Day 11: Crooked Lake to Cross Village

7-16_sunsetLast night I dreamed I was caught by the police in my illegal campsite- I guess nothing is not without costs if you have a guilty conscience! I seem to have an abundance of that. Tonight I’m on the Lake Michigan shore by Cross Village- camping illegally again. It may be the prettiest place I’ve ever slept.

Watching the sunset right now it occurs to me that I have never truly watched a sunset alone. If something is beautiful or appealing to me, why do I always need someone else to enjoy it with? It’s undoubtedly nice to share a sunset or a walk with someone else but a lack of company should be no reason not to do something I like.

I’ve taken a lot of photos and posted 1-Second–Every-Day clips for a compilation video, and Allison wrote that article about me- so many opportunities to be judged and validated by others! I’ve been thinking about how I value other people’s opinion of me so highly, but I forget that I am “other people” to other people. It gives me a mental image of the world where everyone is constantly engaged in assigning value to other people’s stuff and putting their stuff out to be valued by others at the same time. That constant validation cycle is pure folly. I will always care about what other people think- probably more than I’d like to- but I hope at least to judge my acts, opinions, and even photos, for myself first. Continue reading “Day 11: Crooked Lake to Cross Village”

Day 10: Petoskey to Crooked Lake


Beautiful Petoskey! I’ve been resting here since my birthday walk-a-thon. I’ve walked from the campgrounds along Lake Michigan into town. Mom, Grandma, Sarah and her friend came and visited me yesterday. When Sarah saw me she said “I thought you’d look worse!” so I made sure to show off my blisters, scratches and bruises. Mom gave me a GPS, which I reluctantly accepted since I lost my last one. She also gave me a huge pile of other birthday gifts, which was nice but mostly frustrating. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the gesture and its not that I don’t like what she gave me but I am carrying everything on my back and this trip is not about stuff. I am grateful for Mom’s generosity but getting gifts like that makes me feel icky.

The farther I hike the more remote my surroundings will be- from the relatively populated Traverse City area to the tourist hub of Mackinaw, into the true wilderness of the Upper Peninsula, my trail will become more raw as I gain experience. I wonder if I’ll make it all the way to Copper Harbor and Isle Royale. This week has been hard but I have had the safety net of nearby towns and even my family nearby to offer support if I need it. I look forward to slipping away from those supports. I want to test myself even more. Continue reading “Day 10: Petoskey to Crooked Lake”

Day 8: Side of the tracks to Petoskey State Park

Today, for my birthday, I trekked 28 miles- one mile for each year of my life. I mentally travelled through the years as I went, remembering where I was, what I did. When I started off this morning, I wasn’t sure if it would be able to do it so I just figured, I’ll try” and what a great feeling to accomplish it!

7-13selfieMom offered to come up to meet me today so we could celebrate my birthday but I decided I wanted to spend it alone. I have a lifetime of birthdays to spend with friends and family and this is a wonderful chance to celebrate with myself. I took a selfie to commemorate the occasion- Happy Birthday to me! Continue reading “Day 8: Side of the tracks to Petoskey State Park”

Day 7: Landslide Lookout to Side of the tracks

A hard day- fitting for the last in what has been an incredibly tough year. Tomorrow is my birthday.

This morning I crossed the 45th parallel. For a long time I have been searching a way to differentiate the past from the future, a reason why tomorrow will be different from yesterday. I have made promises for tomorrow so many times, only to fall short. It’s like I’ve been saying “I’ll be different starting now….starting now…..starting now…” and after so many failures it’s lost meaning over time. I waScreen Shot 2014-07-12 at 9.21.04 AMnted a line in the sand between the past and the future and now I have one, an invisible but perfect line. Continue reading “Day 7: Landslide Lookout to Side of the tracks”

Day 6: Pickerel Lake to Landslide Lookout

7-11 sunsetI’m only a mile or two from the 45th parallel, I can feel its energy. The invisible line between the Equator and the North Pole is a symbol to me, a sign of passing from my old life into my new. It’s a way of making a fresh start. I can’t wait to cross it tomorrow.

I’m camping illegally right now but it’s a beautiful spot, I’m not close to any official sites, the sun is setting and I don’t want to go any further.

Continue reading “Day 6: Pickerel Lake to Landslide Lookout”

Day 4: Sand Lake to Log Lake

I got lost again today, in more ways than one.

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 11.57.07 AMThroughout the day I lost the trail a few times, once by a surprisingly wide margin. After blundering awhile with my compass and map, I found myself on a long paved road. I snuck a look in someone’s mailbox and to check the address on their mail and figure out what street I was on. Clever trick right? Yes, but the road on the envelop wasn’t labeled on the map so it didn’t do me any good.  Continue reading “Day 4: Sand Lake to Log Lake”

Days 1 and 2: Sutton’s Bay to Traverse City

My first night camping! My tent is pitched (hung) and my little stove is fired up, cooking a meal of ramen noodles and sardines. I am proud and happy.

firstday-departureYesterday I was “in training,” hiking the 20-some miles from Sutton’s Bay to Traverse City. The first casualty of procrastination is sleep and I lost almost all of it the night before last as I tried lamely to prepare for whatever it is I am now attempting to do. I sat in the middle of a room with my gear all around me and tried to make sense of it. There was packaging everywhere since pretty much everything was brand-new. Yesterday morning, I woke up ready to go and utterly fearless. I think it was a mix of excitement, shock, determination and sleep deprivation but my brain was laser-focused on “this is it!” I thought of leaving directly from the rental house that my family was staying at, even though there isn’t a trail for 10 miles, but that extra distance would have made it too hard for me to get to Traverse City in one day and it would also have meant that the family would drive by me on the road once they took off, and the start absurdity would definitely have killed mom. So, we ended up all leaving together- me, Mom, Dad, Nikki, and Sarah. They drove me to my trailhead at Sutton’s Bay, pulled over on the side of the road at my trailhead, and, after some surreal goodbyes, I started walking and they drove away. Continue reading “Days 1 and 2: Sutton’s Bay to Traverse City”

Left of East- An Introduction

new life-450In the summer of 2014, I embarked on a solo backpacking adventure across Northern Michigan.

With no one to talk to along the way, my journal became a powerful and necessary companion. I wrote journal nearly every day, sometimes many times a day, to capture the events and insights of my time on the trail or to just offload the thoughts from my brain so I could move on. One year later, I reworked those entries as a way to remind myself of that powerful, transformational journey and to share the experience with others. This trip was about taking charge of my life by changing myself rather than my circumstances. It was about making life happen instead of letting it happen to me. It was about independence, exploration, recovery, healing, reconnecting and redefining.

For months before this trip, I lived with an underlying vague notion that I needed to do something, but I wasn’t sure what it would be. I desperately needed to recalibrate my life after a particularly difficult year, disrupted by an emotionally traumatic divorce and a physically traumatic car accident. More than anything, I was trying to force myself to recover from many years fighting an eating disorder. After years of trying every conventional method Western Medicine had to offer, I sought out the oldest form of therapy in the world– time alone in nature.

Due to my bare-minimum research and preparation, I had a very few preconceived notions about what this trip would be like, but I had a long list of goals for how it would change, improve, even “fix” me. Of course, the trip absolutely defied those expectations in ways both wonderful and humbling.

Left of East means so many things. it’s the life I left behind on the east coast, it’s the left-handed alternative course of life, its the left-hand shape of Michigan’s upper peninsula on the map and it’s a 90 degree turn to the left from the East: North.

To anyone who has a clear vision for what they want to be but don’t know how to get there, to anyone who struggles to unearth the purity beneath the endless distractions of daily life, to anyone who has been so desperate to change that they wiped the slate clean and started over, to anyone who wanted to but couldn’t for whatever reason, to anyone who has chosen a life of purpose over comfort, I am writing this to you. I am very grateful to anyone who takes the time to revisit my experiences over those many miles and innumerable steps with me.

Next Entry: Day 1-Sutton’s Bay to Traverse City

This is the first entry in the series.

The Breakwall


When fate conspired to hold my mail
and I could not re-take the trail
I happened on a friendly male.
He took me to the lake.

Way past the main street thoroughfare
we walked the wall without a care
and then returned with tousled hair.
A nice place for a break.