A lot to think about today. I am sitting by only the second campfire I have made on this trip. I am on beach along the Lake Superior shore. I am totally alone and it is truly beautiful. Yesterday I suffered a major setback. I tend to worry about food and water and insects and getting lost but I should be focused on another threat- I am a worthy adversary to myself.
Yesterday after I wrote in my journal, I met a couple at the brewery who offered to give me a ride if I needed it. I looked at my map and decided that it would work out just fine. I had already overeaten and was dangerously close to purging so I decided to take the ride and get the hell out.
We drove. They talked. I felt horrible. Out the car window I saw a trail marker for the North Country Trail the a massive pit of guilt started building up in my stomach. It felt cheap, it felt like cheating. They yapped constantly in the front seat. She collected rocks for fun, a popular hobby around here. She doesn’t bother with geological names or anything. If someone asks her what kind of rock something is she tells them “pretty.”
They had met online. She had given in to his electronic advances because he accidently sent his initial greeting to her 10 times. She thought he was aggressively bold when in fact he was just technologically inept.
This was the second marriage for both of them and they had it all figured out this time around. They spoke with such cockiness about how perfect their relationship was and why it hadn’t worked out in their prior relationship that I found myself thinking “Why don’t you just kill yourselves now? You’ve already figured out everything life has to throw at you.” I was feeling especially uncharitable because I deeply regretted my choice to get a ride.
I couldn’t take it any more. I told them I needed to get out. They looked baffled as I thanked them and stepped out into the pouring rain.
Within moments after they pulled away, I realized that I didn’t have my walking sticks. Ha! I laughed out loud. I must’ve left them back at the brewery in Tahquamenon Falls. It sucked but here was my chance to go back and do it right. It was weirdly perfect.
There were very few cars on that water-logged back road but I was a pathetic state so the first car that passed me pulled aside to see if I needed help. I told them I needed to get back to Tahquamenon Falls. It was out of their way but they told me to hop in.
Back at the brewery, I found my walking sticks. The joy of this second chance wore off quickly- I wasn’t in any better a position than I had been before other than that I knew I didn’t want to skip that part of the trail. I bought my saviors a beer to thank them (more drinking). When they left, I ate more food.
There was a wedding party outside. It was sad and pathetic in the rain and I felt scornful of the whole charade as I watched them. I ate more.
Trapped by the rain and my own mistakes, I binged. I ate most of the food I had bought for the next leg of the trail- days worth of rations gone in minutes. I was in a funk. I went to the public bathroom and threw up. So soon after my new beginning, I’ve fallen.
The campsite was being evacuated due to the rain so I couldn’t stay there. I went back to the restaurant in hopes of meeting someone who would give me a ride. I felt like a whore. I held the door open for some elderly people, we talked, they invited me to join them for dinner, I ate with them (what a joke) and then they drove me into the town of Paradise and stayed at a little motel that mom recommended.
When I arrived, the motel owner was on the phone. It took me a few seconds to realize she was talking to mom! Mom had called to arrange a room for me and also to pay for my stay. I appreciated it but it also made me feel worse. I want her to stop saving me. I want to live with my decisions and face the consequences. This nice favor just made me feel more worthless.
I took a hot bath. I felt totally and utterly wretched.
What should I do? Keep my word to myself and spend another month on the trail? Change the rules and not make myself continue for so long? Find another “45th parallel” to cross and start over? Fuck.
I set out all my wet things, washed and dried my clothes. And as I got organized, my thoughts began to clear up. I realized that I couldn’t stop as early as I’d thought. Lately I have been feeling the pull back to civilization- Laura’s baby shower, friend’s weddings, various events in New York. Now I realize that none of those things are more important than what I’m doing here. There is nothing out there that can’t wait. I have to keep going. I have to keep the promises I make myself.
This sad relapse was a blessing in a way. I look forward to doing the whole trip, all the way to Copper Harbor as planned. Even if it doesn’t take me a full month, even if I’m not “cured” at the end, I can be satisfied with that legacy for the trip.
This morning the weather forecast looked good so I decided to risk the weather and set off. I needed badly just to get back on the trail and get back on track. I had to replenish my groceries but, I couldn’t bring myself to go back to the one little grocery store and buy the same things I had purchased 2 days before. Instead I went to the gas station. In addition to food supplies I bought a $2 pink winter hat that has “Rock’n Roll” embroidered into in in blue with a little guitar next to it. The ATM machine there was on dial-up. All that quaintness just made me smile even though I wasn’t quite done kicking myself yet.
I went back to the Blueberry Patch for breakfast and to try to find a ride back to my trail in Tahquamenon Falls. I sat with an ex-police officer who was extremely kind and did indeed offer me a ride. When he dropped me off, he wished me luck and said “I can tell you are carrying a heavy load.”
What a good man. As I walked, I cried.
I am unable to cry on my own. I cried on the phone with Christina last night and again today after that man’s comment but I can’t get to that emotional state on my own. Something is blocked. I literally tried to make myself cry on the trail but could not.
As usual, it felt good to be back on the trail. I know what I need to do out here, it’s hard but it’s safe. Back in civilization is when I get into trouble. I lose things, I overeat, I make bad decisions. I appreciated every bit of the trail today- those were the miles I almost skipped yesterday!
My trail today took me through an area that was severely damaged by a forest fire that a few years back. There are no place for trail markers among the blackened and charred stumps everywhere so the good people from the North Country Trail have stuck little blue flags in the dirt. Even though the trees haven’t grown back since the fire, I noticed little ferns and smaller plants poking up through the ground. It felt cathartic to walk through that barren place. I am like that land. Damaged, but redeemable.
There is a dune separating the trail from Lake Superior so I scaled it and made my camp here on the beach. I collected from driftwood and brush and made the most beautiful campfire I’ve ever seen (yes, I am biased). It’s such a clear night, I’ve decided to lay my sleeping back down on my tarp and sleep under the stars.
I realized that I left my “night clothes” aka long underwear drying in the shower, 20 miles away in that motel in Paradise. I could smack myself. Fuck!
None of that matters really. I keep thinking back to the crazy events of yesterday. Forgetting my walking sticks meant that I got a chance to rethink my decision to skip part of the trail- I almost seriously undermined the integrity of my trip by turning it into a patchwork of free rides and shortcuts. As it was, forgetting my poles meant that I got a second chance to do the hike right but it also led to me relapsing. I might’ve relapsed anyway when I got back home, and what if I had done that after half-assing this trip? I’m glad that it happened the way it did because now I am able to do this trip right. Yesterday I guess I showed myself that I need more time.
But what about the promises I made at the 45th parallel? How do I reconcile what happened yesterday with my whole “new life?” Right now, somewhat lamely, I’ve decided that, yes, this is still a new phase in my life. That doesn’t mean that the old demons aren’t still there and that I may occasionally succumb to them, what is different is my reaction to it. I have to have consequences for myself so the behavior will continue to be blockaded, rather than in the old days when I practically reinforces them. I can’t fall in and, if I do, I have to be quick and strong in snapping back.
It seems like I set myself up for failure when I set an absolute prohibition on my addictive behavior. How many times before have I told myself that I can-not-must-not-will-not EVER do that again? It’s basic human nature to do the thing you can’t do. So now I am trying to tell myself that, yes, it may happen again, but I don’t have to let it have so much power over me. Hopefully, accepting the possibility will soften the blow and keep me from spiraling out of control if it happens again. I still expect the best but I accept the worst.
Continue to the next entry in the series here: Day 23: Lake Superior near Two Hearted River to Muscullunge State Park
Go back to the last entry in the series here: Day 21: Lower Tahquamenon Falls to Paradise
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