Day 34: Red Road to McCormick Wilderness

500 milesLast night I slept 12 hours. I was cold. I should’ve put the rain fly on but when I opened my eyes to get up, I immediately saw a shooting star. I didn’t want to cut myself off from the sky so I closed my eyes with a smile and snuggled in.

My light is dead so I am writing blind. I hope I can read this later. I made it to 500 motherfucking miles today. It feels really good. I say “…and I would walk 500 miles…” but it was rainy and hard going so I wasn’t exactly happy in the traditional sense.

I am technically back on the trail but there are no blazes here so it’s not terribly reassuring. I got lost more today after a promising start. As before, the roads just wind and meander, making it impossible to follow cardinal directions. They are unlabeled, they don’t appear on GPS and the blazes are supremely unreliable. After finally admitting to myself that I was lost and getting loster, I got a ride back to the trail from a passing car.

There was an old man in the driver’s seat, maybe 70, and a young beautiful Hispanic woman in the passenger seat who spoke broken English. I asked them for directions but he offered a ride since he knew where the trail crossed the road. It took me awhile to realized that these two were married. He called her “honey” and she called him “baby” (maybe he should’ve called her that?) but they actually seemed kinda happy together. He owns a bunch of land and probably offered her a security that she didn’t know in the Dominican Republic. It gave me a more forgiving impression of a situation that I would have otherwise been very judgmental about. It was so good to be back on the damn trail. Moral: It’s better to have no map than no trail!

I followed a clearly marked part of the trail toward a sign that said “McCormick Wilderness.” There was no mistaking that I was in the right place but the blazes just stopped. After racking my brain awhile I made myself a dinner of ramen noodles and mushrooms I had picked while I walked, (trying to remember the lessons from yesterday). It was a fantastic meal. The thing that would’ve made it better is if I knew where the hell I was supposed to go. The thing that will make it worse is if they weren’t actually the right kind of mushrooms and I die in my sleep.

I saw some fuzzy blue blazes off of the part that seemed to be the trail and I followed those awhile. They led me in a squiggle to nowhere. Then there were some equally fuzzy red blazes. I realized shit, these are not blazes at all. They are just markings for some other purpose. Maybe evil Yoopers put them there to mess with me, or, more likely, maybe they indicated trees that were due to be chopped down.

With the last 3% of precious battery life and a miraculous internet connection on my phone, I found a website that mentioned the McCormick Wilderness. My phone died before I could read much but I did manage to learn that this is an “unmarked section of the trail.” It’s rough but at least I know what I’m dealing with.

As I walked, the trail was often really hard to see. I was hoping to make it through the entire “wilderness” tonight but I finally had to set up my tent in the fading light for fear I’d lose the “trail.” I’m so glad I did since my headlamp batteries are dead.

moosetracksI want to see a moose. I have seen their footprints everywhere, I can hear them from my tent right now, snorting and stamping and rooting around. They sound like congested elephants. Whereas I’d love to see them during the day, their proximity right now really scares me. My tent is all of 18 inches off the ground, a moose wouldn’t even trip walking over me. I can imagine them trampling me in my sleep (if the mushrooms don’t get me first!).

I want to feel less tired during the day.

I want to stop getting lost. Backtracking is so horrible for my morale, so is being lost. This day passed as slowly as any on the trail. Its hard enough to hike all day without being lost and doubting every turn, but having to navigate so tediously makes the time draaaaag. I look at my watch expecting another hour to have passed, only to see it’s been 15 minutes. I hate my watch.

dam2I passed through an area called Silver Lake Dam today. I had heard that there was no trail in this section and it was as bewildering as promised. I crossed a river and had to cross back over it when it bent back over on itself almost immediately after. I got a leach on my foot- the first one I’ve ever had in my life. I thought it was just a mud spot but it didn’t go away in the water so I freaked out for a second. I got my nerves up and plucked it off, not so horribly bad.

I saw a pickup truck and there was a man on his lunch break picking blueberries. It was so cute, he had a little pile of them on his clipboard. He told me that a few months ago he had seen a backpacker sitting on a rock in this same area. The person was completely lost and just sat down in frustration because he didn’t know what else to do. Hearing that little story made me feel 1000 times better. I was redeemed- it’s not just me!


I tend to write about the unique events of the day but I want to also remember the trivial every day stuff. Here’s some of it:

  • Bugs (mosquitos, flies)
  • Tiny frogs sunbathing on the trail
  • Orangey-yellow snails on my tent/tarp/pack in the morning
  • Loud awkward-sounding pheasant-type birds
  • Beautiful birds of pery
  • Ferns everywhere. Overgrown and annoying when wet.
  • Berries
  • Alternating the location of my GPS, phone, camera and pepper spray depending on what I want to prioritize easy access to
  • Wet feet
  • Poles, often dangling by my side when I need to use my hands. When I backtrack, I often see two lines etched out in the dirt from when I had walked that same place before, my hands busy looking at my map or compass or GPS
  • Clothes hanging off my pack to dry
  • Slightly bad taste in my mouth from iodine or not brushing
  • Trying not to check time too much. Often starting/stopping the stopwatch without looking down because I don’t want to know. This also means I sometimes completely mess up my time tracking, which is probably for the best.
  • Adjusting my straps
  • Fishing stuff out from the overhead pocket in my pack, which can be maddening. If one thing falls out, I bend over to pick it up, and more things come tumbling out after.
  • Singing
  • Silence
  • Trying to remember “to do” items: things I want to write about, things I want to do and my next destination, things I want to say to people, things I need to do when I next have a computer, etc.
  • Trying to distinguish if a noise is from nearby cars, wind in the trees or rain coduskming/falling.
  • Waiting until the point of extreme urgency before I pee. I keep my pack on and just squat but usually by the time I’m unbuckling my waist belt I legitimately fear that I will pee all over myself. Maybe I’m trying to add excitement to an otherwise uneventful day? Maybe I just really hate stopping for any reason. So far I haven’t wet myself but it’s not a brilliant risk when I have so few spare clothes.
  • Feeling legitimately pleased when I produce an actual booger and need to pick my nose. God, that’s so weird.


Continue to the next entry in the series here: Day 35: McCormick Wilderness to Herman Road

Go back to the previous entry in the series here: Day 33: Lost to Red Road

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