Superior Hiking Trail, Day 7: Grin and Bear It

It’s nice and cool when the alarm goes off at 4:30. I hit the snooze button for 15 minutes knowing we will pay dearly for that later in the morning when the temperature begins to soar. Even so, it’s so hard not to indulge in a few extra minutes of rest. Once up, we break camp as quickly as possible, hoping to get a few miles in before the heat becomes unbearable. We do alright and are on the trail just after 6.

The trail today is overgrown to start with, but more ferns and less grass means that my shorts are getting wetter than my feet. There are a few more downed trees just north of camp to navigate, but none of them present too much of a challenge, and we make decent progress.

We pass a trail register just before reaching Fox Farm Pond and see that the WI girls signed it at 1:10 am last night. We’re both a little relieved to know that they didn’t get lost trying to find their way here in the dark after leaving our camp late last night.

We decide to take our first break at the Fox Farm Pond campsite. There are two tents set up, including the girls’ tent, but there is no sign of life coming from either of them. We tiptoe our way to the group area, hoping not to disturb the sleepers, and sit in silence while we eat our morning energy bar.

We notice a flycatcher fly up into a tree right above one of the benches and then realize that he has a nest. And the female is there sitting on it! We attach the long lens and climb up onto the camp table to try to get some photos, but our lens fogs up from all of the humidity. By the time we get the fog cleared on both ends, the male has flown off, and we need to get going.

We hear some rustling coming from the closer of the two tents, and a single male camper emerges. He is doing a 3-night out and back trip and will be heading out tonight. He wishes us well as he heads off to filter water.

Back on the trail, we climb up to an exposed ridge for a view of another beaver pond with lots of loud duck calls emanating from it. Like so much of the birdlife in these dense woods, we can hear the birds quite easily but seeing them is a whole different story. We hike in and out of forest with some bigger ups and downs than we have seen in recent days. The trail maintenance on this stretch of trail is much better now, and it’s a welcome change not to be constantly hiking through wet brush.

Eventually, we come to a dark, shaded forest with high trees and an open forest floor. Being able to see all around us feels refreshing after all the thick vegetation of the past few days.

We take a quick break at the Fox Farm Road Trailhead before another jaunt through a mature, deciduous forest. We appreciate the shade and slightly cooler temps. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes are getting worse, though, and we are constantly swatting at our faces to keep the bugs at bay. Eventually, we can’t take it anymore and have to stop and reapply the Deet.

The trail passes by a river, and it is good to see some water flowing. Here we see our first orange Turks Cap lilies. We hope that this means we will be seeing a lot more of them in the future.

It is getting later in the day now, and our rest stops are getting a little more frequent. After another hour of hiking, we stop for a quick packdrop on the trail. We really need to rest our feet, so we plop ourselves down on a little rise in the trail.

We sit silently eating a handful of nuts until the sound of sticks breaking from really close by snaps us out of our sweat-induced stupor. We sit straight up, look at each other, eyes wide, and then stare back into the woods where the sound came from for a clue of what is near. Snap! Crack! Finally, Matt catches a small glimpse of sleek tawny brown fur. It is only a deer. Whew!

Our next push gets us to Big Bend Campsite. It’s time for lunch, but the benches near the fire pit are in the sun. We dig our camp chairs out of our packs and find a nice shaded corner of a tent site where we can try to cool down. We chow as much food as we can before falling into a brief but blissful heat-induced snoozer.

Just as we are packing up, we meet a couple of young Northbounders from the Twin Cities who stayed here last night. Their plan is to lay low for the afternoon and then to night hike to Ferguson Campsite. Perhaps we will see more of them along the trail in the future. Before setting off, we refill on water and cool down by the river. There are lots of huge tadpoles in the shallow water, but Matt thinks that they are baby sucker fish.

We still have 7.1 miles to go before our intended camp tonight. After a nice two-hour long rest, we feel refreshed and ready to go. We start sweating buckets again as soon as we take off. I am sure that we have sweated off the Quarantine 15 over these past three days. We hike up to 12 Mile View, which must have a better view out to Lake Superior 12 miles away in the winter when all the leafed-out trees aren’t obscuring the way.

We wind our way through the forest up to the top of the ridge escarpment, where I almost step on a tiny black snake on the trail. Matt points it out to me just as a grouse awkwardly runs across the trail in front of us with its head down and tail feathers out. We can hear other grouse closeby in the bushes to our right, but the one to our left does its best to distract us by squawking loudly as it runs up the trail, leading us away from the brood.

It is getting a little later in the afternoon now, and the mosquitoes and deer flies become unbearable, flying right in our faces and buzzing all around our ears. We finally break down and pull out the headnets to try hiking in them for the first time. It’s been so hot that just the thought of adding a layer over our heads has stopped us.

The temperature has dropped a few degrees, so wearing the headnet isn’t as horrible as we feared. And it definitely helps with the bugs. At least there’s less exposed skin for them to attack!

We finally arrive at Ferguson Camp around 7, which has a boulder-strewn stream with small pools of running water in it. There are two small tent sites here, and we select the less lumpy of the two as our home for the night. It starts to sprinkle, so we set up our tent quickly. We eat our Mac and Cheese dinner in the light rain, and this comfort food classic is exactly what the doctor ordered.

We backtrack to the stream to filter water and wash off while trying to fend off an attack from the horrible mosquitoes that area thrilled to have two new victims. I am very inefficient at filtering, spilling water all over the place as I swat helplessly at the onslaught of annoying bugs.

Back at camp, we pull everything under the tent and hang the bear bags before getting into the tent. The night ends with more blister draining to cap off this long, challenging day. Good night!

Day 7 Stats

Starting Point: Sucker Creek Campsite
Ending Point: Ferguson Campsite
Miles Hiked: 17.1
Miles to Canada: 213.1
Bird of the Day: nesting Flycatchers at Fox Farm Pond campsite

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