Porcupine Mountains, May 2004

Day 4

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As I rubbed my eyes and looked around I noticed dark silhouettes of trees in the middle of the glowing white nylon walls of the tent -- the sun was shining brightly outside. I unzipped the tent and stepped out into the best morning we had so far. The sky was bright blue and there was not a cloud in the sky. We had oatmeal and hot chocolate for breakfast, filtered water, packed away all the gear and were on the trail by 11:15 a.m. As we began to walk down the trail I realized that my knee was almost back to normal which really put my mind at ease. There was only minor irritation when I walked downhill, but as long as I took it slow I was o.k.

We passed the Greenstone Falls and Section 17 cabins in no time. We stopped and looked through the windows of the Greenstone Falls cabin. This one looked very similar to the others we had seen except for the number of bunks. They had varnished woodwork inside, wood stoves, tables, bunks, cupboards and all were very clean. Just past the Greenstone Falls cabin the trail began its climb through approximately 250 feet in elevation. Other than this major climb most of the trail today was fairly easy going and level.

One interesting sight today was to watch how the forest composition changed as the trail wound its way through this area of the park. When we started off, the forest consisted mostly of hemlock, then it changed to all maples and finally magnificent, large white pines as we arrived at Lily Pond.

About 2¾ miles into the hike we encountered our third bridgeless river crossing. Once again we looked for a dry place to cross the river but, in the end, we were again forced to ford through the middle. Once across the river we made a quick check of the trail map and discovered that Lily Pond was only ¾-1 mile away. About ten minutes later we caught a glimpse of a body of water appear in the distance through the trees on the south side of the trail. Several hundred yards farther down, the trail rounded a corner and we came upon the Lily Pond cabin. The cabin sat up on a hill near the water and was surrounded by a wooded area comprised of stately, sky-scraping white pines. The trail went past the cabin and down to the pond where it continued on the opposite side of the river that flows out of Lily Pond. This time there was no wading required due to a sturdy wooden bridge over the water. Directly in the middle of the bridge was a built-in bench overlooking the lake. This looked like an excellent place to relax for a bit and since it was 1:30 p.m. we figured it would also be a great location for lunch. We set the backpacks on the bridge and prepared our lunch, which consisted of tortilla shells filled with salami sticks, pieces of block cheese and Dijon mustard, and a little Gatorade to wash it down. The black flies were rather pesky up near the cabin but weren't too bad on the bridge so we sat on the bench in the sun while we ate. After lunch we dug out the fishing poles and worked our way down the bridge and around the edge of the lake but never got a bite. By 2:35 p.m. we had repacked our gear and were heading down the trail towards Mirror Lake where we intended to spend the night.

The hiking conditions today were quite unlike what we experienced yesterday. Today the temperature was about 60-65 degrees, there was a lot of sunshine and we did not hear the constant sound of rushing water because there was no river in sight. However, with much of the trail being deep in the woods, as opposed to being right next to Lake Superior, there was not much of a breeze to cool us down. We also had to contend with black flies again and even wore our headnets for a while during the hike because they were so bad. The trail was well marked today but we again had quite a few trees over the trail.

We were no more than several hundred yards past Lily Pond when we passed a group of 10 hikers coming from the opposite direction. It appeared as though it may have been a church youth group or some type of youth camp as most of the people were probably between 17 and 25 years old and the first person in the group looked to be several years older and had that 'experienced' backpacker look, if there is such a thing. After Lily Pond the tree cover once again changed back to mostly hemlocks. With the sun now suspended high overhead the sunlight broke through the tree canopy above and created intriguing patterns of shade and light on the ground around us.

The 2½ miles between Lily Pond and Mirror Lake rolled by very quickly and before we knew it was 3:25 p.m. and we were standing in front of a signpost directing us to the campsites at Mirror Lake. There were four tent campsites on the southern side of the lake, three on the northern side and three cabins spread out along the northwest shore between the tent sites. Little Carp River feeds Mirror Lake so we crossed the bridge, walked over to the sites on the south side of the lake and settled on one that was situated directly on the water. Fortunately the bear pole was quite a ways from the tent and around a curve because we noticed some bear scat directly across the trail from the bear pole. Hopefully, if a bear decided to visit the area it would be interested in the food hanging on the pole and not in our site. After we set up the tent Ken walked over to check out the cabins while I sat by the lake and wrote in my journal and ate trail mix. While I was writing I heard something scampering up the log next to me where I had left the bag of food. When I looked over I saw a chipmunk cautiously eyeing my trail mix. It sat motionless almost as if it were thinking that I wouldn't notice it if it didn't move. I figured it was most likely waiting for a good time to leap into action and steal some food, but today was not going to be the day because I moved the food to a more secure location - on my lap! As I turned to grab the food the chipmunk ran up the tree next to me, sat on a small branch and stared at me.

I felt hot and sticky after hiking in the warm, humid air today so I waded into the lake, dunked my head underwater and cleaned up with a washcloth. The water was pretty cold, only 47 degrees (I threw my thermometer into the lake for a while) but it sure felt good to wipe off the sweat and dirt. When Ken returned he said we had the whole lake to ourselves except for two people staying at one of the cabins across the lake from us. The site had a fire ring so we gathered quite a bit of kindling, as many dry branches as we could find, started a fire and then worked on cooking dinner. Tonight's meal consisted of pasta with meat sauce. The dehydrated, lumpy, fruit rollup-looking thing didn't appear very appetizing at first but, after it simmered in some boiling water it began to regain its original look and smell of freshly cooked spaghetti sauce with hamburger. If there's one thing that was consistent on this trip it was the black flies and mosquitoes. They were swarming throughout the camp again so we had to balance a bowl of spaghetti in one hand, a forkful of food in the other and somehow still manage to pull the headnet away to get the food in our mouths without dropping the fork or the bowl. Nevertheless, dinner was so good that it was hard to believe we were in the great outdoors and not in a quality Italian restaurant. After dinner I relaxed by the fire with a mug of hot honey and lemon tea. It was very peaceful and relaxing to listen to the fire crackle and pop while watching the smoke drift past the shafts of sunlight breaking through the treetops above. Later on we tried some fishing around the bridge and down along the shore but didn't even get a bite. We did, however, see a Great Blue Heron gliding silently over the lake in front of us.

Since we had no luck catching any fish we returned to the campsite, put away a few items and sat by the fire for a few minutes. It was dusk by 9:30 p.m. and clouds had begun to advance on Mirror Lake. Close on the heels of the clouds was the sound of wind whistling through the trees and over the ridges in the distance. It was beginning to look more and more like an advancing storm. As I crawled into the tent I was just hoping that the rain would be over before we started hiking tomorrow.

Final count for the day: One daring chipmunk, a Blue Heron, a hawk, 13 hikers and, you guessed it, many more hundreds of black flies and mosquitoes.

Miles covered today: 6
Total trip miles: 23.75

Day 5

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