Monday, July 30, 2018

Day 12: When Animals Attack!

June 11: I woke up in a splendid mood. It was a wonderful night, I slept well and the morning was beautiful! What more could one ask for?

I hit the trail and was hiking at 7:15, and took every single spur trail to every single overlook throughout the day. Most spur trails are just a few minutes off the main trail, but I waffled at the side trail to Fantasia Overlook which was a more lengthy half-mile off trail. But it was called Fantasia! That must be good! Most overlooks don't get a name at all. And to build a trail a half mile just to take you to an overlook, surely that's a good sign too. Nobody is going to build a half-mile trail that dead-ends in the middle of nowhere without a view. But still.... it was a half mile off trail, then another half mile to get back. That's a whole mile of walking that, strictly speaking, I didn't have to do.

Should I take the half-mile spur trail to the Fantasia Overlook? Of course I should!

But when will I ever be back here? I decided to go for it while Blueberry continued on. Before we parted ways, I told him that I'd be a half hour behind him--long enough for me to hike the extra mile and include a few minutes to admire whatever stupendous view was waiting for me.

 As it turned out, the trail was badly overgrown in areas and clearly not maintained as well as the main trail and my progress was considerably slower than I had expected, but the route started off promising with commanding views of Lake Superior in the distance. But then the trail went behind a small hill and the great views of that lake disappeared and turned into mediocre views of forests. I was in too deep to turn around now, though, and pushed onward.

I finally reached the Fantasia Overlook which was nice, hanging over a scenic beaver pond, but I was disappointed. It wasn't worth the time and effort it took to get here. Other views directly from the trail were better than this one. If the trail was shorter and in better condition, it could be worth it, but I found myself more annoyed at the detour than happy about it.

I took photos anyhow--I was here, I may as well--and a short break, then turned around and headed back to the main trail again.

The view IS nice, but so not worth the half-mile, off-trail trip to get here.

I made it back to the main trail and continued hiking northbound. The trail eventually led up to a gravel road which it was to follow for about a hundred feet before ducking back into the woods on the other side of the road, and I was plowing along minding my own business when a bird jumped out of the bush next to me hissing, jumping around on the ground and all puffed up and ready to attack. I stumbled backward, startled at this unexpected attack. What the hell?!

I back up further, and the bird settled down and went back into the brush again. It was a grouse, although I wasn't entirely sure if that at the time since it didn't look like any of the grouse I'd seen before. I slowly went up the road again, this time keeping an eye out for the bird, and as soon as I started approaching that location again, the bird jumped out of the brush, puffed himself up and stood guard. He did not want me to pass!

This grouse (but I prefer to call a boulder turkey) did not want me to pass him on the trail!

We eyed each other for a few seconds, then I stepped back a few feet and the bird went back into the brush again. I dropped my pack and took out my fancy camera. I was going to get some really good photos of this bird once I had my zoom lens out.

I took a few steps forward, and once again the bird jumped out of the brush, blocking the path. I snapped a few photos, then stepped a few feet back and the bird wandered back into the brush again.

I switched lenses--I wanted the wide-angle lens now to get a video of the bird's behavior. Between the bird moving and my stepping forward or back and trying to get around it, I needed a wider perspective of the situation. So I switched lenses, then took a video as I stepped forward a few steps and once again the bird jumped out to block the trail.

Not sure of what to do now, I first tried hugging the far side of the trail hoping the grouse would let me by if I wasn't on its side of the trail, but that didn't work. As soon as I took a few steps forward, the grouse jumped back out on the trail to block my way away.

Going off trail and looping around it was potentially an option, but the vegetation in that area was badly overgrown and that would have been a challenge in its own right.

But I had another idea. It seemed to take the bird a few seconds to jump out from its hiding place in the brush, and if I ran down the trail, I might be able to get to the other side of it before it reached me, and then if it tried to chase me down the trail in the other direction, that would be fine because that's the direction I wanted to go.

So that's what I did, and it worked great! And I got the whole event on film, which I found hilariously funny. =)

Being chased down the trail by a bird. Life is good! =)

I wondered briefly how Blueberry got past the bird, and wondered if he'd even seen it. Blueberry strikes me as the kind of person who might have tried to kill it then cook it for dinner later today, but that clearly hadn't happened since the grouse clearly wasn't dead.

Not five minutes later, I was startled again when I found a snake sunning itself on the trail. What is it with wildlife on the trail today?!

The trail climbed higher, eventually reaching a wonderful overlook of Wolf Lake. It was directly on the trail, but this view would have been worth a half-mile, off-trail detour! I scanned the shores of the lake looking for signs of moose, although I didn't expect to see them at this time of day, it didn't hurt to check. I still hadn't seen any moose on the trail, and I didn't at this lake either, but I did spy far in the distance a bald eagle soaring above the lake.

I dropped my pack and grabbed my camera, quickly trying to switch back to the 300mm zoom lens, but the eagle flew off before I could manage a photo. *sigh*

I caught up with Blueberry taking a break at Sawmill Dome, although he stopped at a viewless point about a one-minute hike from phenomenal views ahead on the trail. Ooops! It was also annoyingly buggy.

When I saw Blueberry, I immediately asked him, "Tell me! Tell me about your experience with the attacking bird!"

He looked at me, with a completely straight face. "I have no idea what you're talking about."


"The bird, guarding the trail and wouldn't let anyone pass. Please tell me you saw it! I want to hear about it!"

"I still have no idea what you're talking about. What happened?"

And I kind of believed him. He could have been pulling my leg--it would be a very Blueberry thing to do--but he actually seemed curious.

So I told him about my "boulder turkey" experience (that's what I like to call grouse since the first one I ever saw looked a lot like a turkey and it was showing off on the top of a boulder, and I liked the name better than 'grouse'). But yeah, Blueberry knew nothing about the bird I was talking about. I played the video I took which he thought was hilarious.

"He chased you, like, 10 feet down the trail!"

"I know!"

We continued along the trail, dipping down to Highway 6 and filling up with water at Sawmill Creek since there was no water at the Section 13 Campsite where we planned to stop for the night. We'd have to haul in our water from 1.5 miles away.

There were some really nice overlooks by the campsite, but the campsite itself was cold and windy, and a little depressing. Blueberry went to work building a campfire, and I set up my tarp since rain was predicted during the night. I wasn't entirely happy with the layout, however, thinking if it rained even moderately hard, the runoff would flow under my tarp. We weren't expecting a heavy storm, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Then I headed to the latrine to do my business, and while sitting on the pot, I heard a noise in the woods that sounded like footsteps. Keep in mind, the latrines are just a hole in the ground with a seat on top of it. There are no walls for privacy, but this allows for great views of the surrounding area. So I looked around for the source of the sound, and I didn't see anything at first. But then I heard it again. They sounded like footsteps. Something pushing its way through the leaves underfoot.

I was expecting a deer--it seemed much more likely than a bear or a moose or other large animal, but this one was elusive--I wasn't seeing anything!

More shuffling through the leaves, then finally I saw it. I wasn't sure what I was looking at. It looked like a small squirrel or chipmunk. Brownish in color. But didn't have the big, bushy tail of a squirrel, nor did it have the stripes on its face or back like a chipmunk. The tail was short and stubby and black. I had absolutely no idea what it was!

Even more interestingly, it was dragging something along in its mouth. Whatever it had caught, it was as big as the animal that was carrying it! Another small rodent, although this one was completely black and I thought it might be a vole. I couldn't see it very well, though, in the dwindling daylight of the heavily shaded camp. It being black didn't help either. It wasn't moving or struggling, though, so I was pretty sure whatever it was was dead.

And oh, how I wish I could have gotten a photo of it! I'd need my zoom lens--those animals were small and not super close--and a very steady hand for as dark as it was getting, but it would be a unique image to be sure! But... well, crap. I was caught with my pants down. Literally. In every sense of the word. My camera was back at the campfire, so I just sat there, watching this tiny little creature trying to drag its kill (or was it just a find?) up the hill through the leaves. It would jump up a little through the leaves which would sound like a single step. Then stop and rest for a second, then repeat the stunt. It sounded just like a deer slowly walking through dried leaves, taking slow, tentative steps.

The animal bounded away, and I finished up what I was working on then returned to the campfire and reported my sighting to Blueberry, describing the animal I saw in as much detail as I could, but he didn't seem to know what it might have been either.

A few pages later in my guidebook, there's a sidebar about Crosby-Manitou State Park, which says, "Because of the relatively undisturbed nature of the park it is possible to encounter a variety of wildlife, such as deer and moose, or less frequently, timber wolf, vole, mink and pileated woodpecker."

A mink?! Maybe what I saw was a mink? I know it's a rodent-link creature and popular for turning into furs, but off the top of my head, I couldn't think of what a mink looked like. There were definitely voles in the area, though, so my theory that he was carrying a vole was credible.

I googled mink images later, and I'm still not sure if that's what I saw. The images I googled of minks had longer tails than I remembered seeing, and the body of the creature was a definitely brown while the tail was very short, stubby and black. But maybe it lost part of its tail in an epic battle which was why it was short and stubby? I may never know exactly what I saw....

The rest of the evening was uneventful. Blueberry and I chatted around the campfire, and nobody else was at the campsite to share our company. After sunset, we called it a night and went to sleep with the plan to get a late start in the morning to wait out whatever rain started during the night.

Toad on the trail! There were actually quite a large number of toads along the trail.

Really? 7/16th of a mile? You couldn't just round it off to a half-mile? Or write 0.44 miles? Or something more sane than 7/16th of a mile?
Baptism River in Tettegouche State Park
The trail crosses the Baptism River over this suspension bridge.
High Falls
Hello, Lake Superior!

The lupine are about to bloom!
Snake on the trail!
Wolf Lake

Blueberry admires the view from Sawmill Dome.

Blueberry takes a break at one of the trailheads.
For a second time now, we found a bunch of trekking poles hanging in a tree by the trailhead. Blueberry and I both really liked the one with the face carved into it, but neither of us wanted to carry it the rest of the trail so we left it behind.
Blueberry shows off his stylish socks. He used to have matching socks, but one of them developed a hole so he replaced it with the girlish-looking sock (the one on the left) that I had found on the trail several days earlier.
View from near the Section 13 campsite where we'd stay for the night. Those look like rain clouds blowing in!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Day 11: The Silver Bay Resupply

June 10: Blueberry and I woke up early and were on the trail and hiking by 6:00. Part of the reason was because the campsite was buggy, drab and depressing, but the other reason was so we'd have plenty of time to hike to the highway leading into Silver Bay, hitch a ride into a town, resupply, and get back on the trail again. We had a full day of hiking scheduled--and a resupply in Silver Bay! It was crazy! But that was the goal, and the earlier we started, the more likely we'd achieve it.

The sun rises over Lake Superior (see the blue "line" near the horizon?) on this beautiful day!

Blueberry got ahead of me, and I caught up with him several miles later at a campsite where he exclaimed that he saw two otters in Beaver River and he was pretty excited about that. I'd seen otters before, and while I'd have loved to see one and get photos, I wasn't too heartbroken over the lack of otters in my life. I, however, got to see some absolutely adorable cute baby geese, but sadly I didn't manage to get my camera out and nab a picture in time before they went into hiding.

The last few miles to the highway into town were frustratingly rugged and slow-going, and I compared them to the White Mountains on the Appalachian Trail--so steep in places that you keep thinking that this couldn't possibly be the trail and surely you took a wrong turn somewhere, but no, that was, in fact, the trail.

Nor did it help that much of the ridgetop had no tall trees so there was no shade to help keep us cool in the bitterly hot sun. On the plus side, however, the views were fabulous! I could see Silver Bay laid out ahead, and I tried to pick out recognizable logos wondering where in town we would go for lunch and to resupply.

Blueberry pulled ahead of me, and I caught up with him laying in the grass next to Highway 5, a.k.a Penn Boulevard, relaxing.

He got up, and I took a photo of him next to a Superior Hiking Trail sign before telling him to turn on the "Blueberry Magic" and get a ride into town.

We stuck out our thumbs and, I kid you not, the very first car to come along pulled over and in about five seconds, we were piling into a vehicle on our way to Silver Bay. Awesome! I was joking about the Blueberry 'magic', but maybe it really existed?!

We were dropped off a few minutes later in a small shopping plaza with a grocery store and a couple of restaurants. We decided to grab lunch first and headed into Northwoods where I ordered a BBQ pulled pork sandwich with fries and Blueberry ordered one of the hamburgers with fries.

The waitress serving us was wonderful, allowing us to use a nearby outlet to charge our devices, log into their wi-fi connection and filled up our water bottles. She didn't even comment on our awful stench, although as she was seating us, I suggested it might be a good idea to sit us away from other diners. Not that it would bother us any, but they might not want to smell us while eating lunch!

Lunch was absolutely delicious. Our devices were still charging, though, and we figured it would be easier and faster to resupply without dragging our backpacks all around, so we took turns shopping. I went first while Blueberry hung out at the restaurant surfing the web on his phone. I probably spent about 15 minutes wandering around the grocery store getting everything I needed for the next segment of our hike--about five days worth of food. While browsing up and down the aisles, I saw a bag of marshmallows and grabbed that. Blueberry had joked earlier about needing marshmallows around one of our campfires, and I figured I'd surprise him this evening with the bag of marshmallows.

I then returned to the restaurant to watch our stuff while Blueberry took his turn grocery shopping. While he was out, I started repacking my newfound food supplies into Ziplock bags and getting everything back in my pack. I also made sure the marshmallows would stay out of view--I wanted to surprise him with it later. =)

Blueberry returned a bit later and with everything charged and packed up, it was time to get back on the trail.

He headed to the highway out of town and I told Blueberry to turn on that Blueberry Magic again--it worked out so well the first time around!

And holy cow! It worked! Again!!! The very first car pulled over and picked us up, and we were cramming ourselves into the vehicle in mere seconds. This vehicle was a bit of a tight fit, though, and we had to hold our large and heavy packs in our laps, but we weren't complaining. The ride to the trailhead was, at most, five minutes away.

All told, we were off the trail for about two hours. Maybe two-and-a-half. It was certainly one of the fastest turnarounds I had for a resupply run--especially considering it required a hitch both to and from town. Thank You Minnesota!!

We got dropped off back on the trail and continued the day's hike. Blueberry, who hikes faster than me, took the lead and I didn't see him again until the end of the day at the campsite we had agreed to stop at.

The next section of trail had steep areas, but the views were the best of the entire trail so far! It passed by on a ridge overlooking Bean and Bear Lakes that could take your breath away with occasional views back toward Silver Bay and Lake Superior. Absolutely stupendous!

I reached our designated campsite at the East Palisade Creek camp at about 4:30 in the afternoon--shockingly early considering that we covered a full 15 miles today and completed that resupply run into Silver Bay. When I woke up in the morning, I'd been hoping we could reach this distance before dark. I never imagined we'd have completed it by 4:30 in the afternoon!

Blueberry was already in camp when I arrived, and already had a campfire started. I swear his campfire-building skills are first class. He'll arrive in camp and have a campfire going within five minutes. I don't know how he does it.

This time, however, Blueberry was a bit melancholy when I arrived, explaining that he had lost his hat. He thought it was back at the previous campsite several miles back but certainly had no plans to go back and look for it. I gave him my sympathies.

"Well," I told him, "I've got something that will cheer you up."

I pulled out the bag of marshmallows from my pack.


"Oh!" he exclaimed. "Green Tortuga! That's awesome! I've got something for you too!"


He pulled out a bar of chocolate. "Chocolate! It'll go perfect with the marshmallows!"

Indeed. Too bad neither of us thought to get graham crackers so we could make some proper smores. =)

The lost hat was forgotten. For now, at least....

Blueberry found a couple of good sticks to roast the marshmallows with, and we spent the rest of the evening chatting away. I got the idea to set my camera down on a bench on the other side of the fire and record our conversation, and we recorded about 12 1/2 minutes worth of our conversation before my camera shut off. Even worse, we didn't realize it had shut off so kept on talking for an hour thinking it was being recorded, but vast majority of the conversation wasn't recorded at all. Oh, well....

But it is fun watching our non-scripted discussion and a few burnt marshmallows, so enjoy the first episode of the Campfire Chronicles.... (at the end of this post)

There are a lot of problems with bridges on this trail. For instance, it would be really helpful if there was a bridge so I could reach the bridge on the other side of the pond!
Or, take for instance, this bridge, which didn't feel particularly safe or sturdy....

These trekking poles were just hanging here. Were they meant to be borrowed by day hikers who forgot to bring their own and returned? Were they meant to be kept by anyone who wanted a cute little trekking pole? No idea! =)

Blueberry was excited to spot two otters in the Beaver River.
I didn't see the otters, but I did catch this deer and even got my camera out in time for this horrible photo!

The SHT overlaps this bike path only long enough to cross under this railroad. We were on the bike path for just a minute or two.

Passing by Pipe Line Road. I wonder how it got that name? Hmm... =)

Gorgeous, gorgeous views of Lake Superior! Is that a hint of Wisconsin I see on the other side?
Overlooking Silver Bay. Blueberry and I will be resupplying there!

That's the highway below that leads into Silver Bay--our resupply point.
Blueberry waits for my arrival at the trailhead....
It's time to hitch a ride into Silver Bay!
Now that's what I call a ride! It wasn't our ride--just a vehicle I noticed in the parking lot of the shopping plaza that looked particularly unusual.
Blueberry has the time of his life at Northwoods, where we stopped for lunch.
Lunch is ready!
Looking back towards Silver Bay.

The views along Bean Lake were some of the best of the entire trail!

The views on the ridge over Bear Lake were nothing to sneeze at either! (That smaller lake in the background is Bean Lake.)

Marshmallows! With chocolate inside! =)
Blueberry: The Master Fire Starter =)
Episode 1 of the Campfire Chronicles!