Sorry for accidentally posting an unfinished draft earlier. Like many men, I suffer from premature post-ulation sometimes when I am really excited.
I recently had the privilege of backpacking on North Manitou Island for four days and three nights with a Boy Scout troop. For those of you unfamiliar with it, North Manitou is a primitive island in the middle of Lake Michigan with no electricity, running water, no designated campsites, or raccoons. No raccoons! Raccoons can live anywhere. They live in my yard. The fact that raccoons have forsaken this island should tell you something.
Chippewa legend says that a mother bear and her two cubs tried to swim Lake Michigan to escape a fire in Wisconsin. The two cubs could not make it, drowned, and formed North and South Manitou Island. I have discovered how the islands were truly formed. Centuries ago, Hades was married to a beautiful, but equally evil, bride. One day, the bride consumed the last of Hades’ bacon. Upon discovering the betrayal, Hades killed his wife and cast her body from the underworld and into Lake Michigan. Today, her body floats below the surface of Lake Michigan with only her breasts poking above the water to form North and South Manitou Islands. Manitou is actually Chippewa for “Lucifer’s Lost Love Lumps.” The natural beauty of the demi-goddess’ cleavage draws many-a-man to her, but what they discover there is horror…..
The ferry drops my family off. As the ferry departs, I glance back at the boatman. Before my eyes, his images shimmers and slowly transforms into the hooded figure of Charon. The cloaked figure slowly raises an arm and extends a long, boney middle finger to me and fades into the mist.
The troop fills up with water at the only portable water site and begins its 7 mile death trek across the island. After 1.5 miles a figure slithers next to me and asks, “I wonder why you did not fill those extra water bladders at the fill station? Would have made less water filtering later.” I wonder why this helpful question was not asked 1.5 miles ago but I notice the filed teeth as she grins at me. Quickly I recognize the Harpy and realize there is no point in bandying words with this one. I put my head down and prod James and Benjamin onward. Camp is made and endless trips to Lake Michigan to collect water for filtering begins.
The morning reveals another Legend of Manitou. When Jabba the Hutt was finally slain by an ultra-hot Princess Leia he was cast into the underworld. Hades took his body and hovered over North Manitou. Hades proceeded to place the fallen gangster into a giant colander and pushed his body through the billion tiny holes. The resultant billions of tiny slug-like Jabbalings were showered over North Manitou Island.
Every morning, the billion sluggy Jabbalings attempt to gather together to reform into Jabba and earn passage back to the land of the living. My tent, shoes, and other property was the gathering site for this unholy Ragnarok every morning. My tent and rain fly were so covered in slug juice that I was convinced Slimer from Ghostbusters had a wet dream over my campsite. My mornings consisted of destroying hundreds of Jabbalings to prevent the Hutt’s return to earth.
The Harpy notices I have brought two books. She approaches and states, “Nice books. That’s not how I would pack books, but whatever.” I begin to use rocks to sharpen a stick.
Day three dawns with the promise of the return seven mile hike. It also dawns with massive black clouds and high winds coming toward us. In a panic, our camp is broken down and a fastpack is started. We are going to get very wet and just hope we can get packed and rain gear on before it hits. During the frantic packing, Ben declares, “I have to poop and bad!” I grab the shovel (remember no plumbing, no pit toilets) a roll of toilet paper and run to a field with Ben. The wind and black clouds are really very cool but I have no time to enjoy them as I set to digging. Ben jumps up and down yelling, “Dig faster! It’s coming!” I am not sure if he is referring to the apocalypse in the sky or the earth-shaking bowel explosion that I am about to witness. As I hold his shoulders while he hovers over the pit, the first thunder crash explodes as Hades’ slams his refrigerator door after another search for bacon is unsuccessful. Life is about to suck.
At the site the fully-packed-Harpy skips past and states, “I started packing earlier.” The Harpy is about to die. The last bit of equipment is packed and Armageddon breaks loose. Hades’ baconless temper tantrum is unleashed in a torrent of driving tears, slamming of doors, and flashes in the sky as his refrigerator door light flickers on and off while he continues his fruitless search for bacon. We begin the walk of the damned.
The storm stops and the sun beats down on us. Hades has placed a curse on Ben’s backpack. When it is on, he transformed into a mopey, crying, injured shell of a boy. Once the cursed equipment is removed, he bounds through the trail with joy and abandon. I spend almost two miles in a rubber raincoat with the sun beating down on me, my 45+ lb backpack on my back and Ben’s 25lb cursed pack in my arms. My sweaty, dehydrated body drops his pack at the check point and straps it on him for the remainder of the trek. No matter how severely cursed, he will carry his pack the rest of the way or be left for the scavengers. After all, that is why I had two kids. I always have a spare. Be prepared.
Camp is made. My wife and I crash in our tent. After three days and nearly 20 miles of hiking the odor in the tent serves as a natural bug repellent. I roll over, look her in the eyes and say,
“I love you, but you are disgusting.”
Our eyes lock. My wife stares deep into my soul and states, “You repulse me.”
We lay happy and silent as a married couple who will never be able to look at each other sexually again.
At 2 A.M., I leave the tent to look at the stars. It is breathtaking. With no light pollution, the sky is incredible. I stand for nearly half an hour just staring at the sky. From my spot in the Underworld, I wonder which of the million stars that I see is the land of the living. I wonder if I will ever be able to return.
Final camp is broken and the exit point is only a mile away. As I eat another breakfast of trail mix, I reflect on the things that I have missed for the last four days. Ice, chairs, food that I have not had to carry, a shower, a new set of clothes, a pillow, the list goes on. I pull the dirty laundry bag out of the tree. Yes, it was that foul. The last Jabbaling is evicted and camp is broken. We get to our extraction point three hours early. I take no chances.
I sit on the dock and realize that I will forever be a changed man. One does not spend four days on the breasts of Hades’ discarded bride without losing a part of his soul and a gallon of blood to tics and mosquitos. I only hope that there is enough left of me to return to the real world.
The ferry emerges from the mist. Charon makes no disguise this time and my party recoils at his site. I step forward and drop four coins into his skeletal hands and state, “Passage to the Living.” He nods and allows my family to board before rowing us back to land. As I step off the ferry, he hisses into my ear, “Do not return.” I nod. Charon once more cloaks himself in the disguise of a college student and allows more damned souls to enter his ferry to cross to Manitou. I wonder how many will return.