October 1, 2023
I lazed around in my tent this morning at South Bally Creek Pond since I only had 7-8 miles to Trout Creek campsite. This would set me up for a short hike into Cascade Lodge, where I had a reservation. Most importantly, the restaurant opens at 8 AM, so I should be there when it opens tomorrow.
The morning was especially quiet as I watched the forests lighten around me from under the edge of my tent fly. Few birds seemed to be this far north, with no chirps or songs to start the day. Maybe they had already headed south for the winter. Bird song has diminished over the years as I’ve hiked, and bird populations have decreased.
I packed and stacked everything outside my tent in the vestibule. My Katabatic quilt was always the last thing I put up when it was cold. I packed up everything, stacked it in the vestibule, put up my tent, stuffed my puffy in with my quilt, closed the compactor bag, and threw everything else into the pack. This was if it was not raining. The whole process is geared around staying warm for as long as possible!
There were a couple of cars at Bally Creek Road, and I saw where someone had carried out the bag of “stuff” left at North Bally Creek Campsite. This trail was well-maintained, and I knew it would not sit there long. The only trails where I have seen “stuff” sitting for long periods are the longer trails like the AT or CDT. The AT is usually hikers that did not plan well or are homeless, and the CDT is often hunters.
Somewhere between Bally Creek Road and Cascade River, two women I recognized from FB passed me thru-hiking north. It was Soka and Mudflap. I had been following them as I prepared for my hike. Soka flashed past with a quick good morning, but Mudflap stopped, chatted for a bit, and confirmed the bridge over the Cascade River was still closed. It was fun to meet them as they pushed some fast miles to get in and out of Grand Marais to resupply.
The trail to Cascade River was a little bouncy as I climbed in and out of drainage before finally reaching the river and making my way down to Pine Lake Road. The bridge looked open, but there was still a lot of construction equipment and some warning tape, so I headed down the west side of the river.
I had read the hike down to Trout Creek was tough, and while there were a couple of washouts and some steep climbs in and out of tributaries dropping into the river, it was not as bad as I expected. The river was beautiful, and I took my time to admire the foliage and briefly chat with other hikers exploring the banks. I was in Cascade River State Park and had begun passing more Day and Section-hikers.
Trout Creek was a nice campsite on the bank of the Cascade River. I arrived just after lunch to find Tom sitting around a campfire ring, eating his lunch. I found a spot for my tent, dropped my pack, and returned to eat and chat with him.
Above the campfire ring was a large tree with wood shavings dropping to the ground from behind a split in the trunk. I walked around to the other side of the tree to see a Red Squirrel chittering angrily as it pushed out shavings from a hole. Tom said the squirrel had recently finished evicting two small grey mice before cleaning out their den.
Red squirrels are the smallest mammals with the biggest attitudes in the forest. I have had them sit above my tent and chitter all night as they throw acorns onto the top of the tent. They always seem so angry – the little man’s syndrome.
As I sat talking to Tom, I saw four other hikers coming down the approach trail towards the fire ring and got up to go set up my tent as Tom stood to leave. He still had a few miles to hike, and I wanted to ensure my site was established with my tent and not just a backpack lying against a tree. There were not many good flat spots even though it was a large tenting area.
After I set up, I went down to the fire ring to make dinner and talked with the other group for a while before heading back to my tent. They were from near the Twin Cities (I think), and all went to the same church – super nice people. They stayed up for some time after me, but I had set up my tent far from the campfire ring and fell asleep to their quiet laughter.