Category: Backpacking
Posted by: khanti
I've long been absent, I know... I've been backpacking out west on the Tahoe Rim Trail and then getting back into the swing of things here at home. I'll be posting more in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, here is a link to the journal I kept on the trip.

khanti's TRT Trailjournal

Posted at 06:47:33 central time.

Category: Backpacking
Posted by: khanti
My apologies for my extended absence, I've been busy enjoying summer in Wisconsin!

First, I spent 6 days and 5 nights backpacking at Isle Royale National Park. It's a large island (45mi x 12mi) in Lake Superior near Thunder Bay, Ontario. It's famous for having large populations of both wolves and moose, while having no white tail deer, elk or bear. So, ecologically, it's pretty unique and has been studied intensely. The wolves and moose did not arrive on the island until the 1940s when they came across the ice during a particularly cold winter. It's also well known for it's history of copper mining and resorts. Now, it's maintained as mostly wilderness by the National Park Service. It's accessible by ferry from Houghton or Copper Harbor Michigan or from Grand Portage Minnesota. We took the ferry, the 60' Voyageur II, from Grand Portage, a 2 1/2 hour ride on very bumpy seas to Windigo on the western end of the island and took 5 days to walk to Rock Harbor on the eastern end of the island via the Minong Ridge, Indian Portage, Greenstone Ridge, and Tobin Harbor trails (and a few cross trails). We saw several moose, a red fox, lots of snowshoe hare and many other critters, but the highlight was a very brief glimpse of a wolf. It was running down the trail ahead of us and I caught a brief look at it before it rounded a corner and was gone. All in all, a wonderful trip to a truly magical place. Nearly 60 miles of hiking and never once crossed a road and we saw maybe a couple dozen people the entire time. I'll be going back for certain.

Some photos...

Moose
From 2009 5/26-5/21 Isle Royale


Fairly typical trail along the Minong Ridge
From 2009 5/26-5/21 Isle Royale


Lake Superior from Todd Harbor
From 2009 5/26-5/21 Isle Royale


Sunset at Todd Harbor
From 2009 5/26-5/21 Isle Royale


Me on Mt Franklin
From 2009 5/26-5/21 Isle Royale


Ahhhhh... we made it to Rock Harbor
From 2009 5/26-5/21 Isle Royale


and a couple videos ...

Minong Ridge Trail east of North Lake Desore


Greenstone Ridge Trail between Mt Ojibway and Mt Franklin


Tobin Harbor Trail

Posted at 08:40:39 central time.

Category: Backpacking
Posted by: khanti
Just got back yesterday from a trip to Florida. The first 6 days were for a work-related conference and workshops (see prior blog post). Then I had 3 1/2 days to kill and a full backpack so I went exploring. Thursday evening I left Orlando and drove West to the Withlacoochee State Forest to try to find the trailhead for the Richloam loop and ideally a campground as well as I knew I'd be getting there too late to start hiking. As I got close, I could smell wood-smoke and there were portable highway signs advising of smoke on the roads. I could not find the trailhead in the dark and it was getting late and I was getting tired, so I got a hotel room for the night. Friday morning, since I had the time and I needed a better map, I drove a little out of the way to the headquarters for the state forest and talked to a ranger there. He said that it'd been so dry that about 700 acres of the forest had burned, but that it was now under control, though probably smoldering in places. He gave me a trail map and I went back to find the trailhead. As it turns out, the night before, I thought I was on the wrong road and had U-turned all of 200 yards short of the trailhead! Oh Well. I spoke with another ranger there who said I shouldn't run into any burned areas except on the north loop. I intended to hike counter-clockwise so I'd be doing the south and east loops first and would have a couple more days before I got to the burned areas.

The hike started well. It was kind of hot, but breezy, so I wasn't overheating. The trail was perfectly flat (it is Florida after all) but very pretty. Lots of plants and wildlife I'd never seen much of before, including lots of Armadillos. Within a few miles I was at the Withlacoochee River. As dry as it had been, the river was a green, stagnant swampy mess. It was also the last water I'd see. By the time I got where I could camp, about 14 miles into the day, I had just enough water left for dinner, breakfast and a little for drinking early the second day. I decided that if I didn't find water early in the morning (Saturday), I'd cut back on a side trail to the car and decide what to do. The night was interesting. Having never camped in Florida before, there were night noises I was not familiar with. But I slept reasonably well despite the humidity and the crashing of critters through the brush.

Saturday morning, I hiked on, and did not find any water so I took the 2 1/2 mile cutoff back to the trailhead and decided then that the trail that was left was all in the burnt area, so I decided to hop in the car and head to the coast instead. I spent Saturday night in Hudson, FL at a motel directly across the road from a municipal beach. Sunday was spent driving down the coast and visiting a museum and aquarium south of Tampa. Sunday night I spent in Lakeland and then flew home yesterday. All in all a good trip, though it would have been a lot more fun to do with friends.

Here's some photos/video:





From Florida 2009 3/20-3/30


From Florida 2009 3/20-3/30


From Florida 2009 3/20-3/30

Posted at 13:22:47 central time.

Category: Backpacking
Posted by: khanti
I spent this past weekend staying with friends in Phillips, WI and we all took a day trip up to the Ice Caves on Lake Superior near Cornucopia, WI. It was a bright sunny day, 50 degrees and virtually no wind. Since we'd just come out of a cold snap, the ice wasn't nearly as slushy as it could have been under such conditions. Truly, they were the best possible conditions for a visit. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the trip:

A view of the shoreline
From 2009 3/13 - 3/15 Phillips, Ashland & Ice Caves


Birch trees at the top of the cliffs. Love this shot against the blue skies.
From 2009 3/13 - 3/15 Phillips, Ashland & Ice Caves


Patterns in the sandstone cliffs.
From 2009 3/13 - 3/15 Phillips, Ashland & Ice Caves


This is about as bad as the meltwater got. It's actually only an inch or two deep and sitting on top of 2-3 feet of solid ice.
From 2009 3/13 - 3/15 Phillips, Ashland & Ice Caves


Love this column of ice where a spring dripped down over the cliff. Looks like a stalactite/stalagmite in a cave.
From 2009 3/13 - 3/15 Phillips, Ashland & Ice Caves

Posted at 08:53:59 central time.

Category: Backpacking
Posted by: khanti
This time of year is exciting. Spring has made a few tentative appearances (though it's now snowing again ...), and warm weather is just around the corner, so it's time to make plans to get out and hit the trails! Already I have a full schedule of big trips planned and I'm sure there will be lots of little trips here and there too. My big trips for the year:

First, a short 3-4 day trip here in a couple of weeks on a 26-30 mile loop that incorporates the Florida Trail northeast of Orlando. I'll be in Orlando for a conference and am staying a few extra days to do this. It'll be my first time backpacking in Florida. Let's hope the gators aren't hungry!

Second, a week on Isle Royale in the middle of May. It's a large island (60x20 miles or so) in Lake Superior run by the National Park Service. I'll be up there with an old friend hiking the length of the island over 5-6 days.

Thirdly is the BIG trip of the year. I'm hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail with a couple of friends in July. This is a 165 mile loop in the mountains around Lake Tahoe. We're taking 16 days for the trip, 12 of which will be spent hiking. This will be my longest trip yet and my first trip in the Sierra's, so I could not be more excited! July can't get here fast enough.

I hope to hike a lot more of the Ice Age Trail this year, in weekend-sized chunks as time allows. Eventually I'd like to hike the whole thing, in sections, but I expect it to take me a few years to do so. I've only hiked about 100 miles of it so far.

Posted at 21:29:40 central time.

Category: Backpacking
Posted by: khanti
Just because I haven't posted about backpacking since October doesn't I haven't been out there! It may be winter in Wisconsin, but that just means there are fewer crowds in the parks and on the trails.

My friend Robin posted a wonderful account of some adventures we had winter camping and sledding in January, so rather than rehash what she already wrote so well about, I'll just encourage you to click HERE to check out her blog. But, since she was so kind as to post a video of me wiping out on the sledding hill, I'll return the favor and post one of her doing the same!



Then, just yesterday Tim, Robin, Mark and I walked from Neenah, WI to High Cliff State Park and back again across Lake Winnebago. This was about 15-16 miles round trip across a flat, mostly featureless expanse of ice. It was a pretty surreal trip. We could see our destination the entire time, but it didn't seem to get any closer as we walked. Only very slowly would buildings and such on the opposite shore get clearer and clearer. It was a wonderful, sunny, not-so-windy day. We couldn't have asked for better weather, all things considered. The hike took a little over three hours each way plus a stop on the other side to cook some lunch. It wasn't entirely lonely, though as we met some sturgeon fisherman, ice yachts, and a stuffed deer...

All in all a wonderful day on the ice.

This photo is pretty typical of the view we had, but its looking back at our tracks across the lake.
From 2009 - 2/15 - Walk Across Lake Winnebago


Here's group shot of us after lunch just before turning around to hike back
From 2009 - 2/15 - Walk Across Lake Winnebago


And here's one of the stuffed deer. These guys found it in a dumpster by a nature center in Michigan. It was kind of ratty so they were throwing it away. Anyhow, they haul it around and use it for practical jokes. They'll leave it just outside people's ice shanties, so when the come out the first thing they see is this deer nosing in their door. They said they once set it up near a friend's stand during deer hunting season and as he was walking out to his stand, he shot it thinking it was real.
From 2009 - 2/15 - Walk Across Lake Winnebago


Here's a video of the Ice yachts that were out while it was windy earlier in the day. Pretty cool. I'd only ever seen this on TV before.


And lastly, here's a video of us negotiating a crack in the ice.

Posted at 20:47:00 central time.

Category: Backpacking
Posted by: khanti
I've been thinking lately about why it is that I want to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. The reasons given by so many in countless books and journals I've read are diverse but ultimately they come down to a few different classes:

- The sense of personal achievement and accomplishment that would come from finishing
- A chance to sort things out during a period of transition such as finishing school, retirement, divorce, etc.
- To party, meet people, and whoop it up a little while in the great outdoors
- Because they can't imagine doing anything else

I think my motivations are a blend of the first two, more than anything, but in reading 'Awol on the Appalachian Trail' by David Miller, lately, he stated his own reasons in a way that echoed my own thoughts:

I'm no maverick. Upon leaving college, I dove into the workforce eager to have my own stuff and a job to pay for it. Parents approved, the bosses gave raises, and my friends could relate. The approval, the comforts, the commitments wound themselves around me like invisible threads. When my life stayed course, I wouldn't even feel them binding. Then I would waver enough to sense the growing entrapment, the taming of my life in which I had been complicit.

Working a 9-5 job took more energy than I had expected, leaving less time to pursue diverse interests. I grew to detest the statement "I am a ..." with the sentence completed by an occupational title. Self help books emphasize "defining priorities" and "staying focused" - euphamisms for specialization and stifling spontaneity. Our vision becomes so narrow that risk is trying a new brand of cereal; adventure is watching a new sitcom. Over time I have elevated my opinion of nonconformity nearly to the level of an obligation. We should have a bias toward doing activities that we don't normally do to keep loose the moorings of society.

Hiking the AT is "pointless". What life is not "pointless"? Is it not pointless to work paycheck to paycheck just to conform? Hiking the AT before joining the workforce was an opportunity not taken. Doing it at retirement would be sensible; doing it at this time in my life is abnormal, and therein lay the appeal. I want to make my life less ordinary.


"I want to make my life less ordinary." Yes, indeed.

Posted at 14:23:17 central time.

Category: Backpacking
Posted by: khanti


Every October 28th, I venture north to visit old friends, indulge in a little Tequila drinking and listen to good music a la Floyd E Queeb style...

The 28th falling on a Tuesday this year, I decided to take a few days and hike a long section of the North Country Trail while I was up there. Last year, I did a a quick solo out-and-back overnight trip on this section of trail of about 5-6 miles each way. That was my first solo trip in many years. In May of this year, I hiked about 25 miles covering the same section and then some, again just one night, but with three friends from the local backpacking club I co-manage. So, this year, I invited a very good friend to come along but she declined, partly due to the weather forecast. I don't blame her in retrospect. Anyhow, being solo again, but more familiar with the trail and wishing to push myself harder on a longer trip, I decided to hike from Lake Owen, outside Drummond, WI to just outside Mellen, WI, a distance of about 37 miles and giving myself 3 1/2 days to do it.

Driving up Friday night, I wound up setting camp just before midnight in pouring rain and 40 degree temperatures. This was my first time setting up my hammock in hard rain. I've been fortunate until now where anytime the weather was bad, I'd get a break just as I was setting camp. This time, it was pitch dark, cold and raining hard, but the system I've worked out of setting up the tarp first and setting up the hammock underneath, staying dry, worked really well. Saturday morning, the rain having finally stopped, I talked my friends Jon and Eric into shuttling me from my car outside Mellen to Lake Owen after we played a round of Disc Golf at Highbridge Hills, the Northwoods Disc Golf Mecca. Many thanks to them for the ride! I then hiked a short 5 miles to just inside the Porcupine Lake Wilderness Area in nice weather. The section along Lake Owen is beautiful, with occasional views of the lake. It was here, last May that a friend's dog decided to eat a baby porcupine. The porcupine won, but the dog survived the ordeal after being taken to town to be sedated and have the quills removed.

Late that night, it began to rain off and on, but not hard. I had set camp just before dark along the trail in a nice grove of old hemlocks. A real nice spot. A benefit of hammock camping being that I didn't need a nice flat spot so it was unlikely anyone had ever camped here before. All day Sunday the rain came and went with the temperature hovering just above freezing. My rain gear worked nicely and I stayed dry, except for my feet, on which I was wearing relatively new Trail Runners (Montrail Hardrocks) which are not waterproof. So my feet were wet and cold all day, though not unbearably so unless I stopped walking for more than a few minutes. If I was moving, I was warm. This whole section of trail I'd hiked in May, but it was nice to see it under different circumstances. The eastern half of the Porcupine Lake wilderness has several beaver dams that the trail traverses. In May, they were nearly impassable as the route across was unclear and treacherous. This time around, the trail was clear, bog-log bridges were present in the worst bits, and it was actually fun to cross. Just as I hit the overlook near the Marengo River, the sky opened up and it started pouring rain and the wind picked up. Shortly before crossing the river, the rain switched to a 'wintry mix' of sleet and freezing rain. This may be 'too much information', but at almost the exact same moment, I began to suffer 'intestinal distress'. Not a fun situation... So I booked it up the hill on the other side to the Adirondack-style shelter I knew was there, threw down my pack and headed into the woods to dig a cat-hole. Relieved, I returned to the shelter, only to find a sign pointing to a nice privy in the other direction from where I'd just returned. Let's just say that squatting over a hole in the sleet and driving rain was probably one of the most miserable hiking experiences I've had yet. And to find I didn't have to have done that after all was pretty dis-heartening. Exhausted, and still not feeling quite right, I stayed in the shelter instead of setting up the hammock, having covered about 13.5 miles that day.

Overnight, the wintry mix changed to lake-effect snow, which would pick up and disappear off and on for the remainder of the trip. My stomach settled overnight. Waking up, I checked the maps to realize that I had 18.5 miles to go, 13 of which was trail I'd never hiked before. I had budgeted one more night, and had plenty of food, but given the conditions, figured I'd try to hike it out that day. With the shorter days, I had limited daylight to do it, but figured that if I could average 2-2.5 mph with breaks I could to it by 6PM. Pitch dark was coming around 6:30. The video above was taken that morning, just as I was getting to Beaver Lake. The wet, snowy, forest floor was hard on my feet again, but I just kept walking to keep them warm. The crossing of the Brunsweiler River was especially nice, as were all the old farm settlement ruins that I passed. The trail was nice and mostly well marked, but there were two sections, just after the Brunsweiler River and again by the settlements, where the blazes were lacking and I wound up briefly making wrong turns. Odd that these poorly marked sections coincided with the two most interesting bits of trail. By mid-afternoon, I was closing in on my car, but encountered a small shelter just as I hit the Penokee Mountain Cross Country Ski area. It was a warming hut for the ski area, but would make a nice overnight home. I though briefly about it, but the call of a shower and heated buildings was just too great and I hiked on, finally reaching my car around 5:30 Monday. I'd completed all 37 miles, my longest solo trip yet, in 2 1/2 days, and in the worst weather I'd ever encountered. Not the coldest, but the most miserable. All in all, I felt pretty good about it. My gear functioned flawlessly, I managed to stay warm and mostly dry and I got to see, up close, the transition from fall to winter in one of my favorite places.

A funny thing happened, though, when I returned to my car. There was a note, in a plastic bag, under my windshield wiper. It was from my friend Mark who has a family hunting cabin nearby. I had no idea he was up here and he, likewise, had no idea I was up here. He'd seen my car driving by and stopped to see if it was mine. Another car was there and the people were considering calling the sheriff to see if a missing persons report had been filed. Mark told them I was probably hiking, knew what I was doing, and there wasn't anything to worry about. He then called around to our friends to see if anyone knew if I was hiking. Tim confirmed that he knew I was out that weekend, so he just left a note saying I should drop by his cabin when I finished, which I did. I'd had a similar incident in July which prompted me put a note on the dash explaining that I was hiking, friends knew where I was and that if there was a problem they'd contact authorities, but the snow had covered it up that night so the folks Mark ran into hadn't seen it. Guess I need to rethink the placement of the note in winter!

In all, the trip was a real confidence builder. I know now that I'm prepared to backpack in some of the worst conditions and not only survive, but thrive.

Pam, you know I'm going to ask you to come again next year! Hopefully the weather will cooperate.

Posted at 20:45:00 central time.

Category: Backpacking
Posted by: khanti


I've hiked this section of the Ice Age Trail twice now, in the Jerry Lake Segment northwest of Medford, WI. Once at the height of summer this past July with my friends Pam and Robin. The mosquitoes and ticks were awful and it was hot and humid and generally miserable,but I hiked my longest day ever (to that point) of 18 miles and we had a great time despite the bugs. This video above was taken during the second trip, almost two weeks ago when I hiked part of the same section again with my friends John and Mike (and Mike's dog who stars in the last seconds of the video). This was taken along the Hemlock Esker. An Esker is a wonderful thing. It's typical of the glaciated terrain found along the Ice Age Trail and are formed by streams flowing within and underneath glaciers during the last ice age. They are also a heck of a lot of fun to hike on as they afford great views of the surrounding woods, tend to be breezy so the bugs aren't as bad and are just plain different than walking through the flat or rolling woods typical of Wisconsin.

The Ice Age Trail is one of the National Scenic Trails, which include the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and the North Country Trail among others. It's entirely within Wisconsin, will be 1100 miles in length once completed and follows the southern extent of the last glaciation. I intend to section-hike the entire trail over the next few years, but it'll be hard not to just keep hiking this one section since it's SOOOO nice!

Posted at 19:10:12 central time.

Category: Backpacking
Posted by: khanti
I also realized that I'd grown soft, Things had been going too well lately. Too easily. I needed something to pare the fat off my soul, to scare the shit out of me, to make me grateful, again, for being alive. All I knew, deep and safe, beyond mere intellect, that there is nothing like a wilderness journey for re-kindling the fires of life. Simplicity is part of it. Cutting the cackle. Transportation reduced to leg- or arm-power, eating irons to one spoon. Such simplicity, together with sweat and silence, amplify the rhythms of any long journey, especially through unknown, untattered territory. And in the end such a journey can restore an understanding of how insignificant you are - thereby set you free.

--Colin Fletcher, River


I've re-discovered my love of backpacking. It's simple, really, just put everything you need to get by in a sack on your back and walk for a spell. People have been doing it since the beginning of humanity. It's essential simplicity is one of its main attractions to me. Ironically, though, it can become yet another thing to obsess over and make complicated. I spend way too much time figuring out how to cut pounds and ounces from my pack weight without spending a fortune or finding just the right combination of socks/shoes/insoles keep the feet as happy as can be. I believe this is just a way for me to spend time thinking about what I love when I can't actually do it. When I'm stuck at home and my next trip isn't for a week or two, I can pack and re-pack as a way to wish myself out the door and into the woods. That and reading TrailJournals. Man, that site is addictive.

So, I have a new category of ramblings for the site. Now and then, besides Buddhism and technology, I'll blab on about how much I wish I was hiking instead of typing on a computer.

Posted at 20:10:45 central time.