Cut Log Camp (Cascade River) to Carlton Peak
I’m lying in my sleeping bag awake, listening to the rain hit our tent and waiting for the alarm to go off. I had a restless night of sleep as my head raced with thoughts about continuing without Tim. I feel like I’m finally starting to get into the right head space to continue the trip alone. Tim is up getting his stuff together while I change in the tent. A few minutes later he says he’s going to get a head start and see if there’s any chance his ankle has gotten better. I’m hopeful, but it seems unlikely. I don’t think much more about it.
I finish getting dressed and start to pack. It takes longer than usual as I try to figure out the best arrangement for the additional gear I’ll be carrying. When I put my pack on I hardly notice the extra weight. I head down the trail and stop at the first stream to fill my water bottles. A lot of time has gone by since Tim left so I’m wondering if I’ll even catch him. I hike for about a mile before I see him coming down the trail towards me. I immediately notice how well he seems to be moving. No limping!?
It seems impossible, but Tim’s ankle is better. We spend the next 20 minutes trying to find cell phone service to call Alex and cancel his ride. We finally find service and get a hold of Alex. Bullet dodged. We’re on our way to Lutsen.
Bullet dodged. We’re on our way to Lutsen.
It’s still raining, but at this point, it doesn’t bother me. Physically I’m feeling good. Mentally I’m working on shifting back to the team mindset. It’s a much easier transition than it was the other way around, but it still takes some time to get there.
We arrive at Lutsen Mountain at 1:00 pm wet and hungry. It’s raining hard at this point and my rain gear has soaked through. I’m looking forward to drying out and eating hot food. We pick up our resupply box at the Eagle Ridge Resort and head down to the coin operated laundry room to dry our wet gear.
Once everything is in the dryer we head down the road to Mogul’s Grille where we planned to eat lunch. The only problem is the restaurant is closed. This can’t be right, we even looked at the hours online. The person working the front desk at Caribou Lodge confirms that none of the restaurants in the resort area are open until 4:00 pm. Waiting would put us too far behind schedule. We still have 25 miles to cover for the day. We also don’t have enough calories for the day without eating this lunch.
Neither of us know what to do so we just sit in the lobby silent. A few minutes later, a lady walks in the door and starts asking us about our hike. Terri is a massage therapist from next door, and when she learns about our situation she immediately offers to take us wherever we need to go.
Terri and her husband James seem genuinely excited to help us. We accept their offer and they give us a ride 15 minutes down the road to the Cascase Lodge for food. After we fill our stomachs they drive us back to Lutsen Resort.
With full stomachs we return to our dry gear. Our day is suddenly looking much brighter. It’s still raining, but not quite as hard. We don’t get back out on the trail until 4:10 pm, though, which means we’re behind schedule. We discuss our options and decide we will end a few miles early again tonight, at Carlton Peak instead of Cross River.
As we head back down the trail we are met by countless shoe sucking mud pits. I do my best to hop across it without submerging my shoes. I turn the process into a game of balancing on logs and jumping across rocks to avoid the mud. Tim takes the opposite approach and just trudges through the middle. The mud sucks his shoes off on several occasions.
As we get closer to camp I am eager to get out of my wet clothes and into my sleeping bag. I start the ascent up Carlton Peak and everything besides the 10 feet of trail ahead of me fades away. I feel fluid. When I reach the top I start to look around for a level place to setup camp. There isn’t much, but we make do. We setup camp, eat dinner and crash for the night.
35 miles / 107 total miles
Carlton Peak to Crosby Manitou
The first thing I notice in the morning is that it stopped raining. I climb out of the tent and I’m met with beautiful sweeping views of Lake Superior. I can’t help but feel grateful. I get dressed and put on my shoes, everything is still wet from yesterday, but I feel optimistic that soon they will dry out.
We head down Carlton Peak and enjoy the beautiful trail along Temperance River. After crossing the river we meet up with the Gitchi Gami State Trail, which we follow into Schroeder for breakfast. I drink a lot of coffee, and despite eating multiple caramel rolls and some other pastries my hunger persists. So I eat more. After breakfast, we pick up our resupply cache that’s hanging on the spur trail near Schroeder. The sun is shining now and I’m feeling dry and happy.
Cross River is a pleasant hike. We encounter a runner who stops to chat with us. It’s the first runner we’ve seen out here. He seems genuinely interested as we share the details of our hike. Everything seems right again. It’s a good morning.
As the day goes on the terrain gets more difficult. I start feeling worn down. The Crosby section is filled with relentless steep climbs and descents over boulders, rocks, and roots. It’s probably the toughest section of the trail. This slows us down and wears on our spirits.
My feet are bothering me again and I’m convinced I have at least one stress fracture if not several. My ankles also start bothering me. Trying to avoid the dreaded death ankle I tape them. This seems to help. On fresh legs I’d find this type of terrain a lot of fun, but my tired body just wants it to be over. I don’t like that I’m wishing part of the trail away, but the suffering takes over and all I can do is wish for camp.
It’s getting dark. We pass a small, inviting shelter alongside the trail that we consider making our camp for the night. We change our mind after we check the mileage for the day and realize we need to cover at least a few more miles for the day. A few miles later we are in the Crosby trailhead parking lot. We hadn’t planned to camp here, but we’re exhausted. We haven’t let ourselves fall behind any more than the initial 3 miles we lost on day 2. We decide today isn’t the day to make those miles up.
Setting up camp feels great. Despite being in a parking lot, it’s quiet. Nobody is around. We’re surrounded by pine trees. We stare at the star-filled sky as we eat a late dinner and head to bed.
31.7 miles / 138.7 total miles
Crosby Manitou to Palisade Creek Camp
I feel especially tired as we head out of camp, but Tim seems to have found a second wind. Tim’s second winds can be intense. I spend most of the morning working my ass off trying to keep up with him. We reach Finland at 10:15 am, grab our resupply box from the post office and meet Alex for lunch. We make sure not to accept any type of support or supplies from her so we can maintain our thru-hike as one that is purely “self-supported.”
I try to think of some exciting stories to share with her, but my tired mind lacks any creativity. All I have to offer is my beaten down, tired, smelly and not very talkative or exciting to be around self. She seems to get it though and gives us some positive energy and encouragement, as well as confirmation that we smell really bad. We finish up lunch at “Our Place” and walk back down the road to the Finland Rec Center where we get back on the SHT.
It’s another hot day and I’m hoping the trail offers some shade as we hike. We encounter a thru-hiker, Nick who is heading north. We chat with him for a while and I get a little boost from all the energy he is displaying. We wish each other luck and continue on our ways.
A couple uneventful hours pass when suddenly there’s a really loud rustling off to the right. I look over and see a… BLACK BEAR! WHOOOAAA! BEAR! BEAR! BEAR! My hear rate jumps as I quicken my pace and watch the bear turn into a blur, disappearing into the woods in the opposite direction. I’m suddenly wide awake and filled with adrenaline! Holy shit. We start talking loudly, partially out of excitement and partially to scare off this potential bear or any of his friends. A couple of minutes after the bear siting it starts pouring rain out of nowhere, despite a sunny sky. The trail is suddenly filled with unexpected excitement as we make our way into Section 13.
Water is sparse along this section so we find ourselves drinking a little less than we probably should. It’s not a problem, but it’s just something I’m thinking about. We cross a stream and fill up on water right as we hit our first big climb of the section.
The climbs along Section 13 are amazing. Amazingly beautiful, but also amazingly difficult. I’m enjoying the day, but I’m also getting pretty worn down. We decide we’ll stop at Kennedy Creek Camp for dinner. It seems to be taking a lot longer than expected to get there.
We are both bonking relaly hard by the time we reach Kennedy Creek. This is the lowest I’ve felt the whole trip so far. I’m pretty out of it as we sit down and cook dinner. I feel weak and tired. The heat make me realize just how badly I need a shower. I’m concerned our hygiene could become an issue. Everything suddenly seems really serious and all I can think of is we need to get off the trail for sleep and a shower and it needs to happen as soon as possible. Our tired minds agree to stop short for the day and try to shower and camp at Tettegouche. Maybe we talked about how many miles this was going to put us back, but I don’t recall. I just remember that I liked the idea of being done sooner than later.
With a full stomach we head down the trail and soon I’m feeling myself bounce back. The fog seems to lift from my mind and I start to think more about our decision to stop at Tettegouche for the night. I do the math and realize it would put us almost 7 miles behind. I’m concerned about this and bring it up to Tim. He doesn’t seem to share my concern and he doesn’t seem very excited about my idea to go farther tonight. We go back and forth on this for a while. Both of us seem to be feeling a little frustrated. I don’t want to pressure him to continue if it’s going to cause problems for him. I also don’t want us to put ourselves in a position where we have too many miles to make up at the end of the trip and therefore can’t finish. I try to explain this and eventually he just puts the decision in my hands. I look at the map to see where we can reasonably make it tonight. Palisade Creek Camp is only another 4 miles. We can do that and still be in bed by 11:00 pm.
The sun is setting as we fill our water in the Baptism River just above the falls. Tim mentions he’s going to be moving slowly these next few miles so he heads out as I’m still sterilizing my water. I finish filling my water and decide to take a minute to check my phone. When I do I find a text message from Alex offering some words of encouragement. It seems to be just the right words at just the right time. I’m humbled and inspired by the idea that somehow what I’m doing out here in the middle of the woods is inspiring someone else. I flick on my headlamp and head down the trail. There’s nobody around. The darkness and silence are beautiful. I start to sense a deeper connection and peace with the trail.
Tim’s headlamp is shining at the top of the drain pipe waiting for me. Scrambling up it in the dark makes it seem even more gnarly than I remember. When I reach the top he also seems to be in better spirits. The mood has completely shifted. The rest of the night goes really well and at 10:45 pm we arrive at Palisade Camp. As we setup camp we agree that we made the right decision.
34 miles / 172.7 total miles
Palisade Creek Camp to West Gooseberry Camp
When I wake up I notice the temperature has dropped. It’s a nice cool morning, which immediately puts me in a good mood. We also get to pass one of my favorite spots on the SHT, Bean and Bear Lake. As we head out we both seem to be enjoying the morning, joking and laughing as we make our way to Silver Bay where we’ll eat and resupply.
When we reach town we head into the Northwoods Family Grille and order a LOT of food. I order two breakfasts, Tim orders three. We both clean all of our plates. I feel so full I can’t move so we sit in the restaurant drinking coffee for a while longer. When the food coma starts to pass we get up and make our way over to the post office, grabbing our resupplies, then stopping in the general store for some additional things before we head back to the trail.
Between the food and some easier terrain we both find ourselves moving much better today than we have the last two days. The hours pass quickly. We experience some highs and lows, but nothing as intense as we had the previous couple of days. The day is going well and eventually we are at the Split Rock River loop where we decide to stop for dinner.
We find an awesome campsite right on the river to stop at. After dinner we both are feeling good so we decide to head out at a quicker pace than usual. Our goal is to make it to one of the campsites a couple miles past Gooseberry State Park, which is aggressive, but we’re feeling confident.
We fly through the next few miles on the Split Rock River and start heading towards Blueberry Hill Road where the private landowner has closed a 1.6 mile section of trail. We reach the detour and head down Blueberry Road Hill for 1.2 miles then head South along the Gitchi Gammi State Trail for 2.1 miles until we reach Gooseberry Falls State Park. Walking on pavement really seems to take a toll on my body and by the time we get to the visitor center I’m feeling pretty beat up from it.
As we approach the Gooseberry Visitor Center it looks closed, but there’s one part where the bathroom and vending machines are that is still open. We’re both pretty excited by this and immediately drop our packs and start buying things from the vending machine. We relax for a little while and then the custodian walks out and asks us if we’re planning to sleep here tonight. We explain we’re just stopping for a quick break before we head back out. For the next 30 minutes or so he starts talking at us about everything from the wolves in the area, to where we could find gas stations 6 miles from the trail, to how women shouldn’t hike alone. We’re finally able to end this interaction by leaving. He wishes us luck and we head back down the trail, following the Gooseberry River for a few miles before reaching the West Gooseberry campsite at 11:48pm.
The campsite is perfect. Everything is dry, the river is close by and we are able to find a nice level spot. I sleep like a rock.
41.5 miles / 214.2 total miles