mississippi river road path, north/south
Another beautiful morning. Not too hot or humid or windy. Ran towards downtown, past the welcoming oaks, the two ancient boulders left behind from the last ice age 10,000 years ago, the path above the floodplain forest. Under lake street bridge, up above the minneapolis rowing club, under the railroad bridge, along the split rail fence for 2 miles until I reached a dirt path that cut down through some trees to another dirt path. Walked for 1/2 a mile back towards the railroad bridge, climbed some steep wooden stairs that reminded me that my right knee was sore, then ran back on the paved path to the 36th street parking lot and home.
Nearing the railroad bridge I heard a honk. A truck on the other side? A big boat on the river? No, a train! I wondered if it was coming or going and if I’d be able to see it when I reached the bridge. With all the trees, it’s hard to see the top of the bridge until you’re almost right under it. When I got there, a train engine! Only the engine so my timing was lucky. Any sooner or later and I would have missed it. I think this is the first time I’ve ever encountered a train on the trestle. Will I ever see one again? Mundane I guess, but really cool to me.
The dirt path below the split rail fence was mud free and mostly bug free. Much steeper than some of the paths further south. In a few stretches, there was a chain link fence, leaning out. Another stretch had a plastic, make-shift fence. One small section, right above a sewer pipe, had a wrought iron fence. As I reached it, I could hear voices up above and water trickling below. Next time I’d like to run this stretch. I had planned to walk the short part that passes under the trestle and then take the steep stone steps up but didn’t. I was nervous that someone might be down there. Maybe next time? I always struggle to find a balance between being too scared and being safe.
In 2002, Alice Oswald published a book-length poem about the River Dart in south west England–in Devon. She took a tape recorder and interviewed people she encountered on the river. Here’s an excerpt of an excerpt:
The Dart, lying low in darkness calls out Who is it?
trying to summon itself by speaking…
the walker replies
An old man, fifty years a mountaineer, until my heart gave out, so now I’ve taken to the moors.
I’ve done all the walks, the Two Moors Way, the Tors, this long winding line the Dart
this secret buried in reeds at the beginning of sound I
won’t let go of man, under
his soakaway ears and his eye ledges working
into the drift of his thinking, wanting his heart
I keep you folded in my mack pocket and I’ve marked in red where the peat passes are and the
good sheep tracks
cow-bones, tin-stones, turf-cuts
listen to the horrible keep-time of a man walking,
rustling and jingling his keys
at the centre of his own noise,
clomping the silence in pieces and I,
in the pit of his throat, I
summon him just out of earshot
I don’t know, all I know is walking. Get dropped off the military track from Oakehampton and
head down into Cranmere pool. It’s dawn, it’s a huge sphagnum kind of wilderness, and an hour
in the morning is worth three in the evening. You can hear plovers whistling, your feet sink right
in, it’s like walking on the bottom of a lake.
What I love is one foot in front of another. South south west and down the contours. I go slipping
between Black Ridge and White Horse Hill into a bowl of the moor where echoes can’t get out.
and I find you in the reeds, a trickle coming out of a bank, a foal of a river
one step-width water
of linked stones
trills in the stones
glides in the trills
eels in the glides
in each eel a fingerwidth of sea
in walking boots, with twenty pounds on my back: spare socks, compass, map, water purifier so I
can drink from streams, seeing the cold floating spread out above the morning,
tent, torch, chocolate not much else.
Which’ll make it longish, almost unbearable between my evening meal and sleeping, when I’ve
got as far as stopping, sitting in the tent door with no book, no saucepan, not so much as a stick
to support the loneliness
he sits clasping his knees, holding his face low down between them,
he watches black slugs,
he makes a little den of his smells and small thoughts
he thinks up a figure far away on the tors
waving, so if something does happen,
if night comes down and he has to leave the path
then we’ve seen each other, somebody knows where we are.