Unpredictable in nature
By Tanya Mitchell
If there's one thing I've learned from the various fishing, canoeing and camping trips I've taken over the years, one factor of the outdoor equation is always a constant - unpredictability.
Ever been lambasted by a sudden onslaught of giant hailstones while you're out in the middle of the river in your canoe? Well, not only are you paddling your ass off (upstream, of course) in a rush to the shore to find shelter, and you're doing so all while getting tenderized by Mother Nature.
Yes, Mother Nature. Talk about your multiple personalities…
One example that comes to mind is fishing trip my family and I took to Foley Pond; it was not far from our favorite campsite, just off The Golden Road in paper company territory. Aside from the portion of the Penobscot that ran directly through our campsite, Foley Pond was The Mitchell's choice spot to fish for trout.
When I was growing up, part of the allure of Foley Pond was the process one needed to take in order to reach that particular fishing hole (not like the drive-up, fancy-pants boat landing that exists today).
First, we spent about half an hour on those privately-owned gravel roads, rumbling and shaking along in Dad's old Pen Bay Welding truck. The dust from the roads would coat our skin, giving us that instant northern Maine tan with which all who have traveled the roads in the region are familiar. My brother Shane and I always found the dirt went well with our mismatched clothing that was commonplace in those days, as the family's decision to stay "one more day" almost always morphed into "one more week."
Once we arrived at the walk-in spot (which consisted of no more than an opening between the bushes that revealed a narrow woods path), Dad would park the truck safely off the road. At that time, the necessary supplies for the day were unloaded and divvied up amongst us for the mile-long hike to the pond: the poles, creel, bait, tackle box, cooler, life jackets, paddles and of course, the canoe.
About halfway up the path, Dad, Mom, Shane and I would stop for a short water break at a rock that very closely resembled a seat, which we affectionately referred to as "Angus' Lucky Rock." Angus was this really old guy that was a friend of the family who was known for hooking some of the biggest damned fish ever to have come out of Foley Pond - we thought since the rock worked for him, why couldn't it work for us?
Well, on this particular occasion it did work - at least, in terms of filling the creel.
A few uneventful hours passed, which reduced Shane and I resorted to an activity that more closely resembled eating in a boat rather than fishing. Just as we were about as bored and sunburned as we could get, and were Moments away from paddling back to shore for a hot hike back to the truck, our luck began to turn around.
Shane's line was the first to bend with the tug of a biting trout. It turned out to be a 13-inch trout; a nice catch by anyone's standards.
Then it was my turn - pretty cool, seeing how the last time I had "caught a fish," I was about six and the fish was mysteriously gutted when I pulled it over the river bank (years later, my cousin Robbie admitted to attaching the pre-caught fish to the end of my line).
With little effort, I yarded a nice 10-inch trout into the canoe.
The sky was turning from blue to the pale pinks and purples that signal dark is on the way, which should have been our signal to call it a day, but the feeding frenzy of Foley's fish population was in full swing. We couldn't very well leave yet.
The bats began swooping over our heads, sometimes missing us by mere inches as they dined on black flies that danced in a cloud above us.
Finally having caught our limits for the day, it was (really) time to go.
This is where our luck turned yet again (this is that whole Mother Nature thing combined with good old fashioned human error - always a fine way to set the stage for a problem).
As it turns out, we had a few problems.
First, by the time we reached shore, packed up the gear and completed the divvying process, the sunset gave way to darkness almost instantly.
But a good outdoorsman is always prepared; Dad had the old heavy-duty flashlight that hadn't failed us yet, despite the presence of duct tape at its base to hold the batteries in place. Yup, things were slow going, but the flashlight offered enough illumination for us to see a portion of the path ahead of us. We were OK, until we reached Angus' (so-called) Lucky Rock.
The flashlight started blinking and dimming. After a few Moments of all of us pleading with the inanimate object in the hopes that we could convince it to continue functioning, the light blinked away, leaving us in the dark.
Dad then calmly informed us that all we had to do is give the flashlight a little tap against a tree and it would once again light our way. Mom, who to this day I believe heard only the "tap" portion of Dad's instructions, immediately lambasted that sucker up against the massive tree next to her.
What happened next was straight out of a cheesy action movie: Dad sounded as though he was in slow motion, reaching for the flashlight in an unsuccessful attempt to intercept Mom's mighty swing.
"NOOOOOO!!" he cried, as the batteries scattered across the ground, under bushes and into the darkness.
"Damn!" Dad said, as Shane and I each clutched a side of his fishing vest.
Now would be a good time to mention the bears.
Earlier in the day, we had spotted a handful of bears wandering around in the region just about a mile before we reached the walk-in to the pond.
"We're going to die," I thought, as we inched along the path in a hopelessly slow and methodical march, constantly stumbling over the various tree roots and holes that we would normally sidestep in a more visible situation.
So, there you had it. We were at our absolute worst. Not only were we sweating our butts off lugging all of our fishing stuff, but also we were without the benefit of vision and Shane and I were convinced that the bear family was planning on making a meal out of us.
As panic set in and we clung ever-closer together in a pathetic cluster of fear, Mother Nature decided to cut us a break in the form of a bright full moon that began rising into the blackness. After waiting a few minutes, it was almost like walking in daylight. Now at least we could see the bears coming.
But we never did see them again that night, and we were all elated when we finally reached our truck, having only suffered from black fly bites and a Momentary scare.
I remember thinking as I hopped in the truck that maybe Angus' rock had a little luck left in it after all.
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