June 5, 2023
We just returned from our first real get-away adventure in almost three years. For the better part of the last three years, we had stayed close to home waiting for the pandemic to end. When it was mostly over, and we were ready to travel, our aging dog could no longer go with us or stay in a kennel. She needed a great deal of care. On April 18th of this year, we had to say our final goodbyes. It was a bittersweet moment in time. After a stressful, isolating pandemic and a heart-wrenching year of doggie hospice, we needed to cut loose.
We headed out to the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. My husband, Mel, had registered to attend a Tenkara fishing get-together/campout near Westby, Wisconsin and I tagged along to take pictures. After three years of home-grown subject matter, I was eager to explore a new environment.
The Driftless area is approximately 8500 square miles of land, mostly in Southwest Wisconsin, that was untouched by glaciers during the last ice age. The term “driftless” indicates a lack of glacial drift, the deposits of silt, gravel, and rock that retreating glaciers leave behind. As a result, the landscape is characterized by steep, limestone-based hills, spring fed waterfalls, deeply carved river valleys, and the largest concentration of cold-water trout streams in the world! It was a perfect place for Mel to go Tenkara fishing.
Tenkara is a method of fly fishing that originated in the mountains of Japan. It uses very long rods with fixed lengths of casting line attached to the rod-tip, and simple, wet flies as lures. This method of fishing was developed to catch trout in free-flowing rivers like the ones found in the Driftless Areas of Wisconsin. I don’t fish, but I was happy enough to go wandering down the back roads near where Mel was fishing to look for birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and flowers; but not GNATS!
Those little buggers came at me with a vengeance! They were in my eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. They were on my sweaty skin. They landed wherever they could find moisture! Gnats are drawn to the carbon dioxide we exhale, as well as the sweet, fruity smells of our shampoos and lotions. There’s no way to get away from them! I was just one giant, sweet-smelling moisture buffet!
I hustled back to the car as fast as I could to see if my insect repellent Buff would help. (https://www.buff.com/us/insect-shieldr-neckwear) A Buff is a long tube of thin material that you can pull over your head to cover everything but your eyes. My eyes were protected, at least somewhat, by my glasses. The Buff was a tremendous help; it allowed me take pictures, but it didn’t stop all the gnats who really wanted to get me from crawling into my Buff or going behind my glasses! I did have bug repellent on, but it was no match for these guys! Later, we went to a store and found a repellent that was recommended for gnats and it seemed to work for about an hour before needing to be replenished. It was a welcome relief!
In spite of the gnats, and the unseasonably hot temperatures, it was good to be on the road again; to engage in our favorite hobbies in a new environment, to sleep outside in our tent and hear the barred owls calling, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?” and to wake up in the morning to the sound of birds filling the air with their joyful noise. It was a welcome respite from the unwelcome ‘noise’ in our everyday lives.
In just a few days, we’ll be on the road again; to the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota for a five-day canoe trip with friends.