The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Frozen Lake

I was out at The Lake yesterday. It is frozen on the Michigan side. There is a large windrow of ice near the shore where the waves have tossed and stacked chunks of sheet ice (the humps of white in the photos). Past that was intact ice for as far as I could see.

The sheet ice lends a calmness to the lake. There are no waves, no sound of moving water. The wind can scream across the lake when it's covered over with ice, but there was only a mild breeze yesterday.

I was out at the lake to have lunch with my friend Joan Donaldson at her farm in Fennville. She is a wonderful writer who has had many essays in the Christian Science Monitor (and many other places), and has published several books for children and middle readers. We talked about writing and Michigan and The Lake. She has a passion for Lake Michigan, too.

Many people have asked me about walking around the lake and how I can do that with so much of the land being privately held. The Supreme Court of Michigan ruled in 2003 that the land near the lake that has been scrubbed free of vegetation is public land. Indiana has a similar ruling. Illinois has a stricter guideline, one that says you must 'keep your feet wet' to be on public land. Wisconsin has ruled both ways at various times, so keeping my feet wet in Wisconsin will probably be a good idea.

There are, of course, tracts of industry or nuclear power plants that will have to be circumnavigated. I'll have to go inland to get around these obstacles.

And there are large stretches of beach lined with private homes and private staircases down the dunes. Another reason I went to The Lake yesterday was to locate public access points where I could get to and from the lake. Thankfully, there are many of these points along the trek.

The Lake should always be for all people.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Trek Begins in One Month

I was in Chicago this past weekend for a writers' conference (AWP) and did some Lake Trek shopping! I went to North Face (the place you'd go to get outfitted to climb Everest) and got some rain-shedding pants for the trek. As I was approaching the store, though, along the base of the John Hancock Building, the wind caught my specially vented, high impact umbrella and turned it inside out. It was the kind of wind that makes it impossible to breathe and I had that animal instinct to crouch and hunch until the worst of it had passed.

I'm looking forward to being in weather during the trek, to working up heat from within when it's cold, and to plunging in the lake when I'm too hot. We live in such a climate-controlled world now. With a touch of a button we regulate our environment so that our bodies no longer do that work. I'm looking forward to living fully within my body during the trek. I'm sure the aches and pains of training for the trek are minor compared to the aches and pains of doing seventy miles in five days.

That first segment: Chicago to New Buffalo, Michigan is just that. Seventy miles traveled over five days. A distance that I would drive in under an hour I will cover on foot over days. It's a different way of moving through space. This extremely connected-to-the-earth method of walking, sole-of-boot-to-soil, that we've also moved away from. We glide in cars, hopping in and out of them as near to our destinations as possible, and pulling into our garages (an extension of our homes) when we return. We avoid the weather unless it is pleasant.

I'm looking forward to moving through unpleasant (and pleasant) weather. To feeling each step. To recording the distance not on an odometer, but in my bones and sweat and breath and number of waves reaching toward my feet on the beach.

The trek begins one month from today.

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The Joy of Independent Bookstores

While in Chicago this past weekend, I had the pleasure of stopping in at Sandmeyer's Bookstore on Printer's Row (714 S. Dearborn). It's a great little bookstore, reminiscent of the Tattered Cover in Denver with its wood floors and old warehouse feel.

The owner, Ellen Sandmeyer, was staffing the store that morning and we had a nice talk about Great Lakes books and my upcoming Lake Trek.

I plan to stop in at thirty independent bookstores like this one, all near the shores of Lake Michigan. I try to support independent bookstores whenever possible. Why? Because they have a unique relationship with smaller and regional publishers that the big chains do not. Because they allow more time for books to find readers. Because you'll always find people who love -- truly love -- books in these stores.