Adventure Road

Ten years ago, I began one of the most incredible adventures of my life.  I had hunted at the Mille Lacs WildLife Management area for several years and I had fallen in love with the area.  We used to have supper at Ozzie’s in Isle and we were smitten with the south Mille Lacs region, its people and even its acerbic weather.  I decided I wanted to own land in this area, so I shopped for and bought a remote 80 acre parcel of forest southeast of town.  It had all the right features for hunting.  It was December 1999 when I first walked that land and the road in was nearly impassable, so much so I promptly got stuck trying to drive in.  A neighbor, Dave Martin, brought one of his tractors down the single lane road to pull my son and I out of the snow bank in which we got stuck.   Dave was kind of a grouch with us silly city slickers who thought our four wheel drive truck could dance through three foot snow drifts.  But, he was grouch with the biggest heart ever.  I closed on that land within 30 days.  I walked and ran its hills and frozen swamps like a gleeful child.  As I child, I had many a fort in the woods.  As an adult, I could envision a grown-up version of a fort through all that snow and the many strange things poking through it in what appeared to be an abandoned camp.

With the spring thaw, the adventure went full tilt.  The abandoned camp turned out to be a miniature dumping ground and graveyard for everything from the tear-out of an ancient nine-hole miniature golf course to several tons of bricks.  I took about twenty loads of junk to the dump down near Mora.  The ominous mounds throughout the camp area made me wonder if an axe murderer buried their victims there.  The crooked galvanized steel shed was full of old box springs, tools, and stove parts.   The matching galvanized cabinet had been home to raccoons for many years.  I salvaged some antique tin buckets and other dubious treasures.  The old outhouse had not been used in years but the bullet holes in its window panes got my imagination going about those mounds again. 

After my son and I chain sawed a road in to the “camp” area, I brought my travel trailer in as home base.  I quickly learned the wonderful seasons and sounds of wood ticks, deer flies, mosquitoes, spring peeper frogs, grouse wings drumming, hoot owls at night and deer blowing at me indignantly.  I was a kid again, and I was in heaven.

Over a number of years, we would build a cabin and garage.  We would put Class 5 gravel on the drive in as well as clearing out a turnaround.  I met many neighbors and everyone watched out for everyone else.   Those who had hunted the land in the past, respectfully left so I could begin my hunting adventures.  I obtained a Woodland Stewardship Plan through the Minnesota DNR, and began to implement its recommendations.   We carved many trails, five food plots, created countless portable tree stand sites and dug a pond last year.  My first year there, I saw one doe in December, too far away to shoot.  The second year I had figured out those wily whitetails and began harvesting one or more deer every year.  At first I paid processors to do my deer but then I bought a grinder to process venison myself.   I harvested my first bear after five years of hunting them.   I had friends and family at the cabin and introduced a number of people to hunting, helping them harvest  their first deer or bear.  That first year too, I began writing about my experiences with my land.   I had written many songs for guitar, and now also began writing songs about the land.  I met God in the forest in ways that I had never had met Him before.   So intense was that spiritual experience that it led me to go to seminary for a year in 2006.  In the solitude of my forest sanctuary, I rejoiced often, I mourned many losses, I healed from many wounds and I found the face of my soul.  Each year as my fingerprints became more indelibly etched on that land, I wrote more and more.  I began getting my writing published.  I had been a writer before, but only wrote about technical accounting and tax issues.   Two years ago, I sold my Twin Cities business and bought a year round home in town.  I had the rest of my life planned and I was blissfully happy in Isle.  I figured that when I became a very old lady and lost my right to drive, my house in town was close enough to shopping that I could walk everywhere.  There was even a nursing home in Onamia for my final days.   I had it all figured out.  I was home.

But you know, fate (or as I instead believe, God) takes over and redirects our best laid plans and replaces them so definitively that we simply must turn and follow a new Adventure Road.    In two weeks I will be married to someone I met over two years ago, and I will be moving to Ohio.  We both love Isle and we are both native Minnesotans so we will be back permanently in the not too distant future.  In the meantime, I will be back many times to hunt my land, and see my daughter get married, and attend family reunions and visit my friends.
Adventures Roads have always been a part of my life.  Some were so dark and scary that I ran away from them cowering in fright and despair.   But many if not most, and especially this present one, felt so right they seemed to be part of my DNA.
And besides, Ohio has monster bucks and year round wild boar hunting.  I’m sure Lake Erie can’t hold a candle to Lake Mille Lacs, but I am ready to give it a try.  If you are ever heading east, we have plenty of room for guests.