HIKE FORTY-FIVE

Louisville Swamp Trail

The Louisville Swamp is located off Highway169 near Jordan, Minn., south of Minneapolis. It is not far from where my dad had his hobby farm. My dad first bought the land as a place to store some equipment that he used in his cement business. After a few years, he planted a vegetable garden that grew larger each year. He named the farm Sunada after my sister Susan, me and my brother

When my dad found unclaimed stuff at his job sites, he brought it to the farm. Once he hauled in an old trailer. One fall day, he had the idea for all of us to paint a mural on the trailer. In fact, that day was the first time I brought Barry to meet my whole family. Barry launched right into painting the trailer because at the time he was helping his friend, Joe, paint a huge mural at a large company. He worked hard alongside us, painting the trailer with a landscape scene. After that experience, Barry was here to stay!

When my dad got an idea to start a tree farm at Sunada, Barry joined in to help plant trees! Four years later, Barry and I held our wedding reception at the farm with a square dance and pot luck dinner. Our wedding cake, baked and decorated by our friend Josie, was a replica of the YMCA pool where we met. Barry and I looked forward to a whole new life together, beginning with our honeymoon at a fishing camp in Canada where I was the only woman.

Each October, my dad hosted a Pumpkin Festival at Sunada. He roasted a whole pig in a pit with coals. We would bury it before bed, and you wouldn’t believe how good it smelled outside by morning!

Barry took over the T- shirt booth using an iron-on machine borrowed from his friend. My sister and I did the art work and he would press T-shirts all day. There were pony rides, a fish pond, games, clowns, lots of good food and, of course, everyone got a pumpkin! It was so much fun!!

It was also a lot of work for my Mom and Dad!

The trees we planted grew strong and some of the early ones planted were ready to be Christmas trees by the time our first child Kelly was about a year old. One day in December, the three of us went down to the farm to cut our tree. We left Kelly with my folks at the farm and tried to cross country ski on the Louisville Swamp Trail. There wasn’t much of a trail back then and it wasn’t tracked so the skiing was tough. It was fun for just the two of us to be out together.

I remember talking about our life plans as Barry was then starting a new design company. Once Kelly was born, he got very serious about making a living, and I was pretty excited to work on some new books. On that winter day, we had the world ahead of us.

We have great memories of the farm. But as life tends to go, we three siblings became busy with our own families and not able to get to Sunada as much and help with the garden and trees. So my mom and dad decided to sell it.

Where did the time go?
up in the trees
Now years later, I was hiking along the Minnesota River on the same Louisville Swamp Trail. It is a better trail today, obviously used a lot. I saw eagles and deer, but not another human during my hike. I had lots of time to remember those wonderful days so long ago.

After hiking for a of couple hours, I headed home, driving past Sunada. I was surprised to see that all the trees we planted were now huge. It no longer looked like a place where you could cut a Christmas tree. It was a thick, dark forest – like you imagine from fairytales.  Seeing this physical passage of time startled me!

How did I get to be 61 years old? How did my kids grow up so fast? How did it happen that I have a husband with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), living out his days in the nursing home? I looked around and wondered what I would have done had I known about this tragedy coming in our future. Would I have chosen to not marry Barry and avoid all this heartbreak with FTD?

Not a chance! Those trees are still growing strong and so are we. I wouldn’t want to miss a moment in this journey.

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8 comments on “HIKE FORTY-FIVE
  1. Maryanne says:

    That is a beautiful tribute.

  2. claudine coughlin says:

    Hi Nancy, It seems that time flies by faster and faster each year. My Tom and I were at a couple of the Pumpkin Fests. What fun, but I was really a lot of work for your family to put on. Take care! Love, Claudine

  3. Patricia Stewart says:

    i have never met you but a friend of mine showed me your Facebook page. Please know that I admire you for your courage and compassion.

  4. Lisa Ventura Olson says:

    You are a treasure Nancy! I also would not pass up the pain because then I would have passed on the pleasure & missed the dance…..to paraphrase Garth Brooks.
    I’d love to hike with you sometime Nancy. I’m able to walk about 4 hrs.
    Love & prayers, Lisa

  5. Pat Bauer says:

    As usual, Nancy, you remind us to appreciate everything that is seemingly ordinary in our lives, but that could change in a blink of an eye . . . or slowly over many years. All the best to you!

  6. Jim Joyce says:

    Nancy, Your story about your Hike Forty-Five and your family’s wonderful Sunada getaway hits home in more ways than one. First it reminds me there are certain things in our lives that once were so magical and meaningful to us, but which at some point are no longer and can fade into our pasts and memories of them.
    Your hike brought some of that Sunada past and magic back to life in a wondrous way, and you tell the stories of that magical place for you, your family and later your times with Barry in such a poignant way. Nice tale indeed.
    It also reminded me of the power of fairy tales and our own stories that we may hold dear (or have held us dearly).
    Teri and I just watched the movie & musical, Into the Woods based upon the Broadway musical of the same name. It weaves together various fairy tales including Cinderella, Jack & the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood & Rapunzel as well as the tale of a baker and his wife (James Corden & Emily Blunt) who seek their happiness by getting a release from the curse & spell placed upon them by a witch (Meryl Streep) that holds them childless due to a past transgression by the baker’s father, who stole from the witch’s garden while his wife was pregnant.
    It’s a sometimes fun and sometimes frustrating romp through the woods as various characters’ paths cross and their lives become entangled as they all seek their happiness, freedom and release from the ‘daily grind’.
    Many of the characters do find their happiness, but not necessarily one that is ‘happily ever-after’. Just as some of our childhood and earlier happiness do not always remain for us or with us ever-after.
    So your Hike Forty-Five tale is revealing and prescriptive for all of us. Would we change things from our past, if we could, knowing what we now know? Your answer says it all:
    “Not a chance. Those trees (the woods into which we journey) are still growing strong and so are we. I wouldn’t want to miss a moment in this journey”.
    Well said, Little Red Drawing Hood.

  7. Jean Housh says:

    I’m so happy to read that you’d do it all over again. Your grateful heart speaks volumes. FTD — be darned. Your life with Barry is wonderful. It is what it is. That tired old saying seems to sum it up pretty well.

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