Sunday, January 28, 2018

A Very Long Walk in May, Chapter 6

Tess and excited to hike into Lutzen for a fancy breakfast.  Also SUN!!!

We were so excited to re-visit this bustling resort!

On day 10 of our trip we awoke to sunshine!! We got up early, packed up our (dry!) tent, and started out on the mountainous path.  The night before, while Tess studied the SHT guidebook and I read a little pamphlet about Minnesota’s native birds, we both decided that it would be fun—and only a mile or so off of our path—to hike towards Lutsen. Lutsen is home to a popular* ski resort that we had visited on a previous summer backpacking trip.  We remembered the bustling cafeteria, the hundreds of people, and the fantastic food we had eaten, and thought a repeat trip would be a highlight.  Even though I am an introvert, sometimes being around other people, even if just for a few hours is comforting.  I was truly looking forward to this diversion.  We had decided to hike into the resort for a late breakfast; seeing as it was only five miles away from our campsite, and hiking at approximately two miles an hour, we figured we could make it there by 9:30 am. But, by 9:30, after we had climbed through the rugged ups and downs that made the path and had wandered through a long deserted stretch of unmarked trail, I told Tess that I needed to stop and sit for awhile and eat something since we hadn’t breakfasted on our typical oatmeal that morning and I was nearly passing out.  She was convinced Lutsen was just over the next hill and wanted to keep going but stopped out of compassion. She let me grab a few handfuls of our homemade trail mix (oat squares, chocolate sundrops, raisins, and peanuts which I had thrown together in GM--all from the “natural” co-op) and drink some water.  (I was so glad to be done with our old trail mix which was Aldi’s cheerios mixed with more cheerios and a few nuts…I think that’s it; It had almost no calories and tasted like cardboard and you had to eat a lot of it to feel satiated, but, hey, it weighed almost nothing. Tess made that trail mix.) She said I should stay hungry for the food we were going to eat when we got there.  We continued on for another hour and a half and distracted ourselves by discussing the delicious breakfast options we were hoping to find on the menu—eggs Benedict, blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, and freshly-squeezed orange juice.  Finally, around 11 am, we saw smoke rising from a building in the distance and followed the descending trail into a mostly-deserted parking lot.  Thinking it strange that we didn’t see lots of cars, and forgetting it was only May 24, we kept on walking toward what looked like the bustling lodge we remembered.  The big red building was closed.  We cheerfully hypothesized that everything opened up at lunchtime and went searching for someone—anyone—who might help us find somewhere to buy breakfast (nearly lunch by this point).  Not wanting to admit to ourselves that we had entered a ghost town, we were thrilled when we found a gangly teenager doing some grounds keeping.   Trying to be upbeat, I approached him and asked him where the nearest restaurant was.  He took off his ear protection, looked at our grimy clothes, and said, “What?” Repeating my question cheerfully, (I was putting all of my slowly disintegrating hope on his answer), I asked, “Is there somewhere we can eat around here?” and he drawled, “ Most everything is closed, ma’am, but I think Moguls is open for lunch.” I replied, “Halleluiah!” and we continued the half-mile more down the road.  My mouth was watering like the Pavlovian dog. 

When we got to Moguls, which we barely found as it was in the basement of a condominium unit, we walked in and saw that it was also abandoned with a sign stating they would be open at 4 pm.  Since we hadn’t yet eaten any breakfast, 4 was too long for us to wait and we trudged back up the half-mile hill (now having adding an entire mile to our trip).  By this time, we were hungry and I was fighting tears; I had looked so forward to this “fun stop”.  Tess knew that I was super discouraged and said we should check and see if the gift shop in the chalet was open.  It was!  We trudged in and talked to the owner who said nothing much was open in MAY, but we were welcome to use the picnic tables outside the shop…not exactly what we were expecting, but somewhere to rest for awhile, regardless.  As we were leaving the shop, Tess tried to cheer me up by saying, “Mom, you could get a special treat for yourself to eat with breakfast.” I chose a blood-orange Vitamin Water to share with her.  Jet chose a stuffed animal from the low shelf, which we nonchalantly pulled out of his slobbery mouth and replaced on the shelf with the others.  When we got outside, we decided to be thankful for the sunshine and for the outlet on the outside of the building; charging your phone in the wild is difficult.  Looking around for witnesses (really?!), I unceremoniously disconnected the pop machine from the outlet and plugged both of our phones in. 

Wolf Man

As Jet rested in the sun, we accepted the fact that our dream breakfast was a fantasy and we dug out the Nutella, peanut butter, tortillas, granola, fritos, and licorice for our (now) lunch.  As we were spreading the PB/ Nutella onto the tortillas (gag!), and laughing at our pitiful morning, a short, wiry man in a flannel shirt with the sleeves cut off and Carhart work pants drove up on a four-wheeler and yelled, “Is that what y’all are eatin’ for lunch?” Embarrassed, we told him we had planned on a fancier meal but everything was closed, as he could see.  He seemed kind of sketchy, but he was little and I figured I could probably take him in a fistfight.  Plus we had an aggressively affectionate dog that could occasionally intimidate.  We continued to converse about how we needed to eat lots of calories since we were hiking and all.  “You ladies are hiking alone?” he asked.  At this point, as I was eyeing the knife on Tess’ pack and trying to remember the name of the gift shop proprietor, I said, “My husband and son will be joining us soon” which was partially true if by soon, you meant one week.  He continued, “Well you ladies be careful out there and don’t let the wolves eat your pup” and then, “Haven’t y’all heard ‘em howling at night?  My neighbor let his shih tzu out to take a dump and the wolves, they came up and ate that dog whole…nothing left but bones. And when my friend called him in the house again, of course the dog ain’t coming cause he got et up!”  After this grueling tale, he laughed hilariously and showed his tobacco-stained teeth and warned us to be careful again.  Then he hopped on his four-wheeler and sped away before we could wipe the image of a wolf-mauled shih tzu from our minds. 

After wolf man left, I moved the pepper spray to an easily accessible hip belt pocket and then unplugged our illegally-connected devices from the outlet and plugged the pop machine back in, checking to make sure we had phone service.  We did.  We hiked out of lonely Lutsen that day making sure—several times—that wolf man and his ATV wasn’t following.  We never saw him again.  And we never did hear—or see—any shih tzu-eating wolves.  Jet was glad about this.

*Apparently Lutsen is only popular with grounds-keepers and wolf men in May.

May 24, 2017  Day 10.  Sun today! First day of absolutely no rain! We hiked 5 LONG miles to Lutsen for breakfast and nothing was open!! So we just ate a late breakfast with our own food. Met a weird guy when we were eating who told us to be careful of wolves and to keep Jet in our sight.  We haven’t heard wolves on this trip.  Tess made some gross pudding tonight that smelled like Vicks vapo-rub and tasted like burnt banana chips.  I refused to eat it.  Thanks for the sunshine today, God! Protect us from the wolves and the wolf man.

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