Wednesday, June 7th, 7:35 a.m. – Departed from the McDonalds restaurant in Isanti, MN.
Conditions – Temp – 54* / Winds – Calm, but increasing to 10 mph out of the SE with gusts up to 20 mph by late afternoon. / Sky Conditions – Thickening cirrus clouds overhead and to the west. Temperature reached 87* in the late afternoon, with heavy thunderstorms passing through the area around 10:00 p.m.
6:30 p.m. – Arrived at the AmericInn in Ham Lake, MN, 22.0 miles, 61,200 steps, 422 miles remaining.
Minneapolis, St. Paul and their surrounding areas have a different kind of energy than the more rural parts of the state. There is a subtle change that can be felt when approaching the sprawling urban area, and not simply a difference in the volume of traffic. The city seems to operate on a slightly different frequency; the pace is quicker, the stakes seem higher and there is an overall uptick in activity. When nearing the Twin Cities, there is always a point at which I begin to feel this change. Today, even though on foot, the transformation occurred as it always does. By the end of the day, I was completely immersed in it. Perhaps even a little too much.
The morning began with the usual routines: pack up the tent and gear, find a restroom and get something in my stomach. The McDonalds in Isanti, Minnesota suited my needs perfectly. While having some breakfast, I charged up my phone and planned out my route for the day. There was a particular concern with the day’s walk: no matter how many ways I looked at it, I couldn’t seem to find a way to avoid the heavy traffic of Highway 65 without adding a significant amount of miles to the day. To make matters worse, I had already reserved a hotel room for the night at the AmericInn in Ham Lake, Minnesota, leaving no options as to where I needed to get to in the evening. I kept looking, but resolved myself to the fac that I would most likely be walking on Highway 65 at a most undesirable time of the day.
Shortly after leaving the McDonalds, I made a planned stop at a VFW with a small, shaded park attached to it. I needed it do some foot care, and in a restaurant hardly seemed like the appropriate place to do so. Like many VFWs, the park had some old military equipment on display, including a large trailered gun and a tank. I sat there in the shade, caring for my feet and imagining the horrible conditions the soldiers who manned those pieces of equipment must have endured. With respect and admiration, I gently put my shoes back on and began the 21-mile walk to the AmericInn. The heat of the day was already beginning. It seemed there was no time to lose.
Walking south out of Isanti, I was completely amazed by how rural the area was. I had always though of Isanti more as part of the metropolitan area, but found that to be anything but the case. Waking down Unversity Avenue, I passed old farmhouses with age old gardens, horse ranches and beautiful homes set far back into the woods. It was difficult to believe the beginnings of a major city were just a few miles ahead of me. Beautiful flowers and serene settings caught my eye at every turn as I slowly worked my way south.
Particularly captivating on this morning were the skies. High cirrus clouds sometimes referred to as “mare’s tails” approached from the west, painting a stunning sky as they stretched completely to the western horizon. In the flat, wide open spaces, the scene were so large that it could scarcely be comprehended. I kept stopping simply to gaze at the sky, feeling a part of something much larger than I could every comprehend. My spirits were really high, despite the fact that I still had concerns about what lie ahead towards the end of my day.
Shortly after midday, I reached the East Bethel Community School and sat down in the shade for a much needed break. While the morning had been beautiful, it had also gotten warm. Had it not been for the steady southeast winds helping to keep me cool, I’m not sure exactly what the outcome might have been. As it was, I felt parched and dehydrated, and drank a half gallon of water in the cool environment of the school before sitting down in the shade outside. After a thirty minute break to collect myself and return to a somewhat “normal” state, I again struck out into the early afternoon heat. I reasoned that the breeze would keep me cool, water was easily obtainable and the earlier I could get to my destination the better. There were 10 miles still between me and my destination. Of those 10 miles, it was the next 4.5 that could be reasonably accomplished on back roads and city streets.
When I reached the end of that 4.5 mile segment, I again sat down in the shade to reevaluate my route. Not surprisingly, no new alternatives had magically appeared since the last time I’d looked. I was left with little choice but to get myself onto the shoulder of Highway 65 and walk against rush hour traffic in the nearly 90 degree heat for the remaining 5.5 miles of the journey. There seemed no point in deliberating any longer; I launched myself out onto Highway 65 and made the best of it. I got a lot of really crazy looks! That made me smile, and helped me get through it. Honestly, my biggest concern was causing an accident. With all the drivers gawking at me as they passed, the likelihood of them losing focus on the road increased dramatically. I heard tires screech more than once…
While doing this walk, every part of every day cannot be a beautiful walk in the country. Much like in life, the good has to be weighed against the bad, and sometimes things that are less than desireable have to be accomplished. A positive, upbeat attitude goes a long way during those times, and remembering the beautiful moments doesn’t hurt either. I survived to to write the story. All in all, it would seem that I accomplished my goal. The transition to an urban environment was not any easy one, but I believe tomorrow will be a less challenging day. We will find out soon enough. See you out there…