In the wilderness lies the preservation of the world.
Henry David Thoreau

From two to six

Lina I hear an airplane announcement – Hannes’ wake up call. I slip out of our overheated mosquito-paradise. As I examine my swollen lip that looks like I tried to inject Botox in the dark, I ask myself how one single mosquito can multiply into thousands in the course of a night. Confused over this mystery, I trip out of the tent. I am happy that I can still sing the birthday song for Kai, even with a swollen lip, so that I can enjoy a piece of cake in the afternoon. But before Kai can cut his birthday cake, we have a lot to do. We sit in our silent spot and listen to nature. All of a sudden I hear a cracking behind me, followed by an intense smell of animal that reminds me of a horse. A bear? No, too quiet. A deer? Wouldn’t come so close. Slowly I get up and tiptoe to the nearest person who I can see: Pia. After we plan out what we would do in an emergency if it really was a bear, we return to the area of danger. We listen intently. A crack – silence. Leaves fall – silence. Or maybe that was the breath of an animal, waiting for us? I look to my right, Pia looks back at me with wide eyes. But somehow she remains calm. Is she not terrified of being eaten by a bear? But before I can inform her about my curiosity, we are called to pack our things for the day’s hike. That voice calms the tension of the moment. I notice that there was actually no danger, because there are other people everywhere around me. Then I think: darn. Missed chance. I would have like to stay in this moment of tense silence a while longer. I was burning with curiosity to find out what animal was watching us. But I don’t have time to think about this, because we are heading out on a two-hour hike to try to find the plot of last year’s tree measurements. This forest is the complete opposite of the forest at the Burman River. Everywhere there are unbelievably high maple trees, huge Devils Clubs that make our lives difficult (but are also very interesting), and a lot of colorful, edible berries. So we walk, happily munching, until we find a house. Wait a second – a house? A car. What? Barrels, glasses, books and a knife. The whole scene reminds me of a futuristic novel: we are the last survivors that helplessly wander the wilderness and find the leftovers of human existence. I wait for the moment that one of us screams “dead body!” as we flee in panic. But nothing happens. Even in the cellar there are only a few fat frogs and some shredded weathered pyjamas. We look for old newspapers that could tell us when there could have been life here at this place. The woodcreek book tells me the year 1976. So it’s probably a maximum of 40 years since someone was here last. But the wood and the building is not yet crumbling, so… 20 years? 15? We don’t really know. But we know that a bear or a wolf found this place before us because we find bite marks on all of the canned foods. This is so exciting! We assume that perhaps it was a place where the original owner distilled spirits. The adventurous discovery tour turns into a treasure hunt. We find pots, radio, a camera, and an axe. Some things are really useful. On the one hand for self-defense (“Hey look, I’m Rapunzel,” shouts Pascale and plays with the frying pan in front of my face…) but also to ease our life in camp. Soon we head back toward the camp. Unexpectedly we actually find the goal of our hike: the plot for the tree measurements. Quickly we gather some firewood, look for tracks and head home. So after six hours we finally make it back to the camp, where the cool river and the cake are waiting for us. Here I finally have some time to think about the events of this morning again. “The smell of cow dung and horse,” asks Sami, “That was an elk!” Wow. This morning this animal was standing less than 10 meters away from me in the forest. SMS from Canada: #1 Lina, How to make six out of two – It’s Kai’s birthday! – Discovery of a haunted house – finally finding the plot from last year #2 How to turn a two hour hike into six hours – Johannes and Kai catch fish (Dinner is secured) – making a pan flute. Translated by Pilar Wolfsteller Photos: © Wilderness International

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