Under stress, I run away from home. Specifically, I run to the Lakewalk in Duluth, pass over the Aerial Lift Bridge, take a hard left, and head down Minnesota Point. I stride down the 7-mile length of the world’s largest freshwater sand bar. I imagine the soaring music of the “Chariots of Fire.” Also known as Park Point, this place gives me delusions of grandeur while I’m out on a long run. The simple shore land is soothing on these long jaunts. On a day with a gentle breeze, there is a thin strip of wet sand two or three feet wide, next to the water. I run here.
It’s a strange borderland on that little strand, the sandy dividing line between easy living and a survival situation. One hundred yards to my left, I’d be bobbing in a life jacket and fighting hypothermia. The same distance to my right I’d be sipping a cappuccino in somebody’s kitchen.
But right here in the sand it’s the constant lapping of waves on the shore, wind, and beach grass. The thin horizon line between the blue of the sky and the lake. Mile after mile so meditative it’s like I’m running in place on a big beige treadmill. There are moments where you feel you are truly in a wilderness, alone, no evidence of mankind. Just steps from a city of tens of thousands of people.
I don’t run here when it’s hot. I’m usually there in the chronological borderland between summer and winter. In early spring, massive jumbles of ice connect the open water to the beach. Week after week, the ice retreats from the arriving heat until the water meets the sand. In the fall, steel gray skies and hard November winds foretell the coming season of white.
When exhaustion finally takes over, I turn around and retrace my footprints to the north. There is my city on the hill. I’m no longer an escapist. Back to the noise and light, the warmth of the hearth, and some hot food. Park Point in Duluth is a seemingly infinite landscape, a deserted borderland between winter and summer; between urban and wild; comfort and survival. If you go, with any luck, you’ll hear the horn letting you know you’re “bridged” by a 1000-foot laker on your way back to town. While you wait for the ship to pass under the Lift Bridge, you can ponder life experienced on the edge, between the water and the shore.