One thing I have struggled with since Kathryn died has been how to honor her and keep her memory alive while at the same time charting a new course for the family. I have felt guilty at times even thinking about doing things differently than how Kathryn did them. It could be something as simple as how we clean up after dinner. Kathryn had a system and it worked well but if I think about changing that at all, I feel like I am disregarding seventeen years of marriage. I know it’s extreme but I doubt I’m alone among widowers in feeling that way. So, my debate is how to lead this family forward in a way that honors Kathryn and yet embraces a (slightly) new course for the family. I’ve taken some steps towards that goal but it’s going to take somewhere in the range of 2 million more!
From time to time, Kathryn and I would dream about hitting the road with the kids. We were and are a homeschool family so we had at least one less root keeping us in a geographical area. It was a “wouldn’t it be cool if…” kind of dream. Those are the kind that usually stay daydreams, but every once in a while they can turn in to something real. Now to be clear, I’m not trading the house for a tenement on wheels like Cousin Eddie did, however, in December I bought a 25 foot camper with four bunks in the back for the kids and a bed in front for me, and I also bought a Chevy Suburban to pull it. Mid-life crisis? Check that off my bucket list. We’ve got an adventure ahead of us!
Since I started primarily running on trails over the past several years, trips to state parks became even more exciting. William O’Brien (Willie Mo Brian, as the kids call it) or Itasca State Park have alluring trails that called to me and these parks hold special memories with Kathryn and the kids. I think that’s where the idea was born to run all the trails in all the state parks in Minnesota. This is the project the kids and I have taken on for 2021! Starting in April, we will spend most weekends and some weekdays in our state’s 67 state parks and a couple of the State Recreation Areas that are runable. I hope to be finished with all the parks by the first week of November. There are roughly 1,070 miles of trails and I estimate it will take somewhere near 1,300 miles to run all of the 1,070. (The trails in most parks criss-cross each other and so to set foot on all 1,070 miles of trails, I will need to cover the same ground more than once.) The first park we will camp at will be St. Croix State Park near Hinckley. It’s the largest of the state parks and hosts 127 miles of trails. It’s a doozie.
The output of this adventure will be multiple things, both tangible and intangible. I plan to write a Runner’s Guide to Minnesota State Parks but I also plan to write about Kathryn, our life together, her cancer journey, and what we hoped our family would be. There is so much of her story yet to be told, things she longed to share but couldn’t find the right time or the right way, sacrifices she made, people she impacted, and people that impacted her. I hope the intangible things will be incredible memories for the kids and a new family identity that honors every ounce of love Kathryn poured in to all of us.
If anyone wants to join us this year, let me know. We would love to have families to camp with, and although I love to run alone, I love running with others even more. Let’s go!