Monday, May 24, 2010

Minnesota couple hikes "Full Circle" around Lake Superior

By Kate Flynn

HOUGHTON -- Kate Crowley and Mike Link, grandparents and naturalists from Willow River, Minn., are taking a five-month hike around Lake Superior, a journey of roughly 1600 miles -- the first shoreline circumnavigation of Superior by foot in recorded history, according to the couple’s Web site.

Mike Link and Kate Crowley are hiking the entire Lake Superior shoreline. (Photo © Full Circle Lake Superior and courtesy Michigan Tech University.)

Crowley and Link, who set out from Duluth on April 29, began their journey by heading eastward on Minnesota Point on a grey, cloudy day. They have since made their way across the shores of Wisconsin and part of Upper Michigan, arriving in Houghton on May 19.

Crowley and Link cite a number of different motivational factors for this trip, including their shared sense of adventure and a desire to stay in shape as they age. Their most important inspiration, however, is their three grandchildren.

"There’s a big emphasis on youth education," Link said in the couple’s May 20th presentation at Michigan Tech.

Link and Crowley will be giving a number of presentations over the course of their journey, and they hope to instill in their listeners a sense of the importance of preserving the lake for future generations. They have also partnered with a number of universities and colleges around the Lake Superior basin, including Michigan Tech, to include a research component in their trip.

Mike Link and Kate Crowley in Michigan Tech's Forestry Atrium, where they gave a presentation on May 20. (Photo © 2010 Kate Flynn)

The couple stopped in Houghton on May 19-20 on their circumnavigation, on foot, of Lake Superior.

"It’s allowed us to speak to the media," Crowley said of the expedition. "There’s been tremendous coverage of our trip. We’re concerned about fresh water. It’s a vehicle by which you can express concern and capture people’s interest."

Although Link and Crowley spend much of their day hiking on foot, generally averaging 17 miles a day, they still take the time to update their Web site and communicate daily via their Facebook page. Their assistant, Amanda Hakala, who drives the RV that Crowley and Link sleep in most nights, is in charge of finding wireless at the couple’s destination for the night while they hike the shores of Lake Superior.

Crowley spoke positively of the role that Facebook has played in keeping them connected on their journey.

"It’s been very helpful," Crowley said. "So many people of all ages are on it. We’ve made connections with people who are going to help us along the way. We have 1,478 friends and we’re getting daily postings. We consider it as part of our educational outreach."

Crowley also admits that keeping in contact every day, on top of their miles and miles of hiking, has been difficult.

"It’s been hard," she said. "Once, in Ontonagon, there were only two places with free wireless -- our RV campground and the public library. The wireless in the campground didn’t work, so we had to sit in the parking lot of the library because it was closed. Cell phone service has also been an issue."

Crowley and Link both have very specific ideas about what they want to take away from this journey.

"A healthier body," Crowley said when asked what she hoped her own personal outcome of the trip would be. "And a wonderful movie in my head of what we’ve seen and experienced."

Sometimes Kate Crowley's shoreline hike actually lands her in the water. (Photo © Full Circle Lake Superior and courtesy Michigan Tech University.)

"We’ll have a catalog of experiences," Link adds. "Our lives are made up of stories. The other part of the story is how much fun I’ve had with Kate. It’s hard to have the same kind of moments in any other situation. It’s another commitment that we’ve made to each other. Whatever comes along, we deal with it in the moment. We look at each other and rely on each other. We have a great partnership."

Crowley and Link expect to return to Minnesota around Sept. 15, 2010. Their sponsors include Lake Superior Magazine and Anytime Fitness, for which they contribute a weekly health blog. A full list of sponsors, as well as a daily update, can be found on their Web site at

Editor's Note: Guest reporter Kate Flynn is a student at Beloit College. She is doing an internship in journalistic writing for Keweenaw Now and for the L'Anse Sentinel this summer.

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