Porcupine Wilderness, Upper Michigan
Day 3: Tuesday, September 29
11.7 miles from the Little Carp River backcountry campsite #13 to the Summit Peak Scenic Area
I woke up again in the pitch dark, as my plan was to get hiking early so I didn’t have to haul too hard to get to the Summit Peak Scenic Area where Adam was going to meet me at noon. I figured I’d give myself five hours to hike the 11-1/2 miles out.
I was smarter this morning than the previous morning, too. The weather seemed the same, so… rain, maybe? My alarm went off, softly, just loud enough to wake me up, and it was dark, windy, but not raining. I unzipped my vestibule and peaked outside into the dark. It just kind of felt damp. Maybe because I was camped along the Lake Superior Lakeshore or maybe rain was on the way. Either way, I was doing it right this time. I went through the same in-tent routine as I do – let the air out of my air mattress, feel my butt rest on the hard ground, unzipped my sleeping bag, slowly crawled out, got dressed, etc. But I did something different. Instead of tossing all my stuff sacks outside right away, I lined them up inside the tent, and dug around until I found my stove kit. In the kit I left behind one little Starbucks Via packet. I set the stove up outside and got some water boiling and made a coffee. I wasn’t going to miss out on my hot coffee this morning!
Once everything was packed up (most of it already shoved into my backpack) and my coffee was gone, I stepped outside. I got my food bag down from the bear pole and laid out my snacks for the day. This is where I laughed out loud. Remember the mouse that got into my food bag last night? I was half-expecting one to come running out as I opened it, but that didn’t happen, thank goodness. But when I pulled out my Ziploc for the last day I noticed the tiniest hole chewed in it – one I hadn’t noticed the night before during my thorough post-mouse-invasion inspection. Inside that Ziploc I had another smaller Ziploc with my trail mix in it. I made it myself with expensive organic raw cashews, lightly salted roasted almonds and these organic chocolate-covered peanuts. It was may favorite snack, or course. And I’m sure you guessed it. Those little jerks took Every. Single. Nut. out of that bag. They took nothing else. They chewed nothing else. They smelled what they wanted, went for it, got it, and that was the end of it. Everything else was untouched. Crazy little creatures! Well, that should keep them fat and happy for a good chunk of the winter! A baggie of fatty, delicious, organic nuts. Smart little guys. Oh well, I had plenty to get me out the last 11-1/2 miles, so I was unlikely to starve.
It started to rain as I got my tent packed up, and it got a little wet, but I stuffed it in with everything else and head on down the trail in the very, very early morning light. My headlamp illuminated my way. It was a nice morning for a walk, and I didn’t care if it rained. I mean, I was heading out of the woods anyway.
There was plenty of mud holes again, and I decided to just have fun and walk through most of them. I still gingerly stepped around the deepest ones, but otherwise I just stomped right through, feeling the mud squeeze between my toes. It was fun. At one point I stepped out from a shallow mud hole and there was a large downed tree ahead of me. I saw a spot off to my right where I could walk around without too much trouble, and as I stepped over an old, decaying log, I glanced back and stopped in my tracks. It was the tiniest little thing, but it was a color that I’d never seen in nature. There on that log was THE prettiest shade of teal – a natural fungi! I’m not even kidding, friends, this was one of the highlights of my trip! It was the coolest thing ever! I looked it up later and it’s called Green Elfcup, or Chlorociboria Aeruginascens for the cool nerds out there. So incredibly beautiful!
About 3 miles from my rendezvous point with Adam I realized I was about 30 minutes ahead of schedule, so instead of cruising on and waiting in a busy parking lot, I stopped by a river crossing and took my pack off. I sat on a log, made a cup of hot coffee, had a snack, dug a cathole and took care of some business, and relaxed in the forest one last time. I looked around and already felt sad that I was heading out. It was a good trip for my first one in a long time. Even though I kicked my own butt with so many miles the 2nd day, I was wanting more. Perfect. And I still had a little over an hour to enjoy, so why be sad?
I hiked on and toward Lily Pond, which was beautiful. There’s a really nice cabin there (there’s cabins scattered around the park that you can reserve, too, and they’re really nice – rustic, no electricity, wood stoves, wooden bunks, etc.). I played around by the shoreline of the pond and took some photos and walked across the large bridge that spans across the opening of the pond and back into the forest. From there I took the Beaver Creek Trail, which is a short trail, but one I don’t think I’d ever hiked before. The fall colors on this trail were so bright! It was a really nice way to end the hike.
After a little while I spotted cars through the trees. I was just about out to the parking lot. I got there at about 12:15, and Adam was there, waiting for me. He grabbed a photo of me right away. He did the same thing after I hiked the Wonderland Trail in 2017, and that was a 90+ mile trip, so the before and after photos were very different, but even after this much-needed 3-day trip, the difference was noticeable. I was relaxed and my smile was as natural as the dirt I’d plodded through. It was a smile without trying.
Adam had a hot coffee waiting for me, a Coke (a lot of times I crave Coke out of a can, specifically after a long ultrarun or hike – he knows me so well!) and a mint Kit-Kat. It was a nice treat for when I got out of the woods. And seeing him and getting a big hug from him was the best treat! So I got into the Subaru and we head out. He had a room reserved at a really unique place up in the Keweenaw Peninsula that he was excited for me to see, and I was all like, “SHOWER!” So off we went to the rest of our little vacation – which I’ll save for another blog post. Because you know what? The fall colors got better. In fact, maybe the best I’ve ever seen. No kidding. Go to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan to see fall colors if you ever get a chance. We saw color, we drank tasty beer, and bought a fruitcake. Yep, a fruitcake. What a trip.
Tonight I love my dirty feet that will only get clean once I can get my hands on a pumice stone.