I am back at Rock Lodge ready to take the ferry off of Isle Royal back to Copper Harbor. It’s 1:30 and I’ve already gone over 15 miles, possibly a record for this early in the day. I am exhilarated! I ran the last stretch of trail into the harbor. Yay!
I woke up before dawn again this morning even though I no longer needed to see a moose. I moved from my campsite and set myself up on the nearby shore to watch the sunrise. I think it is the first time that I have ever really and truly watched a sunrise, though I definitely had my eyes closed most of the time, snuggled up against the cold in my sleeping bag. I didn’t even know exactly which part of the sky to watch. The color crept into the sky but the sun itself refused to come up for the longest time.
After over an hour, I was itching to go. I considered taking off without seeing the sunrise but knew that wouldn’t be right. Suddenly, a bright spot appeared. Once the sun broke the horizon, it rose rapidly. Soon it was a full blood-red sphere in the sky. Somewhere from the deep recesses of my memory, a song came to me and I sang: “I think it’s gonna be alright, yeah, the worst is over now. The morning sun is rising like a red rubber ball.” The words caught in my throat as I sang, it was a mixture of anguish and joy. A few tears fell. I love that that song was somewhere inside of me, especially since I’ve been haunted by unwanted background music this whole week. I could never have planned it, it was perfect.
As I walked, I felt POWERFUL. My pack is at its absolute lightest and I felt buoyant, bounding down the trail. A few times I ran, a few times I sang those lines, Most of the miles were very quick, just melting by.
I reached a campsite with a trail marker that said .2 miles to the campground so I didn’t follow it, thinking I’d save the little distance. Unfortunately that meant I ended up going over 4 miles out of my way, something I might’ve realized if I either checked my map or went all the way into that camp. It was the best getting lost experience I’ve ever had. I got the miles in without actually planning for them- a win win!
In the last couple days I’ve thought a lot about things I want to remember to do when I have kids. Seeing families hiking has reinforced my desire to take my future kids out camping and hiking. I’ve thought of songs I want to remember. I’ve thought about how I can incorporate philosophy and inquiry without organized religion- maybe we’ll take a family hike every week. I used to always take for grantd that I would have kids but, especially since the divorce, I have to accept the possibility that it won’t happen. I really hope I do.
The ferry ride was magical. I stood out on the bow of the boat and let the wind whip over me. I thought back to the beginning of my trip when I read Nicola Tesla’s writing about a “brisk wind, richly charged.” When we finally got close to shore, the breeze suddenly became warm and fragrant. I knew we were close but I couldn’t see where we were going, it looked like untamed wilderness. At the last moment, we rounded a tiny island and there was our destination, a small bastion of civilization in this whole wild place.
My plan for the next 12 hours was to treat myself to a last-night feast and make my way to the end of the end of the road outside of Copper Harbor. Back on shore, I was walking from the harbor area toward town when, to my utter shock, I saw mom in her car all of 100 yards in front of me. “MOM!” I shouted involuntarily. As soon as the word left my mouth, I regretted calling out to her. Did this mean my trip was over? I have been so worried about finishing this trip right, maybe I should just accept this unplanned natural ending. I went up to the car and had a wonderful hello with mom and grandma. I haven’t seen a face from my pre-trail life in over a month, it was amazing! We talked and decided, “no”, it wasn’t time to end yet, I still have unfinished business. We made a plan to meet tomorrow morning along the dirt road tracks I’ll be hiking tonight, and said goodbye.
I am still trying to puzzle out what the lessons of this trip will be. I am deeply aware of my desire to have that “big cry.” It is yet another goal that I probably won’t make. Maybe it would have it I had succeeded in my other goal of overcoming bulimia. Maybe such lessons can’t be forced.
On the other hand, I believe in creating my own milestones. Life goes by, the sun rises and sets every day. Those events aren’t inherently meaningful unless you weave them into the events of your life. The family vacation last month could have been like any other, but I decided to use it as the seed that launched the trip of a lifetime. My birthday could have been just like any other day or any other birthday but I made it into a tradition that will stay with me for life. Even just these past few days of waking up early enabled me to see a moose and a beautiful sunrise- things that were there all along but rendered more meaningful because I made them so. I am a whittler, my life is a single block of wood. It has fixed dimensions and limitations but within those, I am free to carve out whichever shape I want. If I pay attention, I can become attuned to the curve of the grain and work with that raw material to make something unique, unpredictable and beautiful. I have always been a whittler, but after 28 years I am finally learning the craft.
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