I was in a ski race. It was a classic race. The kind where you ski in the tracks. I was racing with another guy. He was just ahead of me and I couldn’t quite reel him in. It was very frustrating. I was obsessed with passing him, but just couldn’t. Then the snow conditions deteriorated. And I took a wrong turn. I got back onto the course, but I was kind of flustered. And then George Hovland passed me. He’s pushing 90 years old. Then I woke up.
I have two dreams each year. One usually happens at the end of ski season. I dream of green grass and running water in the streams. It’s extraordinarily vivid. The other dream is one like I had this morning. One about the approaching ski season. I could feel the snow. Smell it. I have these two dreams each year. For me, they signal the end of the present season. I think it means my brain’s had enough trail running and would like to move on.
But I’m not done yet. So Leo and I met Bob at the Gooseberry parking lot and he took me and Leo up to the Split Rock River wayside. There was a guy from Excelsior, MN in the van with two kids. Bob explained what I was doing since the dog and I were regulars by now. The man tapped me on the shoulder, as I was sitting in the front seat, and handed me 40 bucks. I said thanks, but it made me kind of uncomfortable to take the money directly. I told him about my fundraising website and that it would funnel his money directly to the Wounded Warrior Project. He’d get the tax credit, etc. I hoped I didn’t put him off. When Bob dropped us off, Bob asked the guy if he had a map. He said he didn’t, so Bob offered to get him one. Bob couldn’t find the map for this section of trail, though. I had one, so I offered mine up to the guy. I was glad to do it. I suggested that they try a little of the Split Rock River loop before heading down to Gooseberry. I hadn’t seen it yet myself, but said it might offer some cool views.
I waved goodbye to Bob. Leo and I headed up the spur to the main trail. It was another ridiculous, clear morning with the sun mirroring across Lake Superior. I don’t know what I’ve done to be so lucky.
We made our way up river. Open ledges with awesome views and surreal, sunlit poplar stands. Mostly naked of leaves now, but the smell. That vinegar smell of the clean rot. It’s fall in the north woods.
Leo wasn’t afraid of the sub-freezing temps of our early start. He took a dunk/drink along the Split Rock River, the first of many. He found the shaky bridge across the upper reaches of the river. Then we descended the more dramatic west bank. The river may not be named for it, but we sure found a split rock. Then a cool waterfall just as we headed west away from the loop. Then we found more open ledges to gaze at the Shining Big-Sea-Water.
For a while, we followed the contours on the north side of a ridge. We passed some signs that made it clear that we were on private land. Thank you to the private landowners who allow the Superior Hiking Trail to cross their place.
Generosity was also evident from a sign that showed a family gave land to the DNR. Public and private land, both there for the public to use and enjoy. Even private land given to the public, not just to use, but to keep. What a blessing. Thank you.
I passed my potential donors again. They were looking at the map I gave them at an SHT trail intersection with an ATV trail. I commented that he’d likely be the guy that put me over the 2400 dollar amount. That would double my 1200 dollar goal. I just checked my website. Bill, Pete, and Vikke donated 75 dollars and put me over the number. He was a man of his word. He nearly doubled the amount he offered and allowed me to double my goal. Thank you very much.
We descended to Gooseberry Falls. Leo flushed a grouse. The sun made us warmer from the blue sky. We encountered the swarms of people as we walked over the catwalk under the highway bridge. Enough people that I put Leo on a leash. The crowds increased as we approached the visitor center. There were some goofer yells. When I was a kid hiking the White Mountains with my dad, we’d approach the summit of a mountain. The tourists there would shout and holler at the top. “Goofahs” my dad would mutter in his Maine accent. Making their goofer yells. Well, there were some today. I shook my head out of habit.
We got to the parking lot. I was nearly the first car in the parking lot this morning. Now, there were hundreds of cars. As I stripped off my sweaty clothes, a car waited for me to leave. Kind of like when cars are circling the parking lot at the mall, trying to save 20 yards of walking by circling the parking lot until something opens. When the guy could see I was feeding my dog and taking my sweet time, he gave up and kept circling. It was a zoo. It made me twitch. I was grouchy. Looking at the falls through an iron grate under a highway with Leo on a leash was symbolic for me.
But I have to remember. Not everybody gets to live right amongst such cool places. They come a long way. Not all of them are looking to run ten miles. They want to see something beautiful. Maybe something different from the 7 lanes of traffic they normally drive in on their way to their cubicle in an office tower. I would probably yell when I got outdoors too. When I got to the parking lot in the morning, five elderly sisters from Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri asked me to take their pictures. With their even more elderly mom. They were all happy and having a good time as I snapped their picture. Several had never been there before. Good for them.
I have to remind myself that nobody is out there to have a bad time. I tried not to get grouchy about it. The good news about the masses is that they go to predictable locations. There were no masses until I was 100 yards from my truck. They were smiling and happy. And so was I, really. Chill out, Chandler. Like my wife says, “You’re right, but you take it too far.”
Today’s Data: North Shore Shmo: Leg 35
Consider a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project via North Shore Shmo!
T-Shirt of the Day:
As I was running down the shore, other folks were starting 62 and 31 mile Wild Duluth runs west of Duluth on the Superior Hiking Trail. Glen Flanagan, who joined me on Leg 34, finished on the podium in the Half Marathon event there. Great job, Glen! I credit the training he did with me by Bear and Bean Lakes last week.
So, I wore my Wild Duluth shirt today. I did the 50k a couple years back. The longest sporting event I’ve ever done. Seven and a half hours of Superior Hiking Trail awesomeness. And that put me in the middle of the pack exactly. I felt freaky afterward. Freaky. For a couple of days.