Sunday, November 8 – Tuesday, November 10
A three-day, two-night solo trip to Newport State Park in Door County, Wisconsin.
I’ve been going on quite a few shorter trips lately, and it’s felt really, really good to get back into doing these things I love so much. I’ve missed hiking into the woods with a backpack on my back. I mean, I literally, just a minute ago, stared into the pitch black sky above me and admired the thousands of twinkling stars through treetops faintly aglow from my campfire light. Yup, just did it again. I’m alone out here. The air around me is cool, and if the relentless waves of Lake Michigan weren’t softly crashing along the shoreline just thirty feet away, it would be completely silent. I keep spotting little mice scattering around looking for morsels of food they hoped I dropped. Those tiny critters and my campfire are my entertainment tonight. And it’s perfect.
These types of trips haven’t really been possible in the past few years – at least not without taking vacation time and planning it in around the other things that happen in life that also require the use of my precious vacation time – like family events, getaways with Adam, holiday things… and so I would rarely go through the trouble of all the planning and work it took to just take a night or two in the woods. I was burning out a little. I needed to get a little of “me” back. I needed the woods. I needed them more often.
So Adam and I changed things up at work. We were able to work out a new schedule where we team drive for two weeks, take a week off, and then repeat that three-week schedule. We’ll miss out on that week of pay every third week, so we’ll have to adjust a bit for that, but these weeks off have been allowing me to take these little mini excursions, and so far, I really like it. I mean, those stars above me right now! It’s just starting to feel like I’m slowly building something back up inside that’s been missing. It’s deep down in my bones, and I can’t describe it quite yet, but I know it’s good.
On my first week off of this new work arrangement I went to the Porkies in Upper Michigan. My second week I took a quick one-nighter in Kettle Moraine. This time, I’m at Newport State Park. It’s hard to get reservations here during peak seasons, but since it’s early November, and it’s Sunday, I was able to grab a site for two nights just a couple of days in advance. So I’m pretty happy.
My goal is to do something outdoors on each of my weeks off. It might not always be overnighters, as winter is on the way (even though I DO plan on doing some winter camping!). I’ll at least get out for some snowshoeing, day hiking, trail running, and I might even buy a pulk sled to play with (because I also dream of doing some winter ultras!). So anyway, lots of adventures are in my future. And maybe I can sprinkle in a few bigger trips once spring rolls around (like maybe the Timberline Trail? 😉).
So back to the here and now. I got here to Newport State Park about 14:00 and backpacked a mile into my site (#4) and set up my tent, trail ran the same mile back to my car, loaded a second backpack full of firewood and packed back to my site (that firewood was HEAVY, by the way!). I made a fire, ate some ramen, drank some hot cocoa, toasted a few marshmallows (the mice stole one or I’d have eaten four. Jerks) and now I’m soaking in the last waves of warmth from my dying campfire. And the stars seem to get better every time I look up.
Soon I’ll crawl into my doubled-up sleeping bags in my tiny little tent and hopefully get some restful sleep. The plan is to leave camp set up in the morning and take the whole day to hike around the park. I’ve never been here before, so I’m going to hike around and explore as much as I have daylight for. Then I’ll have one more night of camping and eating some new backpacking foods I’m excited to try, play with some mice and head home the next day, on Tuesday.
So off I go to finish my fire and go to bed. I’ll check back in tomorrow. Good night, friends. And don’t forget to look at those stars whenever you get the chance.
I woke up just a little after light this morning. I was planning on getting up just before light so I could maybe catch the sunrise, but when my alarm went off I heard a light rain sprinkling on my tent. So I cuddled myself back into my downy sleeping bag and went back to sleep. I think I finally rolled out of the tent around 06:30. I didn’t have any more rain after that.
I made breakfast and coffee, packed my daypack and hit the trails. I hiked pretty much the whole park and peeked in on all of the campsites except for two that had people in them. They’ve all got a couple of benches, a fire ring, a metal food storage box (which I tested with a cashew and a mini marshmallow – mine, at least, is rodent-free) and there’s access to a pit toilet from each site. They’re all really nice sites, but I got lucky, I guess, because I think the one I picked is one of my favorites!
The trails in the park are great. They’re all well-marked with a map at each junction. Some of the trails are shared between bikers and hikers and those paths are pretty flat and wide and easy-hiking. I’ve even heard of people using carts on those trails to get gear to their campsite. Then there are some hiking-only trails, and those are more single-track trail with some more rugged terrain in spots like roots and rocks. Overall the trails here are pretty flat, with the exception of the trail along Europe Lake – for a short section there’s a few little rolling climbs, but not very tough or anything.
I enjoyed the day. My favorite trail was the Lynd Point trail. It went right up next to the Lake Michigan shoreline, and in true Door County fashion, there were large rock outcroppings for the waves to crash up against and splash up into the air. Tree roots grew around the rocks, clinging on for life, and the water rolling in was so clear you could see the smooth white rocks underneath. Beautiful! I didn’t see much for wildlife – a bunch of squirrels and some birds. The highlight was a pileated woodpecker that fluttered through the group campsite as I sat and ate my lunch. Those guys are so cool!
I ate things, too! I love snacks! I ate my favorite trail mix of organic, raw, unsalted cashews and organic m&ms. It’s simple, it’s clean and it tastes SO good! I tried a new organic fruit bar that was also very good. For lunch I mixed an avocado with some tuna, drizzled some olive oil over it and sprinkled some pink salt and everything bagel seasoning on top. Super-gourmet trail food! Also on the menu for the day was a new protein bar made from sprouted watermelon seeds (lemon flavored and pretty good for a protein bar!), string cheese, coffee, and a small packet of chicken soup.
Dinner will be interesting. I ran out of fuel for my stove while trying to make up an appetizer of decaf coffee with heavy whipping cream powder, so I had to heat the water on the fire in my small cooking cup. It works, just takes a little patience. So I plan to make a Wild Zora backpacking dinner (just add hot water) that my friend Charisse recommended (thanks, Charisse!!) and a hot cocoa for dessert. But my fire’s nice and hot and I have lots of wood to burn, so I’ll be just fine. Speaking of which… I’ll shout at ya tomorrow. Gotta stoke the fire and enjoy the rest of night! Sleep well tonight, friends!
Last night’s dinner went just fine. My fire got really hot, so boiling water actually went quite quickly. My Wild Zora dinner was really good, although I think I’d want to bring a hot sauce or something to spice it up a little – I mean, it had lots of flavor, but I like spicy. I made a hot cocoa mixed with peppermint schnapps and peppermint marshmallows for dessert and it was almost too rich, if you can believe it! Yum! I roasted a few marshmallows, watched my fire die down, then crawled into my tent for bed.
I didn’t sleep great again. I’m not sure if it’s just that I’m getting old or what, but I need to figure out what’s going on with my back at night when I’m sleeping in my tent. My middle back seems to get sore, so I toss and turn a lot through the night. I’m actually going to try just sleeping with my simple Z-lite sleeping pad instead of the my blow-up mattress next time. I think I might actually need a harder surface. I don’t know. Guess I just need more nights in the woods to find out.
It rained early morning again just like the previous morning, so my fire was cold with no hot coals left in it, and since I was out of fuel for my stove, I mixed up a cold coffee and ate a protein cookie for breakfast. The protein cookie was a brand called “Munk Pack” and doesn’t have chicory root fiber or inulin in it (which makes you poop yourself), and it made a really good, quick breakfast. I packed up camp and hiked the mile back out to my car.
I didn’t want to be done yet, though. It was rainy outside, but I didn’t care. I put on my rain jacket, drove to parking lot 1 by the entrance and hiked two more small trail loops that I didn’t get to yesterday. The first one, the Monarch Trail, was just what you’d expect with a name like the Monarch Trail. It wound through some wide, open meadows and a few short jaunts in some forest. After that I crossed the road and jumped on the lollipop-shaped trail called the Upland Trail. The highlight of that trail was an old root cellar still intact, and there’s a little peeping window in the door so you can look inside. Very cool spot to check out! I will have to come back and trail run on this loop because the trail itself was very nice – single track with lots of big rocks to navigate, it was kind of twisty and winding through some beautiful forested landscape. And with the rain and all the leaves fallen onto the forest floor, it was almost glowing.
Then I got back to my car, grabbed my bag of warm, dry clothes and changed in the warm bathroom of the entrance building (it was closed, but they left the bathrooms open – so nice!). I head towards home, stopped at Brew Coffeehouse in Ellison Bay and the gentleman there made me a delicious breve cappuccino, and I was on my way home.
That was a really nice time in the woods. I highly recommend checking out the park if you get the chance, just make sure you make reservations well in advance if you’re going on a weekend or during a peak season. And mind the direction of the wind forecast when picking your campsite. I can’t wait to go back in the winter to see how different it looks!
Until next time… until the next little adventure… stay happy, friends, and get outside for some fresh air!
Tonight I love Dandies marshmallows. I’m not vegan, but these vegan marshmallows are THE BEST. Skip the cheap Jet-Puffs and spend the extra cash on these. They toast up SO nice – crunchy and brown on the outside, creamy and gooey on the inside. Seriously. They are so good.
As always, here’s a few more pics (you can always see more on my Instagram feed if you’re interested: @_toots_magoots_ )