Day 38: Houghton to Calumet

gorgI’m now in the last week of my trip. I feel very solemn about it. I want to honor the journey by ending it right. I’ll try very hard not to use my phone or to escape into social media, texts and phone calls. I want to be in my head. I want to think things and do things that I couldn’t do in my normal life.

Yesterday I arrived in the town of Houghton, today I passed from Houton through Hancock and am now here in Calumet. They are all beautiful. The fact that I am on roads instead of trails means that I am around more civilization now than ever, even though in many ways I am in the most remote area. 

houghtonHoughton is so pretty, and surprisingly large. The main street calls to mind an old west boom town. The land north of here is technically part of the Keweenaw peninsula, but a man-made canal offers a short cut for boat traffic, and so the two are only connected to the mainland in one place- by a massive draw bridge that links Houghton on the south side to Hancock on the north. It reminds me of how the Upper Peninsula is only accessible to the Lower Peninsula via the Mackinac Bridge. I am not on a scrap of land connected by only one bridge to another scrap of land connected by only one bridge from where I started.

I got my last resupply package in Houghton. It didn’t have a book in it and I could have bought one in town but I decided I will embrace being alone with my thoughts instead of escaping into a book. I also got a note from Erin, it made my heart melt. She is such an amazing friend. She said that, at this point, it would probably be harder for me to go 5 miles than 20. She encouraged me to challenge myself not to make it all about the miles, to slow down and savor the trip, to relinquish some control. I am trying. With those sage words in mind, I gave myself a little field trip to the “Quincy Mines,” one of many of the huge copper mine that once collected the purest copper ever found on earth, right here in the Upper Peninsula.


As I was writing earlier, I was eating throughout. Eating too much, not out of hunger but out of some different type of need. I was in the danger zone. I hate when that happens. It sucked but I got through it. Later I had my dinner at a little pub and restaurant here in Calumet without incident (one more stop on my bar crawl). Luckily I sat next to a nice couple who ate with me. I might have ordered more food and just kept going if I didn’t have company. It’s disappointing to struggle like this but I’m proud that I didn’t give in.

A strange memory just popped into my mind. When I was in middle school, my gym teacher taught us that when we were most tired, that was when we were building new muscle. If we only went up until we got tired, if we stopped no farther and no faster than every time before, nothing would change. It is precisely in these challenging times that, when I do get through them, I am becoming stronger. So even though I am disappointed with myself for overeating, this experience has been even more valuable that the easy times.

Calumet used to be the largest town in Michigan, bigger than Detroit. It’s hard to imagine a world with no electricity, no North Face fleeces, and no modern conveniences that actually supported more people in this frozen region than elsewhere.

My most recent plan is to walk to Copper Harbor, catch the ferry to Isle Royale, return to Copper Harbor and walk to the tip of the peninsula to see one last sunrise, and get picked up from there. I don’t yet know if it’s possible but it’d be pretty cool.


Erin’s advice is still ringing in my ears. If I went crazy packing in the miles this last week, it would make my transition even harder when this is all over. I’ll just have to see what I’m up for but I like to consider that there are other ways to finish this trip than in a frenzy of miles. I have the unique situation of having and end-date as much as an end-place so the distance I travel, especially on Isle Royal, is entirely up to me. In Houghton, there are weekly sailing races. I passed the sailboats as I walked along the water and daydreamed about giving my legs a rest and floating around awhile.

It’s hard because I have to plan how I will get home. I love the idea of meandering my way back to Mom and Dad’s place by walking, catching rides, (preferably on a sailboat!) and taking the long way back. But Mom offered to pick me up and it seems foolish not to accept. The fact that she’ll have to drive over 10 hours to get me means that I have to make some sort of a plan, but I can’t help but resent having to fix myself to a schedule at a point where all I want is for everything to be organic.

I have been frustrated with Mom, but we talked and worked through it. She tries even though she doesn’t fully get it. She hears me even though she doesn’t understand. It is enough.

Perseid meteor shower tonight. I can’t keep my eyes open to watch and its cold out but I have my rain fly on only ¾ of the way so I can peep out.

Continue to the next entry in the series here: Day 39: Calumet to Eagle River

Go back to the previous entry in this series here: Day 36: Herman Road to South Entry Road

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