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

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