“You guys are tough guys!”

Week 11 and 12 Baraga State Park to Wakefield, MI

At the end of another week we’re asking ourselves where the time went. The duration of running up and back down the Keweenaw has been spent in the company of friends, family, and folks that have reached out to help us. Instead of wrapping up our nights with our journals and books, we’ve been watching the setting sun while sharing some beers and conversation.

From the noisy barrage of traffic sound at Baraga State Park we started running toward Houghton, where we met Evan’s parents and two younger brothers, Aaron and Matthew. Partway through the 29 mile run we came across a gravel path that we could eventually take into the city of Houghton giving us a reprieve from the noise of speedy automobiles. Coincidentally we landed in the same exact spot as Evan’s folks just as they were getting out of the car from Minneapolis. After a round of sweaty hugs we grabbed some food and beer before driving up to Calumet to spend the night. The next morning we woke early and giddy to hit up the continental breakfast at the hotel. We tried to keep our cool as we helped ourselves to as many as hard boiled eggs we could imagine. While the Floms were in town we made sure to check out the sights – we drove up to Copper Harbor, a route we would soon run. We trucked through the Estivant Pines and also headed up to Brockway Mountain, two locales that would otherwise be much too far off the road for our poor tired feet.

The next day the Floms drove us back to Houghton to start our running day. Their kindness and thoughtfulness helped us push on toward what would be high mileage day. From Houghton we ran more than 30 miles to a sandy bay we dubbed Dragonfly Bay. We decided to spend the night without a tent and instead just tucked in our sleeping bags on the beach. There were no clouds and the moon was hidden that night. What unfolded above us was a shocking display of light and hidden texture millions of miles away that fell down into our expectant eyes. We fell asleep to a galaxy above us and the occasional mosquito near our ears. We decided to name that beach Planetarium Beach.

The next morning we woke bright and early to make the push to Fort Wilkins State Park where we were excited to meet up with our friend, Courtney. One thing we’ve learned during our run is that sometimes it’s harder than you had anticipated to carry on for absolutely no particular reason at all. The run into Fort Wilkins was relatively short but by the end we were scuffling, grumpy, and overtired. Oh well. After setting up camp we waited a few hours until Courtney arrived. Courtney recently came back from a Peace Corps posting in South Africa. An old friend from college, none of us had spent much time with her in over two years. To help us catch up she brought New Glarus beer and cheese curds. The next day was a rest day for us. We spent the morning with Courtney before she headed home. Later that day our friends Liz and Nathaniel came to crash with us for the rest of our down time. They also brought delicious, delicious beer and, holy of holies, green veggies. The next morning they sent us off for our run down to Mohawk with pancakes topped with thimbleberries and maple syrup.

That day, August 4th, we decided to splurge and get a motel room in Mohawk because it was Allissa’s 25th birthday. Happy birthday, Lis. We enjoyed pizza and squishy beds for the big quarter-century celebration.

Waking up in a motel the next morning had the added benefit of not having to take down camp. This allowed us to get up and going early so we could head to Lake Linden. Once there, we met up with Andrew Ranville who took us to Rabbit Island. Rabbit Island is a 91 acre island off the southeast side of the Keweenaw peninsula. Along with co-founder Rob Gorski, Andrew has created a summer artist residency for artists all over the world. Early on in the planning of our trip Andrew reached out to us and invited us for a stay. Andrew picked us up and drove us to the boat launch where we headed off on a 3 mile boat ride to the island. Once there we got a quick introduction to the lay of the land and to the folks currently residing on the island. Andrew had radioed ahead to get the sauna started before we arrived and in short order it was ready for us. Andrew told us to hop in and abide by Finnish rules which meant two things: clothing was optional and we were going to get to know these folks we just met much better very quickly. We spent the rest of the day exploring the island, fishing and sharing stories with the other interesting souls on the island. After dinner, some of us even got ready for a nighttime sauna. We heated up in the sauna and ran into Lake Superior under a speckled night sky.

The next morning, after some tasty pancakes of course, Andrew took us back to the mainland and back to Lake Linden. We said goodbye with a promise to stay in touch and keep up with the happenings of Rabbit Island.

Because of our visit to Rabbit Island and the lay of the Keweenaw we had to run through Houghton again on our way further west. Luckily this time we were invited into the house of Kyle, a kind stranger that had heard about our trip and decided to help us out.

Our time running after Houghton has reminded us of our stretch travelling through Ontario: less visitors, more rain, and more hills. But we can’t complain. The landscape has become more and more scenic in the full ostentatious display of late summer. As we ran further and further west, closer to our home waters of Chequamegon Bay, through Ontonagon and then through the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness, the world has taken on a deeply familiar tinge – we’ve been here before. And if we don’t have an exact recollection of being here in these places we’ve at least been close or had friends who have regaled us with stories of these places. Just before entering Presque Isle Campground in the Porkies a truck-full of folks stopped to question what we were up to. They showered us with compliments about how intellectual and tough we were before rolling on down the road. Thanks, stranger!

And now we stay for the night at Eddy Park in Wakefield, Michigan, roughly 60 miles from being done with our journey.  We can’t wait to get back home and see our friends and family and, for once, take it easy and not run all day. Also we're excited to not smell really weird. 

"Do you even stop to breath?!"

Week 10 – Munising, MI to Baraga State Park

Ever since we got here, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has felt like one big, embracing hug. After our long trek through the more remote areas of the lake, this leg of our journey has been filled with some creature comforts that we haven’t experienced in a while – mostly home-cooked meals, ice cream and the open arms of the folks that we have had the pleasure to stay with.

Once we left the warm hospitality of Barb and Charlie in Munising, we set out to run halfway to Marquette. It seems that the summer has finally rounded a corner in the season and things are starting to heat up on Lake Superior. It was hot as we headed up the hill and out of Munising that day. I think the summer heat has given our bodies a bit of a surprise the past week as we’ve felt our appetites diminish and our pace slow as we take more time to rest in the shade. We traveled 18 miles out of Munising to a spot that we dubbed Lake Danger Beaver, a small inland lake tucked off the highway next to the larger Deer Lake. After we set up camp and let our systems cool down a bit we cooked one of our largest and most favored meals, which we consider a sort of Thanksgiving (sweet potatoes, spiced quinoa and our cranberry turkey stuffing from Camp Chow)! Before we tucked into bed for the night we walked down to Deer Lake to rinse off the sweat of the day. Dusk was coming to an end as we waded into the black water. We splashed and laughed as we looked out across the lake to the line of silhouetted trees quietly stretching towards the transitionary hues of burnt orange, deep blue and imminent black of a star-speckled sky. That night we fell asleep to the sounds of a lone beaver paddling around the lake, periodically slapping its tail on the surface of the water.

We rose early the following day for our much-anticipated run into Marquette, a destination we were looking forward to for a long time for it meant time with close friends, needed rest and good food. Despite an early rise, the heat of the day set in quickly as we ran the 25 miles to the home of our good friend Devin and her parents Mary and Joe. We continued to follow the highway for the first half of the day until we were able to turn off and follow a well-packed gravel section of the North Country Trail (NCT) into Marquette. It may have been hot but at least we had a chance to get off the highway and run through the woods for a while (thanks for the tip, Barb!). We followed the gravel NCT until it became the paved Iron Ore Heritage Trail. Paralleling the lake, the trail took us into downtown Marquette where we eventually turned off and headed for our home for the next couple of days. As we approached our destination we were welcomed in by the cheering of Devin, Mary and Joe. We had made it! Mary had prepared a huge lunch that afternoon that would set a precedent for the meals to come in the following two days. We sat in the shade of their back patio, eating lunch and getting caught up on the specifics of each other’s lives. Already the feelings of rest were starting to settle in. Joined by Andy’s parents and some friends of the Butters, we had a dinner party that evening filled with more socializing and amazing food. We couldn’t have asked for a better welcome into Marquette. After a full day of running, socializing and eating, however, our energy was mostly depleted and we eventually turned in for the night.

We took our time the next morning, sleeping in and slowly eating breakfast. As we wrapped up the morning we packed a few supplies and headed to a traditional U.P. camp out on Fish Lake, complete with a log cabin and sauna (pronounced sow-nah!). The camp is owned by some close family friends of Devin, Mary and Joe, who had invited us all over to their weekly Sunday family lunch. We spent the day in good company as we swam, took a sauna and ate more great food. We even paddled out to a small island on the lake to pick blueberries.

We have only had back-to-back rest days a few times during this expedition so waking up to spend another full day in Marquette felt marvelous. We were all able to relax in a new way. Our second day in town was a productive one, filled with interviews with local news outlets as well as some time to catch up on writing and reading. Some fellow Northlanders, who are biking around the lake this summer, were also in Marquette that day. We met up with Olivia and Laura and chatted about how our journeys were going so far and what we were looking forward to. Later that night Mary and Joe treated us to one last meal when we went out for our last night in town.  

We had a hard time leaving Marquette the following morning after receiving so much hospitality from Devin, Mary and Joe. We enjoyed one last meal together and slowly packed Rig up – a bit awkwardly, seeing as we hadn’t done it in a few days and had a resupply of food to rearrange – to head west out of town towards Ishpeming. Our run that day was hard in new sort of way. The day was short but we had to run along a very busy Highway M-28 through the western sprawl of Marquette, Negaunee and Ishpeming. The busy road and intersections added a level of stress to the day but once we arrived at camp for the night – Country Village RV Park – we were pleased to meet a friendly woman named Deb who had driven passed us as we ran along the highway. She got us setup with a spot for the night at a discounted rate “for all of our efforts on the road.” Later in the day we were sitting in a pavilion of the park cooking lunch and talking with a young and enthusiastic boy named Draper. Deb had told Draper all about our travels, of which he had many questions about. “Do you even stop to breath?!” he asked us as we causally lounged about the pavilion, cooking lunch. Yes, Draper. We stop every once and awhile. Before leaving Marquette, Mary had informed us that right next to the RV park is the Country Village Cinema (in case we wanted a break from another hot and humid day). After lunch that day we scoped out what was playing and read some reviews. It turns out that The Secret Life of Pets is a “fun family diversion” for weary, overheated ultrarunners too.

Our run the next day, from Ishpeming to Beaufort Lake State Campground, was an exciting one because we knew we would be passing our 1,000 mile marker! One thousand miles of running. Holy shit. Before getting to the lake that evening we made sure to swing by a gas station and pick up some celebratory drinks to ring in our achievement that night. We swam and celebrated that night before tucking into the tent for the night… which, by the way, our tent’s name is Carol. We consider her more than a tent. She is our gray space pod that we’ve actually been using to travel around the lake. “Running” is simply a ploy to distract you all from our discovery of interdimensional travel.

Anyway… We rose early to depart from Beaufort Lake. The orange and pink splatters of the morning sky were brilliant and did not go unnoticed as we manically swatted swarms of bugs over breakfast and coffee. Once we ate and packed up we headed down the road with Baraga State Park in our sights. Some days we run amidst all sorts of conversation, sharing ideas with one another as we trot passed the mile markers along the road. There are some days, however, that we spend mostly in silence. Our run to Baraga was one of those quiet, contemplative sort of days. We even took a chance on a shortcut that would match the tone of the day, a quiet forest road, dappled with sunlight and the occasional deer fly. Once we got to Baraga we were informed that there was a Christmas in July event going on in the park all weekend. Christmas lights galore! From Baraga we head north into Copper Country. The Keweenaw awaits!