Pursuit of the Wild
Cheers Maine and Mainers! It’s April in the north country again meaning that between sporadic 18” blizzards and the subsequent 50 degree days that turn the sodden snowpack into temporary lakes, roadside rivulets and the ever present boot sucking mud, we are breaking out our warm weather outdoor gear and getting ready for Spring. This annual rite of passage for outdoor enthusiasts involves tuning up bikes, giving our boats a once over and transforming piles of fur and feathers into flies. All of this effort is in preparation for that time of year that can’t come soon enough and won’t last as long as we’d like, then again after a couple solid months of mosquito and black fly bites one does begin to anticipate the arrival of the first frost. I know that all this may seem a bit premature considering that the maple sap is still dripping out of the trees and most of our lakes and rivers still sport enough ice to support the occasional ice fisherman and otter, but there is a certain wild eyed- beauty to pushing the limits of our outdoor passions, and I guess the same goes for our pursuit life, love and good cup of coffee too.
A few years ago I was on a fishing trip in Montana escaping the frozen tundra of northern Wisconsin and attempting to outrun the feeling of solitary confinement that accompanies living off grid in a tiny cabin with no one to talk to save a geriatric german shepherd named Arlo. Well, fishing trip isn’t probably the correct way of putting it, I was out west visiting family but for me any trip with a destination within a 50 mile drive of a trout stream counts as a fishing trip.
It was early March and the temperature was only around 40, a stiff wind froze the water on my rod and gave my face that freezer burned look after an hour or so. A few fish and a gallon of hot coffee into the day I heard some folks scrambling down the scree path from the parking lot above, probably on their way down to Yellowstone in hopes of seeing a bison, elk, gift shop, or something. The dad hollered over “Kinda cold for fishing isn’t it?” followed by the inevitable “Catch anything?” The second question received my standard brush off answer “The fishing’s always good, it’s the catching that’s the hard part” but I didn’t really have an answer to the first question which rolled around in my head longer than the family could brave the cold.
On one hand, from the perspective of common sense, yes I guess it was pretty dire looking out there and probably had the sheen of desperation or a lack of imagination, as in I couldn’t think of anything better to do with my time than freeze my flies off in a dangerously swift river just shy of turning back into a solid state. But to those of us who recreate outdoors out of necessity, it was not even close to being too cold as evidenced by the fish slime on my hands and the feeling in my being that I was exactly where I needed to be that day. If you are driven by an outdoor pursuit like I am, it is never too anything to follow our passion.
I will write monthly for those of us so dedicated to our outdoor pursuits that it is never too cold, too hot, too dry or too wet, the road too long or the trail too rough and I salute you for your seemingly incomprehensible and indescribable dedication to the activity that brings you joy, connection with the Earth, and more than a few sideways looks from the poor souls who will never understand. If your mind has already wandered from this blog picturing your outdoor pursuit even as your eyes continue to scan these words, you’re one of us and you’ve probably never asked why anyone would want to sacrifice comfort and safety for the first tracks in fresh powder, for the hard won view from a mountain top or for the chance to catch a wild brook trout just to let it go. This blog is about all of those moments we create and the places that we go to find them.
Paul Sveum, a former Maine Sport Outfitters employee, is a Fly Fishing Guide, a Bushcraft & Survival Instructor, a Registered Maine Guide and a blogger…among many other things.