Despite the difficult economic times, a number of people still manage to take somewhat exotic trips that are centered around hunting or fishing. They truly get away from it all, and then love to tell everyone about it once they return.
Each time the tales are retold, it multiplies the value of the experience. There is the first-hand enjoyment of the scenery, the culture and the unique wildlife that these travelers encounter, but this is regularly outdone by the story-telling. That goes on for days, months, years and generations.
Outdoors folks love to share their accounts of every minute detail of these ventures. There was little that gave my dad more joy than sitting down to spin a long yarn about a fishing trip to the Canadian wilderness. Like surgery, caring for his geriatric patients or comforting a child with a bee sting, he loved it and he was very good at it.
He might have wandered in and out of the facts from time to time, but nobody cared. It was the experience and the story that mattered.
For more than a quarter of a century, dad spent a week each June in a remote outpost somewhere in endless woods of northern Ontario or Manitoba, accompanied by his sons, and a varied assortment of sons-in-law, a grandson or two, brother-in-law, and an array of good family friends. For a dozen or so years later in his life, he took a second trip with an eccentric collection of individuals who seemed to enjoy each other's company more than they enjoyed a 40-minute struggle with a trophy-sized pike.
Dad loved both of these trips and seemed to have a youthful exuberance about them. Once he started packing the fishing gear, he went from being a tired, old man to a lively kid headed down to the creek with a coffee can full of worms and a cane pole.
But as much as my dad enjoyed the actual trips, with all of the camaraderie, the bonding, bare-knuckled ribbing and practical jokes, he seemed to relish the story-telling even more. He would recount the events in detail, to a multitude of different audiences.
Even as he aged and his health deteriorated, the fishing trips still seemed to provide a spark. He looked better, felt better and had noticeably more energy at that time of year.
With all that as background, it was exciting to hear that two of dad's best fishing buddies are considering another trip to the Canadian north country. Despite their years and a litany of ailments, Al and Jim are thinking they have one more adventure left in them. I'm sure they do.
These are the two grouchy old guys up in the balcony on "The Muppets."
They grumble and they grouse a lot, but they are simply good people. As my dad's most loyal fishing buddies, they kept watch on him on those many trips to Whitewater Lake, a 20-minute floatplane flight beyond where the highway ends 145 miles north of Lake Superior.
If they go, you can bet Jim and Al will come back with elaborate accounts about the feasts they prepared with nothing but a campfire and the NorthernL ights to work with. They talk about the card games, the snoring, the rough road and the fickle weather.
Eventually, they get around to mentioning the fish. And there are a lot of fish. But these are fishing trips where the fish are really a minor detail. It's the people that are the keepers.
Whether an excursion takes you to the Canadian wilds, to the jungles of the Amazon or to the twists and turns of the Au Sable River in Michigan, it really makes little difference. You soak up the sights, take in the lay of the land and the unique cultures you encounter, but what you come home with is a much deeper appreciation for the value of family and good friends.
Matt Markey is the A-T outdoors columnist.
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