Michigan Escape

It’s silent, aside from the swollen raindrops pinging on the metal roof of the cabin, like dimes being dropped on the floor, and the steady hiss of the old gas lantern that envelopes the small space in its warm light. Soothing.  Peaceful.  A cool October evening in Northern Michigan. My only company comes in the form of Harrison in hard cover, Jameson in a tin cup and thoughts of tomorrow’s float down one of my favorite rivers with a friend. I finish my drink and my chapter, extinguish the lantern and turn in for the evening. The rain’s staccato storytelling and the tangy smell of cut pine boards on the walls my last cogent memories.

As the morning yawns itself awake I can hear that the rain has let up.  Shaking myself loose from the sleeping bag I get some coffee started in the camp percolator – the one that always reminds me of my grandparent’s house during the holidays.  I’ll fill the trusty red thermos, throw on an old flannel and hit the road.  Even in the dampness the day holds promise.  The promise of escape.  The promise of the river.  And perhaps, if luck holds, the promise of a Fall Brown Trout on the fly.

My radio is tuned to a local country station and the lyrics to a Dierks Bentley song feel especially poignant in the moment – like a short sermon delivered to a notoriously delinquent parishioner: “This morning I got up at 6:01. I walked out and saw the rising sun.  And drank it in like Whiskey.  I saw a tree I’ve seen a thousand times.  A bird on a branch and I watched it fly away in the wind.  And it hit me.  It’s a beautiful world sometimes I don’t see so clear”.  The tires hum along the worn blacktop. I sip my coffee and observe the passing landscape with a newfound appreciation – the message having found its mark.

Pulling into the vacant boat launch cold gravel crunches under the tires. I see Geoff, already in his waders, looking out over the tannic ribbon of water.  Colored leaves rattle quietly in the trees. It’s a scene that is distinctly Michigan in the Fall.  The breeze carries a hint of decay as one season begins its transition to the next: from birth to death from death to birth.  I walk up beside him and pass the thermos as we observe the river.

Eventually we meld into the rhythm of the stream and, out of habit, I adjust the weathered camo hat on my head hoping to coax a small measure of the luck I know it holds.  Pulling back gently on the oars, already fighting the inevitable end, I move into position.  Geoff’s cast finds a promising undercut bank on the left, seasons of practice displayed in a precise tight loop.  A slow twitch followed by a watery explosion and the hat has done its job.  I smile knowingly to myself and grab the net.

Another sip from the thermos and we continue down the winding waterway like time itself. My tired soul rejuvenated by the incomparable beauty of the feisty spotted fish, the light gurgle and bubble that gently eases us along and the heavy scent of wet leaves hanging like unapologetically-gaudy ornaments in the trees. I’m buoyed by the friendship, powerful in its quiet way, and the knowledge that escape is only ever as far as a river running through the big woods of Northern Michigan.

Allen Crater Ambassador

Allen is a 44-year-old husband and father of two teen-aged sons that love the outdoors and one insane German Short-haired Pointer named Lucy that loves pointing, flushing and retrieving anything, all the time.

He is the President and part owner of an advertising agency located in Michigan.

Reading books about everything, especially travel, adventure, war, history, and outdoor pursuits, is another passion of Allen’s. He loves great food, great beer and great wine, sometimes in moderation, sometimes not.

More than anything though Allen loves the outdoors. He loves the smells, the sounds, the sights.  Since He was a little boy fishing with his dad, pitching a tent in the backyard, and unwrapping pocketknives for Christmas he’s been drawn to all things outdoors.

In the summer you can usually find Allen cooling his feet by the lake, in search of elusive trout on the river or losing himself on a trail someplace. In the fall the weather becomes more bearable and the hiking and camping really pick up. Fishing still occupies much thought and time, but hunting and being in the “Big Woods” with friends and family becomes the focus. Winter brings a shift and you can typically find him walking trails with the dog, snowshoeing with his wife or skiing with his family. When not outside you’ll often find him parked in his favorite chair next to the fireplace with a good book and a snifter of Scotch or a thick Stout.

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