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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Worry less, live more

Jan 02, 2024 03:41PM ● By Amy Laundrie

A recent article on winter research on Isle Royale brought back a flood of memories. Years ago, I embarked on a hiking adventure on the Lake Superior island with a group organized by Eagle River’s Trees for Tomorrow. We began our journey at Copper Harbor, Michigan, where we boarded the ferry, referred to as “the barf barge.”

I’d heard stories about people experiencing motion sickness during the three-hour ride across the rolling waters of the lake, and it concerned me. While a handful of passengers did turn slightly green and hurried to the side of the boat, the majority of us sailed through the experience without any issues.

I worried about my ability to carry 30 pounds on my back for days of hiking. Fortunately, the day before our trek, I’d loaded my borrowed pack and followed the steps to put it on properly. Seeing me, an instructor adjusted various straps, and finally said, “This will never work. You wouldn’t last five minutes.” Ultimately, she lent me one of her old backpacks, which got me through our journey. 

After hearing horror stories from two friends and considering we were hiking in August, I also worried about being invaded by black flies. As it turned out, I found myself swatting at pesky mosquitoes and had several itchy welts, but we managed to avoid the invasion of the vicious, biting flies.

I worried that I’d accidentally drink unfiltered water, get giardia and become violently ill. One day, while working with a partner to filter water, I absentmindedly dipped my water bottle into the lake. Fortunately, my partner caught the mistake, and I had the chance to sterilize the bottle.

I worried about not being able to sleep on the hard ground, but the sheer exhaustion after a day of hiking meant that I fell right to sleep. The one night I had trouble sleeping, I left the woods and walked to the shoreline where the stars illuminated the sky so brilliantly and abundantly that it seemed possible to reach out and grab a handful. 

I’d never seen a night sky like that and doubt I ever will again. 

I worried about running out of food, or that one of the island’s pesky foxes would grab our food bag. One fox tried, but an alert hiker tussled it away from him. 

While my worst worries never materialized, there were plenty of mishaps. One hiker sprained his ankle so badly a ranger had to transport him back to the ferry so he could seek medical help.

We hikers also worried about encountering dangerous wildlife, and one frightening early morning episode did materialize. I’d gotten up before the rest of the group and went to brush my teeth at the forest’s edge. Mid-brush, I spotted a large brown figure amidst the dense foliage and a sizable muzzle came into view, followed by a complete set of antlers and piercing brown eyes locking onto mine. I feared the bull moose might initiate a charge. I worried that my mangled body would be found by my campmates, and that I wouldn’t live to tell about this amazing moment. But the moose simply turned his head and wove back through the heavy brush. I watched, fascinated, until he disappeared from sight.

In the grand scheme of things, most of our worries never materialize. As we step into the new year, I’m in favor of worrying less and devoting more time to reminiscing about locking eyes with an awe-inspiring bull moose and gazing up at the star-filled night sky of Isle Royale.