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Back on the Superior Hiking Trail!

Posted: September 16, 2016

Last weekend my husband and I were on the Superior Hiking Trail. It stretches over 300 miles from Northern Minnesota to the Canadian Border and overlooks Lake Superior. We spent part of the weekend running an Aid Station with volunteers at Tettegouche State Park for the Superior Endurance Fall Trail Run. Our Aid Station was at the 35 mile mark. Runners competed in 100, 50 and Marathon distances. The race starts at Gooseberry Falls and finishes at Caribou Lodge in Lutsen.

 Most runners have crews that track their nutrition, hydration and provide moral and material support. Crews haul everything from clean socks, spare shoes, and dry shirts to medical kits. They spend hours on the trail supporting their runner. When the 100 milers hit the 50 mile distance, they can have a pacer. 100 milers run continuously throughout the night. The role of the pacer is to keep the runner company and to make sure they make the cutoffs at the aid stations. My husband paced a friend during the night.

 Endurance trail running is a test of will, endurance and courage. Pushing the outer limits and boundaries of what is possible. Some make it, others drop. Sometimes it’s fatigue, dehydration or devastating cramps that end a race. You may be asking yourself, “Why do people endure the pain, physical and emotional hardship?”  Most like the challenge, but I think there is another reason.

Trail runners may not identify what I believe is the real secret of trail running… It’s time spent in the great Cathedral that God has built. When you enter, the forest floor is covered in a stunning collection of mosses, interlaced with ferns, leaves, and fallen logs. If you are there during mushroom season, you will be delighted to find bright orange, red and yellow mushrooms tucked along the trail. Waterfalls, cliffs, boulders and streams are reminders of ancient glaciers that dominated the trail thousands of years ago. If you are adventurous and do some climbing on the Sawtooth Mountains, you will be rewarded with epic views of Lake Superior.

The Superior Hiking Trail is rugged, remote and covers some of most stunning hiking trails in the country. Lutsen is like being on the moon… The life you know disappears in the wilderness. You completely lose track of time and space. The sky is endless and black. On a clear night it’s filled with stars.

The Superior Hiking Trail is a single track so you fall into your own rhythm and thoughts. As you go deeper into the forest, you notice everything, especially the sound of the wind. Aspen, Birch and Maple trees rustle in the wind. Soon the forest will put on an extravagant show of red, crimson and gold. The trail will look like it has caught fire…

There are boardwalks and blue markings on the trees to keep you from losing your way on the trail. These are reminders that someone else is helping you with your journey. We each follow our own trail, but we don’t go alone. We rely on each other and need each other.

Sometimes we catch glimpses of glory when people do what seems impossible like running 100 miles, but after working with a team at an aid station in the middle of the woods, I have seen the shared commitment that happens behind the scenes. Only one person runs across the finish line, but I know the runners haven’t done it alone!

Maura Schnorbach