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.