We did it. Round trip - about 23 miles in 3 days, but we did it!
Our plan was to get an early start Friday morning, except the weather prediction was for a cold, pouring rain until about noon. Not a good way to begin our trek so we held off until the weather broke in the early afternoon. By 1:30 the rains had dried up and we hit the trail. The North Country Trail was the first leg of our trip and we had a long trek ahead of us. Poor guy, he had no idea we had somewhere between 8 and 9 miles to our campsite at Eddington Creek. He mentioned that he would like to hike the whole NCT, even when I told him it ran from New York to North Dakota and it was 4000 miles. He thought we might be able to do that in a couple months. By the end of the trip he said that perhaps he would take longer to hike the trail and maybe finish when he was an adult. Ha, that's probably a little more realistic.
Now, about our day. I'm not going to kid you, this leg of the trip is really tough whether you're a kid or not. You're either climbing up a hill or going down a hill, neither of which are a backpacker's friend. In the beginning you think the climbs are hard, but it isn't long before going down hurts just as much. Oh, but those flat sections are such a nice reward and the forests we hiked through were simply beautiful. I highly recommend this loop as long as you know it's going to be challenging. Challenging, hmmm, I'm minimizing. In truth, I should just say it's damned hard, because it is. Thank goodness for trekking poles.
We had a wonderful breeze all afternoon that dried the woods and kept us cool as we hiked. The woods were filled with so many shades of green and wonderful woodsy scents. Love the smell of cedar when I'm hiking. The fungi were everywhere along the trail. Could the recent rains be responsible for this one being so big? Wow! And they were so colorful. Lots of red mushrooms, obviously some yellow and some that were a bright green with stripes.
Then there were these crazy things that I couldn't be sure if they were flowers or fungi. Turns out they're flowers - Indian Pipe.
Crazy looking aren't they? I think they look carnivorous.
I did say this portion was hard. We stopped often to rest, but we knew we had to put the packs back on and it became more difficult with each stop. After a bit he didn't bother to take off his pack, he just looked for a spot to lean against.
For a first time backpacker he did really well until the last mile or so when he was exhausted and could hardly put one foot in front of the other, but he still managed to dig deep and push through in spite of having no idea when this section would truly be finished. I don't know many adults who would push through like that. He was thrilled when we finally got to a campsite, but then he surprised me by suggesting we put our packs back on and see what the view was like from the top of another hill. Really? You want to put your pack on and go up another hill? Turns out he was right because we found a beautiful campsite tucked into the trees on top of the bluff with long views all around. We quickly set up camp, made a delicious pizza on the stove for dinner, then eagerly climbed into our bags to read for a bit before lights out. Just before dozing off I heard a very loud and very close bird call that at first made me think, "what the hell is that?" but then I heard the end of the call and realized it was a Barred Owl. I learned how to make the call years ago at a Bard's Bonfire, but that was my first time hearing the real thing. It. Was. Verrrry cool!
Saturday, we awoke refreshed and took our time over breakfast and breaking camp. The trails were so much easier and it wasn't long before we found the connector trail to the MRT, and experienced our first view of the Manistee River. Sir S was immediately reenergized. Yesterday's hike was cool and it had to be done, but the real treat was going to be hiking along the river.
See this suspension bridge? It's nicknamed the Little Mac and now we've been on both the Big Mac and the Little Mac. Points for us! Once we crossed this bridge,we turned South to continue on the second leg of our journey.
Seriously, will you look at this trail? How beautiful is that?
Sometimes the trail was more open, but it often closed in around you so you felt like you were in a jungle. Well, I suppose it felt more like that if you were a Little, but it was lush, and fragrant, and cool. The day was a bit warmer than yesterday and we were grateful for the abundance of shade, plus we rarely had to walk in the open as most of this trail is protected by the tree canopy.
Still, we were constantly aware of the river to our right and eventually, well, we simply had to stop and play in it. Besides, Sir S had just finished all his water and he wanted to try out the Sawyer water filter. He was a bit skeptical that river water could taste good and mentioned he was afraid it might taste 'fishy', but it didn't. It was absolutely clear and clean, no taste or smell whatsoever. This filter is so easy to use even Sir S quickly figured it out. And then he downed half his bottle of water so he could fill it again.
A quick lunch and then it was play time. Up and down in the current, tossing rocks, looking for bugs and crayfish....you know, kid stuff.
And then we were off again. We still had a few miles to get to where we wanted to camp and there were waterfalls to be explored along the way.
Right, so they're not big waterfalls, but there was water and it was falling over the edges so they count, right? Come on, we're in Michigan, we take what we can get. ~grins~
They were pretty, maybe a bit lacking in water because of the dry summer, but still, most of the creeks were flowing and the water was cold and refreshing.
Later, we invited ourselves to camp with a group that was already occupying the site we wanted to use. In fact, the group occupying the site had passed us while we were admiring the waterfalls. They said there was plenty of room to join them, we happily pitched our tent and cooked our dinner again. Weary, sore, food in hand, we wandered over to the bluff to enjoy the view while we ate our meal.
This is Sir S's favorite part of the day. No pack, no shoes, a full tummy and he gets to just chill.
Gorgeous vistas all along the trail.
These next three were taken on Sunday as we neared the end of our journey.
His view from on top of the world. He's nearly 9, but the boy just hiked 23 miles carrying all his own gear, food and water, and he survived. In fact, he nailed it! And he's already planning our next adventure.