The trial of miles; miles of trials.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The best Michigan has to offer

 On my last day of high school in 1994 my American Literature teacher shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said, "struggles ahead, but that's what makes you a better man."  At eighteen I was so young, so vulnerable and so impressionable.   I assumed he meant collage would be a struggle, but now looking back, I don't think that's what he was really trying to say.  In life we struggle, we triumph over adversity only to flounder again.  He gave me a gift that day even thought I didn't know it at the time.  I've held those words close to me and I will never forget them.  Someday I'll return the favor by passing those words along, perhaps to my son or daughters.  
For me October 2010 brought new meaning to the word struggle.  I experienced the highest highest highs followed by the lowest lows.  Without going into the gory details I will say, like never before, running was my therapy, the only drug I needed.  At the end of the month my tally read 200 miles.


At the beginning of the month Loc and I headed to the UP for five days of hard work, relaxation and fun.  I figured Loc would handle the relaxation, I would take care of the hard work and we would both manage to have some fun along the way.  As it turned out, we both did some hard work on the day we set about 70 square feet of tile in the basement of the in-laws cabin.  Loc did the dirty work while I ran the wet saw all day.  The job went well and it was nice to step back at the end of the day and admire the finished project. 

tires that get shit done

We got great use of my truck that week too.  After a lot of exploring along the lake shore we emerged in a sand trap that nearly swallowed my truck whole.  Luckily I was able to get the truck turned around and after airing down the tires I managed to get back up on higher ground.  By day five the truck was scratched from bumper to bumper from overhanging branches, covered in a layer of dust/mud and the floorboards will filled with a thick layer of white sugar-sand.  I wouldn't have had it any other way...there was some real redneck two tracking that went on...and frankly I live for that.
near the sandy hold

The weather that week in October was like a dream come true.  It's the weather you wait you whole life for and when it comes, you can't believe it.  I saw five glorious sunrises followed by five incredible sunsets.  Color was peak and the temperatuers were perfectly crisp just as fall should be.  The best part was the golden hour lighting conditions.  I wasn't armed with my DSLR but wish I would have been.  Due to the season, the sun was slung low in the Southern sky making the golden hour last much longer than sixty minutes.  The world is so much more beautiful when bathed in those conditions.  The long shadows give depth and the colors appear so rich, like they just came off the tip of an artist's bush.  It doesn't surprise me that film directors often shoot entire movies under these conditions.  (Full Metal Jacket, Stanley Kubrick)

truck bathed in golden light

Andrus Lake

I wanted to put up at least forty miles while I was up there and with no lack of beauty for inspiration, it wasn't that difficult.  I had five great runs.  Two along Lake Superior's shoreline that were absolutely unforgettable.  The power Mother Nature unleashed as the waves pounded the shore-break was humbling.  I felt small and insignificant but at the same time I felt privileged to have the opportunity to bear witness to such raw beauty.  To say the least, it was moving.


click to enlarge, look close on the river rt. shore for a kayak

Then I had the great fortune to revisit Tahquamenon Falls Sate Park and run the trail between the falls.  Something I have wanted to do for a couple of years.  When I last hiked the trail in 2003, it was hot, buggy and the dog was profusely foaming at the mouth between trips to the river for water.  This time would prove to be much different.  My October 30th BiM post captured the following story, but I wanted to put get it in here, because it was a great moment of inspiration for me:   

yeah those are the falls he went over
calm and peaceful between the upper and lower torrents
On October 4th I did a short trail run in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. I started at the Upper Falls and ran to the Lower Falls along the Tahquamenon River. Prior to my start I headed to the Upper Falls observation deck to have a look at the falls and shoot a few pictures. As I approached the falls I noticed a dozen or so people sprinkled on the observation deck, tourists. As I got closer I could see that although the observation deck is backed with one of the most beautiful sights Michigan has to offer, Upper Tahquamenon Falls, nobody was facing or even looking at the river. Their focus was on a twenty-something, bushy haired guy who was fully decked out in whitewater gear. He was clearly preparing to go over the falls in a kayak and was scouting his line. What I saw next, I will never forget. I was now down on the platform with my back to the river quietly observing and drinking in the moment. When he turned towards me the smile on his face was broadly brimming from ear to ear. The shimmer in his eyes was unmistakable. He was bouncing up and down to the cadence of a youthful puppy, only pausing for a second or two before he scrambled to a different vantage point. He was up on the railing and then back down again, zestfully light on his feet, it was beautiful to watch. He was full of life and it was absolutely infectious. So full of life it’s hard to explain and rare to see in our sedentary society. It was like a breath of fresh air. Before I knew it he’d hopped over the railing and disappeared into a thicket upstream to retrieve his boat. I didn’t stick around for the main event but would later learn that he confidently held his line, powered up to the doorstep, hucked off the lip and made a nearly perfect landing into an abyss of river foam. Then with both hands he raised his paddle over his head, face covered in foam, and let out a scream of excitement as the onlookers cheered his victory. That moment was likely HIS greatest triumph.

There is no doubt that he is a great kayaker, but whether he knows it or not his true gift lies is in his expression, his enthusiasm and his vigor for life. He inspired me that day and I will never forget it.

lower falls area
  It was a fantastic week filled with hard work, hard play and some of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you re-posted that story, its even better with the pictures.