Running is not normally part of a paddling trip and mysterious noises are never on the itinerary. The mud and snow we had earlier are a bit par for course, but our next three days gave us two “fun” experiences. Unfortunately, like purgatory, we have no pictures to go with the stories. There are never pictures of Type Two fun because everyone is busy swearing or surviving or just being miserable. So you only get pictures of the easy times.
On day five we found a lovely site and had a magnificent evening.
We snuggled down for the coldest night of the trip.
Lights out, all bundled down in sleeping bag with draw strings pulled tight, linner bag, and layers of hats and clothing, we fell soundly asleep.
I sat up “THAT was something!”
Normally I say “I think I heard something?” and Will says “No honey, it was nothing.”
This time Will just said “YEAH.” Threw on his headlamp and peered out the tent door. He fully expected to see a black bear hugging our food barrel. But the barrel was still hanging unmolested. Still, he blasted out of the tent in a cloud of steamy body heat into the deeply cold dark still night.
Meanwhile I was fumbling with my zippers and untangling our whistle to join him.
Once I was out, in a moment of stillness we heard “THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP.”
“That was SOMETHING.” I said. “What was that??”
“I don’t know.” Was the least comforting thing I’ve ever heard from my woodsman husband.
We made a racket to scare off anything in a 10mile radius that might want to eat our food or just give us the willies. We should have heard whatever it was running away. We stood silent in the deep night listening.
Standing in the biting cold, steam billowing off of us, Still nothing.
We got back in the tent. 45 minutes later we were lying in the dark, listening.
Waking up at first light, Will’s first words were “Nothing ate us!”
It was gorgeous rewarding sunrise.
After much analysis and discussion we still can’t decide what it could have been. We’re chalking it up to Chupacabras.
Two days later we were supposed to have the best weather of our trip. The plan was to paddle to the last lake on our route and spend the majority of the day basking in the sun on rocks.
But then we ran out of water. The stream between two lakes was no longer navigable in any reasonable time frame.
Our planned route was a big circle and would take us within a two mile hike on the road to our car. Not a mile left to go and we had to turn back.
We went back to an entry point we had passed. It was ten miles of hilly dirt road to our car. After debating all our options we stashed our gear and set out for a long run/walk. We had brought our running shoes, but we were otherwise unprepared for this venture. We couldn’t realistically carry water and Will’s longest recent run was four miles. Even two miles in under a mid-day sun and we knew were in for a long day.
Fortunately about half way through we got some relief. A father and adult son were driving around their rented SUV looking for grouse hunting. They had declined us a ride at our start but this time pulled over and we crawled in the back behind their guns. Once we got to the Echo Trail we piled out to run/shuffle the last three miles.
The ride had saved us at least 40min time on our feet but it still had been a grueling day. By the time we got the car, drove back to our stuff, and got to a rather grim campground it was 5pm and getting dim. Morale was low.
Fortunately it wasn’t anything that 24 hours in Duluth wouldn’t solve. We ate at Fitger’s Brewhouse, had a lively time with the band at Carmody Pub, and had a satisfying breakfast at Amazing Grace. Our spirits were revived.
The best vacations are a balance of relaxation and fun with a splash of misfortune to make it a memorable story. This was certainly one of them.