You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do. -Eleanor Roosevelt
LENGTH 26.6 miles (we did an extra mile to see Carlton Peak)
DIFFICULTY Moderate to Difficult
DATE August 22, 2016
MAIN FEATURES Superior Hiking Trail. through Temperance River and Lutsen
Curesearch for Children’s Cancer is a national non-profit foundation that accelerates the search for cures for children’s cancer by driving innovation, transcending research barriers and solving the field’s most challenging problems. We fight every day to make treatments and cures possible for the 43 children diagnosed with cancer each day.
My journey towards 26.5 miles started in June, when I heard about this crazy 25 mile in one day hike on a Superior Hiking Trail Facebook page. I remember filing that thought away, thinking…‘Wow, that’s basically hiking a marathon! Who does that?!’, then dismissing it.
A couple of days later, I learned that another young friend was in the last days of his battle with cancer. I knew he had been fighting for some time but I struggled, as many do, with feelings of helplessness, anger and the fact that it just wasn’t fair. After some soul searching, I decided that fully participating in the Curesearch Ultimate Hike- Superior Hiking Trail hike would be a way that I could take an action that would make a difference. My friend died within the hour I registered, and I took it as a sign.
This was the first time I had ever done any fundraising for a cause (other than selling Boy Scout Wreaths and Popcorn). And at this point, I had just hiked 10 miles for the very first time and had all kinds of blisters, plantar fasciitis and a frightfully radiant hiker’s rash (don’t google it). So it’s safe to say I was a little freaked out at what I had just committed to. I was, however, training for our Isle Royale Trip and had just done our 3rd hike into the Hiking Merit Badge with the Scouts, so I figured I had about 2 months to get myself mentally and physically ready to hike 25 miles on the toughest trail in the state.
If you have read this far, there’s still some important stuff ahead, so I’m going to try to break it down a little differently than my normal brain-dump blog posts.
- The Superior Hiking Trail
- The Hike!!
- What I learned
- What you can do to help
The Superior Hiking Trail:
If you aren’t familiar with this jewel of the North Shore, here’s an overview of the SHT straight from the totally awesome SHTA website. It’s simply one of the most beautiful and most challenging trails in the state of Minnesota. The trail is over 300 miles long, ends at the Canadian border and winds along the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. A beautiful location to spend a day (or a month) hiking.
One of the most wonderful things about registering for the Ultimate Hike is the support you get from a coach and hearing about other people’s journeys. Shortly after registering, I got a friendly email from Coach Holly, encouraging me, telling me everything I needed to know…and most importantly, SHE HAD A PLAN! There are also info sessions around the region of the hike that are helpful if you want more info.
Our training hikes were local, hilly and perfectly incremental in length. Along with the moral support, having a hiking coach meant having someone teach me how to properly tie my shoelaces to avoid blisters (who knew?!), make sure I was eating and hydrating right and taught me that a rolling pin can work just as good or better than a foam roller. Finally, after about 25 years, that kitchen utensil got used!
Along with building our miles, she took me on my first night hike, so I would be prepared for the dark early start on the trail. We nearly got carried away by bugs, but managed to survive. I was so thankful for that hike on the big day when we ventured out before sunrise. It totally prepared me and eliminated some fear.
Meeting new people and hearing their personal stories on our training hikes was one of the best parts of the experience and helped me on my own journey. We still keep in touch and share fun memories of our time on and off the trail together and are bonded by a common thread.
I like to think of the Ultimate Hike is more of a boutique fundraising campaign, generating a significant direct financial impact on children’s cancer research while creating very little impact to the SHT. When I think of other fundraisers that have thousands of people walking together…well, that would be very bad for the trail. So, to make the most out of all of your work to “tell children’s cancer to take a hike”, there is a commitment to raise a determined amount to make sure that the fundraising portion is impactful without having thousands of people on the trail all at the same time.
That being said, here are a few things I did as a newbie to raise money:
- I Facebook messaged a whole bunch of outdoor gear companies that I like asking them to sponsor me on this journey. This plan did not work at all, although I got some considerate replies back anyhoo.
- I put a jar out at a Motorcycle Rally with a picture from the Curesearch website taped to it, brochures with my fundraising link on it and placed it in a prominent spot. This plan did not work at all.
- I shifted my thinking away from “why would anyone want to give me any money?” to “Why wouldn’t someone want to help fight children’s cancer? I mean…serious, who wouldn’t want to make cancer go away?” This was huge
- I shared my story about how I heard about the Ultimate Hike with common friends of our friend that had just passed away. This was the first thing that worked (and it helped them feel like they were helping too)
- I made a big old written list and spent a couple of weeks personally writing people on Facebook messenger and basically asked for $25. Not all of the letters were the same, but here is an example of one I sent:
Not sure if you saw my Facebook post, but there’s something hiking related (of course) that I could use your help with…
On August 20th, I will be participating in an Ultimate Hike, trekking 25.5 miles across the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). The goal is to complete this section of the SHT in Northern Minnesota in one very long day, rain or shine AND raise $2,500 for CureSearch for Children’s Cancer!
Would you consider donating even a small amount? And maybe sharing my story with anyone you think might want to help? This is my first time doing anything like this and the fundraising goal is the scariest part for me. But if 100 people kick in 25 bucks we’ll make it!
This totally worked!
Rest stops & Gear
Being a participant, you can pack care packages for yourself to pick up at the three rest stations. The rest stations have medical staff if you need it, and a fleet of volunteers that will fill your water bottles and feed you delicious treats such as “The Ultimate Pickle” and basically a smorgasbord of high calorie food to keep you cranking out the miles.
I did pack a shirt, pants, socks, gatorade and a Pearson’s nut roll for each stop. I changed my socks at every stop and my shirt once after it rained…but the rest of the stuff ended up not being necessary. Learn as you go…
I wore a small backpack that held a 3L hydration bladder, small blister kit, pain reliever, a few trail snacks, 10 essentials, bug spray (which I later ditched in a care package), my Delorme and a rain jacket. Tried two new things that were super useful: 1) TrailToes blister prevention salve-I put it on every time I changed my socks and didn’t get any blisters. 2) Honey Stinger pomegranate energy bites pushed me through the last leg when I started running out of gas.
Our hike would mostly cover the Caribou River to Lutsen Section of the trail. Starting at Co Rd 1, Temperance River, Britton Peak, Oberg Mountain and ending at Lutsen. Not exactly flat terrain.
We arrived at Lutsen resort the day before the hike, met all of the other hikers, got settled into our rooms, had a nice big dinner and went to bed early. At least we were supposed to go to bed early…
The morning started before the sun. My group was the first out, which meant we got up around 3am, loaded into the van and headed out to the trailhead. Read Sally, one of my group member’s, story here. Other groups with more experienced hikers started later.
The first hour was dark. We strapped on our headlamps, they gave us little blinking lights to clip on our packs so we could see each other, and we stuck close. The night hike totally prepped me for this section, which was luckily pretty flat (and we saw zero boogey men.)
After morning light, two of us decided we wanted to hike at a little faster pace, so we partnered up and headed up towards stop number one. Meeting new people is the best part of the hike and being able to go at your own pace once you are on the trail was super helpful. She and I became fast friends and learned a lot about each other on the journey. I am still so impressed with her inner strength and she totally toughened me up! Check her out in the REI & Duct Tape then Beer collaboration of Paul’s Boots. Serious amazingness.
Stop #1: After about 7 miles, I didn’t feel like I needed to stop, but did…to change my socks and eat some pickles, because that’s what Coach Holly told me to do, and it’s not a race!
We then entered the Temperence River area. It was hard to keep my pace since I wanted to look around at everything. Bluffs crashing into a wild river, lots of elevation and towering pines hanging off of the cliffs. I loved this section of the trail and vowed go back and explore it further.
Stop #2 After about another 7miles or so, we stopped again. This time I ate a little lunch, my first Ultimate Pickle (then ate more) and changed my socks again.
The last section of the trail, the steep climb up Mystery Mountain and Lutsen was the most challenging. By this time, my ankle had started hurting (I injured it in a freak tambourine accident at church the previous week). Then I started thinking the hills weren’t so fun anymore, and then IT STARTED RAINING. I started feeling so sad, sad for all of the people I have known that are affected by cancer and it started to pull me down. In the middle of my sadness and crying in the pouring rain, I remembered my friend’s little sister, who died young of cancer. I thought of her kindergarten school picture, her sweet life cut short by an aggressive form of cancer. I said her name out loud a few times for the trail to hear… And it kicked my ass. I made myself go, I prayed, I thought of her, and it was exactly what I needed to focus on at that moment.
Shortly after the last big hill, my hiking buddy realized we were approaching the Poplar River. Yay…another river, I thought. And then she told me this meant we were close to the end. Really?! Hearing this caused a case of temporary hiker insanity. We somehow got a signal and made a Facebook live video to show the entire internet our altered mental states, danced and leapt for joy and headed up one last hill to finish strong!
We were greeted with a quiet and emotional final section of the trail, reflecting on the physical strain that is no comparison to what the kids we were hiking for had endured. The end held one last white tent….and instead of pickles, cheetos, bananas, and clif bars…. it had what every finish line should have at it: BETTY’S BLUEBERRY PIE!! I was so happy to be in the finish tent, I dropped my glorious pie. I was seriously going to eat it anyway but Coach Holly’s Dad insisted that I have a fresh piece (30 second rule)
After a hot shower, and a date with the rolling pin and compression socks, the evening was spent sharing war stories and funny things that happened on the trail over a nice dinner on the shore of Lake Superior.
What I learned
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and a pickle dipped in gas station cheese whiz and rolled in crushed Doritos is a deliciously salty foretaste of what heaven must be like. In all seriousness the body, mind and spirit, when working together is an amazing force, and we all have it in us!
What you can do!
HIKE! Curesearch has a handful of Ultimate hike locations across the US. Check them out and ask yourself if this is something you may want to do. I started in June, but many people sign up right after the hike and take a year to train and fundraise. The support staff is amazing and they often schedule info nights at local outdoor retailers and via Facebook Live so you can get all of your questions answered in person. If the 25.5 mile hike isn’t your thing, check into making your own adventure and help fight cancer while doing something you love and setting your own fundraising goal.
DONATE! Support someone you know, or head to the fundraising page to make a donation directly. The Curesearch organization is making a difference in the lives of children with cancer every day.
PRAY! For the families that are impacted by cancer. They need your prayers, good vibes, phone calls, listening ears, hugging arms (hiking legs) and support in any way that you can help.
If you are interested in learning more about an Ultimate Hike near you. Check out the Curesearch page or feel free to shoot me a message.