It had stopped raining the night before, and it was in the low 60's as we left the Greenstone Falls area at 9:45 on our third morning. We continued to follow Little Carp River Trail as it swung northeast toward Mirror Lake.
Yesterday's rain had made trail conditions muddy and a little slippery, but the terrain of this segment of LCRT was mostly easy, with a steady ascent at the beginning and a few minor ups and downs throughout. Once again, we passed more spectacular backcountry camp sites. The most impressive were two adjacent sites located at a spot where the trail crosses a shallow section of Little Carp River as it trickles over a wash of rocks. We stopped for a break and thought about how nice it would be to end the day there, pitch a tent, cook over a fire, and fall asleep listening to the river running quietly alongside us.
Little Carp River Trail ends at Mirror Lake. We arrived at 1:45 and found the small 2-bunk cabin at the end of a short spur west of the lake. Perfect for two people with the desire to spend time in seclusion, Mirror Lake's tiny 2-bunk cabin sits right in the center of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness. While exploring our surroundings, we were struck with the awesome feeling of being alone in a huge forest. Thick with enormous pines, the low mountains stretched for miles behind the cabin, and the complete silence impressed upon us the enormity of our satisfying loneliness. Only when a dog barked in the distance did we remember that there were two other cabins near the lake, and other hikers were doubtlessly out there among the trees, discovering that same feeling of solitude.
After removing our packs and changing into warmer clothing, we left the cabin to explore the lake. Mirror Lake earns its name from the perfect reflection it gives on a calm day of the forest surrounding it and the sky above. Unfortunately, the wind had picked up throughout the day, rippling the lake's surface and eliminating our chance of observing the water's mirror-like quality. A canoe is available to those using the Mirror Lake cabin, and we paddled out in order to collect water and try to catch a fish.
Although the air was cold, the sun shone brightly and was obscured only by the occasional fluffy white cloud. We were dressed warmly and enjoyed paddling around aimlessly, casting a line here and there, and letting the rocking motion of the canoe lull us into relaxation. We had no sense of time and no obligation to be anywhere else. Our only concern was starting a fire as soon as we returned to the cabin because it was going to be a cold night in the deep forest.
After fruitlessly floating for an unknown amount of time, we found ourselves at the far end of the lake. As soon as we began paddling back toward our cabin, the wind started blowing with purpose. Paddling with all our strength and making little progress, our relaxing afternoon on the lake became an impromptu and torturous upper body workout. If we stopped paddling for one second, we were immediately blown further from our destination. Exhausted from nature's treachery, we eventually arrived back on our side of the lake and returned to the cabin to collect wood and think about dinner.
Since we didn't have to worry about hanging our food on this trip, I brought along an item that I have always wanted to eat on a hiking trip, but have never packed due to its tantalizing, guaranteed bear-attracting aroma. A stick of summer sausage, courtesy of my grandmother and purchased from a butcher in my family's hometown in Wisconsin, was ceremoniously unwrapped from its protective tinfoil and cut into chunks. It was intended as a snack, but we ended up grilling half of it over the fire and calling it dinner. Dripping fat and grease sizzled in the wood burning stove as we roasted the hunks of meat on sticks over the flames and watched the edges become charred and crusty. Later, we made Packit Gourmet's banana pudding for dessert – a new essential item for future trips.
(Note: This cabin is spacious despite its size, but the sucker who volunteers to sleep on the top bunk is not able to sit upright due to its close proximity to the slanted roof.)
As usual, we went to bed early, but I laid awake reading by headlamp for quite a while until I drifted off.
To be continued in: Day 4 - Mirror Lake to Buckshot Cabin