Saturday, June 2, 2012

Day Five: Significance

Favorite DogGear: REI dog packs. Tough, wearable, and stable - not nearly as difficult to size as the reviews make it seem. Twenty-five miles and not a blister or wear-spot on my girls. That's what's important to me; the rest is just icing. 

Close Encounters on the Wild Side: loons, more moose poop, squirrels, chipmunks, humans (so strange), eagle

I am falling apart. My knees have swelled up to grapefruit size, and I'm pretty sure someone filled them with sand because there's a rather . . . gritty sensation when I try to bend them. I twisted my left ankle. There's a raw patch on my lower back from trying to shift the weight of my pack off my shoulders. One of my toes has a blister on it. And I haven't had this may bruises and bug bites since I was eleven.

And each ding and scratch - well, they were 100% worth it.

Today, we walked up. Up and up and up the trail went, tempting us with glimpses of what we might see, but not surrendering any views worth standing still for.

A glimpse of Partridge Lake, where we camped the last two days. 

'Course, they were still pretty cool glimpses.

Then, we turned a corner, and it seemed like the whole world lay gallantly at our feet.

My brother takes in the view of Rat and Rose Lakes.

In her book, Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz talks about how much dogs understand about death. She believes - as do I - that they have some rough understanding of the concept. To support her theory, she points to the balcony aversion: " . . . dogs reflexively withdraw from true danger, be it a high ledge, a rushing river, or an animal with a predatory gleam in its eye. They act to avoid death."

If this is true, then Rubi must be suicidal. Every time we come to an overlook, she rushes to the edge, and it seems that only the leash stops her from taking the plunge. When held back, she take long moments to stare out over the forests and lakes. I know that her eyes are about as god as mine without my glasses - that is to say, not nearly as good as the camera lens. I can't help but wonder - what does she see out there, in the washes of green and brown and blue?

Rubi looks out across Rose Lake.

In contrast, Piper gives the cliffs edge a wide berth and takes our rest stop as an opportunity for just that - the chance to squeeze in a quick nap. I wonder if the difference isn't a breed trait? Rubi is an excellent example of the pit bull breed: what they should be, and what happens when they are not treated as they need to be. Pit bulls were bred for centuries to throw themselves into danger. Perhaps you could say that their sense of self-preservation has been suppressed. Is this why Rubi seems oblivious to the threat posed by the cliff's edge? I have never wanted more to know what my dog is thinking.

Oh, I know what she's thinking here!
She's thinking, "Food? Yes? Now?"

The girls pose for me in front of Rat and Rose Lakes.

My dad checks out the view.
This picture is how I will always think of him: tall, strong, a little larger than life.
He's pretty much my superhero. 

Unfortunately, we can't stay here forever, and it's not long before we're back on the trail.

What's the saying? If you're not the lead sled dog, the view never changes?

But after that first spectacular overview, the trail just gets more scenic. The cliffs along Rose Lake are widely agreed to be the most beautiful part of the Border Route Trail, and it's not hard to see why.

Rose Lake, near a little un-named lake where we stopped to eat and refill our water bottles.

Taking a rest near the un-named lake. 

A different perspective of the cliffs around Rose Lake.

Eventually, we come to a point where the only place to go is down.

See that rocky cliff over there? Remember it, it comes back.

And what a down it was! Squished between Duncan Lake and Rose Lake is the aptly named Stairway Portage Falls.

The Falls. 

View from the top.

My favorite picture of the Stairway Portage River. 

After the . . . adventure . . . of our last river crossing, you can imagine how relieved we were to find a foot bridge.

Oh, thank god. 

From there, we started to climb up again, almost straight up the side of a cliff. And once again, the work was more than worth it.

See tht cliff over there? Yeah, that's where we were for the last overlook.
This is the view from the cliff in that picture. Kind cool, huh?

The other side of Rose Lake.

With views like this, it's easy to feel insignificant. After all, this forest that seems so big to look at is only a tiny part of the Northwoods, which is just a tiny bit of the world. It's like looking up at the stars and knowing that the space you take up in the universe is less than a grain of sand on an ocean beach.

Instead of insignificant, though, I feel grateful. As if I've been given a gift - a fantastic treasure - that I do not deserve. After all, what have I done to earn such beauty?

This is the same feeling I often get when looking at my dogs.


  1. I love reading about your adventure! How old are both of your dogs? They look like they're doing so well - I can't wait to do something similar with Rufus.

  2. The girls are both six years old. It sure was a blast being able to take them!