Today’s itinerary called for hiking from Craig Lake to the McCormick Wilderness’ western edge, where we’d camp for the night. But oh, the day went so tragically wrong!
The bad vibe started with last night’s late entry into camp, which was disheartening, to say the least. Then, as we got up early this morning, it began to thunder and lightning. We broke camp just as it started to rain. Then pour. Since we knew we had 20-30 minutes of driving on bad gravel roads to get out of Silver Lake Basin, we decided to head out ASAP so the rain didn’t make the roads impassible.
Rethinking Our Craig Lake Plans in Ishpeming
We made it to Ishpeming and stopped at McDonald’s to grab coffee and regroup. The forecast was for the rain to stop for a few hours, then begin again in mid-afternoon and continue all night. We didn’t want to hike and camp in that. And we were very leery of how rough the trail would be, especially as we neared the McCormick Wilderness.
The Eckerts decided to scrap the day’s hike and wander around Craig Lake State Park while it was dry. I decided to check off a bunch of road miles that were on today’s and tomorrow’s itineraries. If you have to hike in the rain, do it on connecting road routes!
Ed said he’d go with the Eckerts to pick up our dropped car at the western edge the McCormick Wilderness. I’d drive my car to the Canyon Falls trailhead and begin hiking the roads back, where Ed would eventually meet me. It seemed like everything would work out fine.
And Then, Disaster
The maps showed that I could drive on the roads I’d be hiking on, including one called Old Hwy. 41. I assumed this would be a paved road. When I turned onto it, it was a one-lane gravel road with a stop sign. Not what I thought, but nothing too different than what we’d experienced so far.
To make a long story short, the road featured potholes and rocks, then some puddles. Again, most of this was similar to what we’d been experiencing all week. I did bottom out twice, which was unnerving. But then, about a mile from the trailhead, the road got worse. But there was no place or space to turn around. I certainly couldn’t back up on this road for five miles (8 km). So it seemed wisest to keep moving forward..
Then, I saw a big puddle. I wasn’t sure if I should drive through it. I thought about leaving the car in the middle of the road and hiking out, or measuring the water depth with my trekking pole. But all of the water on this road had been shallow, so I decided this probably wasn’t any different. And so I went for it.
Bad move. It was deeper than I thought, and my car got stuck. Again, to make a long story short, I got out of the car and some water got in, which freaked me out. I grabbed my backpack and keys and phone and tried calling Ed and the Eckerts for help. I also tried calling the couple who owned the Three Lakes Motel, where we were staying. But I had no reliable cell service, so for the first time in my life, I called 911.
Buck the Tow Man
The 911 operator hooked me up with Buck, a wonderful younger man from nearby L’Anse who came out to rescue me. But after driving out to where my car was stuck, he realized his truck wasn’t adequate; he needed his flatbed. So he dropped me off at the Canyon Lake trailhead where I’d intended to go, and said he’d get back to me once he got my car to his shop. He was very positive that it would be fine, as it wasn’t too submerged in the water.
I’m skipping details, but Ed eventually picked me up and drove me to the other end of Old Hwy. 41 to do some road walking. The day turned out sunny and warm – no more rain – and I knocked off about 17 miles (27.4 km). Most of the roads were gravel and in decent shape, but I did get my feet/legs submerged where some beaver dams flooded the roads.
Avenza Map Wrong
Near the end of my day, I was trying to hike to the western gate of Craig Lake State Park. I was following the Avenza maps, which told me to hike on this section marked private property. As I headed in, a man was driving some kind of bulldozer out. He said yes, this was private property, and no, it wasn’t part of the NCT. Later tonight, Bruce said he got some notice about all of the MIchigan NCT Avenza maps being recalled, due to errors.
MI NCT miles today: 17.1 (27.5 km)
MI NCT miles to date: 319 (513.4 km)
Total NCT miles to date: 1,082.2 (1,741.6 km)
Total NCT miles to go: 3,517.8 (5,661.4 km)
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