The following is Part II of daily notes from Jessica’s September 2016 hike on the Superior Hiking Trail. This is a mix of notes taken on the trail & additions after the fact. Photos were taken with an iPhone 6 & food journal was logged with the app LoseIt! Part I may be found HERE.
State: Temperance River State Park
End: Mystery Mountain
Hands are cold.
Today started pretty well, but peaked early with meeting up with Glenn & Cindy by Carlton Peak. Then after Britton Peak the trail went into the forest. It got cloudy and still and there were no regular forest noises.
(That’s all I wrote in my journal. This is what I’ve added on)
Today is the only day where I really pushed myself to hike further. I hadn’t liked all the still, silent forest hiking and wasn’t in the best mood. I planned to camp at East Rollins Creek campsite and pretty much felt like I should stick to my plan even though I would get there early.
Then, a few miles before the site, a couple warned me that a gentleman was heading my direction who “was not all there”. He had been found sleeping right in the middle of the trail that morning, was talking to himself a lot, and seemed in bad shape.
Hiking and backpacking appeals to many, including many who have physical or mental challenges. Nature is powerful medicine and I approve of anyone and everyone getting large doses.
But that does not mean that as a solo female backpacker I am required to feel friendly and open to everyone I meet. I am not ashamed to say I had stereotypical concerns for my safety when I thought of myself alone with this person.
I had not encountered anyone else by the time I reached the campsite. It was a beautiful site, right next to the creek. However the creek was very noisy. I could not hear anything else around me. I knew that even if the gentleman in question hiked past this site and down to the road, I would be twitchy and paranoid over every sound all evening long.
I decided to fill up with water since the next campsite was dry, and move on. As I left the campsite, I noticed someone by the creek on the main trail. Either that was him or he had passed while I was resting. I didn’t see anyone else on the trail until I got to the Mystery Mountain campsite.
I’m glad I did for more reasons than concerns over the “odd” hiker. I had also decided to stop early today because the next few miles were supposed to be HARD. Up Moose Mountain, Down Moose Mountain, Up Mystery Mountain. I was scared it would be too hard and I wouldn’t enjoy it. It was psyching me out.
Well, it WAS hard. But not nearly as hard as I worried about. And it rained during the night. Moose mountain would have been very slippery going up the next day.
The climb up Mystery Mountain was more gradual, and once again entered into more “forested” trail. Even though I was excited to have finished that hard climb, I was so ready to find that campsite. A younger couple were already there and had started a fire so I kept getting a whiff of smoke as I hiked closer.
Breakfast – Oatmeal (2 packets), 1 cup custom trail mix, 1 stick vegan jerky
Lunch – Goldfish crackers, Cheese “Kruncheez”
Dinner – MountainHouse Pasta Primavera, Oatmeal Creme Pie
Snacks – Protein Bar, Breakfast Biscuits, Pro Bar
Total Calories: 2,545
(These next two recaps are a little different as I did not take notes on the trail)
Start: Mystery Mountain
End: Big White Pine Campsite
It rained last night. The tent was pitched well and more covered with trees on all three sides so no water encroached on me or my gear. But it kept raining/drizzling until the morning. Packing up was a chore and I was not interested in sitting at the wet campsite for breakfast. Instead I scarfed down a protein bar and started walking.
It wasn’t too long before I hit the Poplar river. A good thing, since I had misjudged the amount of water I would drink hiking to Mystery Mountain yesterday and was a little low. That was another reason why I didn’t bother cooking breakfast – I wanted to save my water for hydration until I could refill.
So I had nice break at the West Poplar River campsite where I got water and filtered some for a morning cup of coffee. My stomach hasn’t felt 100% on this trip and I wonder if it is because my usual (at home) morning routine is to slowly wake up with one cup of coffee and then eat much later. In camp, I basically wake up and then have food & coffee as quick as possible to get moving.
After leaving the Poplar river I walked to Lake Agnes and had lunch there. It is a beautiful lake and a wonderful spot to hike. I was sad the day was staying gloomy because my pictures wouldn’t turn out well.
As I kept hiking through gloom and more forested/wet areas, I realized there was going to be little option to dry my tent. While it’s true the inside wasn’t wet the night before, it had now been shoved in a stuff sack for several hours. It wasn’t going to be the end of the world, but sleeping in a wet tent is not that comfortable. I started to make more serious calculations about whether I could finish my hike a day early. I have been ahead of schedule most of the hike, and planned for smaller mileage days the last two days so I knew I could push more. But what had been a “fanciful maybe” turned into a “realistic numbers” internal discussion.
I figured out that if I made it to Big White Pine campsite, on the west side of the Cascade river, I would be in position to finish the next evening. But this also meant that today would be my longest hike of the trip. Was I up to it?
I took it campsite by campsite. Resting, snacking, drying my feet, and re-evaluating if I should continue on. At Indian Camp Creek campsite, the last one before Big White Pine and 3.0 miles away, I also checked my FitBit stats.
I have felt unsure this whole time about the mileage in the Superior Hiking Trail handbook. My FitBit has always calculated my mileage to be more than the handbook. At the beginning of this trip I decided I would ignore my FitBit until the end of the day; using it only for statistical data rather than a way to estimate how much further I had to a destination. But today I wanted to check to decide if I had already overstretched myself. I can’t remember the number, but I remember feeling like I could go on. It was 3pm and I had a small climb and then a big downhill to the river before walking along the river to my campsite. But I felt good and the sun came out. I adjusted my tent so that it was stuffed freely in the outside stretch pocket of my backpack. It wasn’t going to get very dry this way, but it was better than letting it soak inside the stuff sack.
When I got to the Cascade river I was a little confused. I knew I had to take the “West side” due to a bridge being out. But the directions to reach either side were from the direction of the Cascade River parking lot, not the directions from the trail. I took my time reading the directions, looking around. It wasn’t going to do me any good to have come this far to waste time walking the wrong direction.
That’s when I remembered my compass! I do carry one, a small one that is also a whistle and a thermometer. After I got down to the river and on the trail I believed was correct, I pulled it out and verified – yup, I was on the west side of the river.
This became important as I hiked up and down the bank of the river, feeling like I should have made it to the campsite already. Other times, I may have questioned myself. But this time I was armed with two pieces of knowledge 1) I was going in the right direction and 2) it was likely to be a longer distance than the handbook said.
I also kept telling myself that as long as I could see/hear water, I should just keep going. Although it is against the rules to camp anywhere but the designated camp sites, I knew if I had access to water I could take care of myself even if I never found this elusive campsite.
Finally I got there! The water source for White Pines Campsite is about .2 miles back on the trail and down a steep bank. I quickly filtered what was left in my reservoir into my bottle, then went back on the trail to collect a full 2 Liters in my reservoir. I did not want to feel like I wasn’t adequately stocked in the morning and I definitely did not want to re-trace my steps for more water again.
Then I set up my tent – there was a lovely 1-tent spot near the firepit so I could go back and forth between cooking and my evening set up. While water boiled I blew up my sleeping pad. While I waited for my Mac & Cheese to rehydrate I put away the rest of my gear.
I really struggled to finish my meal – it was the biggest meal I had and originally planned to split it between tonight and tomorrow. I should have spilled half of the meal into a plastic baggie left over from my lunch, but I always feel its important to not get too hungry while hiking. Especially at night when your body is recuperating and an empty stomach can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.
I slept with the door to my rain fly open. The angle of the tent means I can easily look outside. I can’t see much once I take off my glasses, but I do like the possibility. I watched the stars for a few minutes before turning over to sleep.
Breakfast – Pure Protein Bar
Lunch – Goldfish crackers, BBQ Snack Mix
Dinner – Alpine Aire Forever Young Mac & Cheese, Oatmeal Creme Pie
Snacks – 1 cup custom trail mix, 1 stick vegan jerky, Clif Shot Bloks
Total Calories: 2,085
Start: Big White Pine Campsite
End: Pincushion Mountain Parking Lot!
This was a very surreal day. I knew today I would walk up to a parking lot and get into my car – finishing my hike.
The first part of today seemed challenging, lots of small but steep ups and downs. But shortly it seemed to get pretty flat and lots of walking through a forest canopy. Fun, but not very great for pictures of great views.
Because I was so concentrated on the end today I didn’t do as good a job of planning breaks for food and water. I also entered one of the two long stretches between campsites (10 miles). So I made do eating lunch sitting on a large tree root while airing my feet and then finding the most shallow, small, slow running creek ever to collect a little water.
I wasn’t too worried though, because I knew I would get to my car and my “self rescue” supplies.
Of the last 3.5 miles on the trail, 2.5 were following the North Shore State snowmobile trail. I had heard tell from a southbound hiker of stepping in a puddle up to her thigh in this area. I assumed she was exaggerating. And as I stepped onto it, I noticed construction equipment that had come for at least a mile working on trenches. It really seemed quite dry.
Then I hit a muddier part.
Then I stepped in a puddle up to my thigh.
It had looked wet, yes, but with bits of mud floating on top that made it not look too deep. It must have gotten that way from every hiker assessing the path and saying, “That looks like the best place to cross – NOPE!” For a minute I thought I wouldn’t get my shoe back when I rocked myself back up on “dry” land!
This would have definitely been a downer if it happened earlier in the week. I had opted for Gore-tex boots this time given my issues with wet feet last time on the trail. But a weakness of Gore-tex is that any water that finds its way inside will be trapped there as well. It took these boots 2+ days to dry at home.
But again, I had “self rescue” supplies.
These supplies included: 1 liter of water (two sealed .5 liter bottles), cookies, oat bran sesame sticks (my absolute favorite “fake healthy” snack food that I only allow myself after hikes otherwise I would eat them All. Damn. Day.), a complete change of clothes – all cotton and comfy – along with 2 fresh pairs of socks and a pair of shoes. I also always include a real washcloth so if I am not heading straight to a shower I can use some of my water to scrub myself down a bit before changing.
The last big climb I had was Pincushion mountain. It was hot. I was thirsty. And there was a known black bear hanging out around the parking lot. I’d heard from some southbound hikers that encountered the bear and some that hadn’t seen any sign even though they had food cashed at the parking lot.
While I had really hoped to see (in the distance) a moose this hike, I had no interest in surprising a bear. So, in an ode to my father who passed away October 2010, I sang, “This Little Light of Mine” for the last mile of my hike. It was one of his favorites to sing after a beer or two.
I got to the parking lot around 3:30 pm. I couldn’t help it – I threw my hands up in victory and started grinning like a crazy woman. The sense of accomplishment was overwhelming. A few people noticed and stopped to shake my hand and talk to me about my hike.
The only downside to finishing early is that I had booked a bunk at the Hungry Hippie Hostel for Saturday night. I thought about changing the reservation for tonight, but as I did the math I realized I could make it back to Eagle River at a decent hour. I left a message to cancel my reservation and got a call back that they were happy I had a good hike and would not be charged any fee.
There is an outhouse at the parking lot, so I cleaned up and changed clothes in there and headed home.
Breakfast – Alpine Aire Apple Almond Crisp
Lunch – Goldfish crackers, Cheese “Kruncheez”
Dinner – Fast food cheese curds & fries on drive home, Rum (once I arrived!)
Snacks – Pure protein bar, Breakfast biscuits, oat bran sesame sticks
Total Calories: 2,295