Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 7: The shining Big-Sea-Water

Douglas to South Haven. 17.9 miles/81.4 total

By the shores of Gitche Gumee
By the shining Big-Sea-Water
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.

Those of you who are my age probably recognize these as the opening lines of "The Song of Hiawatha." It's a poem written in 1855 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which had once been passed off to school kids as serious literature. By the time of my youth it was mostly being made fun of (by us, at least), and soon went the way of other schlocky 19th century poetry, including interminable epics by Tennyson, whose stuff my mother and her contemporaries could recite by the hour.

Now, I know that Gitche Gumee is supposed to be Lake Superior (and not just because of the equally forgettable work of Gordon Lightfoot), but Lake Michigan is as close as I am going to get to old Gitche Gumee on this trip. I've been walking down the coast since I hit Holland, but today the Blue Star Highway finally cut close enough so that I could see the big lake.

But let me back up. I was supposed to walk last Friday, then take Saturday and Sunday off, but I had to get a new alternator on my car on Friday, so I took the weekend early. Watched Michigan beat Eastern yesterday on TV. Then today I took the motor home and the car, and I'm starting the serious stuff. By the time I got down to Douglas in the motor home, then drove the route, trying to find a place to park the motor home all day, and finally found one and got back up to point A, it was already 1:30 p.m. and I had almost 18 miles to walk.

Walking 18 miles is something I was sort of saving for a little later, when I'd worked up to it. But that's the way it had to be this time, because of the difficulty of finding a parking lot for the motor home. And it goes reasonably well, in a ridiculously tiring sort of way.

My walk takes me down into the bucolic fruit-growing regions, and then into a little village called Ganges. Once a few years back I think I read that the township was actually named after the river in India. At any rate, now it is the home of a spiritual retreat, probably located there because of the name, called the Vivekananda Vedanta, "embodying the all-encompassing outlook of Sri Ramakrisha," according to its web site. Hiawatha might fit in because of his name, come to think of it. There's also the Ganges United Methodist Church and the Ganges Baptist Church, so you see, there are many paths to enlightenment in Ganges. (You're supposed to wag your head back and forth like a bobble-head doll when you say that.) Otherwise, there isn't much to the village.

The next village I come to is Glenn, which calls itself "Pancake-Town," but I see no evidence of pancakes. They do have this wooden sign as you approached, with a stack of two or three pancakes with what I suppose is meant to be a dollop of butter in the process of melting over them, but which looks more like a snail or a slug. Obviously, I missed something.

Somewhere south of Glenn I catch a glimpse of Lake Michigan, passing only a few hundred feet from it.

Partly because of the length of the walk and partly because of the very rural stretch I am on, today's been a great day for road kill. I saw my first deer (two of them), and my first domestic road kill, a cat. Fluffy won't be coming home tonight. But mostly it's a lot of possums and raccoons, some of the latter looking so recently slaughtered that their fur still waves a bit in the breeze, and their striped tails remind me of the authentic Davy Crockett coon-skin cap I had in the 50s. In fact, some of the raccoons look almost fresh enough to eat, and I imagine a ragout of 'coon, with corn and apples pilfered from the farms along the way. Maybe some wild carrots. Talk about living off the land!

Today also has been a banner day for returnable empties. Maybe thirty. I haven't counted them yet. The motorists of this area are truly generous.

At last, just as it's beginning to rain and get dark, I arrive at the motor home. Future walks won't have to end this late in the day, I hope.


Anonymous said...

As a reader, I'm into it. I feel like I'm a young kid reading about the travels of Marco Polo...what strange towns will be encountered next? I'm almost queasy about the prospect of strange, exotic, do you REALLY want to go there, man?


Billie Bob said...

Dear Anonymous (Greg),

You were supposed to sign "anonymous". Your true identity has been revealed. With a little research, millions of Hoosiers will find out your last name. And they will be coming after you, looking for blood, because you make demeaning remarks about Indiana, the “Crossroads of America” (not that I would disagree with you). If you’re lucky, they will take the wrong crossroad and end up in Kentucky.

Peter Teeuwissen said...

The thought of Indiana is a little daunting, like some place Gulliver would have gone. Everybody's a horse's ass, or something. Should happen later this week, with luck. We'll just have to hope not too many Hoosiers have computers, or if they do, they use them to operate their gigantic combines and stay away from the blogs. By the way, I read that "Go west, young man" was cribbed by Horace Greeley from a newspaper in W. Lafayette, Indiana (home of Purdue U.). Have to find out more about that when the time comes.

Billie Bob said...

I don't know if I should admit this, but I was born in W. Lafayette, Indiana. I have Boilermaker paraphernalia to this day, handed down from my parents.