Porcupine Mountains, May 2004

Day 3

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It was 9:30 a.m. and I was awake for the day. The last time I opened my eyes was sometime in the middle of the night and I would have sworn I was in the middle of a cave a couple hundred feet below ground if it hadn't been for the sound of the river reminding me I was still in the tent. It was so extremely dark that I may as well have been blind. I could not see anything around me, not my hand directly in front of my nose, not even a silhouette of anything. I have never experienced darkness like that above ground; it was really weird!

I unzipped the tent and stepped out into the cool morning air. I walked down to the river and looked up at the sky. It was overcast and dreary and there was a light mist falling, but hopefully the forecast for today would hold true and the precipitation would pass through by noon. We ate some oatmeal for breakfast, filtered more water and completed our morning ritual of taking down the tent and repacking our backpacks.

We had taken our time getting ready so it was 12:20 p.m. by the time we were finally on the trail. We hiked approximately ¾ mile north along the Big Carp River Trail until we were back at the mouth of the river by the cabins. From here we headed west along the Lake Superior Trail until we reached the Little Carp River Trail and began to head south. It didn't take long before we became reacquainted with the wet, muddy trail conditions we had encountered yesterday and soon our boots were again caked with thick, wet mud. The trail closely paralleled the river for most of the day and only a few times did it move far enough away that we could not see or hear the water flowing downstream. Most of the day was over fairly level terrain. Only once did we have a constant gradual uphill hike and there were only two or three times when we had steep climbs.

We stopped for lunch at 3:30 p.m. on a cliff overlooking one of the many bends in the Little Carp River. We downed a quick bagel with peanut butter and some water and were back on the trail by 3:45 p.m. It wasn't long after lunch that we came to the first of two river crossings for the day. It was quite odd to approach the river only to have the trail stop at the edge of the rushing water and be able to plainly see the well-traveled trail begin again on the other side with no bridge in between. There were quite a few large rocks spread across the middle of the river in various locations and we were hoping to walk across the river on those rocks but, there were always one or two gaps where the rocks were too far apart to make a safe jump. I found a dead tree that stretched from one side of the river to the other so I attempted to walk across on it, but the tree was too small and had too much 'spring' in it to safely use it as a bridge. The tree was probably 5-6 feet over the river and the slightest miscalculation would have meant a quick and certain fall into the rushing river below, soaking me and everything in my backpack. After searching up and down the riverbank we eventually came to the conclusion that the best way to reach the other side was to take off our boots and walk across the rocky, rapid-filled river. Once on the other side we continued our hike and passed a couple more small waterfalls. A short time later we again arrived at the edge of the river and saw another sign marked 'Trail' with an arrow pointing across the river. We looked for a good place to cross and were again met with the same options as last time. This time, however, Ken chose to wade across the river while I chose the slightly quicker, but more precarious route -- about 4-5 feet above over the river on top of a tangled mass of dead trees. I had made it about halfway across when my backpack shifted and I lost my balance. When I started to teeter back and forth I began to psych myself up for a plunge into the cold river below. Fortunately, I was able to regain my balance and was soon on solid ground on the opposite side waiting for Ken.

Most of the trail today meandered through stands of large, old hemlock trees. The trail was soft to walk on due to the small pinecones and decaying leaves and vegetation. We again encountered numerous large trees over the trail that had not been cleared, several of which had been 'marker trees' as they still bore the familiar blue trail marker tags. We didn't see much in the way of wildlife today except for a few chipmunks and some small birds. We did, however, see a partially eaten deer carcass at the edge of the trail and numerous wolf tracks not far from the bones and scraps of hide. It appeared as though the wolf walked right down the middle of the trail and then went off into the woods only to reappear on the trail again a short distance further down. While I'm not an expert animal tracker, it appeared as though the impressions were fairly recent, maybe no later than sometime this morning, especially since a couple of the tracks were on top of what looked like recent boot marks. It was pretty cool!

Today seemed like a rather long day to me and the end couldn't come soon enough because my knee was really giving me problems and it burned with every step I took. I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally came across the familiar sign with a tent symbol on it indicating the campsite was merely a few hundred feet away. We arrived at our site at 6:05 p.m., set up the tent and unpacked our supplies. It was rather cool today, probably between 48 and 52 degrees and the sun made only a couple brief appearances during the entire time we were on the trail. While the cool temperature was great during the hike, it was a different story when we were just sitting still around camp so we fired up some mugs of hot chocolate to keep us warm while we waited for dinner to cook. By the time dinner was fully cooked we were more than ready chow down especially since the smell of the pasta primavera filled the air for the last several minutes. Unfortunately, the black flies and mosquitoes were out in force so we once again had to eat while wearing the headnets. The pasta primavera was excellent and we topped it off with a pop tart and some cold water from the nearby river.

We cleaned up the cookware and hung the rest of the food from the bear pole. It was now about 8:30 p.m. and the temperature had fallen quite a bit. Since we were not camped in a clearing and receiving the last rays of sunshine, the shade and steady breeze made us rather cold. That, coupled with the fact that I was exhausted and my knee was still on fire, made it seem like the perfect reason to crawl into my sleeping bag and rest. I laid there for a short time and studied the trail map for tomorrow's hike and read descriptions of the trail from Jim DuFresne's trail guide book on the Porcupine Mountains. It didn't take long for the relaxing sound of the river to make my eyelids heavy. As I began to drift off to sleep the only thought in my mind was that hopefully my knee would feel better by the morning or else tomorrow would be another very long day.

Final count for the day: A couple chipmunks, some birds, a few Trillium plants along the trail, and many more black flies and mosquitoes than I care to have counted.

Miles covered today: 7.25
Total trip miles: 17.75

Day 4

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