A fox tries to make its home near good supplies of food.Elizabeth Russell-Arnot
All night, the sky lit up like a strobe light, thunder rumbling long and menacing, but not one drop of rain reaching me. I packed everything inside the tent including my muddy shoes, afraid a creature would make off with something vital.
The sunset was so perfect last night from my private rock outcropping, but this morning is socked in with fog. I pack up quickly, noticing one fat slug curled under the alicoop’s tarp.
Tea is made and I bite into the best bars yet. I tweaked the recipe, leaving out any wheat products and cutting the uber sweet dates in half. I have neighbors, but I only see one quietly emerge to grab water. I leave before their tents come down.
It’s a boggy, thimbleberry zone with ups and downs over fallen birch, their bark pealing into tight scrolls. Mostly, I ‘walk the plank’ expertly arranged over wetlands, a thin trickle moving the coffee-stained water. They’re hardly just nailed together planks. Often, trail workers built short stairs to accommodate the undulating land.
I hear a low crack of a twig in the brush, the only creature able to accomplish that would be a moose. Through the brush, I see her massive body, a dark brown blur pushing deeper into the forest. Moose Number One!
I press on over roots and rocks, damp and slippery with algae. Beaver have been hard at work here as the evidence shows massive trunks delicately chewed into a triangular point like a sharpened pencil. The air is humid and I’m sweating, but thankfully, there’s no car wash (yet) from the plants as high as my chest leaning over the trail. I could really use a machete, I think, when I suddenly hear heavy splashing below followed by a large moosey sneeze above.
I can’t see either of these besides a brown blur, but their gigantic presence is palpable. I slip past, looking for trees should I need to dart behind one. Two more today! Is that three moose or three mooses? Meese?
Soon I return to the cut off I took last night, completing the loop and heading back towards Windigo. I cross several streams on wide boards, now extra vigilant to stay upright. Near the visitor center, I meet the father and son I saw last night, impressed I plan to walk to Rock Harbor. I smile and thank them for their well wishes, hoping I’ve got what it takes.
I was warned these are not fast miles because of the rocks and overgrowth. I’m inclined to agree, already feeling a bit spent with nearly nine miles to go today. I pass about twenty hikers, all anxious to get off the island but with no idea when the planes will begin flying today. A father tells me he and his sons camped at Feldman Lake and suggest site two, so I aim myself in that direction and begin the loop.
Rain was predicted all day, but aside from the fog, it’s dry and very quiet. The trail follows massive Washington Harbor, long and deep and nearly always calm. Across is an island with a small house and a sailboat.
I drink a liter of water with watermelon flavored electrolytes, then head up towards the ridge through thick birch. A small spur takes me to an overlook with views to a pond and Superior beyond. I open a bag of mangos I dried at home, and they are pure nectar out here.
The sun is bright now and I hear the plane coming in, wondering if my friend Jamie is on it. A bit of wind dries me out. Huge crickets with wings leap out of my path with a sprinkler’s clackety hiss.
I am nearly certain no moose hang out on a ridge, but when I enter the forest, I am surprised by one just next to the trail. I back up and hide behind a tree, holding up my thumb to see if he disappears and I am far enough away. He has an enormous rack and beard, but seems uninterested in me, continuing to graze on stemmy plants.
I take a few pictures of his narrow backside which slopes to a camel-like hump then joins his large, lovely head, mostly nose and antlers. He appears so calm as I gently walk past, watching me almost quizzically, a cartoon character with little interest in coming closer.
The path is high above any water, but is covered in smoothed stones, an ancient shoreline crunching under my feet. I again am welcomed by an abundance of thimbleberries which I gobble up leaving red stain on my thumb and index fingers. The only improvement possible is the addition of raspberries to the mix, sweeter and crunchier.
I join a stream and filter water and it’s nonstop buswhacking for miles, mostly flat, but I have to watch where I put my feet. Ahead I see two hikers, Christian and Jamie. We take pictures of each other with our own cameras, and I pull ahead telling them I’ll see them at the lake.
It’s a long way, mostly through this green tunnel of mud, thimbleberries and mosquitos. I stop briefly for a drink and arrive to find my pick of the sites. Score! Site two is right on the water with a steady breeze. I set the alicoop and hang my sweaty clothes in the breeze, making an early dinner before heading to rainbow cove.
The shore is water-smoothed stones, tumbling with a tinkly sound as the waves lift them and gently set them back down. The sun hides behind a cloud before exploding below as it reaches the horizon in magenta and purple.
It’s not the best skipping stone beach, but Richard would be proud I make three hops with a few flat ones. Better yet, there are long finger-like stones I lob in without a splash, just a ‘thoop.’
I walk back the flat path above the stream, the bees out earlier on the purple aster are all asleep now. I hold my puffy above my head so it won’t pick up dew.
A few steps from the turn off for my site, a fox greets me on the path, long black socks and a wily expression. I snap his picture and walk on, but he appears ready to play, bending forward then jumping from side to side.
Eventually he trots to a clearing under cedar, scratching his back with his hind leg. ‘Little fox, you better not be stealing anything from me tonight!’
All is well when I return, the wind up and the waves crashing. I tie my shoes to one pole and dip in the lake to my knees. Maybe a swim at sunrise? Sounds lovely.