The UP has been good to me so far. It is very peaceful here. Not a whole different world like I might’ve expected. It is all familiarly natural, just maybe turned up a notch; slightly wilder, slightly hillier, and a little–over-slightly more solitary. I have not seen any people today, no wildlife either, really. I passed a beaver dam that could have been promising but there was no activity, chances are the little beavers were resting in the heat of the day. I moved on.
I filled up my canteen in a river today and the water was reddish yellow. It looked like I had already dumped a bunch of iodine in it, or, more unsettlingly, like a bottle full of pee. I am grateful for a recent conversation about Tahquamenon Falls, where I was reminded of the tannins that die the water a rusty color. If it hadn’t been for that, I would find it almost impossible to drink this water, and it’s all I’ve got!
The water actually tastes pretty good, it is slightly sweet, like a mild tea. My water usually tastes just fine when I drink it but there is a definite metallic aftertaste that is really unpleasant. I notice it especially when I haven’t drank in awhile and when I wake up. Something tells me that the taste of iodine will always remind me of this trip.
My water system is pretty simple: I have two containers, a camelback and something that’s basically a large Capri Sun pouch. First I combine the liquid iodine and “taste neutralizer” in the cap of one of the water bottles to let them react. Then I fill the pouch in the river or wherever else I get my water from, and add the iodine mixture after a few minutes. It’s easier to use the pouch than the camelback because it stands up on its own and doesn’t spill everywhere when I set it down without a top. After I combine the water and iodine, I pour everything into the camelback. It’s rare that I fill both containers except for if I know I will be without water for awhile or if I have a chance to get filtered water. I should probably be filling both of them up regularly since I’ve run out of water so often but it’s hard to willingly take on that extra weight and water sources really are quite frequent. The problem is that they are frequent until they’re not and it’s not easy to know when I am at the last of the water sources for awhile.
As with many things that interrupt my hiking, I tend to begrudge the chore of gathering water. It might seem like I would appreciate the chance to take a break, but I always feel like I am falling behind when I stop, it breaks my momentum and adds weight. Often I pass a water source by without filling up, just hoping that there will be another one soon. Rarely do my maps tell me when I have water coming so this is a risky approach, but I am lazy, overconfident and driven all at once so that’s what I do.
I also tend to be fairly lax about how much iodine I use and I also wonder if its all getting into the water itself, since there isn’t that much of it and it tends to stick to the top of the cap when I try to pour it out. I have plenty of iodine so there’s no real reason to conserve it other than that it tastes bad and I think it gives me runny poop- something I don’t relish in the woods.
I want to talk about Lenny for a minute. Lenny is my stuffed white cat that sits in the side pocket of my pack every day and all day. He serves no utilitarian purpose but is absolutely indispensable. I sleep with him every night and he is a comforting presence on the lonely days. I originally bought Lenny as a gift for my pregnant friend Christine’s baby shower. I didn’t attend the shower though and, in waiting for the right moment to give the gift, the cat made his way into my bed. Over time it became clear to me that I needed him and that’s how he became mine. In other words, I stole him from an unborn child. All I can say in my defense is I needed him and he was there! Just 2 days before I moved from New York, Christina had her baby, Lennard. I visited them in the hospital, sheepishly gave the baby his “alternate” gift, and honored little Lenny by naming my cat after its original intended owner.
As the once-pristine Lenny gets dirtier and more matted, Iam reminded of how much we both have been through. Through the mud and the miles and the bugs and the blunders, we are shedding our old lives and becoming our true selves. We are going feral.
Continue to the next entry in the series here: Day 17: Gamble to Pine
Go back to the last entry in the series here: Day 15: Staits State Park to Brevoort Lake