HIYOH & the First Month of Dental School

Back in May of this year I started planning my first real hiking trip: a three day trek on the Appalachian Trail (which then became a three day hike on the North Country Trail). In my quest for knowledge of all things hiking and backpacking related I joined a couple of Facebook groups for women who hike; they were a little intense but quite helpful and interesting. One of the phrases I heard quite often in these groups was “hike your own hike”. It was repeated as a kind of hiking mantra or motto.  But it seems a little obvious right? Everyone is one their own journey and moves at their own pace and all that. Yeah yeah. Blah blah whatever.

Months later, in August, as I was running a trail half marathon with little to no training that phrase popped back into my head: hike your own hike.

It occurred to me that the same holds true for running: you are running your race and no one else’s (even when you’re running with or right next to them). That aspect of personal improvement and competition with yourself is something I’ve always loved about running. And at that moment I was on track to run the worst (time-wise) half marathon I’ve done to date but I actually felt proud of myself, like I was doing okay. I was running my own race and I was killing it (compared to myself and my expectations for myself). My sister died in early June, barely two months prior; it put my summer off to a bad start. After that I had a couple weeks of bare minimum levels of functioning. Then my work schedule got crazy (partially to accommodate some of the time off I needed to be with my family); I was working a few nights in a row and then having a few days to function as a normal person. Up and down, back and forth, awake for 24 hours straight then trying to sleep during the day but also trying to not waste the time I could/should be spending with my kids. The thing about working nights is that messes with your body beyond the exhaustion part of it, going back and forth between being awake all night and trying to function during the day multiplies those negative effects.

SO there I was on the morning of August 4th (which, fun fact, happens to be my former wedding anniversary) running slowly through some random woods in Michigan as the day got hotter and more humid by the minute feeling not too bad about myself and my race. I definitely wasn’t winning any awards on this one but, considering the circumstances and the challenges I’d faced, that was okay. I was running MY race; my unique life experiences had brought me to that place and were a part of the accomplishments of the day. No one else was dealing with exactly the same things I was so maybe even if they were faster it wasn’t a big deal; we were playing with different decks. (Then again maybe it was an even bigger feat. Who knows what personal struggles brought them to that moment of their lives.)

Fast forward another few months (okay, two) and here I am, not running or hiking much but I’m finally starting to grasp the full meaning of “hiking my own hike”.

I started dental school this fall. The average age of my class is 24. There are a handful of people who are turning 21 this year. Most of the others are 22 or 23. I am not; I’m a non-traditional student. A really non-traditional student. I’m 38, a single/divorced mom with five kids, the oldest of them just a couple years younger than some of my classmates.

We have very different lives, my classmates and I. There are a few who are 30 or close to it and a couple who are married. Pretty sure I’m the only one with kids. I’m one hundred percent sure that I’m the only one in my class with five kids. But right now (and for the next three and a half years), these are my peers. These are the only other people in my life who really understand the demands and expectations I’m dealing with.

Dental school is Crazy; the course load is insane! (22 credits this semester) And it’s literally a complete reversal of what my schedule has been for the past seven years. I’m awake by 5:30 every morning (some days closer to 4) and out the door by 6:15 (okay, 6:30 the weeks my kids are home). I spend two and a half to three hours a day commuting to school. Two days a week we have roughly five hours of heavy science lectures (and a couple others) in the same classroom. It’s hard.

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Balancing dental school and family life…it’s messy sometimes.

But I expected that. It’s dental school, it’s supposed to be hard. (If it was easy everyone would do it.) The one thing I didn’t anticipate is how isolated and lonely I feel some days. Dental school, like nursing school or any other set program, is one of the few times in your adult life you are surrounded by people going through the exact same thing as you. Typically that produces some deep-seated friendships and a strong sense of camaraderie among classmates. And I do feel some air of community with my classmates but often I’m set apart by the differences between their day-to-day and mine. It’s been taking a minute to get used to.

Much like the race, different circumstances and life experiences brought everyone to this place. While we are (according to the school) all high achieving and highly qualified individuals we did not go through the same process to get there. We are not all dealing with the same challenges and struggles as we adapt to dental school either; some of us have trained more than others. While I’ve been struggling to find my place socially, I’m finding that my crazy life experiences have prepared me for dental school in ways I could not have imagined. I’m used to juggling a wide variety of demands and having very little free time. I know how to prioritize things when everything id SO important but you just don’t have time to do it all. And functioning optimally on little sleep has been my way if life for a while. Heck, I’m less tired than I’ve been in years because now the five hours of sleep I’m getting is actually at night. (Sleeping at night is AMAZING, y’all!)

Yeah sure, it’s been ten years since I took anatomy and I don’t remember the enzymes of the TCA cycle or glycolysis but my other life skills are coming in pretty handy.

We’ve all got different tools, strengths, and skills and we’re all out there using them to get where we need to be. I guess that’s what hiking your own hike is about.

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All these things that I have made…

In case you haven’t noticed my life is busy. B.U.S.Y!

It’s not uncommon for people to tell me I’m the busiest person that know. Well, I’ve got five kids ( four of whom are teenagers) and I’m one parent. I’ve got to do all the kid-rearing and house managing plus make whatever money is going to pay the bills. Aaand I like to do things. What’s the point of life if all you’re doing is working, paying bills, and sleeping? (Though I do like some sleep now and again.)

This fall my busyness has kicked it up a notch. Actually, my life has pretty much been flipped upside down. But in a good way.

I started dental school in August. No, not to be a hygienist, to be a dentist. If I survive this, I’m going to be a D.D.S.

While I’m definitely (probably) going to tell you a little about dental school and what it’s like to be an older/ non-traditional student in a class with an average age of 24, first I want to show off some of the little projects I finished before school started.

There were the crochet ponchos…

The idea for this poncho (which became these ponchos) hatched a couple years ago when one of my sisters sent me a picture of a young girl in a square, grey poncho with a thick cowl neck. It s adorable! My sister wanted one for her daughter.

This past Christmas when I was frantically buying yarn for some last minute gifts I saw those round skeins with the “self-striping” colors. Each color made a ring around the circle. They were so visually appealing! I grabbed one but didn’t have a project for it. Sometime in the early spring these two things came together.

And the striped poncho was born.

Then I made another one. (Plus a matching doll poncho since this particular niece is into her American Girl doll right now.)

All the ponchos were made the same way: crochet a giant square with a hole in the middle, go round and round that hole a bunch of times, do some variation of a ribbed stitch up and down the edge. Finish off with three buttons on each side. (I very loosely followed the “Amelia poncho” pattern.)

Okay this one didn’t quite turn out square. That’s okay, I improvised and put the buttons on the front so the bigger back edge could wrap around.

It works.

Another niece/nephew related project that took forever (but I still managed to get done before school got too crazy) is a small t-shirt quilt for a new baby nephew.

Not gonna lie, this came together with a lot of haphazard Google searching and some creative stretching. Thankfully t-shirt material is forgiving.

My brother is a huge Michigan State fan and a huge Dolphins fan. In fact, some of the Dolphins fabrics may have been from shirts he wore as a kid.

Basically I started with the large emblem on the Dolphins side and just built around it. The State side was a little more challenging because I was trying to get the shapes close to matching the other side. I knew I was going to stitch the layers together instead of quilting them and I didn’t want to end up awkwardly stitching through any logos or anything. (It’s a little awkward but not terribly so.)

Because each square had a light interfacing attached (a must when making a t-shirt quilt) the blanket was plenty thick enough without any batting or anything. Because I am lazy/chronically short on time I finished the edges with a pre-made silky blanket binding. It’s reminiscent of the blankets my siblings and I had as kids.

Despite it’s technically not great aspects the blanket turned out to be a fun and unique baby gift. My brother loves it! (And I’m just going to assume my nephew does too.)

And that’s about it…

three little ponchos and a t-shirt baby blanket were completed before dental school craziness set in.

Oh, and a whole bunch of random granny squares.

The stash of squares has more than doubled since this photo.

Respect the 13.1

A funny thing happened recently. Okay, maybe not haha funny. Or maybe not really funny at all, maybe more of an anomaly. I had not been running as much as I like to in the warmer summer months and then I signed up to run a trail half marathon. Rather my guy & I signed up to run a half marathon. We had tossed this idea around for a while but didn’t commit until maybe six weeks before the race.

Having done five halves over the past three or four years this wasn’t a super intimidating thing for me. Still, I’d prefer to be physically and mentally ready for a challenge of that magnitude. I said as much a few times leading up to race weekend but my schedule was just crazy. Three weeks before the race I was up to around 20 miles a week but then the next two weeks got extra crazy; I was only able to get four runs in…over two weeks. I know tapering before a big race is part of a lot of training plans but that only works when you actually have a training plan.

My guy was preparing for the half even less than I was. In the past he’s been able to go out and do some pretty tough races without batting an eye even though he doesn’t run regularly. A lot of the time he has more energy and speed than I do even when I am running often. It’s super annoying!!!

We’ve done lots of basic 5ks, some 10ks, a couple “doublers” or 15ks including a brutal trail 15. Earlier this year we had a back to back races with an easy 5k on Saturday and a not so easy 5 mile trail race early Sunday. He still killed the 5 mile trail run; I struggled a bit. (Like I said, it’s super annoying.)

A half marathon is different though; 13.1 miles feels like a lot more than even a 15k. I mean, it is. More than just 4 miles, 13.1 is a different level of mental challenge and stamina. It requires at least a little preparation!

But life is…life and preparation did not happen. The exact opposite of preparation happened. (Negative preparation? Reverse preparation? De-preparation? Idk. One of those.)

The day before the early August trail half marathon my guy had a golf tournament for work. No big deal. Except that he was out in the sun all day, drank more than is smart the day before a long race in the hot sun, and probably didn’t eat very well either. See, negative preparation!

Saturday morning come 6 A.M we were trying to get out the door for the race and he was not feeling so hot. Using all my previous experience and half marathon knowledge I told him to eat a decent breakfast and hydrate like hell on the way to the race. Oh, and to let me set the pace. He’d never make it if he set off at his usual race pace. (Heck, I wouldn’t make it either.)

Of course we were later than we wanted to be getting to the course. We started towards the back of the crowd and the first couple miles guy trapped in a group. The narrow trail made passing a challenge. Maybe that was a good thing though, it gave us time to find a nice, steady running groove. By the fourth mile the crowd had thinned out a bit and we were able to settle in at a slower but okay pace.

The course wound around the outside of the state park including some short road segments. There weren’t many hills other than a good sized one somewhere around mile four but the trail surface itself required some attention while running. There were a lot of pits and uneven areas which kept the pace a little slower.

In a trail race if it’s not the hills slowing you down it’s the terrain.

Somewhere between miles 7 and 9 the lack of preparation started to show. Well, for my guy they did. He was really starting to slow down. I was being a good girlfriend and mostly staying with him, trying to encourage him along. In a half marathon the last three or four miles are the toughest. Besides, I didn’t really have any goals for this race. Because I was running this half marathon without really training the goal was to have fun and finish.

My efforts to make this half marathon thing a more pleasant thing for my boyfriend dropped off sharply right around the ten mile marker. I was stuck behind a cluster of runners we had been back and forth with for two miles because I had slowed down to stay with my guy. (First time ever that I was feeling better and faster during a race than he was.) I turned my head to see something behind me and BAM! My foot hit something and I went down, skidding on the dirt trail.

I jumped up, super mad, and assessed the situation. Blood running down my right leg, dirt everywhere but mostly okay. My boyfriend and another runner were asking if I was alright. I responded briefly, yanked a dangling piece of skin off my scraped and bloody knee and took off. No more of this slowing down and waiting around thing, it was time to finish this race!

While I wouldn’t call my last three miles fast, they were definitely quicker than the previous few. I finished the race alone and went straight to the first aid tent to get the dirt dug out of my wound.

By the time that was done my guy was crossing the finish line. I had had plans to find him in that last terrible mile but the timing just wasn’t right.

One of the first things he said to me is “That was brutal!” And then maybe I’m not doing that again any time soon.

I think we both learned something that day: You’ve got to respect the 13.1!

The Great Birthday Backpacking Adventure: Day 3

I know it’s been a hot minute since I (finally) posted about days 1 & 2 of my early June backpacking trip along the coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; time gets away from me and the summer days are packed with both fun and obligatory happenings. Hopefully you haven’t been holding your breath in anticipation of a conclusion after reading about Day 1 and Day 2. (If you’ve been a regular here you definitely know better. We’re very slow but steady eventual bloggers.)

The second night of the trip we camped in an area called Mosquito River. As I said, that was not a misnomer. The camping spot was basically a mini campground with designated spots and a very rustic outhouse (which was still better than having to dig a hole in the ground). It was right on the Mosquito River in a lush, brilliantly green forest.

Day three’s hike started here with some more mini bluffs and a steep uphill climb. Both Adventure Guy and myself were well rested and ready to go after another breakfast of oatmeal and insta coffee. With only ten or eleven miles left to Munising Falls we knew we’d be done hiking by the end of the day. That put a little extra pep in our steps. Not that we weren’t enjoying this adventure but I, for one, was looking forward to hot showers and cold beer. The fierce hoard of mosquitoes that began swarming as soon as we hit the trail added to our motivation to move quickly.

After a few minutes of hiking and probably half a can of bug spray we stopped so I could put on one of the head nets we picked up on our way up North. The guy didn’t want his…or any bug spray at first (he did cave on the bug spray after a few more minutes of fighting the swarms). Mosquito Valley spanned the first four or so miles of the day. Apparently there’s also a Mosquito Falls but we decided not to take the detour to see it. The bugs along with the lure of showering and hot food played heavily in that decision. (Maybe we’ll get back up there sometime soon for some more hiking. The area really is amazing.)

We stopped as infrequently as possible on this patch of trail. Finally, after close to an hour and a half, we emerged from the trail into a parking lot with freshly cleaned porta-jons. I never thought I’d be so happy to see one of those things but they were so clean and the bugs couldn’t get in. There was a great little boat launch here (not a small launch, rather a launch for small boats like kayaks or canoes). On the other side of the parking lot the woods began thinning a bit and soon the shore of Lake Superior was in view again. Miner’s Beach was a short mile from there and finally we were out of the high intensity bug zone. What a relief that was!

When we got to the information center and “overlook” at Sand Point a few miles later a thick fog was rolling in. Like literally rolling in. We watched the view across the bay disappear.

It went from this…

…to this…

…and then this in maybe five minutes. Maybe.

And as you can see by the angle of the trees in those pictures the wind was picking up too; rain was about to happen. Despite our hunger, the shelters, & running water available we decided to just grab a quick snack and keep moving. There was some debate over whether or not to break out rain gear; jackets, but not rain pants (actually I was already wearing mine) were donned and we picked up the trail again as it headed back into the woods.

The ground was pretty wet throughout this last section of the trail (between Sand Point & Munising Falls). Some of the very muddy areas had boardwalk but much of it had a variety of branches, rocks, & tree debris to hop and step across if you wanted to avoid the thick black mud. And believe me, you wanted to avoid that mud! I did a so-so job of it and was damp and muddy from almost my knees down.

Along with mud and seemingly younger forest in this section there were these awesome fern sprawls. They looked like something straight out of Jurassic Park…

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Can’t you just imagine a T-Rex photo shopped into the background?

The last three miles of the day (and the trip) seemed to take forever, partially because cautiously picking a path over the muddy spots slowed us down. Sometime in this stretch it started to rain. It wasn’t too cold but we definitely ended up thoroughly drenched. Adventure Guy and I agreed that if this wasn’t our last day of backpacking the rain would really suck! As it was we were kind of enjoying it; it added to the sense of adventure as we trudged through the very wet woods.

Another cool feature of this leg of the journey was the waterfalls. There were so many of them! And a lot of them were very tall. While there are a couple falls noted on the map, most of these were not marked or named. They were just out there along the trail.

Sometimes the trail went right along the edge of the falls. It was crazy and somewhat intimidating for someone who doesn’t exactly love heights (such as myself).

That tree on the right is growing straight up out of the ravine.

It’s hard to tell but the line of yellow moss is the cliff edge. All that other stuff was waaay down there!

At the very end of the trail there was a detour. That was quite the disappointment because we were having a debate over where the North Country trail came out at the Munising Falls visitor center. I thought we might hike right behind the falls where we saw the frozen falls back in February but the guy thought we might pop out right by the visitors center. I guess we’ll have to go back to see someday because we were directed out of the woods and onto a small stretch of road that put us in the visitors center parking lot.

And finally we were done!

I was hoping to get to the visitors center in time to stamp our National Parks passports… We just missed it. By maybe two minutes, probably less. There was still a park ranger inside but the doors were locked. This was our second near miss with the stamps at the Munising Falls visitor center.

I was pretty mad about not getting stamps and also very wet and tired. We threw all the soaked gear in the back of the car and turned up the heat. Sitting down on a cushioned seat felt amazingly luxurious.

We did it!!!

On day three we hiked from Mosquito River to Munising Falls, roughly 11 miles, for a total of 42 miles on the North Country Scenic trail (from Grand Marais to Munising) plus all the side run-offs for scenic overlooks and campsites… 45 miles of backpacking in three days.

Not the Time

It’s just shy of four-thirty in the morning; I’m sitting at work, a little bored. Some stray thought wanders across my idle mind, I’m not even sure what, and suddenly I want to know what her last post on Facebook was. Actually I just wanted to see her page in case there was something significant there. And then I felt a need to see what the last thing my sister posted on Facebook was. I need to know.

But knowing means I have to dig through all the other posts. The ones from people remembering her; the ones from the day of her memorial service, that emotional, hot Saturday a month ago (just about exactly). The ones in between too, in that dead period (pun only slightly intended), the void spanning the space before the memorial service. And, of course, the many many thoughtful, sad, tragic posts from friends, family, a community reeling in shock in the immediate aftermath of my sister’s sudden death.

But I’m at work. And it’s four-thirty in the morning.

This is not the time. I don’t have the space for what this look-back stirs up. It seems to be a theme of late.

Because I’m not the husband, not the parent, not the children, life allegedly moves on and fast. I’m not a part of the local community that may or may not be still coming together over the loss of their power house, my sister. I’m just out here on my own trying to carry on, politely thanking the few aberrant “I’m so sorry for your lost” type comments that occasionally trickle in.

There isn’t space for all the tears that refuse to stay in. They’re seeping out as I move from one place to the next. At work. At the grocery store. At the 4-H fair. Here, there, everywhere. But it’s not the time and this isn’t the place.

(This post is in relation to this…)

The Great Birthday Backpacking Adventure: Day 2

Day 2 of the three day, two night backpacking trip in Michigan’s Upper peninsula was my favorite day. I suspect that having slept, albeit somewhat poorly, for close to eleven hours the night before played a large part in that but it was also a day of fun discovery.

As mentioned I did not sleep well the first night; it was totally my own fault. Both my boyfriend and I were exhausted at the end of the first day. When I went to bed I was seriously dreading waking up and putting that heavy, heavy pack back on my aching shoulders. There was a slight feeling of What the fuck did I get myself into? and I was so tired that I decided against changing into the insulated underlayer I had brought to sleep in. I rationalized that it wasn’t really that cold and my new sleeping bag is rated to 35 degrees, almost freezing. I’d be fine sleeping in my capris length running tights, a tank top, & thin moisture wicking long sleeve shirt. I may have even taken my socks off…

Big mistake, folks. Big one!

I woke up maybe an hour or two after crashing because I was cold. So so cold!

I was shivering and struggled to get back to sleep. A wise person would have taken that opportunity to get out of that inefficient sleeping bag and put on warmer clothes. That same wise person would have then slept peacefully the rest of the night.

Apparently I am not a wise person. I continued to toss and turn and attempt to curl up into a ball inside my sleeping bag for warmth. I kicked my boyfriend who was totally unaware of my misery in his own warm bag. I even woke him up once or twice to tell him my feet were freezing. He didn’t even remember it in the morning. He may have been as exhausted as I was.

We didn’t start moving around until close to nine that morning; it took an hour to prepare breakfast (oatmeal, a little dehydrated fruit and Starbucks via), get cleaned up and our campsite packed back up. When I hoisted the pack on I was happy to discover the dread from the night before was gone. In fact, I felt good and ready to go see what was out there. Our goal for day two was to get as many miles in as we could while still taking the time to soak up our surroundings and enjoy the experience.

All fresh faced & caffeinated for the second day of hiking

Once again our hike for the day started in the woods but it was immediately more interesting than the first part of the first day. Pretty early on we came across an old car smack in the middle of the forest.

It very clearly had been there quite a while. The names and dates scratched in its rust patched surface dated back to the early 1980’s. Hundreds of explorers had left their mark somewhere on the vehicle. My guy and I spent a good fifteen minutes looking over the car and gawking like the tourists we were. A couple other hikers passed us by; I think they had a nice little laugh at our enthusiasm. (But really it was so cool!)

The next exceptionally cool thing we came upon was the gorges. And boy were they gorgeous!

Basically they’re a rather large cliff/rock formation/mini cave in the woods. So of course we climbed them.

At this point we were somewhere in the Beaver River Basin area. Everything was extreme green with great views of Lake Superior and the many rivers and small streams that feed into it. The day was near perfect, sunny & cool. It topped out around sixty degrees that day with most the morning in the low to mid fifties. We had lunch at this beautiful rustic campsite and then continued on to spry falls. And let me say we did not take enough pictures.

The path continued right along the coast and the elevation kept increasing, sometimes gradually sometimes abruptly.

We stumbled on a seagull’s nest on the edge that we could have walked right up to.

Yet another cool feature of day two was castle rock.

We approached it from the higher side then climbed down around it until we reached the beach.

The white water on the right in the above picture is the river shown below.

The beach was a perfect spot for a snack and a mid afternoon rest. We took our shoes off and waded in the cold water of Lake Superior.

Okay, I went in. My boyfriend more dipped his toes than waded. The cold water felt great on my tired legs and slightly sore feet. The river flowing into the lake was warm and more my guy’s speed. To get off e beach we had to climb a sort of ladder of logs set into the ascending side of the sand dunes surrounding it.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with amazing upclose views of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Towards the end of the day we had to choose which of the many overlooks and side paths to explore. There was so much to see here and all of it was phenomenal.

Eventually we got back into the woods and started counting down the miles to our campsite goal. Because my Garmin battery was low the day before and I had not tossed the charger for it in the backpack, I wasn’t tracking our miles on day two. We had estimated the distance to the Mosquito River campsite. While that did not sound appealing the next campsite was miles away. Apparently that made it a popular destination, that and it being part of a ten mile hiking loop. There weren’t any designated spots in the Mosquito River camping area so we pitched our tent in a random spot between trees.

And let me just say, Mosquito River was not a misnomer. Unfortunately. That night was the first time the whole trip that the bugs were bad and they were probably no where near as bad as they typically are or would be just a few weeks later. By bugs I mostly mean mosquitoes. They were plentiful. At least the campsite had easy options for keeping the bears away…

…or at least not attracting them. There were signs posted telling of a bear being sited in the area. The only interesting wild life we saw was a deer that literally walked through our camp site.

At the end of the second day I was tired, we had hiked far, but I still no where near as exhausted as I was the day before. That night I made better choices and changed into the warm sleep clothes I brought. And I slept like a baby…

Actually, better than a baby, like someone who had hiked 17 hilly miles carrying a 25lb pack.

The Great Birthday Backpacking Adventure Day 1

The great birthday backpacking adventure happened, though not as expected. Unfortunately my writing about it has been delayed, first by a crazy week of work (which of course became crazy weeks) and low data on my phone and then by the shocking and untimely death of my sister (which I’m sure you’ll hear much more about… eventually). So now, over a month later, I’m finally getting around to writing about the backpacking trip.

Long story short, it was amazing.

Not making it to the Appalachian Trail was disappointing but it gave us the opportunity to log some miles on the North Country Trail. We noticed this equally impressive though less popular National Trail on other trips to the Upper Peninsula this past year and had even hiked a short ways on it once. So when the forecast for Virginia promised rain for all three days we were planning on backpacking, the North Country Trail made sense.

There’s a popular section that books and stuff call the Lakeshore Trail; it runs along the coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (and I do mean right along the coast) from the National Park’s Grand Sable Visitors center near Grand Marais to Munising Falls (which is where we saw ice caves and frozen waterfalls back in February). You can park on one end, book a shuttle service to the other, and hike back. It’s just over 42 miles of trail with designated backwoods camp sites scattered throughout plus whatever side paths you take for the various scenic overlooks and whatnot.

The Lakeshore trail is that dashed line that runs…wait for it… Right along the lakeshore.

We had three days, three and a half max, to get back to Munising Falls. This meant we had to cover at least fourteen miles a day, I was hoping we’d get a little farther and get a night in a hotel (and a shower) before the 7ish hour drive home. Because this was our first experience backpacking we really weren’t sure what our pace would be. Hiking with a 25-30lb pack for the entire day is very different from the light couple hours at a time hiking we had experience with previously.

It was still chilly in the UP on the first of June; forty-two degrees which was startling after leaving eighty plus days. The start of the trail was nothing too exciting, a grassy field that fed into a woods with a river. The trail wound around a lake by way of the highway for a couple miles before returning to the forest. We stopped a couple times to adjust the packs, turns out placement of the weight is crucial for comfort. Well, relative comfort. It wasn’t until we reached the “log slide” six miles later that we saw the great lake we had been hiking alongside all morning.

And what a breathtaking view of the lake it was! Quite literally. The wind up there was a little intense.

This part of the upper peninsula, like most of it, used to be a booming logging area. The steep dunes were used to slide logs down to Lake Superior’s shoreline for transport. There was an old logging shed nearby with a sled for dragging logs in the winter and a giant cart thing for when the ground was less frozen. According to the signs most the log harvesting was done in the winter.

(I took pictures of this and a few other features of the beginning of the trail on an older digital camera but somehow managed to either delete or thoroughly hide them from myself. Doh!)

We sat at the top of the dunes, ate lunch and rested about half an hour before continuing. Lunch consisted of tuna packets, baby bell cheese, and some trail mix.

The trail was very well maintained with scenic steps built into the steeper hillsides and plank bridges covering the small crossing rivers as well as the muddy areas. It was super nice to not have to worry about wet or muddy shoes especially when we were less than half way through our first day.

The next point of reference on the trail was the Au Sable lighthouse on Au Sable point about four miles away.

It was cool because it’s a lighthouse but as far as lighthouses go it was kind of meh.

We poked around at the lighthouse station for a minute, used the rough outhouses, and continued on. Shortly after that we found the stone foundation of an old structured in the woods. It was covered in moss and underbrush type growth but you could just make out the outline.

(I had pictures on the camera of this too.)

Our goal for day one was to make it to a rustic campsite a little past twelve mile beach. We had started hiking around 9am, if I remember correctly, it was close to 4pm when we reached twelve mile beach.

I was using a hiking app on my Garmin to track our progress throughout the day but at this point its battery was running low. As were ours; both the boyfriend and I were exhausted. Twelve miles with heavy packs on low sleep was a lot! So we got out one of our fancy lightweight quick-dry towels, laid it on the sand at the top of some steps leading down to the beach, and took a nap.

We set an alarm and woke up 45 minutes later, right around five o’clock. After another snack & some water we moved on.

The group campsite just before the Beaver River basin area was about an hour away & by then we were so beat neither of us felt like hiking just a little further to the non group campsite. Plus we were starving again. At least I was. The guy wanted to start a fire; we didn’t need one, he just wanted one “for warmth”. It was admittedly chilly in the shade of the woods but when you trekked down to the water less than a quarter mile away the beach was basking in an almost-sunset glow and was comfortable.

Our “one person” hiking tent on its maiden voyage at a Scout overnight the week before the Birthday Backpacking Adventure.

After some annoyance and possible nagging on my part, he gave up the fire attempts and we hooked our tiny cooktop to the small butane tank. Within seven minutes we had boiling water, another ten yielded a complete Mountain House meal of something resembling beef stew. It was a surprisingly satisfying dinner finished off with candy bars we had picked up at the gas station that morning. We ate sitting on a driftwood log on the beach a short distance from where Seven Mile Creek (according to the map above) meets Lake Superior. Not another human was in sight, not even evidence of one, it was peaceful and refreshing; the perfect ending to an exciting and tiring day.

There was talk of watching the sunset but in the short time it took us to scarf down rehydrated stew we realized all we both wanted was sleep. Clean up consisted of adding the meal package to the gallon ziplock that help our garbage for the day, rinsing off the spoon/fork combo eating utensils and closing all of them in a scent proof bag. After we tucked anything that would possibly attract a bear (other than ourselves) into the metal “bear box” at our campsite we climbed into our tiny tent and crashed. It was maybe 9:30pm.

Total for day one: @15.5 miles hiked over roughly 7 hours.