This was originally posted to our blog on July 5, 2008. Enjoy!
My new found love of solo hiking lead me back to the trail this last week. I decided I needed to see more of the border route trail and put in at the South Lake trail, which runs north for about 3 miles before it intersects with the border route trail, where I would follow it east to Rose Falls. From Rose falls I would get reaquanted with the Caribou Rock trail and head south 3 miles to Hungry Jack road. My lack of planning, or lack of caring to plan left me 5 miles from my car once I hit Hungry Jack road. This small inconvenience seemed slight as I struck off on the South Lake trail at noon. My experience from the hike a week earlier prepared me for the familiar overgrown conditions of the trail. With each step north taking me farther from the sounds of cars on the Gunflint, I set a brisk pace and was thankful for the beautiful day. An hour later, and after twice being convinced I had lost the trail and would need to retrace my steps, I met up with the border route trail. This section of the trail was in much worse shape than the section I had been on a week prior. Most of this trail made me feel like I was straight out of Hollywood, stalking through the jungle crouched over, pushing brush out of my way to keep an eye on the trail, the only things missing were a knife in my teeth and a blood soaked bandana on my forehead. Just as my thoughts of Rambo were reaching their imaginary peak, the brush cleared and I started ascending a rocky “Aggro-Crag” of a hill. Only with the help of Mark O’Malley cheering me on in my mind did I manage to summit the hill. The work was worth every second as upon reaching the top I was rewarded with what must be one of the best views I have ever had the privilage of laying eyes on. I spent some time trying to come up with the words to describe the view and my feelings at that moment, but decided there is no way I could do it justice. After rejuvenating in the sun and breeze for a while I headed out, knowing I would never forget my short stay on that rock. The trail down to Rose Falls was more of the same and I assumed the commando position. I reached Rose Falls and didn’t spend much time exploring. It made me realize how much time I have spent up here and how many times I have seen the falls. From there I was a bit disappointed I would be traveling over the Caribou Rock trail again, but as there was no other way to get back without going over trails I had been on, it was the fastest way.
My planning for this hike was done in a way that copied my first hike, except for when I started. All of my rations were the same, including the amount of water I brought, which was more than enough the week before. I am assuming it was the sun and the strenous nature of the days hike that caused me to run out of water 2 miles before I got to Hungry Jack road. Either way I was in a bit of a pickle as the last bit of water was savored on Duncan Lake. As I hiked the signs and symptoms of dehyradtion started in. I had quite sweating in the hot afternoon sun, my mouth was dry as a bone, and even the smallest inclines sent me into a hunched over gasping fit for air. All of these were clear signs I needed water. Reaching Hungry Jack road was a relief, although I was still 2 miles from Trail Center, the nearest establishment that provided clean drinking water. These were 2 miles from hell, I thought the fact I would be on a smooth road would make it easier. The only thing the road provided was a clear picture of just how far I was from water, as well as plenty of time to feel my thighs cramping harder with each step. I could picture a happy family heading up to the cabin rounding a curve in the road and finding my remains, a pile of clothes and a backpack, as my body had already dried and shriveled to dust only to be blown away in the wind. Just when I thought my legs had finally turned to cement I stepped back onto the Gunflint, with Trail Center and a glass of water, only one hundred yards away. As I zombie walked into the restaurant the last open bar stool was glowing from a single beam of heavenly light. Angels with harps and a gospel choir started warming up in my head as I sat down and ordered two glasses of ice water with ice. The angels and choir came together in glorious unison as I chugged the water down. Instantly feeling revived, I savored the second glass and reflected on a wonderful days hike turned death defying. I now have a much more serious appreciation and understanding of the power of water. Never again will the water filter be left behind on a solo hike, and never again will I underestimate the power of a tall glass of ice water on a hot afternoon.
Thanks for reading.