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Weekend in the woods tests courage

I’d like to consider myself a courageous person, especially after backpacking through Central America for six weeks, climbing towering Mayan ruins in Guatemala, snorkeling with sting rays and nurse sharks off the coast of Belize and zip-lining through the Costa Rican rainforest, miles above ground.
But after being left alone for 20 minutes in the middle of the Minnesota north woods Saturday evening, I realized how big of a wuss I am.
I spent the weekend in Orr, a very small town located an hour south of Canada, and the gateway into Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters, with my friend Marion, and her husband, Monty, who was bear hunting.
The pair head up to Orr for most weekends in September and early October during the bear hunting season, and I tagged along to enjoy a weekend of peace in the north.
Ever since working with the Minnesota Conservation Corps in the Boundary Waters wilderness and in Superior National Forest along the north shore, I’ve considered the north woods home.
There’s something so right being among the magnificent white pines and wild blueberries, under the spacious cerulean-blue sky, in the peace and quiet of chirping birds, bellering moose and buzzing insects, and I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to spend three days in the wild.
Our weekend was spent hiking through bogs and flourishing vegetation, baiting black bears with marshmallows and blueberry syrup, and studying fresh bear and wolf scat (poop) for freshness.
And while Monty took refuge in his tree stand for the hunt, Marion and I traipsed through the woods, climbing rocks, eating wild raspberries and blueberries, and picking sweet, red plums.
We discovered a secluded watering hole tucked behind the evergreens and peeling birch trees, and managed to bushwhack our way over clumsy rocks and the tangled brush to the water’s edge, where I found serenity, standing on a mossy log amid the untouched greenery, the cattails, the pine trees and the cool north breeze.
After a few hours of hiking, Marion and I retreated back to camp, which was located in a clearing off the beaten path, surrounded by the forest, to build a fire for our supper of gaucho burgers.
We hadn’t heard from Monty if he had any luck finding a bear, and knowing he has to be out of the woods a half hour after sunset, Marion made a plan to pick him up.
I volunteered to stay at camp and watch the fire, and as soon as Marion drove out of the clearing, I realized just how dark and full of life the woods were at night.
I suddenly started hearing all sorts of sounds, and thought about the howling wolves we heard the night before.
My imagination is vivid, and I pictured a pack of hungry wolves quietly tip-toeing towards me from out of the woods, their mouths salivating and teeth bared, and thought to myself, “Mom would be so mad if I were eaten by a wolf!”
I understand wolf attacks are very rare, but I watch too many movies, and nonetheless, poked the end of a large stick into the fire to use as a torch in the event I had to defend myself.
The plan was I could use the glowing twig to poke the wolves’ eyes if they were to attack (as if that would really help.)
I turned my back towards the fire and waved the stick around like a wand, smudging the clearing with smoke to ward off the unwanted visitors.
After only 20 minutes, Monty and Marion returned, and I realized how ridiculous I was in thinking my life was in jeopardy.
I laughed at myself for my foolishness, but reconsidered my plan to solo-camp on the north shore this October.
Perhaps I can still plan my trip, but I think I’ll have better luck with pepper spray than any twigs.