Backpacking, coyotes and no drinking water… how fun!

It’s Friday, and I just got out of calculus class.  It’s only a review day for the final, so I’m only there for half of the class.  Then, I set off to go backpacking in the Manistee National Forest.  Since this is my first backpacking trip of the year, and I’m so out of shape, I decide to go into known territory: Nordhouse Dunes.  The trip itself turns out to be super awesome — I breath clean air, feel the crystalline waters that are now so uncommon in Lake Michigan, watch eagles soaring around the sunset, and am wonderfully close to be eaten by  a coyote. What?!

BackpackingSeriously.  So here is the deal: I arrive at the trail head, leave my car, grab my backpack and a liter of water and set off to find a place to camp, across the woods, over the mountains, and near the beach.  I start hiking one of the North trails, and about 20 or 25 minutes into it, I run into dozens of fallen trees that are completing blocking the way.  So I backtrack a little and spot what seems like a smaller trail.  I see footsteps, so I assume other folks must have walked this way.  I go into this side-track and soon end up walking the scenic route (aka, got lost)!  Well, not to fear — my handy compass should point me in the right direction.  The only problem is, there are so many freaking swamps in the area that it’s easy to lose track of where I’m going.  Anyway, after following a general North-West direction to reach the beach, I finally join one of the other trails — this time, the true scenic trail.  It takes me through some sandy hills and narrow pathways, and through a hilltop from where I can see Lake Michigan, the entire forest, and even part of Ludington and Manistee (or so it seems).  It’s an amazing view!  Anyway, I recognize the spot since I’ve been here before.  I now know I am going in the right direction.  I also start to spot footprints again, which is very reassuring.  After another 10 or 15 minutes, I finally make it to the beach and find a good place to camp in between the mountains and the sand dunes.  Needless to say, I am thirsty.  So, I grab my one liter aluminum bottle and start drinking away, making sure that I live enough water for dinner.

I settle down and put together my new Eureka Solitaire tent.  It’s a beauty — ample space and good bug protection in about 2 pounds!  I make soup and coffee, and then head over to the lake to replenish my water supply.  The lake is somewhat cold (50’s maybe?), but it doesn’t matter, because it’s still pretty hot outside.  Anyway, I start pumping through my water filter and into the bottle, now containing only four ounces of drinking water.  And then, frak! The stupid thing breaks!  I try to fix it, but it’s no use — the seal is gone, so there is no way to apply enough pressure to force the water through the filter.  My only other option, it seems, would be to grab water anyways and boil it… but with all the chemicals on the lake, no thanks!  So, after watching the oh-my-gosh-its-so-breathtakingly-beautiful sunset and admiring a family of eagles flying over the lake, I go into my tent to rest.  I just have to keep to in mind that I have only four ounces of water left to make it back to the trail head the next morning.   But this is not where the fun ends!

So, here I am, in the middle of the forest, resting comfortably under the stars, by the soothing summer breeze of Lake Michigan, when I hear figs breaking in the dark.  It’s probably just a little animal, no biggy.  Then, suddenly, I hear grouching… oh my goodness, a coyote approaches! And it’s sniffing my tent!!!  I turn my flashlight on and start shinning it in his direction, hoping to scare him away.  It works — he runs away like the wind.  But as soon as I turn my flashlight off, I can hear him approaching me again.  Now, that’s freaky!  Anyway, after a few minutes, I hear him attacking something near my tent.  So, I turn on my flashlight and he runs away… while some other creature screeches in the dark, yelling bloody murder!  A few minutes later, the coyote returns to pick up his recent kill.  At least his pray is around my tent, and not in the tent (i.e., me).  The adrenaline manages to keep me awake for a whole minute longer… then I go back to sleep. 🙂

The next morning, I pack up and head south, looking for the end of the primary trails.  Finally, I reach known territory.  I head back on the trail towards the parking lot… but I am no longer in the mood to hike back with water, so I drive back home.  On the way back, I get to see eagles again on the dirt road before reaching Quarterdeck street, which takes me back to Ludington.  Then, it’s only a couple of hours until I get back home.

I am looking forward to my next backpacking trip… the Thumb or the U.P. perhaps?

About Gabriel Mongefranco

Gabriel Mongefranco is your software developer for all things data: extraction, integration, analytics and security. He is also a blogger, a poet, a proud father and a faithful Christian. He is always eager to contract with faith-based nonprofits! Learn more.