|Co. Hwy 602, Shore to Shore Trail intersection.|
There is an approximately equal chance that the McDonalds' employee was so unobservant that they failed to notice the snow around them, or that I failed to take into account the fact that black asphalt parking lots like those found at McDonalds tend to melt snow much faster than shaded forest trails. Regardless, there was a significant ammount of snow left on the trails when we arrived. The weather, however, held out to be even better than we had dared to hope for. It was brilliantly warm! Alright, it was probably only 40º all week but it was the first spring weather break and we were backpacking, it was spring time, and the weather seemed perfect.
The first day we alloted plenty of margin for error since we had read all the horror stories about working into backpacking. How it takes a few weeks to get used to putting in long days with the pack, and how people often are overconfident in their abilities to hike. So we decided to shoot for eight miles the first days out, and if we got more done (which we were sure we would), then the rest of the trip would be easier for it.
Let me tell you, snow is a real bitch on a horse trail. You see the number of horses that travel the trail each year GREATLY outweighs the number of backpackers, and thus the footing for most of the trail is in the form of a well worn, six inch wide, hoof groove. A cross section of the trail would appropriately be reminiscent of a V shape. Put two inches of wet, melting, slushy snow on muddy V shaped trails and you have a virtual recipe for backpacking disaster. Every step we took would skew our ankles and force the inside of the foot to slide down into the sloppy, muddy groove. This was painful, slow going, and demoralizing.
|Overlooking the AuSable 4:22pm, 3/7/2010|
The sun was setting quickly on us, so we chose a clearing and dropped our packs. The tent, owned by my friend, was set up by him. I gathered old White Cedar branches, obviously dead and drying for years, for a fire. The oily cedar wood took a flame perfectly, without even any kindling (using toothpick sized sticks). We layered up with our insulation, and I realized that it was going to be a cold night without my fleece. I did, however, bring my Mountain Hardware down vest which saved my hide (literally). We made dinner of a single packet of quick pasta dinner, some naturally refidgerated cheesewheels, a quarter of a large sausage, and whatever else we had rationed out.
|Camp, night one. Frozen boots clearly visible.|