Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hey, wasn't that supposed to be a thru-hike?

Hey, wasn't that supposed to be a thru-hike?

Yes, this was always supposed to be my first thru-hike.  Having hiked some of the Appalachian Trail and followed some YouTube channel of someone's thru-hike I was dreaming of the same.  Of course I knew I wouldn't be able to thru-hike the AT.  For that I'm to much bound to my current life.  No way I could leave my family for the better part of the year.  And who knows in what condition I'll be once the kids have graduated and don't require my support.

When I came across the Superior Hiking Trail I realized that there are shorter thru-hike options.  And this one being somewhat close and short would be the excellent opportunity.  I warmed up my wife to the idea of being away for three weeks to do the hike over about a year, having September 2016 in mind from the start.

So why stopping so early?

The hike was though from the beginning.  On the first day I got blisters on both of my heels which was something new to me.  In the past I never got blisters from hiking and thus I wasn't prepared for them.  With the help of a fellow hiker I got some mole skin and proper tape for the second day.  With that my mood improved greatly and I did see a way to continue the hike.  On the third day I bought mole skin, tape, and a multi-tool with scissors in town for the remainder of the hike.  But to get there I had to resort back to using duck-tape, whose edge this time rubbed another wound into each heel.

None the less, with proper taping of the heels I was able to continue hiking, after working through the initial pain every morning and after most stops. 

So the blisters caused you to stop early?

Kind of but not really.  My car was parked by the trailhead north of Two Harbors (Lake Co. Rd. 101) because I didn't know how to resupply without going into town.  So I was pondering how I would continue my hike after I reached the car.  I had several options but finally settled to asking the Betty's Pies if I could drop my backpack there in the morning while I'd drive my car to the north Duluth trailhead (Martin Road) and bicycle 4 hours back to Betty's to pickup the backpack, stash the bike at the trailhead and start hiking back to the car.

Some other things I noticed are that I'd skip most vistas and water fall views that the trail doesn't directly cross.  Not just because they'd add miles and would get me out of the rhythm of moving but because I'd already seen it.  The vistas are either of green  tree covered hills or, more rarely, the big ocean.  I've just gotten an overdose of these things and there wasn't anything new and different to the sights.

I started not seeing a value to continue after reaching my car.  It would be the same thing just adding more miles.  I also missed my family, shower and bed.  The latter two could probably have been meet with a zero day and a bunch of $$$ (it's not a cheap area).

By the seventh day of hiking I made up my mind that I'd most likely call quits at Two Harbors and call it my through hike.  The Superior Hiking Trail has a thru-hike identity anyway, where the southern terminus could be the Wisconsin border, Jay Cooke State Park, or Martin Rd. So why not Two Harbors?

Yes, yes, yes but you never hiked to Two Harbors!

That's right.  The morning of the eights day I noticed a tragedy, I couldn't find the baggie with my batteries, finger nail clippers, pocket knife, and multi-tool with scissors.  Everything that I could use to cut the moleskin properly was gone.  That zip-lock bag probably was left at one of the two stops of the day before.  Either when I dried out everything or when I filtered water.  I suspect the latter stop.

Without the ability to properly tape my heels and being more than a day worth of hiking from any store I needed hitch a ride back to civilization. The most reasonable place was my car but that removed the remaining goal/need to hike back to the car.

So why figure out the logistics (aka pay for the shuttle back to the Sugarloaf Road trailhead) just to hike 5 days though the same trees.  I just couldn't find a reason to encourage me besides being able to brag that I walked more miles.

So did you enjoy the hike at all?

Yes, of course I did.  I think I've hiked the best parts of the trail.  I've seen several awesome river gorges with rapids and water falls, awesome views of several lookouts, huge beaver dams, all kinds of trail conditions, meet interesting fellow hikers, encountered six North Western College camper groups, and seen the spectacle of the SHT race.  Best of all I swam in Lake Superior.

I've also shown myself that I can hike long days even with blisters and wet feet.  And rain doesn't have to cause misery.

Will you try to thru-hike the SHT again?

Probably not.  I also don't see the thrill of through hiking the AT anymore.  Maybe the reason is that even as a kid I really only wanted to hike above the tree line in the Alps.  There is just not much variety walking in the trees and so on a long haul it gets easily boring.

The SHT does offer some nice sights and I could see myself visiting the area again for day hikes or an overnight hike.  Something where you can enjoy that waterfall or view and also see the end of it.

As for any other thru-hike, I dunno.  Does the Colorado Trail go mainly over mountains?  Maybe that one is more interesting over a longer distance.  And maybe my family could go along.  Who knows.  Never say never.


Any regrets now that you found the baggy with the scissors in your pack?

No, not at all.  I'm quite happy of how much I achieved and that I'm back with my family.  It's kind of crazy that the bag was at the bottom of the water bladder pocket in the backpack afterall.  With the bladder being filled fully I didn't noticed that at all at the campsite.

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