Tuesday, June 29, 2010

North Country Trail journal - June 14, 2010

Monday, June 14 Somewhere on Cty. Hwy. A
We’re still on our roadwalk, but should see our first blue blazes of the NCT some time tomorrow. I can’t wait. The asphalt is wreaking havoc on my feet and leg muscles. I also feel a pull in my right quadriceps from walking at a slant so long. Ah, hell. I guess I’m just getting older too.

Last night we camped on the west bank of the Black River, but not the same Black River that flows through Black River Falls. This Black River flows into Lake Superior. Our spot is a narrow flat ridge amongst the pines and popples. We had a fire, but retired before darkness. It took no time for me to fall asleep. Our first day of hiking totaled about 14 miles. The sun came out in the evening after a day of gray skies. Steve said he was homesick. He looked a little down, but I tried to cheer him up. I told him backpacking is tough, especially the first few days of a trip, but it has its rewards. If he can make it through the blisters and muscle aches, the buggy assault and bad weather, he will feel a sense of accomplishment and have the courage and conviction to deal with other life challenges. A little Ra Ra from the Raru. Steve’s a brave young man to even attempt this trip. I wish him continued strength to see it through.

I awoke at 3 a.m. to total darkness and silence. Nice! The first thing my eyes saw was the tannic waters of the Black River flowing by, bits of foam showing the speed of the current. The sun shone and bird song filled the air. I felt a little sore while packing, but the pack felt lighter when I put it on.

Bugs have not been a major issue. Mosquitoes and ticks are present in abundance, but deer flies are notably absent. Steve showed me a spider yesterday carrying an egg sac that looked like a pearl. Steve seems interested in the tiny details he encounters along the way. This is good backpacker aesthetics. I enjoy the pine barren swamp we’re passing through on Hwy. A, the floppy grasses that grow in the shallow swamps, the ferns, the sphagnum moss blanketing trunks and branches, and the many flowers, globe mallow, sasifrage, purple lilies, lily pads, and the endless layers of the lotus blossoms.

We should reach our first blue blazes of the NCT tomorrow and make it to Solon Springs some time tomorrow or early Wednesday. I don’t have the heart to tell Steve we could have taken a shorter hike from the border down County Hwy. M, but that would not have followed the “official” route. We also would not have seen the highest waterfall in Wisconsin. “Big deal?!” my feet cry. “You put us through all this suffering so you can be ‘official’ and see a stinking waterfall?”

We are taking this break on a grassy driveway off the road, right under the NO TRESPASSING sign, There’s a good sitting log too irresistible to pass. It’s cold enough I’ve got my sleeping bag draped over my legs and am wearing my jacket. It’s cloudy and gray and a cool wind rattles the aspen leaves. I’m not looking forward to the protests of my leg muscles when I get up. Steve just pointed out a spider he watched attach webbing to his knee and work its way toward a blade of grass. That’s the beauty of this life. Unshackled from the common, obvious, and predictable distractions of civilization, the intrepid hiker enjoys the simple, yet awe-inspiring distractions nature provides. Speaking of… It looks like rain. Time to strap up and go.

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