I am in the home of Tom Lakenen, having just showered, cleaned my clothes and rested in a bonafide Yooper sauna (cue choir of angels). Amazing!
I was ready to set up camp yesterday when a truck drove up. I was worried that the driver would yell at me for trespassing and I didn’t love the idea of him seeing where I slept so I was pleasantly surprised when he and his wife gave me some helpful advice. They said that in just 2 more miles was a place called Lakenenland, with metal sculptures and campsites. So I push on and found this incredible, weird, hippy white trash place that is having music festival today. That extra distance also made yesterday my longest day of hiking time-wise, though not the longest distance. I did make it 26 miles though so I have another marathon under my belt!
The reason I was so slow was because I got lost. The trail merged with various logging roads and I managed to stay on course for awhile but it didn’t last. The problem with logging roads is that they don’t follow cardinal directions like other roads. The other problem with them is that they lead you to a dead-end in a forest, which, for practical purposes, is nowhere.
I faced the age old question: backtrack or bushwhack? Who can guess which option I chose? I had to break ground through the forest, it was painstakingly slow. I was in “push ahead” mode but probably should have been checking my map and compass much more. There were two roads equidistant from me, one north, one west. I decided to head west because its easier to stay aimed in the right direction with the setting sun as a reference point. Even then, it is so easy to get turned around in the heavy brush. The big picture is easily obscured when you have to maneuver around some fallen tree, some thicket of pines, some mud pit. I found a huge rack of deer antlers with one point piercing the soft ground. It was weird, I had no one to tell.
I really wish I had gone north instead because that route had the distinct advantage of not having an extensive swamp/river/marsh running through it. My map didn’t show it because it’s not technically a river until farther up. I would rather it was a river because then it’s contained. When same amount of water that I can splash through in 30 seconds is spread out over multiple acres, that’s when things get frustrating. I just charged through, mucky water up to my knees. When I found the road I spontaneously started singing gospel songs!
The bad part of yesterday is that I fucking threw up again. 3rd time on this trip, 2nd time in 1 week. It happened when I stopped for lunch. I had been walking for 4 1/2 hours straight, my shin sore for part of it, my face stuck in my phone for another part of it, compulsively looking through pictures and other signs of outside life. I sat down to eat on a wood pile and read while I ate. It was the book “Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis and I immediately resented its caricatures, its hyperbole its not-so-subtle evangelicalism. Screw that.
Anyway, I ate and ate and ate. I used the book as a distraction to let myself keep going. I allowed myself to stay zoned out instead of using whatever higher functioning part of my brain really wanted to take over but couldn’t. It’s not unlike getting lost on the trail. I often just to stay in the zone and keep plodding along when I could pause, look at a map, use some critical thinking, and work it out. I’ve never thrown up on the trail before. It was a new low. It feels sacrilegious.
I walked as penance but i need a way not to do that. Just keep pushing? I keep learning and re-learning the lesson that change is hard to do.
Here is my best attempt to describe Lakenenland. It is a sprawling outdoor sculpture park. A one-way road allows cars and foot traffic to tour its various exhibits, which range from U.P. culture (mining, logging, sled dogs) to political statements (pro-union, anti George Bush) to goofy weird creations (souped up snowmobiles). There is a bandstand and a massive fire pit. There are port-a-pottys (!) and places to set up camps around a small pond. Coming here last night felt like coming into a dream. This is the kind of place that might seem natural in Portland or at Burning Man but never in a million years would I expect to find in here. I’m proud of Michigan right now.
Just like in Grand Marais I had somehow timed my arrival for live music. A sign read: “All day concert- August 3rd.” Hell yeah. I wasn’t sure if I would stay for it or carry on to Marquette but it was nice to have the option.
I woke up this morning to the sound of heavy machinery- someone was pruning bushes in anticipation of the festival. I asked him if it would be alright for me to swim in the pond and he said “Absolutely not. Come over to my house and my wife and I will set you up.” This man is Tom Lakenenen, the artist and proprietor behind this weird magical place.
If there was any doubt that I would stay for the concert, that evaporated in the dry heat of my very first Finnish sauna (“sow-na”). There is a lot of Finnish culture up here and sauna’s are an integral way for people to survive the harsh winters. I can see why.
I got some much-appreciated attention from the people at the event, stroking my ego about my trip and telling me how tough I am (no matter what they say, I still think living up here for even one winter is harder than what I’m doing). It was just nice to spend time with people, talking, eating and drinking. It was a lazy sunny day. I toured the sculpture park, wrote, worked on the cross-stitch for Laura’s baby, and ended up making friendship bracelets for some of the many kids! That might’ve been a bad move since the kids kept coming and I ran out of thread. Whoops.
A Jewish family from Chicago camped near me and I chatted a lot with the woman, Wendy. She doctored my leg with some Tiger Balm and then did Raki on me. I didn’t know what to expect and what I really wanted was a massage, to be touched, but I appreciated it a lot. We talked while she healed me, she told me that I wasn’t a lost soul like she had first speculated (what with me quitting my life and wandering around alone) but that I was just on my way to becoming myself. I like that. She also didn’t sense much bad energy around me which was also nice. I don’t really know what to believe about that whole craft, I have a guilty conscience from yesterday’s failure (I can’t keep calling them relapses if they keep happening…) so it was nice to be told that I have a positive energy around me in spite of all that.
There is a ladder that someone forgot to take down. It is tilting up into the sky and from where I sit, the crescent moon is positioned perfectly behind it. It looks like I could just climb up the ladder and be on the moon.
Continue to the next entry in the series here: Day 30: Lakenenland to Marquette
Go back to the last entry in this series here: Day 27: Pictured Rocks hideaway to Big Buck Creek
2 Replies to “Day 29: Lakenenland”
I am not sure why it surprised me that you found Lakenenland, but I am so happy you did!
It surprised me too! What an incredible discovery it was. I’m no expert but I still consider that to be world-class art. More importantly though, it was a wonderful reprieve!