Sunday, July 04, 2010

North Country Trail journal -- June 18, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010
I just finished hiking the Brule-St. Croix portage trail and am now sitting in a patch of shade on a mowed section of North Country Trail. The wind is really blowing today, but it is sunny with hazy cotton candy clouds drifting overhead. I am impressed with the boardwalk through Brule Bog. I met my first day hiker. He said he was glad to see a long-distance hiker. He told me he’s hiked the Penokee mountains east of Mellen, more than 100 miles away, and says I’m in for a treat. For the first time, I’ve hiked nothing but trail today.
I saw a big limb fall off a dead tree. There’s a Zen koan.
Doug sent me off with coffee, eggs and toast. Thank you so much for your hospitality and good company.
I am taking a shoes-off pack break at the Highland Town Hall campsite. This last stretch of trail is beautiful, on a piney ridge above the Bois Brule river. White blazes off the trail led to the old town hall. It’s an old log building with a weathered, plexiglass-enclosed signboard. The only poster is one of a huge marijuana leaf with a message urging anyone who stumbles across an illegal patch of herb to report it to the proper authorities. The rest of the signboard is plastered with handwritten notes from JFK the dump man. They all essentially say the same thing. JFK is the world-famous dump man and was born on Groundhog Day, and that he is the best dump man ever.
I tried the faucet in front of the old building, it was dry, but I looked around and across a road there is a newer building that looks more like a fire station. As I headed for that, a man appeared from behind a green gate -- the infamous JFK -- and told me in a lispy drawl where the faucet was. He just as promptly disappeared behind the gate. As I walked past, I noticed a tool shed. Its door and inside wall are papered with notes. A green truck was parked nearby. It had to be JFK’s. All the topper’s windows were festooned with handwritten notes. This guy’s got a Dr. Bronner kind of prolificacy, a simple message phrased in nearly every way imaginable. As I hiked back to my pack, I thought of others who share a similar eccentric singularity of purpose -- the guy who built Coral Castle in Florida (Edward Leedskalnin), or the Watts Towers in LA (Sabato ("Sam" or "Simon") Rodia), or even that janitor who drew and wrote another world in his spare time (Henry Darger) (Check out the documentary film In the Realms of the Unreal).
[JFK the dump man is world-famous, but not for being the best dump man. I discovered he supposedly has created the world's largest ball of twine and has it on display under a shed in his yard. Here's a few interesting links about the man. He is indeed world famous.

I’ve hiked 9.2 miles so far and want to go another 7 before I call it a day. I don’t have a watch, but judging by the sun, I have plenty of daylight to make trail miles. I’m going to lay down now and doze to the sound of creaking limbs and the rush of wind through the boughs.

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