Retrospectives on our hike around Lake Superior
Going Full Circle in retrospect
1. Thinking back to five years ago it seems so logical now, in retrospect, that we walked in a circle and that each day was an unknown - that is we were not on a trail, a path, a road - we were not going to something, we were going around, encircling, encompassing, coming to know where we were - here on earth, on this planet, in this north country.
We were moved my majesty that was apparent, but also hidden. I always felt that when people asked how far we walked they asked the wrong question - it should be - "what did you see?"
I was always a meanderer. At the Audubon Center I resisted trails for many year saying that trails led through, between, but not in. When I went off trail I was someplace, on trail I would be going someplace.
Of course, I value trails, the North Country trail, the App, the Muir, Santiago, etc. Great trails, great adventures and I have followed trails in parks, wilderness, Kate and I even wrote a guide to the best trails in MN, but when I am at my best I am lost.
To understand what I mean; you have to know that I only consider myself lost when I have to look at a map and try to figure out where I am. The more I am just at a spot the better I love it.
Wondering if we could get around a headland, if we could get over a rock outcrop, if there was a way in and a way out was a dream. Going Full Circle meant that we were physically back where we began, but in reality we were not.
The Lake beside us was now a much more intimate place - more than when we sailed, biked, got married, rode on boats, picnicked, guided - more than everything. It was not ours, but we were the Lake's.
2. Five years and the photos never get old. Five years and the videos are still fresh. Five years and we are still trying to grasp the meaning of the largest and greatest of all Lakes.
Walking - that was the other end of our messages from 2010. Act on your values, set an example, don't let age stop you, follow your dreams, take care of fresh water and get out and walk!
William Wordsworth followed paths to the "recesses of the country."
William Hazlitt said they were "lines of communications"
Nan Shepard said, "I feel easiest: walking as enabling sight and thought rather than encouraging retreat and escape; paths as offering not only means of traversing space, but also way of feeling, being and knowing."
Think about a walk on the North Country Trail, Hiawatha Shore-To-Shore Chapter or in one of your parks or on the Lake Superior Hiking Trail Association . Get out, get moving - let loose the thoughts and ideas that are waiting to be investigated.
3. Our anniversary continues to inspire ideas. We are now a month and three days from that anniversary, but walking is always a part of our days and thoughts.
Reading The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane this line that was associated with the Australian Songlines got me thinking "Storytelling was indivisible from wayfaring."
Because we chose radio and newspaper to let people know we were coming we were greeted by numerous people who wanted to talk and share in our walk. We were asked to share a beverage or food, to sit and talk. Each time we learned about the people and they learned about our walk.
We shared our experience and what we were doing and laughs and smiles accompanied the time we had together. In many ways we were the new storytellers, the oral tradition come alive and from one home to another we connected the people we met.
This Facebook page is an extension of that experience and emphasizes the power of walking, the need for sharing, the role of oral tradition that is still important in the age of social media.
4. John Brinckerfoff Jackson wrote - "For untold thousands of years we travelled on foot over rough paths, not simply as peddlers or commuters or tourists, but as men and women for whom the path and road stood for some intense experience: freedom, new human relationships, a new awareness of landscape. The road offered a journey into the unknown that could end up allowing us to discover wh0 we were."
This could well have been something we thought or wrote. I find is a really insightful passage because we have to say that we learned as much about ourselves as we did the lake. We walked to discover the shoreline, to find new inspirations, but we also found so many moments where we sat and laughed, looked outward at the water and inward to our growing sense of place and satisfaction.
A journey is so multi-leveled and the struggles are not just rock, water, and root, they are internal - the desire to continue, the battle with pain, the struggle with weather's variations, and the collection of memories.
5. When does a journey begin? We have all heard that a journey begins with the first step, but is that really true?
Our journey around the lake began in our minds. It began when the idea first took root. In fact, there are many journeys we take without moving, without physical effort; simply exploring in our minds thoughts and dreams. We journey through literature, we travel on our maps, and we journey across time in our memories.
For us, first there was the thought. Then there was the agreement – the coming together of two minds and the acceptance of the idea followed by the commitment to the thought.
Once we knew we were going to do the walk we journeyed through the various ideas – how, when, what to carry, should we have support, was it a walk or a backpack, on the shore or on the roads? It had to be massaged until it felt right. The idea needed shape and form. It needed reasons for incentive and depth (and to answer all the inevitable questions).
Retirement was a motivation and walking away from one life and entering another was the metaphor.
It was obvious, to us, that our grandkids needed to be part of the trip – the beginning, the middle and the end. They were our incentive; the ones we really wanted to do this for. It was to be our legacy for them. And what would that legacy be? Surely, not just the act of walking: there was more to it, more to define.
The element that encompassed everything was the lake. Superior, as its name implies, hovered about everything. It was the challenge, the visual inspiration, the unknown and it contained 10% of all surface freshwater in the world. It was, by area, the largest lake in the world, and no one had tried to walk its shore. Within the lake, was the most precious commodity on Earth – water! Water is limited, but it is also life. We probe Mars and the Moon for signs of water because it means life, but we live on a planet of water and we waste it, we abuse it, and we ignore it and refuse to protect it for us and the future – that has to change.
All life is a form of water. And we need to go back to our source of life to continue to live. We cannot go on without refueling regularly just as the computer I am writing on cannot function on battery forever; it needs to go back to the main source every few hours. So water becomes our cause.
The journey with incentive, motivation, legacy, and cause has momentum and our excitement drew others in to the idea. People wanted it to happen. They wanted to be part of it. We began to grow a community around our idea that would be expanded throughout and after the walk itself. It was not to be an army of people walking together, but rather a community of people sharing a vision and occasionally joining in for a few miles and a lot of postings. The trip was now a source of inspiration for following a dream, leaving a legacy, taking action, refusing to let age be a barrier.
It is motivation that carries a journey forward, whether the discovery of a new formula, the conquering of the heights on a mountain, or the simple desire to see what you can do. At this point we just needed to fill in the details. We had achieved dedication to the concept.
It was now a journey on multiple levels, but without one step being taken. It had moved across a variety of barriers and just waited for a physical path to parallel the emotional one that would be a permanent part of Full Circle Superior.
6. “I can only meditate when I am walking,” Jean=Jacques Rousseau wrote, “when I stop I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.” Walking around the lake gave us great opportunities to not only see the lake, but to think. Eight to ten hours a day we moved. Sure we thought about dangers, beauty, and what we were going to eat. We considered the obstacles of 1934 rivers and streams we had to cross and the identity of the birds we saw. Soren Kirkegaard describes his wandering with the fact that he was “so overwhelmed with ideas that I could scarcely walk.”
Sometimes the thoughts seemed so intense and the ideas came with such revelations and clarity that I wanted to stop and write where I was. Other times it was the lyrics of a song – because I have the ability to only remember one line from any of the myriad songs that I enjoy and have enjoyed. Amazing how an old rock and roll lyric can just pop into the mind.
It is really part of walking, mulling over ideas, coming to clarity on problems. It was a walk that helped me to deal with my son’s death in New Zealand in 1989. The walk cleared my thoughts, ultimately allowed nature to inspire me and created a path that continues today even though that particular walk ended in one afternoon.
Now that I reflect there are so many questions that continue to challenge me. For example, at what point have you gone somewhere? How many steps make a hike? We know that a journey starts with one step, but what is the second step? We must be someplace new immediately. When do we feel like we have arrived at a new place? Are we aware of this immediately or do we have to walk miles?
Which step transcends the sense of going and becomes being? Is it time, distance, vision, memory, physical, mental, or external influence that gives us the feeling of newness? I enjoyed leading 100 foot hikes, almost crawling as we looked at mosses, rocks, sticks, lichens, plants and I have had immersion with a backpack in badlands, mountains, prairies, and forests and while they are longer, each day, each walk is different and inspiring.
Walking around the lake was filled with daily thoughts, but at the end it was also filled with larger thoughts about the size of the lake, the importance of freshwater, the attacks on the quality of water, the isolation of bays and people in such a massive location, and the need to share our experience so people can care about water and lakes everywhere. I carry memories of hard times with physical pain, of challenges of rocks, windblown trees, deep water, rain, wind, insects, hunger and overwhelming sense of beauty. There are moments sitting with Kate on a rock, walking together through the water, watching a bird or an eft, shifting moods, exhaustion, and eating blueberries. It is a memory that exacts older memories of getting married on the Sailboat I captained, exploring the Apostle Islands, sailing in to Duluth where our son was teaching sailing on smaller boats, overnight in the midst of the waters and going towards Isle Royale. Does walking intensify memories?
I believe that the moment we crossed the lift bridge, the point at which we said good-bye to our daughters and grandchildren and turned our back on them and Duluth to look and move towards Wisconsin we things changed and we were now separate and on our walk. I think every walk that everyone takes depends upon a moment, a step, where we shift our concentration, find a new focus and it is that step that truly takes you to somewhere else.
Nietzche said, “Only those thoughts which come from walking have any Value.” And Wallace Stevens captures our experience when he wrote:
The truth depends on a walk around a lake, A composing as the body tires, a stop
To see hepatica, a stop to watch
A definition growing certain and A wait within that certainty, a rest
In the swags of pine-trees bordering the lake.
Perhaps there are times of inherent excellence”