My friend Mike was planning a canoe trip last winter—and he asked me what I knew about Crocodile Lake….because I’m an outfitter. I’d heard some about the walleyes in Crocodile…I sort of knew the general area of that entry point. But in the end, I hadn’t been there. To be fair, it was winter, and in the winter I’m a teacher.
But now it’s summer, and since Mike is actually coming to Tuscarora with another dad and their sons—I thought I ought to know about Crocodile…because in the summer, I’m an outfitter. And I also thought our outfitting manager ought to know about Crocodile, and our outfitting manager’s dog Mack also ought to learn how to get in a canoe.
It’s just a bonus that the outfitting manager happens to be our son Daniel, and since I can never get enough time with him in a boat in this lifetime, and since it was a sunny day—we thought we should go and get to know Crocodile.
I dutifully took note of the East Bearskin parking lot/landing, I paid attention to the map, and the campsites. The portage was 100 and something rods, it was slightly muddy…but then, somewhere in the middle of that portage, I started losing details, and just falling into that canoe trip rhythm. That unload, portage, load, paddle…. the sparkle of the sun on the waves. The lake was basically water, rocks, and trees—just like that last lake. But this is precisely what I love about it.
We fished a little, we didn’t catch the walleye—then again, it was a hot day, around noon…it was really all about the casting and reeling, and steady conversation. At one point Daniel wanted to know the year Andy and I first started coming up here. He really wanted to pinpoint the source—he is so grateful for having landed in this section of woods, for growing up in this rhythm.
I know exactly how another guest named Ed caught the walleyes in Crocodile last week, slip bobber, 5 feet down, wait for the school. I know how to get there, I know what campsite I’d go for. I can now confidently tell Mike about Crocodile—as an outfitter.
But I also was reminded what it IS about that trip. I got to hang out with my son. I love it that he loves the woods like I do. We chatted long enough to get around to the real stuff, the things that make him happy, the things that make him worry. We got to be on a lake. We got to paddle some, hike some, carry some. I got a little tired and a little sunburned and a little sore. I’m confident that Mike and his crew will find the rhythm that they’re looking for in Crocodile. It’s easy enough to pass on info about the location of campsites and portages and fish. It’s infinitely harder to communicate what it IS about the rhythm of being in the woods that is so satisfying and…perfect. I’m not so good at explaining that part–but I sure wish (because I’m an outfitter) that I could give that afternoon on Crocodile to everyone I know—and his/her son, and even a puppy.