The Longest Hike

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If there is one thing I have learned in my years thus far on this Earth it is that sometimes you need to disconnect to reconnect with yourself. It is important to take the time to do things that bring you peace, happiness, and help you grow as a person; that is why I like to hike.

Hiking to me is an activity that can calm you down, bring you excitement, provide your body with a workout, and bring you the most breath-taking views.

For these reasons and to destress, in October 2020 I went on a hiking trip with my dad. It was a special time to get away just the two of us and to do something that we had never really done together, hiking.

We decided to go hiking at Grand Portage State Park, which is on the border between North Eastern Minnesota and Canada. We didn’t know exactly what we were getting ourselves into, but we knew that we would come out of this experience with stories to tell and memories of our special trip together. We were not disappointed.

The day we went on this particular hike, the sky was clear as we watched a tangerine sun brighten the sky. As the day went on the clear skies turned to grey. To avoid the rain that was evident from the clouds now present in the midmorning sky, we thought we would just do a quick hike to see a waterfall about a half mile from the park office, but after seeing the first waterfall I decided that I wanted to venture further into the forest. I needed to be in the trees and to go see the waterfall in the midst of the lush pines. Plus, it wasn’t raining that hard; I mean how rainy could it really get? I should’ve laughed at that thought right then.

My dad (reluctantly) agreed to go on an adventure with me into the forest. We decided if we came here to hike, we may as well hike. As we started to make our way into the forest, we realized we were all alone in the trees; this was probably because other people checked the weather forecast and saw what was going to come, and that the “colorful fall trees” were actually mostly bare. You could hear the sounds of nature and nothing else. The rain was trickling off the leaves left behind on trees and bringing the scent of the forest in autumn with it to the ground. I have never smelled anything so heavenly in my life. The way the white pines smelled, almost like a faint cologne, mixed with wet leaves and damp earth is something I will hold on to forever.

Somewhere in the trees on one of the many hills we went down.

The trail through the forest was full of tree roots that were slick with rain, really great ankle breakers, which is why I was happy the majority of the gorgeous leaves lacking chlorophyll had fallen to the ground so I could look at them while also watching where I was walking. At first glance, someone maybe would’ve thought the bare trees weren’t so pretty, but I looked at them as real heroes for allowing me to look down because I definitely would’ve broken an ankle if I had been looking up.

I remember reaching the halfway point after climbing up a steep hill that required grasping on to tree roots to scale. I kind of left my dad to fend for himself on this steep incline because I was distracted by the area of flat land, a clearing really, I had now reached. It looked out at Lake Superior (Lake Superior can be confused with the ocean in my opinion) where there was no land to be seen, other than a few pieces of land jutting out from the shore. All I saw was a great body of water engulfed by an immensely overcast sky caused by the rain. It took my breath away. I knew I was wet, and I didn’t know what could lie ahead, but I knew I needed to continue on the journey to get to the waterfall.

This is what I saw when we reached the clearing.

After convincing my dad that we must continue on our journey through the forest, I realized that walking through miles of trees with no one else around lets you dive deep into your brain and think thoughts you maybe would’ve been too busy to otherwise think. I feel like I learned a lot about myself in the silence of the trees, like how to practice patience when you keep almost tripping and you feel like your whole body is tense from the cold. I also got to connect with my dad, even if most of what he had to say was that his feet were wet. My dad, the forest, and me, that is really all that concerned me, us and nature, nature and us.

We reached a sign that told us two routes that we could take to the waterfall. We (I) decided to go right, which turned out to be the longer route; I am reminded to this day of my decision. This route actually brought us to a part in the trail that was so steep we thought it was a dead end. Using all my might to not slip down this steep hill, I found out the path continued and helped my dad up the hill. It took two walking sticks and my entire body weight to get him up the hill, but we weren’t backing down now.

A picture before it really got wet.

As we neared the waterfall, we could hear the water falling onto the body of water below. At this point, the anticipation had built, and I was so excited for what I was about to see. When we finally reached the waterfall, it was beautifully framed by fall foliage. I could see to Canada, which I thought was cool. I stood in the rain and watched the waterfall as I listened to my teeth chatter and my dad complaining for the thousandth time that his feet were wet. I felt like it was just my dad and me in the middle of our own beautiful, wet world. I felt proud of the journey we had gone on to get to the waterfall and couldn’t help but laugh at the situation we were in. At this point on our journey, the furthest point in the route, the skies decided to open wider and it began to really rain. 

This was the view of the waterfall.

As we made the journey back to the safety of the car, the rain started to come down harder. The closer we got to the car the harder it was raining. When we reached the car it was at a point of a downpour, the type of downpour where the asphalt actually looks white because of the rain bouncing off it. We were now carrying ten pounds of rain in our clothing. I found out waterproof shoes don’t matter if the rain is pouring in. We tried to take off our most wet gear, which, realistically, I would’ve needed to remove everything down to my birthday suit but that wasn’t going to happen, and put it in the back of the car. We got in and sat in silence with the heat blasting trying to regain feeling throughout our numb bodies. Did we really just do that? 

I never would’ve expected to go on a hike like that particular one and I never would’ve imagined I would’ve done it with my dad.

This hike my dad and I went on at Grand Portage State Park was the most memorable journey I have been on for many reasons. I have never gotten so wet, so cold, and been so alone in the middle of a forest before, but I wouldn’t trade any of it. Even though there were times throughout the hike that I wanted to stop, thought we were crazy, felt dumb for thinking this was a good idea to be so ill prepared for a hike, or remembered I didn’t have any snacks with me, I can’t think of a more perfect experience. I never want to forget the way it felt to be in the forest on that magnificent, rainy fall day with my dad.

I know this is just one of the hikes I will go on over the course of my life, but it will always be one of my favorites.

Sometimes things may seem imperfect from an outside perspective, but they are in fact perfect. This hike was one of those things for me, and I will have the memories of that brisk, rainy, fall day with my dad forever, which I am so grateful for.

I look forward to being able to explore as many National Parks and as much land as possible throughout my life. I will never get tired of nature. Nature is medicine for the soul.

Published by Hannah Opp

My name is Hannah and I am a certified integrative nutrition health coach. I love nature, animals, and going on adventures.

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