In those final fleeting moments before the snow begins to fly, I get twitchy. Must cram in as many fall experiences as possible! Yesterday’s hankering to knock out the next stretch of the trail, before it’d be blanketed under several inches of snow, was overwhelming. Though I only had a handful of four-mile runs under my belt over the past couple months (owing to painting the house at the most glorious time of year), I embarked on a 13-mile out and back anyway. I’d feel it, but I’ve got solid mental and muscle memory of these sorts of treks.
For yesterday’s epic, I opted for the more casual route to the trailhead on Fox Farm Road. For the drive out you too might choose this more authentic northwoods experience, rather than the freeway-dependent route shown on the trail’s website.
Me and the van had a stellar bonding experience back here. She’s got a nearly full tank of gas, and I suspect her replacement is nearly ready. May as well use those last sips of fuel to enjoy these final moments together.
Though it’s a model year 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan, the original bill of sale in the glove box dates to 1999. If I charged a dollar for every thousand miles on the odometer, the sale price would come to $288.10 (and slowly increasing). It’d also come with the hilarious collection of cassette tapes stashed under the passenger seat. I rather like that idea, but the sort of chap who buys vehicles at this price does not have a reputation for being reliable. Coordinating things like a test drive and title transfer sounds like a major hassle, so I’m considering one last tearful drive to the junkyard for ol’ Dodgey. Poor dear, and after all she has done for me. I’ve basically enjoyed her as a farm vehicle for free these past 3+ years. Huge blessing.
Our upgrade will be to an 18-year-old van, a mere youngster, and from the same trusted prior owner as ol’ Dodgey’s. At $2000, or perhaps a wee bit less, we can easily pay cash. More importantly, I’ll sleep at night. The thought of shelling out half the farm’s annual income for a depreciating asset didn’t sit well. In an ideal world I’d pretend we paid $5k, invest the difference, forget about it, and have that waiting for us when it’s time to purchase the next vehicle. Alas, life throws punches. These funds will go towards a new roof next spring, which will be torn down all the way down to the bottom of the attic. Yes, that’s less than ideal, but by keeping unessential expenses to a minimum, I think we’ll be fine. Saving money on cars is the first place to go when such things crop up. The only hole in the scheme is that our retirement investing has ground to a halt this year. No bueno. This is the Achilles’ heel of self-employment.
1999 was a momentous year. That’s the year we were married. It’s also when I purchased that $20 pair of painter’s pants that are now carefully rolled up and sitting in a trash can with a, “Thank you for your service,” pat on the split behind. They helped pay for our wedding that summer. Slightly more disconcerting, as I made my way up the trail with Stanley, was the thought that my small investment in these pants easily produced more income than the 60 or so thousand dollars shelled out for undergraduate and graduate degrees. I’ll just take a big fat stab and say that these pants aided me in producing $60,000 of value. They repeatedly have come in handy during tough times, such as in My Napoleonic Return to the Economy after I was laid off. Always a reluctant painter, I have resisted investing in a new pair.
Alas, we can’t live in 1999 forever. Time to turn a page. The long run helped put these things into perspective.
I journey northbound whenever possible. The lure of the north is irresistible as it pulls me forward, though legs and hips grew increasingly sore on this occasion.
After passing through the land of beavers, you come to a healthy stand of maples.
As I write this 16 hours later, I’m grateful to have taken advantage of a small, rapidly closing window of time. Though it hit 70 degrees at the start of last week’s adventure, snow is falling quite heavily now. This area is now fully blanketed for certain. The undulations of the land have their own subtle beauties worth taking notice of.
There are no stunning photo opportunities that will light up your Instagram profile in this section. Is that the goal? This is a fully authentic back-country, remote-feeling wilderness experience with limited human traffic.
While the lake is a distant friend on this journey, it’s not the focus. And heck, the next couple hundred miles have countless outcrops with sweeping views of the lake. Also, I see the lake nearly every day. This is a different experience, altogether. If one is forced to choose, yes, the more northerly sections are indeed more scenic. Thus, I’m happy to bang some of these out with the dog, and allow Joey to join me closer to the action further up the shore. Perhaps the more seasoned backcountry traveller is better tuned to fully enjoy these portions of the trail between Duluth and Two Harbors. I really loved this stretch.
Sore legs and hips, I was happy to reach ol’ Dodgey at the end of our journey. I followed the directions given on the SHT’s website for the journey back home, and found all the hub-bub of the freeway between Two Harbors and Duluth discombobulating. Also, at highway speeds chunks of rusty body fly off the fuselage, causing ol’ Dodgey to feel like we’re in re-entry, desperately hoping that the heat shields hold up.
This was an unexpected half-day trip, taken on a whim after glancing at the weather report. I’m grateful to have the flexibility to head out on such ventures at a moment’s notice when circumstances demand it.