I am so proud of, well, us. We both did something neither one of us had ever done before; we backpacked SOBO (southbound) for 75+ miles on the Superior Hiking Trail over 12 days.
You love to camp. I love to hike. We brought our two outdoor loves together to expand both our horizons. While the entire experience will forever be etched in my heart, here are some of my favorite moments backpacking with you from the 270 Degree Overlook near the Canadian border to Lake Agnes, just north of Lutsen.
Fresh Air Zs
I loved sleeping side by side with you in our teeny-tiny two-pound tent. Even the night I awoke to you pawing at my sleeping bag and asked, “Daley, what are you looking for?” You sleepily responded, “Snowmobiles.” It was July.
Remember the middle of the night storm and the cracks of thunder echoing deep into the Spruce Creek valley that awoke us? I loved that we snuggled closer in our tent to settle our fears of upturned trees (a wicked windstorm had blown through Duluth and decimated tree after tree feeding my trepidation before embarking on our trip).
Trail Leader Extraordinaire
I loved watching your motivation mostly wax and sometimes wane. I learned that when you are self-motivated, you can do anything…like hike 9 miles in blistering heat at elevation changes of hundreds of feet. In fact, you would often be so far ahead of me that you would call over your shoulder, “Mom, you back there?” (To see my view trailing you, check out this video; remember that amazing staircase made from a single tree trunk?)
Remember when you kept pace with Rosie, the little dog, who was hiking with her people ahead of us? At some point, I could no longer see or hear you chatting with the dog and starting yelling “DALEY!” in a voice only a panicked parent can create. You finally had to bid your 4-legged friend goodbye and wait for your slow and steady mom.
I loved the great pleasure playing in EVERY creek we came upon brought you. You engineered and de-engineered dam after dam. You entertained yourself naturally. Remember announcing “toadie” every single time we passed a toad? Remember pointing out the different colors of mushrooms, calling them foods that we craved: apples for you, chocolate for me? Remember examining scat of all kinds, moose and bear being the most tantalizing?
Remember making a fishing pole with a stick and our safety kit needle and thread? Or when you caught minnows in your camp shoes?
Open Air Adversity
I loved watching you deal with adversity. Fortunately, nothing life-threatening occurred, but we had a few difficult moments. For instance, remember when you “turtled,” falling on your back while climbing over a log and getting stuck in the mud like a turtle because of your pack? You were able to laugh it off, sort of.
We were both brought to tears once each for having dropped an item on the trail and not realizing it until miles later. For you, it was your small bag of energy chews, which you had been eating one for every mile hiked. You lost these powerful motivators on mile 2 of an 8.8-mile day. After a few tears, we chuckled at visions of a squirrel buzzing around the woods hopped up on sugar.
For me, it was my water bottle. When we arrived at camp after hiking 7 hours one day, I realized it was missing. Panic set in, as I had no other way to carry clean water to stay hydrated in the 90-degree heat. I begrudgingly retraced our steps and found it a mile back, adding 2 extra miles to my day. When I returned, you had sweetly set up our entire camp and had dinner ready.
A Simple Pleasure
I loved the joy making a campfire brought you each night. While most were unsuccessful because the materials gathered from the woods were too damp, you gave each a valiant effort. Remember when we came upon the real firewood that somebody had packed in and left at North Carlson Pond? Oh, the delight!
Here you describe one fire with which you were quite satisfied.
Life on the Trail
I loved watching you problem-solve. Remember when you were hesitant to drink the brown water that came from the beaver dams and stagnant creeks in the most northern section of the trail. Even though our water filter took out the bacteria, it didn’t take out the tannins and iron in the water. You made the brown water more appealing by “infusing” it with wild raspberries and thimbleberries.
In a plot twist, the night we packed out, we stayed at a hotel on the North Shore to celebrate my 45th birthday with Dad and Finley. You demanded to filter water from Lake Superior to drink because the normal tap water “tasted funny.”
Outdoor Skill Building (Still in Progress)
I loved watching your perseverance shine. Remember bear bagging our food each night? It was a skill we never quite mastered. Some nights it took us 30 minutes to locate a tree with a usable branch, find a stone or piece of wood the right size to attach to the end of the rope, and throw it dozens of times before it caught the branch. We always got the bag hung, but it was often only a foot away from the trunk, making it a more of a drive-thru for a bear. However, you never tired of the ordeal.
A Sad Ending
We had planned to hike longer, but we got the sad news that my dad’s, your Grampy’s, health had taken a turn for the worse after battling brain cancer for 2 years. We left the trail early and headed to North Dakota to be with him during his time of dying. Remember when we ordered meal trays for each of us every day? One day, we were in his room quietly eating the hospital food when he said, “This was a good idea.” Not knowing what he was referring to, I asked, “What was a good idea, Dad?” He responded, “Eating together.” A simple gift for us all.
To Many More
Thank you, son, for being so open to this adventure. May we have many more together.
P.S. We couldn’t have done it without our “support team.” A big thank you to Tim and Finley for their love, cheering, and resupply.