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

Inside and In-Between

We’ve slept inside been doing a lot of sleeping inside in the last couple of weeks. It’s not that we haven’t wanted to enjoy the dregs of summer, but I’ve got friends all over, and given that tomorrow could apparently bring nuclear war isn’t promised, I’ve been making it a point to see them where I can. I haven’t been too worried about it, mostly because I know that our trip to Isle Royale National Park is fast approaching. This’ll be the second time in as many weeks that I’ll have gotten out to hike, and while we’re trying to do 50-odd miles on this latter trip, any amount of time sucking wind and enjoying the outside feels good these days. 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

Heart and Matter

I’ve been incredibly sick and warring with myself a lot these days, about what I want the blog to look like while I’m on this hiking-hiatus-turned-driving-extravaganza, about what I want the blog as a whole to accomplish. I’ve been writing and writing the last few months, and I can’t help but feel that, in a sense, I’ve lost my way. It’s not that I don’t feel some connection to place and space and movement through this amazing opportunity I’ve been given; it’s not even that I’m unhappy, or that I don’t want to talk about what I’m doing or how I’m feeling. It’s just that I only have so much energy in a given day, and I think that energy would be better put to use in different ways.

So I’m going to change it up a little bit.

Some weeks, that energy is going to be best used talking about the cool trips I’m taking – for example, we’re going to get the chance to do three nights and four days of hiking on Isle Royale, and that is gonna be epic, and I’m already excited to share the experience. Other weeks – well, you know all those things that I’ve said I want to get back to, but haven’t? I think those things are important, and particularly important to me as a black woman outdoors, and I think that having my documentation of my week take precedence leaves me little and less energy for those important things. So I’m going to talk about being outdoors, and about myself in a tangential way – about what I see in the outdoors world and the outdoors community, and about what these things mean to me as a black female once and future thruhiker who wants everyone to get outdoors and care for our wild spaces.

I’m still going to (try to) post once a week. I’ll still be documenting mileage and talking about the cool stuff that’s happened in a Notable Accomplishments format, one that those of you who’ve joined me on my PCT and CT thruhikes will be familiar with. And of course I’ll still be posting rad pictures from the week, because I hope they speak to you as much as they speak to me. But I’m tired of skimming the surface. This format is going to let me go deeper into issues and events and occurrences that I think are important. It’s going to let me skip the things that are less-formative and cut to the heart of a matter, laugh about happenstance, or show you something awesome that happened.

So here goes. First one up later this weekend.

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

Interlude: Consumption

I’ve been consuming a lot lately. Well, maybe not food, like I probably should be – I’m doing a surprising number of miles for living out of a Subaru, and I’ve likely spent the last week sore as a result of not eating enough. I’m not good with food. But I have a really hard time keeping myself from gorging on social media, mainly to keep up with people I care about, but also to indulge in that singular masochism that is reading the news.

And there has been so much news of late. Too much news to really recount. 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.

Continue reading