Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Between the Lines: Great Lakes Adventure

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Loreen Niewenhuis

Loreen Niewenhuis

Her Keen boots slouch comfortably in the closet, shoelaces untied. This is not the first pair of boots Loreen Niewenhuis wore on her series of three thousand-mile hikes, but, at least for a while, it will be the last. For her next great adventure, Niewenhuis is measuring distance by words instead of miles. She's a scientist, a hiker, and a writer.

In 2009, as Niewenhuis felt the nest about to empty with the departure of two nearly grown sons, and her marriage coming to what she refers to as a "planned conclusion," Niewenhuis had a midlife crisis.
“It wasn’t that it was such a traumatic time,” she says. “But I imagined my younger self and how she would have seen me today. I made my midlife crisis into a midlife adventure.”
So began the first thousand-mile hike around Lake Michigan, resulting in the first of Niewenhuis’s adventure trilogy, A 1,000-Mile Walk on the Beach. She began walking in Chicago and ended there seven months later, taking occasional breaks along the way, walking mostly alone. Her two sons as well as friends and relatives joined her here and there, “But I hiked alone about 80 percent of the time.”
Niewenhuis grew up in the Detroit area and has lived in Michigan most of her life. “Once a summer, my parents took the family to Lake Michigan. There weren’t sandy beaches like that on the east side. And the dunes. The dunes! I thought, this is amazing! That was the lake I grew up on.”
Niewenhuis has a graduate degree in science and she has worked in a hospital laboratory, in animal research, and on a bone marrow transplant group. She turned her passion to writing while raising her sons and returned to school to earn another master’s degree, this time in the fine arts.
A year later, Niewenhuis headed out on her second thousand-mile adventure, chronicled in A 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Walk. She had thought about her second adventure while she was still on her first. There’s an addictive quality to pushing one’s comfort zone, she admits, and an addictive quality to Michigan’s Great Lakes. She wanted more.
“I wanted to ... "

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