Royale National Park, Michigan 2002
trail was turning into one ridge after another. We continued
on, and then came to a rocky slope that seemed exceptionally
large. Slowly, we made our way up, being especially careful to
place our feet solidly on the slick boulders. We reached the
top and passed through a double rock cairn, one on each side
of the "path." But of course, there really was no path
up there - only stone, and fresh moss everywhere.
what a view! We were definitely on the highest point of the ridge
so far, maybe the highest point of the whole Minong Ridge Trail,
even. Superior was close down to the north, and Canada wasn't
far behind it. To the south we could see the Greenstone ridge
rambling up & down to the east and west. It wasn't long before
we'd had enough of the scenery; the rain was whipping in our
faces, and anywhere the rain didn't get to, the bitter wind was
happy to oblige, so we figured we better keep moving. But where?
We spied another cairn in the distance, so we headed towards
it. After that, we saw another. Funny thing, though - this rock
pile was perched on the brink of a ledge, with no path going
down that we could see.
imagine at this point I said something like, "Where does
the trail go?" I can't remember the exact order of the events
that followed, only that they seemed to take forever, and were
probably repeated many times. Basically, our question was, if
this is not the way the trail goes, why would the rock cairns
be here? We backtracked to the double piles where we came up
the side of the hill. Could the trail go left instead of right?
Good question, because there was no recognizable trail either
way. Anyone who's read any books on camping, the outdoors, or
whatever has heard the warnings about hypothermia. Like that
you don't have to fall in a half frozen lake in the middle of
winter to get it. If you're in wet clothing, and there's a cold
wind blowing, and you're in an exposed area, you are supposedly
after a few trips back and forth atop this lonely ridge in the
middle of nowhere, I was starting to lose it. I guess it was
the combination of the cold, the wind, the rain, my nagging sinus/chest
cold, and my crappy rainjacket, but hypothermia was starting
to seem like a definitely possiblility - no, reality! - if we
didn't get off that ridge. "We HAVE TO GET OFF THIS RIDGE!!!" I
said (insert every couple of minutes.) I was aware of the fact
that I was practically running around in a panic, while Andy
seemed like he was moving in slow motion. Not really responding
to my requests, er, demands. Apparently all the action/problem
solving was going on in his head....I hope. The slow, methodical
followed the cairns yet again to the end, and stepped down off
the edge of the ridge. There was obviously no trail, that we
could see, but we were down out of the wind for a bit. We started
to get these (stupid) ideas that if we just head (insert direction
here) that we would hit the trail. Most likely not a good idea.
ok, we decided to head back in the direction we came from. What
would we do? What if we couldn't find the trail, what then? Head
all the way back to McCargoe Cove, give up and catch the boat
back to Rock Harbor the next day? Take it all the way back to
Windigo on Sunday? What was the alternative - head "cross-country" and
hope we hit the trail?
climbed back up the ridge, followed the rocks back through the
wind and rain, passed through the double cairns, and down the
other side where we had come from originally. It was obvious
the trail only went one way - to the top of Death Mountain...er,
the ridge. We stood there bewildered. I didn't want to go up
to the top again, but didn't want to go back in the direction
we came, either.
was then that, through my haze of confusion and despair, that
I had a moment of clarity....clear as the water from our new
PUR filter, in fact...
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