Day 23 – IAT Mile 381.3 to 388.8

Hike. Storm. Hike. Storm.

Camp for last night ended up being on trail, tent pitched over lumpy 2-track grooves.  The kind of ground you have to work your hips into just right before sleep can happen.  Setting up on the trail is generally frowned upon, but we leave no trace, and generally do not want to go wandering in the unfamiliar woods at pitch dark.  Our frog friend approved.

If you’ve been reading posts from this hike and our other hikes, you may have noticed how difficult days are sometimes followed by unbelievably magical days.  The trend continues…

Our day started with more weather updates from Mel.  Another huge storm was headed our way, due to arrive around 4pm and hit harder than what happened on Monday.  This wasn’t a complete surprise, it was part of yesterday’s motivation to tap out 26.5 miles.  Today’s original plan was for 24 miles, set ourselves up to finish the IAT West Section on Thursday.  With weather being what it was to be, finding shelter became the new priority.  There was a shelter near mile 22, but there is no way we could make that distance by 4pm.  There was also a campground with cabins around mile 9, but they took damage in the previous storm and had not yet recovered.  What are a couple hikers to do?  Get lucky, again.

One of the tools Brianna & I use to find campgrounds and businesses while on the road is Google Maps.  Google Maps is really helpful when you’re scanning around unsure of what you’re looking for, more options and info.  During my Google Maps search for nearby shelters, I happened upon an unusual icon very near the trail, it had a phone number and no description. “Can’t hurt to call, right?” I said to Brianna, tapping the phone button.

A gentleman by the name of Jason answered the phone.  He laughed when I mentioned his information being listed on Google and apologized that it was not accurate, we could not stay there tonight.  We bantered back and forth for a bit, mostly me picking his brain on which sites might be safest for us during a big storm.  He thought getting a hotel in the nearby city of Antigo would be best. I explained that we would love showers and fresh food but have no way to get to the city or back to the trail. He responded, “let me call you back, I might be able to help.”

What a crazy turn of events.  Brianna and I had no idea if we were about to get a ride into town or sleeping in the woods somewhere, so we kept hiking in the direction of a ski lodge, Spychalla Lodge, that would be our best bet if our new friend couldn’t pull something together for people he didn’t know or have any responsibility for.  The Spychalla lodge is a beautifully built ‘no camping allowed’ building for skiers to enjoy, but I think Spychalla would have approved of us.

It couldn’t have been more than 15-20 minutes before Jason texted me, “My dad is in the area and will drive you to Antigo this morning.  I have a meeting that way tomorrow and will get you back on the trail by 0700.”  And that’s how it all so randomly happened.  Jason’s Dad, Ken, was in the area and heading back to Antigo, so he stopped and scoped us up.  After a tour of the city, he dropped us at the Sleep Inn where the awesome desk worker let us do an 11am early check-in.

We are showered, our clothes are clean, we are once again safe from the storms. Two more days of hiking and we will be passing through Antigo again, can’t wait!