As Summer came to a close I had all of the regular stress building up in my body, back to school was quickly approaching, the days were getting shorter and back to reality was going to start setting in any second. Luckily I had one last trip up my sleeve, I was headed North, way North to see Nate Denofre and take part in a Courage Inc. outing in Michigan’s scenic upper peninsula. In an earlier post I explained how I came into contact with Nate and set up the trip.
Joining me on this 1,000 plus mile journey would be my adventure brother Josh, he and I have been to many interesting destinations around North America, so it was a no brainer to invite him along to the deep woods when the opportunity presented itself. “So you’ve never met this guy and it’s 10 hours away, I’m in.” That was basically the content of our conversation, Josh would be flying in from Philly to make the trek with me.
The closing few weekends of Summer are usually banana’s but in a good way, trying to cram in one last bbq or trip to the beach before Labor Day is in the rear view mirror. I might have overdone it. My wife planned a trip for us to Toronto to see Dr. Joe Dispenza speak the weekend before I was to pick up Josh from Detroit Metro Airport to head up North. The trip to Toronto was incredible and Dr. Joe got me dialed in, my meditation game was going to be on point! On our trip we saw Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. We arrived home at 10 PM I dropped my wife off and picked up Josh at the airport at 11:30.
The next morning we packed the car for our week in the woods, we didn’t bring much, just a pack big enough to carry clothes and our hammocks, we we’re roughing it. I kissed my family goodbye and headed North. 4 hours later we were in the U.P eating whitefish overlooking Mackinac Island, looking at Lake Huron and Lake Michigan “That wasn’t so bad” I said to Josh, but we still have 4 more hours to go, more like 5 if you include driving down logging trails. We paid the tab and hit US 2-E with Big Bay in our sights.
The drive was distractingly scenic, on my left was big blue Lake Michigan with it’s whitecaps and massive sand beaches on the right was Josh snoring away or pointing out views to distract me! Finally we turned right and Lake Michigan was behind us, now it was forest and more forest, eventually we made it to the other side and we were treated to Lake Superior, the Real Big Lake.
Finally we we’re closing in on Big Bay, time to call Nate and let him know where we were. He told us we had about 30 minutes to go and gave us a short cut...the gps on my car seriously didn’t have anything on the screen other than my car in a sea of green. Satellite radio was fuzzy at this point. Finally we got lost, dead end! Somehow I kept my cool (Thank’s Dr.Joe) and we somehow came out not far from Nate!
At this point I had only spoken with Nate via email and social media so it was nice to finally meet him and then go into the woods for a week with him! He had us follow his “Woods Truck” for a few miles down the same logging trail we were earlier lost on and parked my car and loaded our gear into the truck bed. Josh, Nate and myself all crammed into the cab of a 1990’s something Pathfinder deep in the woods ready for a crazy week in the wilderness. Josh is 6’4”, I’m 6’6” and with his legs on Nate is 6’3” so room was at a premium to say the least.
As Nate began to navigate the forest around the Huron Mountains we bumped along with branches smacking and scraping all over the truck Nate told us that it wasn’t much farther and that it would be worth the trip and also that the brakes were out on the truck. Mind you at this point we have been heading down a hill for about 10 minutes so this was about to get interesting.
3 guy’s get into a truck, the guy with no legs is driving and by the way there are no brakes, headed downhill towards a river, sound’s like a bad joke or an obituary! Several tense moments later we came to a rest at the bottom of the hill and we we’re greeted by the sound of extremely loud rushing water, our campsite was surrounded by multiple waterfalls. It was worth the trip Nate was right. It was as if we had landed in the Mesozoic Era. There were boulders the size of my 1 car garage all throughout the river, all under the canopy of towering red and white pine trees. I wasn’t sure if I would see a giant dinosaur or bigfoot first.
The scene was set we so split up picked out some spots to unfurl our gear and got to it, it was getting dark, under those massive trees it was always twilight I would find out. Once our spots were set we got the fire going and started cooking I was starving. 12 hours after we left Detroit we were all set up and ready to get our courage on!
Finally talking with Nate was great, here was a guy that has had everything stacked against him since day one but has one of the most positive outlooks on life I have ever encountered. He explained to us that he hasn't always had the most rosy outlook, however has come to accept that you aren’t in charge of everything you’re dealt in life, but when given the chance making the positive decision seems to go farther. “Why hate life, if you’re not living what are you doing?”
Over the next few days we fished in the river, climbed on the rocks and Nate swam in the river. I put my foot in and it was instant cramps, the temperature of the water was a scorching 61 degrees...in late August! The Yellow Dog River was ice cold but I will never forget my time watching it’s waters rush past me and over those giant boulders.
While I was in the woods surrounded by natures beauty... and Nate and Josh I realized I hadn’t had any spasms or tremors, even my balance was pretty good, MS hadn’t even crossed my mind. Swinging in a hammock with the roaring waterfalls immersing you with the giant trees swaying against the blue skies was good for my soul. It was a very mindful experience.My brain needed me to take my foot off of the gas for a second and re-calibrate, it felt great.
While sitting around the campfire with Nate and Josh we shared some epic stories from our lives over the past decades usually ending with roaring laughter, I think I broke a rib, seriously, I had to take a minute to gather myself. We bonded and promised to do it bigger and better next time, which we will, no doubt do.
On our trip we covered 1,111 miles in my car (with brakes) all in Michigan. I was able to see all 5 Great Lakes in less than 24 hours, climbed a massive mossy boulder in the middle of a rushing river and lived in a hammock. I made a new friend and cleared my mind, when can we go again?
If you have a chance next Summer, by all means contact Nate and the Courage Inc crew and get some time on the river. “Pick a date and we’ll accommodate”...said Nate, I had to!
Be a warrior today,
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