Life-Changing Adventure

I’ve been quiet lately, Friends…recovering from an unforgettable expedition and struggling to encompass my myriad of thoughts into words that would adequately express a recent experience.

First, let me back up to remind you of the mentorship I was involved in with this young lady. This link describes an important year we shared.

Upon graduation from the program, we were encouraged to continue meeting. So when I read about an all expenses paid 5-day/4-night Boundary Waters Canoe Area adventure offered by our mentor organization, Bolder Options and partnered by Quetico Foundation US, I could barely believe it! I quickly pitched the idea to an apprehensive mentee, explaining this trip would be an opportunity of a lifetime. It took some convincing because some of the details were beyond her comfort zone, but she bravely agreed!

I wouldn’t have pressured her if I didn’t think she could handle it, but I knew from my many adventures as a Boy Scout Mom the lasting impact this experience would leave!

I picked her up insanely early the first morning to travel to Minneapolis in time to meet the rest. We then caught a van with several other mentor pairs and our fearless guides. What I didn’t know until we arrived at Seagull Outfitters later that evening…the men and women would have separate journeys. This simply meant I’d have to brush up on my toughness, bring my A game. I mean, there are moose and bears out there, Folks!

It’s not like we signed up for any old walk in the park. As our Bolder Options shirts remind us…All it Takes is All You Got!

No worries, Friends, I slapped on my confidence mindset to assure the others (and me) that everything would be fine! I took comfort in knowing this was not the other ladies’ first rodeo either.

We spent the evening packing only our basic essentials into dry bags, then adding them with our gear into mammoth camp packs.

 

It suddenly became very real as we double and triple-checked our lists.

Once we ventured out that next morning, there was no turning back…we either had everything or we didn’t! We caught a ride with our gear and canoes to our starting point…

Where we transferred to tow boats and where it got extremely real!

 

Parting from civilization can be quite intimidating, but we are all strong warriors…resourceful, resilient WOMEN! We were dropped at our starting point to regroup and find our rhythm.

And wouldn’t you know, before I even began to paddle, I spotted my first sign of many that everything would be perfect (thanks, Dad)!

And so it began, our journey was in forward motion. I couldn’t help thinking how cool it was that these three generations of remarkable women, each walking vastly different paths in life, converged in this moment. How blessed we all were to have come together, immersed in nature.

It took some time to find confidence in each endeavor; paddling and portaging took some fine-tuning, but we soon found our groove.

 

We each learned lessons, acquired new skills. Our comfort zones grew and stretched as we attained new competancies along the way. There were canoes to secure, tents to pitch, a quick dip!

 

Latrines to find, water to filter, food to prepare, dishes to wash…we were finding our way together as a tribe.

 

And between the work came moments of deep connection. This glimpse right here, this is exactly the soulful experience I hoped would happen for Kiara on this trip!

But she wasn’t the only one deeply touched by our surroundings. There were a multitude of breathtaking views like this throughout our sojourn for all to consume with our whole hearts. Looking back, I almost forgot how the mosquitoes terrorized us!

No matter, it was all part of the experience! Night turned to morning and it was time for this well bonded clan of nomads to pick up camp and move on!

Another day of much the same…

 

Hours on the water gives one time to reflect; I was deeply mesmerized by it and found myself thinking what a NSV…non scale victory this was for me. I never could have considered mentoring at my starting weight of 246, would never have had the strength or endurance this trip required. It also filled me with such gratitude knowing I’d survived that car accident a few years back too. My broken ribs/sternum, my constricted shoulders, neck, collarbone…all healed and stronger than ever. The proof was right there before me…

And my recent knee injury, well I just told that thing to shut up; I mean when else would I be able to do this?

We continued to experience victory after marvelous victory…check out this girl’s first fire!

Not only did she rock that, she proved her toughness when she withstood a foot covered in leeches…all the props, Girl!

We perfected campsite feng shui…

 

There was ample opportunity to bare our vulnerabilities to one another, freedom for each to openly shine their bright light so the rest could find their way. We laughed, we cried, we laughed a bunch more…what beautiful, wonderful women inside and out!

  

We continued to read each little sign along the way.

 

It felt like Mother Nature herself had planned every detail of this experience for us, granting profound abundance for all.

 

She practically serenaded us to sleep!

Or maybe that was the hum of the bazillion mosquitoes just outside our tents lol! Haha, either way, she took wonderful care of us, she even aligned the storms to strike at just the right moment…not only did they hold out until after we were off the water, they gave us time to be safely tucked in too.

 

I think we all would have enjoyed another day or two out there, because it felt way too soon to return to the outfitters to join back up with the guys. I’m sure they were left with awesome memories of their own.

I’m grateful we got to share this leg of our journeys together, and hope we cross paths again, Bolder/Quetico Friends! No doubt we each left BWCA profoundly changed, and I don’t just mean those mosquito bites!

Crushing My August Goal

Recently, my friend Katie and I loosely planned an outdoor adventure on Minnesota’s North Shore with the option of a visit to Canada because the call of the wild loudly beckoned both of us! Incidentally, this fit quite nicely within my August fitness goal to embrace summer before it’s gone!

My temperamental knee behaved well during training sessions in the weeks leading up to our adventure. I set an intention to experience everything I could, but to listen well to my body…a simple mindset.

I was nearly giddy with anticipation on my drive to Minnespolis. Katie was kind enough to put me up for the night so we could get an early start the next morning. This was to be a whirlwind of a weekend trip…non-stop from beginning to end. And, we were off! As we caught up with each other, the miles flew by…

Our energy was through the roof and we were ready to conquer the world! With no concrete plan, we were free to explore at will. So we hopped out at Jay Cooke State Park so Katie could get a taste of what I love about that place!

Yeah…I think she liked it!

We took advantage of this magnificent backdrop to enjoy a quick hiker’s lunch on the banks of the Saint Louis River. And then is was back in the car to put down some more miles.

Next stop, the SHT office…(careful spelling that one) the Superior Hiking Trail office in Two Harbors.

The woman there was a wealth of wisdom as we considered our options for the weekend. I’m not sure if this stop solidified our plans or overwhelmed us with countless more ideas, but we left with expert info. Back in the car! Next it was Katie’s turn to introduce me to a thoughful spot.

 

Yeah, I might have enjoyed Palisade Head just a little haha! What a perfect place to stretch our legs before jumping back on the road. Katie’s so full of surprises because she knew what was just ahead, and I’m so glad she did…

Seriously! What an extraordinary peek through a bridge!!! And then back on the road because we were headed to one of our best kept secrets…the Hungry Hippie Hostel just outside of Grand Marais.

This place had everything we needed and more. I’d never roomed in a hostel before but after this experience, I’d do it all again!

 

The ambiance was so “summer camp” reminiscent. We were very comfortable there and enjoyed the exquisite view of Lake Superior and the sunset.

 

And that was my sign to head to bed!

Because we had some pretty extraordinary plans early the next morning…

Plans that involved a sunrise and some sun salutations on the tranquil shore of Lake Superior…ahhhhh.

It was a quick savasana though because we had some international plans…how namaste?!?

We quickly traveled up to Ontario where we stopped to savor one of Katie’s family “up north” traditions…a smoked fish. It’s what’s for breakfast lol!

 

Yum! Well fueled, we headed into Thunder Bay to explore a bit of the Canadian lifestyle. Then stopped at a Gouda cheese farm; it was gooood-a (see what I did there?)! And then we were off for the real reason we crossed the border. We were on an elusive waterfall hunt and Pigeon River was home to this!

We weathered quite a rainstorm to behold this beaut, but so glad we did! I am in love with waterfalls, the roar of the water, the kiss of the mist, the energy you feel from your head to feet. SWOON!

My how the time was flying! We headed back to the states and Grand Marais, enjoyed some local fare despite the hustle and bustle of Fisherman’s Picnic Weekend; time to rest up for our last action-packed day!

This one started bright and early because there was still much to see! We had the amazing Judge C R Magney State Park to ourselves and beheld the mysterious Devil’s Kettle…

The gorgeous morning seemed to cheer us on in our endeavors as we took off for our next destination. Dear God, the stairs…these views did not come without a price and my knee was beginning to pay.

But the effort was well worth it! Cascade River State Park did not disappoint!

The climbs and decents were worth it every time! Check out the view on our next hike at Temperance River State Park!

There was beauty around every turn! This state of ours is such a playground, and such soul food too. But heavy-duty hikers can’t subsist on that alone, so refueling was necessary, but so welcome in a dining room like this…

Our legs were pretty fried at that point and we were feeling pretty weathered too, but there was one more waterfall we refused to miss, so we decended and climbed some insane terrain to take in our final award for our efforts…

  

Wow, Tettagouche State Park. Just Wow!

Sadly, our North Shore trek came to a close as quickly as it had arrived. Friends, we left everything we had on those trails but would do it all over again.

Because what this wildnerness sojourn took from us physically replenished so much more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Years of Climbing!

Fantastic feelings surrounded me when a fun little memory popped up in my Facebook feed this morning, a priceless reminder of what I embarked upon five years ago this week…

At a glance, I barely remember that lady. But when I pause to recall what it felt like to exist in that body, so many feelings flood back. I see that smile and know it was merely a facade. I was suffering within, physically, mentally, emotionally.

I think back to the continuous hard work and dedication necessary to be where I am today and don’t regret one single day of those five years it took to get healthy.

I liken my transformation to climbing a mountain. It was a giagantic undertaking, one which couldn’t be achieved quickly. Looking up, this task seemed unsurmountable from the trailhead. But, with clear goals, a keen sense of direction and a fire deep within, I put one foot in front of the other over and over again. I encountered many obstacles along the way, but did my best to navigate each of them with focus. I climbed.

Some moments I put forth more effort than others. Often times I gained a lot of ground, others I stumbled. Still others, I fell flat on my face. The true gift in this journey was grace. When the going got tough, I forgave. I picked myself up, brushed off the dirt and realigned my mind with my body and soul. I climbed on.

Sometimes I could see the top of that mountain clearly, others I couldn’t make it out at all. Thank goodness, I knew in my heart it was up there just waiting for me! So I continued climbing.

On the toughest of trials, I stopped to look down, to consider giving up, turning back. But I knew I’d never be happy if I quit…never forgive myself. So I kept climbing.

 My favorite part of the adventure was never being alone. So many wonderful people jumped in to join me for sections of the ascent, and that made ALL the difference.

Reaching the top was a precious gift of an extraordinary view. A fresh new awakening of immense affirmation. As I peered down to where it began, I remember those crushing feelings of heaviness within. Each step upward a bit lighter, a little easier until I reached that summit where I breathed deep, that fresh mountain air, and knew in my heart…I DID IT!

Evolution of a Walk

I’m wallowing this weekend in an upper respiratory nightmare. I had high hopes of getting to the gym this morning, but I didn’t want to be found unconscious beneath a machine, nor did I think anyone wanted what I’ve got. So I invited my husband, who’s suffering the same malady, to join me for a gentle walk on a most beautiful day.

The weather was unseasonably warm for a February morning in Minnesota, so fitness plan B turned out to be the perfect choice. It’s amazing what fresh air can do to restore a person’s head, heart and health.

The thawing warmth, combined with the playful puddles and joyfully singing birds put me in a place of reflection. As we worked toward completing our leisurely 3.5 mile stroll, I considered the evolution of my perspective toward walking.

Here’s what I mean. As I thought back to the time before my weight loss, I remember feeling very differently…like back in 2011 when I didn’t consider shoveling a great workout, it was simply a chore. And if someone had asked me to take a walk after that, I would’ve been too exhausted.

About this same time in 2012…winter camp at my unhealthiest, should someone have invited me to walk, I would’ve recommended they dial 911 before we begin…not. even. kidding.

Friends, here’s where things get exciting because a few months after this picture, I set off on my healthy lifestyle journey and things began to change dramatically! About this same time in 2013, if you had asked me to walk, I would have suggested we do it in the hilly woods of Oxbow Park because I had some serious training to do with around 30 pounds strapped to my back in preparation for an upcoming backpack hiking adventure.

I had lost a significant amount of weight by this same time in 2014 and was in fantastic shape, but if you had asked me to walk then, I would have had to pass. I was very busy doing nothing, or rather healing from automobile accident injuries. Dang it, one step forward, two steps back…

I behaved my butt off during that time so I could return to an active lifestyle better than ever. It took lots of patience and pep talks, but I bounced back with a force to be reckoned with! And should someone ask me around that same time in 2015 if I’d like to take a walk, I may have recommended we do it above ground because I was pretty wildly into high adventure, like swinging through the trees in Flagstaff. Guess I had something to prove to myself, huh?

By this time the following year, I had replaced the adrenaline addiction for a longer sustained endorphin high. If you had invited me to walk with you in 2016 I may have suggested a half marathon!

A lot has changed between then and now. I ran myself silly that entire year and am now taking some much needed time to restore a reluctant knee. So if any of you are interested in a calm walk of any distance, now’s the time to ask…though you may want to wait until my germ circus leaves town. A walk with Eric this morning was exactly what I needed to get my compass pointing true north again, to put into perspective how thankful I am to be back embracing a walk.