Last night’s sleep before heading to Strup Lake today was great!
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I used a combination of my sleeping quilt with a sleeping bag liner, and that was perfect for the low temps. I heard almost no noises during the night, save for two airplanes – so odd out here in the remote Boundary Waters! I was hoping to hear some coyotes; I always love hearing those at night.
Anyway, I slept in until shortly after 7 a.m., when the sun rose. I only had 12.5 miles (20.1 km) to hike, so I took my time. That’s a rarity, as I’m usually trying to pound out 18-25 miles (29-40 km) per day, and thus waking up early. I hit the trail around 9 a.m. and immediately went the wrong way – up a steep hill to the latrine. Ha! I didn’t even realize the campsite had one.
Picking My Way Toward Strup Lake
I knew from research that this next stretch of trail featured a lot of rocks, plus constant uphills and downhills. I didn’t know exactly how long it would last, though – today and part of tomorrow? – as the online chatter just generically mentions the eastern side versus the western side. There was only one way to find out!
The hills came on immediately, and initially weren’t too bad. That is, they weren’t that long nor that steep. That quickly changed. Soon they were long and steep, plus filled with rocks. My pace became glacial.
Now and again there were flatter sections that wound through swampy areas, although some of those were challenging, too, with overgrown vegetation. I managed to keep my feet dry. At one point, the trail followed a long beaver dam. It was pretty easy to navigate.
I’m really lucking out on the weather. While it’s cloudy again today, I really can’t complain. The temperatures are somewhere around 48 F (8.9 C), which is perfect for hiking. There’s been no wind, no bugs, no spider webs winding across your face. This trail is so challenging, I’d hate to do it when it was hot, humid and buggy out.
I had cell service a few times when I climbed some steep hills. I looked at the weather and see the next two days call for highs around 52 F (11.1 C), but the day after I finish the high is only forecast for 36 F (2.2 C). Wow, I just beat the cold!
Interestingly, snow is also forecast next week. Kurt pointed out some snow buntings that kept flying around our car yesterday. He said they’re from Canada, and the snow there pushes them here. But once they appear here, it means there will be snow within two weeks.
Day Is Done
My itinerary called for me to end at Strup Lake today, then hike roughly 18 miles (29 km) tomorrow to a spot just shy of the western trailhead and the finish. They say the western end is easy, so I’m hoping I can pick up the pace. Actually, I was hoping it would get easier today, so that I could make it to the next campsite just to hedge my bets for tomorrow. Unfortunately, the next one is 5 miles (8 km) away. And at the pace I’ve been hiking, I would have arrived after nightfall. No way, not on this terrain.
Oh – one more observation. I’ve seen moose poop once and a handful of grouse. I’ve heard a few squirrels/chipmunks, but that’s been it for wildlife. It’s just so quiet out here. I’m sure I’m the only one on the trail. That’s exciting, but just … odd. I can’t describe the feeling.
Wonder what tomorrow will bring?!
Kekekabic/MN NCT miles today: 12.5 (20.1 km)
Total Kek miles to date: 21 (33.8 km)
Total Kek miles to go: 18.5 (29.8 km)
MN NCT miles to date: 410.4 (660.5 km)
Total NCT miles to date: 1,767.9 (2,845.2 km)
Total NCT miles to go: 2,832.1 (4,557.8 km)
This is the Sea-to-Summit sleeping bag liner I love. It’s great for either warm nights when your quilt/bag is too warm, or cold nights when you need some extra warmth. I’m also using this Garmin inReach Mini to keep in touch with my hubby, since cell service is almost nonexistent.