I woke up at 5:30 and hiked through the dark and the dawn. I passed a few places that I thought were all but a sure thing for a moose sighting but came up short. As I walked in the dark, I didn’t need my headlamp because the moon was so full. I was tromping along with my eyes trained on the path and I happened to lift my head and look to the right. And then, a moose! I swallowed a squeal in my throat and stood as still as I could. I stared for a few seconds and then averted my eyes to avoid giving the impression that I was challenging her. Then she took off running into the thick brush. I hugged myself, I grinned. It finally happened! I didn’t get a picture, but it’s ok. I know what I saw! I enjoy these days of starting early, talking long breaks and not going quite as far.
It’s too beautiful here. This whole day has been one endless stream of gorgeous sights. I love the changing elevation. I love the endless Lake Superior shoreline with the cleanest water in the world and the many inland lakes that are perfect for mid-day dips. I love the sassafras and the cairns and the 10 foot high thimbleberries. I love the breeze and the impossibly beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
I am practicing some major mind control. First, in trying to get the fucking Wicked soundtrack out of my brain, with some success. I am getting to the point where, even if I can’t shake the song, I can have other thoughts. Its like there are two streams running in parallel, complex considerations with background music. I can’t believe how sticky and oppressive and crazy-making this is. There is nothing and no one to crowd those thoughts out and they have taken root. Arrrgggg!
I’m conflicted about what to do for my last day of hiking. I really love the idea of making it to the 700 mile marker, but I think I might not. Erin’s advice is with me and I think it is another form of self-control to not make this about the miles. It should be about quality over quantity. With my current route, I won’t make it to 700 so if I change my mind I will have to pile them on the end.
I have been reflecting a lot about this trip. I wonder how it will look to me later, what I will say about it, and how it’ll make me feel. I wonder if I’ll take more trips like it. Some people have already asked me what I’ll do next and I tell them that’s kind of like asking a woman in labor when she’s going to have her next kid- too soon!
Looking back on this trip, I know I’ll never forget the feeling of having hours after hours and days after days of time to kill. This trip has been one slow scene change as I march past woods and lakes and town. I have never had so much time alone, so much time with just my thoughts. I want to make time for that free range thinking time in the future but I doubt I’ll ever purposely seek out this much again.
On the other hand is one thing that I almost can’t believe now is the feeling that I have so much to do every day: first and foremost hiking, sleeping, eating, resting, exploring, writing, reading, even working on the quilt square. What a strange combination of frenzied business and utter boredom.
I blame my stupid stopwatch for making me feel that way- constantly ticking off every second of my time in motion, reprimanding me for any breaks, prodding me on even as I avoid looking at it. If I could do this over again I would leave the watch at home but it has been a helpful resource to approximate distance and I have been dependent on it from day 1. I also wish I had woken up earlier and maybe even walk less but, of well, hike and learn. I’ll enjoy my last few days with those thoughts in mind.
Tonight is my last night on Isle Royale. I decided to stay in one of the shelters. I feel a little guilty for giving myself such a luxury but I am self-aware enough to recognize the foolishness of my pointless masochism. Here is a shelter is so why should I sleep on the dirt next to it? Lately I have been so tired of setting up and taking down my camp that I have given up using my sleeping pad. The act of blowing it up at night and deflating it each morning is a chore that isn’t worth the marginal added comfort that it offers.
The shelter has an assortment of etchings on the wall. There are couple’s initials names and dates, special quotes. Here is my favorite:
So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are condition to a life of security, conformity, and convetionism, all of which seem to give one peace of mind but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic lore of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with experiences, and there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon.
-Christopher Johnson McCandles
I wrote on the wall myself. The quote that came to mind is:
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
What are the lessons of this trip? Most likely there are many, and most likely I won’t know them for awhile. But one that I think I can already see the shape of is this idea that I can achieve what I set out to do. My whole philosophy of “learning by doing” has been proven out.
I imagined that, over the course of my trip, I would figure out what I wanted to do next. I have tried on different futures throughout my time on the trail, imagining myself in Detroit, Chicago, Washington DC and New York. Imagining myself in various little northern towns along my trail. Imagining myself in the pacific northwest or California. Imagining myself all around Europe. I wish that one place would call out to me so I could at least have an anchor in where I go. I feel overwhelmed with choice. I could go anywhere, do anything and do it with anyone. It makes my head spin. It turns out that it’s harder than I anticipated to make plans when I’m alone in the woods. Fortunately, I don’t believe there is necessarily one right answer, I will make a choice and things will fall into place from there.
I still have no idea what will come next. I do take comfort in the belief that I can figure it out as I go. I think I’d like to keep writing.
Sometimes I write to be read.
Sometimes I write just to write.
I don’t think I have to find a traditional 9-5 job, or a 5-year plan. I am comfortable with uncertainty in a way that I wasn’t before. I I don’t know where my future will take me but I have renewed confidence that I can stray from the prescribed path and come out alright.
Continue to the next entry in the series here: Day 44:Moskey to End of the road
Go back to the most recent entry here: Day 42: Lane Cove to Todd Harbor