Day 31 – IAT Mile 525.9 to 552.6

Reservations on a thru-hike are a difficult thing.  Every day we forecast out with a plan is little hazier than the one before, a little less likely to actually happen.  On top of that, every park has its own guidelines.  Some parks, like Hartman Creek State Park, requires reservations be made at least 48 hours advance.  Other parks, like Collins County Park, wouldn’t let us do any reservations earlier than a week out.  If you wonder why we get jammed up when looking for places to stay so often, this is why.

Let’s talk about Collins County Park for a minute.  After trying and failing to reserve a spot online, we called to inquire if they had any openings… for a Monday.  The lady who answered the phone unapologetically advised us that they were full up.  When Deb picked us up that day, she drove us over to the park so we could see what was going on for ourselves.  The place was a ghost town.  Sure, all the sites had reservation tabs on them, but the dates were for the following weekend.  Are you telling me no one can camp in the empty spots during the week if someone has it reserved for Friday and Saturday?  This is in contrast to Hartman Creek, who not only let us reserve a spot, but helped us move the date forward a day when we couldn’t make it on time.  It’s also frustrating to me that many of these parks have overflow camping spots for bikers, none for hikers.

On a shade break after one of yesterday’s long road walks, we ran into a group of women hikers – LEGO, Ladies Exploring the Great Outdoors.  They recommended we attend the IAT conference in Stevens Pointe to share our experiences.  This is something I would really like to do, and I have a lot of thoughts for them.  

It’s clear that the IAT does care about thru-hikers, otherwise thru-hiker specific camping areas like Rice Lake would not exist.  What I don’t know is how much they care and how many resources they have available to improve our experiences.  I would ask them why the connecting routes (CRs) seem to go around towns like Rosholt & Scandinavia. Instead, these CRs hike past seemingly nothing, but the mileage is nearly the same.  I would ask them how it is we road walk through and next to so many publicly owned lands, but are unable to camp on them.  Camping for a thru-hiker is not the same as allowing the normals folks to camp.  Beer is too heavy to carry and we are usually too tired to deal with a having a camp fire.  We require 7 square feet for camp and you’d never even know we were there once we’ve left.

Hopefully I do not sound ungrateful.  I merely seek to understand with a side of wanting to help.  These are the thoughts hiking through my head during a 15 mile road walk, so in some ways, these are the trail’s thoughts.

There are many ways to hike the trail, thru-hiking is just one of them and not necessarily the most important of them either.  We met a man on the road a couple times today.  He is hiking every IAT mile a little bit at a time.  His strategy uses a vehicle where he starts and a bicycle to get him back to the car once he reaches his finishing point.  The LEGO ladies are hiking all the trail miles and lead Friday group hikes to get others involved in the trail.  Thru-hiking just happens to be our trail flavor and I think we can make good into better.

Today started our unlike any of the 30 days before.  We set an alarm for 0400 and actually got up!  Getting out of camp usually takes us at least an hour with breaking things down, taking time to enjoy the hot coffee and breakfast.  Hiking started around 0530, light was breaking across the horizon to guide our way.

As a whole, the day was arduous.  You know that tunnel vision feeling you sometimes get after driving a long distance in the car?  If someone later asked what you saw on the roads, you’d have no memory of any of it?  That’s what today was, except it was hiking tunnel vision.  I think the trail was nice, I’m sure it was?  We did 26.5 trail miles + .5 back to the trail from last night’s camp @ Hartman Creek + 2 more miles road walk to tonight’s camp @ Tomorrow Wood Campground.

By the time we reached the campground, we were utterly broken.  Things did turn around quickly when the campground owner, Ed, shouted us down shortly after we walked in.  He informed us that there was a pizza delivery place and drove us down to our tent camping spot, which was on the far side of the very large campground.  

I was so tired and broken, that I just straight up asked for help in the morning, “Is there any chance at all that you could give us a ride back to the trail tomorrow?”  He said, “Yes, no problem.”

Long day.  We are exhausted.