Day 33: Lost to Red Road


Just breaking camp, I’ve decided not to backtrack. There is a portion of the trail that is unmarked and I’m fairly certain I’m on it.

Its funny that, after being lost and getting rained on and bushwacking, I was SO excited to find not just a path but a blue blaze- I was on the trail! I took a picture of the blaze out of sheer appreciation. Then, almost immediately after regaining my way, I have to abandon them again. I’m still so glad I saw what I saw because it implies that I am on “the part of the trail that has no blazes” versus “the part of the world that has no blazes.” It’s a meaningful difference!


What a fantastically shitty day so far, and it’s only 2:00. A day of walking blindly, turning around, finding my route, and losing it again. My “trail” this morning was actually someone’s 2-mile long driveway. So I backtracked to where I was last night, found the trail, found that I was on the part of the trail I was supposed to have been on yesterday and therefore heading the wrong direction, turned around knowing I was on the trail but lost the blazes before long.

bogI remember hearing that a blind person could make it through a maze if they just keep on hand on the wall and follow that wall forever. I am that blind person. It is a maddening process of trial and error. My “vision” may actually be hindering me because I expect it to work and am reluctant to accept when the trail just isn’t marked, or when the right way heads in the complete wrong direction. I re-encountered that same blue blaze that I was so overjoyed to  see yesterday that I took a picture of it. I just had to shake my head. Fuck. A warm lunch and then I’ll try my luck again.

I’m entertaining thoughts of short-cuts and hitch-hikes but I am very alone out here. The sound of a river sometimes tricks me into thinking I’m near a major road even though I know I’m not. Apparently the lump of land west of Marquette is historically owned by auto magnates like Henry Ford. The untamed private property is massive back-to-back parcels leaves little room for such trivialities as roads (a little ironic for the founder of the modern automobile).

I tired today and my mood matches the weather. Time to hit the non trail. 800th time’s a charm!

I found the trail again right after writing, yay! The blue blazes were actually blackened out by unfriendly locals and were all but impossible to see. There is no way I could’ve seen them in the rain and low light of last night. What is the point of obscuring trail markers? If you really don’t want people on your property, don’t force them to get lost and spend the whole day! I could’ve been in and out of here long ago! It’s hard enough as it is to stay on the untravelled sporadically groomed trail without intentional sabotage. I was livid when I saw that. There is a strong libertarian fuck-the-man shotgun-on-the-porch mentality in the Upper Peninsula. I understand why because this place has been all but forgotten by mainstream society. The winters are hard and the only time people pay attention to the UP is when they want to mine it. The attitude is a mixture of sour grapes- “I didn’t want you anyway” and fierce pride “you don’t know what you’re missing.” Honestly I understand it, they have something special here. Then again, I’d like to spit on whoever blackened out those blazes.

Being back on a marked portion of the trail this afternoon was cold comfort. The trail was utterly ungroomed and even when it stopped raining, the wild overgrowth smacked my legs constantly and made me soaking wet. It was extremely frustrating. The long wet grasses were like a thicket of sticky velcro and they near-tripped me at every step. It reminded me of being in Ursula’s garden of Unfortunate Souls where the creepy little green things try to hold Ariel back. Finally I did trip. As I flew through the air I made a pitiful groaning sound that seemed to echo in the air forever. I was so demoralized, so exhausted, so down, I knew that I was finally going to have my “big cry.” I half-kneeled on my hands and knees for a few moments, waiting for the tears to come but they didn’t. So, I got up. What else could I do? Just keep walking.

red roadThe weather turned, I found my road and ONE blessed blue blaze. I was happy. I walked awhile on the only “marked” road I’ve seen in awhile called “Red Road” which is a dusty red clay. After a few miles I ran out of map (one of the printed segments from the library) so I was happy to see a car passing that I could stop for advice. The driver didn’t have a map on him but pointed my down the road to his house where he promised to help me plan my route. One hour later I was in the kitchen of his beautiful house, eating banana bread with melted butter, pouring over the holy grail of map resources, and learning about chanterelle mushrooms from his wife. I thought it was funny that she wouldn’t tell me where they harvested the mushrooms, as though I would poach from it. Such things are carefully guarded secrets up here, I have to respect it. I left their house without my walking sticks. I had already turned around to get them when I saw the man driving up in his car with them. When he left me I felt like a child: not only lost on a poorly planned venture but incapable of keeping track of my precious few belongings. Sorry dad.

I’m off the trail for the time being. I wonder when and where my last blue blaze will be?

As I lay here in bed, I hear the sound of wolves howling in such a way that makes me wonder if I’ve ever heard wolves before. Actually they are probably coyotes. They seem close by and very wild. It is incredible and eerie.

Continue on to the next entry in the series: Day 34: Red Road to McCormick Wilderness

Go back to the last entry in the series: Day 32: Marquette to Lost

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