[at-l] Minnesota adventure Part 4

Mark Hudson mvhudson at gmail.com
Sun Sep 19 18:34:36 CDT 2010

8/29: Stopped at West Poplar River, moved on to Mystery Mountain -

Now that I think about it, I bet that “fox” I saw just before Grand Marais
was a snowshoe hare; same coloring as the one in camp last night. Also saw
the remains of a hare in the trail this afternoon, somebody didn't clean
their plate...

Nature called early, out on the trail about 6:30... run along the river,
just a tad bit cool for a morning swim, and although there were some nice
pools none of them would have been easy to get to. A LOT more ups and downs
than yesterday morning, but a lot more views too. Got to the top of the
climb (very warm climb, no breeze) outside the Cascade River and found a
X-country skiing lean-to with a tent pitched in front of it, nobody up yet.
Nice spot but no water... More ridge running, some western views. Seemed
like I needed a lot of breaks with the climbing, but what's the rush?

Somehow I added miles wrong again, Lake Agnes was supposed to be about 14
miles, but I got there at 11 am. Took a nice long lunch and several swims,
really nice spot, but too soon to stop. Easy three miles to the East Poplar
River Campsite, river very reedy and slow moving. Met a college orientation
group there but forgot to ask which school. Good call on coming the extral
6/10ths to here (West Poplar River Campsite) – moving water and maybe a
rocky pool to get wet in...

Man, I just can't get the math straight. The extra miles made today 15 or
so. To make it to the State Park tomorrow means 19 miles. Lots of time to
make that distance given the time that I usually hit camp, but I don't know
how my feet will feel about it. If that one campsite actually has water I'll
have to consider staying there, but the site before that one would make it a
ten mile day, maybe less. I also haven't even looked into what a nineteen
mile day does to the stops down the line, and the Finland resupply. I guess
I'll just have to see...

<sigh> The bad math... was ten miles and change to Lake Agnes, fourteen at
most to here. I could have dinner here and move on 2.1 miles to the next
(dry) site, which would make tomorrow a nicer seventeen miles. I'd
essentially have to repack camp here (all of about 15 or 20 minutes work)...

THAT is what is referred to as a foul mood. Having decided to move on I was
going to pack first and then cook dinner. So in packing, I find my Camelback
has leaked inside the tent, the hood of the sleeping bag got wet along with
the floor of the tent. . In cleaning up that mess I forgot my glasses were
in the hanging pocket, and packed them inside the tent. Then a small part of
dinner missed the launch into the cooking pot and ended up on the ground :-(

Hiking the steamy uphill, being attacked by mosquitoes, idiot flies making
kamikaze runs on my eyes (no glasses). I broke the crest of the hill and met
Dave and Cynthia, an older couple hiking from Grand Marais to Temperance
River. Dave wants to hike the AT next year, so we had quite the little

Got to the bridge over the Poplar River and tanked up on water. I SO wanted
a swim, but I wanted to be in camp even worse...

Arrived at Mystery Mountain to find a McCollister freshmen orientation group
in camp (same school as the group heading to Lake Agnes). Pitched camp
again... but didn't have to cook dinner this time.

Well, tomorrow I should be in Temperance River SP. Hot shower? I hope.

 8/30: Temperance River State Park -

Hung out at the campfire with the college crew last night, mostly just
listening. I thought I was well read, but it would take me a while to catch
up with that crew...

Got some instant cheesecake dessert out of it, and gave up some of my
oversupply of chocolate covered coffee beans :-)

Showered briefly a couple of times last night, Today was supposed to be
“clean sock day”, but with the wet I decided to wait a day. Set off under
overcast skies, the sun trying to break through. Moose Mt turned out to be
the first real mountain of the trip, just as I broke the crest it showered
again, intermingled with the sun – I expected to see a rainbow but no luck.
Did get a couple rolls of thunder, then the shower quit. Of course the rain
brought out the skeeters. I spent all morning swatting at them, then finally
broke down and got the bug dope out, first time on this trip.

Basically it was 100% humidity today, and when the sun came out it was
brutal. More rain showers towards Oldberg Mt, where I met a couple
backpacking north from the state park. Stopped at the Oldberg Mt parking
area for an early lunch – there was a picnic table <g>, and luckily there
was a marathon or something through there over the weekend, and their table
and water cooler were still there.

Started the steep, sweaty climb up Mt Carlton just after some dayhikers left
the parking lot, with the humidity the sweat was just running off of me. Did
the detour to the summit, where the humidity was telling me the views were
better yesterday. Also met the gang from the parking lot- they're staying at
a resort down near Tofte, and you leave your car at one trailhead and the
resort shuttles you to the next one. Not a lot to say about the run to the
river, other than it was flatter than I expected, but by then things were so
bad I was dripping sweat on the downhills. Met a gang going up and one guy
was claiming to his kids that it was only 70 degrees, that didn't sound
right, but I've already had too many cases of “cool in the shade, hot in the
sun” on this trip.

More and more people as I got closer to the park and the road, finally one
young couple leaping off a high rock into a pool at the end of the gorge; NY
would have had it fenced off, “No Swimming” signs, and a ranger issuing
tickets. Things must be a little different out here.

Rolled into the campground, got a walk-in site (too close to the road but I
have earplugs). Threw the tent up so it would dry, and headed for the
shower. I had bought a bar of soap in Grand Marais but left it behind – too
heavy – so I was dependent on scavenging at the shower or cleaning myself as
best I could with my alcohol gel. Somebody had left behind some cheap
perfumed shampoo and some Old Spice body wash – I smell like a tourist now!

Let's see what I've missed; saw a couple of toads today, all else quiet on
the wildlife front. The older couple I met yesterday mentioned a younger
couple hiking south to Two Harbors, ultralight, they had met in the morning
so I assume that was Dave and Olivia that I've been following down the SHT.
Now I'm wondering if I saw them in GM – there was a young couple toting
empty packs through town, but I didn't think they looked like backpackers.

And I've been thinking this whole trip that maybe this latest pair of boots
is a half size too small, by the end of the day my small toes can't wait to
get out of them.

Oh yeah, the temp... when I checked in at the campground I mentioned it, and
one of the gals at the entrance post checked and said it was 81 degrees at
the station so it was probably 90 degrees on the ridge – then add in the
god-awful humidity. There's a soda machine at the ranger station, I chugged
one checking in and stopped for a second on the way back from the shower – I
can't remember the last time I had two sodas. Now if they had a
*beer*machine... <g>

4:10 now, should take my camera and wander down to the lake before dinner...

And another trail note: I'm not convinced that the trail runs that much
closer to Rt 61 than it did farther north, I think as you get farther south
there's much more truck traffic, so you hear it much more as background
noise up on the tail. It's not especially intrusive, but since it's almost
always there it takes some of the edge off the wilderness experience...

About 17 miles into here. I'm developing a pizza craving, almost to the
point of asking the rangers if there's a place that will deliver to here.
But I've got food and enough to spare already, so that craving will have to
wait until Duluth, unless I get really lucky in Finland, and I'm not
expecting that much luck.

So, with the campsite bump into here, it looks like I'll have either a 6 or
7.5 mile day into Finland. Since I didn't find a motel or cabins close by it
may also be a 2.6 mile round trip road walk into “town”, plus another 2.4 to
the next campsite. So worse comes to worse is 12.5 with some time “wasted”
at the store. Best case is that I find someplace nearby that I can stay that
wasn't listed. I might even be able to camp at the “Finland Recreation
Center”, from the guide it sounds like it's just a ball field with a privy.
I know from e-mailing Joan and Jon that there's some kind of pricy
restaurant in Finland, Jon said the tab equaled what he spent on groceries
for the week. I may be there too early for the restaurant, especially if I
end up doing the 12.5 mile gig.

Looks like 12.5 or 15 tomorrow. If it's the same heat and humidity I may be
in camp early...

I think it's time to start looking at dinner... :-)

Later – stomach happily bloated from dinner, although a stupid mosquito
snuck under my shirt and bit me right at the belt line.

I heard the office chatter checking in here, all the sites but one were full
last night, now they have the “Full” sign up at the gate (we're talking
Sunday and Monday nights here folks!), although when I walk through I see
sites open, reserved but haven't shown up yet? Anyway, *really* glad to have
a site, next campsite on the trail is another 2.5 miles (GOT to be some
uphill in there!), I could have done it but it wouldn't have been any fun.

Almost tempted to stop and ask for tomorrow's weather report, but it won't
change anything, I'm still hiking.

Strange – the father and son (12-ish) next to me had their tent upside down.
I went down to the beach until the mosquitoes started coming out. Come back
up and dad is just finishing packing the car to leave. But since check-out
is 4 pm and it's now heading for 7, they paid for tonight?

I was guessing at the mileage before; without grunting my way through the
guidebook (they really do need to take a look at the AT databook!). I'm
guessin (again) about 85 miles left (So I broke “100 to go” this morning).
Another journey ending all too soon, although I'm looking forward to doing
some local exploring when I'm done, and hoping that a chance to sit will
finally heal that left shin.

 8/31: Crystal Creek Campsite -

All that traffic noise? I'm thinking a fair part of it is operations at the
North Shore Mining facility.

Showers at 6am, just enough to make everything wet. Out of camp at 6:45,
skipped the morning shower since I very much expected to get rained on
again. I did have to sacrifice a clean pair of socks tho...

Funny, I don't think the guide mentions the southbound climb out of the
Temperance River valley; seven am and the sweat dripping off of me in the
high humidity, and a full crop of skeeters on call. Fortunately that was one
of the few climbs of the day. Short run over to the Cross River, easy
terrain after the climb broke. The overcast was breaking up and the sun
trying to come out, I was hoping it wouldn't because in the end it was just
as hot and humid as yesterday – the saving grace being that the trail was
much flatter and easier than yesterday.

Met a woman camped with her doberman at the Cross River. I asked her if she
might have run into a young couple hiking south. She described a couple that
had been there the previous night – almost nothing in their packs, asleep
before dark, gone at sunrise... must be them! <g>. She was also the only
person I saw on the trail all day.

A mile or so up the (Cross) river I came to the falls, with the sun being
more or less out and being soaked with sweat I couldn't resist jumping into
a beautiful little pool below the falls, what a way to wake up in the
morning! :-)

Very flat, buggy, humid woods running from there. Stopped at Tower Overlook,
very humid and hazy views. Made it about 50 more yards and realized that my
Camelback bite valve was missing – went back and actually found it at the
overlook :-)

>From there I passed the big beaver ponds, the forest started opening up on
the ridge – which meant it was brutally hot when the sun popped out. Pulled
into here just after 1pm, creek much smaller than I hoped, and damn little
shade. Only 1.2 miles to the next site, which unfortunately is off a wayside
along the road, so scads of people wandering around. Getting sunnier out and
dang hot in my little tent, time for another cook-pot shower.

Waiting for it to cool off enough to think about dinner. Hope it's cooler
tomorrow... looks like 15.4 miles to Sonju Lake over fairly easy terrain.
I've been rushing to get as much hiking as I can done early, even tho I'm
not really beating the heat. Oops, the later part of the terrain, the early
part may be more interesting, from the Caribou River to the Manitou River
may be a bit more of a workout. But I may get a couple of chances to swim
too. Then that leaves me about six miles to the Rec Center, plus the road
walk. Be in Finland plenty early enough for lunch on Thursday :-)

7pm – cooling off nicely now, almost makes me want to pack up and hike some
more, but I'm not that ambitious...

This afternoon I figured out another complication to the mileages on this
trail; they give the section mileages from parking area to parking area. If
the parking area is a half mile down a spur that gets counted (twice), even
though a thru-hiker isn't hiking it... they *really* need a data book!

Oh, and since the next river is a wayside, but not a campground at the road,
it shouldn't have been as crazy as yesterday's walk down to the road. On the
other hand I was pretty well overheated and more than happy to stop when I
got here...

One week of hiking left... only a week? Or maybe I should say I've only been
out fifteen days? Seems longer...
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