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Boreal Community Media

Along Highway 61: an essay by local author John Bragstad

Sep 10, 2023 08:17AM ● By Content Editor
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By local author and writer John Bragstad for Boreal Community Media - September 10, 2023

I asked my wife the other day to let me off along Highway 61 for a
walk home. I miscalculated. Four thousand steps later, I got to where
I should have been to start with: another bank of mailboxes.

But, as miles stretched out, it got me thinking about what wandering,
rambling, roving do for a person.

I notice things more than when I’m driving. Bikers passed me and
quickly disappeared around curves it would take me at least 10
minutes to reach.

I wonder, did they see the bright blue of Superior the way I did, the
emerald green washing the shore? Did they hear the quiet broken
only by waves striking the beach?

Things move so fast. Here, life walked at a much slower pace.

With no cell phone to distract me, I thought deeper. How rare the
opportunities to empty our minds, drift, imagine, and write songs we
will never publish.

Walking alone gave me that. Problems had a way of clearing
themselves out. For once, it was just me - not me and the radio, me
and music, me and some podcast. Things felt more immediate and

And deeper still. I discovered a new amazement for the stamina of 
Indigenous people, pioneers, and settlers who would set off on far
longer journeys than I with hardly any measure of self

Recently, I was privileged to attend a lecture in Hovland about early
residents on or near Chicago Bay.

Phil Anderson, our historian for the evening, told of one preacher
who would walk from Grand Marais to Hovland to visit his
parishioners - some 20 miles down a path, a wagon road, a dog sled

And this was happening all along the Gunflint and down the
Beargrease, throughout Minnesota, travelers often carrying stoves,
parts for a lumber mill, supplies, or children.

He said families would leave dances to walk back to their
homesteads through dark forests by lantern or moonlight. I
imagined the dark of winter, the remoteness, the dangers, the cold.
All this for laughter, and a barn-dance, and community.

It made my efforts feel small. Yet, with my steps, I did feel more
connected than ever to these remarkable people. It put my little
walk in perspective, and strangely, their achievements whispered to
me to continue on with more grit, less fatigue, more acceptance.

And I knew if I could still chat with any one of them, they would quite
casually remark, “We didn’t think much of it. That’s what people did
back then.”

About the author

John A. Bragstad has been a therapist, working with couples and individuals, for 25 years. He is self-published and is enjoying retirement. Lake Superior is just off his front porch.

He has written three books: Compass Season, Loon Laughter at Midnight, and Who's Watching Whoo? They are available in Grand Marais at Drury Lane and Lake Superior Trading Post, or at

Related: Meet your Boreal Community Media Freelance Journalist: John Bragstad
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