That was grueling.
The plan, as we laid out here on the blog was certainly an ambitious one. I suspected that it wouldn't be entirely accurate, I doubted our ability to go PAST Lookout Mountain, and with good reason. While the 12 lateral miles on the map is certainly within my means, This is High Relief Terrain. and I do NOT mean we're getting a lot of rest in here.
I got dropped off at Alta Springs Rd, at the southern/western end of the trail, and even there it was a little difficult finding where to start. There was some sort of snowmobile/atv trail that faked us out. We even had a hard time finding alta springs road to begin with. But, I quickly got put on the right trail, and as Bob drove away, I started towards our meetup point. The "nice beach" that the trail guide referred to was one of the nicer spots on this segment of trail, I guess. But it wasn't much. A real disappointment after what I saw in the Waupaca River segment. There was a bench, and a nice looking bit of creek, but no sandy shore like I'd been led to expect, and it was tiny, and there was a lot of foliage encroaching.
So, this first segment? It was a swamp. And when it wasn't a swamp, it was a hill. But mostly it was a swamp. This was one of the only times this day that I would make good time. Why's that you ask? Well, being a swamp, it was full of mosquitoes. Shades of my traumatic hike on Wildcat Mountain in 2013, I could NOT stop without getting swarmed by them. This was worse, really. Wildcat only had gnats. Gnats I could have pulled my neck gaiter and shielded my mouth while I caught my breath. I could have even covered my face with my hat if I had to. Mosquitoes didn't care where they landed, they just wanted my sweet sweet juices. So, no matter how I felt, I had to keep trucking.
Then, passing through a section that had been logged maybe 10 years ago, I had a stand of very dense new growth to my left, and I see this black lump way ahead at the curve. My first thought is "oh shit, a bear" and I make some noise, trying to run it off. Nope. Not a sleeping bear. No reaction. It's about 6 feet long. I approach it. It's just a black mass about the size of a body. I poke it, hoping it's a singing hobo and not a stabbing hobo. It's neither, it's a sleeping bag. Someone has abandoned this, sans stuff sack on the trail. Somehow, this didn't make it feel less eerie. I don't know if someone lost it without knowing, or fled the mosquito swarm, abandoning it in the process, or if there's a shredded tent somewhere out there in the wilderness, missing it's sleeping bag.
So, I was glad to make good time. I started thinking about how "mosquito" has the word "quit" in it. My stomach was NOT agreeing with the steak egg and cheese bagel I'd had for breakfast. It calmed by the time I reached the Turtle Lake lot. Our original itinerary had me starting a little earlier than I began our trip (about a halfhour late) and I arrived at Turtle Lake Rd around 10am. Bob was shocked to see me, expected me closer to 11am.
One of the high points of the trip was meeting Ruby and her husband, who head the local IATA chapter and take care of the trail. We chatted with them for a little while, they'd seen us in the lot and stopped to talk. My morale went up after hearing from them that it was very likely we'd hear the wolves in the night. Also, from linking up with Bob.
In the future, I'd definitely just start the trail at Turtle Lake Rd. I didn't see anything I would dearly miss there. Skunk and Foster Lakes was DEFINITELY a better first leg of a trip than this was.