Sunday, July 16, 2017

Welcome to Minnesota and the Miles of Mud

Getting on the trail
I almost had to fake my own death. I landed in Chicago from the first leg of my flight to find that my second flight to Minneapolis was cancelled. This was a major problem for me since my backpack was checked luggage and my buddy Bill was on his way to pick me up at the airport in Minneapolis. The airline had already booked me for a much later flight. As I talked to the agent about how my bag will supposedly make it to Minneapolis without me, I began to realize my options were thin. I needed my bag and I had to rent a car to get there. I didn't want to hold Bill up in town a full day waiting for me to arrive. So I asked the agent if I could get my bag since I had packed my insulin in it... And I really needed my insulin. The agent sent a simple request down to baggage to have it pulled from the luggage racks and delivered to baggage claim. I had my bag in 10 minutes and I was on my way to rent a car. Easy! I drove up to Duluth, Minnesota, met Bill, and we got to our campsite for the night. The next morning we met the shuttle and got on the trail.

The Superior Hiking Trail
We decided it would be best to hike this trail south bound since there is no cell service up north... it's very remote so it would have been hard to call for a shuttle pickup if we finished on the north end.

We learned quickly that the trail had some rugged spots mixed with tree roots, rocks, and mud... all the things I intended to miss in Vermont. The Appalachian Trail has many views, but over a long stretch, you may go days without a view. On the Superior Hiking Trail there are views around each corner. That includes views of Lake Superior, mountain ridges, water falls, and wild rivers. The weather here is also cooler by about 10 to 20 degrees. All pluses in my book! But then there's the mud, making it tough to get to these views. More on the mud later.

Another plus here is the wildlife. On the first day we saw our first bear, on the second a moose, on the third some deer, on the fourth beavers and loons... plus we've seen all sorts of animal tracks in the mud. We can tell there are also linx, bobcats, coyote, and wolves in the area. We know we'll see more. Then there are the mosquitoes... apparently the Minnesota state bird. I was also hoping to leave them behind in Vermont.

The towns along the trail seem real nice... touristy really. Some good food to be had here and the towns folk all seem to have a love for this area... and the outdoors. Every weekend here, the towns are packed with visitors, so we have to plan our stops accordingly so we don't have a problem getting a room somewhere. We also have to plan our camp spots since most of the good campsites are taken on the weekends... that just makes us hike to a more remote site. The problem with remote sites are.... The mosquitoes!!! They are so loud at night all I hear is a constant buzzing over my tent. I swear I have more bite marks than money in the bank.

Let's talk about mud
I don't even know where to begin. There is more mud here than all of the Appalachian Trail put together. Granted the mud season has been extended this year due to lots of rain, but that doesn't mean I need to walk through miles of mud... Oh yeah... It does. There have been sections where the mud makes up over 70% of the trail. In the other sections it's more like 65%... No really. It's been bad. I've taken several spills due to slipping, my shoes and socks all now have holes after only a week, and I got stuck really bad...up to my waist!!! My feet got sucked into about 3 feet of mud...then just to make the whole experience complete, I did a face plant.

On the lighter side, I've had many opportunities to take dips in the rivers and creeks... with all of my clothes and shoes on. This is a mess.

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