Angle to Key West: Superior (7/26)

Grand Marais, MN – July 26, 2012

The water on my skin feels different. The air tastes sharper. The land has changed. It’s like I’ve emerged from the Grand Portage’s forest into a new world.

It feels like that first day on Lake of the Woods when I didn’t know what waited for me. Then came four days of wind and islands, the Rainy River, Baudette and International Falls, Rainy and Namakan lakes, the Boundary Waters and a dozen portages. Somewhere it all became my world, familiar and comfortable, a place I’d figured out.

After eight miles on a trail from the Pigeon River, it disappeared, replaced by a lake with enough water to cover North and South America a foot deep, a lake that sinks giant ships under thirty foot waves, a lake that stretches beyond the horizon and never gives up her dead.

I’m scared of this lake. Staring at it makes my heart race. It’s unfamiliar and new, I don’t know it, I can’t feel it’s moods, I have no routine here. It feels like I’m walking into a cave and hoping the dragon’s asleep.

Everyone I meet has stories. They tell me about the Edmund Fitzgerald, a 700-foot freighter that was the biggest ship in the Great Lakes when she was built. Lake Superior smashed her in half and buried her under five-hundred feet of water so fast that she never sent a distress signal. All 29 crew members died. This isn’t a story from long ago of old ships that didn’t know where they were, this happened in 1975. People lost friends, cousins, brothers, and sons.

They tell me that a month ago a paddler died near Grand Portage. He set off an emergency beacon and the coast guard found his body two hours later. I read newspaper stories and know that he was better prepared than I am with more experience. I grieve even though I never met him because I see parts of him in my reflection.

The lake stretches to the horizon, blue and calm, and I stare. I tell myself that it’s just water, that I’m strong, that I’m ready, that I know enough, but I don’t believe my words. I believe my skin and eyes, the way it feels different, the way the water is heavy with cold and looks as clear as a winter sky.

Everything has changed and I must learn again, grow into it until I can feel its pulse, breathe when it breathes, but for now, I know nothing, nothing but one thing, there can be no mistakes here.

Lake Superior does not forgive.

8 thoughts on “Angle to Key West: Superior (7/26)

  1. Beautifully written and very nicely captures how the setting of the outdoors feels over time. Made me think and so here is a thought D. Knowing you, I think I would not say “I’m scared of this lake.” Rather, I think you “are very respectful of this lake.” It is a respect grounded on the knowledge of the power of nature, of the power of this lake. The beauty of that power, which to me is one of the key and elegant aspects of wild places, is integral to what draws us to such places. The power is neither good nor bad, it just exist and we are awed by it. How we choose to deal with that power, for example with consciousness of the extreme temperature of its water or the ability to create 10 foot waves almost instantly, will largely determine how it will treat us. Just my thought this Sunday morning.

  2. I feel your fear Out of Order. But guess what, the script has already been written and all will turn out good. You see I have an inside track with a Power so great, and that Power has plans for you, for years to come. I trust you will be safe. But still, be safe. XXOO

  3. Hey Daniel……Absolut-ly Knot got bact into Portage on Sat …..enjoyed your company and passion. Hope to see you in Two harbors…….have a safe paddle

    Keith Larson

    1. Good to know you all made it back safe and sound. I’m looking forward to seeing you guys again and hearing about how Kenny ended up catching more fish than everyone else combined!

      1. Let us know how the trip “down-lake is going. See you around Two Harbors…….Ken caught more fish than Gunnar and I


  4. You’ve perfectly and artfully captured the experience and the mystery of that lake. Good luck and Godspeed!

  5. Hello Daniel, Jerry and I are happy you had a few days rest and relaxation. We know you needed it. We hope you ate lots of ice cream. We also agree with Carlos, definitely words of wisdom. Stay safe and keep smiling we are rooting for you back in tally. Ann and Jerry

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