Following the first capercaillie hunt, our guide got "lost." I say "lost" because I sensed he knew where we were, but couldn't find his way directly back to the truck. We had walked into a single-landowner holding of 247,500 forested acres that was bound on the east side by a river and looked exactly like the millions (and millions) of acres of surrounding land. During the brief interim between dusk and dawn, we could hear a dozen or more capercaillies fight posturing. We walked in on stalks, and Tom even shot one. The capercaillie calls drew us deeper into the forest, further from the bear trail we'd walked in on.
At some point (after I peered over his shoulder to view the gps that I immediately recognized he couldn't read - he did much better in subsequent nights following natural features) I realized we were heading slightly down slope towards the river. We'd walked miles, but between endless daylight-induced sleepless euphoria and the incredible environment we were walking through, I was just living in the moment and enjoying the scenery - despite having tripped in the slushy snow twice and walking on squishy-sounding feet.
From a knoll on the river bank we saw a pair of whooper swans swimming, and guide Roger (not his name but closest I ever managed to pronounce it) made a cell phone call to who I couldn't imagine until about 20 minutes later a small blue oar-powered rubber raft came around the bend. That was right after watching Roger touch off the back trigger of his shotgun and stone-dead head-shoot a drake goldeneye that whistled down the river 65-70 yards distant.
The 2-man rubber boat ferried Roger and Tom seperately across the river, picked me up and headed towards where it'd come. They didn't speak English, I sure don't speak Russian, so I just went with the flow. That was right after I stepped into the boat with 2 left feet and damnned near flipped it over - I still grin everytime I think about the look in the oarsmen's eyes at the point he realized he was fixing to get wet, but he probably laughs thinking about the o-cchit look on my face too.
I smelled smoke and walked up hill. He and his two friends were spending a beautiful, 35-degree spring day fishing. They had 2 pike in a bag and a huge fire of two 6-foot long logs going. A tea pot was warming in the ashes, and they'd cut themselves a few pallets of pine boughs to keep off the ground. They had a typical field lunch laid out on a flat stone - cheese, cold cuts, coarse bread, tea bags and sugar (always carried in a plastic Walmart bag). There was a small transitor radio hanging up playing Russian opera-esque ballads (the other channel was techno-disco). I don't have a clue what that guy on the radio was singing about but it might as well have been about how great it is to be miles from nowhere on an enchanting spring day, with hot tea and food, a fire to dry your socks and boots and warm your feet, overlooking a beautiful river in a far away country. By the time Roger and Tom made it there, I was dry, had dozed off and was ready to resume our miles-long trek to the truck.