Porcupine Mountains with The Tills

This memory is written in first person from the perspective of Blaise Thompson.

In summer 2021 Claire and Ralph Till visited me for a vacation to the Porcupine Mountains wilderness.

2021-07-21 Wednesday §

On Wednesday morning the three of us packed and headed north from Madison. It was a 5 hour drive. Along the way we stopped for breakfast at the Broadway Diner in Baraboo. It was fun to see Minocqua, a town I vacationed in many times as a child with my parents.

Most of our food (minus snacks) laid out for packing.
Claire tries out her newly packed backpack before leaving Madison.
Route driven from Madison to Porcupine Mountains. Copyright Open Street Map.

We arrived at the Porcupine Mountains wilderness center around 7 PM Eastern time, just in time to check in and get our paperwork. We headed directly to the Lake of the Clouds parking lot. Immediately upon seeing the lake, all travelers knew this was going to be an awesome trip.

Claire and Ralph pose at the Lake of the Clouds overlook.

Traveled about a mile from the parking lot to our first campsite near lake of the clouds. Since we were returning to the car the next morning, we packed pretty heavy and brought the big stove. We enjoyed quesadillas and a great camp fire. The campsite was private with good lake access. Hanging our pack on the bear pole took some effort.

We begin our official trip backpacking the short distance to our first campsite.
Claire and Ralph enjoy camp life. Note Claire's mosquitto mask.
Food and trash are kept in my bag on the bear pole (picture taken Thursday morning).

2021-07-22 Thursday §

Thursday morning I woke up early and swam for a while in Lake of the Clouds. Once Claire and Ralph woke up we ate breakfast, tore down camp, got water, and headed back to the car.

I enjoy an early morning swith in Lake of the Clouds.
We gather water from Lake of the Clouds.

Once we made it back to the parking lot it was raining very hard. We decided to drive the the short distance from the Lake of the Clouds parking lot to the Lake Superior trailhead. We started our multi-day walk in the rain, headed towards lake Superior. By the time we saw Superior the first time it was calm. We were able to make it down to the water for lunch.

Much of the trail was marshy. Luckily wooden planks were laid down over long sections.
First glimpse of Lake Superior.
Claire and Ralph wash their feet in Lake Superior during lunch.

After lunch we walked for a few more hours along the Superior coastline. The trail never got far from the lake, but sometimes we lost sight of it due to the density of the plant growth. This section of trail was sometimes overgrown---we got the feeling that not many took this route. We enjoyed many flowers, snakes, birds, and insects, including a few wild grouse that were scared out of the bush by our travel.

A blue blaze along the trail, with Claire and Ralph in the background.
I walk along the trail. Note all of the things strapped to the outside of my bag.
Detail of rocks seen alongside our walk.

Our Thursday night campsite was stunning, right on the lake. We arrived around 3 PM and had a full afternoon to enjoy ourselves. The water was very cold. We cooked dinner by the lake and enjoyed watching the sunset. The mosquittos were pretty bad, so we cheered for the local dragonflies which ate them.

The firepit at our campsite.
My hammock set up next to Lake Superior.
Claire and Ralph rest on the lakeshore.
Snake seen near the campsite.
Crawdad seen near the campsite.
We play cards.
I cook dinner.
We relax as the sun sets.
Lake Superior sunset.

2021-07-23 Friday §

On Friday we traveled further along Lake Superior to the mouth of Big Carp River. We departed the lake and travled for several hours deep into the woods, following the river. There were many micro-ecosystems along the trail, and the terain was more varied including steep valleys and prolonged hills. There were two places where we needed to ford the river.

I cross over a log bridge while Ralph looks back towards the camera.
The mouth of Big Carp River.
Ralph and I enjoy lunch along Big Carp River. We would later go swimming at this same spot.
A calm section of Big Carp River.
A waterfall along the river. I took a pretty bad fall and hurt my head and foot here.

Arriving at our campsite around 3 PM, we enjoyed an early dinner. We then chose to head out and walk the ~5 miles back to the car that afternoon rather than staying another night. The campsite wasn't very exciting, and the mosquittos were pretty agressive. Furthermore we would gain an extra day in Madison, which was exciting. The hike back to Lake of the Clouds was a long ascent eventually bringing us to a ridge with stunning views. It was hot and muggy for most of the hike.

Steam rises from the river near our intended campsite.
We see Lake of the Clouds in the distance as we summit the ridge.
I pose on the ridge looking back towards Carp River.
We celebrate the end of our hike.
I am overjoyed to be done hiking on my injured foot.
Our backpacks served us well.

We drove back to Madison, arriving around midnight. We had a quick meal at Culver's in Minocqua.

2021-07-24 Saturday §

After cleaning, checking for ticks, and nursing our wounds; we enjoyed a perfect summer Saturday in Madison. We started out with the farmers market, enjoyed a salad at Ian's, and checked out the Capitol Overlook. Finally we rented some electric bikes and completed the Monona lake loop, enjoying a snack and some live music at the Biergarten along the way.

Claire and Ralph ride their electric bikes.
We pose in front of the Monona Terrace fountain.

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