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A Dirtbagging Trip

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I learned to sail on the Shannon from my father Paddy Dooley; a lot of people will remember .....
Dirtbagging is stripping camping or backpacking down to the
essentials: fun and adventure. Just throw a few things in
any old pack, and get out there. You don't need all that
expensive camping and backpacking gear. Leave the extra
clothes behind, sleep in a pile of leaves or next to a fire.
Dirtbagging is keeping it simple and using your wits instead
of your wallet.

Recipe For A Dirtbagging Trip

Take an old inflated rubber tube, a bivy sack made from
garbage bags, and some snacks. Put them in an beat-up
daypack, add a bus ride, a river, wild strawberries and a
thunderstorm or two. Mix well and enjoy.

This particular dirtbagging trip was a float down the
Boardman River in Michigan. I took the bus out of town, and
had the driver drop me off on the side of the road, where
the river passed under. The water is shallow, but fast here.
The sun was shining when stepped into the cold current.

I had brought a few warm things to wear to bed instead of
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using a sleeping bag. I carried a small umbrella to use on
the river and over my head at night. Altogether, I had maybe
10 pounds in the bundle on my lap as I floated down the
river sitting in the tube, with my butt and my feet in the
cold water. I had to navigate usking my hands as paddles.

The trout were surfacing everywhere and the deer were
stepping back from the riverbank at the sight of me. Blue
heron were hunting for fish in the shallows. A beaver
slapped his tail against the water when he saw me. I floated
for hours, the view alternaing between wilderness areas and
small collections of nice homes.

I was just going with the flow. It was very relaxing, and
yet still had the element of unpredictability, and thus

There were wild strawberries at every stop, and when I
stopped for the night I feasted on them until the rain came.
It rained all night, but I stayed dry in my garbage bag bivy
sack (my dirtbagging shelter), with a small umbrella over my
head. A large white-tail deer almost stepped on me in the
middle of the night, and scared me half to death with his
snorting. In the morning it was still raining.

It wasn't just raining, it was a wicked thunderstorm. One
thing about a bivy sack is that you don't have enough space
to keep yourself entertained. So, storm or not, it was time
to get moving. I bundled up my few things, stepped into the
cold river, and sat in the tube.

I drifted by beautiful houses, sitting there in a heavy
sweater, with my umbrella over my head. The morning light
was late because of the storm. People looked up from their
coffee to see me in a flash of lightning. I waved and
floated on.

Closer to home, I had a great time slogging through
knee-deep mud in a portage around a dam. It was almost like
quicksand. I worked my way free, and took a trail through
the rainy woods along the river. By noon I was safely home
and wondering if it was too early for a beer. That's

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