittman-Robertson are placed in a special trust under the control of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and are to be allotted to state wildlife conservation programs for wildlife restoration, not just game animals, but all wildlife.
So much for that stuff, now back to this last weekend on the Jordan. The number one thing that hit me once again this weekend was the drunks in Graves Crossing Campground. This is a trend I have been seeing more of, and I don’t like it. I know that’s just my opinion, but when did the out-of-doors become an excuse to drink to excess?
OK, Spud and I, and a few others, were known to do some drinking back in the day, Spud and I even polished off a case of beer in a day a couple of times. That may sound like a lot of beer, but when you are up before dawn, fish hard for 4 or 5 hours and it starts getting hot, 10 AM doesn’t seem that early to crack a beer. We would each drink about a beer an hour, probably less during the day, then finish off the case sitting around the campfire in the evening. I don’t ever remember being drunk. We couldn’t have been too drunk, my truck was a cop magnet, and we were pulled over a few times on the way to or from a river or our campground. The one state cop did tell us that we shouldn’t be drinking while driving, and then we wouldn’t have had to have shoved our beers down our waders when he pulled us over. But that was all he said about it. (Spud had gone in over his hip boots and we drove to the campground so he could change to dry pants and put on his waders. It was half a mile each direction, and I still managed to get pulled over. The police were looking for a truck like mine that had been involved in a crime.) I was never quite sure how he knew we had beer cans stuffed in our waders, but he did. We never set out to drink a case in a day, it just happened, the case was supposed to last the weekend or even longer. The reason I brought a case was so Spud wouldn’t buy the beer, he would only buy Pabst Blue Ribbon, and it seemed like I got the skunked ones most of the time. But, we were never drunk, and we never drank while we were hunting, ever!
A couple of years ago, Larri and I were up in the Pigeon River Country in the spring. We did some fishing, some exploring, and some mushrooming. We came across a group of guys that were so drunk, they had to go and get the pick up truck to haul one of the group, who had passed out on his feet, back to camp. They had shoved him in the bed of the pick up with his feet hanging over the tailgate, along with another member of the group, who had to be tied to the tailgate to keep him from falling off. The driver was so drunk he could barely stay on the road at an idle, and the three remaining members of the group were staggering up the trail behind the pick up, laughing at “Doug and Jim” who couldn’t walk, and asking if we would like to join them for a beer. It appeared that at any moment, one of them would soon be tied to the tailgate too.
As a matter of fact, in a way, drinking became one of the wedge issues between Larri and I that eventually lead to our breaking up. The friends of hers that we kayaked with would plan weekend trips, setting up camp on a Friday night, then we were supposed to paddle a different river or section of river Saturday and Sunday. That was the plan as told to me anyway. As it turned out, Bill, the leader of the group, would always come up with an excuse not to paddle on Saturday, and they would go booze cruising instead. The first time it was to do the wine tour around Traverse City, not too bad, but Bill was chugging back a few beers between the wineries, and he was driving. If you have a CDL, which I do as a truck driver, and you’re in a vehicle where the driver is drunk, they pull your CDL, whether you’re the driver or not, which means I would have lost my job.
The next time we went the excuse was they needed more gear, and they had to do some shopping, an excuse to drink all day. By the third time, I knew what was going to happen, so I brought my fishing gear, and sure enough, Saturday morning Bill announced it was too windy to paddle, maybe they should do a color tour instead. So while they went off drinking, I went fishing. I never said anything about their drinking, but Bill told Larri I was no longer welcome on their trips, since I was so anti-social. I had explained to her about my position and my job, and how I couldn’t risk losing my means of supporting myself, but that didn’t mean a whole lot to her, she told me she was going anyway, and I wasn’t invited. Some girlfriend….LOL..so while it wasn’t drinking that directly lead to our breaking up, it did expose how little I meant to her, so there was no reason to stay in the relationship.
Just the other day, there was a story about a deer hunter that fell out of his tree stand around 10 AM because he was drunk. One of many reasons I quit hunting, too many drunks in the woods carrying weapons. I loved hunting, I still do, but now I hunt with a camera, and I leave the woods to the drunks during hunting season. When you have drunks armed with deadly weapons falling out of their tree stands at 10 AM, or any time for that matter, it tells me the woods aren’t a safe place to be. I would like to say that it is a shame the few ruin things for the many, but I am not so sure it is just a few who drink while hunting anymore. I was talking to a CO (Conservation Officer) a couple months back,and he told me he now spends most of his time in court testifying on alcohol related offenses. Of course that includes drunk driving, as COs in Michigan are full law enforcement officers, just like a state policeman, but with the added duty of enforcing fish and game laws.
On a side note, if you ever meet a CO while you are out and about, thank them for the fine job they do. A cop goes to work thinking there is a chance he may run up against an armed criminal, a CO KNOWS he is going to run up against an armed criminal EVERY day. The men and women who are COs do an outstanding job, and they love to get a chance to talk to the public in a non-enforcement situation. They know their patrol areas better than any one else, so they are great sources of information. I learn new things every time I get a chance to talk with one.
So that brings us back to Saturday night at Grave’s Crossing. I’ll bet that at least half the groups staying in the campground were doing some serious drinking. I could tell by how loud and obnoxious they were. It was so nice when I camped in the Pigeon River Country Labor Day weekend. There were a few others camping, but it was quiet. You could hear the coyotes, the owls, the frogs, the birds, etc, not a bunch of drunken yelling. I go up north to get back to nature, I don’t understand going up there just to get drunk. If I wanted to get drunk, I could stay home and save the gas money that it costs to drive up there to by more booze. When did being a drunken jackass become acceptable behavior any place, let alone a campground in the woods? When do you grow up and realize that being part of nature is so much better than being drunk? I think that’s a big reason, people are afraid to admit they are getting older and want to act as if they are still kids, instead, they act like rude, inconsiderate slobs.
Now for the good things, my new camera is great, but it is going to take some getting used to. The controls are all in different places, and I had used the old one so much, it was second nature to operate it. I am sure I’ll get used to the new one soon enough. It takes very good pictures, not as good as my Nikon, but few cameras can compete with a Nikon. The new one is even smaller than the old one, and it sure is a lot easier than lugging the Nikon around, and a lot less expensive to replace than the Nikon.
The Jordan River Valley is beautiful anytime of the year, it is stunning in the fall when the trees have turned color!
I still can’t get over how well I paddled on Sunday, one thing I forgot to put in the blog about that was the inside of my kayak was as dry as a bone when we finished, and I didn’t have a spray skirt on to keep any water out. I didn’t even get splashed shooting the tube at Chestonia Bridge.