Falling UP + Isle Royale Beginnings

It’s barely the end of August, and the chill tendrils of fall are starting to push their way into Michigan’s upper peninsula. I’ve spent the majority of the day until now wrapped in my sleeping bag, first in the tent, then in the hammock, and I’ve been thankful for it – it’s our first day in five that we’ve been allowed to sleep in, to move in the morning of our own accord. Still, the cold of both the mornings and the evenings haven’t lent themselves to much movement; only in the stark sun of the cool afternoons are short sleeves, a skirt, tolerable.

We’ve been working hard since we arrived in the UP, first at trying to make miles with packs not purpose-built, then at making connections, first on Isle Royale, then here on the Keweenaw Peninsula. We’ve spent a week here, catching up from our week out of service, working with incredibly passionate people to protect the lands they’re slowly turning from private to public. The lack of any real break, combined with the emotional fallout from a return to a land of false equvalencies and attempts at public lands-grabbing, has meant a starker schedule for me: wake, work, succumb to the inexorable draw of a nap, half-wake, work late, dinner late, insomnia. Repeat. It’s only now, with a half-day to myself – Spesh knows I need recharge time, and has left me to my own devices – that I’m able to look back on the last couple weeks, to feel like I can do the Isle Royale trip any justice in words that, before now, stayed obstinately stuck inside. But here’s a taste, to be augmented in the coming posts. Continue reading

Camping Quandaries

Arriving to camp after six hours in the car is always a relaxing experience. It’s three minutes to nine o’clock on the eastern edge of Missouri, and I’m looking forward to stretching, eating, and getting horizontal post-haste. After a requisite full-body exhale of relief, I crack the car door – and am instantly assaulted by a cacophony of sound. I reel, and it takes me a few seconds to realize what the hubbub’s all about. Cicadas. Many, many decibels’ worth of cicadas.  Continue reading

Miles 6888-8071: Under Over

It’s working all day and into the evening again – I’m beginning to have some severe misgivings about my ability to compartmentalize. At least this evening’s work consists mostly of trying to wrestle my camera into compliance. I’ve had this DSLR for years, and it’s large and bulky and inconvenient for carrying on foot many miles but produces some pretty great photos. Or would, if I could figure out how to get it to override the settings that stick with it even in “manual” mode. After about an hour of futzing, I call it done enough. Night shots aren’t this machine’s forte. Continue reading

Miles 4745-5816: Bright Lights, Big Cities

The Twin Cities Metro: the largest place we’ve been in a long time, and I’m honestly feeling something like shell-shock, what with all the people. We eat breakfast, find a cafe to squat in, get to work; given that this is some of the best tea I’ve ever tasted, I’m not surprised when Spyhouse Coffee’s population skyrockets later in the day. The tables being communal, I’m also not surprised when I’m drawn into conversation by an entrepreneur developing his client base looking to spread the love. I’m flattered and all, but I don’t think I’m necessarily the best person to write copy for a home renovation company. That whole “living out of a car” thing. Continue reading

Miles 3554-4082: Dearth and Excess

Apparently I push my mind too hard on our workday in Fargo, because this evening, after reading something entirely innocuous, I let my brain talk me into terror. It’s quiet out here at Buffalo River State Park, so quiet the wind is a distant whisper, and the creaking of the trees in the wet of the afternoon rain is haunting, otherworldly. I lose my goddamn mind when I hear footsteps in the gravel, see shadows leaning over the tent – I’m in a goddamn horror movie, they’re coming, I don’t wanna die like this. I wake Spesh and we do a sweep of the nearby sites. Nothing. Continue reading

Miles 3333.33-3554: Technically

We’re early into Grand Forks for a scheduled workday, settle into Bully Brew Coffee near enough to the university that I think there should be more people – but then, it’s technically summer. Technically. The weather doesn’t want to seem to cooperate, clouding over and just… staying that way. Not raining, but not clearing off, either. Well. That’s one way to get welcomed back to the Midwest, I guess. Continue reading

Miles 1394-3333.33: Open Road

I wake up to the bubbling voices of my coworkers/compatriots, but as I’m wont to do on mornings where we’ll be departing, I spend the first bit of the morning packing everything up – all I’ll have to do is have my coffee, say goodbye, and then Spesh and I are off on the solo part of our adventure. By the time I’m satisfied with the progress I’ve made, I zip open the tent to find that I’m alone, all the cars gone but ours. Um.

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