On the Road

Written by Ditch

A question we field often during our expedition is, “Where will you actually be when you run? The beach? Trails?” The truth of the matter that we will be on the shoulder of the road for much of our run due to the fact that we will be a self-supported expedition. If we had a support vehicle, we could tuck all our stuff in a car and have it meet us down the road as we run along the shore. But we don’t have a support vehicle. We have Rig. That puts us on the road. This fact often draws concern from folks we speak to. Fair enough. Cars are loud and smelly and dangerous.

On the surface that might seem like a diminishment of our mission. Here we are planning on running around Superior, extolling its natural beauty and importance the whole while. But while we do so we’ll be using the combined roads of three U.S. states and one Canadian province, something that is decidedly less pretty. Often the trajectory of our gaze will be from the road to the lake. While we will be deeply enmeshed in the concerns of the lake we will also, willingly or not, spend a considerable amount of time dealing with the “other stuff”: cars and their fumes, ditches, roadkill, concrete, asphalt.

I think this is actually a perfect metaphor for what it means to live and love on the lake. We can’t separate out the pure “nature” from the irreversible change that we as humans have affected on it. We’ve been falling love with this area for years and that love doesn’t preclude the human built environment. Now, there is no parsing apart the two. Sure, we know that a long time ago the landscape wasn’t always crisscrossed by roads and power lines. We know there was a time when the biological health of this region, and the planet, wasn’t being degraded by human activity. We can’t pine for a wilderness we will never have. We have to love where we live now. What does that leave us? Giant yet fragile tanker ships plowing the waves of an untamed lake. Strip malls of fast food restaurants on the shores of Superior. Forests grown for pulp, heartbreaking in both their arching growth and the desolation left by their absence.

For those that think the side of the road is a weird place to look for natural beauty, I agree. But I think to love something, or someone, you have to look with eyes wide open, anywhere and everywhere. To get the whole picture, you have to include the ugly in your gaze.

What we’ve found is that the shoulder is an edge. It is a place where the forests and fields, the rivers and brooks, meet the road. I believe this edge, that simultaneously brokers the domestic and the wild, has an immensely generative power. Anywhere that the earth is witnessed in a painfully slow and observant manner, there are whole worlds to be discovered. There are important happenings on the periphery.

What do we see from our perch?

We see the mother and fawn that bounded past a power line in the last golden hour of the day. We can see the beavers building a home in a wide pond next to a concrete bridge. We see two baby black bears huffing up a Jack Pine. We see blinding light and impenetrable darkness taken in the same gulp of eyesight.

Peripherally Yours,

Ditch