Speaking and hiking

My first out-of-town speaking gig was in 1981. A wonderful librarian asked me to speak down in Austin, Minn. At the time, I had never checked into a hotel by myself, and I was — still am — hopeless with maps and directions.At the time, I had no idea what to charge for speaking engagements, and I didn’t put a limit on how many talks I would give in a day. But off I went with all my slides, a drawing pad and my golden retriever Dame, the original Harriet. I brought her because I thought if the kids weren’t interested in me, they could at least pet Dame.

call meWhen I arrived at my hotel after getting lost, I called Barry to tell him I had made it. And every time I traveled over the next 30 years, I called him upon arrival. I learned a lot that week: don’t give eight talks in a day and no dog is necessary because the kids liked me just fine!! I also had fun exploring Austin, running and hiking.

No one to call anymore

Now in 2014, I still visit schools and still get lost, but I am a pretty seasoned traveler. On a recent trip to southwest Minnesota for a week of speaking, it struck me that I now have no one to call when I arrive. Barry lives in a care center, it would accomplish nothing to call him and he might get upset that I am out of town. This long, cold winter, I also realized that I can’t just head out on a long hike anymore when I am out of town. What if I fell while hiking in sub-zero temperatures? No one would know where I was. So this winter for the first time, I stuck to the hotel gym or walked around the towns I visited.

But now spring had come to southwest Minnesota, so after my school visit I headed out for Hike Number 24 to Pipestone National Monument. It is a short, but very interesting hike if you read the history markers along the way. I will forever remember this hike because of the sweet sound of frogs at the little pond along the trail. Spring had finally arrived after the brutal winter. As I stood and listened, I felt relaxed for the first time in months. Thank you frogs!
Making plans for my future alone

Hike Number 25, suggested by the school librarian, was to Lake Shetek State Park near the town of Currie, Minn. I had an evening event and about three hours to kill so I decided to hike on a trail called Loon Island. After finishing that trail, I hiked around the park thinking I should take up camping again. This place had some great campsites and picnic areas. As I headed back to the town for that evening’s talk, it dawned on me that I was starting to make plans for a new future — by myself. I have to admit that it was an odd but exciting feeling.

Hike Number 26 was at The Glacier Ridge Trail that begins in Willmar, Minn. This time I decided to tell the desk person where I was going so at least one person would know where I was. The glacier trail is flat and quite windy on the day walked it. I suspect it is always windy.

I hiked a long time. I just couldn’t stop because I kept wanting to see what was ahead. Plus there was a man walking his Labrador just ahead of me. I loved watching his dog sniff, run and chase rabbits. Barry and I would hike for hours with Dame off the leash.

She always kept an eye on us and never got lost. This hike made me really miss having a dog, and I thought about someday getting a dog again. Here I was making more plans for the future, and it felt so hopeful. I like that feeling.

Trail information: Glacier Ridge Trail http://www.glacialridgebyway.org/index.html

Lake Shetek State Park : http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/lake_shetek/index.html

Pipestone National Monument: http://www.nps.gov/pipe/index.htm

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  1. Some things change; many things stay the same. One foot in front of the other.

  2. claudine coughlin says:

    Enjoyed your update. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. It also sounds like you are doing much better with putting one foot in front of the other. Maybe it is because you are so much younger than me. Keep up your positive attitude. I got the book from Red Balloon. I am anxious to give it to Emily! Take care. Love, Claudine

  3. Debbie says:

    Let’s take Norman for a walk when you come this summer! Counting down the days!

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