Total Miles: 2,029.4
Torpsdal, Sweden – October 2, 2016
I stayed up late last night looking at maps, thinking of different routes, weighing them one against the other, knowing that the paths all diverge today.
One west to Gothenburg and the ferry to Frederickshavn and the northern tip of Denmark. One southwest to Varberg and the ferry to Grenå along the E1 trail. One south to Helsingborg to jump across the islands of southern Denmark.
They would all take me to the same end, across Denmark and into Germany, but which one?
Each seemed the right choice in its turn, then I’d remember some detail or idea and a different path would slide to the front only to be replaced by the third as soon as another throught came into my head. I thought about the northern tip of Denmark, loyalty to the trail I’d followed so far, and the chance to see Copenhagen. I thought of logistics and distance and how many ferries it would take and what I’d see along the way. I thought of flipping a coin, spinning a bottle, and Robert Frost’s poem about the paths in a yellow wood and what made the difference.
That poem has the answer, I think, because when you read it close, when you read it for more than just the last lines, you realize that what made a difference is the story he told long after choosing between two paths that in the moment were equal.
I crashed last night on Janet and Robin’s couch in Ulricehamn. I knew she was visiting her parents in the morning, that we could walk the miles together toward their house if I went that direction, if I chose Gothenburg.
And in that city, three different people had offered me a place to stay. Friends of friends who I met on Lake Huron when I pulled my yellow kayak up next them on the dock in Little Current. A couple I met at the Swedish border who gave me their email and told me to write when I got close. A man who passed me as he ran down a trail and told me to call him when I got to Gothenburg.
All good stories.
I walked out of Ulricehamn with Janet. Halfway she convinced me take off my shoes and walk a few steps on the moss in the forest. The cool, soft green carpet felt strange to feet used to thick rubber soles.
I took tentative steps at first, unsure, afraid to cut or bruise my skin. Then I spread my toes and walked in circles around my discarded shoes, feeling the hidden twigs underneath, feeling the wet dew, feeling connected and aware of the ground I walked over like I hadn’t before, like I wouldn’t have had I gone another way.
Or at least that is the story I told myself as I said goodbye and walked on toward Gothenburg, the other paths slipping away in my mind.