It feels like the time between my last weekend in Melbourne, my short stint in LA and the 10 days I've been here at Birch Trail has been lost in a time warp. My life has completely changed in a short couple of weeks, 10 days have passed and melded into a black hole since my arrival here at Birch Trail and I have to check my watch to find out what day it is, not that it matters at all!
After celebrating the nuptials of the ever wonderful Wylie's and spending an intimate few hours with the people closest to me I boarded an aeroplane to sunny days. LA greeted me with warm open arms, as did my Antarctic amiga Jamie along with a surprise cameo appearance by Alex. Two glorious days ensued; filled with great food, handsome men, ping pong poolside parties, belly laughs, engaging conversation as well as a morning Hollywood Hills hike thrown in for good measure. Before I knew it I was boarding another plane, headed for the mid west and what would be my home for the next few months.
I arrived at Birch Trail the day prior to commencing my contract, I met a fellow Trip Leader (from this point forward we will be referred to affectionately as Trippers) at the airport and we drove the couple hours North to the small town of Minong (My-nong Pop. 500ish) in Wisconsin. I settled in quickly to my new digs, a rustic cabin named Zulu Longhouse which I share with fellow Trippers Hayley and Julie. The following day brought some orientation and integration into Mid-West life with a visit to Hayward, the closest large town (Pop. 2000ish) where I experienced a $6.99 buffet pizza lunch at a place called Coops which was heavily adorned in antlers and various other mounted dead animals. It was then that it really occurred to me where exactly I was….the American Mid-West. I was pleased to find a specialty popcorn store which stocked both some delicious and interestingly flavoured popcorn, a local coffee shop which I will no doubt visit often and the discovery of an interesting store named 'The Man Cave'. After procuring myself a 'Hayward' t-shirt we headed back to camp ready for our official 5pm start to the Birch Trail camp season.
It was the coming days that really disappeared into the time warp, after a brief couple of introductory and induction days and some hours paddling the Pokegama Lake, all the Trippers (there are 12 of us) headed out on the annual Tripper Training Trip, which this year was a six day, 100 mile canoe trip, stretching the full length of the Namekogan River. To say it was a lot of fun is an understatement. I cannot remember the last time I had so many side splitting laughs and behaved so silly as well as serious and focussed at the same time. It was also a phenomenal learning experience and a great opportunity to get to know the people I will be working and spending the summer with. I also saw my first Black Bear which was pretty sweet, we were perched underneath a bridge playing cards and waiting for a storm to pass when I looked over to see a small black bear swimming accross the river.
While I was happy to return to camp; to running water, shampoo and lettuce I felt a renewal in my love of the outdoors and enjoyed the experience of 'unplugging' from the modern world. The things I enjoy the most about wilderness trips is that modern life and the outside world matters little, there is no make up, you smell bad, you can eat as much cheese as you want and all there is to think about is reading the river in front of you, watching the weather around you, deciding where might be a good spot to stop for lunch and how to avoid the bilge pump water gun attacks of fellow Trippers!
Return to camp brought one other highly anticipated event… a night off, which of course meant beer! After a well deserved burger and beer at the Angry Minnow we all hit up the bar across the lake, our 'local', for several pitchers of beer, dancing and more laughs which progressed onto raspberries (not the edible kind) and the breaking of a hammock.
It is going to be a very good summer.
|LA days with Jamie|
|Sunshine and super views|
|Santa Monica sunset|
|Welcome to Birch Trail|
|My new digs|
|I'm in the mid west!!|
|Insert joke here|
|An unlikely source of lip bliss|
|Trippers enjoying a little lounge time before it all gets crazy|
|Waterfront on Pokegama|
|The glacial lake of Pokegama|
|Lake side views|
|Tripper Training - its about to get real!|
|My leader of the day partner, Encyclopedia of jokes (mostly shit), the super fun Casey|
|Preparing 'Mountain Man' for breakfast on our leadership day|
|Canoe take out|
|Laughs aplenty aboard boat Casey|
|Camp fire = Smore = better than roasted marshmellows!|
|A lesson in Dutch Oven pizza... Mmmm|
|Catch of the day with Dan|
|Paddle stow away|
|Before coffee with Brian|
|Up close and smelly with Casey|
|After the storm, mist and sunshine|
|Almost finished....95 mile mark|
|Why stop for the potty?|
|Back at the Lodge|