Faith, Cory and I had all lost some gear during our misadventure to Upper Sturgeon Falls a few days ago. Cory and I had both left some articles of clothing in the woods, including one of my favorite hoodies from high school (now a trusty hiking sweater). Even worse, Faith and I each lost a camera. Hers was an older one, filled with high school memories, and mine was the new fancy Canon that Katie had recently purchased for my birthday. They had somehow slipped from our pockets during the headlong rush to the rescue team. We needed to get our gear back, especially those cameras.
Faith was still too shell-shocked to go back to the swamp. Cory was game as long as he carried enough survival gear to last several days in the woods. Katie and Logan also came along under the condition that I carried a backpack as well packed with first aid gear, water, and food. Feeling more like we were heading on a Himalayan climb than a simple retrieval mission we set off down the Tama Siding Road on a weekday evening.
Even after studying maps over the last few days I could only piece together two legs of our route. I knew exactly how the rescue team got us out of there, tracing back from the cabin with the bonfire to the spot on the creek we had spent the night. Part of our entrance was fairly simple too, from the point when we cut off the road to the large beaver pond we had mistaken for Upper Sturgeon River. What I didn't understand was how we crossed the swamp. During that night while we were pushing through the thick undergrowth we had crossed a decent sized creek and not even realized it. That didn't make sense. Crossing the creek we were following was the last thing I had wanted to do and I thought we were very careful to stick to the one bank.
None of that mattered today - all we had to do was follow the rescue path out. We headed down the dirt road in relatively decent spirits, much more certain of our surroundings and armed with plenty of new knowledge of the creeks and swamps. Along the way Cory spotted his jacket below the road, down by the forest's edge, and ran down to get it. When we reached the cabin I led us over the creek, gurgling and bubbling below the undergrowth, to the south bank. Along the way Cory started pulling out bright orange tape and tying markers along our route. I thought the tape was silly, since I had no intention of our hike lasting past the dark.
We pushed our way east, retracing our path out. There was no recollections, no sights that looked familiar from that terrible night. We had pushed a wide path through the brush with the rescue team that was easy to follow, though. Katie and I checked the surroundings, looking for the cameras, while Cory tied his bright orange tape. It was slow, careful going, and it didn't take long for Katie to start questioning about turning around and giving up.
I felt like we were getting close and bargained for an additional thirty minutes of searching. It took thirty-five to find the spot (Katie didn't have a watch and was far too trusting). Cory and I pounced on our rock, overly excited to find the tiny boulder sitting sadly on the leaf-strewn floor. We then started circling around, looking for the cameras, and didn't find anything. I was starting to lose hope when Katie spotted it, calmly sitting on a mossy rock, undamaged. I quickly took out the battery upon seeing the wet clinging to it and hoped for the best.
It was dark now. We headed back and I was thankful for Cory's diligent trail markers. As I made my way up a steeper section my foot slipped on the wet leaves and I went down hard on my shin, slicing both jeans and skin open. It was the same leg, almost the same spot, that I had gouged at Upper Montreal Falls. I let out a decent string of expletives before plopping on the ground to inspect the damage. Blood streamed down my leg and quickly soaked my sock.
Katie was able to patch me up with the first aid equipment, applying several layers of bandages over the large gash. It was just a cut, nothing worse, although it did give me a slight limp for the rest of the night. Cory led for awhile as Katie and I took up the rear, remembering the markers and path much better than I could, and we made it back to the cabin and easy roads just fine.
We never found Faith's camera. I ended up loaning Faith one of my older cameras for the rest of the school year. As for my extra clothes they're still out there, probably the point of a good joke by hunters or occasionally glimpsed by the wildlife, a reminder of how stupidly ambitious some ideas are.