To Alex -

To Alex...who is far away in person, but never far from my heart. I miss you. Enjoy these snippets of everyday family life here in the states.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pushing boundaries

Alright, the team is finally together, we've got all our gear in base camp and we're off for another day of exploration and discovery. We're going back to town because our curiosity is peaked about the falls we saw yesterday. They warrant further exploration.

This view right here? That's from the railroad trestle right next to our camp and if you were to walk into the woods on the right, you would be in our camp. Nice spot to stay for a few days, yes?


I'm so lucky to have experienced this place. My gosh, it's wonderful...
 
So, yes, down the tracks we went until we got to the falls...we took a few more pictures, jumped over the rail to get a better look...and then we climbed up them. There was no sign saying we couldn't and we found plenty of hand and foot holds so up we went. Crazy and kind of exhilarating, and although we were careful, I suspect our confidence levels may have been elevated from our wicked hike and the ascent up the canyon cliff the other day. I think we all felt a little invincible. I certainly did. (Might have to look into the psychology of that before I get myself into trouble.)

Then it was into town for lunch on the train. No goofing around with the tourists today, we were hungry and craving things like icy cold soda and salty chips. Mmmm...

On the way back to camp most of the team turned off to do some ropes climbing to a lake on top of the cliffs. I continued back to camp for some quiet time and a delicious bath in the river. It was heavenly. I love the feeling you get when you're in ice cold water and you stand up into warm air. It's like there's a little layer of chill right next to my skin, but I can still feel the warmth of the air. Awesome. The sun was warm and I was able to lounge on the boulders while the air dried me and my hair. This was such a good idea.
 
After a while the others showed up back at camp, filled with stories of further adventures. I wasn't envious, in fact, I think the other ladies were a bit envious of my bath. Pure heaven, I tell you. We puttered around camp, putting gear away, settling in, then I noticed Robin and Amy had their arms full of harnesses and ropes and they were walking towards the river. Oh no you don't, not without me you don't! I was hot on their heels up to the trestle where the ropes were set up and the whole team took turns repelling over the side, over and over gain. I love repelling, love it so much I begged to go over upside down. Flippin' awesome! What in the world has come over me??

I have no idea, but I feel like a floodgate has been opened and I want to explore everything. I'm so curious. I feel good, like life is this amazing and wonderful adventure that's just waiting for me and who am I to tell it no? 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hiking to town in the rain.

So, when we hiked the Towab yesterday, there were 9 of us because 2 of our crew were going to take the flag-down train out to base camp with climbing gear and a cooler of food. But, and there's always a but when you plan something like this, there was a washout of the tracks and the train didn't run, which meant they had to come up with an alternate plan for getting to us. That plan consisted of ditching the climbing gear as well as most of the food that was in the cooler, a descent into the canyon through the bush and fording a river. They made it, but today a team is heading back out to fetch the climbing gear, which we deemed absolutely necessary, and the food. The rest of us are feeling full of ourselves after our 'epic' trek in the wilderness and we will be hiking up the tracks into 'town' to see what sort of adventures we can rustle up.

I awoke at 7am feeling refreshed. I lay in my sack thinking about the day before and I couldn't help but smile. Holy crap! I did 15 miles yesterday of super freakin' hard trail! And I scaled the side of a canyon...and I didn't quit! What in the world can this day possibly hold for me that will compare? With that thought I nearly giggled, I may have, but I couldn't wait to see what this day would bring.

Rain gear was a requirement as we left camp though it was mostly a drizzle or light rain for the duration of our time away. The hike was filled with happy chatter and comments about how beautiful this area was, and lots of talk on how happy we were to be done with the first part of the trail. Yes, there was only fun in our future. And plenty of beautiful scenery.
Bridal Veil Falls

 Black Beaver Falls

Town was actually the tourist stop from the Agawa Canyon Tour Train and we arrived quite a while before the train was due. While we chatted with the town workers the rain picked up and we were compelled to seek shelter in a nearby pavilion to eat our lunch. Hehe, then we noticed the side tracks with the fun rail cars...and as we were dressed appropriately for the weather already, well, we might as well go play.
It's great to hike with upbeat, adventurous companions. So much fun, so much laughter, so much hi jinks.

Hey, we haven't climbed enough, let's take the 327 steps up to the lookout tower! We counted, there was no sign telling how many steps there were, but the view was worth it. The rains let up and the clouds pulled back just long enough for us to get pictures.

 Agawa River
Once the train arrived, we climbed aboard for a very enjoyable cup of coffee and while there, we struck up a conversation with one of the train workers and found she was a performer for Les Miserable. She graciously serenaded us with an acapella rendition of A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes and it was beautiful! Geez, the things that happen in the woods!
Oh, and we weren't done playing either. We stayed in town long enough for the tourists to reboard the train for their return trip to the station, but while waiting for the train to depart, some of our team decided to entertain the tourists. One person began to step dance, another decided to run, leap into the air and kick her feet together, which, of course, made others try as well. At one point we became very animated and excited as we pointed to 'something' on the wall of the canyon across the river and sure enough, everyone at the train windows started craning their necks to see what we were pointing at....which was nothing, but we laughed so hard and the passengers were laughing as well. Ridiculous, but that's the caliber of people I was hiking with...they were up for any fun.

Then it was back to camp to meet up with the other team, share our stories and hear about their adventures as we cooked our dinners, and we laughed...and laughed....and laughed.
This wonderful day ended with a nutty game of Mafia, which I had never played before, but I will surely play again.

By the way, if you really want to know about hidden gems in an area you'll be hiking, ask the locals. They have so much knowledge to share that isn't in any travel brochure.

So ends Day 3.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Towab Trail to basecamp

Last night we christened ourselves Camp Gourmet on account of all the fabulous food that was prepared. I made a Japanese Hot Pot, someone made a huge pot of campfire stew, chicken was grilled and other delicious foods just kept coming. And then, ah yes, we were those people last night around the campfire. You know, the ones who pass the bottle of whiskey round and round as the stories start to flow and the laughter gets louder and louder. There were new people to the group and it really was a great time getting to know everyone, but when we thought to check the time it was 12:30am, long past quiet time and we needed to get an early start on the trail. Shhh, time for bed. We didn't mean to be so loud, but we just didn't realize.

A quick breakfast and clean up before heading over to Frater Road and the trailhead. In all, we made it on the trail by 9:30. Not bad considering the fun we had the night before.

Let's begin...
The first third of the trail was beautiful and easy. Is this a boreal rain forest? It sure seems like one. The trails, oh, glorious, winding along through old growth forests, crossing streams, gentle undulating climbs and descents, opening out onto the Agawa River at times. The further we went the more rocky it became, but it's quite easy at this point. Ha, I had read exactly this about the trail. That you think you're making good time and you'll be to Agawa Falls in no time, but don't be deceived because conditions will change quite quickly in here. And so they do.
Look at those happy hikers. We stop for breaks, but we don't dawdle, we know we have tough trails ahead and we need to keep moving. But the trail is like eye candy--we can't get enough of the sites and marvel at the beauty.
We stopped here, at Burnt Rock Pool to grab a bite to eat, drink and rest our feet--see that mountain across the river? Yeah, that's just the sort of thing we're going to have to tackle in a little bit. We don't know it at this time, but it's coming. We'll dodge those rain clouds all day as well. 

So the next third, mm hmm, I couldn't take pictures because it was imperative that I watch my step or I would have twisted my ankle or fallen. I had time to glance about at times so I know we were surrounded by beautiful, awe inspiring scenery and towering canyon walls, but mostly I had my head down watching for my next footfall. We quickly settled into climbing mode and the stony path was replaced with wet rocks on which you had to chose your step from one slippery rock to another while holding onto anything you could grab for stability. Still, the rocks would roll out from beneath your feet and the handholds would give way beneath your grip. We climbed up, through and down the other side of an incredible boulder garden. I so wanted to take pictures, but I didn't want to slow the group for photo ops, and to try to take pictures while I hiked would have risked tumbling over the side of a cliff. We climbed, and we climbed, and we climbed. Somewhere, around the periphery of my brain, the realization that this was not the hardest part of the trail was beginning to invade my thoughts. Oh my...

I'm jumping ahead because I think, when faced with strenuous exercise, one simply settles into moving forward and your focus becomes about taking the next step. We eventually descended back down into the canyon and came out onto our destination, Agawa Falls. Well, this is why we hiked out here, but it's not our final destination. Oh no, the, um, best is yet to come.


We arrived at the falls near 5pm with the idea of eating and taking an extended break. We ate, but the long break didn't happen. I think everyone knew we still had to climb out of here and that would be the difficult part. As tired as we were, we really wanted to get at it because once we got out of the canyon, we still had 5 miles of hiking the railroad tracks to base camp. But then, then the fun began. It was difficult hiking prior to this, but this part of the trail was damned hard. We're already tired from the hours we've been on the trail and now we're walking narrow paths along the gorge, crossing over mossy streams that cascade over the side of cliffs and if you slip, you'll go over the cliff. We're scrambling up cliffs on all fours only to have to descend the other side on our butts because it's so steep, and all the while we risk knocking rocks loose to have them go tumbling down on the person below. And you know what happened? We missed...the trail...that would have taken us out...of the canyon. We missed it by so far that some wouldn't risk going back the way we came because they were concerned they wouldn't make it through again. Well let me tell you that I hike with some pretty bad ass people and so the topo maps came out, we had a bit of radio communication with one of our crew who had gone ahead and taken the correct trail out, and in the end we picked a course and bushwhacked straight up out of the canyon, hand over fist up the side of the cliff. We climbed until we heard our teammate up above us singing his bawdy Irish drinking songs and, by god, we knew we were close. That climb was unbelievably difficult and we had to stop to rest every couple steps, but his singing was the best sound in the world to me at that point. I love Irish drinking songs!

I'm laughing right now because the moment we broke out of the canyon we were on the railroad tracks and 8 people dropped their packs and collapsed right there on the tracks. It really was a funny sight. We did it, 10 miles in that canyon and we were out. What an amazing accomplishment...

5 more miles of hiking the tracks to base camp. Now, if you've hiked on RR tracks you know they bring their own special kind of hell, but after what we just did I was energized by the flat hiking and set a quick pace to camp. I wanted to be done with this day, with this pack, with these boots. I wanted to get my tent set up and just sit...and that's exactly what I did. I sat and moved only enough to cook some food and help myself to a much deserved celebratory glass of port. Here's to accomplishment. Here's to rising to the challenge. Here's to realizing I could have gone further, but ever so grateful that I didn't have to. We made base camp at 8pm--10.5 hours on the trail and we did it. Now we get to play for the next few days, but that's tomorrow. Tonight, we rest.


By the way, here's an excellent (longish) video of the Towab Trail hike.

Carp River to Agawa Bay

There were 11 inveterate backpackers along on this trip. We planned to hike the Towab Trail, an expert trail and all the trail reports I found said as much...and then some. Difficult and challenging were also used to describe the hike. I was prepared as best as I could be. This trip was about trying new things, difficult terrain, repelling, recipes for camp food...I know you're supposed to stick with what works when you go back country, but I just can't seem to. I always want to try new.

Some of us met up Tuesday evening just over the bridge in the U.P. at a small, primitive camp where we would spend the night before continuing into Canada on Wednesday. I rode up with a friend, arriving well after dark. Those who would be rendezvousing with us were already there, having pitched the tents and built a bonfire with which we were cheerfully greeted. I rather like the idea of showing up to camp and finding the tent set up so all I have to do is lay out my mat, fluff my sleeping bag and climb inside. I awoke early and ventured out to explore the area around the campground. Quiet, peaceful, pretty. Good choice.
Excited about our trip, we broke camp early and headed for the border for what was a mostly uneventful, but beautiful drive to Agawa Bay Campground on the Eastern shore of Lake Superior. Ahhh, I was going home.
The first thing I noticed about this beach was how red the rocks were...and no agates, I looked! And since I was here I had to swim, but oh, was it ever cold. Took my breath away when I tried to swim under water. Brrr.
Someone suggested a short hike out to the pictographs on Lake Superior. Apparently, we were given a tiny taste of what we could expect on the trail the next day.

The trail through the woods and to the lake was a beautiful change from what I'm used to hiking in Michigan what with the slots, steep terrain, rock paths and huge boulders that you know fell from up there. It's the Canadian Shield, it's rocky, but it was also incredibly green with moss, and ferns, and water dripping everywhere. It felt like a rain forest and I would keep that feeling all through the weekend...how wet it was in this area. It was wonderful and wild--so beautiful! But still, the trail seemed easy enough...I really had no idea.
I believe there is a warning sign that read something like, "people have died on this trail, use caution." It's easy to see how that could happen if you were careless, especially if you foolishly ventured out onto the rocks during rough water. Being swept off with no way to get out of the frigid water would certainly be a recipe for disaster.
 
Tomorrow, the Towab Trail.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Towab Trail - Agawa Canyon

My best hike. My most difficult hike. The most physically exhausted I have been to date. The most incredible feeling of accomplishment. That's how I describe my last backpacking trip into Agawa Canyon via the Towab Trail and the subsequent climb back out after we lost the trail. Never once did I think I couldn't go further, of course I could.  One foot in front of the other. Never once did I think I couldn't finish, of course I could. Just walk. Now that I'm back and I've had time to think about this trip, the realization is beginning to sink in that I haven't hit my wall. I haven't pushed myself to the limit and I'm scaring myself to think that maybe I should, just to see what I'm made of. Is that nuts?
This is MY world....and there is so much more to come.
 
More posts to follow...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Beaver Basin Wilderness

I ended up back in the woods over 4th of July weekend, backpacking with F.Y.S. and Sir S. We (I) had grand plans for how many miles we would put on over the 4 days and our hope was that we would be able to have campsites along the beach. How cool would that be?

Uh, no. It being a holiday weekend, the area was busy with other backpackers and many of the beach sites were unavailable. Only slightly disappointed, we went with our back-up plan, which was Trappers Lake, a 6.5 mile hike down the lake shore and a half mile inland; not our ideal, but not so bad. Also, because it was predicted to be hot and humid we opted to stay all three nights at the same campsite and day trip from there. We had no idea how fortunate that change of plans was and how wonderfully quiet, beautiful and private our site would be. My goodness...
I actually didn't take many pictures of Trappers Lake, but trust me when I say it was beautiful. Heavily forested right up to the lake shore and our site had trees that were leaning out over the water, a great place to sit and eat our meals while dangling our feet in the water. We commented many times on our good fortune.
This is Beaver Creek and it flows into Lake Superior. We spent an afternoon playing in here and on the beach, but the flies, oh, they were relentless. We either had to wear long pants while we played on the beach or else we were laying in the water of the stream with our head nets on so the flies couldn't bite us. But the thing is, there were no flies at Trappers Lake. If we had gotten the beach sites that we wanted, we wouldn't have been able to enjoy our time because of the flies. What a great change of plans that turned out to be.
I thought this was a Loon from a distance, but it's a Merganser, with 24 babies. Look at the ones on her back. I'm guessing she adopted some of these, perhaps the other mother died? I can't imagine that she would have hatched all of them herself. But how stinking cute is this???
My companions enjoying one of the many beautiful vistas we found.
Write this one up as another successful trip.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Silence

My life is anything but silent and paths have taken me in amazing directions. Between the new job, KCSAR, training, studying, classes, family, friends and a little bit of adventuring, this poor little site is suffering. I know, it's just that life is packed full and I'm sure you know that blog posts don't get slapped up quickly. They take time to edit and state your intent in a meaningful way. I hope you'll forgive me if I stay away just a little bit longer.
I'll see you soon....I promise.