Footsore for peace

Today’s challenge from the Ultimate Blogging Challenge was to tell a story. It could either be a true story or it could be fiction. I chose to tell a true story. During the summer of 2008, I participated in a walk that was organized by a group called “Voices for Creative Nonviolence.”

Here is a link to the Voices for Creative Nonviolence website: Voices for Creative Nonviolence

People from Voices for Creative Nonviolence visit war zones and focus on forming relationships with ordinary civilians living in dangerous areas. In 2008, their focus was on Iraq. Voices for Creative Nonviolence organized a walk, called the Witness Against War walk, that started in Chicago on July 12th and ended in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on September 1st. The total distance was approximately 500 miles.

We walked anywhere from six to nineteen miles per day. Occasionally, we had rest days, when we could relax, sightsee, climb steep hills, draw, paint, or practice musical instruments. The story that I am telling today is about a (partial) rest day on August 16th at Perrot State Park, in western Wisconsin.

Perrot State Park is located in Wisconsin’s Driftless area, at the confluence of the Trempealeau and Mississippi rivers.

I maintained detailed journals of my experience that summer. This story is based on entries into my journals. I have begun working on turning these journals into a book.

On August 15th, we walked down a bike path, headed to Trempealeau. It was a beautiful path, with many varieties of trees and other plants. We were near the river. We saw a snake slithering off the path. A bald eagle was perched on top of a leafless tree. The sight of that large bird was quite stunning. I figured that the eagle must have been enormous for us to see him so clearly from such a distance.

After we finished our walk and were eating lunch near the support bus (which carried all of our luggage and picked up tired walkers), some bike riders came off of the path.

“Did you see the bald eagle?” one of them asked.

“Yes,” we all said in unison.

We discussed whether or not we should walk another four miles that day or if we postpone it to the next day. We decided to walk the next day, instead of having a rest day.

Later in the day, we went to Perrot State Park, where we were going to camp for two nights. We set up tents and decided who would go into which tent. One of the tents was titled “the snoring tent.” Jeff told me, “You’re discriminating against me because I snore.” (Jeff is a very noisy sleeper.)

Shortly afterward, we were transported by car into Trempealeau. Jeff was telling me that I was mean. He made faces at me, and I made faces at him. He made the hand signals for “whatever, major loser.” I simply imitated him, laughing gleefully.

We went to the Trempealeau Hotel for dinner. It was near the Mississippi River. The view was spectacular so I took pictures. Trempealeau was founded in 1851. It is located right on the bluffs and is described as “Western Wisconsin’s Recreational Headquarters.”

The hotel was founded in 1871 and is listed on the National Historic Register. Its culinary claim to fame is the “walnut burger.” We went inside and ordered our meals. I had vegetable stew, which was really a thick vegetable soup. It came with a roll and was very tasty. We were joined by Jerome. He had ridden his bicycle from LaCrosse to Trempealeau. He talked about politics and politicians. He said that he wanted to run for Congress or for Mayor. I encouraged him to run for Mayor. He shared his walnut balls with me. Mostly, I didn’t hear him or anyone else. I just know that he was talking about politics, but the details were too fuzzy and the background noise drowned him out. Since I could barely hear him, I simply agreed with everything he said. After dinner, we returned to the campsite.

On the morning of August 16th, we were driven back to the place just outside of Trempealeau where we had stopped walking on the previous day. We headed toward downtown Trempealeau. It was very scenic, and the view of the Mississippi River was spectacular. Before long, we arrived at the Trempealeau Hotel. Some of the walkers left at that point and went back to the starting point to get to their cars.

We walked along the river and headed back to Perrot State Park. Before long, we were back at the campsite. We had lunch and relaxed for a while. Then a few more walkers said goodbye. Some of them had planned on walking for only a small portion of the walk. They were finished and they were returning home. Other walkers were taking a break from the walk.

Those of us who were staying tried to decide how we would spend the afternoon. Joshua wanted to practice on the drums. Mary, Paul, and I decided to climb Brady’s Bluff. The trail is 3.91 miles. I thought that sounded like an easy distance. The three of us 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 bluff. I thought that it was a mountain. Oh boy, I thought. A great view! I was ready for a good photo op.

When we arrived at the start of the trail, we saw a group of people emerging, all looking tired. They said that the hike was difficult and that there were many stairs. They added that we were younger than they were so we should be okay.

I wasn’t so sure about that.

We started climbing… up and up and up. It felt like a strenuous aerobic working. I was huffing and puffing and sweating. I thought that I would lose weight just by sweating it off. 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…

I think I can…

And I did.

We continued climbing until we got to a flight of stairs. There were so many stairs that I thought that they were going to take me to the clouds and, maybe, beyond. I took a few pictures along the way.

We reached a section of steep steps without a banister. I was scared. Don’t look down, Alice. That will just make you more scared.

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 think I can.

I got up and climbed right to the top. Or, maybe, I scrambled.

I did it! All by myself! Despite my fears, I reached the top. 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 another bald eagle. The huge birds flew so gracefully, with 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 hugging 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 about taking a walk from Chicago to Saint Paul, Minnesota. Little Olivia told us that she did not like spiders. They were not her friends. She asked her mom, “Can I share my breakfast sausage with the butterflies?”

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

We walked down by a much less steep path. I felt happy about the mountain climbing. I was starting to wish that the walk would not end in Saint Paul, Minnesota, but that we could continue until we could put our feet into the Pacific Ocean.

My question for you: Have you ever done something that you did not believe yourself capable of doing? How did that make you feel?

5 thoughts on “Footsore for peace”

  1. What a great cause. I would of had to keep a journal too. I would like to join my church in a mission trip but have yet done that, but I would to be joined with others in a group with a goal.

  2. Hi Alice,
    I think the cause is great, too. But i didn't get how they form relationship with those in dangerous places if they are setting a walk in the US, unless that is part of building awareness. Go for the book! I was so happy to see your name again and read your blog after about a year!
    Yes, I climbed Mt. Fuji through my night blindness. I was amazed I could do that! I was a 16-hour climb! (I was pretty slow trying to see at night).

  3. looking forward to that book, Alice. Based on the stories I read here from your journals, that book is going to be an interesting read with lots of information as well..
    Hadn't heard of this organization before but will check it out.

  4. Butterflies don't eat anything solid, technically…but once the liquids cool down, and as meat decomposes, Tiger Swallowtails and Red-Spotted Purples *love* meat juices! (They like fruit and vegetable juices too, but they really are Nature's prettiest scavengers.)

    I liked this story and would like to link to it.

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