May 25, 2019
My journey continues with my second hike of the year. I am hiking on the North Country Trail in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, along Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
My itinerary for Day 1 of a planned 6-day trek is to hike a short 5.1 miles from the Munising Falls Visitor Center to my permitted back country campsite located in the Cliff’s. After a small trail detour and road-walk, I finally find my way to ‘back’ to the North Country Trail.
It felt good to be back, to be connected with the North Country Trail again . Seeing the NCT emblem marking the path, a blue blaze reaching out from a distant tree trunk guiding me onward, or just knowing that my boots and I are standing on a portion of the 4,600 mile footpath stretching from Crown Point in eastern New York to Lake Sakakawea State Park in central North Dakota – will always feel like home.
For many, I’m sure reading such a thought seems odd, out of place, even contradictory. After all, how can you feel at home when you’re in the middle of the woods?
As Bryson concludes his “A Walk in the Woods”, he shares this thought: “there comes a moment when I look up and notice , with a kind of first-time astonishment, the amazing complex delicacy of the woods, the casual case with which elemental things come together to form a composition that is — whatever the season, wherever I put my besotted gaze — perfect. Not just very fine or splendid, but perfect, unimprovable”.
For me, and as I have previously written,
I feel as if all goes back some 45 years to that summer vacation when my family traveled to the Smokey Mountains for the first time. … In many ways I feel as if a small part of me was left in the mountains, which at times has felt unsettled, left undone, waiting for my return. In other ways I feel an even bigger part of the mountains was left inside me, for this moment, for now, beckoning me onward, to return to the woods, to be one again not just with the Pigeon River, or the many overlooks and landscapes from my past, but with more, so much more, more of the paths and trails, the streams and rivers, the mountains and valleys – the many wonders just waiting for me to go and explore. … Many of those who have done so before me will tell you “Hike Your Hike”. For me, it’s time. It’s time for me to “Hike My Hike”.
My Life’s Hike began Saturday, June 30, 2018 5:52 PM, at Latitude 46.68123 Longitude -89.38983, the entry to North Country Trail from Norwich Road (shown below), and it was in that moment, when I looked up and noticed, with a kind of first-time astonishment, the absolutely daunting yet amazing feat — not just a hike but a thru-hike — I was now committed too.
The North Country Trail is where it all began just over a year ago, and my preparation continues – gaining experience, finding my legs, shaking down gear, discovering what works and what doesn’t, repeating tasks and processes over and over so that they become not just second-nature, but ingrained in my being, simply repeatable from memory, and learning how to be best prepared for whatever the trail and mother nature can throw at me – all while doing so as minimalisticly as possible.
The portion of the North Country Trail I was now hiking is located in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where it essentially winds its way along the shoreline of Lake Superior, and in general presents a gradual climb in elevation as it makes its way up to a section known as the ‘Cliffs’. The trail is very well maintained, nicely groomed, and very easy to follow.
I stopped at the NCT – Sand Point Junction to take advantage of the steps built there, which allow hikers to walk down to better view the local water fall. I on the other hand, was there to simply rest a bit, hydrate myself, and fuel my body. It sounds funny to me in a way – the phrase “fuel my body” – but I use it to remind myself that not only do I need to do so, and often when hiking, I also need to use the 91 Octane brand of fuel!
The Cliff’s Back Country Camp Site was difficult to locate. In fact, I couldn’t locate it at all and it was only when I reached the North Country Trail Headquarters at Miner’s Castle I realized I had completely passed it. I back-tracked about a half-mile or so, and found an amazing spot to set up camp for the night. How I missed it on my original approach I’ll never understand, but gosh am I glad I discovered it on my way back.
After I set up camp for the night, I hiked back to the North Country Trail Headquarters picnic area to make dinner – Mountain House Beef Stew – and to take in yet another amazing view the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has to offer, this time from the Miners Castle Scenic Overlook.
I returned to my campsite shortly before sunset. As I sat on the edge of the cliff overlooking the bay in front and some 200 feet below me, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of wonder and accomplishment. I was “Hiking My Hike” and it was simply — perfect. Not just very fine or splendid, but perfect, unimprovable.
Hike Data – Day 1
- North Country Trail 8.5 miles
- Start: Marker 327.5 End: Marker 334.5
- Additional 1.5 miles to and from North Country Trail Headquarters
- Garmin InReach:
- Start 11:21 AM
- Trip Time 7:47:49
- Distance Traveled 9.1 miles
- Average Speed 1.17 mph
- Max. Speed 3.11 mph
- Max. Elevation 987 ft
- Camp Site: The Cliff’s (* no water, no fire ring)
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Appalachian Trail Conservancy Member #22027626
Pacific Crest Trail Association Member #98397
North Country Trail Association Member since 11-28-2018