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I want you to do something for me. Stop. Stop whatever you’re doing. Right now. Go outside. Find some place away from the sounds of city life. Some place away from the perpetual noise of traffic and media. Leave your electronics for a moment. It’ll be okay, I promise. This could be your own backyard, or a local park, or a trail you found with an online search or app. Get away from everything you’re used to. I want you to pay close attention and just listen to nature and your own thoughts for a moment.
We rarely get time in our busy lives for true reflection. You’ll thank me for this. Give your mind, body, and soul a chance to slow down a bit. Studies show that this helps reduce stress and stimulates the mind. Now, I’m not one to talk about what the studies show. I’m more of a do what you think is best kind of guy, so that is all I’m going to say about the “studies.”
I don’t expect you to do this much, but I have made it a point in my life to do this at least once a week, and I have noticed a big change in my day to day interactions with other people. I smile more. I handle arguments and bad situations with my 6 year old much better than I have before. I feel better about myself since I have found a way to stay active, doing something that I love.
This time has also given me more opportunities to reflect upon myself, my decisions, my opportunities, my goals and aspirations, and my values. I started reading an ebook lately called “30 Days to a Better Man” from one of my favorite blogs, The Art of Manliness. Ladies, I understand that this blog or this ebook may not pertain to you, per se, but let me run with this for a moment. Day 1 talked about defining your core values. It discussed taking some time to yourself, and really digging deep in finding which values are important to you. After brainstorming and actually writing down everything that was important to me, I started going through the list and choosing my top 5. These were my core values. In order to do this, I needed absolutely no distractions, and thought about the times in my life when I felt completely whole and fulfilled.
This is very important to me, since I haven’t ever really made the time for myself to do this in the past, and I have basically just been floating through life aimlessly, just moving day to day, without any real sense of direction or meaning. I didn’t really think about who I really was as a man, as a person.
On a side note, this was the trip that inspired me to start this blog.
Now, back to nature. I was able to do find this time for myself to do this, when I took a morning to myself, and decided to take a trip to Bishop Lake in Brighton, Michigan. I woke myself up early, at 4 am, a little groggy I might add, and drove an hour to the campground. Pulling up to the boat launch, I felt a calmness come over me. I stepped out of my truck into the crisp fresh air of the undeveloped state land. I noticed a path slightly opened up to the east, enveloped in tall grasses and trees on either side. It sparked something inside me, as I was already armed with the idea of what I came here to do. I knew that I loved the outdoors, and adventure, and the curiosity of what was around the corner. This is where I first discovered not only my passion for the outdoors (which I already knew based on the destinations I have chosen for family vacations), but that it was truly one of my core values.
I continued on this trail and came to a fishing pier that jetted out over the small lake. It was still mostly dark, but the sky began to lighten as the sun began to introduce itself to my side of the world. The fog was very dense, as I couldn’t see the end of the pier from the trail itself, but this seemed like a perfect spot to sit down and watch the sun rise. I could hear hundreds of crickets orchestrating a melody, with the sounds of birds awakening, and fish jumping out of the water. The sounds were tranquilizing. I don’t really get to enjoy them as much as I wish I could.
As the sun lifted, and lit up the sky, the warmth it brought began to melt away the fog, and the lake displayed itself in all its natural beauty to me. It felt as if I was the only person on earth, and nature was lifting the curtain to begin its stage debut in front of an audience of one. It felt extraordinary, spectacular, wondrous.
After the sun was fully risen, I could see around this half of the lake, and I wanted to explore. I continued further down the trail and came to a large clearing with a beach. Picnic tables, grills, and volleyball nets filled the park area in this part of the lake. I realized that this is not where I wanted to be when the day arrives, as I am sure all the campers and locals would be all over the place here. I noticed a path that continued through the clearing.
On the path, I continued just south of the beach where I had read on some online fishing feeds that this is where the good fishing was. There were a few small pathways cleared through the trees with either stumps, logs, or benches primed for fishing spots.
I didn’t get too far when I decided to head back to the truck to get bait at Rick’s Bait Shop when Google stated that they opened at 7 am. I was happy to realize that Google Maps was going to take me down the backroads I had driven here on so I could actually see them in the daylight. I had to drive 18 minutes, a few lakes over, to get to Rick’s Bait Shop, and pulled into the parking lot at 7 am sharp.
The parking was in back of a house, with the entrance to the shop on the lower level walk-out basement on the opposite side. I walked around, and the door was locked. The main floor of the house was actually just filled with boxes and supplies, so I figured Rick didn’t actually live there. Anyways, Rick’s Bait Shop was still closed at 7:02 am. Maybe he slept in.
So, I got back in the truck and searched again for bait shops in the area, and noticed a listing for Tec-Tronics popped up close to Bishop Lake. I had passed over it on my initial search, thinking “how could a small computer repair shop sell live bait?” This time, I clicked the link and a photo of the shop revealed an almost run down building with signs saying Computer Repair and Equipment with a much smaller sign in the window saying “Live Bait.” Huh!?! Who woulda thunk it?
Six bucks for two dozen night crawlers should do. Now, Google Maps decides to take me back to Bishop Lake a different route. This time, I got to drive through and see downtown Brighton, early in the morning on a Sunday. The police were in the downtown streets setting up cones and getting ready for some street festival. The cops all had smiles on their faces and waved as I drove by.
It was about 7:30 when I finally made it back to the lake. This time, I grabbed my backpack, fishing rod, and tackle box, and started walking again toward the fishing pier from earlier this morning. I didn’t think I was going to stop and fish here, but it looked peaceful and no one else was out there yet. So I set my stuff down, tackled up my line, and baited the hook. I could still hear fish jumping out of the water, quickly returning, and leaving a set of ripples in the still water. I cast out twice and was cleaned off. “Let’s try this again,” I stated to myself. I tried casting as far as I could, and my night crawler went flying to the right a little bit. Sploosh! And then my line and sinker hit the water…but it was over to the left. Sploosh! That wasn’t supposed to happen.
Oh well. Let’s pack it up and head south of the beach. I was looking for a really good spot where I could have plenty of peace and quiet to think. The spots I saw earlier this morning weren’t secluded enough for me, or too boggy, too sandy. So I continued on. I ended up finding a spot that was good, but then I noticed that the path trail I was on kept going, but into the woods.
Here is where the adventure really begins. My curiosity of the trail that went further into the brush, and the idea that I could find a better spot on the other side of the lake got the best of me. I literally said out loud to myself, “Let’s make this an adventure,” and on I went. The path began to move away from the lake, but I had seen on the map that the path would come back toward the lake. Then I noticed the path connected to a dirt road going up and down hills, curving a few times, with a few cabins thrown about. This must be a different campground. When I got to the end of road, I had had been walking about two miles. I still had the backpack on my back, large tackle box and my longest fishing rod in my hands.
I forgot to mention that when I first set up my rod on the fishing pier, I noticed that the screw that held on the reel handle was missing. So, I had to pull the handle out while I cast, and put it back in to start reeling again. Good thing I didn’t forget while casting off the pier. Handle go bu-bye!
So, back to my adventure hike. The road ended where the last cabin was nestled, and still not very close to the lake, with forest everywhere. Then I spot a small opening with a dirt footpath. Let’s go. Maybe it’ll lead to the lake. It started to get more and more dense the further I trotted into the woods. I was only wearing swim shoes on my feet, not really meant for hiking. I could see the lake as the path slowly opened up, but I was about 50 feet above water level at this point.
I guess that means I keep going, but the footpath seemed to disappear. I could make it through this part of the woods, but no path to guide me. The ground sloped down until I was at lake level, but the trees were so dense, I couldn’t see a way through the 20 yards of brush between myself and the west side of the lake. I finally noticed an opening up ahead in the trees.
As I neared the opening, I felt the ground begin to get softer beneath my feet. The leaves on the ground turned from light brown to dark, dark brown to black, and I started to sink into the ground further with each step I took closer to the lake. It was right there in front of me. As I got about 5 yards from the lake, my foot sank down into the mud up to my knee. The swamp got me, and I realized that I couldn’t go any further. Now, the only thing I had to do was pull my leg out with my swim shoe still attached. But as I pulled that leg, it put more weight on my other foot, causing it to sink deep. What a dilemma.
I had to take my time, slow down, not rush it, and take it real slow, one leg at a time until the swamp started to dry up and harden, and my legs weren’t sinking so deep. I’m so glad that I didn’t get myself stuck. I mean, I couldn’t use my hands because I still had my backpack, rod, and tackle box.
After I made it out, I had to take a breather on dry ground. I set my tackle box and rod down, took the backpack off, sat down on the tackle box, guzzled a bottle of water, and used another to wash the mud off my legs and feet (which luckily, still had both swim shoes on). This was the perfect spot to reflect, pull out my journal and pen, and begin thinking about my values.
I started writing, after thinking about specific times in my life that meant the most to me and defined who I am. I came up with a list of about 25 values and figured that I can narrow them down when I get back to the fishing spot I had found about an hour prior, before the adventure really began. However, I was so happy that I chose the adventurous path. I would have never had this awesome experience hiking through these woods.
By the time I finally made it back up the dirt road, back onto the wooded footpath, and finally over to the fishing spot I had found earlier, I only had about an hour and fifteen minutes until I had to pack up and head back to the truck to be home by 1 pm, in time for my wife to go out with her friend, Christina. I didn’t really care if I caught any fish because this morning had already been epic, one for the books, one I don’t ever want to forget. I set down my gear and baited my line. The water was shallow for a bit, so I could wade out in the water for about 12 yards or so until the water came up to my knees. I was just enjoying the sun beat down on me now, and enjoying casting my line and reeling it in slowly, until I felt the tiny minnows and baby perch and bass nipping at the hook.
I took a short break and sat down on my log, belonging to my fishing spot, and pulled out my list of values again. I wanted to get down to 5 core values. It took some thinking, but I slowly started to cross out some values that were important to me, but not really considered “core” values.
At least I accomplished the task I had set out to do, had an adventure in the meantime, even though I had not caught any fish. I put my book away and looked at the clock on my phone. I still had another 20 minutes to fish before I had to pack it up and start heading back. So, I waded back out in the water and cast out my line. At this time, the beach was very loud, filled with laughter of tons of kids. I spotted a kayaker on the lake in a wooden kayak, beautifully carved and finished. I wanted to catch a photo.
I put the handle of my fishing rod under my left armpit where the rod tip was down in the water with the line still out, freshly cast. I grabbed my phone out my pocket. I had to zoom in to get a good shot of the kayak. Just as I was about to take the photo, my rod tip jerked heavily, almost causing me to drop my phone in the water. Luckily, I was able to hold on and keep the phone dry, and quickly stuffed it back in my pocket.
I grabbed the rod from under my arm and set the hook as quickly as I could. Boom! He was on. He was fighting back, but I was able to reel him in, even with my loose reel handle. It was just a small largemouth bass, but he fought like a Marlin. Success! My fishing excursion was a success. Time to pack up and head home to my amazing family with a gigantic smile on my face and a sense of accomplishment within.
To sum things up, nature finds a way of allowing the mind to relax enough to allow this type of contemplation and self-discovery. Nature allows true repose, and a gateway to a place away from the normal daily grind, which can be stressful, even though you may not notice.
I have discovered a lot more about myself that I have not known. I now know how I want to leave my mark on this world. Get outdoors, people. See what you can dream when nature grabs a hold of you and pulls you into its blissfulness. Enjoy!