Going longer… Getting stronger….

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This weekend had a little bit of everything in it. I spent Friday evening with friends at two different art exhibit openings, Saturday with my spiritual community and Sunday out in nature. I even got a chance to cook some nice meals for myself and get enough sleep. While my house is not spic ‘n span, it is not too shabby. I can rest well tonight and go to work feeling caught up. Now, if I could just have several more 3-day work weeks, I’d be golden.

July 4 Long Run….

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My running training is going along swimmingly…. swimmingly in sweat that is. But I’ve been waiting and waiting for it to get warmer, and now it’s here. Unfortunately, we are having a lot of Louisiana-style heat and humidity up here, and it’s making long runs in particular, brutal. For the second time in the last few weeks, I started my long run at 4:30 AM so I could get it in before the heat index started rising. Jessica is doing the same thing in Tulsa as she is at the peak of her marathon training. It’s even hotter there. We laughed that we waited forever for the cold weather to go away, and now we have to hide from the sun and run under cover of darkness.

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The last three days were pretty nice, though. Friday and Saturday in particular were amazing. Unfortunately, I didn’t have to run either of those days. So, this morning I drove to the woods near Lansing to do a short trail run. I’ve added a trail half marathon to my training schedule, and I wanted to check out the course at Sleepy Hollow State Park.

Since it was a shorter run, I took Ashok. She was really happy to get out. For the last six weeks, I’ve had lots of guests, and we haven’t really been doing dog-friendly activities. Besides, it’s been so hot, she’d be miserable. But today we’d be in the shade and would get started before the heat really set in.

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This little park was lovely, and its main feature was a big fishing lake. We were almost the only people on the trails, and we knocked out the four miles at right about an hour. We hiked the rest of the way back, and it was so relaxing to walk in the woods without having to rush. I think we both needed it.

After our run, I changed clothes and we headed home. Since we were so close to Lansing, I decided to drive in and see our state capitol. I’ve never been to Lansing, and a friend of mine wasn’t too complimentary of it. I managed to find Old Town, and it had a nice little park by the river and some interesting restaurants. I sat outside of Punk Taco with Ashok, and I ordered the “Trust Us” tacos which turned out to be fabulous. (You get what they bring ya, get it?) The corn tortilla was obviously home-made, and the pork, sauce and cheese were delicious. I had planned to eat at the BBQ place next door, but I think I made the better decision getting the tacos. It was just enough, and the flavors were extraordinary.

They even had a fish ladder to help salmon over the waterful in Old Town!

I run the trail half marathon in a month. After running 4 miles today (about 1/3 the distance), I see that running that trail half is going to be brutal. I’m going to have to wrap my mind around the effort. At this point in the training – above 10-mile runs – the mental effort of running starts to get difficult. The physical gets tougher, too, but it’s my mind that starts asking “what’s the point of doing this?” I had forgotten about this part of it. At least in the trail run, I’ll have nature around as a distraction, and my mind will be occupied looking for roots and holes that could trip me up.

Well, y’all have a good week. If Jessica increases me again this week, I’ll be at half marathon distance. I’m trying to think cool to drum up some cooler temps on long run day!

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Up North Sampler: Round 2

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Last year, I joined our local outfitter (Wanderlust) for a beginner backpacking trip “up North”. I had not been backpacking since I moved here, and I really wanted to get back into it. I enjoyed myself so much and met so many interesting people, I decided to do it again this year. As a matter of fact, I’m going on TWO trips with them this year!

The “Up North” trip was in late June, and we followed the same itinerary that we had last year. We backpacked in for 6 miles, pitched camp, played around at the Bowman Bridge Campground and canoed out on Sunday on the Pere Marquette River. They said the river would be lower this year, so we’d get to see this pretty little jewel in its normal state.

I’ve been visiting the store with some frequency over the year, and I’ve attended several classes, so I know the owners and their staff a little better. I know you can’t imagine that I’m shy, but I do tend to hang back a bit when in the presence of a lot of strangers. I knew at the start that I already felt more like myself with the group, and I hoped I’d meet some more friends that like the outdoors.

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I spent some time getting to know folks on the school bus ride to the Manistee National Forest. We unloaded our gear, doused ourselves with insect repellant, got packs on our backs and started walking. It was a beautiful day. I’m still a bit shocked at the green lushness in a Michigan forest. Our growing season is not long, but our plants seem to make the best of it. This trail is lined beautifully with delicate ferns. I felt like I was walking in a magical land.

We hiked really fast in, so some of the group went on another hike, but I wanted to hang out and relax. Brittany assigned fire duties to me, as they were going to be preparing meal packets for cooking over the fire later. With no cell service, I spent the afternoon tending the fire, enjoying my surroundings and chatting with fellow travelers.

When everyone returned from the hiking and the gear demos offered down by the river, we cooked our meal packets over the fire. Campfire food is so delicious. I took one bite from my packet and decided I wanted another packet of potatoes and butter for dessert. I fixed it while I was eating so I could chow down right after dinner. I was pleasantly full and relaxed after all of those white potatoes! I slept amazingly well.

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We woke up to rain, but it was just a drizzle. After eating breakfast, we broke camp and started our canoe trip. The river was beautiful and so was the day until it started raining. But, hey, I had on a swimsuit, so who cares if it rains? It was still nice, and I felt very relaxed if a little cold when we got back to sandwiches and snacks.

This is such a great little trip for beginners. It gives you a taste of canoeing and camping/backpacking. But it’s even fun for people like me because you have someone doing the heavy lifting on cooking and cleanup while you just enjoy the trip. I spent Independence Day with one of the friends I made on the trip this year, and I’m running a race with another one in early August. It was a great way to meet some like-minded people. I hope to make more friends in Pictured Rocks!

Now, I’m looking forward to the Pictured Rocks trip in a few weeks. This is one of my bucket list trips. It’s an intermediate backpack, so I’ll have to get back into my routine of packing my own meals. I’m looking forward to brushing off my dehydrator and trying some new recipes. I had so much fun doing that in Louisiana. And now I’ll get to do it on the shores of alligator-free Lake Superior! (BTW… I do think they have a few spots left if you are interested! Check out their Facebook page for details.)

Pictured Rocks, Here I come……

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Hiking in Newaygo and Coffeehouse #8: The Bitter End

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Ahhhhhh…. finally. I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting. Today it was warm enough and dry enough to get out for a long hike on the North Country Trail. Yes, I can hike around for a an hour or two with my dog in the snow, but I was looking forward to a day warm enough to get out and hit the trail for a long, long walk. I could hardly wait to get out of bed this morning – even though I was up until midnight last night.

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I picked out a spot on the trail map within a 2 hour driving distance, finished up my coffee, packed my backpack and hit the road. On the way, I listened to an issue of the She Explores podcast on women over fifty. It was very inspiring. I saw myself in several of them, and I was inspired to hear that they continue to be active while they are accepting a different level of intensity as they age.

I didn’t really start hiking until I turned 50, and I only started backpacking in the last few years. I’m not sure how long I will backpack, but I do hope to get a few trips in this year. There’s just something about waking up in the woods that feels wildly spiritual. And my dog loves it. I know that it won’t be too many years until that might be too hard on her, so it makes me want to get out and do it now. I refuse to stop until it’s obvious I must. And I can definitely enjoy day hiking.

I wanted to get my #8 coffeehouse on the way in, so I stopped at The Bitter End Coffeehouse in Grand Rapids. It was tucked away in the cutest little area called the university district. Students probably love its 24/7 hours. It had the look of an English pub. The ambience was dark and masculine, and when I saw the ceiling in all of its original grandeur, I said “Wow” under my breath.

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They had a really nice menu with lots of specialty drinks, so it took me a bit to decide. I’ve been daydreaming about the Kona coffee I had when I was in Hawaii, so I asked for the Kona mocha and walked around while I waited. Unfortunately, I did not realize that the Kona mocha was a frozen drink, so I was a little taken aback when the barista handed it to me. But I promised myself I was going to roll with the agenda on this coffeehouse exploration, so I didn’t make a fuss. I’d already paid for it, and it was my mistake any way. It was very yummy and quite a fancy treat for 9:30 AM.

This coffeehouse roasts their own beans, so I purchased some of their Kona beans to make at home. Recently, I got a KitchenAid Precision Press, and I love the coffee that is coming out of that thing. I love French Press coffee, but I never get the measurements right. This one helps keep it consistent. The sieve is better, too, so I don’t get grounds in my coffee.

I will definitely stop back by The Bitter End when I have time to stay. And, since they are open all the time, it won’t be hard to schedule a visit.

Ashok and I drove up to Newaygo which is a little less than an hour north of Grand Rapids. I’ve been up there hiking before on the North Country Trail but not on this section. I planned on doing around 9-10 miles, so I turned on my Runkeeper app to see if it would track my distance. Some snow and ice remained on the trail, but for the most part, it was dry. It was a nice forested hike, and we walked up and down small inclines, across gravel roads and rested when we wanted.  There were no fancy views or water features, but it was a great way to get a jump start on spring. I look forward to seeing wildflowers soon!

Around the 4-mile mark, we came upon a grassy meadow. It was quite lovely and very different than the habitat we’d been seeing. A sign told us this was a Coastal Plain Marsh, and, apparently it’s quite rare. It has the same plants and trees that inhabit the marshes up on the East coast. They also contain some very rare animals including the Massasauga rattlesnake. These little spots could be the remnants of the preglacial era. What’s more, the sign said there were 40 of these rare eco-systems in Michigan. When I looked it up on the internet, there’s one just down the highway from my home! Put that on the list.

So now I’m curled up on my sofa with one tuckered out dog and two very affectionate kitties. My house is still a mess as I played all weekend. That’s just the way it goes. I enjoyed a great party with friends both Friday and Saturday nights, got my monthly facial yesterday, ran a long run yesterday and enjoyed an adventure today. I’m thinking I’ll crawl up under the covers and go to bed early tonight. I’m sure I’ll hear no complaints from Ashok.

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The Underdog: Base Layers of Merino Wool

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You can’t see it, but I have my Smartwool base layer on!

The Daily Prompt today is underdog. For some weird reason, the only thing I can wrap my mind around is underwear. Is there an underdog of underwear? Honestly, my base layer I wear when I’m running is sort of like the underdog of my wardrobe. It may not get the audience or attention that my outer layer gets, but it is definitely an unsung hero. With out it, I would freeze. (How’d you like that transition?)

When I took a job as a bird keeper at the Knoxville Zoo, I had to learn how to dress for winter. Much of my day would be spent outside raking up bird poop, washing water bowls and checking on the health of our bird collection. My supervisor told me to get lots of long underwear, and I ordered it from Land’s End. I was astounded at how much difference it made to wear a base layer. I was always toasty warm. But the long underwear in those days was thick cotton or silk. While both had advantages, they are not nearly as nice as the base layers we have today.

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I have a hard time convincing my friends in Louisiana that I don’t get really cold up here.  I dress in layers. These days, I almost always have a merino wool layer next to my skin which keeps me toasty even when wearing skirts. Smartwool makes tights that are cute, soft, warm and very durable. I wore one of about 4 pair almost every day last winter. I’d throw them in the washer and dryer, and they still look great even after a year of constant use. I bought three more pair at the end of the season on clearance.

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I bought Smartwool base layers two years ago for backpacking. Our backpacking teacher said they were the best for sleeping and for wicking moisture on hikes. I wear those things on runs and even for sitting around the house. Occasionally I wear them for sleeping. I could easily use another 2 or 3 pair, but they, too, are expensive. And now I’m salivating about some Smartwool running tights. If I could wear that stuff year round from head to toe, I’d be thrilled. I even have a Smartwool balaclava and neck gaiter!

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Yesterday I ran upon a blog claiming that Merino wool is the hot new technical wear for athletes of all kinds.  Those sheep live in very cold climates but have to suffer through pretty warm summers. So, the wool is very warm but is breathable enough that it’s not too hot when temps rise. This stuff is like a miracle. And, another blogger I follow was laughing at himself because he has never been happier since he paid $25 for a pair of Merino wool cycling socks. Who knew wool was the workhorse of the underwear business?

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Yoopers, Fudgies and Trolls: North Country Trail Conference

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Two years ago when I was hiking in North Carolina, I ran into a couple who was very active in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. They told me I should check it out. Promises of meeting like-minded people and getting inspired to hike the Appalachian Trail really attracted me to the idea but I never got on the ball to make plans to go. So, when I saw that the North Country Trail Association had a conference, I registered on the first day it was open. I was so excited!

I planned my vacation around the weekend festivities in Marquette, my new favorite place. I also prepared myself to create a Plan B in case I got there and didn’t feel comfortable. I do get socially anxious sometimes when I’m around new people, so I never know how it’s going to go. Besides, all these folks know each other, so I was a little unsure if I’d feel like a fifth wheel. So, Plan B was in place, and I showed up Thursday morning for the first hike.

It was a lovely hike to Little Garlic Falls in the Little Garlic River. The trail reminded me so much of the Appalachians. The beautiful little stream snaked through a dense forest with rocks and evergreen trees. Although it wasn’t as hilly as North Carolina, it was every bit as beautiful and not nearly as well-traveled. We sat on a boulder and had lunch at the waterfall while the others crawled over the boulders and crossed to the other side of the stream.

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It was easy to talk to people on the hike, but I was a bit worried about dinner. I arrived at the social hour at 5 PM, and there was no one there but me. Eventually, a few other people arrived, and I started to talk with a couple from the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Pat and Bob were long-time members and very active in trail work. We talked for awhile, and they invited me to sit at their table. I met the rest of their group, and happily I met my “family” for the week. Every night we dined together and enjoyed the programs. I even took Ashok to their campfire at the campgrounds on Friday. They were very nice and were very excited to have someone new to add to their hiking and trail work group.

As we talked, they each held up their hands to show me where they live in Michigan. If you’ve ever noticed, Michigan is shaped like a pair of mittens. The Lower Peninsula is one, and the Upper Peninsula is the mate. They also informed me that there were two kinds of people in the world – Yoopers and people who want to be Yoopers. ( A Yooper is a person from the UP.) Furthermore, they said that anyone from below the Mackinac Bridge (me) was a troll. If a Troll moves up to the UP, they are then called a Fudgie. Apparently, you are only born a Yooper……you can never become one.

So, any dream of becoming a Yooper was dashed at that point. However, I can certainly visit. I liked pretty much everybody I met up there, and the conference was highly educational and entertaining. The first night we had a phenomenal presentation on history of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. It has the largest stand of old-growth forest in the country. I cannot wait to get over there and do some hiking.

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I attended a long distance hiking session, a “comedy on the trail” session and a fascinating session where Alex Maier showed his documentary about hiking across the UP. I gasped out loud when I saw the stars and the Northern Lights, and I made a mental note to get out to see that as soon as I can. I’m going to include the links to his documentary below for your enjoyment. It is worth watching to see this beautiful country through the lens of a great filmmaker. He even has some great footage of his winter backpacking. I don’t know if I’m up for that yet, but it was really interesting and beautiful to see!

Have a great week, y’all! Don’t ever be afraid to try something new. You never know how it might change your life.

Yooper Tours Teaser 

On Da North Country Trail: Section 1

Section 2

Section 3

Section 4

Going Up and Up and Up: The UP

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“Go West, young man,” is the rallying cry that drove many of our forefathers to the Western U.S. to find their fortunes. For some reason, my compass always tells me to “Go North, young lady”. Now that I live north, the only place to go is to the top of the world that ends at Lake Superior – the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I went from Calumet to Eagle Harbor to Copper Harbor….

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Because I was heading even further north this time to the Keewenaw Peninsula, my GPS sent me around Lake Michigan on the Wisconsin side. I drove up to Green Bay on Sunday. My friend Dan who is visiting in Michigan this week told me to be sure and explore Door County. I thought it might add too much time to the drive, but when I realized it was only about an hour and back out of the way, I jumped at the chance.

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I only had a few hours there, but we stopped at a cherry farm to score lots of cherry yummies and had a cup of coffee and a potato pancake in Sturgeon Bay. Sturgeon Bay is a lovely sort of canal that runs across the peninsula. Big ships were parked at the docks alongside one of the biggest yachts I’d ever seen. I spent a little time watching the water go by and then took off to Cave Point which was recommended in a brochure.

 

I thought I’d go by Cave Point and Whitefish Dunes State Park, and I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that they were right next door to each other. In fact, I walked in and out of the parks as I strolled along the almost-California-like shoreline. This was a stunning rugged place that sounded almost as beautiful as it looked. Water crashed and popped under the cliffs like small explosions. I can’t even imagine the intensity of a winter storm.

Scenes from Door County

 

After dragging myself away from the peaceful place, I set my GPS to north, and up, up, up I went. I ended up in Calumet MI. On my itinerary it was just a place to stay, but Calumet was much more interesting than I imagined. The Keewenaw peninsula was a rich copper mining area in the days when America was installing electricity all over the country. Native Americans first mined copper here for tools. Then immigrants landed in the frozen land to find their fortunes in copper mining.

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Eventually greed, the Great Depression and a big strike dealt a blow. It didn’t kill the industry, but it would never bounce back. I would have loved to have taken some of the tours provided by the National Historical Park, but most of them were not scheduled while I was there. It was fascinating to run downtown through the mostly empty magnificent old buildings. The city’s population was over 60,000 in its heyday, and now it’s only about 1,000. But all of those beautiful buildings and mining operations are still standing. It was like a big, beautiful ghost town.

The Drive to Copper Harbor

 

I continued to drive north. This last stretch is the narrow peninsula that juts out into Lake Superior. Even though the UP is remote, this area is even more remote than the rest. It is also extremely beautiful. Known for its outdoor adventures, the upper Keewenaw is just as crowded in winter as in summer. People are either snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, canoeing and kayaking or hiking. And there is always fishing.

And then there is the Jampot…. a monastery of baking monks.

 

I stayed in Copper Harbor which is a tiny little town on Lake Superior. The entire village wasn’t more than a half-mile long. I stopped at an ice cream parlor and talked to the teenage girls that worked there. They said summer is fun, but they get out and snowmobile and ski in the winter. They said there are always kids playing hockey on the lakes, and snowmobiles are constantly flying by. They spent a little time talking about some of the boys they know and which ones were dangerous snowmobile drivers. In the summer they find natural diving boards for diving into the freezing waters.

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The whole trip has been interesting to say the least. It’s been beautiful, too, but I’ve enjoyed learning about this area. I bought myself a pendant with greenstone, the state gem. Apparently, it’s hard to find now. I suppose now that I’m a Michigander, I should have one!

I’ll be in touch later…. 

A Watery Loop Deep in the Woods

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In planning a hike for my first day here, I got out my handy guide to hiking in the Upper Peninsula and researched the popular hikes. Some were heavily traveled. Nope, I’m not looking for that. Some were not well-marked, and the guide said to bring a compass. Hmmm… I’m not that confident in my navigational skills that I’d go off alone in a strange land. And one or two of them just sounded like a little woods hike. I wanted to see something special.

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I finally broadened my geographical search and found a section on Craig Lake State Park. The guide promised that this trail is so remote that you wouldn’t hear another mechanical sound after you parked your car at the trailhead. It was also in moose country which meant I might have the opportunity to see a moose although it would be highly unlikely. I loved the remote nature of it, and it said the trail was well-marked, was part of the North Country Trail AND went around a lake. If worse came to worst, I could just follow the lake around. This sounded easy enough to navigate but rugged enough to feel like I was deep in the woods.

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I was a little worried about the drive to the park. The guide said the dirt road to Craig Lake State Park was 7 miles long and was very rough – rough enough that you had to have a vehicle with pretty high clearance. I wasn’t sure about that, but I sort of figured if it looked like I couldn’t make it, I could always turn around. I googled the State Park, and the same warnings were there with no additional information that made me feel better about my Rav4. But there was a Facebook page, and I got on it and read some of the posts. It sounded like people went back there on a regular basis, so I got a little less worried about the road.

That is until I saw this sign….

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I looked at Ashok and asked her what she thought….

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“What? You gonna let a little dirt road scare you?” she said. “We’re going. Drive.”

So, we started down the road, and all looked pretty good most of the way. I read later that the park service had come in and removed some of the larger boulders, so I guess the road was worse at one time than it is now. About 6.5 miles in I came upon a huge puddle of water all the way across the road. I wasn’t sure I could get through it without getting stuck, and there was no way I could get help if I did. I walked up and looked at it, and the mud did seem pretty soft. Just behind me was a little place I could park, so I decided to park there and hike the rest of the way in.

Which one doesn’t belong?

 

 

Right at edge of the lake were four guys getting out of their tents and having breakfast. Their canoes sat at the edge of the water and the campsite, and I waved as we walked by. The first part of the trail was an old logging road. The forest was lovely, dripping with last night’s rainwater and painted with every shade of deep green. A carpet of ferns covered the forest floor with a feathery touch. Sunshine dappled through the leaves, and I could hear nothing but birds.

 

A mile or so in, we came upon the cabins. A woman was walking to the outhouse when we passed by, and a man was standing in the kitchen with his cup of coffee. You can’t drive back there, so I guess you have to haul your stuff by foot or wagon. In fact, it became obvious that you would have to portage your canoes at least a mile and as many as four miles depending on where you wanted to camp and launch. This must be a great place to come for peace and quiet. And I hear the fishing is phenomenal, too.

Tadpoles!

 

The logging road ended, and the trail became single-track at the cabins. After that, the woods looked more and more like the woods in Appalachia. Except we saw no one until we got almost at the end of the trail. So, we had the trail to ourselves for the full 4 hours it took to hike it. It seemed longer than the 7.9 miles mentioned in the guide book. And the last part was really hilly. We got a workout for sure.

Lunch…

 

We stopped for lunch at little river that had been dammed up by beaver. A beautiful suspension bridge provided an easy cross, but I opted to go sit on a boulder and look at the lake for awhile while I had a lunch of fresh cherries, smoked whitefish and Wisconsin cheddar. I kept hoping to see a beaver, but I only saw dragonflies – lots and lots of dragonflies.

Toward the end of the trail, the markers got a little murky, and I got a little nervous that we weren’t on the trail anymore. However, I’d see a marker every now and then of a different color, so I felt sure we were on some trail. And I could see the lake on my right. The map confirmed that was right, so we kept walking. And, sure enough, we finally ended up right where we started. More men were arriving with their backpacks and loaded up canoes. I suppose it was going to be a great fishing weekend and guy’s getaway.

 

I’m not sure what impressed me the most about Craig Lake. The forest was really beautiful. There were a couple of lovely points where we sat to take in the view. Those were nice enough to make me want to come back and throw a tent for a few days on the campsites. But what struck me most was how remote it was. Man had not changed it much over the years. It was pristine. I had the distinct feeling that I was just a tolerated visitor in a world where I didn’t belong. They say the UP has more animals than people. I sensed that here. I felt like an intruder. And I felt immense gratitude to witness what most people never will.

 

The River IS Your Life

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With my meditation practice becoming a regular part of my life, I am starting to realize what it feels like to settle in and just be. About 40 minutes a day, I am comfortable just allowing the world to flail wildly around me without my participation. I just breathe. It feels comforting to just let it all go on about its business.

As the feeling of “just being” becomes more normal, I am very aware of the stark contrast of how I feel when I’m “trying to make things happen”. I am aware of my striving. I am aware of my judgment and criticism of the things around me. I am aware of the difference in the way I feel in comparison with my few minutes a day of just being me. And I’m developing a strong preference for just being. Not ironically, I’m starting to realize the benefits of meditation.

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I was canoeing last weekend, and I had a gentle reminder about striving. The person in the front of our boat was hell-bent on steering the boat to where we needed to go. This person was also the strongest in the boat. So, when he saw an obstacle ahead, he’d dig in and paddle, paddle, paddle furiously in the other direction. The current in the river kept coming, of course, and the rest of the boat would lurch in the direction of the obstacle. Our rudder person ended up in the trees every time. I spent most of my time paddling backwards trying to compensate for his over-compensation. I had to use my meditation practice to just let it be what it was and play my part. A few times I suggested that he not do that as it was throwing his wife in the trees, but he couldn’t stop this habit. And it was, in a word, frustratingly meaningful.

At one point in our journey, there was a tree felled across the river with minimal space between its branches and the water. Our “wild man” decided we should paddle wildly to get under it. The only problem was there was no room for us to get under it. I suggested just as we were about to hit it that we slow down and just pull ourselves under the branches SLOWLY. I can’t imagine what would have happened if we’d slammed into that tree. Thank heavens he relented.

Even though my job and my new preference is to just be, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have something to contribute. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Part of “being” is being who I am. The river didn’t change because our canoe was struggling. The river just kept being the river. It was beautiful. We complained because it was cold. We complained because it was high, and the water was swift. We railed against its tendency to be inconsiderate of us in where it landed its debris. The river said, “It is what it is, and I am who I am. Your job is to learn to work with me – not fight against me.”

The person in the front of our canoe seemed to have the attitude that we needed to hurry up and get this done and avoid any obstacles. I’ve been that person myself so I’m not judging. But we got better as we learned to navigate obstacles, work together even if it meant compensating for someone else’s shortcomings and just let the boat float for a time and enjoy the scenery.

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I realized that paddling – and life – is about the journey. It’s about teamwork if you are with a team or honing your own skills if you are alone. The challenge is to work when it’s time to work and to “just be” when the waters are calm. And sometimes, you have to “just be” and let the obstacles overtake you. The trick is to learn to work with the river. Use the current to help you navigate instead of fighting it. Harness its energy and work with it, and you can go right where you need to go. Let the obstacles teach you. Let the calm spells quiet you. Realize that you are not fighting the river for your life. The river IS your life.

 

 

 

Up North Sampler


Last week I had decided to go backpacking on the Manistee River Trail, and I headed over to Wanderlust Outfitters downtown. While I was buying my dehydrated food, the gal at the counter told me they had a trip this weekend, and I should go with them. 


I took the flyer and after checking last week’s dicey weather forecast, I decided to can my backpack and go along with this group instead. It would be a great opportunity to break my gear out of storage and make sure everything still worked while meeting some like-minded people.


We loaded up on a school bus Saturday at 10 AM to start the 3-hour drive north. We would hike 6.1 miles on the North Country Trail to Bowman Bridge campground in the Manistee National Forest, spend the night and kayak the Pere Marquette River this morning. I had a great time chatting with a new friend who is in my field and meeting my new comrades. Most were new to camping/backpacking and were anxious to give it a try.


We stopped at the National Forest Visitor Center, and I asked the lady behind the counter for information on the Manistee River Trail so I could prep for a future trip. She discussed which campgrounds would be good and then said, “we have lots of bear up here – lots and lots of bear.” I took a pause and realized I’d need to get a bear canister for my food and some advice on bear before I made that trip. I’m glad I waited.


The hike was fabulously green and lush. The woods here are so pristine. In the whole weekend I literally saw one piece of trash, and it was out of reach in the water. Other than that, I never see trash on the trails or beaches. We partook of wild blueberries ripe for eating and marched our way through acres of ferns, lush evergreens and beautiful grasses.


I chose my campsite at the campground and walked down to the river. It looked high to me, and they later confirmed that it was too high to kayak. We ended up rafting this morning instead, and it was a blast. The rafts were harder to maneuver than kayaks and you had to work with a team of strangers to avoid the inevitable crashes into trees, but it was fun.


I’m on the school bus home, and I feel reenergized about backpacking and am eager to do something over the holiday weekend. I still need to get a bear canister and some advice on how you put a bear in a canister anyway. 🙂

We had oatmeal and blueberries cooked over the fire!

Podcasts That I Love

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For over a year now I’ve been listening to hiking podcasts. I love listening to the stories of thru-hikers. One of the podcasts is made up of interviews of hikers while on the trail. The background noise of the wind and their steps kicking up dirt accompany the rehashing of their daily ups and downs. On on The Trail Show, they are just as interested in reviewing craft beers and through the course of the three-hour show they usually end up very drunk and very silly. All of them review trails and gear. They all make me laugh and show me a different way to live.

I also listen to an Alanon podcast which helps me get recovery support in an area that is rural and doesn’t have a big community like Memphis or Baton Rouge. I’ve listened to a Christian Counseling podcast for many, many years where listeners call in and ask questions of the counselors on the spot. And, my favorite these days is the Daily – a New York Times podcast that features reporters commenting on the news of the day. These don’t really make me laugh but they do help me to learn and to improve myself.

I decided I wanted to find some other podcasts. So, today I sat down and googled some suggestions. I found this article that featured 16 podcasts of all kinds to keep you engaged while working out. The cool thing about podcasts is that many are free, and there are shows that cover almost any topic of interest.

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After choosing a few from this list, I spent some time searching for podcasts that might interest me on iTunes. I found some on the outdoors, health, yoga and meditation, humor, journalism and recovery. I even found several different types of podcasts on history. I listened to one from this outdoors podcast called Out There about a scientist finding an unusual collection of birds buried in boxes in the basement of a high school. It was a fascinating story, and I learned how they discovered that DDT was killing off the bird population by comparing modern eggs with some very old collections of bird eggs. Sometimes saving useless things can turn out to be a good thing. You can listen to it here.

I’m looking forward to listening to more of these podcasts. I’ve gotten bored with listening to music when I’m driving around. I’d rather be learning or laughing or being entertained. Who knows, maybe I could make my own podcast if I could figure out what to talk about. What is your experience with podcasts? Do you have any favorites?

Here are some of my favorites:

Trailside Radio

Sounds of the Trail

The Recovery Show

The Trail Show

The Daily

New Life Live

Out There