The following content is comprised of personal opinions, and in no way reflects the opinions of the Peace Corps or the U.S. Government.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hiking With the Lake; From Canada to Two Harbors

On Saturday, May 17th, 2008, I embarked on my first major backpacking trip. The trip featured all 205 miles of Minnesota's Superior Hiking Trail. Hiking the first 10 days by myself and the last three with a few of my relatives, I thru-hiked the trail in 13 days with an average of 18 miles per day solo and 9 miles per day in the group.

Here's a quick recap I wrote shortly after returning home:

"Over two weeks ago, I left everything and everyone that I knew to seclude myself on the North Shore of Lake Superior. After a short car ride up the highway, I walked away from my family, not more than a stone's throw away from the Canadian border.

I set out walking not to commune with nature or to contact my inner self. I left for 14 days to find what drives us as individuals, as a society, and as humans.

The reality of my acts became apparent before the first day was out. The trip had been in 'proposal' mode pretty much up until the moment I started walking. It hit me within the first few hours the severity of the situations I had willingly exposed myself to. While I pride myself on my knowledge, I lack the ability to control the elements, and those were my biggest risks.

My second night nearly brought disatser. The pump filter I was using to clean my drinking water broke into several pieces. With the knowledge that the filter was beyond repair, I used my two emergency iodine tablets to clean two liters of water. I officially had no way to obtain more drinking water, as any and all groundwater could contain deadly Guardia bacteria or an even worse Crypto cysts. With the realization that I was 22 miles outside of Grand Marais, I woke at 5 am the third day and moved about as fast as I could to get into Grand Marais before the shops closed. I then opted to buy a chlorine dioxide solution called Aqua Mira, which is similiar to the process used to clean water in large city centers.

Without much human cantact, nor much to do, I decided to turn inwards and stretch the physical bounds of my body. Carrying 14 pounds of gear, plus 4 days of food (8 pounds) and 4 liters of water (8.8 pounds) at any given time, I woke at sun-up and hiked until the sun went down or until I fell down. Days four, five, six, and seven brought 23, 24, 26, and 20 miles, respectively. By days eight, I was 32 miles, or about a day and a half ahead of where I had planned to be. With this, I slowed to a mere 17 miles a day, and coasted into Split Rock Lighthouse State Park 24 hours before I was supposed to. On day 12, after a full day of zero miles, I left Split Rock once more in the company of my Mother, her husband Paul, and his duaghter Andrea. from there, we crawled a mere 9 miles a day for three days until we reached Two Harbors, offically walking 206 miles of trail, and 235 miles of total distance.

I learned that it is not nature that sets us free, it is ironically civilization. Human Enginuity is not an un-natural thing. We were granted the ability to manipulate, to create, and even to destroy at our own free will. We have the ability to eliminate risk and random chance from our existance. It takes, I guess, the partial removal of this gift to truly understand its full value. We take for granted the things that we define as normal. The ability to communicate with anyone at anytime. The ability to move and travel faster than our physical bodies can take us.

While time may be a concept of nature, it is certainly an invention of man. Hour, minutes, seconds, weeks...they mean nothing to the world outside humans. Time is a label we have placed on our day-to-day lives based the the solar movements. Nature cares not what time humans say it is. It has free reign to snow in May, to be 70 in January, and to hold back the morning light a few extra moments if it sees fit. While part of nature, humans are not considered in the grand scheme of things. Our planet does not rely on us, we rely on our planet. At any point it could shift slighlty and wipe a town or city out of existance with a tornado, or pour tons of gallons of rain on someones special wedding day. nature does not care what we plan to do or actually do. It is independent of us, while we are fully dependent on it.

Two weeks of solitude has not changed who I am at heart, it has merely effected the glass through which I see the world. The world is not a Human place, the world is not ours to dominate. Nature, and only nature, holds the true power and control over the happenings of this planet."

In addition to recaps such as above, I recorded the trip with the help of my trusty Flip Video camcorder. The documentary is in 3 parts, totally about 28 minutes. The video itself is pretty rough, as the idea to create a documentary was a last minute decision. Basically, the video will guide you through the experiences and situations I went through. It might be hand to have a coy of the guidebook at hand if you own one, or visit the SHTA website (link above) for online maps.

Note: The quality of the embedded videos is not so great. If you watch them on YouTube (keyword Shawn Grund) you can switch them to high quality.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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