Fall Backpacking in the Porkies, Day 1/3

Porcupine Wilderness, Upper Michigan

Day 1: Sunday, September 27, 2020

7.3 miles from Presque Isle to the Little Carp River #13 backcountry campsite

I needed this trip for so many reasons. Looking back on the photos, I kind of recognize that particular smile. And that makes me happy.

Real quick preface here: I was really wanting to backpack in the Porkies for my time off this week, but I couldn’t get a reservation – everything has been booked solid for weeks. Campgrounds, hotels, and even the backcountry sites – all full. I put a message out on a facebook group asking for suggestions for places I could do a 3- or 4-day trip without having to make reservations (it’s peak fall colors right now, too, so…). I got some cool suggestions but then a comment came in from a girl named Sara that said she had 2 nights reserved in the Porkies for Sunday and Monday nights and couldn’t use them because her plans had changed – and did I want them? Um, hell yeah I do!! How lucky am I!? So she changed the reservation to my name and I started planning.

Adam and I got back Saturday morning from our 2-week truckin’ run, did some fast shopping for stuff I’d need, then once we were home it was game on. The only prep I’d been able to do on the road was make lists, so I started plugging away at them and checking things off. I got my food organized into breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks. Then separately ziploc-baggied everything and packed that into gallon bags for each day. (I think I packed too much food, but I’ll find out tomorrow.)

Then I dug through our messy, unorganized spare room for all my gear. It was scattered around, but I managed to find everything. My biggest hiccup was that none of my 3 water filters were working. After about an hour of messing with backflushing them I was able to get my regular Sawyer and a Sawyer mini to work okay. Slow, but good enough. Whew! I packed them both because I got nervous when I realized they didn’t work. They must’ve been clogged with minerals or something from sitting dry for so long. Sheesh! It’s been too long since I’ve been backpacking!

Then I got my clothes together. I went back and forth, worried I’d be cold (the forecast was calling for a bit of rain each day, with temps getting as low as 40° F. Bad combo.) I think I managed to not overthink it or overpack.

Then I gathered all the things – my food, gear, clothing, electronics… And attempted, nervously, to pack it all into my backpack. It all fit! I haven’t packed a backpack for a multi-day trip in so long I was afraid I’d forgotten how. But it came back pretty quick. When it was all said and done my whole pack weighed in at 28.2 pounds with 2 liters of water and all my food for the 3 days I’d be out there. I’ll take it.

Everything I need. All 28 pounds of it. This is the simple life.

Adam and I woke up around 5am Sunday morning and hit the road between 6 and 7am. We grabbed a coffee to go and enjoyed the road trip north together. The fall colors seem to be at peak up north already, which seems early. It’s not even October yet! But I wasn’t complaining! The colors just got brighter and prettier and more vibrant as we made our way towards the Porkies. It. Was. Amazing.

Road trippin’! Our favorite! It’s a wonder how we want to just keep driving after that’s all we do for work!
The fall display on the way to the Porkies.

We head right to the visitor’s center where I picked up my permit, and then we head towards the other end of the park where I planned to start my hike. Presque Isle is on the west end of the park, and there’s a campground and a series of waterfalls, so it was so busy! Adam and I said our farewells and off I went down the trail.

Ready to go, thinking, “I hope I didn’t forget something important.”

Just a couple miles into the trail and I was away from pretty much all the people, all alone, just me and the forest. I was so happy that I got teary-eyed a couple of times. I was feeling really sad a couple of months ago because I seriously couldn’t remember the last time I’d gone backpacking. It’s my favorite thing to do, and I just haven’t been able to go! Ultra running has helped scratch the itch, but never really hit the right spot. I mean, since discovering it, I have a special kind of love for ultra running, and I’ll continue with it, but it’s just not backpacking. When I put that backpack on and started my way down that trail, I felt… Completely full. I felt right. I felt like melting into the trail. And I so did.

Some of the falls at Presque Isle where I started.

I hiked 7.3 miles to my backcountry campsite, and it was kind of tough-going! The trail was rugged, muddy, had so many roots, several large trees to navigate around, over and even under, there were huge sections of mud and swamp and a few crazy-steep hills to work my way up and down. Ah, yes. Backpacking. This trail would’ve been nothing but frustrating had I been trying to trail run, but it was fun for hiking. Well, it got a little frustrating towards the end. Only because it felt like it was barely maintained for almost the entire 7 miles. There were only a few very short cruiser sections, and by the time I was done with the day I’d only been able to go about 2 mph. And I didn’t even stop for a break. And that’s okay, except I’d really like to do a big day tomorrow, and if the other trails are like this one, I’ll have to adjust my plan.

One of the few dry sections of trail the first day. Very rugged. Very fun.

Tomorrow I was hoping to hike long and hard and do way more miles than I should because, well, I’m crazy and that’s how I do things. The plan is hike a 24+ mile lollipop loop so that I can see Mirror Lake AND Lake of the Clouds. But I might alter the plan if I feel pooped at Mirror Lake. I have this same campsite for tomorrow night, so I can just do an out and back at Mirror Lake if I don’t think I have it in me to do the whole planned loop. But even then it’ll still be like 18 miles!

Map of the Porkies.

When I arrived here at camp, there was a nice couple (Mary and Nate, whom I didn’t get a picture of – I’m so bad at that!) and they offered to share their campfire. Wood was scarce in the area – being toward the end of the backpacking season, the area around these campsites has been pretty picked over. I made my dinner and ate half of it (only because I thought it was one serving when I bought it, but it’s actually two and was way too much food for the little bit of hiking I’d done that day). Then I heated up some water and made myself a delicious peppermint patty and head over to their warm fire and visited with them for a bit. When I told them that Adam and I were planning to visit the Keweenaw Peninsula after I got out of the woods, they told us to hit up the monastery that sells fruit cakes. Um, what? So I decided that was just weird enough that we’d have to find the place.

This is the best camp treat. Nothing beats a peppermint patty.

After our visit, I hung my food bag on the bear pole and was happy that it didn’t take too long. The poles used to raise the food bags up are kind of heavy and awkward, so it can be hard to aim it on the hooks, especially when you have a full food bag! But I got the job done and walked back to my tent, crawled in, and now I’m gonna hit the hay. I’m laying in my tent as I write this, warm in my sleeping bag, massaging each foot with the other, listening to the constant crashing of waves along the Lake Superior shoreline. It’s so soothing and perfect. The air is cool on my face and I expect it to feel downright crisp in the morning. But for now, I sleep.

Well, I didn’t forget anything. It was all there. I had all I needed to live in the woods.
Tent, night 1.


Tonight I love the feel of the cool, natural, outside air on my face.

Here’s just a couple more photos. Because I took A LOT. Like a LOT a lot.