TheRuckSack > photo-journal archive index > archive page

Wilderness Tripping: Backpacking
   Mackinac Wilderness & North Country Trail
   Mackinac and Chippewa Counties
   Trout Lake, Michigan
   October 31 thru November 3, 2003


Bushwhacking in
the Eastern Upper Peninsula

By Jay Hanks
   Perry, Michigan
   Copyright 2003

E-mail author at

View Gail Staisil's photo album from this trip

Return to photo-journal archive index page

Return to TheRuckSack home page


Living with only what you can carry

It is incredibly freeing to be on foot in the wilderness. To know that you are living with only what you can carry for several days at a time, with no phone calls or imposed intrusions by the rest of the world is amazing in this technological age.

I have driven around the Hiawatha National Forest in the Eastern U.P. for almost 30 years, and yet I hadn't really seen it the way I was going to now.


Breathing became a form of music

Once you stepped away from the road as we did on that Friday morning, the perspective changed dramatically inside my own mind. Life slowed to the pace of one moving on foot through the wilderness, and it fell into the timing of the rain beating on my hat.

Breathing was a form of music that rose and fell with the exertion. It felt like the world had fallen away at my feet and somehow I was standing on top of it, even though the mud squishing up from the sticks in the beaver dams indicated that I was only close to it, and even then precariously.


Discovering the true sounds of the world

It only seems quiet when I first enter the wilderness. After a while, you discover the true sounds of the world: the air moving in the branches of the trees, the fluttering of the last stubborn leaves of the season clinging desperately to the branches, and the distant conversations of the birds.

The loudest noise is the nylon of our clothing scritching and rasping against the brush as we pass, but it blends into the woodscape after a while. Now I can truly hear and see the world.


Finding a delightfully anonymous bivouac spot

Camp that evening was delightfully anonymous. The joy of bivouacking is having the skill to camp North Branch Carp Riveranywhere and leave it as you found it.

Our Friday night bivouac area
was a pine-needle-covered
ridge overlooking
the North Branch of the Carp River,
just downstream of its confluence
with Bissel Creek, deep in the interior
of the non-motorized
Mackinac Wilderness Tract
in Mackinac County.
(Photo courtesy of Gail Staisil)

View Gail Staisil's
 photo album from this trip

Considering the darkness rapidly encroaching we barely could determine our overall position as we gazed out of the trees.

I ended up sleeping with my head slightly downslope as I could only guess at true level with my tiny flashlight.

I was grateful for the relaxation of tired muscles because it allows me to sleep anywhere.


Feeling a million miles from anywhere

Morning dawned and I found I was the last one to awake. Quickly packing everything up while eating got me ready to go just in time.

We walked the ridge in the sunshine that had not been predicted by downstate meteorologists. As we forded the first creek I felt like I was a million miles from anywhere. The coldness of the water assured me all the comforts were left at home. And I got to do it again a quarter of a mile later!


The world was holding its breath

The afternoon grew still and the air barely moved. I think we were at the edge of a stalled weather pattern because it was like the world was holding its breath. Nothing unusual happened, just quiet and lots of it.

We wondered as we neared camp that evening near East Lake if we would need a "walking moon", but there was just a little more light in the evening this time to set up camp. The dead leaves of the forest floor provided a cushion that rivaled the finest down mattress as I drifted off in the moonlight.


Off-trail compass-work is rewarding

Another day free from rain and we set off into the woods. Some off-trail compass-work rewarded us for choosing the path less traveled. I never felt lost for a moment; indeed I felt like I was much more at home than usual. I typically spend most of my time in the wilderness in the company of my canoe, so off-trail activities are not very extended around a river. Now I was deep in the woods, and it felt great.


Feeling like we were on a mountain

We rose onto an esker-like formation on the south side of Schlehuber's Marsh. It felt like we were on a mountain after the cedar swamp we came out of. As we reconned the valley below, it became clear that we would have many places to choose from to camp.

It was finally decided to set up right down in the dry marsh bed, and although it seemed odd when I first looked at it, it rapidly took on the trappings of another wilderness bivouac. The more I sat in the dried grasses and looked around, the happier I felt. I am still at peace.


Walking...I am so free

It was with sadness that I packed up for the last time. I had packed well, and had used everything I brought. I shouldered the pack with unusual lightness.

I was uncomfortable when I arrived at the shoulder of the road and gladly headed back into the woods when the time came. Even the railroad trek was preferred to the pavement.

The snow began to fall and all I could dream about was that I did not want to stop walking.

I am so free…



View Gail Staisil's photo album from this trip.

Read another photo-journal.



Return to top of page

Return to TheRuckSack home page

In God's wilderness lies the hope of the world,
the great, fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.
 — John Muir 1838-1914, Alaska Wilderness, 1890

Content Copyright © 1984-2003 by Michael A. Neiger

All rights reserved. Comments? Suggestions? Dead links? Inaccurate info?
Contact the WebMaster at

A MacroMedia DreamWeaver 4 and Fireworks 4 production