Backpacking 2017

Hi folks!  I’ve got a whopper of a post to share with you today.  The kids, Jim, and I went on our first, ever backpacking trip together!  It was so fun, so let’s jump right in!

Out of all of us, Jim is the only one who has been back country camping (where you bring EVERYTHING in with you and carry it in a large pack on your back), so he was our go-to guy when it came to questions.  Which is kind of funny considering he’s really only been once 😉  So we also asked lots of questions and got lots of help (and borrowed items) from our seasoned, professional, backpacking friends, Stephen and Christine.  Thanks so much for lending us all your stuff, guys!  Here’s a pic of most of our items before packing:

Look at all that weird food we would normally never bring with us!

Don’t worry, I was smart enough to take all the packages out of the boxes and leave the cardboard at home.  We got it all packed up and loaded it in the car.  We decided if the kids carried their clothes and sleeping bags in their regular school backpacks, it would be enough this time.  Next time, though, real backpacks for them!

And we’re off!  Jim took Thursday and Friday off of work so we could squeeze this trip in before school started.  It was one of those things that we talked about all summer, hoping we would just “wing it” when the weather was good, but then all of a sudden the summer was gone!  Glad we managed to get it in the week before school started!

We decided a short trip (two nights) would be a good amount for the first time.  Most of this started after heading out to Isle Royale last summer and realizing there was so much more we could have seen/experienced if we were willing to forgo the comforts of real lodging or campgrounds.  So this was just a test to see if we can do something longer next year.  We headed over to the Porcupine Mountains (only about 1 1/2 hours away), so it was nice not to have to go too far and be out of our comfort zones.  We also had to make it back Saturday morning for soccer (started at 10:15), so we didn’t want to go too far or we’d have only been able to do one night.  Here are the kids posing at the park headquarters:

And after we checked in, we headed down the road a bit to our trail head.  Gotta love automatic timers on cameras!

We took the Lake Superior Trail which runs along the lake.  However, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed because it doesn’t really run along the lake.  I was expecting more scenic views, but it was mostly lots of trees and plants around us.  We didn’t really see the lake until venturing down a path to a campsite or lake access.  Our destination the first day was not labeled on the sign.  We went to Lone Rock which was just over 4 miles down the trail:

It was hard not to stop every five seconds to take photos.  Even though there weren’t great “views,” there was still plenty to see and explore.  Jim snapped this pic of me:

I don’t know what this is growing, but it sure was neat!

It was such a nice day!  The sun was out, but it wasn’t too hot:

Very green…

and muddy.  We’ve gotten a lot of rain in the UP this summer!

Not a great photo as the zoom on my cell phone stinks, but there’s a frog in that mud.  He’s hanging out right under that little 3-leafed plant:

There were so many trees down.  I don’t know what it’s like most years, but it seemed like there was an inordinate number of trees broken over or pulled from their roots.  The ranger at the visitor’s center said they’ve gotten a lot of storms over the last year.  Here’s a tree completely pulled from it’s roots:

And here’s some young-ins to give it scale:

So pretty!  All the little bridges were helpful and welcomed!

The kids had a hard time staying out of the mud!

After a couple of breaks, we made it to our first campsite at Lone Rock.  We were able to hike about 2 miles an hour, so it only took us about 2 hours.  The trail was really pretty easy-going, but the mud did slow us down a bit.  And a lot of it was downhill, so planning for hiking out on Saturday morning would need to account for going uphill.

First thing’s, first!  Have a snack!  Can you believe all of our food fit into that one bag?!  You know how we Vendlinskis like to eat, so that’s pretty amazing!

Summer sausage (Jim was very looking forward to it!):

And then set up camp.  We had that little blue tent, but borrowed the yellow one from Stephen and Christine.  The first night all four of us squeezed into the blue tent because we thought it would be freezing (it was supposed to drop into the lower 40s), and we thought we’d just store our bags in the yellow tent.  It was a rough night!

This was our first experience with BEAR POLES!!!  

Our new favorite toy – the hammock!

I found these neat flowers:

Cat and Jim cleaned water to drink.  It seemed so silly- look how clean that water already is!

Lewis and I watched and took selfies:

It was so beautiful at the lake!Lone rock:

Lake Superior rocks:

All the shorelines we visited on this trip were total rocks – some big, some small.  And the way the park is situated on the peninsula made it a little bit chillier for this time of year.  The sun doesn’t quite get high enough in the sky to really clear the trees until sunset time.  So even though the water wasn’t too cold, I didn’t swim because the air wasn’t very warm.  I figured I’d have time on Friday when it was supposed to be warmer outside.  And I also thought maybe our campsite the next day would have more sunshine.  But nothing could stop Jim.  He even went in skinny!  And I have to laugh and tell you that it was doctor’s orders!  😉  The kids had their annual appointments earlier in the week, and when we told their doctor where we were going and what we were doing, she suggested it.  Ha!  I’ll spare you the photos, though 😉

Here’s a pic of Cat cutting some firewood for us.  Jim was gifted this neat knife for an anniversary at work one year and we’ve never used it.  It came in quite handy on this trip!  The sawtooth blade was actually really great for cutting large branches.  And I love this photo because of Jim in the background:

After getting the firewood gathered, it was time to relax:Check out Jim’s cool seat:And then, time for dinner!  Thursday night’s meal – yellow mac and cheese (that’s what the kids call Kraft.  We dump the pasta in the trash and substitute gluten-free pasta to go along with the yellow powdered sauce):


And then it was time to start the fire.  Because… why not?  What else did we have to do?!

Nice evening light…  And it was getting quite chilly in the shade!

The kids had fun hanging out in the tent for a while:

I found these.  Mushrooms?


And then it was time to clean up after marshmallows!

And the golden hour light was so beautiful:

I know the horizon is crooked in this next one.  Just go with it:

Throwing rocks at sunset:

I’m getting better at the panoramic:


Gone.So relaxing!

And then the kids wanted to play charades in the tent.  They’re so cool!

And we all gathered around for some cards:

And then we slept.  Or at least we tried to.

Up leisurely the next morning to early sun on the beach:

Some stretching and yoga on the rocks was nice:

And then some coffee on the shore.  What a great view!

Here’s a terrible close-up of Lone Rock.  See that thing sticking up in the middle sitting on the rock?  We decided that was a bald eagle.  Next time we’ll bring binoculars!

Here’s the path leading to the beach from the campsite:

And then we decided to get moving again.  Late, just before the sun set the evening before, another group of campers came and camped at the site right next to/with ours.  It was a bit of a bummer as we were hoping to really be able to feel alone.  But they were up early and out before we even climbed out of the tent.  So we were a little concerned about getting to our next site before others arrived.  We needed to be at a certain site in order to be able to get up and out in enough time on Saturday morning to make it back for soccer.  As it was, we’d need to get up at 5:30 am, so we didn’t want to have someone take the site we were planning on using and have to camp further away from the trail-head.  So we headed straight out the way we came and only had to go about 2 miles:So many downed/broken trees!  But at least the mud was a little more dried up:

And we made it!  Our campsite would be right at that Lake Superior access:

First things, first!  Set up the tents to claim our spot:

This campsite was HUGE and could easily accommodate multiple groups.  However, it is etiquette to camp a certain distance away from other campers when there’s only one site (which this one was).  Again, late in the evening, we had some hikers come upon us and ask if they could share the site.  We obliged.  They were nice and there was plenty of room.  It was just a bummer again to have company.

Then we were all starving and ready for lunch.  I had this great idea that we should wade across the water out to a set of large rocks not too far from shore.  The only problem – the water was FRIGID!  Something happened, I swear!  The water was warm enough to swim in the day before, but was painfully, numbingly cold on Friday.  Also, since it’s so clear, it’s hard to tell exactly how deep it is, so we were quite surprised when it went up to my hips.  Jim was nice and ferried the kids across the slippery rocks:

Hi Cat!  Come on over!

And once we were out there, it was so nice!  The sun was shining that far out into the water, so we soaked up some vitamin D while we ate our lunch and took in the views:

That last rock way out there is Lone Rock (where we stayed the night before):

The shoreline was so beautiful:


And here’s a pic after.  Cat was so patient waiting for Jim and Jim was such a hero.  I’m telling you that water was FREEZING and those rocks were SLIPPERY!

So then we had the rest of the day to just hang out and relax.  After being in the water, we were all quite chilly, especially with all the shade, but it was still so nice out!

So relaxing!

I found this plant.  What the heck is this?!

And then Lewis and I decided to make a game out of rocks and sticks.  We each had a similar, white rock found at the shore to throw toward the opponents pile of rocks and stick.  If you hit the stick, it counted as 5 points (this proved to be nearly impossible).  If you hit the large, flat rock off to the side, it was 3 points (much more doable), and if you landed it on the flat rock, 10 points (no one did this).

It was a fun little game.  And it was even more fun when Jim made this great spectating chair out of a stump and a large, flat rock on top.  It was quite comfy!

This is happening already 🙁

Me and the girl:

I got kicked out…

The campsite:

We re-formatted some of the “chairs” to our liking:

Time for dinner!  This time – rice packets – yum!

This creepy-crawler hung out on the fire pit:

And then Jim went for a swim again.  He’s the only one who really got in the water.  I don’t know how he did it the second day!

I watched him from the hammock while I also watched the sun (sort of) set:

That night, we decided to split up.  The kids took the blue tent while Jim and I shared the yellow tent.  It was much more comfortable.  I got a solid three hours before I woke up to the extremely loud and violent winds which had picked up.  Two hours later, I was still awake when I heard a tree fall over.  !  An hour after that, it started raining – and not just a nice, easy rain, but a windy, in-and-out, keep-no-rhythm kind of rain.  The kind where the trees would shake in the wind and drop all kinds of loud, rackety, rain on the tent.  And then another hour later i started thundering in the distance.  With a half hour left until our wake-up call, and not having slept for most of the night, I convinced Jim we should just get up and leave early.  That thunder seemed a bit too close for comfort!

So we were up, packed, granola-bar-ed, and coffee-d in the rain.  The kids were great troopers!  I think they were quite tired and maybe ate their granola and fruit bars a little too quickly and were a little over-heated with their ponchos on because they both felt nauseous on the hike out, but they prevailed and we made it to the car just before it really started coming down.  It was quite an experience hiking out of there in the dark, rainy, thundery morning!

And shortly after we arrived home, they were donning their soccer gear to take off for the game.  It turns out that the other team only had three players show up, so they didn’t really play a real game anyway.  How annoying!  But, we did it and all survived and had fun along the way, too!

So to wrap up backpacking, I would say overall it was a great experience.  We all had fun and I know that we are capable of doing quite a bit more hiking next time.  Can’t wait to get to the back country again!  It’s so nice to explore nature and be in the quiet – no cell phones, no cars, and no news!

Did I tell you that we’ve started hosting on Airbnb?  It’s going great!  We’ve only been doing it a month and have already met so many great people!  It was such a coincidence, actually, that while we were out in the Porkies, we came across a group I realized were going to be staying with us Sunday night.  It was so random!  The Porkies are a great big place, and I only recognized them because they have a dog.  Meet Thunder, our first airbnb pet:

He had no problems making himself at home!

In other events… the kids made us some sushi for dinner Monday night.  Cat made a new creation with prosciutto wrapped around it:

And Lewis loves his shrimp:

It was delicious!  And the kids got their first soccer win last week:

I told Cat and Lewis if they won they could have pie and ice cream for dessert.  And before Monday’s game, I told them if they scored a goal they could have ice cream again.  Lewis scored TWO goals!  I guess we’ll have to keep the bribes coming!

These lovely flowers grew out of a wildflower seed mix I planted.  Aren’t they gorgeous?!

We’re harvesting lots from the garden at this point.  I’m excited for tomatoes finally, but am a little disappointed in their taste.  I think we’ve gotten too much rain.  They’re a little mealy and bland this year 🙁  But still better than grocery store-bought!

Two weekends ago we picked blueberries:

And we froze a ton of them.  FYI- washed out yogurt containers make fabulous fruit-freezing packages!

We made muffins:

And a pie:

Here’s a random pic of the kids trying out the tent in the backyard before we went camping.  They didn’t make it the night – it got too cold too quickly.  It was seriously down in the low 40s!And here are two photos I meant to share last blog post.  Cat was asked over on a play date with her friend, and Lewis was feeling very left out.  So I called up our good friend, G, and he was happy to have Lewis come to work with him for a bit to learn more about coding and programming.  Lewis had a great time!  We’re so thankful to G – he is always there when we need him!

Lewis came home and even said he’d like to be what G is when he grows up.  Good job, G!  That’s certainly better than his usual response of wanting to be a “youtuber.”  WTH?!  I keep trying to tell Lewis that that’s not a thing.

He was so proud of his work:

And, finally, back to school photos.  You’re dying to see them, right?!

The worst part about going back to school?  Having to turn on that dreaded weekday alarm 🙁  It was so nice to sleep in as long as Jim all summer!

And that’ll do it!  Thanks for reading!

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