Saturday, August 9, 2008

Day 1 - Windigo to Island Mine

The ferry dropped us off with our packs and our wits and our plans at the west end of the island at Windigo, where there is a ranger staffed visitor center and a store with camping provisions and tourist trinkets. We had lunch and then filled our water bottles at the last running water we would see for days, and set off. The trail was well groomed and wide and misleadingly easy as they usually are close to more traveled end points where people stop for a quick 'sample' of the area and turn back after a mile or two. The trail soon increased in its level of 'challenge' and I was huffing and puffing well behind the boys. As I struggled to breathe and keep up, I tried hard not to admit it was a beautiful place I had committed my survival and sanity to for the next 6 days. It is always a struggle to get the pack's many straps adjusted just right and the shoes tied a comfortable tightness that soon becomes too snug as the feet swell a bit or too loose as the feet sweat and slip around and first one forgets the bug repellent and then soon finds the little places the spray missed and me, I'm special this way, I need to change to a dry bandana about every 30 yards to keep the sweat, I mean, glow, out of my eyes. Just when everyone has stopped for a drink and the party moved on, someone has to have a snack or stop to, um, never mind. The first day always seems the hardest to me, for the worries that I have forgotten to pack something essential to survival, for the adjustments to the trail, for the admitting that even if you trained hard, and I did not for this one, it is still going to be hard. In spite ofd my misery, the frequent stops I made to photograph were proof that I was finding it a beautiful place indeed. There were amazing wildflowers everywhere, things I had only seen in books and things I had never seen anywhere before. The trail followed a ridge, where we alternated between ferny deciduous woods on the slopes and evergreen woods that thinned to clearings at the peaks. Just before camp, we passed a valley with low areas with boardwalks to keep us out of the wet areas where interesting plants like skunk cabbages and marsh marigolds and horsetails grew. Our camp was beneath a canopy of tall trees. A difficult day but a beautiful day!

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