Date: September 6, 2016
Distance hiked: 25 km // 15.6 mi (Cave Lake campsite H5 to campsite H22)
Steps taken: 39,637
Time on the trail: ~8 hours
Calories burned: 3,907
Wildlife spotted: some type of small mammal swimming in Cave Lake (maybe a beaver?), 3 ruffed grouse, 2 pileated woodpeckers, 1 deer, tons of frogs and toads, plus the usual assortment of woodland creatures
I didn’t sleep well last night. This seems to be a recurring theme for the first night of my trips, so fingers crossed for better sleep tonight. When I did drift off, I had some weird dreams. In one, I was camped right on a beach, and at some point in the night I somehow nudged the trekking pole supporting my tarp tent, causing it to collapse on top of me. I got out and found that a baby bear had gotten into my food supply, which for some reason was a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies stored in reusable grocery bags. Suddenly, some of my friends appeared (who were apparently working as park rangers), and decided that since my food was improperly stored, the only way to fix it was for them to eat all of my food. I woke up after I started yelling at them to stop eating my apples.
First light on Cave Lake, and my path back to the trail
I woke before my alarm, and lay in my sleeping bag watching the dim light of the oncoming dawn growing slowly brighter. Eventually, hunger and the need to use the bathroom drove me to get up. I had oatmeal and coffee for breakfast as the sun rose. Somehow, I didn’t end up back on the trail until 8am, which is a pretty late start for me.
Some of today’s trail
Today was a hard day of hiking. I think it was mainly the humidity that got to me. I mean the hiking itself was hard, but not that hard. As soon as the sun had established itself in the sky, the air turned hot and muggy, foreshadowing another sweaty day. Most of the hiking today was wooded again. There were a lot of awesome views of lakes and the surrounding quartzite hills, but unfortunately not a lot of vantage points for good photos. And since the air was so muggy and hazy, the photos I did take didn’t turn out super great.
Strange signs of civilization along the trail
My first big obstacle of the day was “The Pig”, the tallest portage in the park. It certainly was one hell of a climb. I could not imagine lugging a canoe up there, that’s for sure. As I was approaching, I heard the sound of a motorized vehicle, and saw a man driving some kind of ATV loaded up with coolers and luggage. A couple of minutes later, I crossed paths with a woman and young girl descending The Pig with no packs whatsoever. One weird thing about this trail is you actually cross paths with a fair bit of civilization, as a lot of the lakes have cottages. I’m assuming these people came from one of those.
Metal bridge in the middle of nowhere!
After I descended the other side of The Pig, I was met with another small climb, which afforded me a great view of the lake below, as well as a pocket of cell service which allowed me to check in with the parental units and let them know I was still living. After hiking through the woods for a while, I came to campsite H16, where I stopped to filter some water and eat a quick snack. I planned to stop for another break just two campsites away at H18. Shortly before I arrived there, I crossed paths with the only other hiking group I saw today. It was four guys, hiking spread out, and I exchanged quick greetings with the first three, but stopped to chat for a couple of minutes with the fourth. He was very impressed by 3 things: the fact that I was hiking solo, how light my pack was, and that I was doing the whole trail in 3 nights.
More of today’s trail 🙂
When I got to site H18 I was planning to grab some more water, but the water access was extremely steep, so I quickly ate some food and moved on. I was able to grab some water a couple of sites later. When I reached the side trail for site H21, I happily noted that there were just under 4km to go til I hit camp for the night. However, I knew they would not be an easy 4 kilometres.
Views from the trail
It was not long before the terrain started getting quite rough, and I found myself scrambling up quartzite ridges. Suddenly, I came to the top of a ridge and was greeted was an incredible view of the lake and surrounding hills. This is the stuff I’m out here for!! It was so unexpected and so beautiful that I got a little bit emotional. I continued on, and soon came to my next major obstacle: what the map refers to as a “30m vertical descent”. And that it was. I slowly picked my way down from rock to rock. The last obstacle for the day was the section of the trail where it casually scales the face of a waterfall. I actually had a lot of fun with that one.
Super happy to have found some great views!
Looking at the map, I could see that my campsite for the night had “steep water access”. Since the last site I was at with that warning had water access that seemed nearly impossible, I decided I should gather my camp water early. I sat by the pool at the top of the water fall and filled all of my water bags. It was quite a nice place to sit and have a break, and I also washed the layer of sweat off my face and dunked my hat. Feeling refreshed, I moved on.
L: The ’30m vertical descent’ R: Where the trail became a waterfall (hard to capture in a picture but I swear it was really cool)
I may have slightly underestimated the distance from the falls to my campsite, or maybe the walk just felt long with 4 pounds of water in my pack. I still reached camp early, arriving just after 4pm. My site for tonight is located on an “unnamed forest pond”, which is definitely more of a lake and is actually quite nice. There is a decent view of some quartzite hills across the water. The one issue is that the site is pretty much right on the trail, but no one has passed by yet.
Tarptent setup above ‘unnamed forest pond’
After arriving at camp, I got everything set up and then scoped out my water access. It’s definitely steep, but I am able to reach it. It looked like the rain was potentially rolling in, so I made myself an early dinner, and sat reading while I ate. It seems to have cleared up a bit now, but I feel like rain is definitely coming at some point.
Turning in early for the night
After dinner, it was still early, so after washing out my pot I continued reading for a while before doing the final camp chores for the night. I had a momentary panic while hanging my food bag, as the rock bag somehow swung around the branch multiple times and was stuck up there pretty good. I did manage to eventually get it down after pulling with all my might. It’s still early, but I’m already in my tent and hoping I can fall asleep somewhat soon since I didn’t get a good sleep last night. It’s going to be a big day tomorrow. Slightly shorter hike than today, but the terrain is going to be tough. And I’ll have to decide if I’m going to climb Silver Peak or not. I really want to, but if it’s raining I’m worried navigating the slippery rocks might slow me down too much. Plus if the clouds are low lying, I’ve heard the view gets completely fogged in. That side trail comes up near the end of my hike tomorrow, so I’ll make the call when I get there. A very small part of me wants the rain to come so it can wash away this damn humidity, but most of me is just terrified of falling on the rocks if they get wet and slippery. I already had one good fall today when I stepped on a damp rock (just went down hard, but luckily no injuries), and I think the next two days are going to be pretty full of rocky hiking. Oh well, I’ll just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings!
Trail lesson of the day: Unexpected beauty really brightens one’s mood. Also, the hard stuff really is the fun stuff. Most of the hiking today was just fine, but I really started to enjoy myself when I hit the crazy terrain (I mean, the trail was literally a waterfall people!). And… Don’t hang your food bag too early. Life sucks when you’re hungry and your food’s in a tree (and you’re too lazy to get it down….).