Dokken: Magazine promo triggers memories of risky outdoor moments

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This particular flight, which marked the start of a week-long plane fishing trip for two friends and I, went off without a hitch, which is how I love my seaplane rides to be. Thinking back to my outdoor adventures and misadventures over the years, however, there have indeed been some risky situations.

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I was reminded of this again recently, when a press release arrived in my inbox highlighting the latest issue of Field and Stream, the venerable outdoor magazine founded in 1895. The press release included a preview of “Close Calls”, a feature article in which four people believed they had survived “wild encounters on what was supposed to be an ordinary day in the field.”

I can’t say I’ve ever had a life-threatening outdoor encounter of the intensity highlighted in the Field and Stream story, but I certainly had a few “Dude I’m glad let it be over ”.

Here are three that stand out. It might not be a coincidence, I was much younger when each of them happened.

Fish and eclairs

We saw the storm come that day in June 1994 as we were fishing at the bottom of a long and narrow wild lake near Pickle Lake, Ontario, but the frantic pace at which walleye and pike were biting made it difficult to convincing my fishing partner that it was time to head to the cabin.

“One more throw” turned into dozens, and each throw, it seemed, ended up with a fish at the end of the line.

We never felt electrical pulses knock down our fishing rods, and our lines did not hang in the air from static electricity – both of which are known during thunderstorms – but the lightning that hitting the water at maybe half a mile convinced me it was time to go.

This time I succeeded.

We had to weather the storm to reach the hut, and another flash sent us hastily toward the shore. We hoisted the boat over the rocks and rushed into the brush to wait for the storm to pass.

All the mosquitoes in the province, it seemed, were there to welcome us.

The storm moved quickly and we resumed our 8 mile hike to the cabin without incident. It was 11pm and it was about dark when we got there.

Rough ride to shore

We had rented a 16ft boat from Springsteel Resort for my 15 horsepower Evinrude and we were somewhere near Elm Point on Lake of the Woods when the southerly wind picked up on that sunny Saturday in June through the end of the 80s or early 90s.

We had no choice but to head into the wind for the long bumpy ride to shore. Fishermen in boats considerably larger than ours had the same idea.

The walleye would keep.

Crawling like a turtle in a greased punch bowl, we made our way back to the resort which was maybe 3 miles away, if I had to take a rough guess. Sometimes all I could see was the bow of the boat pointed skyward as we climbed wave after wave in anger.

Slow and steady wins the race, as the old saying goes, and the entrance to Springsteel harbor never looked so good as I steered the boat through protected water. I have no idea how long that bumpy boat ride took, but it felt like forever.

I can honestly say I was scared this time.

Lost in the swamp

It was October 2001, and three of us were hunting ruffed grouse in the aptly named Lost River State Forest, north of Roseau, Minnesota, when I decided to turn off the trail and walk along a cedar swamp on a road I had taken several times.

This time something went wrong and I knew it within minutes of leaving the track.

We were lost; no compass, no GPS, not even matches. The cloudy sky did not help the situation.

Not good.

As the host of this date with two friends from the Twin Cities, I tried not to show the worry I was starting to feel.

I was supposed to know where I was going, after all.

I have no idea where we were or how we got there, even to this day, but we were wandering for maybe half an hour when we came across an obvious cut through the larches. Swamp grass growing 3ft tall covered the trail but it was obviously an old logging road that had to lead somewhere.

Better that, I thought, than wandering aimlessly through the trees.

Shortly after, we came out onto a trail that was several hundred yards north of where we had parked and over a mile north of the edge of the cedar swamp where I had lost us. .

How we got there, I didn’t know, but I was damn happy to be there.

I have since had a compass – and a GPS – with me.


Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken


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