North Country Trail, Brule River State Forest

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Early June, 2008. My buddies and I decided to do a couple days on the North Country National Scenic Trail in Northwestern Wisconsin. We planned, we mapped, we discussed. All was going well, a car shuttle was arranged and we were amped. Then one guy hurt his back and the other got very ill. This left me to figure out my plan on the afternoon we were set to leave. I quickly laid out my maps, assessed the situation and decided to go backpacking solo. I rearranged my food stash so as to only carry eats for one and changed out some group gear with solo gear. This put me behind schedule by about an hour but alas the long daylight hours are upon us and I have a trusty headlamp.

I arrived in Solon Springs, WI at a trailhead in the Brule River State Forest around 19:30. I was out of the car and moving fast to stay ahead of the mosquitos. I hiked until approximately 21:00 and arrived at the Jesseth Creek Bluffs campsite just as the sun was setting across the Brule River valley – – gorgeous.

I picked off thirty wood ticks upon arriving at camp and decided to pull my socks up over my pants legs, set up the Dancing Light Gear silnylon tarp I had brought along and have some nuts and chocolate for dinner. After that I strung up my bear bag, built a smokey anti-mosquito fire using my firesteel and relaxed before turning in at 22:00.

Morning came and I awoke around 5:00. Without my buddies there I just wasn’t feeling the need to continue on to another campsite. I opted to hike the three miles to the next trailhead and then wandered logging roads and ATV trails that paralleled the NCT back to my car which ended up being another eight or nine miles. It was kind of fun just using my compass and following random trails not really knowing exactly where I was on the map. I spotted lots of deer, moose, bear and turkey tracks and only saw two cars.

Winter Backpacking on the Superior Hiking Trail

Chad, Jim, Kat, Sam and Todd on an overnighter at the Gooseberry Multi-group Campsite along the Superior Hiking Trail, February 23rd and 24th, 2008.

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Chad and Sam headed up to the Split Rock Wayside, Sam with his pack and Chad with his pulk sled and hiked the six miles to the Gooseberry State Park headquarters. They arrived around 14:30 with plans to meet Jim, Kat and Todd at 15:00. Food was consumed outside the headquarters in the sun and the rest of the group arrived in a timely fashion. Everyone quickly gathered their gear and hit the trail for the 2.7 mile jaunt to the campsite.

The trail was packed powder having seen dozen of pairs of snowshoes previously in the season and made for easy walking. Chad vocalized he wished he hadn’t added the fins to his pulk sled but seemed to maneuver it well regardless. Snowshoes weren’t necessary but the crampons on them were handy for the ups and downs.

Arrival in camp was around 16:30-ish and everyone immediately set up their camps. Kat and Todd put up their respective tents, Jim rigged up his tarp and Sam and Chad laid down their bivies. All was set before dark and next, out came the cooksets. Food was warmed and snow melted for the evening and next day’s water. Chad and Todd masterfully created a fire around which everyone sat, warmed and conversed for a couple of hours.

Winter camping is synonymous with early bed times and most hit the hay around 20:30. The stars were brilliant and the moon was very, very bright. No headlamp was necessary for potty breaks in the night. But the lack of clouds brought tempertures into the teens.

Eleven hours later the sun was peeking through the trees to the East and bodies climbed from their cocoons into the crisp morning air. Oatmeal, granola and coffee was warmed up, warm clothes were donned and the warmth of the sun put smiles on the campers faces. Everyone had eaten and packed for the trail by around 9:45. A little over an hour later we arrived back at Gooseberry headquarters, did some car shuttling, took a final group photo and were on our way home.

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