Channeling My Inner Reese Witherspoon

What started out as a vague date in the future, a looming adventure to get ready for, is fast approaching; like the RNC National Convention. Luckily I am in better shape than most of the candidates.

I’ve done my research. I’ve read Bill Bryson’s new book, “The Road to Little Driblling,” about his love for England and what is wrong with it. He drives, walks, complains and drinks beer. What better example for travel could I have?

I watched the movie made from his book, “A Walk in the Woods.” About his hiking the Appalachian Trail (why waste time reading the book when you can watch the movie and eat popcorn at the same time). Robert Redford plays him in the movie. If this blog were ever made into a movie, I hope to be portrayed by Don Cheadle. I love his work. And him portraying me makes as much sense as Redford playing Bryson.

I also watched the movie, “Wild,” by Cheryl Strayed, who is played by Reese Witherspoon. Again, I know the book would offer more insight, but it wouldn’t show Reese Witherspoon naked.

So between that, I figured I was ready to do an overnight and check out some new equipment. Once again I took off for the wilds of Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail.

I should have known I was going to be challenged, when I drove to Wisconsin via Taylors Falls and found the bridge closed for repairs, which necessitated a 40-minute detour. I finally made it to my hiking route, the Northern Blue Hills Segment of the Ice Age Trail.

I parked my car in as remote a spot as I could find and headed out.

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It was a warm day in the high sixties, and the trail was beautiful and well marked. The legs were strong, the pack initially light (coming in at 23 pounds with water) and I was optimistically looking forward the setting up camp in the late afternoon.

Around hour two I took a fall. Not bad but my left index finger looks like a blueberry sausage (and for some strange reason is starting to smell like one, might have to have it looked at).

A few hours after that, I realized the back of my leg was wet for some reason, looking around I found the source; my water bladder had clicked open and most of three liters of water was marking my trail behind me. I had another liter water bottle but that would not be enough for cooking, cleaning and another days hike.

But that was okay because around 5:30 I realized I had wondered off the trail and probably wouldn’t need much more water because I was going to die. I pitched camp at a spectacular setting just off the trail, set up my tent, changed out of salt incrusted clothes and was about to heat up some freeze dried chili when an ATV came into view.

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On it were a middle-aged couple dressed in cameo, out for a Friday night spin. I flagged them down and asked if by any chance they had any extra water or soda, and sadly they did not. I mentioned my water issue and wished them a good ride.

I went back to my chili and the promise of a good hot meal (well, at least a hot meal) only to discover I had left my gas canister at home. I was left with the comforting feeling that my training with Bill Bryson and Reese Witherspoon had gone very well. I too was a complete idiot.

I decided the best thing to do in the morning was to hike out to the county road and walk that back to my car. I sat in my tent and read on my iPone, “This Side of Paradise” by Fitzgerald to pass the time. Around 9:00PM I hear another ATV come down the track and hailed them to stop. It was the same couple now on their way home. Assuming they had not stocked up on water, I just asked them how close the county road was and that I was out of food and water. They figured out on their own that I was a knucklehead. We bid good night and I returned to my tent and reading.

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Around 9:30 I hear yet another ATV coming down the road that roars up to within a few feet of my tent. I’m out to see what’s up and it is my new best friends, returning with a couple cans of Mountain Dew and beef jerky. It was the kindest thing I can remember in a long time. Truly a testament that there is more good in the world than bad. I returned to Fitzgerald and lights out around ten.

While camping I was on constant alert for deer ticks and if you like them, Wisconsin is the place for you. I had a fitful nights sleep and around 2:00AM felt something on my hand, turned on my light, and sure enough it was a deer tick. I quickly looked around to see if there was a deer in my tent and they were just trying to get together but no, it was after me. Now for all the damage they do, they are the slowest bugs alive. They move at about ten feet an hour. They are like Boris Karloff playing the mummy, if you get caught you’re dead but escape is possible. I disposed of it and went back to sleep.

Sleep was fitful, between being too tired to sleep and the coyote howls that felt like they were ten feet away, i finally dozed off around 2:30.

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The next morning I had Dew and Sausage for breakfast, packed up and headed back to the car. There is a saying in Wisconsin when camping: Leave nothing behind and taken nothing but memories. And deer ticks.

Day one hike: 13 miles

Day two hike: 7 miles

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