Last night is the most scared I have been in a long time. Here’s what happened:
It doesn’t happen very often that the weather, bugs, and geography align in such a way that I can sleep under the open sky. Last night looked like it might be that kind of night. I set out my sleeping bag on my tarp next to the fire and tried to sleep. There were no trees above to block the heat radiating out into the night sky, nothing to blunt the wind blowing in from Lake Superior and it got progressively colder.
I laid my sleeping bag on the tarp to sleep. It was too cold for that so I set up my tent. Still too cold so I added the rain fly. Then it actually started raining. It didn’t help that I didn’t have my long underwear. All night I was cold, half-awake half-asleep trying to push though it. I’m not sure when but at some point, I realized I was wet.
My trusty tiny tent usually does a great job of keeping my dry but I guess I didn’t do a good job securing the rain fly because I did it groggily in the middle of the night and wasn’t expecting it to rain anyway.
All morning I tried to ignore the cold and get some sleep. I huddled in the center of my tent, trying not to touch the sagging walls. I tried various ways of balancing on my sleeping pad to avoid the growing pools of water. It was only getting worse so by 5:30am I knew I had to do something.
I got up and packed my things in the rain. I was freezing cold. Everything was waterlogged and bulky. I had to stuff my sleeping bag in a garbage bag. The tarp was coated in heavy wet sand so I washed it in the lake. I went from being uncomfortably rain-temperature-cold to frighteningly Lake-Superior-temperature-cold. I started shaking immediately. I couldn’t even get my shoes on because they were sopping wet so I just walked in my flip-flops.
The shaking subsided after I had walked for a little while. By 7 I made it to a rustic campsite by the Two Hearted River. Just one site had campers stirring, so I walked directly up to them and asked for help. Actually I asked for tea or coffee, but they got the gist of my urgent state. First thing, they sat me down in their truck and blasted the heat on me. They gave me a towel to dry off with. I had myself together but the smell of laundry detergent on that towel set something off in me and I cried into that towel awhile. I had been very scared, now I was safe. Next, they gave me coffee, a breakfast (a veritable Egg McMuffin!), the weather report, and something completely unexpected- a trail name! I gave up on the idea that I’d ever get one because there are no other hikers out here to be named by! One woman said I was “bushytailed” and that I should be called Wolf Woman. I set off still coldish and dampish but 1000 times better off. My god the goodness of these people!
Their help got me through the next 13 or so miles until I reached the “town” of Deer Park where I took shelter in a general store/laundromat. I got a brand new garbage bag and dry clothes. Turns out the temperature was in the 40’s overnight (not accounting for wind and rain) and stayed in the 50’s all day.
They were practically expecting me here at the general store. Apparently an ATV driver saw me earlier and reported his concern for my wellbeing after he “lost my tracks.” I love that there are good people looking out for me when I don’t even ask, when I don’t even know it. It is positively heartwarming to have strangers rise up to help me.
Here is what I learned from last night.
- Temperature can endanger you faster than lack of food or water;
- Don’t wait for the weather to get worse- set the tent up properly at the first sign of rain!; and, above all
- When you’re in danger, small kindnessescan be incredible, enormous, WONDERFUL gifts
Continue to the next entry in the series here: Day 24: Muscullunge State Park to Grand Marais
Go back to the last entry in the series here: Day 22: Paradise to Lake Superior near Two Hearted River