Porcupine Mountains, May 2004

Day 2

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Woke up at 9:30 a.m. (Eastern Time) to discover that it had stopped raining and much of the blacktop in front of the motel was dry. It was 40-45 degrees, overcast and breezy but amazingly it didn't feel too bad. We packed the car and drove over to the Lake of the Clouds overlook. From the overlook we got an awesome view of Lake of the Clouds far below. The scenery was still breathtaking even though the sky was cloudy and gray. We took a few pictures, got back in the car, and drove down to a parking space along M-107 at the bottom of the overlook.

At about 11:30 a.m. we made final checks of our gear, shouldered our backpacks and walked down M-107 about 1500 feet to the trailhead of the Lake Superior Trail. Due to the large amount of rain that had fallen over the past week and a half, much of the trail was mucky and wet. It was so wet, in fact, that I think the trail should have been temporarily renamed Lake Superior River. At several points along the trail it actually looked as though we were hiking down the middle of a small creek or river because there was so much water flowing downhill. When we stopped walking we could actually hear the water rushing over the rocks in the middle of the trail. A short time into the hike we came to a clearing in the pine forest that had a small bench at the edge of a rocky bluff overlooking Lake Superior. We stopped momentarily to take off our jackets and cool down in the mild breeze. From this vantage point we were able to see Lone Rock sitting silently by itself out in Lake Superior quite a distance off to the west.

The clouds had broken up by now and the sun had begun to shine brightly overhead. We continued hiking west along the Lake Superior trail over what was mostly level terrain with only minor dips and ascents. At 3:00 pm we stopped for lunch at one of the campsites near Lone Rock. The sky had once again clouded over and the wind was blowing fairly strongly through the campsite off the lake. Most of the campsite was under several inches of water but there was a wooden platform in the middle of the water that appeared to be the best location for lunch. The site was only several yards away from Lake Superior so we walked out to the rocky shoreline, saw Lone Rock, checked out the beach area and then returned to the platform for lunch. We ate a couple sandwiches left over from the drive up, some trail mix and a granola bar. Much of our hiking to this point had been far enough away from the lake that the trees blocked all of the wind except for an occasional gentle breeze. I felt comfortable not wearing a jacket while on the trail, however, our lunch location left us exposed to the wind. Without the sun to warm me and the trees to block the gusts, I quickly became cold, to the point where I had to put on my jacket, zip it all the way up and put the hood over my head. My fingers even began to stiffen up because they were so cold. Needless to say, we ate quickly and were back on the trail by 3:40 p.m.

Not long after lunch we passed two women who were hiking with a small dog. They had been hiking for about a week and had been caught in the rain yesterday. They said they hiked in the rain, set up their tent in the rain, ate in the rain, and lay in wet sleeping bags all night in the rain. The women said they were cold and wet all night and their gear was still wet today. About 10 minutes later we passed three males who also had been caught in the heavy downpour yesterday. These two conversations just confirmed that we had made a wise choice to stay at a motel the first night!

Not long after our lunch break we passed what appeared to be the charred remains of an Adirondack shelter near Lafayette Landing. The DNR lady crossed off all the trail-side shelters on our map during registration and said they had been removed. They sure had been removed - they had been torched to the ground. All that remained was a pile of charcoal, large rusted nails and the screen door. We wondered if the other two shelters had met with the same fate.

For roughly the next two to three miles the trail became a constant annoyance as it turned into the wettest, muddiest part of the hike today. These last few miles consisted of thick mud, large pools of water, rocks and submerged logs. We lost the trail several times because the water covered so much of the trail and the area on both sides that the trail would just disappear. One thing I noticed was that the trail appeared to be well marked in areas that didn't require it, while other sections, the ones that were completely under water and hard to follow, were not well marked. It also appeared that the trail itself had not been well maintained. There were numerous times where a large tree had fallen across the path and hikers, unable to climb over them, had created new paths around them. To make things worse, some of the fallen trees were the ones that had trail markers nailed to them. If the trees landed the wrong way when they fell then we couldn't see the blue tags because they were either on the opposite side from us or else they were almost completely buried in the mud. These conditions really slowed our pace because losing the trail forced us to stop, look around, backtrack and circle the area to re-find the trail. In addition to this, there was a section of trail covered by fist-sized rocks. The shifting rocks made it difficult to walk at a normal pace and eventually took a toll on my ankles and my left knee, which became quite sore. Although the trail itself was rough in certain places we had been blessed with great weather and awesome surroundings. Most of the forest was comprised of aspen, birch, maple, hemlock and spruce trees. It was a nice treat to pass through a section of spruce trees because we would often catch the sweet smell of damp pine floating through the air.

One interesting sight we came across were giant slabs of reddish-brown rock jutting up out of the water at an angle. We observed the same thing in other areas of the park too, but they were especially prominent along the shore of Lake Superior. These giant slabs of layered rock are modern evidence of ancient processes that helped build and shape this area and many other places in the Lake Superior region. The rock slabs were formed by layers and layers of sediment which became compacted by glaciers and over time were pushed to the surface and exposed as we see them today.

Eventually we climbed a steep incline, via a switchback, which led us to a large forested area at the top. The forest was comprised of mostly larger, more mature trees. It was not very dense but the tree canopy was wide enough to shelter much of the area in shade. There also was very little ground cover which allowed us to see quite far in all directions. The trail up here was level and the soft ground was easy on our feet and ankles.

After several minutes of hiking through the forest we heard rushing water in the distance. Almost immediately, the trail came to the edge of a steep hill that overlooked a valley and a large river. Down in the valley we could see the Big Carp River, Lake Superior and a couple cabins. We left our backpacks at the top and walked down to the bridge below. From the bridge we could see the Big Carp River flowing wildly over several small waterfalls, through a couple rapids and then out into Lake Superior. The river was quite loud, but was rather relaxing in an odd sort of way. On the west side of the river was the Big Carp 6 bunk cabin and on the east were the Big Carp 4 bunk and Lake Superior 4 bunk cabins. There was a gentle breeze blowing through the valley which was quite refreshing after a long, hot day on the trail.

We searched for a good location to set up camp but all the tent sites in this area were right on Lake Superior, had no tree cover (in case it rained) and were quite muddy so we chose to look elsewhere. We went back to the top of the hill, picked up our backpacks and headed south along the Big Carp River Trail to the first campsite, which was roughly ¾ mile away. We arrived at the campsite and discovered that it was right off the trail and was only about 40 feet from the river. The area was fairly open, had quite a few large trees surrounding it and had a bear pole a short distance out in the woods. By now, every step I took made my knee feel like it was on fire so we set up the tent and I sat down for a while to give my knee a rest.

Our campsite had a fire ring available so I figured we may as well take advantage of it. The prospect of a good fire, however, was somewhat dismal since the Porkies had been saturated with almost constant weeklong rains before we arrived. I walked around searching for all the dry twigs and branches I could find. It wasn't easy but after quite some time I managed to find a small mound of kindling. I placed it in a pile with some dryer lint and a small piece of damp birch bark, crossed my fingers and lit a match. To my surprise we were relaxing in front of a blazing fire in no time at all.

Dinner was next on the agenda and consisted of chili that Ken made at home and had put in the food dehydrator. The chili was good after a long day of hiking but it had somehow lost much of its flavor. We came to the conclusion that next time we would just bring some extra seasoning and add it after rehydrating and cooking the meat. The black flies were rather pesky around camp so we were forced to eat dinner while wearing mosquito head nets. The fire burned for several hours after dinner and when it finally died down we hung the food on the bear pole and crawled into the tent. The air temperature had chilled quite a bit by now, to the point where I could see my breath, but it was comfortable inside the tent. Today had been a great day. I wrote in my journal until 11:30 p.m. and then faded off to sleep while listening to the noisy, rushing water of the Big Carp River.

Final count for the day: Three deer, a Ruffed Grouse, numerous chipmunks and hundreds of pesky black flies.

Miles covered today: 10.5
Total trip miles: 10.5

Day 3

This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 11:24 AM