Archive for the ‘THUMP’ Category


February 19, 2023

 I have been invited to submit monthly articles for the Obsidians (Eugene outdoor club) bulletin. This article was adapted from my article Thump, which occurred in 2006 and was posted in 2009. Many articles will have single word titles, my choice.

11 p.m., somewhere on the southwest corner of Isle Royale, the national park island in Lake Superior, part of Michigan, but closer to both Minnesota and Ontario.

It’s cloudy and dark, but the rain and wind have stopped, and I hope my mag lite will keep working. I have seven miles to go to Windigo, where I can camp, unless my light quits and I have to camp on the trail. 

Three hours earlier, I had been lying supine on my bag, almost dozing, shoes off, when I heard a few thumps outside the tent. One more thump, I told myself, and I’m going out there to see what is going on.  


I put on my shoes, opened the screen and looked in front of me.  Nothing. I crawled out, stood up, and turned around. Twelve feet away, separated only by air, was an adult wolf.

“Oh. My. God. “ I said. What I was seeing had been for decades at the top of The List of things I wanted to see.  But like this?  The wolf and I stared at each other, and he slowly circled the campsite for the next 3 minutes, looking up at my hung pack on a nearby tree. His jumping at it was perhaps the thump I heard. Then, suddenly, he was gone. 

I intellectually knew there was no documented case of a healthy adult wolf’s attacking an adult person. That’s fine to know, but it means little should one be ten trail miles from the nearest other person, where there was no way whatsoever to communicate. No way I would stay put; I packed up and shortly before sunset under an overcast sky was back on the trail.

I thought on this May night, it might be light enough in the woods, but not when overcast. The trail was easy to follow at first, and I only had to worry about moose that might bed down near it. I made decent time despite my having already hiked ten miles and now doing another ten, rather than sleeping. I admit to occasionally turning around and looking behind me.

I approached a large jackstraw of logs in the middle of the trail and started to pick my way around. I kept going until I finally found the trail and started hiking normally again. A few minutes later, something didn’t feel right. I’m analytical to say the least, and while I don’t pooh-pooh gut feelings, I like to have hard evidence. Then again, this evening, I went with my gut and got out of that campsite. What I was feeling now was every bit as disquieting. 

Am I going back the way I came?

I generally have good trail sense, but I have become turned around before, and I was now seriously concerned, so much so that I stopped, took off the pack, opened the pocket where I had a compass, something that I have almost never used on the trail.  I took the compass out, didn’t worry about the declination, held it away from me in the direction I was now going, shone the light on it and asked one question: am I facing SW or NE?  

The direction was SW. I had turned around. 

I put the compass away, turned around, and started hiking again. Sure enough, I soon reached the blowdown, this time more carefully finding the trail continuing northeast. At 1:30 a.m., I arrived at Windigo, pitching my tent on the lawn at the Ranger station. When I awoke a few hours later, I was 50 yards from an empty three-sided shelter.

See you on the trail.  Bring a compass.


September 17, 2009




September 12, 2009