FEBRUARY 24, 2005 — IRONWOOD, MI
Hello Wisconsin and the Central Standard Time Zone!!
Andrew has reached the city of Ironwood and will be crossing into Wisconsin tomorrow morning.
The past two weeks have been exciting for Andrew. He left Marquette on Monday, February 17th, after a weekend of enjoying the company of friends and speaking to newspaper reporters. Because the North Country Trail has not been completed immediately west of the city, he utilized a 30-mile cross-country ski course, which at several points crosses frozen lakes and rivers — Andrew said he was still nervous about the crossings (because of falling through ice in Michigan in January) even though snowmobiles were zipping by him. He reported that 2 or 3 inches of lake-effect snow was falling every day.
Andrew met Bob and Irene Godell in Watton, MI, and enjoyed their great hospitality for the evening. The Godell’s are 84 years old and have been married for 62 of them. Bob fascinated Andrew with his tales and local folklore. Both of their parents came to the US from Finland, and Irene and Bob both speak Finnish. Bob managed the local telephone company in 1958, when phone service consisted of a single toll line that ran through the county. People traveled to a central location to make a call. Bob told stories about Henry Ford, who purchased timber from loggers in the U.P., including Bob’s father, for his Model T’s.
On Saturday, Feb. 19th, Andrew came down with a stomach bug during the night, throwing up his entire dinner of freeze-dried lasanga. He hiked several miles on the trail the next morning but was just too sick and weak to make it through the Trapp Hills, which are home to very steep and big climbs, and which are made more difficult by four feet of powdery snow. He staggered off the trail and along a forest road for 8-miles before finding shelter at a motel in Bergland. He then called home because if you are sick you always ask your Mom for advice. Fortunately, after about 16 hours of sleep, he was feeling better. On Sunday, he hiked the remaining 15 miles to White Pine, MI. By the time he arrived, he was feeling 95% better.
When Andrew called on Feb. 24th from Ironwood, he was reflecting on his hike through the UP. It was “not as difficult as he had expected.” He had envisioned ferocious snow storms and frigid temperatures that would keep him “holed up for days on end.” What he found was that the lake-effect snow is frequent but in small amounts, and therefore not an impediment to hiking. And, when you are snowshoeing, it doesn’t really matter how deep the snow is. It is like swimming in the sense that if you can swim in 4 feet of water then you can swim in 1,000 feet of water. Following the trail in deep snow is different, however, because the snow can cover blazes and hide the treadway; but Andrew found that the trail was well marked with blue plastic diamonds, which can be seen a long ways off in Michigan’s mature and open forests.
As for the temperatures, Andrew has seen -20F at least twice, with a few other nights at -15 and -10. But most night time lows were in the high single digits to mid-teens. He found himself to be usually very comfortable, pushing the limits of his gear only in the coldest temperatures.
Andrew also reported that he had expected the culture of the UP to be vastly different than the culture in the Lower Peninsula. Yes, Scandinavian people who were loggers and miners settled the UP, but that historical background is no longer as defining a characteristic. They have running water, electricity, and even broadband now.
The UP is, in Andrew’s mind, “a centerpiece of the North Country Trail.” There are “miles of trail through old growth forests, where the canopy of trees is hundreds of feet in the air, creating unbroken visibility on the forest floor.” The shores of Lake Superior in winter, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the Trapp Hills, the Porcupine Mountains, and several notable waterfalls were the highlights of Andrew’s hiking experience.
Wisconsin is just ahead of Andrew with new terrain, temperatures and challenges. He is anticipating colder temperatures and less snow. He is hoping that the worst of the winter is behind him.
Miles hiked thus far: 4213 miles. Andrew has completed 55% of his 7,700 mile journey.