I made a target of hiking the North Country Trail 100 mile challenge this year. I already had 40 miles under my pace. My target was to get an additional 20 miles the weekend of July 4th, 2017. I was backpacking the Chequamegon National Park in Northern Wisconsin. I was going to start from Hwy 202 to Beaver Lake Campground. My plan was hiking for 6.8 miles, set up camp, going back and get another 7 miles in on the second day. Pretty simple 20 miles hiking right?
Not that simple.
Mistake #1- The trip was kind of spontaneous. So I didn’t get all of my gear ready. I needed to drop by some stores along the way. The trailhead was 4 and a half hours from my house. I started later than I have planned. I didn’t get to the trailhead and started until about 3:00. As I started so late, I felt tight to get to the campground.
Lesson Learned- Plan Better
Mistake #2- I had a print out map from the website. I had also brought along a detailed topographical map. In my hurry, I left the topo map in the car. I wasn’t afraid of getting lost. The trail was pretty well marked but I kept thinking, “I should be there by now.” It's kind of freaked me out a bit.
Lesson Learned- Be more organized
Mistake #3- Around 100 yards from the campground. I was excited. Finally, I made it! But in my hurry, I tripped and Fell. And fell flat directly on my face/forehead. My glasses came off and my nose started bleeding as a faucet. I had some kleenix and tried to slow down the bleeding as I stumbled into the campground.
Lesson Learned- Pay attention! Even when the end is in sight.
Side note, the whole scene make me think of the movie “Vacation”..you know when they finally approach Wally World. They are all excited and start running towards the park (with the Olympic Music playing as the background) it only to find it’s closed. “Sorry Folks..”
Mistake #4- I replace my usual gas canister stove set up with an alcohol pellet set up this time. It seemed like it would take up less room. I brought 3 pellets. What I didn’t realize was that my pot did not fit on the stove. So I had to physically hold the pot over the stove while trying to continue to hold my nose back to stop my bleeding. Because of that I used up all the pellets in one night. (I used 2 to cook dinner and another to heat water for cleaning up all the blood.)
Lesson Learned- Try out new equipment before leaving home.
Mistake #5- Not sure why I didn’t start to hike the 6.8 miles, camp, day hike another 5 miles up and go back to the campsite and stayed another night.
Lesson Learned- I don’t have to “backpack” all the time. Day Hikes from camp are ok too.
Mistake #6- After I got home, I realized my video camera was on mute mode for part of the trip. So a bunch of the video I took has no audio!
Lesson Learned- Check your equipment
Mistake #7- The next morning I got up and hiked 7 miles back to my car. I didn’t want to hike any extra. I was beaten up. I was covered with blood..my pants, shirt. I forgot to bring an extra set of clothing to change into for the drive home. When I went to grab something to eat I was getting focused looks. Even at McDonalds, blood on clothes is probably not acceptable!
Lesson Learned- Bring a change of clothes to drive home in.
All turned out well. I made it home safely and didn’t have any long lasting effects from the fall. But I did learn so much from the trip. The biggest lessons were I was too rushed and I underestimated everything. I rushed getting ready, driving, hiking, cooking and coming home. I didn’t take time to enjoy the trip at all. I minimized everything considering that it was an “easy” trip. I didn’t plan out well enough and get prepared. I didn’t think things through ahead of time.
This was a huge wake up sign for me in solo hiking. If I had been seriously hurt, what would have happened then? I am humbled toward the trip and learned that 15 miles (or 100 yards) can be as dangerous as 40 miles.
Another lesson to be learned is to hike with a first aid kit. It doesn't need to be huge or heavy or have enough to treat major trauma. No need to carry stuff you don't really know how to apply (i.e., sutures), but simply some gauze, medical tape, large band aids and butterfly band aids are useful if needed.
And I think we'd make good hiking partners...one of us could drag the other one to the final destination.
Anyway, don't beat yourself up and don't get discouraged over the "mistakes". I think all too often we make hiking too difficult with an intense focus on where and when we should be somewhere when in fact just being on the trail is the reason we're out there in the first place.
Backpackers tend to make more mistakes on their more spontaneous trips. Over the years of outdoor trips, they will develop a pretty comprehensive list of gear to pack, plus tasks to be completed before the trip. Maybe they still forget at least something on most of their trips, but nothing too terribly crucial in a while. as a rule, you should try to avoid doing all of your packing the night before a trip --to at least get started ahead of time. Worse still is when you don't decide on a location until the last minute.
Sometime wounds during outdoor trips is inevitable as your miles pile up, your focus and your strength decrease. Sometimes a nosebleed, or a face-plant under a 50+-lb pack. There also maybe others nearby to offer help. You will get much happier after that, and your packs no longer weigh so much that you can't get up if it's on top of you. Usually, your feet and leg is much more tired than your hands during hiking, so every time you stop for a rest, sit or lean on somewhere, you may stand up first and lift your backpack up instead of wrapping your backpack up on your back and stand up with a 50 lb weight, that will perhaps come up with stumble or fall.