NCT Diary: Oct 12-18
Grand Rapids, MN to Fergus Falls, MN
Oct 12: trail becomes old two track as the sun slants towards evening. Pretty sunlight over long marsh grass below. It's the last long section of the NCT and I'm ready to not carry a heavy pack for a while. Idk, it's another day in the Chippewa NF - forest forest forest. At least it's not overcast as it's been for the past 3 days. Podcasts all day. Figured out that we have probably 21 days to go, so finishing November 2nd. Nice to have that date and a firm mileage countdown, finally. 650 miles left, I'm ready to go home. Maps inaccurate last couple miles
Oct 13: rain forecasted, C preemptively sad (half a joke). Mega grasshopper on tent, almost looks like six legged lizard from below. Blustering rain arrives at 11, more wind and drizzle than soaking but still dreary. No cell service even tho I can see two towers from the top of this hill - trail puts us on the only bumpy hilly stuff for miles, seemingly on purpose. Frustrated. Injured vulture fell out of a tree, nearly fell on my head! Couldn’t figure out what it was at first, took me aback like "huh?", couldn't make sense of the outline. For a second thought it was a porcupine or a housecat. Poor thing, missing wingfeathers, couldn't fly and had trouble walking. Hop-shuffled down the trail the same way we were going so we had to scare the vulture more by following it, it was terrified but couldn't move fast. Finally shuffled off the side of the trail and looked pathetic and confused as we walked by and didn't attack it. Sort of wanted to stop and give it some of my salami, but too wet and and cold to stop and you shouldn't feed wild animals anyway. Reminded me of when a panicked songbird flew straight into me on the PCT, then surprised I couldn't remember more details about the songbird incident. Got wetter and colder, camped at surprise shelter after only 25 miles but still feel good about that
Oct 14: sometimes I wonder if thru-hiking is just an elaborate procrastination method so I don't have to grow up. 29th birthday coming up :/ day started misty, dreary and cold but gradually dried up and became pleasant, though still chilly. Didn't take puffy off all day. Trail improved significantly at Itasca state park and stayed broad and easy, night hiked until we did 33 miles.
Oct 15: raining and cold. Wasn't supposed to rain but it's drizzling and miserable all morning. Eat terrible lunch of terrible Aldi food underneath the only pine tree we can find - everything else is shelterless sticks. The one trailhead without a little roof obviously is where we planned to eat. Pass through a tornado path, huge trees torn up by the roots and thrown everywhere, like an avalanche path but messier and less defined. Gets warmer and drier in afternoon, see a beaver close-up when we get water for camp, sleep beneath an owl tree with a loudly calling owl. Finally not overcast, we can see it's a half-moon. Phone screen sorta wet, hard to type
Oct 16: last bit of trail for a long time. Cold but mercifully dry and sunny in the morning, found two bags of trail magic and munched on candy through the fields until we got to the roadwalk. Seeing fast food trash on the side of the road always gets your hopes up - interesting thought to pursue later in writing, how you start fantasizing based on a Taco John's cup on the side of the road and how it doesn't really mean anything since cars can go so unfathomably far compared to pedestrians. Hard to imagine how fast cars go and what a reasonable driving distance is when you've been walking for six months. From looking online, Frazee doesn't seem to have any motels, so we have to eat, resupply and go, two more days. Makes more sense with the miles but I do sort of wish we could stop today anyway. Warm enough not to wear puffy for the first time in five days. Lost my lip balm and my nose is getting chapped from being cold and drippy. On the road walk, these are at last the flat lands I expected in Minnesota - I can see the water tower and steeples of Frazee from over five miles away. I hope they have food there.
Later, got pizza at gas station (the only food in town) after being welcomed by locals with free farmer’s market apples and water bottle refills. Saw the world's largest turkey (fibreglass structure, pretty big), then roadwalked to Vergas, home of the world's largest loon. Camped somewhat short of the loon. Still no cell service even though I can literally see a cell tower; really scraping the bottom of the barrel, podcast-wise.
Oct 17: get woken up at 2am by a duck party - sounds like dozens of ducks landing in the pond we're camped near, all honking and flapping. Lasts about half an hour before the ducks move on, impossible to sleep through. Up at 7am, freezing cold morning but dry, walk a mile into town and have breakfast at the Loon Cafe. World’s Largest Loon is pretty big, concrete structure and very 1960s. Vergas is a smaller town than Frazee but somehow has more services. Snuffly nose all day, even after it gets hot. Thinking about all the weird spirally passages and mucousy nightmare meat lurking under my face behind my eyeballs. Internal structure of noses! Lunch at Maplewood state park and it's hot, drying out party and chat with a couple locals. Nervous heeler dog fake-charges our feet but then slinks back up to say she's sorry, cute but wow, those teeth. Tons and tons of ladybugs drifting through the air like confetti on the roadwalk. Still no cell service, even though I walk under multiple cell towers and try restarting my phone so I'm really getting to the podcasts I don't care about and downloaded just in case. 13 miles before Fergus Falls, walking past a marsh, there's a huge flock of migrating songbirds and the noise is incredible. Can't really see a huge mass, just handfuls flying over the marsh, but they make a huge racket and you know they're in the reeds everywhere. 37ish mile day to outskirts of Fergus Falls
Oct 18: very quick nearo in, no cabs running so we walk two miles off trail to motel. Really good rest day, and only two weeks left on trail!