Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tales from our trek

Sister M. Luka

The pilgrims are still sleeping - but I am always an early riser. So I shall share with you a few tidbits from our pilgrimage so far.

We have had almost no problems to date - the good God and his angels are taking amazing care of us. We have a great group: everyone has a pilgrim spirit and a willingness to try just about anything coupled with a responsibility that gets them everywhere five minutes early, packed, organized and ready - no matter the hour or the situation.

Our first day's travel was long - we made it as far as Toledo, Ohio and the Little Sisters of the Poor, just outside the city. We visited Lake Erie and had a picnic supper on the way. The Little Sisters and their residents welcomed us with great hospitality and Sister Mary Raymond and the Sisters saw to all our needs. We got to join them for common prayers in the morning and had a chance to see a movie presentation about their foundress. Then the Sisters sat with us, answered questions about their community and regaled us with stories. It was both fun and informative. Did you know that they take a fourth vow of hospitality? And their charism is to be humble. They care for the elderly poor - making homes for them all over the world.

They also told us about the Shrine of Venerable Solanus Casey, in Detroit. So, we decided to make a side trip there. He is buried at the Capuchin Monastery of St. Bonaventure. We went and prayed there and experienced one of the good Lord's providential moments: the weather has been forecasted to be rainy and thunderstormish throughout the pilgrimage, but we have only had sunshine during our visits, where there is outside activity. While we were in the Shrine of Venerable Solanus, however, the heavens opened and a torrential downpour followed. Thunder, lightening and rain like you only see in the midwest blew through Detroit. Lightening struck the bell tower (you could hear the bells ring) but no damage seemed to be done. And when we left, the sun was shining again.

It was then that Samantha (the GPS in the white van) began to show that she, too, has an adventuresome spirit. Since we were going to Williamsville, NY, she decided, firmly, that the way to get there was through Canada. And no amount of persuading could change her mind. She kept redirecting the white van towards the border. We had many adventures, including very nearly ending up in the tunnel that goes under the Lake (you really cannot turn around in a tunnel) and the resulting close encounter with a city bus (he kindly allowed me to break the law, cut in front of him and avoid having to explain to the Port Authorities how five wanderers from Wisconsin, without passports, ended up in the wrong country.) As we continue to skirt the Canadian border, we cover Sam's "eyes" so she can't see how close we are. And follow the silver van closely. (Their GPS, Michelle, does not have the same pull toward foreign countries!)

Niagara Falls was stunning - and it was a joy to see the pilgrims enjoy it. The hike to the Whirlpool Rapids gave us a chance to stretch our legs - I think the finally tally for the day was twelve miles. Mother Tappan and I decided not to climb the gorge a second time and, after enjoying the beauty of one of the parks along the trail, hiked back to the Discovery Center at the main park. We had our own adventure as the bike path we followed disappeared. We ended up hiking along a highway. There was a fence there - and our bike trail reappeared on the other side. We both eyed the fence speculatively (and the undergrowth on the other side). We could have climbed the fence - and would have, had our internal prudence meter not vetoed the idea. We both had visions of some passing driver taking pictures (I am dressed somewhat singularly) and ending up making the rounds on the Internet - or the front page of the daily paper. So we wisely waited until there was a break in the fence and made our escape with more decorum.

The Cave of the Winds experience topped it all for the young ones. Clad in their ponchos and special sandals, they went again (and again, and again) up to stand right where the Bridal Veil Falls strike the rocks. It was stunning - and they were soaked - but they would laugh and say "Let's go through it again!!!!" and then scamper back along the path to the observation platform. The ponchos were not really equal to such enthusiasm - the girls, all of us, actually - were soaked. But it was worth it - to see the grandeur up close.

(Interesting trivia - the walkway and observation platform is dismantled and rebuilt every year. When one of the visitors asked why, they guide replied that there is 50 tons of snow and ice on the base of the falls each winter and it would be crushed.)

I will close for today. Lexee posted pictures of the excursion on Facebook yesterday and I will be posting more on Flickr later. Our camera is currently locked away so it will probably be tonight or tomorrow.

God bless you - and continue to pray for us.

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