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Photo Essay: “Getting There”

by Dave Karczynski
photos by Dave Karczynski

So much of our traveling is about where we go and what we catch, but over the last few years I’ve been thinking a lot about the way we move through space.  Sometimes our schedules dictate our locomotion, sometimes our own bodies, other times the landscape itself.  This photo essay explores the following question: How does the way we arrive at and move through our destination change our experience of the trip?

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Bushwhacking on foot through tough country reveals a certain contradiction.  It’s at once the most fraught way to get around (it doesn’t take much to sprain an ankle), but there’s also a sense of comfort that comes with knowing exactly how you got to where you are and exactly how you’re getting back.  Here, U.P. guide Randy Berndt navigates a slippery river crossing of a Lake Superior-bound freestoner.  

 

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Few modes of transport as a liberating as a canoe.  The fact that this ancient way of travel is also the most liberating makes me admire our human ancestors that much more.  On canoe trips I feel the most natural.  Civilization peels away, and by the last day of a ten-day loop, whatever cultural boundaries existed before are largely dissolved.  This manifests in my fishing, where I’ll look down at what am doing and ask, “Is this even fly fishing any more?”  Then I laugh.  The boreal forest couldn’t care less.  Above, Jeff Karczynski portages his way across Woodland Caribou Provincial Park.  

 

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While a canoe connects me to an ancestral past, travel by bike gives me access to an animal experience of the world with its speed of manual movement, ability to travel without getting tired, and constant connection with the earth.  On this summer’s trip deep into Algoma country, we kept pace with a wolf pack using the same defunct logging trail we were to travel cross country.  Their tracks in the mud told us that they were about an hour ahead, a berth we were happy to keep as we pedaled toward base camp. (Photo by Kristin Peterson)

 

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In Michigan, we shuttle our cars by river roads and two tracks, the river we’re about to fish obscured by walls of white pine  In Patagonia, where there are no river roads, the boat must serve the dual role of fishing vessel and shuttle.  Which means we start each day by motoring miles upstream.  It’s an hour-long slow draw of anticipation’s arrow, and it’s almost too much to handle.  Here, head guide Adrian Suazo of Yelcho en la Patgonia steers his rig up the brawling blue water of the Futaleufu.  

 

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There’s something absurd and beautiful about insanely long road trips, particularly insanely long road trips that end in six-pound brook trout.  The look on Jason Tucker’s face clarifies that he know’s exactly what he’s doing in choosing the open road over the open skies as he travels between Atlanta, Georgia, and Labrador City, Labrador.

 

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A train clarifies your agency and will.  For miles and hours, everyone’s destiny is shared–then the train stops.  Some leave the train to go home.  Others visit friends and family.  You change clothes and hike up the mountain, fated to high mountain native brown trout, far from home. (Photo by Arek Kubale)

 

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A rafting trip is a one-way street if ever there was one.  Few things feel as inevitable as a raft coursing it’s way through a Himalayan canyon.  If you had time to think between the furious paddling you might find an odd comfort in the idea that, survive the journey or not, you’re only going on way: downstream.  Of all the ways I’ve traveled, no mode has put me in such direct contact with the power of the natural world.  Here, guide and outfitter Misty Dhillon scouts a rapids on the legendary Mahakali River.  

 

getting_there11If the raft is a place of little thought and constant work, an hour-long flight in a float plane is a place of deep thought and total leisure.  The pleasant passivity of flying drives you deeper into yourself, into a waking dream partly if not wholly authored by the landscapes below.  The above daydream came compliments of Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed.  

 

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And then there are modes of transport you didn’t know existed until you got there.  Those who’ve been to Michigan’s Beaver Island know: the only respectable way to get to and from your boat launch is to boodle.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
 
Dave Karczynski is the author of From Lure to Fly: Fly Fishing for Spinning and Baitcast Anglers, an Orvis Series book published by Lyons Press. He is also the co-author of Smallmouth: Modern Fly-Fishing Tactics, Tips and Techniques, published through Stackpole Press. A regular contributor to Outdoor Life, The Drake, and many other magazines, he lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he teaches writing and photography at the University of Michigan.
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