Everywhere I go I find a pal
Peter Weinschenk, Editor, The Record-Review
I spent a week a week living with a family of eight swans.
I did so during a canoe camping vacation on Allequash Lake, Vilas County.
The family lived in a thicket of reeds on the south side of the lake. My tent and canoe landing was located on the north side.
The swans, two adults and six cygnets (baby swans), toured the lake several times a day looking for food. Typically, one adult would lead the group, the six cygnets would follow in a strict order, and the second adult took up the rear guard. The cygnets would dive under water and bring back a beakful of succulent weeds they would eat.
I loved watching them through a pair of binoculars. The father and mother, their long neck proud and erect, were no nonsense parents. The cygnets were a bit goofy, wandering briefly off to do this or that.
In the early evening, I would paddle to the middle of the lake and pump water with a MSR filter for camp. Smallmouth bass leapt out of the water to catch dragonfl ies. Black terns swooped through the muggy, July air picking up insects. And the swans, perfectly white and glorious, would cruise the lake.
Allequash means “den of life” in Objibwe. Indeed, that’s exactly right.
I stayed on campsite 611 on Allequash Lake. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said that mine was a “primitive” campsite.
That’s a little harsh.
True, my campsite had only a picnic table, fire ring and remote privy, but I don’t think it was in any way uncivilized.
I made one magnificent nightly dinner after the next. In what was a culinary highpoint, I made falafel sandwiches with fromscratch Lebanese Mountain flatbread. I created the flatbread by making my own yeast-risen dough, rolling it out with a round water bottle and griddle baked on my Coleman two-burner stove. They were fantastic. I covered the fried falafel with camp-made yogurt made with reconstituted non-fat-dry milk. It was yummy beyond belief, especially after a day of hard paddling.
So, was my campsite primitive? No, it was international.
I met a wiry granddad and his 10-year-old grandson at the small parking lot for the Bittersweet Lake Natural Area. We were both heading out.
My goal was to paddle and portage the four lakes (Prong, Smith, Bittersweet and Oberlin) in the area. Their goal was to snag a bass on minnows on Prong Lake, the first in the chain.
We returned mid-afternoon to the parking lot and had a nice chat. I asked the 10-year-old how fishing went. That’s when we stepped into a bottomless hole of philosophy.
“Two bass,” the youngster told told me about that day’s catch. “Well, one bass that I caught a second time. The first time I caught him in the nose. The second time was in the gill.”
That left me perplexed. Did my young friend catch one fish? Or two? He clearly pulled two fish out of the water. But the two fish were the same one fish. Did it matter that the 10-year-old caught the fish in a catch and release zone? And what if the youngster returned to Prong Lake the following day and caught this poor, unlucky bass for a third time? Would he still have caught only one fish over the two days? Would he have not caught any fish on the second day?
The three of us could not get to the bottom of this brain-twister. I packed up my canoe, tipped my hat to my new pals and headed off to find new adventures.
I went in search of the same river I could step into twice.
Contact Peter Weinschenk at firstname.lastname@example.org