Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Day One:

I am back and all in one piece. This last weekend I hiked a portion of the North Country Trail here in the great state of Michigan. We through hiked about 24 miles from the Marilla trail head to the High Bridge trail head. We started by dropping all of the gear and two of the guys at the Marilla trail head and then Dave and myself dashed the over vehicle to the other end and got back to the start. We figured the other two had about an hour lead on us. We had man plans for the lead group to stop and wait for us so we knew we could catch them. The trail was in good condition, very leaf covered but that was to be expected. The main portion of day one I have hiked before when I did the loop with the Manistee River Trail. After meeting up with the other two we continued on, the plan for the day was at least 8 miles with the late start. As we were approaching Red Hill Outlook we started to search for a camp site... someone thought they knew where a great one was located. I had found one just south of Red Hill and overlooking the valley but we decided to keep on... we ended up in a nice little valley back about 300 ft. from the trail. It was a nice site that I doubt anyone had camped at for a long time. With it being cloudy we did not mind being under tree cover since we were going to miss the meteor shower anyways. We had a nice small fire, a warm mean of tuna and couscous. It was an early night for us all.

Day Two:

Ah up bright and early to stumble around to get the dogs food and feed her... she like to eat way to early for the trail. Just before sunrise we all crawled from our tents and had a nice breakfast, how good instant oatmeal tastes on the trail... and only the trail. Of course I had coffee, I shared a large press pot of Black Cat with the other Dan on the trek. After cleaning up camp and getting everything packed away of the trail we went. I figured that we would not run into anyone on the trail and only minutes after thinking this we cross a group of three just packing up their camp and heading the direction we came from. Okay that is going to be it right... wrong later in the day we cross five mountain bikers and a young solo hiker. Young Dave was on his first hike. He turned 18 and wanted to take up backpacking. Young Dave was hiking with borrowed gear from his uncle, no map... well a photo of a map on his digital camera, flip flops, jeans and a t-shirt. He was straight hiking as we were (in the opposite direction) and was hoping to hitch hike back to his car when he reach one of the road crossing on Sunday. I hope he did all right on Sunday, I am still getting to that part. The portion of the NCT that we hikes on day one and the beginning of day two does not really cross any water so you need to be aware of how much you have, how much you need and where to get some. We opted to take a side hike down to this gorgeous inland lake to pump. After a bit of hike down the steep banks to the waters edge we sat on a mirror lake and watch some long neck geese fly by as we pumped out water... AWESOME. We had some nice lunch (jerky, gorp, cheese) and headed off down the trail. It was a very leisure hike. We found nice camp site in large clearing right on the bend of the Manistee River. Just about the time we picked a spot it started to lightly sprinkle. So we quickly setup camp, found some wood for a fire and then started to explore around. There was a small feeder stream right behind our camp in which we saw no less than four large salmon attempting to swing up stream. The sprinkles did not stop but only increased until sometime around 11 pm the sky just opened up and the wind came howling in... thank goodness for the rain fly.

Day Three:

Lying awake in a toasty sleeping bag with the dog curled up next to me listening to the rain, ah it was a good nights sleep and a good way to wake up. Around 6:30 or 7 we started talking between tents about what the plan was for the day. We came to the decision since it was not letting up to pack, eat, and hit the trail. I got dressed in the tent, packed up my pack (as much as I could) from inside the tent and then got out to retreive my food bag. After a quick breakfast in the rain I finished packing my food and tent up. After all of us were packed up we hit the trial. We did not have that far to go so we headed out with the end in sight. As we headed down the trail we ended up broke into two groups of two (and the dog). Dan, Nuba and I were out in the front pack and treking at a very comfortable pace. After a nice long section of walking the river bank the trail heads back in the woods and hills. It was right at this point where I slipped on a section of board walk and placed one of my feet into a stream. Ugh. Well time to finish with one soaked foot. At the base of the stream there is a section of tight switch backs that take you right up the side of a nice sized hill across a small plateau and then up another nice sized hill. It seemed like we circled the top of the second hill and hiked off the ridge right close to where we had come up. The rain has not let up and won't for the rest of the day. After some time back in the wood we end up back on the edge of the hill and hike back to the rivers edge. We passed by the historic high bridge and could see the destination off in the distance. After a short distance on the marshy bottom we popped out right on the road and our parking spot. Treking over to the vehicle we opened it up and quickly changed into the warm and dry cloths awaiting us. I like to ride home in clean fresh pair of street cloths. The other two partners where only 20 minutes back so we had the vehicle warm and waiting for them.

It was a great hike and I would do it over again. We are going to head out next time (spring) to do a new section of the NCT and the goal is to hike all of it in Michigan (at least). The next trip in few weeks is back tot he Jordan Valley Pathway for out "before deer season" hike. Happy Trails.

For what it's worth.

Update: Stitched together map is parts from this website.

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