Partyin' in the Porkies: Part I

A key part of my Czech existence are hikes in the nearby mountain ranges.  In fact, most of the country's border is made up of mountain ranges.  To the southeast of Ostrava are the Beskydy, the Moravian-Silesian Beskids, and to the northeast are the Jeseniky, the High Ash Mountains.  In fact, the first mountains I ever saw were the Krkonoše, the Giant Mountains in northern Bohemia, when I was 16.  It's hard to voice what the mountains mean to me.

When I came back to the States last year, my legs missed the walking.  This summer, I had a partner in crime to keep me from this concern, a dear friend named Heather.  She and I met while camp counsellors at Trout Lake Camps in 2007. It was a summer full of accents, costumes, sunshine, and absurdity.  Since that time, we have had our fair share of adventures together.  Before I'd even returned to the States, she requested vacation time and I planned to join her for some hiking and/or camping.  After speaking of various camping and hiking possibilities, we reserved a spot at Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan.  She was the experienced camper and I the experienced hiker.  A good chunk of Monday (15.7) was committed to preparation: shopping, food preparation, packing, and planning (just a little bit).

Tuesday, coffee in hand and the rest of the car heavy-laden with our tent, coolers, charcoal, bug spray, dishes, bedding, and other miscellany, we set off for our 5-hour journey.   The trip was filled with beauty-appreciating silences, speaking in (horrible) French accents, craning our heads at historical markers, and making impulsive stops at overlooks--some of which didn't really overlook anything.

Too eager to start our adventures, the stops were minimal, and we crossed the 5-hour drive mark merely by entering the Eastern Time Zone.  Once camp was set up, we had a protein-filled linner (lunch+dinner) before heading out for Hike 1.
Trails of Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park.
Image from the state park website

Hike 1: Tuesday night (3-4 miles/5-7 km)
Photo by my hiking companion Heather
We set off on our hike after 6 pm.  The heat of the day was beginning to think of easing up its grip, and thus the mosquitos and biting flies decided it was a comfortable time to make their entrance.  We began our hike on the South Mirror Lake trail, and after a day spent sedentary, we both inwardly questioned whether we'd be up for our ambitious hiking hopes.  Soon, our energy kicked in and we enjoyed views over the "mountains," lush with linden, maple, oak, birch, pine, and other northern trees.  As our elevation decreased, we came across traile laden with mud and puddles.  Sometimes boards were placed to assist in the walking, and at other times we took turns in who would lead the way through/around the muck.  This was a challenge our hiking shoes were prepared for.

 Conversely, our bug spray didn't seem quite adequate in the swarms of flies and mosquitos in our midst.  Seeing a family with head nets, we knew one piece of gear we'd forgotten. The bugs took too much advantage of our pauses for pictures--limiting the number I took, but walking seemed to keep them off my legs at least, and talks of our hopes to see black bears kept our minds occupied as we continued onto the River Trail and then the Beaver Creek Trail.

Back at the camp site, we followed the shore of Lake Superior towards a better view of the sunset.  Then we planned our hiking for day 2.

Hike 2: Wednesday (14.5 miles/23 km)
Sunrise Wednesday
Our plan for Wednesday was to hike about 12 miles.  The plan was to go along the Escarpment Trail, which boasted views of Lake of the Clouds--one of the most notable features of the park.  There not being the best loop, we figured we'd take the same trail upon return and then do a loop on the Overlook Trail.  Conveniently, there was a parking place near both these trailheads, which would allow us to restock our water.

Before we set off for this grand hike, we stopped at the campground store and bought . . . head nets!  This would prove integral to the day's success.  With temperatures in the 80s (between 26-30+ Celcius), lunches, and about 50 ounces (1.5 liters) each, we set off.  The terrain was rougher, but the shelter of our nets set us at ease and made for cheerful hiking.  Soon we began to see quite a few berry bushes.  I finally tried one of the blueberries.  Soon Heather joined in the feasting, and spirits were high as we turned our fingers purple and hoped that we'd manage to see some black bears (there are an estimated 16,150 in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Having seen a bear scratch and a paw print on Tuesday's hike, we knew they couldn't be too far off.

The Escarpment trail lived up to its reputation, and we enjoyed our lunch sitting on a rock at an overlook.  We continued all the way to the places were guardrails and a boardwalk had been set up for viewers who wanted to park and take the less-than-one-mile (probably about a km) walk from the parking lot.

At this point, we were reconsidering taking the same trail back, wanting a change of scenery.  I had consumed about 40% of my water, and Heather had consumed about 75% of hers.  Unfortunately, there was no water source near the parking lot or the popular viewing point.  So, with about 36 ounces (1 liter) of water between us, we considered going an additional 10 miles, rather than 4.7 miles back to our car.

One sight on our return trip.
With temperatures likely over 90 (32+ Celcius) by this point, and us just entering the heat of the day (about 12:30 PM), I think we both harbored some inhibitions about this plan, but we both desired to take a different trail.  Yet, turning onto North Mirror Lake Trail, we agreed to go 10 miles (16 km) more.  Tired from the heat, we walked the first 3 miles (5 km) or so in relative silence.  Though we were walking Government Peak Trail,  I was surprised when we came to Government Peak, mostly because at an elevation of 1850 feet (563 m), it wasn't much of a peak.  We continued to be entertained by the taks of avoiding mud ponds that dominated the trails, and finally our energy was renewed when we found a fresh water source.  With a second wind, we continued onward, excited to be on the last leg of our trip as we reached the Lost Lake Trail, which lent some nice views of Trap Falls.

Back at camp, we weren't about to wait for sunset before starting a fire.  We refreshed ourselves with some bratwurst over the fire and some vegetables, followed by some classic American *s'mores.  As we relaxed by the fire, rain drops began the process of putting out our fire, which we quickly doused before running for cover in our tent.  Though our weariness brought sleep, the clouds brought rain, and as the night wore on, rain decided it wanted to take cover in our tent, leading to my having cold feet, and Heather taking refuge in the car.

The morning bode further averse weather, as indicated by a weather report we wouldn't read till evening, which read:

Severe Weather!

A very warm and humid airmass over upper Michigan along with a warm front will focus thunderstorms as the afternoon continues.  THere is an increasing chance that some of these storms amy turn severe.  The primary hazards will be damaging wind gusts and hail up to the size of golf balls.  There is a small chance that a tornado may occur . . . especially over western Upper Michigan from mid afternoon through early this evening.

Another round of strong to severe storms is possible late this evening and overnight tonight.  The primary hazard from those storms will be damaging wind gusts and heavy downpours.

to be continued . . . 


What is a s'more?  A marshmallow is toasted over the fire till the desired crispiness.  (I like it to be perfectly golden.)  Then, one (or in Heather's case in the photo, two) marshmallow is sandwiched between two graham crackers (a cracker with slight sweetness) and as much Hershey's chocolate as one desires--should that amount be available.
How does it taste?  A beautiful combination of crispy and smooth, the crunch of the cracker is delightfully combined with the flaky crisp of the toasted marshmallow and the creamy cool chocolate melting under the sweet warm marshmallow centre.
What does its name mean?  Full of processed sugar, it's naturally addictive, making you want some more, leading to the question, "Can I have s'more?"


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