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Springer Mountain Backpack, GA

On Tuesday morning, with Doug’s planning, we gathered our crew of nine together. Parking was an issue so we had pickups at Holiday Park, who graciously allowed us to park two cars there for the week, and stops at Greenwood and Columbus. Then we were ready to set out on our great adventure.

We drove all day, arriving in Blairsville, GA, 13 miles west of Blood Mountain Cabins. That was to be our final stop for the night. We were told by the locals that Mikes Seafood Restaurant was the place to eat, and that we did! After stuffing ourselves to the limit, we headed out to the cabins. The guys, Doug, Tim, Mike, and Terry, were to stay in the “Raccoon” cabin. The girls, Joni, Jane, Kandy, Donna, and Leslie, were given the “Beaver” cabin. We had all the luxuries of home, right down to the stuffed beaver and raccoons for décor.

We all got up early Wednesday and took what were to be our last showers for four days. Tom Bazemoore, who was to be our shuttle driver, arrived and, as we moved our van, we noticed the back tire was losing air fast! George told us to go on and he would see to it that it would be fixed when we got back. That’s what you call “Southern Hospitality!”

It took us almost an hour and a half to get to the parking lot at the start of the trail. During the drive, Tom pointed out where we would be crossing several roads on the AT and also highlights to look for.

Tom took our pictures before we started and we geared up for the mile hike to the top of Springer Mountain, the starting point. We had to backtrack down to the parking lot to follow the trail. The first day we hiked around 10 miles to the Hawk Mountain Shelter. We took a side trail to the Long Creek Falls which was well worth it. There weren’t a lot of people out on the trail, although we did share camp with an older couple that we nicknamed “The Snorers” and a young man with no real gear to his name, just a dream of doing the trail. After a dinner of burritos, we settled in for the night to the soothing sounds of “the Snorers.”

Day two we left camp for a strenuous eight mile day of uphill/downhill hiking. By the time we reached the Gooch Mountain Shelter we were all feeling the pain. We set up camp and fixed our dinner of chicken with stuffing and mixed vegetables. We were worn out but did manage to play a few games of “friendly” Euchre before dark.

Day three was to be our longest day of 12 miles, with a half mile hike to the Woods Hole Shelter. The water source was halfway between the shelter and the trail. We had a dinner of minestrone soup and garlic cheddar biscuits. Terry won the award of putting away the most food that night. Doug also told us that that was to be his last long distance hike. We will miss having him on the trail with us.

Day four was our final day and the toughest part to hike. We would only hike four miles, but it was up and over Blood Mountain, elevation 4,461 feet, the highest point on the AT in GA. At the top of the mountain was the Blood Mountain Shelter, built by the WPA in the 1940s. The views all around were breathtaking.

We arrived back to Neel’s Gap between noon and two. Our first priority was showers at George’s cabins, then we went back to explore the unique store at Neel’s Gap.

True to his word, George had our tire fixed on the van. We all chipped in to give him a tip for all of his help. We left the cabins and headed back to Blairsville. It was unanimous that we stop again at Mikes Seafood restaurant, but sad to see that it was closed till evening. We opted for the Armadillo Restaurant close by and had a great Mexican meal instead.

We headed out for the drive home, stopping close to Lexington for the night and a well deserved bed! Sunday Morning, after breakfast in the hotel, we headed for home, arriving back around noon with a lot of new friends and great memories.

Isle Royale National Park Backpack, MI

Isle Royale, as one of our guide books pointed out, is one of the least visited of all the National Parks but also one of the most revisited. Located in the middle of Lake Superior, Isle Royale is 45 miles long by 9 miles wide and is home to the longest running predation study in history, a study on the relationship between the island’s wolf and moose populations. After a wonderful week backpacking the island, I will not be surprised if I find myself among those who return time and time again. The scenery was beautiful, the hiking was challenging yet fun, and I loved spending the week in nature with my mom and making new friends through the club trip.

After a long day’s ride up to Copper Harbor in the CIWC van, we spent the night at the North Port Motel figuring out last minute packing details and resting up for our backpacking adventure. We left Sunday morning on the Isle Royale Queen IV for a 3½ hour ferry ride over to Rock Harbor. We were greeted by a very engaging ranger who reminded us about Leave No Trace ethics and then sent us on our way to Three Mile Campground where we spent the first night.

On Monday, we had a leisurely morning and then took off on the first of our long hiking days, heading 8 miles to Moskey Basin. We started out the hike along the coast of Lake Superior until the trail cut inland through some beautiful aspen groves and more inland scenery. Once we arrived and set up camp, we caught up with some of our new friends from the ferry, prepared dinner, and spent the evening talking about a big group of loons that kept paddling past us and watching dragonflies zooming by and as the sun set over the water.
Tuesday we headed out for a long hike to McCargoe Cove. When we arrived, a few of us went swimming off the end of the dock before enjoying a dinner of Sweet and Sour Pork with Rice and going for an evening venture up to Pine Mountain. From the top, we were all impressed watching the sunset over the island’s many lakes at the same time as the moon rose directly behind us.

Wednesday morning, Andrew and Barb saw a fox just before dawn. Then, after breakfast, we hiked up to Mt. Ojibway, the second highest peak on the Island. Throughout the hike, my mom and I were snacking on thimbleberries, native berries that look a lot like raspberries, that we found along the trail. We then hiked down to Daisy Farm just in time to hear a presentation about the moose and wolf populations by Sandy Peterson, who has lived and done research on the Island with her husband for 42 years! My take-home message from the presentation was her comment, describing a wolf crossing ice bridges to the island, that “There are explorers in all species.”

On our final major hiking day, we left from Daisy Farm and hiked to our final destination, Rock Harbor, where we set up camp for the night and celebrated our arrival with dinner at the Greenstone Grill. The next morning, we left our packs at the campsite and went on our lightest trek of the trip – a walk down to the tip of the peninsula with just our day packs. We caught the ferry back to the mainland, spent the night in Rhinelander, and made our way back home. With good company, comfortable campgrounds, perfect weather, and gorgeous coastlines, sunrises, and sunsets, I couldn’t have asked for more on my first backpacking trip.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Paddle, MN

Trip Participants: Bob Hart (co-leader), Bill Beville (co-leader), Drew Dickerson, John Carlson, Tim Calahan, Chris Jordan, Bill Farrar and Bill Armstrong.

Lakes – Kawishi, Square, Kawaschong, Townline, Polly, Koma, Malberg, Phoebe, Hazel, Knight, Phoebe, Grace, Beth, Alton and Sawbill

Our group met up in Indianapolis in the afternoon with the plan to drive straight through to the outfitter. At one point we stopped at a rest stop to sleep for a few hours. When we arrived at Sawbill Lake, we spent the first night camping on their camp grounds so we could have an early start the next day.

First day on the water: The morning looked like it was going to rain and it did. We entered at 37- Kawishiwi Lake. Our group was excited to start. Our route took us through the 2011 Pagami Creek fire area. New growth is back in the area but you can still tell there was a fire. On one of our longer portages of the day, we ran into a couple portage angels. Two young women traveling the opposite direction carried a couple of our packs back when they headed back to pick up their remaining gear. We didn’t learn their names, but I will think of them as a couple of angels.

It rained most of the day and, on some of the portages, the mosquitoes were so thick we either had to portage in our bug nets or end up with a mouth full of bugs. Our first day ended on Koma Lake. The camp site we picked was not big enough for our group. The eight of us used six tents and two hammocks. Half of our group picked another site on a small island.

The next morning the fishing crowd decided to check out Malberg Lake. Tim and I decided to get out of our campsite and explore north to Malberg Lake. We checked out a couple camp sites; one was taken by a couple that passed us the day before. The other was a beautiful spot, but would have been too small for our group. When we headed back to our campsite on Koma, the group decided to break camp and head to Polly Lake. There was a great view and enough room for all of us. The guys sleeping in hammocks found trees on the water on which to set up. They had a wonderful morning wake up view. The only negative on this site: as soon as it got dark the mosquitoes swarmed; it was like a cloud. We all headed in for the evening.

It rained during the night and everything was calm. The sky was clear and the morning water was like glass. The day’s plan was to paddle to Phoebe Lake. Most of the route was upstream. There was little current and the portages had some beautiful small waterfalls. The only incident was when one canoe in our group became hung up on some rocks at a put -in point and overturned. A small beaver dam and slippery rocks made for a tricky put- in location. There were a few bumps and bruises but everything dried out eventually that night. We reached Phoebe early enough to check out our campsite options. We settled on a small island that didn’t seem like it was used much. It was a great spot with few mosquitoes but large ant colonies on the island. As the sun began to set I watched a large bald eagle checking out a canoe from our group that was fishing. The group were catching very small fish and tossing them back. The eagle decided that was a waste of good fish and snagged a couple from the water when they were tossed back in. I wish we could have stayed at this campsite a couple days. The only complaint was that there were no good trees for hanging our bear bag. Instead, we went to plan B and found a spot in the woods, away from our campsite, to put the bags under a tree.

Day 5 on the water: We had heavy rains during the night. The morning discussion mostly focused on the portages we were facing that day – a 285 rod portage from Grace Lake to Beth Lake and another 140 rod portage from Beth Lake to Alton Lake. The plan was to find a campsite on Alton and have an easy last day. The 285 rod portage tested all of us. We planned to portage halfway, lay down our gear and go back for the second load. We stopped on Beth Lake for lunch and began the discussion. Should we go with the original plan and stop in Alton Lake or push on and camp at the outfitter and get an early start to get home? Even the suggestion came up to push to the end, take a shower and find a hotel somewhere near Duluth. Just as we were about to push off, it began to rain; it was one of the hardest storms I have ever been in. During the middle of the storm the decision was made to push to the end and find a hotel. We had about three inches of rain in our canoes after the 30 minute storm. Worrying about another storm rolling in, we pushed hard across Beth Lake to our last long portage, 140 rods. As we were pulling into the portage take-out, a family on a day trip was sitting there. Their canoes were on the Alton side of the portage. We must have looked like a group of drowned rats. The adults each grabbed a pack and carried them over to Alton. Of course, they didn’t take mine; it was the heaviest pack.

Alton was a large lake, with lots of camp sites but most were filled already. Just before we reached the last portage our canoe hit an underwater rock and we were stuck. Luckily, we freed ourselves before we went for a swim. The portage to Sawbill Lake was a short 25 rod trip. We were through the portage and at the take- out point in no time.

After hot showers we were on the road home. We stopped in a small town north of Duluth to eat. We checked our electronics and noticed we missed a massive storm that night in the BWCA. That was good news, then some bad news. All the hotels in the area were booked for a convention in Duluth. We eventually found a small motel in central Wisconsin around 1AM.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Participants: 5 including the trip leader

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, for those unfamiliar with the area, is a 42 mile section on the North Country Trail starting in Grand Maris, Michigan and ending in Munising, Michigan (Upper Peninsula). The trail follows the southern shore of Lake Superior and is governed by the National Parks Service.

This was the club’s second trip to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. What a difference a year (and change of seasons) makes. The 2011 version was in July and in the middle of a hot spell with fly/ mosquito season in full flourish. It was a great group who toughed out the conditions. This year’s timing was much better. Park Staff recommend the last week of August when it is still warm (by Upper Peninsula standards) and the summer crowds are dwindling. Great advice! Seventy degree days and mid-fifty nights, and we hit a clear dry few days that were perfect for the many magnificent vistas along the trail.

Munising is a ten hour drive from Indianapolis and we arrived at our motel about 6:00 PM Saturday evening. The Sunset Motel is a very nice mom and pop old style motel sitting right on South Bay and named the “Sunset” for a very good reason. Sunday morning we had breakfast at local restaurant, picked up our permits and caught our shuttle to the Grand Maris trailhead. The trail is generally divided in roughly three areas; the Grand Sable Banks and Dunes, Twelve Mile Beach and Pictured Rocks Cliffs. Our plan was three nights and four days to cover the trail.

Sunday was a short day, seven miles, skirting behind the dunes to an area referred to a Log Slide. This site was used during the logging days where logs were carted to the top of the dunes and then slid down to the lake side for transporting by boat to the mills. Looking back toward Grand Maris, the dunes stretched for about seven miles. From this point, the next twenty five miles were predominantly right on the cliffs or beach areas along Lake Superior. Our first campsite was about a half mile from the historic Grand Sable Light Station built in 1874. The station is well maintained but is approximately one and half miles from the nearest parking area. It gets few visitors relative to other Michigan lighthouses. Our next three days (thirty-five miles) were highlighted by magnificent sunny skies, a cool breeze off the lake and numerous vistas from cliffs and beach areas. High points included Twelve Mile Beach, Trappers Lake, Grand Portal Point, the confluence of the Mosquito River and Lake Superior, Miners Beach and Miners Castle Point and the Munising Falls. The trails were in excellent condition with relatively few elevation changes. We had a really good group with everyone contributing to make an enjoyable trip. John led the way most of the trip finding great resting spots while the rest of us caught up. Ken was our official fire man building great camp fires and tending them to the end. Wayne entertained us with his many stories of family adventures to remote parks and waters. Dave was always helpful as an experienced trip leader and advisor helping wherever necessary, especially at meal times and breaking camp “leaving no trace.”

At trails end we returned to the Sunset for showers and a few adult beverages, dinner at a very good Munising restaurant and a final return to the motel for sunset watching. There was much rehashing of the magnificent sites and variety of terrain that make up Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore.

Picture Rocks Group

Quetico: A Scouting Trip

Participants: 3

John and I had been talking about a return to Canada for some years. I had to cancel out on a 2006 club trip to the Missinaibi Headwaters due to an 11th hour back injury. But, after several successful Boundary Waters trips and some backpacking trips over the past 6 years, I was finally ready again to tackle some really wild and remote location. We did not want to make this a club trip, but foresaw the possibility that we could pick a route that might qualify for a club trip at a later date – thus the idea of a scouting trip.

After investigating several provincial parks, routes and outfitters, we settled on the Pines Loop in Quetico. This very large park is similar in size to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, but only receives one-tenth the annual visitors. Because of the proximity to Ely, MN we were able to rent from an American outfitter and started our journey at Moose Lake. After a 2 hour paddle and check-in at the border we were underway.

It did not take long for the reality of the remoteness to set in. Shortly after we left the border area we saw fewer and fewer canoes and were in the wilds of Canada. There was a little bit of rain off and on that day, but not enough to matter, at least not until evening when we were blessed with a double rainbow – full arches and soooooo awesome.

Each night we would have a fire; Ken assumed the role of getting that going. Dan was our water pumper, and John and I coordinated the cooking and kitchen duties. Because of the remoteness and the uncertainty of easily finding portages and campsites we were up early each morning. A quick breakfast of instant oatmeal and coffee and we were on our way. For the next three days we only saw one other occupied camp.

Our McKenzie maps were mostly accurate, but certainly not 100 percent. Some of the portages were easy to find and some were not. One took us over 90 minutes to locate because it was marked incorrectly on the map – just adding to the adventure. Once we got on the portage trail, well, that was another adventure. There were rocks, downed trees, swamps and, in some cases, the trails were hardly recognizable. You never knew what might be up ahead or how long it would take to finish a portage. Then, there was a portage trail that ended at a beaver dam. Since Kevin Callan had paddled, written and described the route four years earlier, beavers had come in and done their thing. The trail was gone, but in its place has a huge beaver pond that had been created by the likes of a dam we had never seen. So, up and over the dam we went and paddled for perhaps a half mile. Then, another dam for which was a simple lift over. We paddled some more – another dam and another lift over. Finally at the end of the third pond we found the trail out to the next lake.

One of our objectives was to find and photograph as many ancient First Nation paintings as we could. These are called pictographs and are generally found on flat cliff walls facing the east and just up a few feet from the water’s edge. There were either shone on the map or reference was made in our guidebook. We were very successful in locating these.

Although the trip was very remote and extremely rugged it was worth every stumble, fall and scrape as we carried through those portages. At times were we challenged paddling into the wind, which seemed to be the case each time we hit a larger lake. We took it all in stride and stroke. The camaraderie amongst the crew members was great, the meals were good and the weather was the most perfect I’ve ever had for a paddle trip. I’d go back to Quetico in a heartbeat but, then again, maybe the next opportunity will be in Woodland Caribou, Algonquin or up to the French River.

Saddle and Paddle

Participants including leaders: 4

Horseback riding at Salt Creek Ranch is some of the best I’ve experienced so far in Indiana. The Ranch has over 100 horses and owner Ronnie Adkins takes great care in matching the skill level of riders to horses. We started our two day trip with a one hour ride on Saturday morning after a short one hour drive from Indianapolis. Once saddled and properly mounted up, we rode up and down the hills and valleys of rural Laurel (near Metamora) on the 600 acres owned by the Ranch.

After a quick lunch, the next phase of the adventure was a four hour paddle down the Whitewater River. We arrived at peak time on a hot, sunny afternoon. The river outfitters were busy matching up people and boats and just about everything that could float was going in the water. We were outfitted with two Old Town canoes and headed down the river. With a two month draught in process, the river was surprisingly floatable except in a few spots where we had to get out and drag the canoes. Here and there were deep pools sporting some large fish and a few easy rapids.

The next morning was our scheduled two hour ride. After a tasty breakfast provided by the ranch, we mounted again and trotted off into the woods. The horses were fresh from an evening’s rest and ready for several canters through the woods. At one point we gained quite a view of the countryside after a long climb and then rode through a beautiful hay meadow. We all agreed we would definitely return to Salt Creek Ranch for another visit and a ride through the woods.

Many thanks to Mary Ellen for writing our trip report and Kathy for taking so many great pictures! More Saddle and Paddle trip photos will be posted on the CIWC meetup page as time permits. If you missed the trip and want more information about our outfitters, go to

Paddle and Saddle

Appalachian Trail – Maryland

The Maryland trip started from the home of Curt (who graciously provided parking) on Saturday, May 26th at 7am with eight members present.

We drove to the Teahorse Hostel in Harpers Ferry, where we would bunk for the night and have a waffle breakfast before our hostel host, Laurel, shuttled us to Pen Mar Park to start our adventure Sunday morning. Once there and gear unpacked, we hiked the quarter mile north to the Mason Dixon line which is a sign beside some railroad tracks on the AT. After taking a few pictures and hiking back to the starting point, we bid our host farewell and continued on with our mission, 40 plus miles of the AT through the state of Maryland.

The first couple of days were very grueling with the heat, humidity and terrain of the trail taking a toll on most of us those first miles. While we met a few through hikers, the first few days of our trip the traffic of north bounders became steadily more prevalent as we progressed south. Most of the through hikers had just come from trail days in the weeks before at Damascus and were just getting back on the trail. Along the trail, we came across many historic sites that we either stopped at for lunch and rest or passed by and took pictures of or all of the above.

The rock overlooks the great campsites, the monuments, the footbridges, and all the beautiful scenery along the way. Oh and not to forget the Flintstones like chairs and campsite just off the trail on that next to last day. At The Old Historic Inn near Dalghgren campsite, we got out of the rain for a few hours and had some adult beverages and desserts. And, for those of you who traveled the trail, we all know by now it is only a quarter of a mile to almost anywhere you want to go or need to get too (well, almost).

Once we arrived back in Harpers Ferry, Thursday, it was a rest day. We also got a chance to use the Hostel washer and dryer to remove some of the stench from our packs before loading them in the van. What a relief that we did not have to smell dirty clothes for that last 9-hour drive home. We also visited the AT Conservancy Headquarters were we looked at books of the through hikers (we found Heidi but didn’t remember when John Bredenkamp did it) in them. Some of us bought shirts, maps, buttons and other souvenirs from the trip and area of the AT.

The next day, Friday, a few hearty souls decided to hike the West Virginia part of the AT while we were there. Ken, Curt, Dennis and Joni left after breakfast for the trail south. When they returned a few hours later, some in the party went to Shepherdsville, WV, one of the oldest towns in the state, while others took the train to Washington DC for some sightseeing which ended in bad weather later in the day and a long train ride back. Curt and Dennis had made the DC trip the day before and knew which connections needed to be made starting out. If the other choice had not been the Battlefield of Antietam there might have been more on the train that day to DC.

We all met some very nice people on the trail and our hostel as well as our own group, and Harpers Ferry was a very interesting as well as an historic town to visit and see how things really all began there at the start of the Civil War and what a strategic site it served in two wars.

We left for home Saturday morning, June 2, after eating waffles at Teahorse, before heading back to Indiana. I think everyone enjoyed the trip but, in the end, “there’s no place like home.” See you on the trail next time.