Windigo, Isle Royale National Park – August 7, 2012
I know how a horse feels in the starting gate, straining against the cage, waiting for those doors to open, waiting to run. Its nostrils flair and fill its lungs, oxygen pumps through its blood, its muscles ache for movement. When the gate opens, every tight fiber roars inside, and the world tilts downhill.
Circling Isle Royale is about 112 miles. It took me eight days to go 68 of them and one to go 44. Not because of wind or waves, but because I needed to move.
Late in the day as I rounded the western tip of the island near Washington Harbor and Windigo, I stared out at the mainland across the glassy water. My marine radio crackled and hissed the weather report. The calm, robotic voice told me that another storm was coming–maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day–but it would come and slam the gate shut again. I wanted to go, to keep moving, to launch myself into the crossing on arms that felt infinite.
“What’s another twenty miles,” I thought.
I looked at the faded green cliffs rising on the mainland, just lines on the horizon. I looked at the water as still as a backyard fishing pond. I looked at the sun falling in the sky.
If I didn’t go, I might have to wait days for the gate to open again. I might sit there on Windigo’s dock wishing I could have this moment back as I watch the sun fall and rise and fall and rise day after day.
My arms felt loose, my back ready for more, my torso tight with anticipation. Even my mind felt fresh, fresh enough to think, fresh enough to know that the end of a long day is not the time to set off across open water.
“Don’t be a fool,” I said and turned the boat towards Windigo.