Advance warning: lots of pictures.
We started the day with hot grapenuts, one of my favorite trail breakfasts. Sue agreed to let me do the food, so I sent her possible menus and she made some choices.
We were hiking by 9 am, with plans to do about 8 miles. It's always neat to see the lady's slipper orchid, Cypripedium acaule, and this one was huge, possibly the biggest I've ever seen. Sue's hand for scale. I don't take many pictures of it anymore. It's not that I don't like it, but really, how many pictures does one need?
Sue is an avid geocacher. She's approaching signing the logbook on 3400 of them. Several were registering on her map as being nearby. I'd never searched for one, although I have found two by accident. This is the first one she located on this trip. It was a bit tricky because something, probably an animal, had moved it a good 20 feet from where it was more likely supposed to be. She says she no longer leaves and takes a trinket, but just signs the register. Now that you can do them with your phone, I might occasionally remember to see if there are any near where I'm hiking.
I just liked this tree. See the man-in-the-moon profile face with the bushy eyebrows? Or is it two lovers kissing?
The day was beginning to get quite hot, and we took a long break at Headquarters Lake where there was a nice breeze. We had a snack and sterilized water. I took the Steripen on this trip, which uses ultraviolet light to kill organisms. I call it the "magic flashlight."
Sophie occupied herself in a different manner.
She was keeping a rascally red squirrel at bay. The squirrel was quite alarmed, and apparently ignorant concerning the inability of (most) dogs to climb trees, since it's decision was eventually to run down the tree to the ground and to climb a different tree. Even so, it was fast, and Sophie did not have squirrel for her snack. She had chicken jerky which she thinks tastes great, but doesn't require chasing.
From there, it was 1.8 miles to the Spring Lake State Forest Campground. We had no intention of staying there, since we wanted to be by ourselves in the woods, which is allowed. But we did eat lunch and fill our water bottles. Note to other hikers, the pump is all the way at the bottom of the campground loop. If you are hiking in from the south you will pass a lot of campsites and the boat access. When you come to the trail kiosk, you have to turn right and go around that camp loop on the north side of the lake. But the water is cold with no sulfur taste. When it's 88 degrees out, it feels extra good to soak your head!
If you are a casual picture-looking reader, this paragraph might not be of much interest. If you are thinking of hiking the loop, you might like to know this.
We had originally planned to just go another mile or so and find a place to camp. But we both felt pretty good, despite the heat. The big question of the future was water. The west side of the loop is very dry, and this might be our last chance to get water for a while (and an overnight). We had stashed a gallon of water at a road crossing before beginning the hike, so we knew there was water waiting for us 4.3 miles away. However, there is a wetland that shows on the map produced by TrailMaps, 0.7 mile south of the NCT/Fife Lake junction at M 186, and it looked like it had open water. That wetland does not show at all on the NCT online basemap. It does show as open water on Google maps, and also on Sue's GPS unit. We decided to hike till we reached that spot, to check it out. We filled the big extra bottle, just in case it wasn't real, and hiked on.
Next funny story. We took one more short rest stop. As I was lying against my pack looking at the trees... guess what I saw? Another absolutely perfect cache tree- strong horizontal branch about 15 feet off the ground with no nearby brush. Have I mentioned how hard it is to find really good cache trees? I have to tell you that I was seriously interested in making camp there. We didn't know if there was a wetland/lake ahead or not. We had a full dinner bottle. We had gone our planned 8 miles.
But Sue's an optimist. "There will be other trees," she said. On we went. And guess what. There was another geocache. Sophie helped find this one.
Let me tell you.... not only was there a wetland, but I suspect this has open water most of the year, and there was pretty easy access. I did wade in a few feet to get clear water, but it wasn't difficult, as it often is, to get water from a wetland, and it didn't taste swampy.
We found a flat space away from the private property signs and made a lovely camp.
For a while it looked like I'd be cooking in the rain, but the gray cloud passed over without dumping any water. Dinner was beef stew with dumplings. Yum.
Surprisingly, as the evening cooled down, the mosquitoes did not appear in force till almost 8 pm, so we sat outside and enjoyed the breeze.
Cuddles are high on Sophie's list.
Nine miles for the day. Oh, of course, I found a place to hang the cache, but it sure wasn't ideal. Am I sorry we passed up the good one? Nah. This was a beautiful spot. But it's a good thing our food supply only weighed about 2 pounds at this point!
North Country Trail, primitive campsite along Fife Lake Creek to M-186, and Fife Lake Loop Trail south from M-186, 0.7 mile
|See Fife Lake Loop- Day 1|
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