Started on the Lake Michigan shoreline below the Mackinaw Bridge. Gotta do it in a memorable way I guess. Anne and I took a couple of pictures, talked to the kids on the phone, and then set out. Anne walked the first couple miles with me on the paved section and then went back. It was hard watching her walking away. Might not see her for a month.
Soon I was in the woods on real trail- and it certainly was. Single track, up and down, with lots of roots, muddy spots, and bugs. The bugs were ready for fresh blood, but fortunately the spray-on permethrin I put on my clothes and the DEET I sprayed on my exposed skin kept the buggers away. In swampier areas, I had to don a mosquito head net. But I survived in not too bad of shape.
What was a bigger problem was hauling that backpack all day. I never got a final weight on it but it was around 25-27 pounds which is manageable on shorter hikes, at least for me. Still the beauty of the trail helped keep the work effort out of mind.
Around 9.5 miles in when I was starting to feel sorry for myself and questioning the wisdom of this excursion, a lady probably in her seventies approached at a brisk pace and then passed. We said hello. Behind her was her husband who appeared to be a bit older and who was also moving along quite well. He stopped as we approached each other and as often happens on trails, we had a nice little chat. He and the wife were doing a section of the trail and had already done about 11 miles that morning. He asked what I was doing. When I told him Mackinaw to Ohio, he asked a few more questions then informed me he had through-hiked both the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan two years ago. He wanted to do it again but was getting a hip replacement in two weeks.
Needless to say I was humbled and shut up about my puny 9.5 mile effort so far.
When I got to one of the NCT trail kiosks that are located at trailheads, he had left a note and phone number for me to give him a call when I got to Newaygo (about 350 miles away). He offered to feed me and put me up for the night. “Trail magic” as they say. I hope I make it that far and take up his offer.
The rest of the day (21 miles total) was a beautiful hike through Wilderness State Park located on Sturgeon Bay. Near the end of the day, the trail went over to a beautiful sand beach on the bay. I enjoyed that for awhile and then hiked a little bit more and found a nice spot atop a bluff where I set up the hammock and dinner (freeze-dried beef stroganoff. It’s 8:30 and I’m fighting to stay awake a little longer.