It has been a month since I left trail.

I have a few updates on things.

I was definitely ill with cellulitis. Specifically, it was ocular cellulitis. Again.

The first time I had cellulitis in this location was 6 years ago. It remained localized to my nostril and due to it being in my nose I actually made an ENT appointment. And it took 3 weeks and I had to drive to Marshfield. And by the time I got to see the doctor it was starting to get better. I was heavily dosing on garlic pills and my body was starting to beat it. The doctor looked, scolded me for not getting in sooner (internal eyeroll, YOUR office wouldn’t let me come sooner), diagnosed it as cellulitis and gave me an antibiotic ointment. He also, usefully explained that cellulitis is more of a tissue infection treated by a general practitioner than an ENT thing. It just so happened that my weird infection lump was inside my nose. So I at least came away with the understanding that next time I could go see my regular doctor. I immediately decided that I should get a regular doctor and did so.

The second time I suffered this infection my regular doctor wasn’t available. I went to a clinic over in Minocqua. The infected location was visibly swollen with a domed blister-like presentation inside my left lower nostril – same spot. The physician I saw poked at it with her scope and I had an immediate and nasty ugly adverse reaction. I broke out in a heavy sweat, got dizzy and then vomited, all within 30 seconds. All of these things are very much out of the norm for me. I felt better almost immediately afterwards but the treatment I received that day was inadequate. She re-prescribed the ointment I had received from the ENT. It didn’t help. I was back at my regular doctor when she returned to town because the left side of my face was swelling and beginning to experience numbness. The diagnosis was ocular cellulitis. Infection had spread in the left side of my face and it took a month of antibiotics to defeat it. I know that poke was the moment when it spread. The dam broke and my body experienced a flood of infectious toxins that caused my reaction. But that isn’t to blame the clinic doctor for the event. The infection was obviously ready to spread and the poke with following toxic shock reaction were just memorable because of the severity. It would have probably happened without the vomiting but it was poised to happen already. Anyway, with better diagnosis and a month of antibiotics, everything got solved. I did get a lecture to not ignore such things because cellulitis, especially something in your facial tissues can be lethal. (Internal eyeroll. You weren’t available. The other doctor tried to kill me and gave me an ointment as a door prize. I wanted treatment.)

Flash forward to this occurrance. I am getting to be an old hand at this. I knew what was going on, even though I couldn’t really see it. I KNOW that spot. This is the 3rd time in 6 years that it has become swollen and infected. And that means cellulitis infection. So I messaged my doctor while riding the shuttle to Duluth. I didn’t hear back but that wasn’t the intent of my message. I wasn’t trying to have a conversation or get an e-diagnosis. I wanted to convey some information. The intent was to let her know that I thought I had an infection again.

So… When I called for an appointment the next morning (Wednesday) I got in pretty quickly (Friday). THAT is the value of the messaging system. It is not there so you can get your doctor’s opinion on everything or to get an appointment without going through the receptionist. It IS there so the doctor can make a better informed decision and make a note that says get this guy in within a day or two because he can’t wait 3 weeks.

This time it only took 2 weeks of antibiotics to fix the infection. Chances are that we will have to deal with this again in the future but both the doctor and I know this infection now. She has seen it 2x now on me in the same spot and I have seen it 3x there.

I have another issue that isn’t diagnosed or solved yet. I have been cold. A lot.

Typically, I run warm. My hands and feet stay warm pretty easily. I can get away with wearing lighter gloves and footwear than temperatures would indicate. My normal winter footwear is not insulated. My normal winter gloves are temp rated for 20F but I wear them down to about 0F before going to heavier stuff. It is just where my comfort zone is. I’m not being macho. If I get cold, I switch to heavier stuff in a heartbeat. Which is what has been going on.

Post trip I have been cold almost every day. Our temps have been below average, a lot some days. We hit -4F on November 10th. That is not normal. 35-40 is normal.

But neither is my need to wear heavy gloves and base layers every day lately. Just hanging out in the shop I am chilly unless I have 3 shirts and sometimes my jacket on. And base layer bottoms. And tall socks.

Hopefully this will pass soon.

I don’t expect perfect health. I certainly don’t have it. But I do appreciate consistency from my body when I can get it. This cold feeling is disconcerting.

My other trip injuries have healed.

I took 2 days off when I got home. Then after seeing the doctor and picking up my first week’s worth of prescription I went to the shop so Jessica could have a day off. I was a little gimpy but between being dry and being clean I felt pretty good.

The bruise on my left calf from falling on a stump took about 12 days to go away. The contusion was ugly. I should have taken pics but didn’t.

My left knee felt better after about 4 days at home. I am convinced that was my ITB. (Iliotibial Band). It is a ligament that runs from your pelvis down to your shin. It can rub against your thighbone and other places and become irritated and inflamed, causing all sorts of pain and issues. Runners typically have problems with it. Massage and foam rollers can help a lot. When I massaged my legs so much sitting up all night in the campground shower house my legs felt so much better the next day. I put on over 18 miles despite being awake for 40 hours straight. I might have to do more self maintenance on trail but I think I can deal with the knee/leg pain proactively and get my miles in even if I have muddy slippery conditions adding weird stresses.

Katadyn Befree. Performed well. Zero issues. Really like having the cap that is built on the clean water side as an integrated part. Super easy to use and to keep the clean water tip clean.

Hydrapak 2L Seeker. Did well. Might need a scoop in situations where water isn’t plentiful but on this hike it was ideal. Lightweight, tough, compactable. Winner.

DTV socks. As always perfect. No issues.

Altra Lone Peak 4, RSM. Not up to the durability standard I am used to from wearing so many Salomon products. This trail threw everything at these shoes. Rain, snow, mud, climbs, descents, climbs up a snow-covered muddy hill in the rain, you name it. They did do some things. They gripped well. Obviously, any lug gets filled with ‘enough’ mud. I walked for days in them where they started the day frozen, got repeatedly submerged throughout the day, and were left outside under the tent vestibule where they would freeze again. Not how I typically treat shoes but those were the conditions we were in. No choice. Where the shoes failed were several key issues. The toe grip started delaminating and peeling loose on day two. On day one the insole sockliner in the right shoe started to just move around on me. This would become a daily issue that I ultimately found no means to prevent on trail. I would seat it, put my foot in the shoe, adjust and readjust the lacing and after a few miles my foot would inform me that the insole was sliding backwards. And once I knew that correcting its position was not a good usage of my time I just quit doing it. Not to say I quit completely. I just didn’t do it unless I was already stopped and already removing my gaiters or it was about to completely flop out. Wrapping sideways at the back of the shoe and sticking out both sides? That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

The RSM fabric performed ok for a day but once it got dirty and soaked through it behaved more like a sponge than a waterproof breathable. Even after being washed and dried overnight I found water leaking in through the fabric right away the next day.

In the end while my feet got sore (always do, nothing new) I got no blisters or raw spots but the shoes are showing the miles after 100 miles. I am not sure that they would last the 300-500 miles one typically expects from a decent set of trail runners.

I know all of this sounds harsh. Please don’t misunderstand and think thatvI am saying these are bad shoes. Yes, I had a frustrating time with the right sockliner. I am not a fan of the RSM waterproofing, I think it is not that great. And watching that toe delaminate so soon was maddening. But I don’t completely write them down as a bad buy, but rather say that the zero drop, flexibility and fantastic toebox come with a tradeoff in durability that some people may not find acceptable. The truth is that they are comfy as heck and I am still wearing them after cleaning them up at home.

For the record, I have never had a pair of shoes start to fall apart like this. I always retire footwear because the midsole wears out and my feet begin to hurt even though the outsole and uppers often look fine. This pair is going to die a different death, and fall apart before I would forcibly retire them and I am at peace with it.

Osprey Levity 60. The pack performed admirably. The goofy looking front and side pockets are great. I put my wet stuff (lots of it) in them daily to keep the main compartment segregated from such things and that was a huge success, so much so that it took a LOT of rain to make me even get out my poncho (only 3x despite being rained on daily for short times or even long bouts of lighter drizzle). The molle loops are handy clip points and most days 3-4 things were draped from my pack to get aired out. Certainly nothing really got dried that way this trip but it also kept from getting my still dry items damp and mushy inside my pack.

The top brain pouch is generously large and I put daily use items in it without much need to discriminate. This pack has no hipbelt pockets to be annoyed about. I hung an OR pouch from a shoulder strap to carry immediate need use items from food and snacks to maps and electronics. That was great and I suspect without making such a choice the pack would feel minimalist. As it was, it felt well featured. I never really took it above 25 pounds or so and it was great. Super comfy, no sore spots or fit issues.

The side pockets have front facing openings that make using water bottles pretty damn painless. I could reach back and open it then slide my bottle in easily OR do it one handed and just ring the slot carefully. Both worked and I seldom missed a stride getting or returning a bottle to the side pockets. Also they are deep enough that my 1L tall bottle didn’t protrude badly. Really like those pockets.

OR Baja Anorak. Very pleased overall with this piece. Kept me warm, allowed a level of activity without overheating, encountered some minor bushwhacking and mudwall scrambling while remaining intact. It is a keeper.

Rab Silponcho. Only pulled it out a few times and it did well for the most part. I do enjoy the combination of coverage and breathability it offers. One time I simply could NOT get it situated over me and my pack. I had walked in rain a half hour because it was going to stop any second now and then I wrestled my poncho for 10 minutes without success to finally look up and realize the rain had stopped. Blame me, blame the weather, blame the poncho, the death certificate would have still read brain aneurism if I hadn’t put it away and went back to hiking.

AXL Air mummy pad. Big Agnes gets a hard rap on their pads, in my opinion. At 9 ounces, this thing was golden. I slept on it ON SNOW down to an estimated 25F. Not just laid on it, but actually SLEPT. I was quite skeptical and thought I was pretty well screwed, to be frank. But my knee was tweaked and it was 5 more miles to the next campsite which I would be lucky if I could make a couple of hours after dark. And my phone kept dying from the cold, so no dependable light. So I camped on top of a mountain, in 2 inches of snow. And that worked out just fine.

Additionally, the pad isn’t noisy, which is real nice. It blows up and deflates with ease and is easy to roll up and store in the bag Big Agnes sends it in. When you have frozen fingers in the morning from dealing with low temps and precipitation, things like easy fast storage matter – A LOT. Keeper.

OR Zipsack, M. It is a nice versatile storage pouch. UL, handles on both ends, silnylon but not seam taped, has a wateproof zipper. It isn’t waterproof, but it is very water resistant. I was able to confidently store electronics and such while out in the rain. I might add some sealing to the seams but the truth about such things is that 95% of the moisture the inside ever sees is coming in when you unzip it to access it with your wet hands in the rain.

While it is way bigger than most folks would ever consider for a shoulder pocket I would rather have this half full than something half its size filled. Way easier to use.

I am happy with it and will continue using it with this pack.

OR Echo LS shirt. Superb. I was wearing it in all temps. Without wind or rain it was comfy at 30F when active or 45F inactive. When cleanish casual rain just beads on it and rolls off as you move. Wore it every day all day and night. Great piece, getting myself another.

OR Voodoo Pants. These were a last minute addition when I saw that the weather season seemed to be definitely trending on the cold side and they were daily wear for the trip. Comfy, water resistant, fast drying, decent stretch all come together for a great trail pant. Love them.

OR Echo boxers. The 2 pairs I brought performed well. Fast drying, comfy, lightweight. These are a staple bottom piece for me. Way more expensive than some tighty whities but you do get what you pay for here.

Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 Platinum. They should seriously call the thing a one plus size. Yeah, you can out a second person in there, but nobody will be happy about it. Not you, not them, not the tent.

Otherwise, it really did well. I never expected to or tried to fit a 2nd person in so all was well. Maybe if I brought a dozen stakes along I would be even happier but I was pretty darn happy with the results I got with 6 stakes. It wasn’t ever hard or slow to set up and it kept me dry without ever feeling stuffy.

Esbit folding kitchen knife. Sadly unimpressive when I tried to saw open a cheese wrapper. I also never ate my peanut butter, just carried it a hundred miles so the knife is still largely unused. I was so annoyed that it couldn’t cut a cheese package that I probably won’t carry it again unless I do a lot of successful home testing first.

PVA shammy cloth. Awesomely useful. Will continue using this over a traditional camp towel.

Rain kilt. Completely unused. This trail was NOT full of leaning wet foilage despite the weather. Shallow soil, maybe but bushes were not an issue so this stayed packed. 4 ounces wasted.

Sit pad. Super useful. Never a dry place to sit this trip. Add in the insulating qualities and it was essential gear.

Mio. So worth mentioning. Caffeine plus B vitamins plus water flavoring. Can get it without caffeine or vitamins but I take mine with both. Can really help you power through long miles.

My goal today is South Cross River, which is big miles. Need some cooperation with trail conditions, body and weather to stand a chance.

Stupid nose is still sore, maybe worse. I think it is infected. This is where I had a cellulitis infection twice before. It feels swollen in the same spot now. If so, it will be game over.

Cooperation was not forthcoming today. The snow at Mystery Mountain was about 2 inches deep. Which, while annoying isn’t too bad. It doesn’t get over the top of low shoes much, and with gaiters not at all. It obscures the trail some, but big stuff is visible and negotiable. The snow mostly adds slipperiness and various opportunities to get wet and cold dealing with it.

There had been a little more snow overnight and the tent was crusted over. I really didn’t enjoy the process of getting going. The temp was probably mid 20s with a bit of a breeze to add some teeth to it. Wet frozen socks going onto reluctant cold feet were followed by soaked frozen shoes. Then, for the 3rd day in a row I had to try to get the icy crust off the tent parts for packing, using hands that repeatedly stopped working due to being cold and wet. One gaiter flopped outside my vestibule overnight and was too frozen to use. So I just hung them on my pack, knowing that this meant trail trash was getting into my shoes but my hands were too chilled to do more. I needed the body warmth from activity to get my extremities thawed so I made the decisions as necessary and got on with it. I got on trail by 7:45.

Conditions just kept getting worse. I saw the sunrise over Superior which was awesome, but I never saw the sun again today.

I did see some sleet and snow though. A half dozen times, never for longer than 10 minutes, but annoying. As I hiked, the conditions on the trail itself just got worse and worse.

1-2 inches of snow became 2-4, became 4-6 until I ran into places here and there a foot to 18 inches deep. In truth, the deeper snow was nicer because I got less immediately wet but I hated seeing it because I knew it meant that it is time to stop doing this.

I slogged about 12 miles until I hit the road that goes downhill to Lofte. In those 12 miles I saw less than 100 feet of trail that wasn’t under snow, mud or water, and usually a combination of two of those.

My feet were blocks of muddy ice and my left knee was hurting badly from repeatedly slipping in the mud and getting tweaked in the process. Both hands were numb from the combination of gripping my poles tightly and the straps biting into my wrists when I repeatedly threw my weight onto the straps via my wrists as my legs went out from under me.

I just finally reached that point where I had to ask myself what was left of the fun in this? The season has turned and this is not the weather I geared for at all. I CAN do it; I have been doing it. I am even on pace to get my 19.5 miles today with little or no night hiking.

But is this any fun at all?

No – it really isn’t at this point.

So, that internal conversation being hashed out at least 300 times by noon, I did the thing that I really didn’t want to do. I pulled the plug.

There are things that I always say about pulling the plug on a hike.

First, never do it when you are having a bad day. Obviously you have to understand the meaning of the statement and not just blindly apply the words. It means not to quit because you are simply discouraged or in a bad mood. You’re allowed to quit because you fell and broke your tibia and that is ruining your day.

Second, remember that it is a hike and not a death march. While I like to make my mileage, if doing so means skipping the things I should be hiking to enjoy, no thanks. Or in this case, slogging along through conditions that are doing no favors to myself or the trail. Trudging along through this kind of mud damages the trailbed. It’s like driving through a pothole in the road every day with your car in that it damages both the car and the road while being very unpleasant to boot. So if you can avoid damaging the trail while having an awful experience doing so, that’s the right move.

When I reached the parking lot by the Sawbill Trail (county rd 2) I called Arrowhead Transit to check for space on tomorrow’s bus to Duluth. There was space. So I crossed the last quarter mile or so of trail to the actual road and hung a left to start heading downhill and towards town. As I descended the snow got thinner and vanished. When a truck pulled over after about 2 miles or so and offered me a ride I was walking on clean shoulder and could only spot the occasional snowpuff hiding in shady spots off in the woods. The driver had been on the PCT this summer and was one of those lovely people in the world willing to pick up a stinky muddy hiker and carry them just wherever is somewhat convenient to drive. They dropped me off at the front door of the AmericInn. With the sparse cars in the lit I was confident that rooms would be available and yes, they had a room.

I called Arrowhead again and arranged for the bus to get me, about 8:30 in the morning I was told. By the way, Stacy who I talked to there was awesome. She let me know she was there til 6, which extension would get my call in to her, etc. Essentially, she made it easy to call back and nake arrangements.

And then I washed. Washed me. Washed clothes. Washed shoes. I will be less smelly on the road home tomorrow. No reason to offend my fellow passengers’ noses when I can be all clean instead. Hint for all hikers: wash multiple times if you have been out there a bit. You ARE funky even if your own nose is inured to the insult. You AND your stuff will need multiple washings to defunk. Not just one ling washing. Multiple washings. Wash, dry, wait. Wash again. Repeat until people stop giving you so much space.

I could stay in town and hope my nose gets better. It has gotten worse since morning and I have visible swelling on the left side of my face now. Apparently it is following the path from last time. I beat this infection once with tons of garlic pills. Not advisable, by the way. See your doctor. I could go back out on trail and hope conditions improve. This is both colder and wetter than the averages for this time and place. Those are thoughts full of hope but empty of realism

And the ugly truth is that cellulitis can kill. So can cold and wet conditions. With the tools available to modern society both illness and weather can be addressed easily. If either one of these things seriously harmed or killed me it would be due to lack of self care. The infection is obviously more risk than the wet and cold but then again, I can buy gear for the wet and cold over the counter. I need to get my butt to my doctor for the infection. Being able to step away because of wet and cold and illness is indicative of this having been a hike and not a death march. I have seen people stick it out when they shouldn’t and pay heavy prices for that stubbornness.

Going home stinks when my plans were otherwise but it is the right choice. I’m ok with it, it won’t keep me up at night. Do NOT look at the timestamps on my posts. I am totally NOT awake at 3 and 4 in the morning tapping my phone screen weeks later.

I got up in the night to empty my bladder and the tent was crusty with ice. It was hard to stay warm but I did get some sleep.

I kept my phone in my carry pouch and kept that on my body and it did fine. Temperature must be what was killing battery. Ampere (app) says battery health is good.

The forecast is cold but no rain showing for today or tomorrow. Then it shows another day of getting drizzled on all day to deal with. Yay.

Breaking camp is gonna be cold this morning. I am not looking forward to putting on icy wet socks and shoes or wiping down an icy tent. But it does seem to come with the territory.

I am definitely getting some soreness in my nose. Dunno if I smacked it on a fall or what but it is tender like bruising inside the base of my nose. Can’t see anything when I look with the phone camera.

Man, the days are short now. 7:17 to 6:17 is my daylight time to do whatever I get done today.

Here I go hiking again!

I made my planned destination today, finished at Mystery Mountain about 4:45PM.

The early finish was because I was starting from Indian Camp instead of Trout Creek. I got hit with rain/snow/sleet several times for 5-30 minutes but no major bad weather. Seems odd to be seeing so much snow, too. 2 inches on the ground here. Hope I can stay warm tonight but this site is as far as I can manage. Going to put my sit pad under my sleep pad to get some extra insulation under my core.

Much of the SHT crosses private lands. Hikers may only camp at designated sites. I am not going to be the guy who loses trail access for others because I wanted to hike one more hour and the campsite wasn’t located convenient to my mileage plan. So I stopped at 4:45.

Even if I night hiked I don’t think I could have managed another 4.5 miles to make it to Rollins Creek. My left knee must have tweaked on one of my many slips. It is giving regular pain when I raise it to take a step forward. Hopefully it will be better in the morning. Tomorrow is my biggest mile day planned yet. 19.5. I will need to avg 1.8mph while the sun is up. That includes breakdown, setup, meals, etc. Truthfully, it probably will not be reasonable with conditions as they are.

I spent the whole night last night in the bath house. Winds were 37 mph at 4:30AM. I drowsed a bit in the chair I borrowed from one of the showers and ate a lot of Twizzlers. The temp steadily dropped and I added layers every few hours until I am wearing my base layer on the bottom under my voodoo pants and my puffy over my echo shirt up top and my windstopper gloves.

I had an alarm for 4:45 and when it went off my phone battery dropped to 80% immediately. Bad omen. I got it replugged and up to 84% before leaving the bathhouse for a 10 minute walk up the shore to get to South of the Border. Really great food and nice folks. They open at 5AM and accept cash, cash or cash. Bring cash. There is an atm across the street.

The streets and sidewalks are soaked as the wind has been driving the lake crazy with crashing waves. The lake is about 50 ft from Hwy 61 at the closest point and enough water is blowing into the highway to be running into the gutters. Hey, at least it isn’t raining.

I have a nasty uphill all the way 1.6 mile roadwalk to get back on trail in this wind. I am dallying over my 5th cup of coffee waiting for it to be a little closer to daylight as a local guy is trying to convince me I should be packing heat to fight off the wolves. He KNOWS that wolves are why so many people go missing on the trail despite never having actually set foot on the SHT. Yup, uh huh. Expert.

I saw a red fox, in Grand Marais, like maybe 10ft away and completely unaware of me. He walked around a parked car on hwy 61 and cut right in front of me into a yard I was walking past. Jumped! When I said hello to him. He was big, too. Like 35 pounds or so. Biggest fox I have seen. Town food, I guess.

My phone battery died on me shortly into today. I am assuming it was a combo of temperature and age. I am in the tent now, at the end of day, and I brought it back with 15 minutes in my armpit. Note: don’t die around me; you might wake up in my armpit.

Here is the only pic I got today.

A mile or so after I hit the trail outside town I encountered VERY wet snowmobile trail. This was WAY WORSE than any other submerged stuff and not even mentioned on SHT website. Shame on them, it is WAY WORSE than other things they do mention. Long sections knee deep in water. Swamp to the left, swamp to the right, mud and water under foot. When the trail wasn’t under water it was shin deep in mud most places. Took care of that clean clothing issue for me thoroughly.

I made North Ball Creek by 10:30AM. I was cold, decided I was moving on. I have been seeing wintry mix most of today and it is windy plus cloudy. Combined with soaked feet this equals cold Tom. On the bright side, while sitting around the bath house last night I massaged all of the soreness from my leg muscles. Surprised myself at how good they feel now.

Gogo gadget Trail legs!

I had to cross the Cascade River where a bridge was out. Messy, had to climb down the mud ravine backwards to keep from falling into the river. Lots of logs and rocks piled up in the river so with a little picking about I crossed by stepping each foot shin deep in water once. Not bad. But. Getting up the other side was a beast. I managed it but not with grace.

I am camping alone at Indian Creek. It is hard to feel warm. The temperature is in low 30s, and there is still a sporadic wintry mix falling. I keep getting the uncontrollable shivers. I get warm and comfy, think I am settled and then it starts again. I hope that it is cold and fatigue and I am not sick. Maybe I should have just done the short day instead of pushing on. Plan was originally 16.1 to Trout Creek. Then after not getting sleep I said maybe I will just do like 7 miles from town to North Bally Creek and stop since it was the first site past town. But I was so wet and muddy and cold and without muscle soreness moving felt better than stopping. So I actually did 18.7 miles instead and in spite of the horrible trail mud. At least it didn’t rain all day and while it was wet and cold and muddy it wasn’t as slick. I bet I only nearly fell like 50 times instead of 200+. Win.

I went to bed wet but not freezing. Got a little shivery after a bit as I lay motionless but it passed quickly as I dried. Finished my ‘jalapeno’ cheese curls and had a cheese sandwich for breakfast.

Gonna have to do a lot of drying on the tent fly at some point. Rain is projected all day and 16-20 mph winds. Will be interesting. Maybe make it to Grand Marais if I hump hard.

I didn’t enjoy the experience that today offered so much.

In short, I had a rough day. The trail was so wet. I couldn’t even walk 1mph most places. Every single step was a slippery sliding hazard. My trekking poles saved me from falls at least 200 times. At least 200 times. Internalize that for a moment. At least 200 times I caught myself from falling using my poles. Three notable times they did not save me. Getting ready to cross a small unnamed creek with a steep mud bank, I planted both poles and when I stepped down it was so slick I went down anyway without ever losing my grip or the poles moving. But I was on my back with my feet pointed downhill and both arms still locked on the poles and straining to hold myself even while I fell. The poles DID save me from sliding on down the hill luge style.

The second time was on a hill, again with both poles planted. The mud was so soft that my poles just dragged lines as they cut the mud and my legs went out from under me. My right hip landed on an upraised root and my left calf took an 8 inch or so tall stump that as about 3 inches in diameter right square to the middle of the muscle. That one really hurt. At least it was the interior side so I only have to be extra careful about brushing against myself instead of everything along the trail.

The final fall – I left my poles while I was getting water and it cost me. With all the rain the many many available sources are quite muddied up so I was trying to be a little picky. I finally crossed a creek that was the clearest I have seen yet today and found a spot a few yards downstream of the bridge where it looked as if I could fill up. I did so pretty easily but as I stood, the rock under me rolled as the mud holding it gave way, dumping me backwards into the creek. The creek was running ‘carry your ass away’ speed so I was very fortunate that I somehow kept my body vertically aligned. I landed with one leg in water deep enough that it reached my thigh without touching bottom and my other leg coiled into a squat on a solid rock. A desperate single leg power launch reversed my situation and sent me back up the shore enough to get back safe. I felt as if I had managed to walk on water and bounce back on shore. Not sure how I pulled it off actually but I got out fast, safe and without the loss of any gear. I even had my full water bladder. Mission accomplished.

Fortunately my long days the past 2 days allowed me to reach Grand Marais at the end of today. I called ahead and reserved a campsite (211) which was good to have out of the way.

The walk into town was all downhill with increasingly strong winds in my face. Not too far, about 1.6 miles or so. As far as roadwalks go, pretty easy. The shoulder and road are wide and you can see traffic a long ways off. For anyone who doesn’t know this already, I ALWAYS walk facing traffic. You’re something like 800 times more likely to be struck by a vehicle when walking with traffic versus facing it. You can never predict what is going on with the next vehicle that will come along, be it a kind samaritan, an inebriated driver, distraction by a device, mechanical malfunction, etc. What you can do is put yourself in a better position to react. Running madly across a ditch to avoid tons of oncoming steel and plastic death beats getting mowed down from behind any day. Face traffic, folks.

I had a bunch of things that needed doing in town. Get groceries, do laundry, eat cooked food, shower, recharge devices, get a good night’s rest and hit the trail early in the morning.

Groceries first. The grocery store was open til 7PM so I headed there. I went down every aisle twice and considered that I had come into town with enough food left in my pack to almost carry me to my next grocery stop.

That didn’t stop me from resupplying in full. One, I might get full blown hiker hunger. Two, I might skip a resupply or not continue to beat or even make my planned miles. If today was any indication of trail conditions to come I might need twice the time to make some of the miles. I have already been night hiking so it isn’t like there is a lot more I can do to push things. Also, I expect the next resupply to have fewer options. I shopped at Johnson’s Foods and found pretty much everything I wanted. North Shore prices are a bit higher than home but they are literally the end of the supply chain. There is nothing after them. They pay the most for delivery of food so of course that raises the consumer prices. All in all I was very happy with the selection and quality available. I talked up one of the employees to find out which laundromat was best to use and it turned out that the one that was on my way was slightly preferential just because it is not on hwy 61. Both laundromats are 24 hour places, Nice!

During my walk into town and to the grocery store, the wind kept getting stronger. By the time I got to the grocery store my phone said 26 mph sustained winds. When I came out, that greeted me with unabated fury. I leaned into the winds and made the 8 block or so trek over to the North Shore laundromat. Place was clean, well equipped, warm (awesome) and well stocked in the vending machines. As far as laundromats go, this place was one of the better facilities I have ever visited. It was just plain well kept. Prices were about the same as home which felt cheap for the area. I washed and dried all my clothes and made the call to get fed before heading to the campground. I had sort of thought that I might go get showered and set up camp and then go eat as a clean semi normal looking person but the winds said I wasn’t setting up a tent.

So I decided on Dairy Queen. With clean clothes and all bundled up I didn’t look too bad even if I was a little smelly yet. I sat in the Dairy Queen and slowly ate my food while the gale howled outside. I was not looking forward to leaving but they were due to close at 8:30 so I packed up and headed out at about 8:15 and left the employees with one couple who looked about as eager to go out into the storm as I felt.

My campsite was way across the campground from my previous site. A good 10 minute walk all the way to the back of the place and closer down to the lake. I found it on the map didn’t go find the site. No point. I didn’t bring a dozen storm stakes. Right now the wind would lay the tent down on top of me IF I got it set up. Plus, shower first.

Showers are awesome. Hot water is awesome. But the wind sucks. I will take my time grooming and charging and reassess in a bit.

The wind is going 30 mph at 9:00PM which isn’t so good. Currently sitting in the bathroom/shower house waiting for it to drop low enough that I can set up my tent. Forecast for when that will occur keeps getting later. First midnight, then 1, now 2 before they show it getting below 20 mph. If nothing turns my way on this I will sit in this safe block house all night, go get breakfast at 5 when South of the Border opens and then hike the 7 miles or so to the next campsite and crash there with a NERO.

Update: 1:30 and I now know this eill be an all nighter in the bathroom. Wind speeds consistently coming in higher than forecasted. Prediction for now was about 24. It is actually 33 mph. Not even a prediction below 20 mph until 5AM now. Just gonna head over for breakfast at 5 then head out and find the first campsite. Wind will be easier inland and lower speed overall by then. I sure hope.

On the good side I got to the grocery store, did laundry, ate at DQ, and got myself a badly needed shower. So if I wind up sitting in the shower house all night so be it. Call it a mostly win.

I figure about 4 full days on trail to hit town again. I still have a bit of food from my initial set because I haven’t been eating as much as I expected. Maybe as temps drop hunger will rise. I bought a bunch of junk snacky food, too. Should make me eat more. I have eaten a bunch of Twizzlers just sitting here. Also my phone and battery will get fully charged this way.

Saw grouse again today and a pileated woodpecker. Red squirrel managed to hit me with a pine cone while I was at a road junction taking a pic of this sign.

I slept warmer last night. I was very comfy temp wise.

You know, maybe the whisky may have given me some warmth. The air outside feels chilly this morning. I am laying under my quilt typing this on my phone.

It is still dark at 6:30. I have GOT to eat then pack up and get moving. Sleep time wasn’t perfect. I am still sore from yesterday and had bad heartburn last night. Maybe the head end of tent was on a slight decline. Dunno.

Maybe I can reach Kadunce today if I move fast. We will have to see what we see.

My sliced cheese is holding up well with these temps. 2 cheese sandwiches for breakfast even though I don’t feel hungry so much. The alories I have been eating are holding hiker hunger off. Gonna need the energy so 2 sandwiches it is.

Supposed to be a couple of flooded areas to deal with today. Yay. Notably, nothing I encountered yesterday has been mentioned in the SHT website as problematic. Business as usual.

I ran into the flooded section on Toms road and did not bother trying to go around. I switched into my liner socks and shorts and just waded it. Not bad, lower shin was max depth and it was maybe 150 feet total.

A couple of miles further and I encountered the second flooded section I was anticipating from the SHT website. Also caused by beaver activity, this one was by the Flute Reed River and was deeper. It was over my knees but the flooded distance was shorter.

After a few hours today I find myself at Judge Magney state park. There are cool waterfalls on the river and nice dry boardwalk. But. So many steps. Knees, oh my knees.

Magney has closed the shower house for the season. Was hoping for a shower, maybe charge my devices and even quick hand laundry in a sink. No dice. So I trekked onwards.

Off and on getting I have been some Verizon LTE today. Checked the weather each time to be told it was currently raining on me, right now. So accuracy is just as good as home. As this started I smiled because it was untrue. Later I smiled because the weather folks finally got it right.

I made it to Kadunce, with only about 20 minutes of night hiking. No one around. Rain had started off and on for the last hour and it decided to rain hard about ten minutes before I reached the site. I did the best I could to set up fast but my tent, pack and I all got soaked. I at least needed some rinsing anyway. It wasn’t enough to knock the mud off so I wound up standing in the rain even longer, using my shammy to soak water off the tent fly and then softening and scrubbing mud on my legs until I felt like I wouldn’t muck up all my sleep gear.

After all was inside and I shammied water off me and gear to the point that I called it good nuff. It briefly stopped raining but started back after a bit and has been going for about an hour straight now. Light rain, not downpour. Which is good since I brought 6 tent stakes instead of the 10-12 you can use on this tent for maximum weatherproofing and space. Had to stake the vestibule because of the rain and used 2 sticks. Voila.

I saw Harriet again today while I was doing the roadwalk after Flute Reed River. She had a section hiker in the van to be dropped off and I was able to update them on the flooded sections (They are flooded. Kneedeep but 25 feet long at the river and ankle deep but 50 yards long at Toms Rd). Stupid beavers.

I need a shower. And to soak my right foot. My big toe on the right foot was sore for unknown reasons last week and I soaked it one day at home and it felt fine after. Now it is a little tender again. Must be trying for ingrown infection.

My feet have been wet all day after leaving Magney. There was lots of deep mudwater in the trail at various places that came in a bit at a time but the big dunkings were the two above beaver flooded places. My feet actually got dry in Magney but that was cured when I left. I wore only liner socks the whole day and my feet are wrinkled but unblistered. My Altra Lone Peak 4 shoes performed well but look like a train wreck. They need a shower too.

Downstairs I am very chafed. Nuff said.

I am giving myself an upper for dinner. Jalapeno cheese puffs from Whole Foods. Very midwestern. Zero heat. Haven’t had water after 2 dozen puffs and still no heat. But very tasty. Win.

My feet do hurt. Miles and rocks is all. Just mildly sore. My leg muscles hurt from top to bottom. Everything there is protesting. Both knees are creaky but the left one is noticeably worse. Downhill is a slow venture. Neck is sore too, dunno why.

I took several nasty slides today. Muddy shoes, slick submerged boardwalks and muddy hills all combine to create slipping and sliding opportunities. Trekking poles have saved me from hitting the ground so far. It’s coming.

Saw deer and squirrels, not much else for wildlife.

Today is just a travel day. No real hiking to do today. Wasn’t even going to be on a trail, unless you count riding the Indian Trails buses and that didn’t happen. More on that in a bit.

Here’s what the itinerary was like: get on my first bus in Watersmeet, MI at 5AM. Switch buses in Iron Mountain. Wind up in Duluth, MN at 8:40 AM. Hang out in Duluth until 3PM. Catch the Tuesday-only shuttle bus back to Grand Marais. Head to the municipal campground and get a campsite for the night.

Things I wanted to do today: get my first leg of the hike really memorized, scope out the hostel in Duluth(not happening), explore the campground in Grand Marais, get in contact with the shuttle driver for tomorrow (scratch that, texted with her yesterday), check out the grocery options in Grand Marais, and finish the day with full charge on my devices.

Got up at 3:30 this morning, took a shower, had a breakfast snack, let Jess caffeinate, hopped in the car at 4AM and headed up to Watersmeet, MI to catch my 5AM bus.

We made it to the lot in 40 mins so I asked Jess (and her warm comfy car) to hang out with me until the bus arrived. 4:55 and no bus, I was starting to get fidgety, and then like lightning, a fact struck me. Smote me, even. You know that sinking feeling you get when you realize that you are a complete and total dumbass? I do. I know it well and the familiar cloak of dumbassedness settled around my shoulders as we sat parked beside the darkened bus stop. Michigan, ALL of Michigan, is on Eastern time. I wasn’t 20 minutes early for my bus. No sir. I was 40 minutes late. That bus was nearly to the next stop by the time I rolled my central time ass into the parking lot.

A quick check showed that there was no likelihood of catching up to it. So we headed home. Agata is very much a routine dog and her routine says that it is time to come out of thr crate and go potty at 5:30 every morning. We had just enough time to get back on routine.

My day schedule today had a giant donut hole in the center of it anyway, fortunately. So after regrouping, recaffenating, dog walking and some mostly internal hair tearing, wailing and breast beating, because let’s face it – I am probably the only dumbass who didn’t anticipate this sort of trip-up from me right out of the gate, a decision was reached.

I drove Jess’s warm and comfy car to Duluth. Safely in the destination city I then found a grocery store and grabbed a loaf of bread to mostly complete my trail food loadout. I then paid for long term parking at the DECC and walked across the skywalk to the Transit Center where I was able to nail down the bus stop to watch for Arrowhead Transit so I can at least ride that to Grand Marais and walk back to the car in Duluth.

I am trying to mentally silver line the cloud of my time zone screwup. With a car here, maybe I can do the Duluth sections if I decide that I want to. I have fresh clothes and shoes here now. I don’t have to arrange a ride home as I have one here already.

The Arrowhead transit bus was a shuttle style job that could seat 24. The driver was a friendly and accommodating gent who seems to do the drive because he enjoys it. Along the drive I heard tales of his life, from leaving home at 12 to running halfway houses and counseling drug and alcohol addicts. He almost didn’t let me pay my fare; I had to insist. Many of the riders seemed to be medical patients needing care in Duluth and it was nice to see that they get this transport in such a friendly and dignified manner.

I made it into Grand Marais just before dark thirty. The bus dropped me off right beside the campground and I made my way down the hill and wandered around until I found an empty campsite that was beside some other tent sites then set up my tent. There was a bathhouse nearby where I cleaned up a bit and charged my phone and battery. Then I called home and settled in for the night.

The next morning I got this snapshot of the sun rising over Lake Superior down at the marina harborside.

Today is my first real day hiking. Yesterday was all travel.

Today I get to look into Canada from the Northern Terminus of the SHT and then really begin my trek South to Duluth. Like many journeys, this will involve starting out going the wrong way. The Otter Lake Rd parking is 1.2 miles south of the terminus so one must hike north from there to reach the terminus before actually starting southbound.

I spent last night at the Grand Marais campground which was surprisingly well occupied. There were spots though so even though I arrived at dusk I was able to find one and get set up. The operators just told me over the phone to settle up with them today. So far everyone has been super nice.

I slept a little chilly, not a good omen since it was only 46 this morning. Really just my toes so I may have to make adjustments to deal with that. Left my tent at 5, hit the bathroom and wandered around the campground in the dark to find my way out to the road where I hit the Gitchee Gamee trail. As I followed it I realized that the trail runs right by my tent. Covenient. A few minutes up hwy 61 got me to the South of the Border Cafe which opens at 5, closes at noon and accepts cash, cash or cash. $9.25 gets a meat, 2 eggs, fried potatoes and a pancake. I got a friendly greeting and prompt service with coffee. Walking Grand Marais in the dark was easy, by the way. Not tons of streetlights, but enough. Wide bike path plus sidewalks. Really well laid out. I never turned on a light.

The campground office opens at 8, the same time my shuttle with Harriet is scheduled. So I have been sitting on the steps (foam sit pad for the win!) charging my phone and reviewing trail conditions. I have one gem in particular I am pooking forward to:

County Road 70 to Arrowhead Trail: A new beaver pond has been created near the Flute Reed River between the County Road 70 trailhead and Hazel campsite. The SHT is submerged underwater for a short span. Personal flotation devices are not required, but may be recommended. Also, the eastern end of the Tom Lake Road roadwalk is flooded, again by beavers. Look for a marked, rugged path around wet area or plan for wet feet.

My bolding above. I keep giggling inside when I see that. I love when people have a sense of humor about this stuff. Unless it isn’t a joke…

I plan to end up at North Carlson Pond which is a total of about 13.5 miles. If conditions are good and my speed is better than expected I may push further. I am not keen to do so except for one reason: rain.

Prediction is for rain to start in the evening the day after tomorrow (Thursday). It will rain all day and night Friday, begin tapering off Saturday and turn into mixed rain and snow Sunday before clearing up Monday. If the forecast is accurate. Hard to not cringe at the numbers though. 100% sounds kind of like they feel sort of certain. For meteorologists, anyway. Sorry, meteorological professionals, but you guys get it wrong far more than right where I live so I still have hope it won’t rain on me.

Harriet picked me up right at 8 in her van. Settling up at the campground was fast and easy. $17.98 after all the taxes, etc. Then we stopped at a gas station for coffee and snacks and headed on up the road. It was an easy ride in with no issues. Harriet is an entertaining soul and I enjoyed the good company. There was a hiker waiting for pickup at the trailhead so she loaded him up after I got out. I headed north to go see the 270° overlook.

Then I did my about face and began heading south. The trail was pretty easy. Not overgrown at all and no question about where to go next, etc. I did start seeing a bit of water and mud, as expected.

Overall my day went pretty much as planned. Weather was cool but nice. Glad I decided to bring pants in case it gets colder.

Got to Woodland Caribou site and was feeling beat enough to camp but there was another hiker there and I was just struck with a feeling of wrongness. Not that the guy had anything wrong with his actions, this was totally on me. As I walked up the trail I could see him at the site. He was wearing knee length shorts and a fleece and was busy trying to split what looked like green birch wood with his knife. I just kept on walking, not my crowd. I don’t think he even saw me as I could hear the nonstop whack, whack, whack as he fought the reluctant log until I topped the ridge.

This put me into risky territory for daylight. Harriet had warned me about people getting the turn to the parking lot confused with the main trail right before North Carlson Pond so I was on the lookout for it. It was clear enough to me since I had been warned but the signage there is really unclear. And I got hit with a warning. The northbound trail sign at the junction with the parking lot sign said “camp 1 mile”. Bullshit. When you see a round number like that on a sign near the parking lot it is a clear indicator that someone just said “Yeah, that’s a mile. Put it down as 1 mile.”

The sunlight had almost completely faded away at this point but when it seemed like it was going to get too dark to see a 3/4 moon rose and did a fair job of letting me see. Until I got into tall trees again, that is. Then I had to turn on a light. As I was paying attention to my phone gps app a bit and comparing to the camp location I got really annoyed when that whole section, about 2/3 of a mile turned to mud. With all my ridge walking earlier most of the mud had flaked off my shoes. Now the stuff got deep and my socks and feet got wet too. That sucked. And I never did find the North Carlson Pond campsite. Maybe mud sucked it down. Dunno. I do know that I wrote it off when I finally hit a road and crossed. Then I hiked 2 more miles in the dark before reaching South Carlson Pond and wandering the woods at night a few minutes that felt like hours to find the campsite. 8:45 when I arrived. Note that these difficulties were self inflicted. I coulda slept beside birch boy.

2 cheese sandwiches for dinner. Then I washed my very chafed arse. Gonna be rough tomorrow. Feet hurt, leg muscles hurt and crampy, knees very creaky, back hurts, neck hurts. Pulled out my secret weapon to see if it can help. Canadian blended whisky.

Wildlife today. Bear tracks and scat. Wolf tracks and scat. Moose tracks, scat and one bellow. Several grouse. No good wildlife pics.

Miles planned: 13.5

Miles hiked: 15.8

I always have fun hiking. Even when I am not having fun NOW I often look back on it as fun later.

Just recently Jessica and I were discussing this revisionism of mine and I felt defensive enough to explain it. “It’s type 2 fun!”

For the unitiated, there are three types of fun.

Type 1 Fun: Fun as it occurs.

“Man, I am having so much fun right now. This is great.”

One week later:

“Man, that was fun. Gotta do that again.”

Type 2 Fun: Not fun as it occurs, but fun in retrospect.

“Man, I hurt so much. I hate being wet, cold and hungry all at once.”

One week later:

“Man, that was fun. You should have seen your face when you found out the mountain goat peed on your cookpot!”

Type 3 Fun: Never fun. Actually not fun at all, in any light.

“Man, I can’t feel my face. The only thing worse than this would be if I could feel it and it were to feel like the rest of me.”

One week later:

“That was a bad idea. I hurt almost as bad as I look. Remind me to not go things with you. That was no fun.”

The fun I was referring to was a trip I made to the Porcupine Mountains where I planned to stay 5-7 days doing a grand loop hitting every trail possible. I wound up staying either 4 or 5 days, falling and unknowingly crushing my homemade fuel container during a river crossing, cooking a couple of meals using twig fires, hiking and hitching back to the car, driving to Ontonagon to buy more fuel (yellow Heet is excellent alcohol stove fuel) and parking at the other end of the park to resume hiking. Then I got rain/sleet stormed on beginning about midnight to such a degree that by 4AM everything was packed up except my tarp and chair as I waited for daylight so I could slog through shin deep water and mud back out to a 3 mile roadwalk to the car. Hypothermia may have been mentioned.

But it was an awesome trip. I saw all the major trails in the park and many of the smaller ones. I saw bear tracks, found a blowdown that was over 125 tree on Cross trail, ate at Syl’s Cafe halfway through my trip and packed 2 ginormous cookies back in for dessert that night, and generally just enjoyed the hell out of the trip. Even if parts of it were type 2 fun.