I watched from the window as the wind spun the flakes falling from the sky into cotton candy. Or at least the child within me hoped the wind was weaving cotton candy. The sky was grey, but the snowflakes took on various hues of blue. Behind my eyelids, younger versions of myself salivated as I pictured an adult version of myself taking an order of cotton candy to go.
I was comfortable and warm on the couch as I laced up my shoes. Part of me didn't want to leave the house, but the training plan I wrote dictated that I would run seven miles, my longest run since beginning training for a 100-mile race a few weeks prior. Running has proven to be a more demanding practice than I expected. I have built a substantial fitness foundation while racing my single-speed bike across the Rocky Mountains. I knew it would be challenging to run, but I just didn't know how hard it was actually going to be.
This particular run would be along the Superior Hiking Trail in Duluth, Minnesota. Duluth is located about 20 miles west of the Fond du Lac Reservation; we used to call the southern shore of Lake Superior home before the signing of the Treaty of La Pointe, relocating the Anishinaabe of Lake Superior to rural areas across northern Minnesota. My narrative of finding my way home is long, with a deep, storied family history. Our tale parallels the numerous eras of assimilationist policy enforced by the United States Government upon Native people. Every time I come home after being away, I am reminded more and more of how significant this place is.
Crafting a training plan for the long run in September 2024 was the only way to ensure that I would be foot-fit for a 300-mile hike across Northern Minnesota, in the winter. After a wild year of racing my mountain bike, I'd planned this thru-hike as a "recovery" mission. I'd spent almost 40 days pushing myself to the limits of what I thought was possible on my bike, pedaling more than 4,000 miles in four race efforts (Independent Time Trial of Arizona Trail 300, The Tour Divide, The Colorado Trail, and the Arizona Trail 800). After racing my singlespeed love, my partner, Johnny, across the Rocky Mountains in the Colorado Trail Race and across Arizona in the Arizona Trail Race, I wanted time alone with him to gush about accomplishing the most significant goal I'd ever set. Johnny and I would be outside together for roughly a month without distraction. We could traverse the same country we bike across every winter but on foot. Slowing down was the goal. Opening ourselves to a new perspective, one of a hiker, limited by miles on the feet instead of miles in the seat.
As the bike racing season wound to a close, I began setting my sights on our upcoming hike along all 300 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail. I bought the trail atlas, purchased the hiker's guide, and panned through all of the book's pages. Any mention of an Indigenous history of the trail was absent, with the "history" of the trail beginning in the 1980s. It's a too-familiar feeling, feeling invisible as a Native woman. I scoured the internet for any written history of the Superior Hiking Trail. I know that Anishinaabeg traversed these forests long before the SHT existed.