09 November 2012

Around the Sioux Hustler Trail: Depature

The following is a continuation of the log from the Sioux Hustler Loop hiking trip I took in October 2012. In this entry I meet up with hiking partner 3 Names and head for Orr, MN.


Voyageur Welcome Center in Orr
 Due to a mutual friend's funeral- 3 Names and I met up in Thief River Falls. From there we drove to Clearbrook and spent the night out of the wet and chilly elements in a farmhouse of a Christian brother.
We left the next morning for Bemidji where we left 3 Names truck and then proceeded through the northland towards Orr, MN. Upon our arrival to Orr we stopped at the Voyageur Information center. I did not realise how close we were to Voyageurs National Park. No info on the Sioux Hustler Trail was to be found at the center. We progressed into town to get a bite to eat at the grocery store. Apparently the A&W attached to the store must only be open in the summer. It was not particularly busy place but it was not dead either. Minutes later we were progressing toward Buyck and the western terminus of the Echo Trail while enjoying an old time radio western.
After passing through some splendid scenery (especially the Hunting Shack River- which reminded me of a famous Hamm's scrolling sign) we were at the trailhead around 2 PM.15 minutes later we were on the trail. 1 hour later and at a dead end of sorts we realised we took a wrong turn. A major wrong turn. In fact we were no where near the Sioux Hustler Trail. What we failed to do was take the turn at a cairn quite a distance away from our present location. From all accounts we surmised that this may have been an old logging road which was abandoned. We noticed numerous rusting oil barrels strewn about the forest at this point. Not far from the dead end there was a spur trail going east. No action was taken to explore the spur but a primitive wood marker pointed us back towards the trailhead at the intersection. On our way back we had to go back over a pretty challenging bear dam and then through the 2 stages of  the "pits of despair." This segment is a bit hard to explain but there were all these little berms but with sections separating them that over time came to seem like pits. 3 Names' guess was in abandoning the road dirt berms were laid to keep vehicular traffic out.
We finally reach the correct turn off and start down the trail proper. We joked that our detour was just warming up for what lied ahead. And it was in some ways. We knew for sure that there would be a great amount of hiking to be done in the dark.

Waterfall on Little Sioux Indian River near Elm Portage
 After an hour, we found a flat rock section adjacent to the trail and ate. Thus far the tread way was pretty clean with the occasional root or rock outcrop. Light rain began to fall as we returned to hiking. By dusk we had reached the Elm Portage and stopped to refill our water. The descent to the Elm Portage is steep and rocky but very interesting geology. It is a gorge of sorts.
With the darkness descending quickly, we followed the trail beside the bank of the river with all its rock and root obstacles. We all began to see more downed trees at this part. 3 Names navigated us through a grassy bog area and our elevation began to change. The hardly perceptible rain made our boots wet.  Utilising our rain jackets proved to be more troublesome. The heat produced by the rigors of hiking was causing us to perspire and thus making wet our underlying clothing. It was a bit uncomfortable especially when the trail went up and then down and up again.
I do not recall when we reached the cairn of the loop cutoff. But I did know that it would not be long until we reached the Devil's Cascade campsite. I think it was something like 30 or 45 minutes later when we discovered the camp latrine. It took a few more minutes to figure out the location of the campsite since a portage trail crossed the trail near it. I hiked down the portage towards the river a bit until I came to the conclusion that it did not lead to the campsite. So be forewarned- in the dark it is tricky to discern trail for portage.
Moments later we found the site and unloaded our backpacks and sat on a large downed tree near the fire grate. The campsite sits quite a bit above the roaring cascade below. You could fall from it if you are not careful. After a rest we set up camp. I also pitched a lean to with the tarp and hiking pole I brought. The lean to provided enough space to keep our additional gear dry.
3 names found a phosphorescent mold on a piece of wood. It really did not photograph well, but it certainly gave off light. But not enough to keep us awake any longer than we had to.

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