Scratch the itch and goStepping out the back door on an April morning, I’m aware that I do not want to go back inside. The temperature is 31.8 degrees according to my window thermometer, but somehow the air is soft and moist. The shrubs are wearing new green. A wedge of mallards cleaves the western sky, banking hard, bound for somewhere.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
Stepping out the back door on an April morning, I’m aware that I do not want to go back inside. The temperature is 31.8 degrees according to my window thermometer, but somehow the air is soft and moist. The shrubs are wearing new green. A wedge of mallards cleaves the western sky, banking hard, bound for somewhere.
I want to go with them.
Somewhere. Anywhere. Want to be waking up, building a little fire, hitting the trail — walking, paddling, riding — somehow moving along under my own power, headed down the path, around the bend.
I am not alone.
In early May, two young men from Duluth will hop on their bikes in front of the Fitger’s Brewery Complex for a 5,300-mile pedal around all of the Great Lakes. Kris McNeal and Zach Chase, recent graduates of the University of Minnesota Duluth, have been planning their trip for a couple of years.
Good for them.
In early May, Dave and Amy Freeman will be leaving to paddle sea kayaks from Grand Portage to the tip of Key West, about 4,900 miles. It’s part of a larger, 11,000-mile journey they call the North American Odyssey. Along the way, they’ll connect with kids in classrooms across the world through a website called the Wilderness Classroom.
Good for them.
Kris and Zach and Dave and Amy have figured out a way to step outside on a spring morning and not go back inside for quite some time. They’re answering what John Steinbeck called “the urge to be someplace else.”
In his famous passage in “Travels With Charley,” Steinbeck writes, “When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked.”
Steinbeck subsequently took off with his French poodle, Charley, and drove around the country to see what was out there.
Huck Finn knew all about the urge to be someplace else. He wanted to “light out for the Territory.” He had had enough of his Aunt Sally and didn’t want to get “sivilized.”
Most of us know that urge to light out. We might not feel it on a January morning with a steel wind slicing down from the northwest. But it’s pretty easy to get in touch with our inner Huck on an April morning with the smell of grass in the air and a formation of mallards to show us the way.
Most of us will not bike around the Great Lakes or paddle to Key West. We’ll have to make do with stealing away for the fishing opener or a week at the lake. But, really, who’s to say we couldn’t light out for a while, if we planned it right?
Set some time aside. Get things arranged. Make it work.
Because the urge to be someplace else isn’t likely to go away.
Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or scook@ duluthnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at “twitter.com/ samcookoutdoors.”