Note to self: Dry tend makes for better pondering

Posted: Friday, April 01, 2005

When I was forced to read Henry David Thoreau's Walden in college, I remember being inspired the the way he found peace, contentment and enjoyment in the solitude of the woods.

With spring on the way on the Kenai Peninsula, it seemed like a good time to follow Thoreau's example.

Packing my tent, summer sausage, refried beans and a good book about the Alaska wilderness, I set off Saturday afternoon to find myself on the shores of Skilak Lake.

Any soul searching I had done before in my life would not compare to what lay ahead, I was sure of it. This was going to be an enlightening moment in my history. Who knows, I had an inkling the deep thoughts formulated on this solo camping trip may become a major part of the American legacy.

After arriving at the lake, I carefully selected the most beautiful spot and pitched my tent. From my pack, I produced my book, matches and some tea. After all, all sages drink tea.

I gathered some wood and was crouched over the fire pit starting the fire when it happened: My tent was swooped up in a gust of wind and settled in the water on the far side of Hidden Creek.

It was a situation where fast action was needed. Quickly, I stood still staring at it and wondering what to do. Staring and doing nothing can be taxing. I ran to my pack and wolfed down the rest of my summer sausage to replenish my energy reserves.

Suddenly, I realized that Thoreau was full of himself and is a terrible writer. All I could think of was my childhood when my mother would send me off to school with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a sliced apple. At that moment, that sandwich was all I really wanted.

But nobody packed me a lunch box for my camping trip and nobody was there to help me rescue my tent or to share the certain misery of a night in wet quarters with a down sleeping bag.

To my dismay, staring at the tent and eating summer sausage did not solve the problem at hand. Canvassing the creek for a shallow spot to cross, I skipped across some stones, slipping here and there and wetting my feet.

Retrieving my nylon shelter I stumbled back across the creek, dunking my feet and the tent a couple more times. I returned to my camp, packed my bag and hiked to the car. I resolved to start reading some new literature — maybe science fiction.

While bathing myself in Hidden Creek and a wet tent was not my idea of fun, bathing myself in beer at the bar afterward was becoming an appealing idea.

Behind a glass of beer later I planned out how to relive my tale, make it sound noble and retain a certain sense of pointless masculine pride.

I hope it worked.

Mark Quiner is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. Comments may be e-mailed to

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