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Day 3 — Backpacking Turns to Driving

Hiking Out

The muddy ground underneath the shelter

The ground we slept on (we did have a tarp though)

We woke up the next morning after not sleeping very well, with a nice dusting of snow covering the ground to greet us. We did not know exactly what the weather report was for the rest of the week. The night we stayed in the hotel the weatherman predicted it would rain the previous day (correct) and then clear up today. Well, by morning it was very cloudy with no sign of clearing up. Also, most things were wet and we were pretty cold. We made the decision that backpacking the rest of the week through weather like this would not be any fun, so we headed back to the trailhead only a day after we left. The weather was not the only contributing factor to our turning back though. The leader of our group had previously smashed his ankles and had limited flexibility in them. These started hurting him, and he had to walk on them very slowly. I am not sure even if the weather had been nice if we would have been able to continue.

So we hiked back along the same trail that we had just covered the day before, only this time it was much wetter. Much of the trail had water running across it, and in one spot we even had to make a diversion around a large puddle that had formed in the middle of the trail. It was kind of unfortunate that we turned back because by the time we got back to the van, the day had actually turned out to be pretty nice. The sky had cleared with the sun shining, and it was pretty warm (considering we were in northern Minnesota).

On the Road Again

We ate lunch (consisting of Oreo cookies) and got in the van heading for some unknown place south of us to camp/backpack. The drive back along the coast of Lake Superior was actually pretty neat though. The scenery was cool to look at (considering we had gone through in the dark the first time). Also, with all the rain that had fallen, water poured out of every crack in the rocks along side the road. The rivers that normally existed were higher and rushing over the rocks. Another cool thing I noticed was that it seemed that Minnesota had a state park about every two miles along the road between Duluth and Grand Marais. They were not big parks, but it was still awesome to see all of them.

Hiking Back to the Van

Taking a break
Copious water covering the trail that was not there the day before
The view looking out along the Gunflint Trail
Taking a detour

Pictures along the coast during the drive back

Lake Superior
The river before it hits Lake Superior
A seagull enjoying the view

Black River State Forest

Showers Closed

No getting clean this night

We looked at our handy Wisconsin road map and saw that Black River State Forest was pretty much along our route back and we decided to stop there. We drove there and the first private campground that we tried to stay at was not open for the season yet — things going well. We then headed over to the state park and had slightly better luck. The place was totally deserted. I guess it was still early in the season. We filled out the self-check in and went to pick out a spot. We were the only campers in the entire place, which was pretty nice. We built a nice hot fire and tried to dry our clothes which were still damp. We had a little more success this night using the fire as a drier. We actually had semi-clean water available through a hand pump, so we were freed from having to pump lake water through a filter. One of the nicest things was that the night was clear and we could see lots of stars. I forgot how much light pollution blocks stars, even in Terre Haute. One bad thing though was that we could hear the sounds of the interstate in the distance, which was kind of annoying when you are trying to get away from civilization. We spent the night there, and I was slightly less cold, although still not warm.

Our campsite at Black River State Park
Drying our damp clothes in the darkness

A few closing thoughts from the day. Even though backpacking on the trail sort of went bust, I was still looking forward to hiking, especially with some possibilities around Minneapolis this summer with my job. Maybe I was over optimistic about the hiking possibilities around that area, but I sure hoped there were some good spots to day hike and/or camp. Also, I was thinking of hitting up the state parks around Terre Haute before the end of the school year. Just go out there on a Saturday if I am not busy (which does not happen to often) and hike around, run, or take pictures. Sure will beat sitting in my apartment doing nothing.