Little Carp River Trail:
From Lake Superior to Greenstone Falls
I awoke in the cold semi-darkness to the sounds of light rain and rough Lake Superior surf. After firing up the Jetboil and making a cup of coffee, I retrieved the first aid kit in order to deal with my blister. One safety pin, alcohol swab, moleskin donut, and band aid later, I was ready to brave Kilimanjaro once more to go to the bathroom. (Might not look like much in a photo, but it was nearly vertical and slippery with mud in the morning.)
I made it all the way to the summit, only to find the outhouse was occupied by someone from a nearby cabin. The worst part: it was occupied by a male. Who knew how long he was going to take? Should I stay and wait? What kind of situation would I find in there when it was my turn? I felt too awkward lurking outside the door, so I decided to descend the mountain and wait the situation out. Upon my second death-defying ascent, I found that the previous occupant had not only left the lid open (an obvious violation of common sense when using a pit toilet in the woods), but he had also left the door to the outhouse wide open―a serious breach in outhouse protocol. Most people prefer not finding a family of raccoons or a bear inside an outhouse when armed with only a crumpled, slightly damp roll of toilet paper. I count myself among them.
We hit the trail at 11:30 a.m. in full rain gear. The weather was chilly, and waves crashed along the shore as we followed the lake for a little over a mile. This short stretch of trail includes a few spectacular campsites quite close to shore. Over the years, hikers have altered two of these sites to make them more inviting. Slabs of rock have been collected and arranged to form chairs with supportive backs around the sites' fire rings. One of these sites is referred to as “The Hilton” in the hiking community. Though this practice conflicts with Leave No Trace principles, the stones were likely collected from the rocky shore directly in front of the campsites, and nothing appears to have been damaged to create these primitive camp chairs.
The rain persisted as we reached the junction at Little Carp River Trail. We headed southeast, away from the lake and back into the forest. Though the day remained cold and rainy, LCRT provided a very interesting hike. Similarly to the day before, we followed Little Carp River and enjoyed scenic views of the river valley. The trail difficulty was moderate, with slippery, somewhat muddy conditions due to the rain. We encountered a fair amount of ups and downs, lots of rocks and roots, and two unaided river crossings. We saw many more huge hemlocks and passed three or four small waterfalls.
One of the most impressive elements of this section of LCRT is the backcountry campsites. Situated for maximum privacy, the sites are spacious, with an abundance of flat tent space. We stopped for lunch at a nice site overlooking the river and enjoyed peanut butter and jelly in the cold drizzle.
By the time we reached our destination, we were worn out and hoping that whoever had used our cabin before us had stocked it with firewood. Although we were perfectly warm from exercise, it was a chilly day and we knew the cabin would be cold. We were anxious to unload our packs, remove our rain gear, get a fire going, and eat something warm.
Section 17 Cabin was originally a ranger patrol cabin and is located across the river from the trail in a secluded spot. A wooden footbridge guided us across Little Carp River just downstream from Greenstone Falls. The cabin is not much to look at from the outside, but it is close to the river and within earshot of the small waterfall. A sign on the door informed us that we would have to go back across the river to use the newly constructed outhouse near Greenstone Falls Cabin.
We entered the small cabin and were very happy to find a big pile of dry firewood in the corner. We removed our muddy boots and hung our wet rain jackets, rain pants, and pack covers on some pegs on the wall. Within minutes, we had a fire going and the cabin warmed up instantly.
For dinner we prepared Packit Gourmet's “Austintacious Tortilla Soup” (they are based in Austin, TX), which lived up to its reputation as a tasty, satisfying camp meal. We also had their cheddar jack cheese spread with crackers, which was very garlicy and could have been a meal by itself.
We replenished the cabin's wood supply as well as we could, although the new wood we brought in was wet. Exhausted, sore, and feeling the effects of a relatively big meal, we retired early. Despite the cold, we left a window open so that we could hear the river as we went to sleep.
To be continued in:
Day 3: Little Carp River Trail - Greenstone Falls to Mirror Lake
Sounds absolutely wonderful -- the non-hiking-in-the-rain parts, at least. You're really selling me on doing this hike myself next summer!
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