[This post is the first of three describing the Caribou Wayside-Tettegouche Hike 0f ’09]
This was a SHTA sponsored backpacking trip led by Dick Z. with an assist by Tom L. back in late September, 2009. The hike covered just over 35 miles and was completed in six days and five nights- we weren’t in a hurry! Cost was $15 per hiker, and it was advertised in the SHT Ridgeline newsletter. Nine people, one couple, the rest complete strangers, signed up and completed the hike. It was a fantastic outing!
We all met in the parking lot at Tettegouche State Park on a Sunday morning. After brief introductions, we shuttled all hikers in half the vehicles about a dozen miles further up Hwy 61 to the Caribou River Wayside, where we parked the vehicles, took a group picture, grabbed our gear and began our adventure. Pictured below are (l to r) Tom L., Mike H., John S., Rick B. (in rear), Dick Z. (front), Jon K., Arron and Jen K., and Boston John. A motley crew if ever there was one! Nice day for a hike!
After climbing a steep trail about a mile, we came to a ‘T’ on the trail. We turned west and crossed the Caribou River footbridge, then continued our climb up the bluff from Lake Superior. After a few more miles, we reached Horseshoe Ridge Campsite –just inside George H. Crosby Manitou State Park, our destination on Day One. There was water available in a nearby creek to the east. We quickly made camp and relaxed for a bit, getting to know each other while preparing an early dinner.
After dinner, Tom and Dick proceeded to give everyone a demonstration on how to hang a bear bag up in the tree so the bears couldn’t steal our food. If you’ve ever hung a bear bag in the trees, you know such a demonstration can get pretty entertaining… and this one was no exception! Tom and Dick had the last laugh however, and got the bag hung in the tree, but not before I took some great pictures. The pictures below briefly summarize the effort, however, I took liberty to omit several humorous attempts between start and finish.
Next morning after breakfast, everyone topped off water bottles and we hit the trail early. More climbing, with about eight miles to do on Day Two. We hiked up and over Horseshoe Ridge and viewed a colorful display of maples in the distance and the Little Manitou River below. The terrain was getting pretty rugged. A few of us lost the SHT trail onto a State Park trail for a short time before we realized our mistake and doubled back. A reminder to keep our eye on the map and compass and not waste our time and energy. Continuing to wind our way through the park, often following ridges, we began a very steep and rugged descent down toward the Manitou River. Loose rocks and scree, combined with a very steep slope, made for a hazardous hundred yards as we neared the river. After crossing the footbridge, we dropped our packs for a brief rest, refiling our water bottles and enjoying snacks.
A brief respite, we then strapped on our packs and started the climb up and out of the river valley. As the trail leveled, we continued past the State Park parking lot and Co. Rd. 7, climbing up a hill where we got a good view of the Baptism River Valley off to the southwest. A few more miles lead us to the East Branch Baptism River Campsite, our destination for Day Two.
After a tough day on the trail, it felt good to ‘take a load off’, and drop our packs for the day. We hiked almost eight miles, but it felt like more! One hiker in our group, Boston John, was late arriving to camp and we grew concerned as darkness neared. To our relief, he finally arrived about an hour later (alas, his late arrivals would become regular events during the remainder of the hike). Aaron had brought along a small camp-saw that was put to good use in getting a camp fire going each night. Plus, the talks around the fire were great, and seemed to be getting better each night!
Day Three would prove to be an easy day on the trail, hiking relatively flat lands interspersed with small rivers and streams, numerous beaver ponds and boardwalks through swampy areas. A light rain started mid-day and we alternated between raingear and ‘just getting wet.’ We passed Sonju Lake and took a boardwalk hike out to Lilly’s Island. There we took a short break in the rain and enjoyed the scenic views across the lake. Talk about trail maintenance, this would be tough country to cross — even in the fall, without those boardwalks, typically 50’-100’ long.
A few more miles and we arrived at South Egge Lake Campsite, located just off the trail next to the lake. It was a beautiful spot to camp and enjoy the rest of the day. The rain had stopped earlier and the sun was out so we promptly set up camp, and took turns using the saw to cut firewood for a nice evening fire. We got our camp stoves out and cooked dinner—mostly of the dehydrated variety. Everyone was chatting while eating; all enjoying each other. Boston John was late again and as he arrived, the rain began again. He struggled to set his tent up, getting himself and most of his gear drenched, then the rain stopped. We pitched in to help him, and eventually Boston John had dinner, too.
Pictured (l to r) are John S., Tom L., Dick Z., Arron and Jen K., John K. and Rick B. The conversation around the fire became especially warm and friendly. I recall bringing up Vince Flynn, a relatively new writer on the scene, and a few of his fictional best-sellers that I’d really enjoyed. Tom had also read one or two of his books. (as it turned out, a few years later, several of us had read every one of Flynn’s books).*
This hiking trip was turning into quite the adventure and the ‘mostly strangers’ were fast becoming good friends. Nothing compares to sharing stories on the trail and around the campfire! The rain continued sporadically through most of the night and ended just before dawn.
Our tents were damp in the morning, but at least the rains had stopped! We stayed dry eating a quick breakfast – oatmeal and breakfast bars, staples of the trail. We filtered fresh water from the lake for coffee and filled our water bottles. Just as we were about to head out on the trail to begin Day Four, Boston John emerged from his tent!
To be continued…
*Vince Flynn died in 2013. I met Vince on three separate occasions. The first was in the lobby of the Orpheum Theater in downtown Minneapolis (quite a story), and the others were at book signings. My wife met him first at a book signing in New York, where she bought his first two books in paperback- one for her and one for me. Mine sat on a shelf for at least a year before I read it… then I read the other one, then all fourteen of his best sellers. Thirteen are autographed.
His first book, Term Limits, was self-published because he couldn’t find an interested publisher. It went on to become a New York Times Best Seller. Thirteen more followed and they too were all NYT Best Sellers. His main character Mitch Rapp, a CIA Counterterrorism Operative was not in Term Limits, but was the headliner in all subsequent volumes.
American Assassin will be made into a movie during summer 2016. Watch for it in theaters. More at vinceflynn.com.