Ruby and Bruce met us at the IAT parking area just off Burma road @ 0700 as planned. Brianna & I were in the process of filtering some stream water when Ruby handed over an unexpected 2-liter of water with our food. I hastily dumped the river water out and filled us back up with the clear water. Thank you, Ruby!
We chatted for a solid 15-20 minutes about our experiences on their trail and thanked them for all the hard work we noticed through our long yesterday hike. Ruby reminded us that there is a long stretch with no water coming up, she would be more than happy to leave us 4-liters if we wanted. Yes, please! Our list of people who are getting thank you and Christmas cards is growing!
Before they left, Ruby and Bruce stated quite frankly that today’s section of the trail is one of the IAT’s best. They did not do us wrong here, either. Half of the day was road walking, but the 10 miles of trail in the Turtle Rock & Grandfather Falls segments were trail gems.
Turtle Rock took us up the west side of Wisconsin River & Grandfather Flowage. The trail was riddled with large jagged rocks, making it difficult to both enjoy the rapids and not break ankle, I think we did alright.
Grandfather falls took us down the east side of the Flowage, walking us over an old hydroelectric dam and by large penstocks the waters flow through. Grandfather falls must be a popular spot for skilled kayakers. We saw many signs warning kayakers how dangerous the waters are and to proceed at their own peril. No signs said not to do it, they were more like, “you’re crazy if you do this, don’t blame us if S goes south.”
If I had to guess, I’d say the day began to sour soon after we arrived at Tug Lake park, which was about 4 miles into our 10 miles of road. Don’t read me wrong here, Tug Lake Park is amazing. They have bathrooms, a water pump, benches, pavilion, easy lake access. Fortunately, their water pump was working. Unfortunately, I noticed right away that it was pumping up brownish rusty water. I’m not afraid of rusty water, I’m a late 80s & 90s kid, we were still drinking out of hoses and eating paint chips. As a mental thing though, you’re less likely to drink water if it looks unappealing. It tasted fine, it just looked like toilet water.
We had 8 miles left in our day with about 3 hours of sunlight left by the time we reached Tug Lake. We could make it to the hiking shelter before sunset if we left as soon as we arrived and put our fast shoes on. Would you rather hike 2 hours in the blistering sun or wait and hike at least an hour in the dark? We choose to make dinner at the park and wait it out.
The last road miles of the day came and went quickly, in the shade as we planned, but there was less than an hour left of sun and 3 more miles to push. Our last section of the day was called the Underdown, not to be confused with the Upside Down, and it was beautiful… in the light of day. We passed through about a mile of large pine trees called the ‘Enchanted Forest’ before everything went dark. The Underdown is a combination trail for hikers, horse riders, snowmobilers and bikers. Trails criss cross like spiderwebs up and down very hilly terrain. Not the best spot to be relying on headlamps and hiking poles, yet there we were, doing our first night hike on it.
It took us about 2 hours to arrive at our hiking shelter. As a shelter that is also used in the winter, I had assumed it would be 4-walled building with a door and beds. What we found upon arriving is that the shelter is a 3-walled open face with benches, a table and a fire pit. No worries, it’s 10pm and we are calling it a night.
Did we have fun today? I wouldn’t call it that exactly. We had an experience and built up our confidences for the next time we find ourselves hiking in the dark. The goal is to make brand new mistakes next time!