July 13-14, 2019
North Country Trail: M-10 South to 13 Mile (Cleveland Drive)
28.1 miles in a 24 hour time span, from Lake County to Newaygo County
The soles of my feet are sore. I am dehydrated and so thirsty. I drank filtered swamp water. My arches and shoulders ache because they have not carried 40 lbs backpack in my back surgery two years ago. Before I sit on a log, stump, or the ground, I make sure I have something to help me stand up. As I stand every muscle screams for me to stay where I am.
How can I describe total and utter silence…solitude (Where God Speaks and more importantly, I can hear him, brilliant blue and unclouded sky, the screech of fleeing chipmunks, a monarch butterfly that settles on my foot for me to contemplate, being alone…as if I am the last person alive on earth, watching a Yellow Jacket Bumble Bee emerge from its ground nest, fleeing deer, and frosting on the cake, crystal clear Sawkaw lake with a sandy bottom invited me to skinny dip. Wow! It was just about as close of heaven as one gets, I think.
It started with Jeff wanting to take our two grandsons to Sleeping Bear Dunes for some serious hike conditioning as they plan their trip to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilomanjaro. We started to hike at 11:30 A.M. They hiked with me for eight miles and then took off leaving me to complete a 16.1 mile day. I wanted to wrap up a twenty-eight mile stretch midway in the Manistee Forest. I camped alone, quietly, watching the sun set, observing nature take its rest. I was asleep at 8:30, up at 6:00 A.M. and on the trail by 7:00 A.M.
It was about a mile beyond where I camped where I saw the sign “No Camping.” My stealth camping serves me well. No one will ever know where the tent stakes when down. Then it was almost a mile of puncheons or what I call bog bridges. The wetland must have included hundreds of acres. The bull frogs had a choir going this morning.
There are many reasons I love to hike longer distances and for the most part, doing it alone. I do not often speak about the physical challenge. You just get tired. However, to push through that, getting into the zone is so rewarding…afterward. The exhaustion is temporary, and the hot tub is just wonderful.
The guys were returning late Monday afternoon. I did not wait for them. I phoned Jan and she came up with Natalie to pick me up. If I had known about Sawkaw Lake, I would have parked the tent and spent the next 24 hours fishing, resting, swimming. praying, having a fire, thinking…just being. Of course, I do that now at Lou’s Lake back at the ranch. In spite of our illnesses, frustrations, death, disappointments, life can be so good! This was a great two days.