Duluth is one of those places that calls out to your soul and won’t stop calling until you answer. The hills, the lake, the beach, the shore, the trees, the trails… they all call, “Come. Come, discover us, and find yourself.”
In the words of my father, “Every time you’re headed up I-35 and you reach the crest of Thompson Hill and see that glorious view laid out before you, you always feel like something BIG is going to happen!”
Pretty much sums it up.
Ever since that first family trip when I was a child, Duluth has called me. I answered the call 20 years ago and moved here despite not having a job, a whole lot of money, a vehicle of my own or really even knowing anyone. Fresh off a disappointing three-year venture to Colorado, I wasn’t sure who I was or what I wanted to do with my life. But I knew where I wanted to be. Duluth’s hills, lake, beach, shore, trees and trails were practically shouting “Come.” And I knew in my soul if I answered the call, everything I was seeking in life would eventually come to pass. Duluth is just that kind of place.
Though I didn’t know anyone here, I was not alone. Bjorn, my big, beautiful yellow lab, was my constant companion as we took in the area’s natural beauty through exploring its parks, trails and shoreline. I am pretty sure we went to the beach at Park Point a few times a week the first year we were here. Bjorn got to the point of knowing exactly where we were and began to bark with excitement as soon as we crossed the Lift Bridge. I invested in some ear plugs. Windy, wavy days were the best. He loved to jump the waves as he retrieved the largest log I could throw into the churning water. I loved to walk all the way down to our “secret cove” and hunt for agates and beach glass along the way. Each visit to Park Point was a different adventure with the wind and waves carving out new landscapes daily.
Hiking was our other favorite past time. Together we explored the trails of Duluth and the State Parks up the shore. Bjorn was a noble escort on several backpacking trips on the Superior Hiking Trail, including my first solo trip to Egge Lake near Finland. I will never forget his exuberance of chasing smells and bugs, bounding through the woods without a second thought to the pack on his back. My first breathtaking views from Corundum Point at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and from Carlton Peak on the Superior Hiking trail were shared with my magnificent, strong, joyful, loving yellow lab.
Eventually, I began to acquire human companions. I met a man who is also passionate about the outdoors and with whom Bjorn happily shared his leash. On our wedding day, Dad sat my husband down and told him he needed to be there for me when Bjorn passed away. He was. We now live in the country with chickens and bees and have a little girl whom I was able to care for, guide and nurture until she started Kindergarten this fall. I have even started a business to pursue my passion of helping others achieve their dreams.
Of course, life has changed a bit, as it has a habit of doing. Living 30 miles out of the city, it is no longer practical to visit Park Point multiple times a week. A child carrier took the place of the pack, the vintage travel trailer is a fine shelter (for now), and the hikes are less frequent and quite a bit shorter, but just as adventurous. It will be a few years until our daughter’s first backpack trip (I hope my hips can still take it). Through all the changes, one thing has remained the same – I just don’t feel like I’m truly living unless part of my day has been spent being active outdoors.
As I review my journey over these past 20 years, I am thankful that everything I dreamed of having in my life has truly come to pass. Times 20. Cradled between the hills and the shore, and witnessed by the trees and the trails, these adventures helped me discover who I am – independent, smart, strong, confident, curious, adventurous, driven. Lover of all things outdoors. A hiker, a backpacker, a SOLO backpacker! A runner, swimmer, biker…triathlete! An administrator, supervisor, advisor, counselor, coach. A wife, mother, and caregiver. A photographer, singer, songwriter, artist and now (really?!) a writer. All from taking one deep breath and answering Duluth’s distant, and insistent, call.
It is my firm belief that Duluth is the kind of place where whatever your dream is, it CAN come true! It certainly has for me. And I am so grateful to the hills, the lake, the beach, the shore, the trees and the trails that called, “Come. Come, discover us, and find yourself.”
For all you’ve done… thank you, Duluth.