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WALTERS COLUMN: Reaching 62 miles on The North Country Trail

WALTERS COLUMN: Reaching 62 miles on The North Country Trail

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Hello friends,

Last week and this week I am writing to you about a personal challenge that I put on myself to backpack 62 miles of The North Country Trail starting near Iron River, Wis. and ending near Mellen.

There literally is a ton to write about so I will have to be brief.

Saturday, July 3

High 90, low 61

Yesterday I was hiking through The Porcupine Wilderness Area and I was in an old growth forest; the floor was almost 100 percent ferns. I noticed something about 50 yards ahead of me and it was walking in my direction. All I could see was tan ears at first due to the ferns and so I took my camera out, crouched and waited. Five minutes later I was rewarded when a very young fawn walked to within six inches of me before I was caught. Where mama was, I have no clue!

Back in the day when I did this trip twice in the winter and twice in the summer and round trip every time, I always had two golden retrievers with me and there was not a time that they were not each pulling sleds or carrying a pack.

No dog this trip as Ruby is home growing puppies. The memories that I have from those four, 17-day way of life adventures come springing to life even though they are in the bracket of 25 years ago. I would base out of Porcupine Lake, which is the halfway point, and I would stay there and ice fish in the winter.

During the winter treks I was only half human. I did not bring a jacket nor a tent. In the morning I would cook a pound of bacon and drink the liquid fat like it was a drug. I had a shovel in my sled, a tarp and a saw. At days end I would make snow walls on three sides. I would cut a spruce pole and put spruce boughs on my floor. The tarp would be under the boughs up the inside rear of the shack and then form a roof, which would go to the pole in the front top. The front of my home was open ended and I slept like a baby.

In reality both of those winter trips created long term hypothermia, which combined with several concussions, will be my excuse in the final days of MGW.

Mosquitoes/deer flies 101! Forty percent DEET sprayed on a hat, and here is the tip to remember, take a rag — about a square foot — spray it with DEET, put part in your hat and spread the rest over your shoulder. Guaranteed to work.

During breaks I would burn a two-inch piece of mosquito coil next to where I collapsed on the ground; no insects until its burnt up. This also may add to the deterioration of brain cells.

When I build camp, after taking my 65-pound pack off, which is almost as incredible as drinking a pound of liquid bacon fat, I immediately build what I call a “smoke fire” with dry leaves and very small branches. Once started, I add a bit of green vegetation. This keeps the blood suckers from ever coming in mass.

I did not bring a stove on this trip so the fire also came in handy for cooking supper.

One night I was looking at a few insects on the roof/inside of my tent as I laid in my sleeping bag. One of them fell off the roof and directly into my left ear and wasted no time heading for brain matter.

It was well after dawn before it quit crawling around in my skull and I really hope it is dead and did not lay eggs. If so, it may hasten the effects of hypothermia, concussions, insect repellents, and a couple of experiences I may have stayed under water/ice too long.

So today was the second to last day of this journey. I put 14-miles behind me and unlike last week’s column, I have to admit, I am hurting. The shoulder straps on my pack keep wanting to pull my shoulders off and I have a rather touchy left knee.

I did not care about pain because when I made it to Lake Three, my map told me there was going to be water at the campground. My water filter situation was not good and I was craving water almost as much as liquid bacon fat on a February morning at 20-below. Long story short, the hand pump was capped.

I may not have properly filtered the four quarts of water that I drank out of Lake Three and now, like the knee and the arms, I have a rather sore belly and I have been home a week.

Long story short, I turned 60 on this trip and it was a personal challenge that I told very few people about before I left in case I failed.

I did not fail. YAY ME!


Contact Mark Walters, a freelance journalist, at


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