Day 10: Washington Creek to Huginnin Cove

Trip Start Aug 24, 2012
1
12
15
Trip End Sep 07, 2012


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Where I stayed
In a wet tent

Flag of United States  , Michigan
Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Today should be easy, I think as Julie and I roll up the tent without arguing over how it should be done. A hike of just 4.8 miles with a (relatively) light pack, it will be a piece of cake. 

We’re headed to Huginnin Cove, at the northwest corner of the island. The plan is to stay there two nights, and get up early on Thursday to hike back to Windigo to catch the afternoon ferry. We’d heard last year that Huginnin is the most beautiful site on the island and we’re really looking forward to seeing it.

For about a mile and a half of the hike, we’re on the very end (or start, depending on your perspective) of the Minong Ridge trail. Then we reach the the start of the west side of the Huginnin Cove loop and run into Billy Goat and sons coming from the Cove. They’d left Siskiwit Bay the same day we did, but instead of stopping at Washington Creek, hiked all the way to Huginnin Cove in one day, a distance of over 15 miles. “Site one is the best,” says the oldest son, who has been on the island before. “We stayed in site two, which is second best.” We thank them for the information and wish them luck on the rest of their journey. We pause a moment as they pass and remember how important this intersection was to us last year. We’d hiked nearly twelve miles over tough terrain, none of it with any landmarks to help us know how far we’d come or had left to go. When we saw this signpost, which reads, “Windigo 1.8 miles,” we’d been so overwhelmed with joy and relief that we kissed the post. 

Well, not really, at least the kissing part. But knowing the end was in sight definitely gave us a huge burst of energy.

Today, we leave the Minong and start up the Huginnin trail. This morning, I’d imagined I’d feel strong and alert on this short hike. For some reason, my body is refusing to cooperate with my intentions. My back hurts, my hips hurt, my feet hurt. I’m oblivious to my surroundings, just putting one foot in front of the other. Julie isn’t doing much better, though she still hikes faster than I do

We’ve walked another mile or so and we’re sitting on a log to rest. There’s nothing special about it, it’s just like every other log we’ve sat on during this trek--a piece of dead wood by a trail through the woods. We’re taking a pack-off break. I chew on a protein bar and ask Julie if she’s going to eat.

“I’m not hungry.”

“You lost your appetite? Maybe you left it back at the campground,” I joke, but it’s no laughing matter. You burn a lot of calories backpacking, and you need to replenish them or your body eats itself. It happened to me last year. “Here, eat this jelly bean.” I hold a purple ball of sugar out to her.

“I don’t want it. I don’t like jelly beans.”

“It’s good for you. You need the energy. It’s grape.”

She eats one but refuses a second.

I look through my fanny pack to see what else I can entice her to eat. I’ve got some little tubes of flavored honey. “How about some honey? Honey’s got a lot of energy and other good stuff.” She eats one of those and so do I. 

“Want a bar? I’ve got …”

“No bars.” She’s adamant. “I don’t ever want to see another bar in my life.” I understand. I felt that way about gorp last year.

“An almond then?”

“No.” She’s putting her pack back on and so I follow suit, stuffing my half eaten bar back into my fanny pack. 

Around noon, I enter an area decorated by large, moss-covered boulders. (I use the singular pronoun because Julie is so far ahead of me that I haven’t seen a hint of her blue pack in the last hour). It’s a fairy-land, with tiny ecosystems of ferns, lichen, and other minuscule flora flourishing among the boulders. The trail is fifty or a hundred feet above the lake, with dramatic drop-offs to the water. Part of me wants to linger, but I’ve got this crazy idea that I have to hurry up and get to the campsite. It can’t be much more than an hour away, if that, and so there’s plenty of time for me to relax here in this amazing place, but that doesn’t matter. Between the fear of not getting a campsite, the desire to get my pack off and be done with hiking, and a kind of general anxiety about Julie not knowing I’ve stopped, all rationality is eclipsed. I trudge through the beauty and content myself with catching a bit of it on magnetic media for future enjoyment.

Sure enough, half an hour later I see the map for the campsite, next to a milepost at a trail intersection reading Windigo 5.1 on one side and Windigo 4.3 on the other. I look for site one and it turns out that I passed it already. I turn back. Site one is far down a windy path, and when I finally reach it I find Julie draped over a log staring at nothing. I drop my pack nearby and look around at this supposedly great site. First thing I notice is that there is no shade. The second thing I notice is that there is no latrine anywhere nearby. The third thing I notice is the location many people have apparently used for that purpose, and it isn’t very far from the tent pads.

“What do you think of this place?” I ask Julie, edging away from the odor of urine.

“It’s OK, I guess.”

“I don’t really like it. Do you? If you do, we can stay.”

“No, it doesn’t seem that great to me, either,” she admits. But neither of us are really excited about hefting the packs and finding a new site. 

“I saw site two when I was looking at the map. It looks shadier than this.” Julie just nods. This hike really kicked her butt, worse than it did for me, and I’m pretty wiped out. It’s probably because she isn’t eating enough. I volunteer to carry her pack, figuring it’s heavier than mine. When I first put it on, it doesn’t seem any different. But then I start walking and I swear my feet are sinking into the ground with each step. We manage to get our gear to site two, a shady clearing under a grove of pines, just steps from the beach. That’s “beach” in the broadest sense of the term. There’s not much sand, just a lot of rocks. 

We check out the other sites to make sure we got the best one. We did. During our explorations, we discover we’re the only ones here. We also locate the latrine. It’s probably a quarter mile from site one. Heck, it’s a long way from site two, and the trail is treacherous with roots. Not someplace I want to negotiate in the dark, that’s for sure. Even so, previous visitors to site one really should have gone a bit farther from the site to urinate.

Once we’ve committed to our location, we set up the tent. Julie takes a nap, and I take my chair out to the water. The sun has decided to play games and is only shining on half the beach. I locate my chair in a nice warm patch and start reading my new Nevada Barr novel. A few pages in, I grow chilly. The sun has moved, so I pick up my chair and place it in the center of the new sunny region. I read another chapter and notice I’m cold again. Damned sun! I chase it down the beach one last time, and then head back up to camp. Julie’s up and I convince her to get the water, which involves a balancing act out on some of the larger rocks (to avoid the weedy stuff and other floating krish near the shore). I get us some lunch, put on another layer, and sit under the pines to read. Julie, lacking a comfortable chair, has to sit hunched over on a log to read. (Again, I justify the extra pound of weight I’ve been carrying on this trip). 

After awhile we get restless and decide to hike out to the promontory that forms one side of the cove. It’s not too exciting, just more rocks and trees and other growing things. On the way back, we notice someone has taken up residence at site one. He’s bathing in the cove. I have no idea how anyone can stand that cold water. I wish I could because I’m feeling in need of a bath, but not so much that I can’t wait until I can take one in hot water.

Over dinner, I hear thunder. We pile all our gear into the tent and vestibule. The storm hits and it’s a doozy, much more intense than the one at Siskiwit Bay. Rain is slamming down, the thunder sounds like it’s hanging out right over our heads. To escape my fear, I put on my headlamp and immerse myself in my book. If you’ve ever read any of Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon novels, you know that seriously bad shit happens to Anna, all the time. A thunderstorm in the woods is nothing in comparison. It’s a great distraction.

The storm floods the tent pad and water comes into the tent, but only on my side.  Luckily I’m on an inflatable pad, so it should float if we’re inundated. I put as much stuff as I can into plastic bags or in the pouch on the side of the tent. I scoot as close to Julie as the pile of food between us allows, and try not to think about a tree falling on us as the sky continues to unleash its fury.

Statistics:
Start time: 9 am
 End time: 12:30 pm
 Hours walking: 3. 5
 Miles walked: 4.8
 Average speed: 1.37 mph
 Moose seen: 0
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