Monday, August 20, 2018

Day 21: The Grand Marais Detour

June 20: I woke up bright and early, anxious to hike into our next resupply point of Grand Marais. I was on the trail and hiking by 6:45--my earliest start time yet. Blueberry wasn't as excited about the idea of an early start as I was and was still in his sleeping bag when I left camp.

I had several miles into town and planned to take a decently long break somewhere along the way but the mosquitoes and flies turned out to be bad and would swarm whenever I stopped, so I wound up hiking non-stop and taking absolutely zero breaks.

This was a bit problematic because I arrived particularly early at the Gunflint Trailhead, a.k.a. Highway 12 that leads a couple of miles off trail into Grand Marais. It was barely 9:00 in the morning, and I was concerned that stuff in town wouldn't even be open yet. We planned to hitch into town for lunch, rest, grab some food and snacks, then hit the trail again. Ideally, we wanted to stay in Grand Marais, but hotel prices were kind of pricey so we decided to stay at a hostel, but it was further up the trail.

But it seemed like a waste to pass so close to town and not enjoy some of the civilization, especially since we only had a total of about 10.6 miles to do today.

But having arrived earlier than anticipated, I decided to keep hiking. The trail crossed the highway then followed parallel to it for an extra mile, eventually leading to a parking area maybe five minutes away from the Gunflint Trailhead into town. I'd have to hitch 3.5 miles into town instead of 2.5, but that didn't seem particularly problematic.

So I continued the hike, reaching the parking lot with a commanding view of Lake Superior and Grand Marais in the distance. There were several cars in the parking lot, but nobody coming or going, so I walked the five minutes to the highway and settled in to wait for my ride.

That went very well--I had to wait maybe three minutes, and the third car that passed pulled over to give me a ride.

How awesome would it have been if I could have hitched a ride in this car?! I didn't--for one, it was going in the wrong direction, and then I decided to pass this road crossing completely and walk an extra mile before hitching a ride into town. But I still loved the car and think it would be such an awesome car to pick up a hitchhiker! =)

The man, whose name I forgot to ask, took me into town and asked where I wanted to be dropped off. I suggested the post office--I wanted to pick up my laptop--then I'd walk somewhere nearby for lunch, but he gave me a quick tour of town pointing out the locations of the grocery stores, a few good restaurants and finally dropping me off at the post office. Awesome!

Inside, I picked up my maildrop, then decided to walk to Dairy Queen to wait for Blueberry. Get some ice cream and have a place to hang out until he arrived, but as I was about to cross a street, Blueberry stepped out of a car and cried out, "Green Tortuga!"

He had gotten a ride from the first road crossing, so I teased Blueberry that he was still a mile behind me on the trail. "You slacker!" I joked. =)

I told him that I had been heading to DQ to wait for him, and he liked that idea even though we didn't have to wait for him anymore so we continued on to there. The store had opened only minutes earlier and after ordering, we were told that we were order #1.

We're number one! We're number one! The very first customers of the day! I can't remember ever being number one before.... =)

So we ate a quick lunch, and afterwards moseyed across the street to the public library to get online. We took a couple of small, empty tables for ourselves, located strategically next to outlets to plug in our devices. I plugged in my laptop to catch up with email and check that everything was running well on my websites and plugged in my phone, Kindle, and solar charger to top up the charges on them.

Blueberry had fewer devices to plug in, but he did plug in his phone and surf the web. We were probably there for an hour or two before we packed up it up and went out for a second lunch. (The hiker hunger was with us!)

I set up my office in the public library. We spent an hour or two catching up with the outside world... from inside.

Blueberry also decided that he didn't need his trekking poles anymore and wanted to mail them home, so we walked back to the post office for him to take care of that, then we walked to My Sister's Place for lunch--one of the restaurants the guy who drove me into town suggested.

It was a fancier place than DQ--but let's face it, most places are! The waitress seated us near a window and we ordered and enjoyed the food immensely. Absolutely delicious!

After our second lunch, we walked to the grocery store to pick up food for a day-and-a-half. We planned to hitch a ride back into town in two days so we didn't need a lot of food, but just enough to last us until our next resupply in two days.

That went quickly since we didn't have much we needed to buy. I packed everything back up--including my laptop since I was only going to carry it for a day and wanted to use it at the hostel. Anyhow, my pack was light with very little food. I had plenty of space for my laptop and other gear that I normally shipped from post office to post office. In fact, I grabbed a new flat-rate priority mail box which I packed up and carried so when I came back to town in two days, I could already have it packed and ready to ship.

Blueberry and I walked back to the Gunflint Trail to work on our ride back to the trail. We arrived at a point on the highway where it seemed like half the traffic leaving town was missing us, so we started walking a bit up the road where there would be traffic leaving town from two different directions and doubling our chances for a fast ride. Blueberry stopped briefly to get a rock out of his shoe or something, but I pushed on. He'd catch up.

As we walked down the road, a few vehicles passed us, and when I looked back at Blueberry, I could see him trying to hitch a ride from every passing car as he walked up the road. Then, one time, I looked back, and Blueberry was gone! What happened to him? Which is when I looked closely at the approaching vehicle and saw Blueberry in the passenger seat. He'd gotten a ride!

But the question was... would they stop for me too or blow past me? I didn't know if there was room to squeeze another person in or not, but the car pulled over and I jumped into the back seat.

The kind woman who picked us up had to stop twice to pick both of us up, and then we told her that we were actually getting back on the trail at two different places as well. We didn't have much time to chat or explain what we were up to--Blueberry would get out barely two miles up the trail and I needed to get out a mile after that--but the woman was kind and understanding.

She pulled over for Blueberry and he hopped out of the car, then she continued on and dropped me off a couple of minutes later. I figured I had about a half-hour head start on Blueberry, but I also wanted to do a half-mile off-trail detour to a viewpoint on Pincushion Mountain. He might pass me there.

The mosquitoes and flies weren't nearly as problematic as they were earlier in the morning, and the trail was almost entirely flat and easy to walk on. I made good time, and followed the spur trail to Pincushion Mountain which was well worth the detour but otherwise uneventful.

View from Pincushion Mountain--and isn't that a great name for a mountain? =)

The last half-mile or so before the campsite, the trail descended steeply to the Devil Track River. There were two campsites along its banks, one on each side and maybe a five minutes walk from each other. I was going to camp in whatever was less crowded, but the first campsite was filled with a large group of Boy Scouts or something so I passed by there without even a look.

I did stop to sign the register at the bridge across the river, however, and Blueberry caught up with me while signing it. I was going to leave a message in it for him to tell him that I went to the next campsite, but I didn't have to do that anymore and told him the plan instead.

We hoofed on and arrived at the next site which where we met Adam and Amy who had already set up camp for the evening. They welcomed us to the campsite. Adam and Blueberry worked to build a campfire and we told stories to each other the rest of the evening. It was a pleasant place to camp and it was nice having company other than ourselves for a change!

All-in-all, a very satisfactory day. Except, perhaps, for the mosquitoes and flies early in the morning. =)

This is the closest point the trail gets to Grand Marais.... which is pretty close! But still a couple of miles away....

The view from the Pincushion Mountain parking area was great--and had informative signs so I could learn more about Lake Superior.
This is the view of Grand Marais from the parking area where I hitched off the trail.
I finally saw a moose in Grand Marais! Well, okay... I was a moose in Grand Marais.... This photo was for you, Wassa! =)
The library had a ping pong table out front with a sign on it saying that you can check out the paddles and balls to play from inside. How cool is that?! It was tempting to play a game against Blueberry, but we were heading to second lunch by now....
Blueberry gives a thumbs up to our lunch at My Sister's Place. (We like the ice cream at DQ, but the food there really sucks....)
View from Pincushion Mountain

It was a very steep descent to the Devil Track River! (This photo doesn't capture just how steep this slope really is.)
Devil's Track River
From left to right--Adam, Amy and Blueberry

Friday, August 17, 2018

Day 20: The Day the World Stopped Turning

June 19: I woke up bright and early. It was 6:30 in the morning, with with a mere 10.5 miles to cover today, there was absolutely no rush. That was maybe four hours worth of hiking--five if the trail was particularly rough. At all. I lingered in camp reading my book and relaxing until 8:00 before I started going stir-crazy and hit the trail. When I left, Blueberry was still sleeping.

This is actually a shelter people ARE allowed to camp at! But to do so, you have to reserve it ahead of time and pay a fee, so we didn't camp here. That's a bear locker on the left.

So I decided to do a repeat of the previous day and take a few hour-long breaks along the way. The trail climbed to a wonderful overlook, then descended to the Cascade River following the river upstream for a couple of miles.

I took my first break at what appeared to be an illegal campsite next to the river and was there for about 20 minutes when Blueberry arrived. Considering that he had still been sleeping when I left camp, I was surprised he had caught up so quickly. I figured he'd have been at least an hour behind me.

He said he left camp quickly because two of the hikers there had gotten into an argument where one of them broke a tent pole and stormed off angrily while the other sat there and cried or something to that effect. "It got awkward, so I decided to leave. Quickly."

Can't say I was disappointed to miss all that drama! =)

The rest of the day was completely uneventful. The weather was beautiful, the bugs weren't bad, and life was good.

The view from Lookout Mountain was awesome!

Near the Bally Creek campsites, I ran into two girls, one of whom was wearing a shirt that said, "Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo" on it.

"Did you go to Cal Poly?!" I asked, surprised to see my old school in the backwoods of Minnesota.

And she had, so we reminiscence for a couple of minutes before parting ways again.

I arrived into the North Bally Creek campsite late in the afternoon where four others besides Blueberry had already set up camp including a three-generation family of a grandfather, dad and his daughter, plus a older man calling himself Two Shots hiking on his own.

Blueberry built a fire, and I think he about had a heart attack when the dad of the family threw water on his fire. WTF?! He had been washing his dishes after eating dinner and threw the rinse water into the fire--allegedly because he wanted to burn the small crumbs of food that had been in his bowl. It wasn't enough to put the fire out, but what the hell was wrong with him?

For those of you who don't know what they're doing in the backcountry, here's a piece of advice: Don't throw water in the campfire--unless it's at the end of the night when everyone is going to sleep and you want to put the fire out. Leave No Trace principles are great--I love it--but it doesn't mean you have throw a bucket of water in the campfire to burn a few crumbs of food.

This is what you do instead. Pick up a few dead leaves laying around anyhow and wipe out whatever goo, gunk and other food residue is in your pot using those, then throw those leaves in the fire. When all of the solid waste in your dishes are out, rinse it off with water.... and just dump the water out somewhere other than the campfire.

It's not rocket science.

The latrine by that shelter was very fancy--not only did it include toilet paper, but it even had two walls! Which is two more than every other latrine I saw on the trail. =)
Cascade River
There was a handmade sign calling this Chad Falls, after a kid who had died. But I'm not sure if the name is official or a campaign by Chad's friends and family to get an otherwise unnamed waterfall named after him. I kind of like the idea of creating some official-looking signs somewhere and getting people to call a location after me, though, and see how that works. =)

Blueberry jumps over the guardrail because, hey! That's where the SHT sign is pointing!

Blueberry tends to his campfire.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Day 19: A boring, lovely day....

June 18: It never rained during the night and Blueberry and I woke up to a beautiful, clear day! I did find two worms who had crawled up onto my groundsheet during the night to cuddle up with me. That surprised me given the lack of rain, but I guess the ground was still very saturated with water and they preferred staying above ground for the time being.

Look at the size of that print! That's totally a moose print! But I had yet to see moose... =(
(Also, note how muddy my shoes are. It might not have rained
during the night or today, but the trail was still wet from the floods earlier!)

The day's hike was wonderfully uneventful. Blueberry and I planned to cover a mere 11.2 miles, and the weather forecast was favorable for the entire day. I could definitely take my time--no rush at all. In fact, I needed to take my time if I didn't want to get into camp at noon and be bored to death the rest of the day.

So I decided to break the day's hike into four segments, stopping for an entire hour at a convenient or scenic location between each segment to read my Kindle or take a nap. That would give me at least three hours worth of breaks during the day and I'd still probably get into camp by 5:00. Maybe 6:00 if I took longer breaks or went especially slow down the trail, but still with plenty of daylight before dark.

And that's what I did. Even though I was in no rush, I left camp when Blueberry was still in his sleeping bag. That man can sleep in! But I was getting stir-crazy and needed to stretch my legs. But Blueberry caught up with me a few hours later during one of my hour-long rests and passed me by.

Near the end of the day, at a scenic overlook, I could see a harbor on the Lake Superior shore and figured it must be Grand Marais--our next and last resupply point on the trail. The end of the trail was nearing.

What a beautiful day!

When I arrived at the campsite, I found four other thru-hikers, all heading southbound, in addition to Blueberry. We wouldn't be alone again! New stories, and new adventures! And these were all people with extensive backpacking experience--they had a lot of their own stories to tell. Actually, one of them I didn't learn anything about. She hung out at her tent all evening and never joined us by the fire. She passed by the fire once on her way to the water source, saying hi but never stopping, then passed by it again on the way back to her tent. She seemed to prefer being alone.

All three of the other hikers had previously done the PCT, and two of them had previously done the AT, and one of them had thru-hiked the AT a whopping three times! It's not often I meet someone who's thru-hiked the AT more than I have! The two AT hikers had even thru-hiked the AT the same year Blueberry and I did and although we never met, they remembered my stamp in the registers and seemed excited to meet me.

The guy who had thru-hiked the AT 3 times had a lot of great stories to tell, but he talked an awful lot and he started getting on my nerves. Would you just shut up and give other people a chance to tell some of their own stories?! I wanted to hear more from the other hikers too. He also had a bad habit of talking where every sentence had to have at least two bad words in it which grated on my nerves. "Then the f***ing squirrel tried to steal my f***ing s***! That f***ing ass*** drank all my s***! You know what I'm f***ing saying? " He seemed to be under the mistaken impression that it's not a complete sentence unless there was a cuss word in it.

But all-in-all, it was a wonderful day and an enjoyable evening.

I stopped for an hour here, enjoying the views over Agnes Lake

Agnes Lake

The lupine were really starting to come into full bloom now! In some places, I'd never seen so many thick groves of lupine!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Day 18: Biblical Flooding

June 17: Just after midnight, I heard the first distant rumbling of thunder, and within a half hour, the sky let loose a rain of biblical proportions. The weather forecast had called for heavy rains, but the sheer intensity of the downpour still shocked me.

I turned on my headlamp to check out the situation--my biggest concern was water intrusion. The tarp I used I sewed about 10 years ago so it was old and leaked a bit at times, but that wasn't as concerning to me so much as the very saturated ground. The rivers of water flowing off my tarp flowed onto the ground and started spreading out under my tarp. Due to the slope of the ground, most of the water flowed downhill in the direction of my feet, but quite a bit of it was encroaching under my tarp.

The trails would definitely be muddy and VERY wet in the morning!

I pulled out a stake and carved a small trench to redirect water around my groundsheet. I don't usually have to do this at all, but it's been useful in the past during heavy rainfalls to keep the water intrusion at bay. So I carved out a shallow trench, about 1/4" to 1/2" deep, starting near my head, curving around my groundsheet and down each side of my groundsheet towards my feet.

The system worked great, but it wasn't enough for this storm. The rain pounded the ground at an unprecedented level and my defensive fortification was quickly overrun. The trench couldn't hold back the huge volume of water that was coming down.

I didn't have a lot of options to work with. It's not like I could just move my tarp somewhere else where less water might flow under it--not in this storm! And anyhow, I already knew that there wasn't a better location nearby. I had been the first person in camp and set up my tarp at what I felt was the best location for a heavy rain. No, there was only one thing I could do: Built more fortifications.

I pulled in my groundsheet a bit to create a smaller area that needed to be defended and worked quickly to carve a second, parallel line of defensive trenches around my camp.

The water intrusion diminished, but it was still coming at me. I cursed. How could this be happening? How was it even possible? Both trenches were working--small rivers of water flowed rapidly down them and around my campsite, but it wasn't enough. They were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of water coming down!

I pulled in my groundsheet further and started working on a third line of defenses. This one took me a bit longer to do because by now, I was also trying to maintain the first two line of defenses at the same time. The first one, particularly, was already clogging up with leaves, mud and... worms! Quite a large number of worms. People tend to think that worms come out when it rains because they like the cool, moist weather, but the truth is that they breath oxygen and will drown when the ground becomes saturated with water, and the worms in the ground were drowning and fleeing to the surface in huge numbers.

So I cleared the trenches of, among other things, lots of live, squirming worms. After another ten minutes of work, I finally got up my third line of defenses, and this time, the defenses were holding. For now....

The trail was bad and I felt half mad but I swore I would not give in!
(That's a line from the Cremation of Sam McGee, but it seemed appropriate today.)

I stopped and listened to the thunder and pounding rain against my tarp. I counted three separate creeks running off my tarp. Seriously--creeks! I had seen named creeks that didn't have this much water flowing down them, which suddenly gave me the idea that I needed to name the creeks.

And given the biblical flooding taking place, I named them after the biblical characters Moses, Rebecca (Becky for short) and--of course--the largest one I named Noah.

I turned off my headlamp and now was only illuminated by the occasional flash of lightening, but I could see a couple of lights on from the other people camped nearby. I wondered how Blueberry was doing. I had absolutely no doubt that his tarp had collapsed given how poorly it had been set up earlier. Even before the rain had started, the stakes holding his ridgeline in place were already pulling out. I also knew he didn't have a headlamp or flashlight--only the light from his smartphone, at best.

Looking in that direction, I thought I might have seen Blueberry moving around, perhaps trying to set up his tarp again, but it was hard to tell exactly what was happening in the darkness. At least it was a fairly warm rain, though. On a hot, summer day, it might even feel nice walking through a rain like this. If it was an ice cold rain, I'd have been a lot more concerned about Blueberry surviving the night, although hypothermia wasn't out of the question either. I laughed a little to myself. Assuming he did survive the night and everything would be fine, he was going to have one hell of a story to tell in the morning.

I laid around for another 20 minutes or so, listening to the torrential downpour and occasional crash of thunder, trying to time the flashes of light with the thunder to get a sense of how far away it was. The nearest strike, I figured was probably a half-mile to a mile away.

I turned on my headlamp again to check my defenses, which were still holding up well. I cleared the trenches in a few places which had clogged with worms and debris, then turned off my light and tried to get some sleep.

For the next few hours, I mostly slept. Occasionally I woke up, and when I did I would turn on my light long enough to check my defensive perimeter and clear any areas that had clogged, then go back to sleep.

Hark! Is that some blue sky I spy?!

The bulk of the storm had passed by after a few hours, and wound down to a light drizzle before stopping completely. And a couple of hours after that, the sky started brightening and a new day was beginning.

I lounged around under my tarp, not at all anxious to get out of my toasty warm sleeping bag, as everyone else in camp started getting up and packing up. Hiking Viking asked me how I had fared--she still seemed skeptical that a tarp could work to keep someone dry. And to be fair, I wasn't dry exactly. When it rains long enough and hard enough, you're going to get wet, and I was definitely wet. Even though I stayed mostly dry under my tarp, the water is pervasive. It saturated the ground, which saturated my ground sheet, which left everything feeling wet and clammy. My sleeping bag felt clammy as well, just from absorbing the moisture in the air. I doubt the people in a tent were any drier than I was. In a storm of that size, everyone gets wet.

Hiking Viking also told me that Blueberry's tarp had failed during the night--no surprise there--and he had tried to set it up again in the darkness, half naked and without a light. I couldn't help but giggle a little. Not that I wished him ill or anything, but the imagery of him trying to set up a tarp while half naked and in the dark was funny!

But Blueberry did survive the night, and continued the story that Hiking Viking started saying that setting up the tarp turned out to be fool's errand and eventually he just gave up and it sounded like he wound up using his tarp more as a blanket--a horrible, awful blanket. He was soaked to the skin and freezing cold and got up to start hiking early just to warm up.

I started making some mental calculations, thinking about the stunning amount of water that my tarp had shed during the night. I bet it was over a ton of water. A literal ton of water. I thought of the three named creeks coming off my tarp. I have filled up my 1-liter water bottle in creeks of that size and they could fill up the whole bottle in a mere 10 seconds, and that wasn't even capturing all of the water in the creek! So I figured I could have easily have filled three 1-liter water bottles in less than 10 seconds flat, maybe capturing half the water in each of the creeks. Which didn't even count the rest of the water flowing off my tarp--which was substantial!--that wasn't enough for me to bother to name. I didn't think it was at all unreasonable to estimate that 10 liters of water was flowing off my tarp every 10 seconds during the height of the storm.

That's one liter of water every single second. For maybe three hours. 1 liter x 60 seconds/minute x 60 minutes/hour x 3 hours = 10,800 liters. Since water weighs 2.2 pounds per liter (if you have to carry water in a heavy pack every day, you know stuff like this), that would be over 20,000 pounds of water! More than ten tons of water! That's a hell of a lot of water. And I was pretty sure those were conservative estimates. *shaking head* Kind of amazing that a little sheet of fabric could hold off an onslaught like that.

I started getting up myself, and found a few worms on my groundsheet that I flicked off. No! Bad worms! But the real surprise came when I pulled up my groundsheet to put away and found several dozen seemingly dead worms under my groundsheet. It was a worm graveyard! Presumably, they tried to crawl out of the ground for oxygen, but hit my groundsheet and couldn't get out from under it and died. I'd been sleeping on the corpses of several dozen worms! Ooooh, yuck!

Everyone in camp got remarkably early starts to the day's hike, and I was actually the last of the nine people to leave camp--and I left at 8:00 which wasn't an especially late start.

The trail, of course, was awful. It was flooded and extraordinarily muddy, but that was to be expected after a night like we had. Occasionally there were patches of blue skies--a glimmer of hope that it would clear up during the day. Temperatures weren't especially hot but the humidity was definitely high and I sweated profusely as a result.

I caught up with Blueberry and Hiking Viking at the Oberg Mountain trailhead. Blueberry had laid out his poncho next to the outhouse and they were sitting on it, taking a break. Blueberry spread out most of his gear trying to dry it out in the occasional patches of sun, and I joined the party.

"So, Blueberry!" I said, "Pray tell... why, when you have this giant, almost empty parking lot to take a break, did you set up right next to the outhouse?"

Hiking Viking laughed at that, wondering the same thing. Blueberry didn't seem to have a good answer for it. It was almost as if he didn't notice the outhouse right next to him. "Oh, that?"

I threw out some of my own gear in the increasingly growing sun to dry out as well. Particularly my tarp and the groundsheet, both of which were quite wet.

The three of us lounged around chatting for a while, during which time the sun finally burst forth and brightened the day.

Crossing the Onion River.

Eventually we packed up and continued on. I split off from Blueberry and Hiking Viking to do an extra 1.8 mile loop on a side trail around Oberg Mountain which, according to my guidebook, included 8 scenic viewpoints in pretty much every direction.

At an overlook of Lake Superior, I pulled out of my phone to check if I could get an Internet connection there, which I finally could and I checked for an updated weather forecast. The last forecast I saw--while still in Tofte the day before--was that it was supposed to be overcast all day but it wouldn't rain again until evening. That was what I was banking on, but I wanted to get an update and a more precise time for when the rain might start.

So I was disheartened to see that rain was expected to start again--in about ONE HOUR! $#!%! This changes everything! How could that be? It was so SUNNY out right now!

I quickly rushed through the rest of the loop, now regretting that I ever decided to do the extra 1.8 miles that weren't even on the trail. The views from the loop were fabulous--if it wasn't for the rain in the forecast, I'd have been very glad I took the detour and lingered a bit longer to enjoy the commanding views. If I knew it was supposed to rain this afternoon, I'd have done a few things differently. I would have left camp earlier in the morning. I wouldn't have stopped so long to chat with Hiking Viking and Blueberry next to the outhouse. And I definitely would not have hiked an extra 1.8 miles on a side trail that didn't get me any closer to Canada.

Oberg Mountain trailhead. The lump next to the outhouse is Blueberry and Hiking Viking, taking a break and trying to dry out gear. (But there wasn't much sun when I took this photo.)

I finished the loop and hiked rapidly, hoping the forecast was wrong about the timing of the rain and maybe I still had a chance to make it into camp for the night before the rain started.

But that didn't happen. Right as predicted, the rain started up about an hour later. It was a light but persistent sprinkle, and for the first time on this hike, I pulled out my umbrella and hiked in the rain.

The rain continued for a couple of hours before tapering off again, and I put my umbrella back in my pack. I still hurried rapidly down the trail trying to reach camp as quickly as possible before anymore rain started up.

I arrived at the East Poplar Creek campsite just as sprinkles started up again. Blueberry had already arrived in camp and had his tarp set up and was warm and cozy under it, reading his Kindle. I quickly set up my own tarp on a rough, uneven piece of ground nearby when I couldn't find anything better.

"This is it?" I asked Blueberry while setting up my tarp. "My guidebook says that there are 2 tent pads at this campsite. Where's the other one?"

But if it was there, we couldn't find it, so I set up on that rough, uneven piece of ground, then ducked under and out of the rain. My clothes had dried from the rain earlier in the afternoon, and while they were slightly damp from the current rain, it wasn't bad. But I still changed into my dry camp clothes, then into my sleeping bag mostly to help warm it up and dry it out from the night before.

Needing water but not wanting to go out in the rain, I set my water bottle under my tarp to catch the runoff, filling up my 1.5 liter bottle. It was a very light rain and the bottle filled up slowly, but I had filled it completely after about an hour.

And for the next couple of hours, I read my Kindle, wrote in my journal and generally relaxed.

Early in the evening, the rain stopped again, and I got out from my tarp to make dinner and stretch. The skies continued clearing throughout the evening and it didn't rain anymore for the rest of the day. Nobody else showed up at the campsite, so it was just Blueberry and myself for the night.

Everyone else--all of the other seven people at our campsite the night before and the five people who set up camp just outside of the campsite--every one of them had gotten off the trail. Most of them had been out for the weekend and had long planned to go home today, but even the other thru-hikers (Hiking Viking, Bear Claw and Houston) had a reservation somewhere to get off the trail for the night, take a shower and clean up.

So it was just Blueberry and I for a quiet and uneventful evening.

By the time we left the Oberg Mountain trailhead, it was actually quite sunny out and we were all in a good mood!
Hiking Viking checks out a boot cleaning station at the trailhead and Blueberry finds a bottle of bug repellent.

There are eight different scenic overlooks on the Obert Mountain Loop!
And the overlooks are quite nice! =)
Oberg Lake
This looks pretty recent. I wondered if maybe it crashed down during the storm last night?

It's official--the first day I've actually had to hike IN the rain while on this trail.

Poplar Creek
Video of Poplar Creek

Our camp at the East Poplar River Campsite. The green tarp on the left is mine while Blueberry is under the gray tarp on the right.
Hey, Blueberry! How's it going? =)