Beach on the South Shore of Lake Superior, WI – August 29, 2012
I thought Lake Superior would be quick. I’d sneak in, paddle a week down the coast, and escape up the St. Louis River toward the Mississippi. I thought a lot of things, then I emerged from the woods at Grand Portage with sweat pouring down my body, my legs caked in mud, my feet bleeding, and 17 feet of plastic crushing my shoulders. I stared at that blue horizon and almost cried from the beauty. It looked endless. I wanted to disappear into it.
From Grand Portage, Isle Royale looked like a mirage in the distance even though it’s fifty miles long. From the Saginaw Point, I floated up waves that felt like mountains rolling in from beyond my vision. From the tip of Outer Island in the Apostles, I couldn’t see a shoreline, water stretched to every horizon and mixed with the clear-blue sky. From this beach, the smudge of land fills my eyes and Duluth’s lights glow on the horizon like an electric fire left by the setting sun.
For the first time, Superior feels like a lake. It feels caught naked by my eyes, embarrassed to be seen for what it is, a place with limits, a place you can reach the end of. I sit and stare at the lights of Duluth. The red towers glow like a crown above the city’s yellow-white gleam.
“One, maybe two days,” I think.
I don’t feel excitement. I don’t feel happy to move on. I feel like I’m losing a friend, like I know it’s over and I’m trying not to say goodbye.
“I’m afraid that if I go, I will never see you again,” I say.
“That could be true,” the lake says.
“That makes me sad,” I say.
“Nothing in life is forever,” the lake says.