NCT Mile 883.5 to 901

We have happened upon a lot of wildlife in this 131 mile adventure.  Started out with some bears and yellow orioles fighting on the first day.  Today included a baby deer wandering in the weeds near our creek break and a Eastern Hognose snake hissed at me while I was filling water; nearly fell in the water and pissed myself.

There is one animal story I forgot to tell that is worth mentioning.  The day we were hiking into meet Shauna & Penny, Brianna got charged by a wild animal!  It happened so suddenly.  My first instinct was that she was about to get mauled by some rabid raccoon, hand when straight to me neck knife.  It took a couple of blinks but I eventually realized it was a bird, a very upset pheasant with two baby chicks.  If you have never been charged by a mama pheasant, it looks like a dilophosaurus from the Jurassic Park movie as it spits on Newman and eats him in the Jeep.  If you’ve never seen the Jurassic Park movie, just know it’s unsettling.  It eventually ran off to try and trick us into following it while the babies hid but we didn’t go for it.  We found the baby chicks and mixed them with Fritos for an early lunch… just kidding… we hiked on.

Today’s hike was a lot like the day from hell last Monday.  First half of the day was beautiful and ended with an extended bridge break where we soaked our feet and relaxed.  

The second half of the day was pretty shit.  Four miles through coastal wetlands just south of White Cloud.  Brianna picked up a new speed, “Mosquito Sprint”.  Brianna lead us through the bogs and marshes with great skill, keeping our feet dry until about 3/4 of the way through.  It was a cruel joke, trying to keep our feet dry when the trail eventually led to an area flooded up to our knees.  Wet feet, wet everything, mosquitos x 1,000,000.  We laughed, we cried, we continued on.  At least this time we were headed to an actual campsite, Twinwood Lake Campgrounds.

Twinwood is another remote USDA Manistee Forest campground, sporting a modest 5 campsites at $10 a night.  We are only ever marginally concerned with arriving to a site and finding no spots open.  If it’s happening to us, it’s happened to someone else.  Dollars to daisy’s there is a non-official dispersed campsite for us to use within a quarter to half mile.  Fortunately or unfortunately, 3 of the 5 sites were available for us to choose from.

More than ready to set camp and clean the mud off our shoes, we chose the site furthest away from the loud generator running backwoods folk.  The only thing louder than their generator was when they had to yell conversation to each other over the generator.  When the generator eventually turned off, we could finally hear their dog whining.  Careful what you wish for, huh?

Twinwood lake is a nice little body of water.  Remote lakes like this can have any number of big clean fish.  We saw quite a few trucks hauling in and out kayaks and fishing poles.  I chatted up one of the fisherman and he said it was a great lake for northern pike.  None of the banks looked suitable for shore fishing and the only non-mucky access was the one boat launch.  Refilling our water from the boat launch isn’t ideal for a lot of reasons but we really had no other option.  We did our best to use lake water for cooking and saved the old water for drinking.

Brianna made a beautiful feast this evening.  She layered the food in our coffee cups:  hot refried beans, pepper jack cheese chunks, hot beans & rice, with Frito toppers.  

Shoes and socks are drying over a small fire we created with partially burned logs.  It was a hard 17.5 mile day, only 9 left for tomorrow.

NCT Mile 901 to 911

It’s been a few days and I’m still not sure how to write the final day of our 10-day hike through the Manistee Forests.  I’ve written and deleted more paragraphs than this last post will end up being, I’m sure. Our trip was amazing and awful, ugly and beautiful.  I’m left sitting here wondering if I wrote the way I wanted to or if we learned all of the things we needed to learn.

The world we planned the hike in is not the world we hiked in.  COVID makes the future murky to think about, the fear it brings, the damage it does, the reactions we have to it.  Truthfully, COVID played a huge part in how our hike played out.  I have no idea how busy the trail would have been in a ‘normal’ world.  What I do know is that we stayed many nights in established campgrounds with no neighbors around us; the nights were quiet and wild.  Most people daydream about camping as an intimate experience in the forest and we actually experienced it.  Most nights had no generators, no dogs, it was only us and the cranes, loons, deer, bear, and snakes.  The trail owned us, and we owned it, for a time.

With the first 100+ mile trail under our belts, it seems more possible than ever that our long-distance hiking plans will actually happen.  Not that this trip was necessary, it just provided a lot of things we needed without knowing that we needed them.  That is what hiking is, you encounter a lot of fucked up situations and only have what you have to deal with them.  I’m not going to pretend like we were happy the entire time, we weren’t. 

Hardship and the lack of enjoyment makes the good times better.  Our bodies are capable of so much.  I’ve spent so much time doing nothing with my body and wondering why it stops working the way I expect.  How surprised was I to find that the more I pushed my body, the better it responded.  The more work we did, the more pain we felt.  The more pain we felt, the more the body healed.  It has taken a few days for the body to zero out since we’ve been back home; feet swelling to go down, appetite to normalize.

So what did we learn?

  • Writing on the hard days is just as important as writing on the good days.
  • Do not trust maps.
  • Do not pass by an actual water source in lieu of an unknown.
  • Do carry less water if the weather, terrain, and likely water sources allow for it.  A liter of water is 2.2lbs.  If you are carrying a 30lb bag, 2.2lbs is a 7% increase.
  • Battery management is challenging, even with an extra battery pack.
  • Bringing a fishing pole on a hiking trip only works if you have energy at the end of the day and don’t mind smelling like fish for the rest of the trip.  I sent my gear home with Shauna on day 3.
  • Sharing your hiking experience with family and friends as it’s happening is half the fun, more than half on the bad days.
  • We love to hike.  We love to hike together.

I guess that’s it for this trip?  Time to plan the next one!