Archives for category: Travel

I’ve hiked very little in the past year.  There have been many other challenges that have consumed my time so I haven’t missed it as much as I would have otherwise.   Which is not to say that I haven’t missed it – because I really have.  One down side of operating an outfitter shop is that you’re constantly meeting people who are about to embark on interesting journeys.  And I have got the itch BAD.

My initial plan was to go hike the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), which runs from Duluth, MN to Canada.  However, timing and events conspired against my plans – there simply was not enough time available for me to vanish for the time it would take to hike 300 miles.  So I reluctantly put away the set of 6 maps I ordered for the hike and set my sights elsewhere:  Isle Royale.

This has been on both our bucket lists for a couple of years now and I will owe InProgress an opportunity to do this trip at a later date but I have been very cool with her wanting to go do some stuff lately so I had some small credit built up in the ‘I wanna’ account.

I leave tomorrow.   Early.  Like 2:30AM early.  I will drive to Copper Harbor,  MI and board the Isle Royale Queen IV.  It’s a 100 foot long, aluminum hull, triple diesel engine beauty of a ferry.  I fully expect to be able to nap on the boat thanks to the warm enclosed cabin seating.  After I snap a few photos, of course. And here’s the photos:
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My preparations have felt haphazard and I would be a big fat liar if I didn’t admit to a lot of second guessing myself right now on the last day before the trip.  Am I taking too much food?  (Yes)  Do I have warm enough clothing?   (I am sure, yet unsure)  What will happen if I miss my food drop arrival in Windigo?  (It will be left on the dock for me)  

The biggest prep hurdle has been my pack.  I sent my old pack in for repair due to lots of field wear.  I missed the email from Osprey.  It went to my junk folder and I forgot to check.  So there it sat for a week, languishing.  And when I finally saw the message it said that they couldn’t bring my pack back up to their standards – so would I please  provide them with my 1st and 2nd choice of color as they were willing to send me a new pack under their Almighty Guarantee.   By the time I replied I knew that it was too late to get it back in time.  So I tried IP’s ULA pack.  It was great for her on the AT.  I like it, but it’s too short in the torso for me.  So my choice pack became the Klymit Motion 60.  It is a light pack at 2.7 pounds and has an air frame.  I’ve got all my stuff packed in it and am ready to roll out in 12 hours.

I drove from MI down to GA without event.  After sleeping off the long drive I helped Jess out minimally as she prepped the car for the drive to Tampa.  We planned to drive down on Thursday and then back up to WI starting Sunday.  The intervening days would give us time to get the cats and their stuff prepped for the trip and provide opportunities to see friends.

The drive down was uneventful.  We were staying with friends:  Matt and Jen have a mother in law suite and were generous enough to offer it to us for our stay.  Good friends like this are rare.  They are animal people like us so it’s nice for us to be there.  We get to hang out with their cats and dogs as well as seeing them.

Friday we went over to the condo to see our kitties (and awesome cat sitter). Then we went out to meet friends.

Saturday we went back to the condo and gave the cats a “test dosage” of xanax.  Drunk cats. Drunk cats with an insane case of the munchies, even. Then we went out to meet friends. Drunk us.

Sunday we drove up to Cobb.  Celeste meowed the whole trip and right on into  Sunday night she kept it going.  Pixie also contributed, feeding off Celeste’s misery and echoing her yowls in an unpleasant chorus.

When we arrived we unloaded the cats and allowed them out in our bedroom. “Not enough!” they declared and continued to vocalize their displeasure. I felt almost as if I were at a union rally. Around midnight I packed Celeste up and moved her to my dad’s shop. Not that it did any good – Spike immediately stepped up his complaining to fill in any deficiency created by her absence. Around 3AM I couldn’t take any more and moved to the couch where I was trying to sleep when I was summarily awakened, tried, and convicted of being a traitor by my wife for abandoning her with the two remaining hellcats. I was too groggy to ask why SHE didn’t also leave the bedroom and instead wearily dragged myself back to the dungeon for some more torture.

If the cats were aiming for some down time with all of their antics then it worked. We did not continue travel on Monday; we were simply too beat and it would not have been a good idea.

I traveled by train to NYC from the trail.  Not exactly the direction I needed to go but by going to Grand Central station I would be ideally situated to use any number of modes of transportation for the next leg of my trip.

As I rode I did my research to help make the decision. I really didn’t want to take a plane due to the numerous restrictions on baggage and the fact that I had no way to repack my gear to better survive the baggage handling. I would have to dump a few things like fuel and then they’d probably break my trekking poles and rip my backpack. I’ve flown too often to have any different expectations.

In my mind the trip needed to be made by bus or train. I could take my backpack as carry on and I wouldn’t have to lose anything. After discussion the destination had been determined to be my mother in law’s farm in Galien, MI. I would pick up our Corolla there. It was parked and waiting. It did need a battery though. The factory installed original had been close to done when InProgress had dropped the car back in February so our plan was to replace it after the hike with a battery capable of handling a Wisconsin winter.

So after reviewing ticket prices and schedules I made to decision to book myself onto an Amtrak train from Penn station to South Bend IN which is about half an hour from Galien. After a couple of short subway hops and some walking I made it to Penn, got my ticket and grabbed a burger and beer then settled in to wait an hour for my train.

Delayed. One train had to be delayed all day and guess which one it would be? Yep, mine. But I didn’t mind too much. I took the extra time to grab a deli sandwich for the trip and to charge my Newtrent battery. After an hour and a half delay the train boarded – quickly. Less than 15 minutes to get everyone on board and to start moving.

I took the Lakeshore Limited route and the scenery was good. Early on we ran along the Hudson and there were often ponds in sight as well. Several times I saw swans cruising along in ponds among the lily pads and duckweed.

The air in the train was cold and I wound up pulling out some comfort items from my pack: pillow and bag liner. After that I got quite comfy. There was a pair of 110v outlets for every set of seats and I read on my phone until dark and I could doze. The comfort level of the seat beat airplanes by a good amount; I had a footrest and legprop. Still not a bed though. When the train finally pulled into my station 18 hours later I was stiff and ready to dismount.

My mother in law met me at the station; I had texted her updated arrival times regularly so she didn’t wait hours unnecessarily. We stopped at an Autozone where I purchased the new battery for the car and at a grocery store to get some grub to last me a bit then headed out to her farm.

The farm has land that gets rented out to a local farmer for traditional rowcrops and flower beds and gardens. My mother in law grows and dries flowers and herbs in her beds and gardens – a great variety of them. It’s not food farming but it is most definitely farming and each plant has its own specific requirements so an attentive mind and attention to detail are necessities if one wishes to actually have products at the end of the work.

I really enjoy visiting the farm. The farmhouse is new construction and the flower growing is different enough from my previous agricultural and horticultural experience to remain novel to me.

I pitched in for a couple of minor things that she needed taken care of while I was there. There was a fence that needed some repair and more importantly Words With Friends wasn’t working properly on her IPad. There was also a browser issue on her computer. All things that are right up my alley. If someone were given the task of writing a short to-do list designed to let me feel useful without taxing my limits then they couldn’t do much better than this. It wasn’t busywork and it was nice to have a little something to do between resting.

I spent a bit of time with our dog, too. It was underwhelming. She’s been living at the farm while we hiked and was only mildly interested in me. Allegiance has clearly shifted; I get the impression that she enjoys her current arrangement far better than her tenure of our Florida household. We may be out of a dog. If so I will not mourn. I can’t argue what I saw; she does have it pretty damned good. Witness the carpet wallow!
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After a day of getting my feet back under me it was time to go. My wife was down in GA, our cats in FL and the cabin awaits us in WI.