Todd Harbor to Little Todd Harbor

Trip Start Sep 02, 2011
Trip End Sep 11, 2011

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Where I stayed
Tent at site 2 at Little Todd Harbor

Flag of United States  , Michigan
Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day 6: approximately 6.7 miles

Self-inflating pads want to be full of air. Filled pads take up too much room in my pack. Each morning, the pad and I do battle. I squeeze out its breath, but it retaliates by inhaling every time I pause. Being larger, animate, and in possession of opposable thumbs, I always win. On a trip like this, it's good to start the day out with a victory.

"Where did this hill come from?" I demand as Julie and I hike up a small incline out of the campground. We were here last night and determined that the first mile and a half were cake.

Oh right, we weren’t wearing packs last night. What a difference forty pounds makes!

Our stretch today is not the most difficult of the trail, that’s tomorrow. But it still consists of a lot of hills, some of them darned steep. The sky is cloudless, so I’m being careful about sunburn. Every time we go out on the rocky ridge, I put on my hat. This makes me feel very hot, and I’m already burning up from the exertion. I keep threatening to strip down to bra and underwear. When, thankfully, we go down off the ridge into the woods, I snap my hat to my belt and am immediately attacked by mosquitoes. It’s the first time we’ve had to use bug spray on the entire trip. I’m glad we are doing the trip in September and not in June, as originally planned. The bugs would have been awful then. This light assault is only mildly annoying.

It’s midmorning, and we’re in a forest of mature birch and maple, their offspring struggling to survive under the canopy of their elders. I decide I can’t do this anymore.

I’m exhausted. Every step is agony.

“Help!” I cry out mentally to the universe.

I’ve asked for help before, but usually there’s some kind of string attached. I’m bargaining. This spontaneous outburst is actually sincere. I wonder how the universe will respond. Will I have some kind of spiritual awakening?

No, I just start crying.

I stop, bend over to straighten my back, and cry and cry. Tears are dripping onto my glasses. “Damn, I’ll have to clean those if I want to see anything,” I think, but it doesn’t stop the outburst. I cry until I am empty. Fortunately, Julie is nowhere in sight.

I straighten up, wriggle my back a few times, sniffle, and then keep on hiking. What else am I going to do?

Julie is waiting for me in a pine forest. She’s found a dead tree near the trail at exactly the right height for sitting. The pine are tall and strong, the shade beneath them is blessedly chill. Needles carpet the ground, their acidity discouraging competing species from taking up residence here. I strip off my shirt and eat peanut butter crackers in my bra.

“What took you so long?” she asks.

“I had to cry.”

“Oh, that’s a good way to release tension.”

I have to pee, so I head into the woods to do my business, upsetting the local red squirrel. I notice the urine is very dark. I think it’s from dehydration, but the stain on my little square of biodegradable toilet paper is pink.

Great, I have blood in my urine. I ask Julie what causes that and she asks if I have a bladder infection. I don’t think so and she agrees I have no clinical signs. She wonders if it isn’t the strenuous exercise causing muscle tissue to break down. The bottom line is that no matter what it is, I can’t worry about it as I’m more than three days from any medical help. I just have to keep on going.

We cross a dried streambed, balancing carefully over a couple of downed trees. At the other side, I’ve ended up in the lead. Soon I sense something’s wrong. The trail is too narrow. The alders and grasses are meeting overhead making a tunnel. Still, I see definite evidence of human passage, so I keep on going, pushing branches out of my way and hoping they don’t slap Julie in the face. The path grows even more narrow and twisted until I can’t find it at all. The Minong is supposed to be tough, but this is ridiculous.

“I say we go back,” says Julie. That seems like an admission of defeat, but I agree. Turns out that Julie has the right idea. As soon as we reach the streambed, Julie finds the real trail. We’d stumbled onto a moose trail by accident.

I let Julie stay in the lead after that.

A couple of hours later, I’m standing at the top of a long, steep hill. The trail is nothing but dirt and gravel. No roots, no rocks, nothing for my boots to grab onto. At least it has switchbacks, so I only have to go down it short distances at a time, but the descent is harrowing. I rely heavily on my poles, but even so, my feet lose their grip more than once. My automatic reaction is to throw my weight back because landing on my pack would definitely be better than a downhill face-plant. Unfortunately, I also pull my poles off the ground when I do that. There are two moments frozen in time where I see the tips of my poles rising into the air, feel that forty-pound torture device on my back straining to kiss the earth, and think, “oh fuck.” Both times another automatic reaction kicks in and I lurch forward, plant those poles and stabilize myself.

“This place needs some elevators!” I snarl. Apparently, facing certain death makes me angry.

Little Todd Harbor is off of a .6 mile spur trail. As soon as we come to the turnoff, Julie goes into high gear, as she always does when the end is in sight. Me, I’m still recovering from my ordeal on the Hill of Death, so I shuffle along the trail, which winds through a field of thimbleberries under a canopy of aspen. When I arrive at the site, I see no evidence of Julie anywhere. Frustrated, I call out, “Julie! Where are you? Don’t make me come find you!” She calls back that she’s in site number two.

The site is nothing special, just a dirt pad and about three logs where you can lay down your gear. But the harbor is stunning. Much of the beach consists of fist-sized rocks, and there is a sandy beach of dark gray sand just beyond. Someone set up a display of pretty rocks they’d found and Julie adds a couple to the collection. We eat dinner on the beach, sitting on a log and looking out over the harbor.

We leave the fly off the tent. Laying there as dusk falls, I hear a sound I can’t place. I’m reminded of the whoosh caused by objects spinning through the air. It’s loud, and it’s getting closer. I’m imagining a UFO, but when it flies overhead, I see it is only a lone duck, on some important duck business. “Hi duck.” I say. A small mammal of unknown species sniffs our packs, but darts away when Julie sits up to look at it.

When I wake in the middle of the night, stars fill the sky, a twinkling symphony of light.

Suggestion for making the park better: Elevators.

Interesting graffiti: What is interesting is that there is no graffiti at all, anywhere.
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Carrie on

Great photos! Reading your entries almost like being there without the bugs, starvation, back pain...

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