The third and final day of our camping trip starts off a little rough, but ends beautifully.
This morning I am rudely awakened by an unbearable hangover. I try to sit up, but it’s a lost cause. Bear is laying next to me on the air mattress with his hand shielding his eyes from the burning sunlight of late morning. Slowly he starts to roll over but he is right on the edge and falls off the bed and onto the ground with a muted thud, dragging the sleeping bag down with him. He groans pathetically, and I try to laugh but it’s like a basketball is being thrown around in my skull.
After about twenty minutes we drag our asses out of the tent and to the picnic table. After another twenty minutes we have pitiful fire going, and Bear is slowly eating a bowl of cereal. I feel very nauseous and the sound of Bear chewing and slurping isn’t making it better. My stomach lurches, and I only rush to the bushes in time to vomit violently on top of foliage. A hot orange acid burns my throat as it shoots out of my mouth like a super soaker. Poor Bear is a sympathy puker, so he follows my lead, all over the picnic bench he is sitting on. The thick brown puddle of puke has remnants of last night’s late night ants-on-a-log snack, and some it of drips off the wood and onto the dirt below. Our campsite neighbors are watching us, their breakfast disturbed by our heaving.
I wander back to the picnic table, feeling loads better, and unscrew the cap off a water bottle. Bear has already chugged two. I watch him open a third and pour it over his vomit, probably hoping that will prevent it from soaking into the wood. But he only made the puddle cover more surface area.
He looks up at me and says, “How about we go kayaking while this cooks in the sun?”
“Sounds good to me,” I say between gulps of water.
Walking down to the docks I feel much better, much sturdier. I guess that just proves that sometimes you just gotta puke and get it all out of your system. Bear is feeling better too, he even makes ants-on-a-log as a snack for the road. We get to the rental shop, and Bear rents two kayaks from the perky clerk. On the shore there are large wooden racks holding upside down kayaks, and I drool as I watch Bear muscle down two dry ones from the top. In the water we run ourselves forward, slowly through the water, and swiftly hop inside once we gain a little momentum. I imitate Bear and start paddling, switching from left to right, and after a few strokes I have practically mastered it.
Further and further out onto Lake Itasca we paddle, away from the noise of fellow campers. We follow the opposite shoreline, becoming surrounded by the music of nature. To my left a forest of tall, skinny trees sway in the wind, their leaves rustling loudly. Slightly ahead of me, Bear points up, and high above us flies a red tailed hawk, and its scream echoes vibrantly through the atmosphere. He circles briefly, low enough for us to see the life in his eyes, before flying into the trees and out of sight. I cease paddling and coast forward, stopping perfectly alongside Bear, and he stops paddling as well.
“This is really beautiful!” I say, smiling at the man I love.
“It is, but it doesn’t compare to you,” Bear replies, blowing me a kiss over the small gap of water that separates us. I snatch it out of the air just in time before it blows away, and I bring it to my lips.
Directly ahead of us, I spot a loon mother and her two babies sitting on the water. Her red eyes glare intensely at me, warning me. Slowly they start to drift away, her eyes never breaking contact with mine. Loons can stay underwater for five minutes and dive up to 250 feet. But this lady is keeping us in her sight.
“She definitely wont swim away,” Bear says. “She has her two little ones with her and they can’t swim like that yet, so she will just paddle away from us.”
“But we aren’t scary,” I protest.
“Yeah, we are only spying on her quality time with her babies.”
“But isn’t it cool to see them up close? The babies are so cute!” They have drifted far enough away from us now that I can no longer see their eyes, or clearly make out their infamous white spots.
Across the lake we travel, soaking up the sun and the silence. After awhile we reach the shallow Mississippi headwaters, and decide it is a good time to turn around. We return to the docks, muscles sore but skin warm. The rest of the day we spend relaxing on the small public beach, watching others kayak by in the distance and children play in the sand. A perfect last afternoon at Itasca State Park, and I wish we weren’t leaving tomorrow, it is much too soon.