Two days from the end. The plan today was for Harriet to lead me to the Otter Lake trailhead — I knew I could find it myself, but she insisted on meeting me and leading me there — to drop my car. This is the trailhead where you can take the spur trail to the terminus at the 270 Degree Overlook. After dropping my car, she was going to take me to Camp 20 Road and drop me off for my last two days, which would involve a final night camping.
Well, on the drive there I suddenly started getting really emotional and started to cry a little. It was weird, because I’m ready to stop hiking. The trail has been wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also been hard. And sometimes you’re just ready to stop. But as always, long-distance hiking is very therapeutic for me, so it’s always sad to end. I guess that’s what was happening.
Harriet brought me almost to the Camp 20 trailhead. She had told me the previous day that the road there was terrible, and she wasn’t kidding. It’s only the final 1/4-mile that’s bad, but when I dropped my car there yesterday I was afraid I’d pop all of my tires — the road is filled with enormous potholes. So I had her drop me off before that last stretch. We parted ways and off I went.
As soon as I hit the trailhead/parking area, I knew what I was in for from last night: MOSQUITOES! They were all over the parking area, and worse when I stepped onto the trail. I wasn’t hiking long before a met a young man coming the other way. He also had a big bug jacket on like me, and barely stopped to talk because of the mosquitoes.
There were some scenic spots today, namely the Hellacious Overlook. But a couple of nasty areas, too. At one point, after making it through scruffy vegetation and onto a logging road, I knew I had about a mile to hike before heading back into the woods. Nice, because fewer mosquitoes. After hiking not quite a mile, I suddenly saw a blaze to my left. The trail!
I followed it in but the trail seemed to end almost right away, so I went back out. Maybe it was the old path and they never painted over those initial blazes. But moving forward, I saw a lot of water in the logging road ahead and no blazes. Back into the woods I went.
I tried hiking farther, and found another blaze or two, but the trail was really overgrown and at one point there really was nowhere to go. Back out onto the logging road again. I finally looked at my guidebook and it said that if the road was flooded, you could take a side trail around the flooded area. OK, so that route to my left was the detour for the flooded road — except it DIDN’T GO ANYWHERE! I’m guessing it hasn’t been maintained in quite a few years.
Luckily, as I prepared to splash through the flooded road, once I got up close you could just walk on the tall grass on the side and get around it just fine.
Later in the day, when I was closing in on my campsite, I hit a logging area. There was a blaze on a post right as you got out of the forest and onto the logging road, but it was tilted such that it looked like it was pointing you back into the forest, or possibly up the road. Neither option seemed right, but I walked up and down the logging road and then tried some bushwhacking. Nothing. Finally I spied the path — it just crossed the logging road and continued on. Sheesh! People need to take more care setting those posts.
When I got to Jackson Creek I was excited to set up my tent. Oops! As I was shaking it out of the bag I realized I’d never dried it out after the last time we used it, which was back in Gooseberry Falls and in the rain. The tent dumped out with a great splash of water.
I wiped most of the tent up with my towel and then spread the rain tarp out over a small tree, and everything dried by bedtime. Yay!
Unfortunately, the mosquitoes made dinner and washing up in the creek unpleasant. So I hurried into my tent on the early side and got a good jump on writing one of my Star Tribune SHT pieces.
Oh — there are some really cool, huge, glacial erratics right outside my campsite.
MN NCT Miles to Date: 311.3
SHT Miles to Date: 311.3
Total NCT Miles to Date: 583