Day 9 – IAT Mile 128.6 to 143.7

Today’s plan was centered around weather and walking.  Severe thunderstorms were scheduled to roll into our area around 1pm and we wanted to get as many miles in as possible.  On the trail by 0630, 15.0 miles completed; we kicked ass.  Our plan called for a 22 mile day, that’s 7 missed miles that we will make up, or not.  7 miles may not seem like much, but it throws every other day off.  We can’t just camp or get water anywhere we want, it has to be planned.

We started our day in the Southern Blue Hills and finished with a road walk.  Going East, as we are, Southern Blue hills were still very hilly, mostly downhill.  About 3/4 of the way through Blue Hills, we came across a really interesting piece of art, or cursed land, or ? There were large metal wheels with cow bones and skulls fastened at various points.  As I recall, that part of the trail was through private land. Whether this centerpiece served some functional purpose or was out there to mess with hikers, I have no idea.  Picture included below.

The road walking was, well, walking on the road.  Shauna scooped us up right before the storms started and we drove an hour south to Chippewa Falls, home of Leinenkugel beer!  We stopped in the brewery and drank a couple of beer flights before retiring to our small cabin, safe from the rain.  Tomorrow is our last day with Shauna.  Things are about to get real.

I have been thinking about whether or not long distance hiking gives a person more time to think.  At face value, it might seem like existence of the question answers itself, and I’d agree to a point. There are so many things going on in my head at any given moment in time.  

Do we have enough water?  How much distance to the next break? My feet hurt. I’m hungry. Are we on schedule? My knees hurt.  Still no cell service? My legs itch. I miss Athena.  Can we make it to camp before dark?  What was that noise?  Oh, look, a bear.

All of those thoughts are happening while I’m checking the trail ahead for bears and the ground below for roots and rocks.  Sounds difficult when I write it like that, but probably equivalent to watching a movie while working and drinking coffee.

People talk about finding deeply meaningful thoughts on the trail and that just has not been my experience.  I’m not hiking in search of answers, but I do like comparing what people say to my personal reality.  I am changing.  Probably more like the movie Inception, the forest is planting seeds into my dreams and slowly changing who I am.  Long distance hiking is more about being a back woods project manager than it is about being a philosopher, as of today anyway.

Day 10 – IAT Mile 143.7 to 164.3

You may be wondering how it is possible for a trail to stretch across all of Wisconsin.  The short answer is that it doesn’t really work that way.  The IAT and pretty much all other long trails are a patchwork of many small segments.  We walk through all kinds of land, State, County, privately owned. When a Trail organization, like the Ice Age Alliance, is unable to find a way to connect two pieces of land, they use roads as connector routes, a.k.a CRs.

Road walking is not my favorite, neither do I hate it.  We started our day today with a 13.4 mile CR.  I was never day dreaming about the road walking parts of this adventure before it all started, but the advantages are clear.  Our feet are dry, not having to trek through muck after yesterday’s downpour.  Significantly fewer bugs.  Much less likely to get lost.  Most of the roads are old country roads with few cars, which means I can take my phone out and write as we walk.  I’d like to download the Game of Thrones audiobooks and listen to some, lots of possibilities.

You might be asking yourself, “where do you go the bathroom on a 20+ mile road walk?” and I would simply say, “anywhere you can find cover.”  I had this concern and more, but you do what you gotta do, when you gotta do it and hope for the best.  That’s part of the adventure?

Another fact I have to remind myself about road walking is what happened to us on our NCT Manistee Trail hike back in June of 2020.   Brianna and I were road walking when a nice woman invited us in, bought us beer, washed our clothes, cooked us dinner and let us stay the night in their camper during a storm.  The trail community is small and strong, she took us in during prime COVID time without thinking twice. 

Road walking puts you next to people, and for better or worse, those are the people that will help you if things aren’t going well.  As a rough looking man with an ever growing beard, I appreciate that people will be more willing to help me when a cute Brianna is around.

This morning was a long CR AND probably our best morning yet.  We headed down the road with a water bottle each and some snacks, everything else stayed in the car.  Shauna had scouted ahead and reported back about an amazing beach access park with pit toilets just 10 miles into our hike.  Without packs on, Brianna and I made it to the park in under 3 hours.

The park was as Shauna had advertised, amazing.  We wasted no time in taking off our shoes off and dipping them into the cold sandy water.  Brianna has been making jokes as we hike by swamps, wondering out loud when one will have a sandy beach.  Here is her sandy beach!

After lunch, it was time to shoulder our packs, finish the last few miles of our road walk and head onto the Chippewa Moraine trail.  This trail is worth the road walking price of admission, easily the most beautiful area we have hiked on the IAT to this point.  Our path weaved through and around untouched kettle lakes for 6 or 7 miles.  Native American trail marker trees dotted the path, directing us where to go as a cool breeze hugged our bodies throughout the hilly terrain.  We took breaks on the perfectly placed benches whenever we wanted.  For the first time on the trail, I stopped thinking about how many miles we had left to hike on the day.

Tonight is our last night with Shauna.  The race is on to restock our supplies for the next stretch of interesting hiking days: food, toiletries, hand sanitizer, Advil, medical supplies.  Anything we don’t have now will have to be picked up in the city of Cornell where the trail passes a local market.  Tomorrow is a short day and Sunday is a very long day.  Not the way we want it, just what we have to do for camping purposes.

Day 11 – IAT Mile 164.3 to 184.2

Another day, another goodbye.  We hung out with Shauna longer and started hiking later than usual this morning.  Partly because today’s hike is shorter and partly because we didn’t want to part ways.  We haven’t had the opportunity to spend this much time with Shauna since we all lived together over a decade ago. 

Shauna the amazing Trail Angel had really gotten the routine down well in just a week of traveling solo with us.  Brianna and I use an app called Guthooks to navigate the trail, it has waypoints and comments from other hikers on water, camping, parking, etc.  Shauna purchased the maps for the IAT and used them to navigate around.  By the time she had to leave, she was planning our days and meeting us randomly throughout the trail.  We offered her an unpaid position as our trail coordinator, she declined.

We ran into our first real hikers today!  We actually ran into them at the very end of yesterday but our encounter was brief and did not warrant mentioning.  This time, we ran into them after taking a side trail down to Picnic lake for lunch; Picnic Lake a primitive camping site on Picnic Lake right at the end of Hardwood Lakes segment.

The three young ladies invited us into their space for lunch, even cleared us off a bench to sit.  We chatted while we ate, almost entirely about our hiking experiences. They had many questions and were very impressed by how small our packs are.  They seem like good people, probably our people, but we did not ask their name nor did they ask ours.  All we really know about them is that they are all friends and from Minnesota, out on an adventure together for no other reason than to spend time together.

After our brief lunch and social time, Brianna and I only hiked about .5 miles before taking another long break.  We typically take our shoes and socks off at lunch, not something we wanted to defile their beautiful lunch spot with.

The Hardwood Lake & Firth Lake segments were very hilly with fewer lakes than the Chippewa Moraine.  We were moving slowly through the woods since there was no real reason to hurry, only twelve miles scheduled for the day.  Around 2:30 or 3, Brianna started sending messages to the Ice Age Trail Facebook group, asking if anyone had ideas for where we could camp if we wanted to hike further.  A group member suggested we call the city office, so we did, and quickly learned that there is a reserved spot for Ice Age thru hikers at the state park.

Dare we hike 8 extra miles today?  We do dare.  It was late, but that could also play to our advantage with cooler temperatures.  And so we were off.  The pace, staggering.  The pain, real.  Our drive, unstoppable.  Check the picture below, those stats are with x4 breaks over those 8.1 miles in 3 hours 57 minutes.

By the time we made it to Cornell, our bodies and feet had reached their limits.  We rested on benches outside the closed Visitor’s Center before willing ourselves back up to complete the final 2 miles up to Brunet Island State park. This, my friends, is when unbelievable trail magic happened.

“Are you two walking up to the state park?” A man in a truck asked, stopping in the middle of the road.

“Yes.” We answered.

“Do you have reservations?  Do you want a ride? You should just come sleep in our basement.  We have a shower and you can do laundry.  Does that sound good to you?”

“Yes!” We answered excitedly

And that is how our night ended.  Instead of a 2+ mile trek up a hill to find a hidden camp spot, a kind man and his wife took us in.  We showered, did laundry, ate hot turkey sandwiches, drank whisky sours and had warm blueberry peach cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top for dessert.

Remember a few days ago when I mentioned how important people are when you’re on an adventure like this?  There are great people in this world just waiting to be met.  If we put ourselves out there, be vulnerable, the world may just show up.  People want to help other people succeed.  As our host for tonight said when sharing some of his past experiences, “those are the parts of our adventures that we never forget.”  

On a side note.  If anyone finds themself in Cornell, WI, thru-hiking or otherwise, go to the Main Scoop ice cream shop.  The ice cream is delicious and the people are top notch.

Day 12 – IAT Mile 182.4 to 207.4

Our morning started just the same as the night had ended, trail magical.  Our fantabulous hosts, Paul and Ann, made us coffee with a side of bacon, eggs and toast.  We all sat in their three seasons room for a while and chatted about our lives, getting to know one another better in the light of a new day.  It turns out that a popular bicycling trail runs through Cornell and they take in cyclists quite often, we were their first hikers.  I think we did our hiker community proud in cleaning up after ourselves and saying thank you on repeat.

After breakfast, Paul took us for a drive to view the beautiful park we were planning to stay at last night.  It would have been a much longer walk up than we thought!  Very pretty island park though, I can see why it’s so popular, seclusion of an island with access to the town resources just a short drive away.

Paul insisted on taking us by the Main Scoop ice cream shop and grabbing us each our own triple scope waffle cones before parting ways.  It was DELICIOUS.  I got dark chocolate with brownie and caramel swirls.  Brianna got pecan praline.

Our last stop for the morning, and where we would say our final goodbyes to Paul, was the grocery store.  Brianna and I ran in while Paul watched our gear, we needed a couple more breakfasts, a couple more packs of skittles… all-in-all, could not have asked for a better way to start the day.

The flip side of having such a great morning was that we started our walking day a bit later than usual.  A walking day that was to be 100% road walking.  It was a long and hot one.

When I previously wrote about road walking, I focused on the positives.  In today’s thoughts, I’ll share the cons.

Road walking is terrible because:

1.) Wisconsin has lots of farm lands that offer no shade, no matter what time it is.

2.) Temperature on black top is 5-10 degrees higher.

3.) Walking on a hard surface is harder on the knees.

4.) Sometimes it gets so hot and you get so tired that the best rest option is a ditch on the side of the road. You get to lay in tall grass and hope for the best.

About halfway through our 25 mile road walk, we were due to pass by two campgrounds, Adam’s Acres & Jim’s Shady Nook.  Jim’s was on a lake so we called ahead and asked if we could stop and fill water, relax for a while in the heat of the day.  The waitress said, “yes, of course”, so we marched on and made it there a little after 1pm.  It was too early for camping, perfectly soon for a couple beers and some waffle fries.

Jim’s Shady Nook is just what you would expect from a back woods campground and bar.  The people were all friendly, asked us many questions as they took shots and ordered beer after beer.  They also filled us in that the bar was less crowded than usual on a Saturday because Rockfest was happening just five miles down the road.  Rockfest had been canceled because of COVID last year and sold out quickly at crazy high prices this year.

I learned how the dice game at the bar works – pay $1 and get three chances for a Yahtzee that matches the day’s number.  Get the Yahtzee and you win the bar pot.  Fail to get the Yahtzee and you lose the $1, which then goes into the pot.

After about two hours, we reluctantly left Jim’s Shady Nook and headed back onto the road.  Our breaks were frequent and not always pleasant, but it’s just not smart or safe to walk for long periods of time hauling this kind of weight on our backs.  Our goal for the night was to make it to Otter Lake campground, where we had called and confirmed there would be camping available.  They also told us the site caretakers, Liz and Mike are IAT hikers and would probably be happy to receive us.

Everything was going well until the last bit.  I turned down the Otter Park Day area thinking it would probably be connected to the camping area, I was wrong.  By the time we hiked the 3/4 of a mile back to the park’s day area, Brianna’s feet were done and it was clear that we would not be walking back.  So we waited.  We waited for the caretakers to close the park down and see two sad hikers in need of a ride to the actual camping area.  

Liz did eventually come shut the day park down and gave us a ride over to the camp.  She gave us site #1 and a quick rundown for where water and bathrooms were before disappearing into their camper.  Sunday is chicken and polka day, they needed to rest up for the festivities.  Brianna & I set camp up in the dark and are calling it a night just as quickly as we can fall asleep.

Day 13 – IAT Mile 207.4 to 228.0

One of my goals in this whole hiking the IAT thing is to update the GD Guthooks map.  Other than the road walking, one of the clear barriers for entry into this adventure is the lack of information regarding important waypoints like water.  People have clearly hiked these paths before, even left comments, most of which are outdated or not helpful.  Saying, “cool bridge” on a water source doesn’t tell me anything about whether water is there or what it looks like.  A lot of what we are going on is gut feelings.  Not a great thing when you’re running 3 miles to a water source and it’s 8pm.

Another factor to help keep me motivated in updating Guthooks information is our “friends”. Chicka & Sunsets, just a few days back.  I put friends in quotation marks because we have never actually met them, I have never directly communicated with them, it’s been all Brianna except for my Guthooks notes.  They posted in the IAT Facebook group that they would be starting a couple days behind us, so Brianna started chatting Chicka up and they been talking ever since.  I’m told that Chicka and Sunsets run a hostel on the Appalachian Trail, are pretty popular in the trail community.  They have videos on YouTube that you can check out!

More so to the point – if I can help take some of the gamble out of Chicka & Sunsets’ daily plan by updating waypoints as we go, I’m more than happy to help!

The first 75% of today was finishing the long road walk.  We ran into a quaint little bar around mile 8, Diane’s Back 40.  We stopped in for a beer and some pizza.  It’s a really nice bar with pool tables, darts, stuff like that.  The pizza was delicious and Diane even filled our water bottles back up before we hit the road.  Thank you, Diane!

About 2.5 miles after the bar and in the heat of the day, we ran into Lublin Park; a great place to stop and take off our shoes and socks for a bit.  Bathrooms with flushing toilets and sinks with running water, who could ask for more?  We sat for about an hour on a swinging bench, chatting with Mel (Brianna’s dad) on the phone for a bit before heading back up for the final 3.5 miles of road.

By the time we made it to the Lake Eleven trail segment and off the road, it was about 2.5 hours until sunset and we had a decision to make.  We each had about a liter of water left and the next mapped water source was 5 miles away.  We could camp where we were with enough water for dinner and sleep or press on to where we hoped was water, where we hoped there would be a camp spot.  We risked it for the biscuit.  I could say it was adventure that pulled us forward, the sense of not knowing how things would play out… but let’s be honest, it was really about having enough water for coffee and breakfast.

Brianna led for the first two miles before asking me to go ahead as she slowed down. I looked back after about another mile and saw a bus with the letters S-T- R-U-G-G-L-E written on the side and Brianna was riding it.  I didn’t pray, because I am not a prayer, but I did wish upon a star because, theoretically, it shouldn’t matter where you are.

This time, we got lucky.  About a mile before reaching our 5 mile goal, we ran into a beautiful bridge with camping and a slow moving stream underneath.  Home for the night, tent up before sunset.

Day 14 – IAT Mile 228.0 to 242.8

Anyone who knows Brianna will not be surprised by this statement: the girl loves her breaks.  Sure, we take a lot of necessary breaks for heat and feet, it’s really about how she has the ability to slip into them so naturally and never come out.  I’ve got at least a picture a day of her leaning back on her pack, shoes off, eyes closed.  If I didn’t remind her that we had to move on, we may still be back at mile 100!

*Don’t get me wrong, I like breaks, I’m just not as good at them.

Last night’s quick camp was a success.  The forest was quiet and we slept without an alarm set for the first time in a while.  It turns out we were really fortunate in stopping early like we did, the spot we were shooting for had swamp water.  This is why Brianna & Marty hiking Prime Directive is so important: Do not pass by a good thing in search of something better… especially when sunset is imminent.

Today found us hiking on Federal land, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.  I’ve only had this experience + our Upper Peninsula hike, but so far, Federal lands have the best paths and premade campsites around.  We have seen a lot of people today, they just pitched their tents in the middle of the forest because they can.  If you’re willing to carry all your water and gear in, you really can camp anywhere you want.  Pretty cool.

Trails were really challenging today.  The combination of heat & body fatigue are hitting us hard, only tapped out a 14 mile day.  End of day hiking is painful.  Your mind wanders and you start to miss little rocks and roots, kicking them hard, awkwardly stepping on them in ways that aggravate an existing blister or begin to form a new one.  This is something we need to do better.

Luckily, I planned for shorter days in the west and longer days in the east.  Also, even more luckily, Mel is coming to visit and we will be taking a zero mile day this week.  Luckiest, Mel has new & bigger shoes for Brianna!

For the Alliance!

Day 15 – IAT Mile 242.8 to 258.9

The forest was dead silent last night.  A deep breath before the plunge (Lord of the Rings Quote).  Without a doubt the quietest night we have ever spent in the backwoods.  You’d think that would help us sleep, but it didn’t.  We both stirred all night, and every one of the many times we woke back up, the forest was still silent.  Thoughts of the movie Evil Dead played through my head, not helpful.

Morning came and so did the sounds, of birds and mosquitoes, of wind and trees, of life!  Last night’s campsite was beautiful with easy access to water, only downside was the uptick on mosquito swarmage. The Thermocell was on as soon as we arrived and stayed on until we flopped sideways into the tent for bed; it even got turned back on in the morning, which is a very rare event.

In case you’re wondering, Thermocell is not paying us to advertise for them.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d take the money in a heartbeat, it is a product we love as it allows us to take breaks without getting eaten on the entire time.  I’ll write a blog about our bug solutions in the future.

Today’s trails certainly had a highlight, the Mondeaux Esker segment.  The esker semi-circles around a body of water called the Mondeaux Flowage.  Mondeaux Flowage has a weird shape that makes for ideal peninsula campgrounds on the west side.  Brianna & I took a break at one of them, Picnic Point Campground, and the wind off the lake was delightful.

Me: Is this why we put ourselves through this?  All the beautiful sights?

Brianna: Heck if I know.

Pro Tip: Flowage is the Wisconsin term for a lake that is upstream of a dam, other places in the US call them reservoirs.

Walking on an esker is very similar to walking the spine of a mountain.  These eskers were formed by glacial melts of old, with many radically vertical ups and downs.  Ending our trail day on the Mondeaux Esker made for quite a challenging series of climbs.  Beautiful views of the flowage lake, but ouch, my toes and knees were screaming by the end of that beast.

Hiking allows us to tour the country and see beautiful hidden gems like Mondeaux Esker & Flowage that we would not otherwise know exist.  The flip side is that we don’t have enough time to spend in each place, our list of “places we need to see again” is growing.  It’s a reminder that while traveling the world is fun and worthwhile, the US has more than a lifetime worth of cultural and geographic diversity all on its own.

End of the day began another chapter of the hike, Mel picked us up!  We had not anticipated the esker climbs to slow us down as much as they did, he was quite frantic by the time we arrived late to the rendezvous parking lot.  Being his first time on the trail with us, I can understand the worry.  It also didn’t help that neither of us had any signal or method to communicate AND he had been up and on the road driving since very early that morning, if he even went to sleep the night before.

Day 16 – IAT Mile 258.9 to 280.5

If you split the Mondeaux Esker segment into an east half and a west half and pretend each half is a child, the east side that we hiked first thing this morning is the annoying child that poops itself and cries all day.  West side kid gets all the attention and toys, the east side kid is the middle child that remembers what it’s like to be the favorite and it is pissed.  More specifically, the Mondeaux Esker’s east side was filled with bogs and ankle breaker holes covered by overgrown grass.

Today would have been a very challenging hike in terms of terrain and water if it hadn’t been for Mel.  Mel carried our packs in the truck and met us every 5 or 6 miles while Brianna & I walked the trails with only a hiking pole, a bottle of water and all the snacks a Fanny pack could carry.  Walking 21.5 miles with this kind of support was almost like a day off, such a dream; road walks weren’t so terrible, rugged terrain wasn’t so taxing.

Brianna has asked me to correct and improve upon a previous entry, so here is my best effort at that.  The song about not loving Jesus is not something she made up, it’s a Jimmy Buffet song.  She also claims that she sang the actual words and not the words I said she sang.  

“My head hurts, my feet stink, and I don’t love Jesus”

Needless to say, I think she is wrong but wanted to provide readers with her side of the story, even if it’s not what I believe to be accurate.  Most people reading this will side with Brianna, and to that I say… wise choice.

After the hike, we hit Ed’s IGA in Rib Lake for supplies before retreating back to the AirBnB.  Our AirBnB is quite amazing little house on 120 acres of farm land, a perfect place to relax.  We met Don, the owner, and he is a salt of the earth farmer man; has to be in his 80s, probably still bales his own hay.  He is bringing us a grill tomorrow for the steaks Mel brought :-).

This entry will be short.  Tomorrow is an off day with much prep work to be done.  We have a 7 day stretch coming up with no towns or resupplies.  Will write more on this tomorrow.

Day 17 – IAT 280.5 | ZERO DAY!

This is a well timed zero day.  Our clothes are all dirty, we are out of food, our feet have many blisters, Brianna’s shin is injured from we don’t know what and my beard smells like my pillow case – several days of sweat, dirty feet and slobber.

Whether planned or unplanned, zero days are a time to rest your body and resupply, when possible.  Sometimes a zero day pops up because of sickness like it did for our friends Chicka & Sunsets, who were forced to get off the trail for a day after day 3 or 4 due to a sudden and violent illness.  Ideally though, zero days are planned and you can get ready for the next big trail days.

Imagine Brianna and I mathing out how many days we need food for and sorting through everything very meticulously.  If we miss a meal, there is nowhere nearby to pick up new supplies, you will go hungry.  If we carry too much food, that’s extra weight your body has to carry across hundreds of miles.  

You might be saying to yourself, “I’d rather carry all the extra meals and definitely not go hungry.”  I get it. Keep in mind that the more you carry, the more you need to eat, the slower you walk, the more damage your feet take, the faster you fatigue, the less likely you are to physically make it to the end of the trail.  If you take a modern consumer approach to hiking, you’ll have way more of everything than you actually need.  Why not take extra toilet paper? More clothes? Another bottle of bug spray?  Long distance hiking is about making a plan and living with the fact that life happens.

And at the end of it all, even when we are in the middle of nowhere, Brianna and I are not alone.  We probably won’t have anyone rushing to our aid if we run out of toilet paper, but if we ever get into a real bind, help will come.  We’ve learned that locals have our backs.  We’ve always known that from Florida to Georgia, Kentucky to Ohio, Michigan, “help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”  I think this Harry Potter quote is a good reminder that even though we strive for independence and self sufficiency, it’s rarely that simple.

Brianna & I mapped out mileage for the next 7 days over coffee and quickly realized that we will need some big miles and will not be able to carry 7 days worth of food, so we asked for help.  Brianna put a quick call in to the local IAT trail coordinator, Ruby, and asked if she knew anyone who would be willing to drop our prepackaged food off to us on Sunday morning before we start our day.  Without much back and forth, Ruby agreed to help us!  With Ruby’s help and the hidden cache we socked away on the drive in (hopefully it is still there) our packs should be relatively light.

After sorting and counting our food a few times, we packed everything up and drove over to the city of Tomahawk, Wi.  Brianna and Mel dropped me at the laundry mat while they visited Ruby to drop our resupply bag off.  

My experience at the laundry mat was uneventful.  Our clothes are cleanish, the arm pits of my shirts still have a hint of body odor.

Brianna and Mel reported back that the trip to Ruby’s was a success.  Ruby and her husband gave us some good future trail info and seemed happy to help.  I’m sure it didn’t hurt to have Mel’s people personality and epic beard around during first impressions, or that Brianna is a cute and innocent looking blonde gal.  If we ever need to hitchhike, I’ll be hiding in the woods while Brianna tricks people into thinking it’s just her.  I’m half joking, that is a tactic hikers use.  People are far less likely to stop for a solo man or a lady and a man.

I couldn’t tell if Mel was amazed or amused as Brianna and I continued running around and prepping for an early morning departure.  I put up the tent to let it air out for a while Brianna soaked her feet in some epsom salt and iced her shin.  Brianna cut my hair.  I Sawyer bug sprayed our newly clean clothes.  We both replenished our toiletries and recharged electronics; packed, unpacked and repacked our bags.  

Mel capped the evening and trip off by grilling, not just steaks, Kentucky grown grass fed back straps (Thank you Mel, uncle Tom & aunt Vickey!). Even without a thermometer, they were  cooked to perfection.  Brianna and I used our neck knives, but the meat was so tender that we probably could have cut through them with a spoon.

We are headed into the woods without a town for the next 7 days.  Communication and posts will be limited as we strive to conserve battery power.  Happy trails!

Day 18 – IAT Mile 280.5 to 292.4

Mel, Brianna & I were all up and out of bed by 0430 this morning.  Brianna jumped in the shower while I made toast with jam and some banana slices.  We didn’t have to be up early this morning, only a 12 mile day, but Brianna and I are strong in our resolve to start hiking earlier, take more breaks, finish the day earlier.

The Mel goodbye was hard, of course.  Seeing him is always a good time.  He hooked us up with everything we could ask for and more. This reprieve could not have been better timed.  We physically and mentally needed a break.  Not to mention the 7 day stretch that started today.

The next 7 days of hiking is interesting because there are large gaps where camping is not allowed.  This is why today is only a 12 mile day followed by a 24 mile day.  There is no camping we can use for those 24 miles, we have to shoot the gap in a single go of it.

Today’s hike started with a 2-mile Rib Lake segment, followed promptly by Wood Lake.  Rib Lake was beautiful and easy walking.  It wasn’t raining this morning, but it did last night.  Rain in the night, trees weep til morning’s light = we got rained on.

Wood Lake was challenging.  The rugged trail mixed with slippery everything made for a challenge.  I tripped and slipped a few times.  Brianna smacked her injured shin on a downed tree.  She later told me the pain was so bad that she wanted to vomit.

If I had to choose a most memorable part of our day it was near the beginning of the Wood Lake hike.  I’ve seen over a hundred beavers dams on this hike alone by now, I continue to be amazed by those industrious critters.  Today we saw what I can only think to call a beaver dam staircase.  There was a top beaver dam stopping a pond, followed by three more dams down the creek the pond was flowing to.  I tried to take a picture, doesn’t do it justice.

Halfway through our day’s hike, a Taylor County Forestry truck rolled by us.  The driver was a younger gentleman by the name of Jordan, he rolled down the window and asked if we needed anything.  We said no and made some small talk about our plans to stay in Wood Lake before continuing on in separate directions.

Wood Lake County Park is home for the night.  I’m not sure how many sites there are in total, definitely no one in any of the 5 or 6 sites around us.  Our Guthooks app advertised this campground as only having 4 sites, which made us concerned for what might happen if we arrived and they were all taken.  All that worry for nothing.  We are a short distance from the bathrooms, the water pump, completely alone @ $10 a night!

Early day tomorrow to beat the heat.  Wish us luck, last we knew a storm was coming… no service here to verify 😮