I slept, restlessly at first, but somewhere in the short hours between midnight and 6:00 AM my mind found a way to unwind and just let go. I often wake remembering some portion of a dream – a place I’ve been to but never visited, a person or people I know yet have never met, a flash or glimpse in time seeming a small, insignificant detail that somehow broke the barrier between my subconscious and conscious mind to become a fading memory. This morning, I woke only to the sound of my iPhone alarm.
A quick hot shower, dressing in my hiking clothes, slipping on my Injinji liners and Darn Tough socks, weighing myself with and without my pack, double-tying the laces of my trail-runners, were all followed by choking down a Clif Bar and a cup of Dark Roast coffee. I placed my Adirondack Green Osprey Aether AG™ 60 backpack in the rear seat of the Grand Caravan, said good-bye to Andrew, and I was on my way. It was 7:23 AM on Saturday June 30th.
A right turn, another right turn, followed by a Michigan left, through the light at the intersection, a gentle merge to the right and I was on Interstate I-75 headed north. It seems as if I passed through Flint almost instantly, then came Birch Run, quickly followed by Saginaw. Two and a half hours and 185 miles after I departed, I stopped in Grayling, to stretch my legs and refuel the Grand Caravan. My next stop would be somewhere in the UP (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), most likely Marquette.
But first would come the Mackinaw Bridge.
The things my mind decides to remember while I’m driving long distances are sometimes baffling. Others, not so much, and are perhaps more triggered than remembered. I don’t know why … wait, scratch that, I do know why bridges with edges that I can see over (and standing heights) bother me so much.
As a kid in the late 70’s, I grew up on the Southwest side of Detroit – I attended Detroit Public Schools for elementary school, I remember snow piles in the Winter so tall I couldn’t see over them, I learned to swim in the pool at Patton Park, I can still taste the sweet tomato sauce on the hand-tossed pepperoni pizza cooked in the huge flat ovens at Vic’s Pizzeria, and walking over Interstate 94 on the Lonyo and Tarnow Street Bridges. Back then, the Lonyo Street Bridge had railings very similar to those of the Mackinaw Bridge, shown in the picture above.
It was a typical sunny summer day, my brother and I were out and about with our older cousins, Billy, John, Joe, and a few of the other neighborhood kids. I can’t remember where we had been that afternoon, but I do remember we were headed back to my Grandmother’s house, and as we crossed over the Lonyo Street Bridge, for some unexplained reason, my cousin Joe just picked me up, and held me out and over the railing of the bridge. I want to believe that we had actually made it far enough across the bridge that if I had slipped or he had dropped me, I would have landed on the grass covered embankment below. But all I remember are the semi-trucks passing underneath me. I had nightmares for years of semi-trucks hitting me head on, running me over and dragging me endlessly down the pavement of the freeway. Today, the railings on the Lonyo Street Bridge are completely covered. Today, I no longer have those nightmares.
As I started driving up and onto the Mackinaw Bridge, once again, the fear of falling over the edge was right in front of me. The minimum posted speed limit was 20 MPH. The maximum was 40 MPH. I would continue on, staying in the left-center lane, and driving 35-40 MPH. No matter where you are or what the circumstances, why is there always that one person that has to drive like an idiot? Clearly oblivious to the posted maximum speed limit of 40 MPH, he rushed up behind me in his tan Honda Accord, decided he wasn’t going to (or didn’t want to) slow down, so he swerved over into the right lane, whizzed passed me, and onward to his life in the fast-lane. As I came to the half-way point of crossing the bridge, I could see the end in front of me, and the fear that gripped me just moments earlier had subsided greatly. I almost felt somewhat comfortable driving now, and told myself “See you can do this”.
It seemed the farther north I drove the hotter the temperature was outside. Then again, it was past noon, almost 1:00 PM, and the cloud cover that had blanketed the sky all morning was long gone, giving way to clear blue skies and sunshine. The temperature didn’t really bother me, and the breeze created by driving with the windows down managed to keep it comfortable inside the Caravan. As I pulled into the parking lot of the Wendy’s restaurant located in Marquette, I was not only hungry, but completely ready to be done driving, and it felt so good to stretch my legs again. Google maps estimated I would arrive at the trail entrance on Norwich Road in a short two hours. I ordered a Spicy Chicken sandwich combination, with fries and a Coke, for here, paid the cashier, received my beverage cup ahead of my order and promptly filled it – light ice, a splash of MinuteMaid Lemonade, and topped off with regular Coca-Cola. As I placed the large lid on top of my beverage cup, the female college student working behind the counter called out “Order 312”. I carried my beverage over, placed it on the tray next to my sandwich and fries, picked up the tray and said “Thank you”. The female college student smiled and replied “Have a great day”, and as I headed to an open table in the restaurant I was thinking to myself “Ha! You have no idea how great it’s going to be”.
I finished my sandwich, fries and almost all of my beverage, then stopped to use the restroom on the way out of the restaurant. Not sure why, but I made a mental note that I might be a little de-hydrated, so I decided to empty my beverage cup and re-fill it with water before I left, so I could drink it while driving the last segment and final two hours of the eight and half hour trip. I refueled the Grand Caravan across the street at the Speedway. My next stop, the designated parking area .9 miles from the North Country Trail.
The entrance to the North Country Trail on Norwich Road is easy to overlook. In fact I missed it completely, driving straight passed it the first time, and after passing US Forest Service Road 690 headed north, I knew I needed to turn around and retrace my route. As I passed the designated parking area at the trail head just before Mason Creek, I slowed down and studied the outline of the forest as it followed the road.
Suddenly, there it was.
How I could have possibly missed it the first time is beyond me! I made a quick U-turn, drove .9 miles back to trail head designated parking area, parked the Caravan out of the way, placed my keys securely on the clip inside my chest pack, finished the last of the water in the Wendy’s beverage cup, put my pack on my back, clipped the straps, pressed the button on the vehicle door panel to lock the Caravan doors, and firmly shut the sliding side door.
Walking the .9 miles south back to the North Country Trail entrance seemed easy enough.
As I arrived at the trail entrance, I grabbed my Garmin inReach Explorer, unlocked the screen, selected ‘Messages’, and then ‘New Message’. I selected Andrew and my email account as recipients, selected the first Preset Message, and then selected ‘Send’.
I’m starting from here.
Kelly Williams sent this message Sat 6/30/2018 5:52 PM from: Lat 46.68123 Lon -89.38983
Do not reply directly to this message. This message was sent to you using the inReach two-way satellite communicator with GPS. To learn more, visit http://explore.garmin.com/inreach.