[This post is the second of three describing the Caribou Wayside-Tettegouche Hike 0f ’09]
Heading out of South Egge Campsite on Day Four, I passed Boston John’s tent just as he was climbing out for the first time that morning. Must like to sleep in, I thought to myself. Today we were headed for the Section 13 Campsite about 8.5 miles down the winding trail. How will Boston John do on the trail, I wondered?
When this hiking adventure began, nine of us—mostly strangers—were all experienced hikers (well, maybe not Boston John), but at different stages in our lives. Five were in our 60s–retired, and a sixth nearing retirement. Three were in their mid-thirties – a married couple and another guy. The thirty-somethings hiked faster than the sixty-somethings so it was at lunch break and at the end of the day at camp that we would all gather together again. It was segregated by age for two days until day three, when Jon, one of the thirty-somethings slowed his pace and ended up hiking with me.
It turns out that Jon’s boots were too tight/small and he had blisters on both feet. He had recently purchased them, the salesperson misfitted them, and now he was paying the price. In the military, Jon was trained as a medic (and a few other things) so he carried quite the first-aid kit –to say the least. Thus, he took good care treating his blisters, changing bandages and keeping them clean. But blisters are blisters and there’s not much to do with them except keep them covered and clean and let them heal. Hard to do that when you’re on the trail!
As Jon and I hiked, our conversations focused on our military and hiking experiences, first-aid and our slow-walking progress. But we were in no hurry. Jon and I became good friends over the course of the trip. Actually, many of us became good friends on the trip –talking over meals and around the campfire at night. We knew who snored and tried to keep our tents distant from said person(s). I’d ask Jon if he’d like to stop and rest his feet, an his answer was always the same… “gotta complete my mission,” meaning the hike. He was hard-core! 😉
Dick had left camp early that morning, to try and reserve some space at our next planned campsite in Section 13. I was hiking with Jon for an hour or so, when the trail passed through a clearing with a fire pit and a couple of benches situated around it. And there sat Dick, talking with a female hiker, Deb. Jon and I stopped to talk with Dick and Deb, and it turns out they knew each other and had arranged to meet here. Deb had left Minneapolis a few days after we did and then planned to join the hike at this point.
After meeting Deb, she asked Jon and I how we were doing. I proceeded to tell her how my collar bone was bothering me, the result of a motorcycle accident a few year earlier. I had a rag rolled up to pad the odd-shaped protruding bone under my pack strap –but after a few days it was bothering me constantly after a few hours on the trail. Then Jon proceeded to tell her about his painful blisters on both feet. She smiled, probably getting more details than she bargained for (‘TMI,’ … too much information, as my wife likes to say). Then the four of us headed off down the trail, Jon and I falling to the rear.
We crossed the East Fork of the Baptism River, took a break and refilled our water supplies as this was likely the last source of good water until the next day. There was no water at Section 13, and beaver ponds can be kinda skunky! After an hour of hiking, mostly low-lands and small hills, off in the distance we could see the high ridgeline that marked our destination on Day Four —the Section 13 Campsite. To the south-east of the Section 13 ridgeline, we could make out the outcroppings of Picnic Rock and Sawmill Dome. We would see that up close the next day on our way to Kennedy Creek Campsite.
As we hiked through the hardwood forest, we paused to observe a large boulder, a glacial erratic, that was left behind by a glacier a million years ago.
It wasn’t long and we came to a very long boardwalk that crossed a beaver dam, creating Sawmill Pond. Dick suggested we unhook our backpacks as we traverse the boardwalk in case someone fell into the deep water. While Jon carried a large first-aid kit, he carried an even larger camera bag, Jon replied that there was no way he was unhooking his kit. We all laughed and crossed the boardwalk keeping our feet dry. This was all good moose habitat, but nary a moose in sight.
We arrived at the base of the Section 13 ridge and began a steep climb with a few switch backs near the top. Up in the camping area there was a mix of oak trees and cedar—no more swampy wetlands. Everyone quickly laid claim to a tent site and we set up camp by mid-afternoon. We hiked around the top of the ridge enjoying the sights, then started preparing dinner and gathering firewood for an evening fire.
Tom and Dick decided they would sleep under the stars on a large rock outcropping with great views of nearby rocky cliffs and inland ridges (the Sawtooth Mountains). They both assured us they had no history of sleepwalking! The weather looked great, but you can never be sure along the North Shore of Superior. Weather can change several times within short periods of time. Heed advice to be ready for anything.
Boston John stumbled in a few hours behind us, just in time for dinner. Then we all chatted around the campfire for a few hours. As darkness approached, Tom and Dick grabbed their sleeping gear and climbed up to the rocky outcropping. They found a flat section of rock for sleeping, then star-gazed until dozing off for the night. The others retired to our tents at the close of Day Four.
To be continued…