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Friday, May 31, 2013


The past few days have been rough. I came into Mackinaw City last Tuesday with a full head of steam and a smile on my face. The trail had been sweet and I was ahead of schedule. Just needed to grab my resupply box from the post office and I could cross the Mackinac Bridge to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Unfortunately, my box wasn't there. No problem. I could just stealth camp outside of town and get my box the next day. Except it wasn't there then, either. Or the next day. Or the next day. 

Waiting forever to cross the Mackinac Bridge 
Mackinaw is a nice little town. At first. It's full of stores selling tee shirts and fudge to tourists. But after four days, I was just plain sick of it. And they were sick of me. Nearly everyone I interacted with had seen me walking up and down the sidewalks with my giant backpack. My spirits were low. I was fighting a horrible rash and I had a prescription for antibiotics but there's no pharmacy in Mackinaw. I seriously thought about quitting. Or at least coming home for a few days to heal and rest. 
         Finally, on Friday, my box had arrived (thanks Martha!). I crossed the bridge, got my   
         script filled and was feeling better. I even ran into Kay Kujawa and her husband. She's 
         the Chapter President of the Hiawatha Shore To Shore section of the North Country 
         Trail. They gave me maps and information that I really needed. Those folks work hard 
         maintaining their section of the trail and it was a pleasure to meet them  and thank them 
         in person.  

I'll be on the North Country National Scenic Trail all across the Upper Peninsula. 
Next stop is in Grand Marais for rest and resupply. Ever been there? Leave me a comment!

Monday, May 27, 2013

These Are The Days

Since I started this hike, I've passed through all sorts of landscapes: City streets, suburban highways and open farmland. But the last week or so has been my favorite: The deep, remote woods of north central Michigan. I've also seen every kind of weather out here from hot and muggy to snow. Some days are spent road walking in the rain. Some days are spent roasting out in the open, hiking over miles of railroad tracks. Some days are spent desperately trying to find the next blaze and splashing through swamps. But today... These are the days where everything comes together so nicely that you feel like someone has planned the day for you.  

I awoke after a really good night's sleep. It was cold but not freezing that night and I slept a solid 10 hours. The birds chirping and the thought of hot coffee are the only reasons I finally sat up. The sun was warming me up nicely and drying out my gear. I cooked up a bowlful of oatmeal and drank my coffee while I looked over maps of the trail. A sure sign that it's gonna be a good day is when all my gear fit just right into my pack. I've eaten enough food from my last re-supply that it's not so heavy. The trail today was compact earth softened by pine needles. I hiked through thick woods and past beautiful little lakes without seeing another soul. 

Of course, all my best trail stories involve other people and this one is no exception. I was taking pictures of flowers when two men and a woman came walking toward me. We quickly established that I was hiking and that they were collecting mushrooms. They kindly invited me to their camp for lunch. I honestly did not want to impose but I did need water and they said they had plenty. Here's where it gets hard to believe. Within a half an hour of arriving at their camp, Bob tells me he's into craft-brewing beer and he has a corny keg of IPA and one of oatmeal stout (and a CO2 tank to dispense it). Jerry sets up a comfortable chair and table for me and Kelly asks me if I want a giant slice of homemade apple pie. Now, those of you who know me are saying "Poor Wolverine... He's been out there so long he's starting to hallucinate. He thinks people are magically appearing in the woods with delicious home-brew and apple pie. Poor guy." But they did! Honest-to-goodness Trail Angels came out of the woods to drink beer with me all afternoon. They said they were from Grand Rapids and that they had been coming up to Pigeon River to look for Morell  mushrooms for 25 years. I so enjoyed their company but I had to get back to it. I tore myself away and tripped along the path for a few more hours making pretty good miles even with the break. I hiked until sunset and found another sweet spot to camp. 

The lesson I keep learning on the trail that I try to apply to my life is that you've got to keep moving forward. You never know what you'll see or who you'll meet. Keep at it even when it's cold and raining and hard to find your way. There will be warm, sunny days ahead filled with craft-brewed beer and apple pie!

If Jerry, Kelly or Bob reads this, please leave a comment to confirm your existence. 

Pack explosion! Drying my gear in the sun.

Solid blue skies. Sunny, but with a cool breeze.

Trillium. The forest floor is covered with them.

Flat, straight, well-blazed trail.

Trail Angels Jerry, Kelly and Bob. I swear they really exist!

Monday, May 20, 2013

What a weekend!

Since starting on April 26th, I had hiked a couple of hundred miles up to a very remote part of Michigan kinda near Lewiston. I was feeling pretty good. A fews days had been freezing cold but my body and gear were in good shape and I was REALLY looking forward to being home for the weekend. Housemates Martha and Sandy picked me up Thursday night in a car loaded with beer and pizza. Took a few hours to get home but was it ever nice to sleep in my own bed.

I spent Friday doing my hiker chores (shower, laundry, dry out my tent, etc...) and resting. Saturday was the big Relay For Life. I had collected lots of donations on the premise that I was going to walk all 24 hours of the Relay BY MYSELF. Most people do the Relay as part of a team with 8 to 15 members but a few months ago, I got the bright idea that I could get more donations with a gimmick like being a one-man team. Now it was time to pay up. The Relay started at about 10am with opening ceremonies and a Survivors Lap. I hit the track (which was really a 1/3 mile loop in a very nice park) right after that. It was a carnival-like atmosphere with all the other teams selling goods and services to raise money for the American Cancer Society. During the first lap, I bought a necklace to which you could add a bead for every lap that you did.
I had friends and family come and join me for many laps. Even the other teams were really supportive, giving me water, food and high-fives along the way. By about 2am, I was didn't think it was a very good idea and by 5am, I was certain I had made a mistake. But when the sun came up, I got my second wind, a cup of coffee and more people to walk with.  I stopped long enough to listen to the closing ceremonies where I was awarded the Gordy Klatt Award. I was flattered but almost ready to pass out. By the time the 24 hours was up, I had covered 149 laps or about 49.6 miles. Congrats were given and received and I was ready for bed. I slept soundly for about 20 hours.

Monday was spent sending out emails, repacking my gear and going to see the new Star Trek movie. I really needed this day to rest, hydrate and stretch. Tomorrow (Tuesday), my dear sister Carol and her daughter will take me back up to that remote part of the Midland To Mackinac Trail and I'll get back to doing what I do best.

I should be able to make it to the Mackinac Bridge by the 1st of June. After that, the trail coincides with the North Country Trail so it should be pretty well blazed. If you have a question or if you want to wish me luck, please leave a comment below. Thank you!

Kellogg's Bridge

This is the place Martha and I decided to meet to pick me up to go back to Taylor for the Relay For Life. This little store, the Kellogg's Bridge One Stop Shop, is near the intersection of F97 and Down River Road and they were super-friendly. I would love to see a business like this do well if this trail becomes popular. The trail goes right past it and you could easily do a full re-supply from here. Thanks to all who work there for being so kind!
                                                     Yes, gas up north is very expensive.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Trail Angels

Trail angels come in all shapes, sizes and places.

So far, on this Michigan hike, Chris/Wolverine has met several.  There was the lady in McDonalds who gave him a gift card.  She did not know him or know of him, just saw the backpack, listened to his story and gave.  Then there was a man and his son who walked across their field to offer Chris water.  And a railroad worker who saw Chris walking along the tracks, listened to his tale and also offered water.  To a hot, hungry, lonely hiker these people are angels.  Random acts of kindness and thoughtfulness that are hugely appreciated.

Before this hike started, Chris was contacted by a man named Jerry Allen.  Jerry lives by the Midland to Mackinaw trail and with his wife Connie is a long distance hiker and maintains the trail.   Yesterday, walking along M30, a car pulled up to Chris, asked him if he was Chris Hillier and and then said that he was Jerry Allen!  He gave Chris a ride to his house where Chris was able to have a shower, a wonderful dinner of pulled pork and talk trail with Jerry and Connie!  He also slept in a warm, soft bed.

People don't realize what these acts of kindness mean to a hiker.  The phone call I got from Chris yesterday was ecstatic!  

So thank you to all of those out there who stop, think of someone else, share coffee, a smile, listen and ask questions, offer water, their home...trail angels are the best!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo!

What a great day. Woke up in a super comfortable bed at the affordable yet clean Econolodge in Bay City, MI, and proceeded  to destroy the continental breakfast they offered. My housemates Martha and Sandy soon showed up with all kinds of goodies: plenty of food and fuel, bugspray, sunscreen and yummy Atwater beer. With big smiles on their faces, they handed me a bag from Moosejaw (my favorite gear store). Inside was a gift from my dear friend Traci Rink: a brand new Marmot shell!  A top-of-the-line, bullet-proof GoreTex jacket that will last for years. Not only will this jacket protect me and keep me warm but it replaces about 3lbs of other gear I was carrying to serve that purpose. Traci, her daughter Katie and her husband Ron Foon are the best. They know the importance of good gear as they themselves are world travellers. Katie even works at Moosejaw - she knows gear. I am forever grateful to them for this generous gift. 

We continued on to the Applebee's in Bay City where we were joined by my brother Rob, my brother Jim and his wife Patti and my nephew Brian and his girlfriend Lisa. It made me feel so good that all these folks came all the way up to Bay City to see me and wish me well. 

After sharing one more beer, the housemates dropped me off just outside of Bay City State Park and pointed me west toward Midland. I won't see them again until May 17th when I come back for the Relay For Life. I need to make as many miles as possible between now and then. Off I go, bound for the Midland To Mackinac Trail!

Chris with a gift from Brian: a bottle of super-rare Kentucky Breakfast Stout from Founders
Chris in his new shell. Thanks Traci!

Chris, Jim and Patti

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Have Lunch With a Wolverine!

Martha here:
Wolverine will be in Bay City this Sunday, May 5th.  We're going to meet at the Applebee's in town at 2pm and have some beer and food and fun.  Please join us!  He'd love to see you.

New From Wolverine

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

What a fantastic way to start the day.  This is the first morning I've had so far on this trail that has been warm and dry. I haven't thrown my gear together in between raindrops or lamented the fact that condensation alone had made my sleeping bag twice as heavy as it usually is. Nope, this morning I awoke to a cacophony of birds singing. I opened my tent flap and felt a gentle breeze. As the sun came up, I cooked up a small pot of coffee and sat among the pines, trying to count how many different birds I could hear. It was nice to stretch my legs and apply a thick slab of sun screen to my face and neck while I got ready for today's hike. I know I'll be following the Southern Links Trail through the town of Millington but after that, I'm not exactly sure and I'm fine with that. That's part of the beauty of the trail: I never know what the day has in store for me or where I'll wind up. I just let the path unfold before me and see what adventures await. The excitement is building - it's time to hike!