We booked our dates and decided on which cabins fit our desired distances for each day. This was to be he first big out of state, multi-day trip our son was going to join us on and we wanted to make sure he had a successful hike and a great time.
As we drove into what I would call the east side of the “park” area, I was surprised at how empty and desolate the small towns were. There really wasn’t much to stop and see or places to fuel up and buy snacks. We stayed the night in the ghost town a few miles from the trail head, sorted our gear, and prepared for an early morning departure to begin our backpacking.
When you drive so far from home and book a trip months in advance, you take a huge gamble with the weather. This time, we lost the game of roulette and were in for several days of rain forecasted. As I zipped up and hunkered into my gear, my mind raced with worries that our son would end up hating this whole hiking thing if we were socked in to rain, but I was about to learn the greatest backpacking lesson of all: there is no such thing as bad weather- only bad gear.
With rain pants, jackets, mosquito repellent, and water proof boots, I quickly realized the rain offered a totally new perspective to hiking in the deep woods. The constant sound of rain spilling down through the canopy and rolling off the leaves lulls into a constant rhythm and cadence well suited to the zen of trail life. The greens deepen and the birds are more curious as to who is traveling down the path.
Knowing we were headed to a solid shelter where we could lay our gear to dry was certainly a relief, and we were about to find out what a powerful force the dry heat of the wood stove can be for our wet gear and boots. I felt like Hansel and Gretel arriving to our tiny cottage in the woods upon encountering Buck Shot cabin for the first time. Swallowed up in a sea of green ferns, grasses, and forest sat our wooden home for the night. It was so inviting and private as if it was welcoming us right in for a spot of tea.
Exploring the area, we found this cabin to be perfectly situated with our own trail leading to the picturesque shores of Lake Superior, with its pebbly beaches, driftwood logs, and perpetual wave action. Our son quickly ran from spot to spot investigating and exploring. Unlocking the cabin door revealed a neat, clean home away from home with everything we needed and a few unexpected finds. The cabin featured two set of bunk beds, a wooden table and chairs, a wood stove, a small kitchen prep area, cabinets with kitchen cooking basics, and a small stash of fire wood left by the last occupants to get our stove up and running, (as is the courteous thing to do.)
Our favorite find happened to be neatly left on the table to welcome us in. The tradition in the cabins of the Porkies is to add a small journal while you visit. While there may not be a tv or radio, flipping through the entries left by previous guests is like meeting new friends and hearing of their tales that has the same feel of campfire magic of summer camp. The pages are full of weather reports, wildlife encounters, silly escapades, love poems, drawings, and oral histories of travelers from all over the place. Reading through these entries was such a treat, and we brainstormed what memento we would leave for the next guest.
In no time I had settling into nesting mode sorting out our gear and making our beds while the men folk went on a firewood expedition. We cooked our dinner and ate lakeside while our gear hung about the stove to dry out. Watching the sun set on Lake Superior and having the entire shore to ourselves was the highlight of the day. The long days of summer saw a late bedtime and we bundled into our sleeping bags for the night.
About an hour later, we awoke to Ozzy climbing down from the top bunk, half cooked alive in his sleeping bag from the heat rising in the cabin and forcing him down to cooler zones. Needless to say, we need not add anymore wood to the stove that night. In the morning we found our gear sufficiently dry and our boots a bit smaller in size from the dry heat of the fire.
Our next several nights offered us similar experiences, unlocking the cabin doors of Little Carp and Big Carp 4 to find similarly stocked set ups and equally enticing views of the big lake and surrounding creeks. We were a bit early in the season, and certainly in the midsts of a bout of rain, but found the trails very secluded and almost to ourselves. Every cabin in the park was booked, but we only ever saw one other party staying in the cabins; the rain had chased most people off.
Our favorite features of the Porkie trails were the immense ground covering of ferns, wild creeks pouring into the big lake, shoreline hiking, and viewing platforms of the western Presque Isle River and rapids. Watching the sheer force of Manabezho, Manido & Nawadaha Falls rush by was terrifying and impressive, and I could not turn away.
Had we been chased off by the fear of rain, we never would have seen these amazing sights. Since then, whenever the forecast looks grim, I simply grab my extra layers, and remind myself of the unexpected thrill of hiking in the rain at the Porkies. Keeping an optimistic mindset will keep you on the trail and off the couch. And when in doubt, spend the money on the better gear. You’ll always be glad you did.