Here we are – the night before the end of our grand adventure, getting ready to complete our Full Circle of Lake Superior and it doesn’t feel as though four and a half months have passed by. The time hasn’t gone fast; it hasn’t gone slow; it’s just, well, gone, one day flowing into another.
We have now walked over 1200 miles, through all kinds of weather and over all sorts of terrain. It has been challenging physically, but rewarding in so many ways. In terms of our health, it’s a mixed bag. As we had expected, the walking has taken a big toll on Mike’s knees, which weren’t in good shape to begin with. We already knew he would have to get knee replacements. He had some pain each evening when we’d stop, but as the miles have piled up, the pain has increased, so that sleeping at night has become a battle. Still he pushes on. We’re getting so close to our goal, that there’s no way he will give up now.
Hiking demands calories and hydration, but trying to come up with the right combination can be tough. I have struggled with maintaining the proper balance of electrolytes because I chose low salt diet years ago, and most of the time it works for me. Here, on the trail however, with hot and humid conditions it is a different story. I have had to adjust and make sure my liquids have the right electrolytes. Carrying the proper amount of liquids is important too, but sometimes hard to judge when we begin in the morning and it feels cool. Yesterday, for instance, we met some boaters who gave us a cold beer and a bottle of water to supplement our supplies. While we did not run out, it was nice to have a little surplus.
How else can we describe the four days that we are spending at the Holiday Inn Express in Sault Ste Marie? We are half way through our trip and decided that renewing the body and spirit would be important before embarking on the Canadian portion of the hike where we will encounter lots of rugged rocky coast line and lots of unanswered questions about route and travel.
We just read a recent article on walking that is really fitting for us on this hike. It talked about how walking someplace where nature is more evident relieves tired brain cells. According to this research, memory and focusing abilities will be improved when you are surrounded by nature. At the gym we substitute music, audiobooks, and television or DVD’s, but it is the sense of openness, the feeling of the sun, the small details of color, texture, and shape that make a walk outside truly invigorating.
Weather is as big a challenge as the terrain. If you have followed our postings you know that we have faced strong winds, cold temperatures, rain, sleet, and snow in the early going. Now we are in the Munising area and facing another bout of weather based decisions. Thursday there was a tornado warning and two small twisters hit in the area. This is highly unusual for the northern part of the U.P. of Michigan. We had to shut down for the afternoon because of the threat, the lightning and the hail.
When I was in my early 30’s and doing some backpacking, the idea of using a ‘walking stick’ was anathema. First of all, that was just for old people and besides, the last thing I wanted was something heavy to carry in my hand and slow me down even more. Carrying a heavy pack on my back was never my favorite activity anyway, and anything to add weight was shunned.
We planned to walk around the lake counter clockwise, which means our left foot will always be nearest to the water. This was our intent without thinking about what that might mean to our bodies. In our first three weeks we made some changes for a variety of reasons.
No matter what sport or activity you are doing, you need to be attuned to messages from your body that something is not right. It may be a sudden twinge in the knee or an unexpected ache in the shoulder, or if you’re hiking, a soreness on your foot. This is your body’s way of saying stop, go easy, or change your routine.
A large part of fitness is making a commitment. We know we need exercise, a good diet, and the time to take care of our body, mind, and spirit. Nonetheless, it is so easy to rationalize: busy day, exercise tomorrow, not feeling all that good today – the exercise can wait. Why does this happen? It happens to all of us as we juggle family, careers, and multiple options that seem to be tugging at the corners of our life. But fitness should be one of the driving forces. It should be a priority and most important, when you do not feel like exercising, that’s when you should. It’s a routine that very easy to break.
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