Don’t look down!

a travel story

During the summer of 2008, I participated in a 500-mile walk from Chicago, Illinois, to St. Paul, Minnesota, called the “Witness Against War” walk. The walk took seven weeks, and it took me way out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, I am happy that I had the experience. While on the walk, I kept detailed journals of the experience. Here is part of the entry from August 16th, when I climbed a bluff with Paul and Mary. I haven’t asked permission to use their full names, but Paul and Mary are common enough names so that no one is identified without having given approval. The family that we met on top of the bluff only identified themselves by their first names so I feel okay with using them.

The above picture is me near the Mississippi River. I think that it might have been taken on top of the bluff.

Mary, Paul, and I walked to the bluff to climb it. We had been told that there was a great view to be seen at the top of this mountain. Oh boy! A great view! I was ready for a good photo op.

Paul, Mary, and I walked from the campsite to the start of the trail. A group of people emerged, all looking tired. They said that it was difficult and that there were many stairs. They added that we were younger than they were, so we would be okay.

Hmmm, I wasn’t so sure about that.

We started climbing… up and up and up and up. It was one heck of an aerobic workout. I was huffing and puffing and sweating. I’m going to lose the weight by sweating it off, I thought. We reached a slippery section. I was afraid to continue and afraid to go back.

Remember the Little Engine that Could, Alice.

I think I can… I think I can… and I did. We continued going up until we got to a flight of stairs. There were so many stairs that I thought they were going to take me to the clouds. I climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed. I took a few pictures along the way. (Whatever did I do before I had a digital camera?)

We reached a section of steep steps without a bannister. I was scared. Don’t look down, Alice. And I looked down. It’s a long drop. I thought, “I’m scared.” I whined to myself, unable to move.

I think I can. I think I can. I got up and climbed right to the top.

I did it! All by myself. I saw the river, with the green islands in the center. What a view! I took a photograph and just stared at the Mississippi River. A huge bird flew overhead.

Earlier in the day, we saw an eagle.

The huge birds flew so gracefully, their wings outstretched as they sailed through the air. They hardly needed to flap their wings at all.

Mary, Paul, and I sat in a small shelter. I was still sweaty, but I was no longer huffing and puffing.

We met a family on vacation from Minneapolis: Jill and Ben, their daughter Olivia, and their black labrador retriever (Bob). We chatted for a while about spiders, butterflies and taking a walk from Chicago to Saint Paul. Jill and Ben and Olivia and Bob are staying in a pop-up trailer. They were very nice and supportive of our walk. Little Olivia was quite delightful. She did not like spiders, and she wanted to know if she could share her breakfast sausage with the butterflies.

“Butterflies don’t eat sausage, honey,” Jill said.

We walked down by a much less steep path. I felt very happy about the mountain climbing. And I will never forget a little kid who wanted to share her breakfast sausage with the butterflies.

4 thoughts on “Don’t look down!”

  1. That walk sounds amazing. I bet you met some very interesting people and have lots more stories like that one. And good for you to channel the little engine that could and get to the top. I’ll bet the view was worth it. Nice post!

    1. Thank you so much, Elisa. Yes, I did meet so many interesting people, and I have three journal books full of stories!
      I am happy that I channeled the little engine that could because there were places where I thought that I couldn’t until I realized that going back down really wasn’t an option!

  2. Brenda Marie Fluharty

    Wow, that walk must have been a big adventure. Seeing new places and meeting new people. Sounds like an amazing journey.

    1. It was an incredible adventure, Brenda. Every day (except for rest days), I got to see a different town and meet different people. They were very kind and hospitable. We had wonderful host families who opened their homes to us, and groups got together to make us pot luck meals. It was a very special time.

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