NCT Mile 58 to 76

Today started out ultra confusing.  We received a message from Shauna on our Garmin while in the middle of enjoying our coffee and strop waffles.  The message read, “waited for you by the cabin for a couple hours, heading home now.”  Which made no sense to us as we thought the plan was for them to meet us at the campsite, we even managed to get a single text out with the LC-5 site number.  

We eventually got a call out to Shauna about a mile into our day’s hiking.  Turns out they were less than a quarter mile from our campsite and neither of us had any idea.  Needless to say, Brianna and I feel like real A-holes about the mixup.  It’s not entirely our fault but the thought of Ric injured hiking out that far and just coming up short is pretty shitty.  He even had beer!

On a happier note, Brianna and I did something today that we could not have done if other people were on the trail with us… We hike an 18 mile day!  It was only supposed to be a 12 miler but we saw storms rolling in and were only 5.5 miles away from the car, so why not push it?

A lot happened over our 18 miles, as you can well imagine.  We ran into a group of six hiker/campers within the first couple miles and they offered us pancakes and Canadian bacon!  We declined, not sure how, but we did.  It had nothing to do with having a long day in front of us, we didn’t even know it would be an 18 mile day at the time.  It’s just hard to stop and go and stop and go so soon after starting the day.

An amazing part of the day was when we came upon a parking lot with a trash can.  We had accumulated four days worth of trash and it starts to take up a lot of volume.  The parking lot was also filled with sun, giving us the opportunity to dry our wet clothes out and enjoy a long hour of lunch.  We took a river bath yesterday after reaching camp and did laundry.  Our campsite had no wind and no sun so nothing really dried out over night.  One fun lesson I learned today is that if you have wet clothes and no sun, body heat dries the clothes you’re wearing way faster than hanging them off your pack.

Twilight had fully set in by the time we arrived to our car.  The blue blazes marking the trail were increasingly difficult to find, I’m lucky to have ol’eagle eyes with me.  Brianna’s knee held up really well through the long miles but my blisters started to pop at the end, crisis averted, but now I’ve got the hiker hobble and she looks normal.  

The sweetheart Shauna is, she left us a hand written note letting us know they got a hotel room 6 miles north and we could drop in for a shower in the morning.  Little did she know… She also left us KitKat bars!  Chocolate is not a convenient long distance hiking snack, the girl knows what we like :-).  It didn’t take us long to find the hotel per her instructions (no cell signal) but we did not get a chance to surprise them like we had hoped.  Ric and Shauna had been tracking us via the Garmin website and were waiting outside the hotel with beer and smiles.

I felt a little bad going in to grab a room, smelling as God awful was I did, but the lady at the front desk said her mask, “makes it so I can’t smell shit.”  Thanks, COVID?  We were able to get a room and an evening of tomfoolery commenced.  This hotel/motel thing is straight out of the 1970s, a motel/bar/restaurant/bowling alley/arcade/laundry combo.  That’s right, we took showers and cleaned clothes.  Not sure how much I cared for sleeping in a bed, and the room smelled like strawberry urine, but complaining at this point would just be silly.

NCT Mile 49 to 58

Can you reverse the curse?  Every person Brianna and I have taken out on a long distance hike has tapped out early.  Our latest victim is Ricardo, tapped after two night.  With Ric out that brings our victim total up to three.  That’s three out of three, 100% for those keeping track from home.

All three of our hiking companions went home early for varying degrees of the same reason.  It would be easy to say that Brianna and I hike people beyond their limits, but I don’t think that’s true.  Over packing and underestimating the difficulties to be encountered.  Logic would make you think that packing more things would make you BETTER prepared for bumps on the trail when the opposite is actually true.  When a 15 mile hike turns into a 20 mile hike or a 12 mile into a 15, pack weight is what prevents you from carrying on.  A roll of duct tape and an extra pair of clothes cannot save you.  

Ric took some hard falls.  The fall that did him in was on a steep decent down a wet clay hill.  Sliding your ass down wet clay doesn’t feel good.  Hitting the ground with 60 pounds of gear on your back, well, he is lucky to have gotten up.  The fall was so hard that the bottom of his pole bent 90 degrees from the weight he put on it to try and stop.  We had fun while they were here and we miss them now that they are gone.

After Ric and Shauna headed towards the early jump off Trailhead, Brianna and I continued on through 3 miles of rough bog jumping and tree blow downs before the trail smoothed out again.  The last 6 miles were actually quite nice, with three more waterfalls… well, they were labeled waterfalls.  These waterfalls were no where near as grand as yesterday’s, these waterfalls were just areas where water happened to fall down some rocks.

Finding our campsite was a little tricky, as per usual.  The DNR doesn’t have signs for where campsites are and how far you might be from them like they do the rentable cabins.  It might be that these campsites rotate and it’s too much to manage, it’s tricky for those of us not familiar with the area.  The only sign you get is a small three inch placard on a single tree.  If you miss the placard, you just keep hiking.  We were lucky enough to guess our campsite and then confirm it was correct after 15-20 minutes of wandering around.  We are definitely in the right spot tonight!  We were definitely in the wrong spot yesterday.

One of the new challenges this trip has brought us is that cell coverage is basically zero.  On our Manistee hiking trip, we would text people at night, check the weather, I’d post blog updates.  On this trip, we are relying on Mel to be our eyes in the sky and send us weather updates to our Garmin In-Reach, which uses GPS.  We did stumble across a little cell coverage around lunch today where we were able to make a call out, send some texts and post to the blog.  We would like to call Ric and Shauna to see what their plans are tonight but it’s just not possible.  We did get a Garmin message that they made it to a hotel and showers safely.

Wait there is more… another variable on this adventure worth tracking is that Brianna seems to have tweaked her knee somewhere in the past couple of days.  I’m not sure what impact this will have on the next few days but the implications are quite obvious.  For now, we sleep to the sounds to another river in a secluded section of the Porcupine mountains.  Mountains to the left of me, river to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you!

NCT Mile 36 to 49

Here is something I haven’t done often on the trail, write in the morning!  Every night of a hiking trip is special in some way, the first couple nights are especially special.  Day 1 is kind of like a one night stand, you’re just excited to be somewhere, blinded by instinctual enthusiasm to the point where you don’t care what happens as long as it’s happening to you.

Morning after is the real barometer.  If the first thought you have is, “what the hell did I just do?” Then you need to go home, take a shower, and try to find a new passion.  If you wake up and feel like you’re ready for many days in a row of the same thing, then hiking might just be for you.  I was talking about hiking, not one nights stands.  Get your head out of the gutter.

Evening thoughts:

Today was beautifully bitchtastic.  We worked for every inch of the 12 miles we hiked today.  Sections of the trail were straight vertical, others had foot deep mud, and a few of the middle miles weren’t really a trail at all.  If it wasn’t for the blue blazed trees to mark the trail, we would have had no clue where to go or where we were.  On one hand, it slows the pace down to a mile an hour.  On the other hand, it’s good experience to what we will experience in many sections of other long trails.

My favorite parts of today were the waterfalls, there were about six of them?  We ate lunch at a waterfall and took two of our frequent breaks at waterfalls.  If other trails are famous for mountains, NCT in northern Michigan should be famous for waterfalls.  There were so many waterfalls on the map that I made the comment, “trails should be easy today, probably have pristine trail maintenance for all the people to see the waterfalls.”  Except for a mile towards the end, at Manobenzo falls, I could not have been more wrong.

Tonight we camp on the Lake Superior shore.  The end of the hike wore on forever and we were more than ready to setup camp and get dinner into our mouths.  Honestly, I don’t even think we are camped at the correct camp site.  Hopefully no one wakes us up and tells us to move in the middle of the night.  It’s a dark quarter moon with an overcast.  Fingers crossed.

NCT Mile 29 to 36

Day 1 was a flawless victory!  Almost.  Everything with picking up permits and dropping off vehicles went super smooth until a cop passed us coming the opposite direction and immediately flipped a bitch to get behind us.  Rick didn’t even pretend that he hadn’t done anything wrong, had the truck pulled over with the window down before the State Trooper had his lights on.  What could have been a ticket for 15 over turned into a warning when the trooper noticed a Marine issued rucksack in the back.  Rick is an Army guy, not a Marine, but it didn’t matter, military connections run deep.  I’m glad he didn’t ask if anyone else was in the service.  Knowing there was an Air Force guy in the backseat might have gotten him back into a ticket.

We arrived to the Trailhead around 11am central time, because we did cross out of Eastern for the first few days.  It wasn’t until 3/4 of a mile in that Rick looked back at me and said, “I know what I forgot, the paper map book.” 

I stopped walking. “That’s where our camping permits are.”

Rick dropped his pack. “Oh, I’ll run back and get it then.” 

Running back to get permits seems like such a simple thing, but it wasn’t.  Rick disappeared down the trail while Brianna, Shauna, and I plopped on the ground and took some weight off while we waited.  It had been about 20 or 30 minutes of waiting before a large family passed by us on the trail.  I asked if they had seen our hiking partner on their way up the trail and they said no, they had not seen anyone.  How could they have not seen anyone?  This made me worry enough to start a hike back search for him.

Rick wouldn’t intentionally go off trail.  He has more backcountry experience than the rest of us combined.  Is he lost?  Did he fall into the river?  I ran all the way back to the truck with no sign of him.  My brain was processing all the possible scenarios as I ran back to where the girls awaited my return.  Guess who was there waiting for me?  Rick.  He did go off trail.  To top it off, it sounds like he took some spills on his “shortcut”.  I’m not mad, just not something anyone should ever do.  One of us should have gone with him, that’s true too.  I promise no one else would have tried an off trail “shortcut” either.

The day was pretty smooth after that initial hiccup.  Rick is rather sore now, which doesn’t make me feel great about how the next few days might play out.  His pack is a heavy sack of rocks and that’s a challenge for a person without silly injuries.  

Tonight’s camp is next to the Black River, we are surrounded by the sounds of a wild river running.  Is it a good thing that we can’t hear any of the weird nighttime sounds of the forest?  Seems like all the noise makers are still out there… 

NCT Western UP – Night Before

We have arrived in Negaunee, Michigan! A six hour drive isn’t too bad when everyone has a chance to get out of work early, which we all did, and can arrive to the AirBnB by 7pm the night before a hiking trip begins. There is plenty of time left in the day to pop a couple of beers and pull everything out of our bags for final-final inspection.

Irons street in Negaunee is a very beautiful… ghost town. Our apartment sits above a closed bar, next to a closed night club, across the street from another closed bar. It feels like this town should be inviting and homie. I want to love it and tell everyone to come here because it’s a hidden gem of the north. All I can really do is hope these businesses survive through the next year or so, “Yooper Strong”. Most people won’t get this reference but this town reminds me of Stargate Universe season 2, episode 19, where the team arrived on a planned that was ravaged by deadly drone programmed to destroy all technology. We live in weird times.

Tomorrow finds three more hours of driving ahead of us. First, we have to “check-in” at the Porcupine mountain visitor center and pick up our camping permits for the two nights we are staying in the state park. The Porcupine Mountain State Park, also know as the “Porkies”, now requires all campers to reserve and use ONLY designated campsites. No dispersed camping, no first come, first serve. The cost is only $15 a night and the purpose is to prevent overcrowding and forest destruction. I don’t like having to make a stop at the visitor center to pick up our permits, but I get it, except for the part where we have to go to the visitor center instead of just printing them off ourselves.

After picking up the permits, we drop a car off to the first resupply spot and shoot over to the starting Trailhead. Day 1 is a 9 mile hiking day, max. Hiking over 9 miles would put us in the State park and that requires a permit, so we can’t push that far. Our permits are for specific locations on Sunday night and Monday night. If everything goes according to plan, tomorrow should be a smooth day. Hiking trips rarely go according to plan.

Welcome to Our Adventures!

You have wandered mindfully? onto the site we are using to track our various Brianna & Marty adventures.

Our next hiking trip begins on Saturday, August 22nd, where we will take on about 150 miles of the Western UP section of the North Country Trail (NCT).  Follow our adventure in the daily blog below, posts will be top down newest to oldest.  Cell signal will be sketchy.  Check back regularly and don’t worry about us if some of the posts are delayed.

Western UP Gear List URL: https://lighterpack.com/r/jpq0ol