|This was the only thing separating us from the Canadian Border. If we really wanted to, we probably could have entered illegally, but we chose to obey the law.|
|Tess and I at the our starting place on the SHT. We did the trail the opposite way of most hikers. I look zombie-like because I was experiencing trauma.|
Can we talk about the Border Route Trail (BRT)? Tess had originally asked me to do a thru-hike of most of the Superior Hiking Trail (about 250 miles of the 300 total) in northern Minnesota with her, but then, as she was planning mileage (and forgetting that I was 26 years older than her), she decided to throw in 35 extra miles along the Border Route Trail, which crawls along the border between the US and Canada, just to make it a little
harder more fun. This would mean that we would need to average about 15 miles a day to keep to our schedule. Remember that. It is an important future detail. So, when we finished 35 miles of the west to east BRT, we intersected the SHT and started our trek south. The intersection point was actually the northernmost tip of the SHT, and since most people go from south to north on this trail, the signs we encountered on our fourth day said “End of SHT” even though we were just beginning it. Believe me, by this time, I was actually kind of wishing we were at the end of the SHT. And also, believe me, the fact that the acronym for the SHT looks like another word that I never actually use, but that came into my mind several times on the trip, was not lost on me.
This was definitely the most remote place I had ever hiked. In fact, it was a little unnerving to be so all alone. And maybe because of the previous fall storm, or maybe because the trail people just didn’t have very much ribbon, the trails were marked every three miles or so with a little tiny piece of plastic blue ribbon tied high up in a tree or sometimes really low down on a destroyed branch laying in the ice. Other than right at the beginning of our route, throughout our first four days, we had seen absolutely no people at all. We saw no cars, heard no airplanes, saw no footsteps and had no phone or internet service. We discussed whether the world had ended or at least been evacuated and that we had evidently been forgotten. Or maybe it was a deadly plague. Regardless, we were apparently the only two people left...AND THEN WE SAW IT!!! A footprint in the mud! It was going the way opposite us, but it looked fresh and so we celebrated knowing that no disaster had befallen humanity. When we had nearly finished the Border Route and were set to start hiking the SHT, we encountered two other actual humans and we nearly hugged them, but restrained ourselves. After this discovery, I felt a sense of relief mixed with exhaustion from lack of sleep during the night of the day that shall never be spoken of, so I convinced Tess to hike into nearby Judge Magney State Park, and by mid-day, I had rented a tent spot in the campsite and taken an actual (albeit tepid) shower in the bath house—my first of three that trip (did you get that? I took three showers in three weeks). Tess actually showered too but got so chilled by the cool water that I had to force her into her sleeping bag to get warm while I heated some hot water to put in her water bottle so she could hug it and not freeze. I fed her supper in the tent that night so she would live. I also made her hug the dog, who was now regularly sleeping his stinky self beside us each night. We FINALLY had cell service here so I was able to call home to tell my family we were still alive and to check to see if Shay (my daughter who had traveled to China on the third day or our trip) arrived safely at her destination (she did). I also found out that my nephew and wife had delivered a baby girl--two weeks early--while we were taking our very long walk. It was good to be in touch with humanity again.
May 19, 2017 Day 5. MUD! Today was so muddy that my feet were caked with mud all day. The mud is so deep that your foot goes in and the mud seeps into your shoes. Ick! Last night was the coldest yet! I washed some of my clothing in the beaver pond yesterday and dried it on logs. When I got up, all of it was frozen stiff, but I had to put it on because I had to wear all of my clothes to stay warm. Tess was sweet to me and we stopped in the afternoon at Judge Magney State Park and rented a tent spot in the camping section. We only got 13 miles in today but got a semi-warm shower in the bathhouse as a reward. We also walked alongside Devil’s Kettle Falls today and I thought the name was appropriate.
Frozen clothes are hard to wear and no fun to put on when you are freezing yourself.
Devil's Kettle Falls in Judge Magney State Park
Hungry Hippie Hostel
We stayed at Judge Magney State Park all afternoon that day and slept in our tent on our tiny concrete tent pad that overlooked the freeway. The next day, we got up early and had the privilege of eating our oatmeal at a table--a true luxury in the wild. After breakfast, we hiked a 13 miles to one of the only hostels close to the SHT (even though the guide book said it was “a mile from the trail, it seemed like 5 miles all uphill, and we thought that every house along the route must “finally be it") and found that they were full and we couldn’t stay there. They had, however, received the resupply box that we sent ourselves to their address. This was very fortunate since we were quickly running out of food and supplies. After we waited on their porch for a little while, they happily drove us into the beautiful village of Grand Marais, MN (pop 1339). In Grand Marais, we found a pet-friendly Best Western and walked in the front door in all of our grungy glory. I had forgotten that I was wearing bright pink leg sleeves that day with my skin tight capris because no one cares what they are wearing when they are hiking and I looked ridiculous. When we got to our room--an actual room with a ceiling and running water and a bed--we opened our resupply box; it was like Christmas had arrived! We were still missing some key items though, so we decided to take a zero day (a no-hike day!) the next day and shop for them. Meanwhile, we were hungry and dirty so we ordered pizza and took showers and wore things like down vests and raincoats with towels while we did laundry in the hotel laundry room. We had to make creative outfits so we could answer the door and not be naked when the pizza man came. When our clothes were done, I put on more acceptable and modest attire and went next door to the QT and bought a quart of chocolate moose tracks ice cream. Since we had no freezer in which to store our treat, we ate the entire thing.
That night, the skies outside stormed and blew and poured rain; we were happy to be clean and dry and snuggled together in a king size bed watching the food channel. When we awoke, it was still raining, but we were inside a building and not a tent! Before doing our needed shopping, we each went down to the breakfast buffet by ourselves since we had the dog and all. And we pilfered enough cereal and granola and tea to last us for a few days. Seriously guys, it was just two small baggies full and maybe we shouldn’t have taken it, but we did, so please don’t tell the motel. I tried to stand outside of the security camera so they wouldn’t arrest me. Then, together, we trudged out into _________ ____________ (fill in the blank with the most obvious weather situation) in search of a few more key food items. The only store close by was a food co-op that sold all organic, bulk items—not the best option for our backpacking lifestyle. But we managed to get what we needed. The chocolate sundrops were the bomb. Since we had a dog, I decided to “walk” him when Tess got the groceries. But, per usual, the rain came pouring down and I was again wet and freezing. Luckily, I noticed an “Adventure Store” nearby so I ducked under its canopy and saw that it was dog friendly (as were most places in Grand Marais). Seizing the opportunity to get warm, Jet (who acted like he was an obedient and calm dog) and I entered the store where we were greeted by a friendly store employee who said that she owned 13 sled dogs—13! I noticed a bright orange dog coat in the back of the store and asked if my very skinny and freezing dog could try it on. The owner of 13 dogs said yes and helped me find one that fit him perfectly. I bought it. Immediately as I put the fleece-lined coat on Jet, he dropped his head and acted humiliated. He wouldn’t even get off of the floor or walk around. But, as he wore it and found that it kept him warm and dry, he was hooked. And less shivery. I wish I had a picture of him in his new coat, but I don't. I do, however, have photos of these first attempts at trying to keep him warm.
Jet wearing one of our raincoats because he was cold and had no coat of his own.
Jet acting humiliated when wearing the sweatshirt we brought for him. It didn't work as a coat so we finally used it as his "bed."
Oh. And Tess didn’t get any dog food at the co-op so we had to go to a convenience store to get some. Have you ever shopped at a convenience store in a tiny town for dog food? The selection is somewhat limited. I did what I could and bought the pup 8 pounds of food and prayed this would last him until our next resupply arrived. Remember this detail—the C-store dog food detail. It will help you as you read farther.
May 21, 2017 Day 7. Zero Day in Grand Marias! Wonderful breakfast that offered Lefse!! Really?! Grocery shopping. TV watching! Coat for Jet. Rainy!! Cold!! People in GM love dogs! Jet go so many compliments on his behavior today. He is turning into a good dog. I think it is because he is so tired.