Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hking in the Porcupines, part 2

This is the second part of my week hiking in Michigan's UP this summer. For part one, As I indicated in the first part of this story, this is my first backpacking trip after being diagnosed as a Type-1 diabetic (Insulin dependent).  In addition to hearing about the hike, you also get to hear about how my body is doing.  After leaving the Porcupines, I headed to Picture Rocks National Lakeshore for another hike.

Big Carp River
A distant rumble wakes me a little after 1 AM.   I look out through the screen and see a distant flash from an approaching storm.  It’s still warm and I crawl out of my tent and pull the clothes I’d washed in the evening off the line.  They’re still damp.  I look around and make sure everything is secure and then crawl back into the tent where I watch the lightning for a few minutes.  There are no bolts, only bright flashes.  The air is still and heavy.  I reluctantly zip the rain cover over my head.  I hate to close myself up, but if I don’t do it, I’ll get soaked.  I fall back asleep only to wake up a little later.  It’s 1:30 AM and it’s rainy hard.  The wind has picked up, but with my cocoon so closed up it doesn’t really help.  With the damp clothes I’d pulled off the line, the tent now smells like a locker room.  I continue to wake every hour or so, hoping I can open up the tent, but the rain is relentless and doesn’t stop until 5:30 AM when I am finally able to open up the fly enough to allow for good ventilation.  It’s cooler now, after the night’s rain.  The wind is still strong, blowing the water off the leaves.  I stay in my tent, waiting for things to dry out and sleep to 7:30 AM.  There is an old backpacker’s greeting that goes, “May your rains come at night.”  I have been blessed.

I get up, struggling to free the zipper on the screen which is hard to unzip due to the dirt that has been kicked up into it from the rain.  I roll up my sleeping bag and pad, and check things around the camp.  Everything seems to have survived the storm and the wind is drying things out fast.  I leave my tent up to dry and fix coffee and oatmeal for breakfast.  My blood sugar is at 103 and knowing I’ll soon be hitting the trail I decide not to take any insulin with my meal, only the regular long acting insulin that I take every morning.  After breakfast, I attempt to make a few casts into the deeper holes of the river, but the wind makes it difficult.   When I get back to camp, I sit and write in my journal as clouds begin to move back in.  I decide to go ahead and roll my tent even though it’s still a little damp and am on the trail by 9:20 AM.   I am a little stiff from yesterday’s hike, but surprisingly not as sore as I feared.

Surf on Lake Superior
The trail continued on the south side of Little Carp Creek for a mile or so, and then crossed over to the north side.  Trapper Falls isn’t much of a fall, just a two foot ledge that runs across the stream bed with some nice pools.  After passing it, the trail climbs high up the embankment on the north side.  From the top, I hear what I assume is a much larger falls ahead.  The wind is strong and I press onward into it, wondering if the falls are near the mouth of the river.  As I hike on, the lake in the distance becomes more prominent.  The trail leaves the embankment and descends to the river and I began to wonder where the rapids are.  There is a nice footbridge over the river, but no rapids.  I continue on paralleling the river and come into a clearing where there are several campsites and realize the roar I’d been hearing for nearly a mile isn’t a rapid, but the angry surf of Lake Superior.  

At 10:30, I’m at the mouth of Little Carp and look around.  There is one tent here, but no campers to be found. I assume they must be off fishing or hiking.  I walk out by the surf and watch the powerful display of nature as the waves crash on shore, then retreat back to a more protected area where I take a break and catch up with my journal.  Despite not having taken any insulin with breakfast, and having eating a few raisins and a granola bar while hiking, my blood sugar is only 139.  I leave the campsite and follow the lakeshore trail north, making good time as I pass a number of campsites and cabins.  There is a group hiking out (at Presque Isle) that I pass and they tell me that the storm was incredible from the lakeshore.  The sat out on the beach and watched the lightning approach, but then fled to their tents before the torrent of wind and rain assaulted them.  Luckily, their tents were protected and not exposed to the full onslaught of the storm.

It’s 11:30 AM when I arrive at Big Carp River.  I meet a family who are staying at the cabin and spending the day hiking up Big Carp canyon.  I drop my pack and spent some time fishing the holes around the bridge over the river, but have no luck.  Then I sit and eat lunch: crackers with cheese and peanut butter and raisin bread.   From Big Carp, the trail to the north climbs to a bench high above the lake and continues this way, occasionally dropping down to the lakeshore.  Most of the trees along the lake are birch, which are waving freely in the high wind.  I pass a number of hikers and stop at the campsite for lone rock to catch up in my journal and to attempt the capture in my camera the power of the waves breaking on the surf.  A mile beyond lone rock, I stop and set up camp in one of the double sites that are protected from the offshore wind by a layer of thick vegetation that parallels the shore.  In the site south of mine is a couple from the Traverse City area.    After putting my tent up and preparing the site, including getting  a supply of wood in for a fire, I string my hammock up and spend some time in it reading Somebody Told Me,  a collection of Rick Bragg’s newspaper essays.  Before fixing dinner, I start a small fire.  

My dinner consist of brown rice with curried red kidney beans and tea.  The rice and the curried red beans are in pouches that I boil together.  I figure that I have a 110 carb meal, but only take enough insulin for a 75 carb meal knowing that I am burning a lot of calories.  An hour after dinner, I am surprised to learn that my blood sugar was at 91, so I eat a little more (dried fruit and raisin bread).  After sunset, when I check myself again, my sugar has risen to 131, which is a little high but not as high as I would have assumed having eaten such a large supper.  I watch the sunset and talk to my neighbors about places we've both have hiked, and then I head to bed around 10 PM.  The wind is still howling, but has slowed a bit.  Mosquitoes are certainly not a problem and it has cooled off.
Lake Superior at Sunset
Lake Superior at sunset
I wake up several times in the night, dreaming weird dreams.  One had in it an older woman I knew who had died nearly two  years ago and she asked me to speak at a friend's funeral.  The second dream was even weirder as I had stored a boat in the living room and it had fell through the floor and into the basement and I was trying to figure out how to get it out.  The last dream had to do with a woman I know who expressed interest in me and when I brushed her off, she said, “Shut up and kiss me.”  I woke up at that point. I always wake up at that point!  I get out of the bed at 7 AM.  My blood sugar is at 101, so it had continued to drop throughout the night.    The wind is still blowing but no longer at gale forces, but it’s still a stiff breeze.   Most of the clouds from the previous day have blown away.  

After breakfast, I pack up everything but my hammock and lay there until I’ve finished reading Bragg’s book.   Then I roll up the hammock and head out.  The trail hangs close to the shoreline for maybe a mile further, then turns sharply to the right and then begins to climb the ridge.  Although the elevation gain is greater than my climb on Tuesday, it doesn’t feel so bad. 

 By 11:30, I’m near the top, on a ridge with open areas and great views over the lake.  I spend some time here, not wanting to leave the woods.  While standing in awe of the beauty,  I hear the clicking of walking sticks and observe a group of twenty-some scouts (boys and girls), and a number of leaders.  I find it strange that every member of this group is hiking with two walking sticks that click and give a interesting rhythm to their step.  Talking to one of the leaders, I learn they are a Boy Scout and Venture Scout unit from Wisconsin.   The Venture Scouts are older and co-ed.  I also talk to a couple from Chicago who recently married.  She is from Taiwan and he is from Poland.   I hike on a ways and find a grassy area where I stop and have lunch.  My blood sugar has dropped to 89.  I have a 55 carb lunch and no insulin.

I am back at my truck around 1:30 PM.  I spend some time at the overlook, taking in the wilderness around Lake of the Clouds before driving down.  Along the way, I pick up my neighbors from the night before (they had started at a different trailhead and had a three mile road walk.  After dropping them off, I drive across the park on Boundary Road to Presque Isle, where I hike around and photograph the falls and then back across the park to the Union Mine Trail, which is a mile long and explains some of the mining history in the region.   Then I leave the park, heading north toward Ontonagon, hoping I can find an open gas station before I run out.  To be continued…   
Sunset on Lake Superior


  1. Wow, what an amazing tour! First, I love it too when the rains come at night, and you are safely tucked away in your tent (and it's not leaking) and you sometimes hear the distance rumble of thunder, those are perfect nights to sleep. Funny thing I grew up in (lower) Michigan, and I've seen more of the UP after moving away. Great lovely country, and I get to see more of Lake Superior from the Duluth side. Isn't it marvelous to journey around the places not too far from our home? You always write these little trips of yours leaving me wanting to pack up my bags and set sail...if only there were more free time right now. I once picked a location we'd never been to called Zipple Bay just because it sounded cool. We went and gee what a fabulous time, without hearing the name, we'd never would have made it there!

  2. Living in the world. only a skin away from it. Amazing. I follow your trips with pleasure.

  3. Your description is great and shows what a true challenge it is in nature with weather and also balancing health concerns.

  4. man sounds like a great trip....i love waking up in the middle of no where to catch the sunrise....dinner looks good...this def made me think a bit more too about how conscious you have to be out there as well with your blood sugar...i am glad it does not limit you though...

  5. the way you write, it feels I am there. Love it. Health issues are a challenge,but we learn to work around them or with them. Life is too precious to give up

  6. Beautiful pictures! I love Lake Superior--it's the coldest, but to me it's the most beautiful! I love the rocky beaches, so pretty!

  7. Yes sir we definitely live in different planes of the same geometry.

  8. Lovely photos.

    I am delighted you have found a way to work with the insulin.

  9. Great to see you back...or me back. lol

    As always you capture your adventures so beautifully with photos and words...this IS your art. I didn't know about your diagnosis (my 15-year old niece has Type 1 diabetes...diagnosed two years ago). Not easy to travel this way but you're doing it!

    PS - I especially love the photo of the falls!

    1. Scarlet, I put the link above to the story of my diagnose, which occurred in Feb 2011. I have been all around the world with the disease.

  10. You have a wonderfully way of describing your adventures. I chuckled at your last dream. :)

  11. I'm sorry to hear that you are diabetic, but it sounds as if you are disciplined enough to take care of your dietary needs. I really love they way you write about your travels and hikes.

  12. I don't know much about diabetes but glad to hear it doesn't stop you from traveling. Your photos are amazing, the trip looks (and sounds) so good.