Even though I wasn’t on trail anymore, I still wanted to be up north as much as possible and support my friend Mike with completing the plan. I also needed to work out some things in my head and try and find some way to still take part in this adventure that I had spent so much time planning for.
Temperance River Resupply
Our original plan had us staying at Temperance River State Park for a luxurious night of showering and flush toilets! My friend Michael was going to come up for the night and camp with us and bring us our resupply bags. Even though I was off trail now, he still wanted to make the trip. So, Tuesday morning he and I got up early and started the trek north to meet up with Mike and give him some trail magic.
Our original plan for food to bring with us got stymied by some changes in hours, but we ended up punting and came up with an even better plan. We grabbed some beer from Bent Paddle Brewing and headed straight for the park, arriving shortly after Mike and hiked in. After giving him a chance to get cleaned up and showered we loaded him into the car and hit CoHo Cafe just north of the park in Tofte. Mike got to enjoy an awesome meal with friends that he didn’t have to cook over a camp stove.
That night we hung out on the beach while Michael entertained us with his guitar and singing. The sunset was beautiful, but soon it was dark and headed back to the campsite. We made a fire and relaxed the evening away with conversation and beer.
I tried just setting up the tarp portion of my tent to see how I liked that setup, and although it was mostly fine, I missed being able to tuck stuff into corners and have pockets for my gear. It’s good to know that it is an option though if I wanted to save some weight.
The next morning I work up bright and early with Mike and walked him back up to the trailhead and sent him on his way. I’d see him again in a few days.
Split Rock to Fors Road
Our next scheduled meetup for resupply was planned to be at Gooseberry State Park. My wife was going to meet us there and get us stocked up for the next couple of nights on the trail, and some long days of hiking. By this point I had been visiting my physical therapist and had been working on some exercises to help get me moving again.
I also spent some time working with someone at REI on making sure I had my pack fitted correctly (news flash, I did not). In an earlier post I mentioned bruising on my collarbones. It turned out that I hadn’t been fastening my shoulder straps correctly, and in turn had been putting too much pressure on my collarbones, as well as my back in general. I thought I had worked through all my fit issues before the trip but it turned out that a couple careless mistakes and caused me to be in a lot more pain than I needed to be.
Knowing this, I decided to head out with Mike for another night just to get some more trail time and see how the body was doing. As a treat we offered to meet him at the Split Rock Wayside rest and take his pack from him, and the two of us continued on to Gooseberry State Park on foot without packs (about 5-6 miles). We had a great time connecting again and getting to the end of the official SHT trail before needing to take the re-route on the Gitchi-Gami Bike Trail. Supposedly the new trail to Gooseberry is almost mapped out, so we’ll need to come back and finish that at some other point.
We got to Gooseberry and spent a bit of time getting Mike resupplied before loading up the packs again and heading to our campsite for the night. My wife already had reservations at a local hotel for the next few nights so she invited her son to come up and spend the next day hiking with her before meeting up with me again.
The hike in to the first SHT Gooseberry campsite was long and somewhat tedious. There had been some light rain and the boardwalks in the park were treacherous. Both Mike and I slipped and almost fell on at least one occasion. We ended up walking in the grass next to the boards to ensure we didn’t end up injured before getting to camp.
There are three campsites on the SHT in Gooseberry and I let Mike choose how far he wanted to go. When we arrived at the first site he decided he was ready to be done for the day and so we found a couple tent pads and went about setting up camp. It’s fortunate that we stopped when we did. Within about 20 minutes after setting up a storm blew in and we ended up in our tents for the rest of the night. It wasn’t quite the way I wanted to spend my night on the trail with Mike, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.
The next morning we awoke and I discovered that I picked the worst tent pad in the site. Water got under my tent and on top of my footprint. That meant it had been seeping in where my sleeping pad had put pressure on the floor. Thankfully, I was only out for a single night and I could just dry everything out in the hotel the next night.
The journey from Gooseberry to Fors Road (where I departed the trail) was a lot harder than either of us had anticipated. There were some serious climbs and massive rocks to navigate in this section. Additionally, the rain and fog meant that we had zero visibility, and so what could have been spectacular views near the Castle Danger area were just a sea of grey.
Despite the lack of views we made good time and by lunchtime we had arrived to meet my wife and step-son at the trailhead. We got Mike fed and then sent him on his way down a long road walk detour past another closed section of trail, and on to his next campsite of the trip.
This is where my SHT journey mostly ended for this trip. I had managed another 23 miles of trail over two days (some of it without pack), and felt a little bit of vindication.
My wife and I still had a few more days up north and so we headed out for some more adventures before heading home the following Tuesday (and dropping a bag at a hotel for Mike in Duluth). We did spend some time hiking at George Crosby Manitou on Monday which netted me a few more miles of SHT time, in addition to some other park trails. Plus, I randomly bumped into the thru-hikers that we gave a ride to in Grand Marais, and they were still plugging away! It was great to see them again and hear how their trip was going.
There’s still a lot more emotional processing I need to do around this, but I’ll save that for the next post…