The night before had started out pretty warm so I decided to dry out my wool socks by wearing them to bed. Body heat can be the fastest way available to dry something at times. My poor feet. So wet. So long. They were really pitiful but they got the job done – socks dried overnight.
My poor tent was getting kind of odious from the combination of drying socks, unwashed clothing and unwashed Tom so I left one of the vestibules open for more ventilation. By 2AM the temp had dropped a good bit and wind had picked up enough that the blasts of chilled air forced me to close it and get out my bag liner. I woke again at 5, shivering. I put on my jacket and got warm enough to sleep a while longer.
It didn’t get light in camp until after 8. I cooked Alpine Aire Hash Browns with Reds and Greens for breakfast. NOT my favorite. Maybe they would be awesome if rehydrated and then fried. They say you can eat them either way. The way that I had them – they sucked. Had to really force myself to eat them all.
I was packed up and headed out on the trail by 9. This was going to be one of my bigger mileage days and I would be following the Minong Ridge trail for most of it. The Minong had a reputation for being a lot rougher than any of the trails I had traversed thus far. I wanted to be sure I got going because there was no middle camp to fall back on. I was doing 14.5 miles and that was that.
The day started out cloudy with gusts if wind. The first 3 miles I would be on Huginnin Cove trail and then I would hit the Minong. Almost a mile of the Huginnin runs right by the waterside and is fantastically beautiful. I took many pictures and found blueberry bushes that seemed strangely untouched by humans or other beasts and feasted on the sweet tart berries.
About halfway along this stretch of Huginnin, a bit after the trail had departed the coast I found someone’s lost gear trailside. A complete set of FroggToggs in the case and marked with identification. I tied them to my pack and carried them until I came to the Minong-Huginnin junction. I left them at the signpost as I would be going no closer to Windigo than this. Most people do not go more than 10 miles or so from wherever they arrive on the island. Carrying them to Rock Harbor would greatly decrease the chances of them making it back to their owner. In the Windigo lost and found they stood some chance.
The Minong was definitely rougher than any of the other trails on the island that I had usedm. There were more ascents and descents than the Greenstone and these were steeper as well. I sometimes had to take a breather but never really had to stop and take one of those AT “I must rest now, before I die” breaks. There’s just not enough total elevation difference to create that much exertion. It was work. It just wasn’t as tough as those long AT ascents and descents can get to be.
There were other challenges to compensate. Every single time I came down a slope to a bottom there was water. Sometimes it was a creek. Sometimes it was a pond. Sometimes it was just a mucky area. Always, there was a way across. And that way was consistently tough. No footbridges. In some places log sections had been placed in the muck to walk on. Many times these were submerged. In numerous locations trees had fallen across or along the trail in these bottoms and while their branch covered trunks were tough obstacles to navigate, they were often the only visible method of crossing that didn’t involve getting very wet and muddy. None of this water looked particularly inviting for consumption. I patted myself on the back for bringing enough good clean Lake Superior with me to last the whole day.
Areas that would have taken 30 seconds to cross if clear and dry instead often took 15 or twenty minutes. If one insisted on staying relatively clean and dry, which I did. Six more days ahead of me. No laundry. No shower. I JUST dried those damn socks. Yeah, I wanted to stay out of the muck.
Several times I crossed beaver ponds. The means of crossing these was to walk on top of the dam. Always an interesting activity.
As I made progress through the day I began to have a different and greater concern than the crossings. While my left foot was definitely on the mend and feeling better than it had in days despite some lingering soreness, my right ankle was in trouble. The way I was exerting it on the crossings – seemed to be beyond its limits. There’s an old injury in that ankle and I suspect that it was accomplice to the situation as I don’t recall any single twist, strain or fall as a precipitating event. Regardless of the wherefores and whats, my right ankle began to hurt, burn, and swell. I considered turning back after around 3 miles or so of Minong. If this got worse I could run into real trouble.
The descents hurt the worst. The jarring stress of stopping your body’s weight from just falling all the way down a hill can be tough on knees and ankles. Thankful that I had brought trekking poles I depended heavily on them and my Black Diamonds carried me through. Otherwise I am sure the ankle would have dumped me in an inglorious heap at tge bottom of a hill.
The ascents made me huff and puff and drink water but were otherwise very doable. Again, I really exercised my trekking poles.
The bottoms, in case I didn’t get this across before, really sucked the most. Every one was a different combination of suck. It’s just no fun traversing fallen trees over water and muck on a bum ankle with a heavy pack.
I had a lunch of tuna and corn chips up on a nice rocky ridge in the sun. The clouds had vanished and the wind was mostly gone, having left behind only a pleasant breeze to remind me of its departure. I reviewed my island map (NatGeo, $11.99, waterproof and VERY useful) for the umpteenth time and decided that I had likely traversed the worst of the elevation changes that the Minong had to offer. I would press on and try to be good to my traitorous body part.
As the map indicated, I had passed the worst areas. I now found myself following the stony Minong ridge for extended periods with brief diversions into low places. There was still water to cross and it still sucked but the travel between the bad places lengthened so my average pace improved.
Several times I missed where the trail turned and had to retrace my steps. In most cases the rock cairns that mark the trail were there and I just missed them. In no case was I ever more than a couple of hundred feet past the missed turn before it became very obvious. Yet, the way I was hobbling along I begrudged those extra steps instead of enjoying the scenery the way I should have been.
At 5:00PM I finally arrived at North Lake Desor. There were only 3 single tent sites. I was the only person there. In fact I had seen no one all day long. Pretty nice. I chose site #2 which was clearly the best site by a good margin due to its view of and access to Lake Desor. After setting up the tent I went down to the lakeshore and scrubbed some muck off my clothes. Then I hauled water away from the lake and actually washed the clothes with some Dr. Bronners. All the while I was being alternately scolded and bombarded with pine cones by a very demonstrative red squirrel who wanted to make sure that I knew I was not welcome here.
Then I went and got in the lake myself. Once I had scrubbed a while in the chilly waters I hauled some water and soaped and rinsed myself away from the lake. Then I put on dry fresh clothes and resumed my normal routine of dinner and camp setup feeling much better for being somewhat cleaner and less smelly. The late afternoon sun lent a welcome touch of warmth as I performed my chores.
I cooked up a pouch of Mountain House Beef Stroganof and it was very good. I see now why it is their #1 seller. First time I tried that flavor but it’s on the menu from now on.
I tacitly ignored the looks of my swollen ankle and swallowed a couple of more Advil before going to bed with it elevated on my pack since my clothes bag was pretty empty.