Saturday, July 12, 2014

In through the out door

Traveling off the beaten path always attracted me. When I was a kid my dad used to take me hunting and fishing with him. I learned to navigate through the trackless forests. Directions from dad would be like: hike though the hard woods to the ridge line, go south until you meet up with the cedar swamp. Skirt the east side of the swamp until you come to a brook. Follow the brook down stream until you hit the blue line (old survey marks). Follow the blue line until you find the old woodyard. Cross the woodyard to the logging road. Take the road until you get back to the truck. Sometimes my directions from dad were just a series of compass points.

Just to make things interesting, often the names of places were of features that were no longer there: The horse hovel, the Double Decker (a two story logging camp once stood there), the Old Ford. Someone had driven a Ford car down a logging road so far that he was never able to get it back out. It sat there for decades, long enough to be a landmark. Then it was removed, but people still refereed to the place as the Old Ford.

Actual maintained hiking trails didn't really catch on with me until years later. Even then, my bushwhacking nature could not be contained. There are a lot of things to see that are not on maintained trails. Often trails were just a quick way to get to an interesting off-trail area.

Coming back into civilization could be a little awkward. Quite a few times I'd come out of the woods and see the back of some sign. Once I got to the front of the sign it would say something like “no trespassing.” Well, it was a bit late for that, wasn't it? Worse were the signs warning of some danger -that I'd already walked though.

Traveling by small sailboat brought back some of those slightly awkward moments from my youth. A shallow draft sailboat allowed us into a lot of little places that other boats would stay away from. Often we'd go to shore on the kayak to walk the dog in some park. After walking across the whole park, we'd see “no dogs allowed” signs. Too late. We also got to visit some nice places that apparently had a front gate with visitor's fees. One time we actually came out though the “In” door and tried to pay the entrance fee. That only confused them.

Then there were the times we stopped at places during times they were closed and no one was supposed to be there. Oops again! How was I supposed to know the hours of some random place we decided to stop? If people really didn't want visitors from the water side of their property, that's where they'd post signs. I generally respect those signs -after all, there are plenty of places without them.

Only one time did I have a run it with a security guard. A friend and I were on an extended canoe trip. We knew there was a dam under repair and the whole area had been put off-limits. We were trying to find a safe and legal way to portage around the dam. The guard caught us scouting on foot and chewed us out. After listening to him go on and on we just walked away from him. Unarmed security guards get no respect.

It's one thing to take the road less traveled. It's something else to travel where there is no road at all.

For what it's worth, as a kid I had time coloring within the lines.



  1. I may be one of only a handful of folks in the area who knows where "the end of the pavement" is. A brick road from town used to come out our valley to the edge of our district, then it turned to gravel. It was all covered with asphalt a couple years after I was born.

    1. Now people would look at you like you were nuts. Of course, I've gotten used to that look myself.

  2. I basically grew up in the woods because that is where I spent all my free time. Best place in the world for a kid (and grown-ups, too).

  3. Those were interesting stories about finding out too late the rules.

    1. Good thing that over the years I've come to take a more and more casual view of rules.