My grandmother passed away recently having outlived my grandfather by over a decade. Upon her passing I found myself pondering the ways they shaped my life and in particular my love for the outdoors. My grandmother was a school teacher during her working career and my grandfather managed a local grocery store in their medium sized Wisconsin town. Much like many other Midwesterners they spent their weekends camping, fishing, and hunting. A love for the out of doors was a passion they spread to their daughter (my mother) and on to me. Memories of camping at the family property in Northern Wisconsin and countless road trips all over the country are some of my fondest. I miss my grandparents dearly but am able to find appreciation in the fact that my mother and father are carrying on the tradition in educating their grandchildren – my nieces – in the ways of the woods.
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.